Central Africa

UN approves Congo 'intervention brigade'

The UN Security Council on March 28 unanimously approved the first-ever "offensive" UN peacekeeping brigade, to fight rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The force of more than 2,500 troops will operate under orders to "neutralize" and "disarm" rebel forces in the resource-rich east of the country. The intervention brigade is unprecedented in UN peacekeeping because of its offensive mandate. The resolution states that it will be established for one year "on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent" to the principles of UN peacekeeping. The force, to be deployed in July, will include troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. The UN currently has some 18,000 troops in the DRC, and has been widely accused of doing little to stop the violence in the eastern region. The latest rebellion flared a year ago, and has forced some 800,000 from their homes.

Central African Republic rebels void constitution

Michel Djotodia, leader of rebel forces behind a coup in the Central African Republic (CAR), declared in a radio address March 25 that the country's constitution is dissolved and he is now the nation's leader. Djotodia, a leader of the Seleka rebel alliance that seized the country's capital over the weekend and caused President Francois Bozize to flee the country, also declared the dissolution of the CAR parliament and government. The Seleka rebels' actions in taking control of the country ran afoul of a peace deal brokered in January between Bozize and the group. Seleka claims, however, that its actions are justified because the Bozize government first failed to uphold elements of the agreement, including a promise to remove South African troops from Bangui. Djotodia intends to serve out the rest of Bozize's term, which is set to end in 2016.

Congo war crimes suspect surrenders to US

Congolese war crimes suspect Gen. Bosco Ntaganda surrendered himself to a US embassy in Rwanda on March 18 and requested extradition to the  International Criminal Court  (ICC). Ntaganda has been wanted by the ICC since 2006 on charges enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and of using them to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from July 2002 to December 2003. Ntaganda remained at large, however, and in 2012 ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II issued a second warrant for Ntaganda's arrest for additional war crimes and crimes against humanity in contravention of the Rome Statute:

Central African Republic rebels advance

Rebels in the Central African Republic Dec. 23 seized the key city of Bambari—the country's third largest—as part of their new offensive. The rebels—known as the Seleka coalition—have seized several towns north of the capital in recent weeks, charging that President Francois Bozize has failed to uphold a 2007 peace deal. The Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed with former rebel groups, called for the release of prisoners and compensation to ex-combatants. The renewed insurgents also oppose plans by Bozize to alter the constitution to seek a third term, according to a statement signed by Seleka secretary general Justin Mambissi Matar.

ICC acquits Congolese militia leader

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Dec. 18 acquitted Congolese militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui on charges of rape, murder and pillage. Ngudjolo was accused of commanding fighters in a 2003 rebel attack on Bogoro, a strategic village in the mineral-rich Ituri region in eastern Congo. Some 200 people, including children, were raped and killed in the attack, carried out with machetes. The judges ruled the prosecution had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ngudjolo was responsible for the crimes committed, and ordered his immediate release. Rights groups including Amnesty International expressed disappointment with the decision. The prosecution said it intends to launch an appeal.

Pressure on Rwanda over role in Congo war

Thousands of students protested in the Democratic Republic of Congo cities Kisangani, Bunia and Kinshasa on Nov. 20 after M23 rebels seized the eastern city of Goma. They were mostly expressing their rage at the M23 rebels, but also targeted the government and the UN mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO). Despite government and UN assurances, M23 rebels took Goma with little resistance from either Congolese or UN forces. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it was "absurd" that UN troops could not stop the rebels from entering Goma. With a 20,000-strong military and civilian staff, MONUSCO has a yearly budget of close to $1.5 billion, the second-largest peacekeeping mission in the world (after Sudan).

US court upholds immunity for Rwanda president

The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on Oct. 10 dismissed a lawsuit against Rwandan President Paul Kagame alleging he ordered the killings of the former presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. The lawsuit was filed by the widows of Juvenal Habyarimana, the former president of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the former president of Burundi, who were killed when their plane was shot down on approach to Rwanda. The widows have alleged that Kagame ordered the attack, which was allegedly carried out by a rebel army in Rwanda. They sought $350 million in damages. In its decision, the court ruled that Kagame is immune from suit because he is the leader of a foreign state. The court's decision upholds a district court ruling finding the same and is consistent with a suggestion of immunity filed by the US government last year.

ICC urged to investigate Rwanda president for arming DRC rebels

The International Criminal Court on Aug. 17 received requests to investigate Rwandan President Paul Kagame for backing armed rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Rwandan and Congolese advocacy groups opposed to Kagame's rule have alleged that the Rwandan leader is guilty of war crimes for helping to create and arm rebel groups in eastern DRC including M23, which has been conducting a mutiny in North Kivu province under the leadership of a particularly notorious group of human rights violators. The calls for an ICC investigation follow the release of a UN report last month detailing investigations since late 2011 that revealed substantial evidence that the Rwandan government helped create the rebel groups and supplied them with weapons, armor and recruits, including children. In June UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay estimated that the armed conflict between the DRC government and the M23 movement has displaced around 218,000 people from their homes since April, specifically mentioning five M23 leaders and describing them as the "worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the DRC, or in the world for that matter."

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