Skip to main content

 

DRC army
Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) confront members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Opira, North Kivu.

On Sunday, May 24, at least seven villagers were killed in their homes and others were reportedly kidnapped in the DRC’s North Kivu province in an attack attributed to the Ugandan rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

Members of the ADF settled in the forests along the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern border following their expulsion by Ugandan forces in the mid-1990s. They were tolerated by the locals until about six years ago, when they began to attack civilians and raze villages. They frequently target military bases in order to steal weapons and ammunition before retreating into the forest, where local farming operations help them stay active despite no known source of formal funding.

 

Secretive Jihadist Group

This latest attack casts further doubt on the efficacy of a Congolese military operation launched in October 2019 to dislodge the ADF from the Beni region in North Kivu province. The DRC’s armed forces, FARDC, did succeed in pushing rebels out of their stronghold while also establishing a permanent presence in the region, yet ADF fighters have continued to attack civilians, killing an estimated 1,000 people in four months after the start of the operation.

Of the numerous armed groups operating in this region of the DRC, the ADF has remained one of the most elusive and least understood players in the region. Though initially formed to remove Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni from power and largely led by Ugandans, the ADF has spent most of its existence in the DRC, embedding itself in local power structures to encourage recruitment. Propaganda from the group suggests it is trying to establish ties with international jihadist groups such as Islamic State with the intent of creating a local caliphate.

 

 

This picture taken on February 13, 2014 shows lorries blocked in Kasumbalesa, a Congolese town at the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia. After border incidents on February 6, the traffic has been heavily disrupted for more than a week in this town which is the main exit gate for minerals extracted in the South-Eastern part of the DRC
Lorries blocked in Kasumbalesa, a Congolese town at the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia. 

 

Christian Mwando, a representative from the province of Tanganyika, a territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and bordering Zambia, has called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) to resolve a dispute regarding the occupation of southern Tanganyika by Zambian troops.

Zambian forces have been present in the area since late March, the result of an altercation that began with an attempted arrest of Congolese fishermen who were using prohibited gill netting. Congolese police from Moliro, a town right across the Zambian border, attempted to apprehend the fishermen, who managed to escape into Zambian waters. Zambian forces then moved to chase out the Congolese from their territorial waters and continued across the border, seizing a flag of the DRC, according to Mwando.

 

This region of the DRC also faces one of the world’s largest refugee crises.

 

In response, Congolese forces fired on the Zambian troops, killing one. Mwando was quoted by La Libre Belgique as saying he does not desire any “war with our sister republic of Zambia”, but fears Zambia’s presence is an attempt to seize a portion of the territory, which has the world’s largest deposit of hard rock lithium, used in batteries for electric vehicles.

This region of the DRC also faces one of the world’s largest refugee crises, impacting Twa and Bantu ethnic groups in particular. Persistent violence and insecurity in the region has stretched thin the DRC’s capacity to manage the conflict, let alone address the presence of foreign troops, which is why Mwando insists that President Félix Tshisekedi’s administration appeal to international bodies like the AU and SADC.

 

 

Cobalt
A conveyor belt carries chunks of raw cobalt after a first transformation at a plant in Lubumbashi on February 16, 2018, before being exported, mainly to China, to be refined.

Cobalt is in rising demand thanks to its use as a metal in everything from aircraft engines to batteries for electric vehicles, and in its radioactive form as a cancer treatment. It has been mislabeled as a conflict mineral, despite the fact that it is mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s southern Haut-Katanga and Lualaba provinces, more than 1,600 kilometers from the conflict zones in the east.

“Conflict minerals” and their derivative metals, such as gold, wolfram, and coltan, are integral to the electronics and technology industries, so foreign companies’ supply chains could be indirectly funding rebel groups and bandits, contributing to the destabilization of the DRC and its neighbors. Responding to international concern, the United States included Section 1502 in the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires companies to verify if they source metals from the DRC or its neighbors, and that they do so ethically.

 

The DRC holds half of the world’s cobalt reserves.

 

Because of cobalt’s negative yet inaccurate label, some multinational firms have withdrawn from the DRC altogether to avoid potentially violating Section 1502 or similar legislation in Canada, the European Union, or elsewhere. Given that the DRC holds half of the world’s cobalt reserves and its export is expected to balloon in the next decade, international cooperation is more important than ever to ensure that the extraction of this strategic resource benefits not just the global supply chain but also the DRC and its citizens.

Recent collaboration between cobalt producers, commodity traders, and NGOs to formalize artisanal mining proves that this type of cooperation is a net win for every sector of the DRC’s mining industry.

 

 

CAR-DRC BORDER
The DRC–CAR border area has been rife with conflict as many armed groups compete for the riches of the region.

 

Last week, dramatic arrests were made at Gbadolite Airport in the Nord-Ubangi province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, close to the border with the Central African Republic (CAR). A plane had touched down carrying explosives and ammunition for AK-47 rifles, cargo that the Congolese authorities seized after arresting several people.

Though the investigation into the arms shipment is still under way, preliminary findings suggest the intercepted delivery is part of an arms smuggling network extending from the capital Kinshasa into CAR, using Gbadolite as a way station, according to Nord-Ubangi governor Izato Nzege Koloke. Congolese intelligence believes the weapons and ammunition were to be delivered to armed groups in CAR and to local bandits.

 

Recent clashes in the Central African Republic point to a breakdown of the peace agreement.

 

The Central African Republic is one of several conflict theaters that the African Union is seeking to address with its Silencing the Guns initiative, part of which is concerned with halting the flow of illegal small arms into warzones. Analysts have lamented the slow progress of the African Union’s continent-wide initiative as recently as the annual summit held in early February 2020.

The situation in CAR may be less volatile than the conflicts in Libya, the Lake Chad region, and Somalia, but recent clashes point to a breakdown of the peace agreement signed between rebel groups and the government in Bangui in February 2019.

 

On April 24, seventeen people were killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, thirteen of them park rangers and employees. Three other rangers were seriously injured. In a statement, the park said it could confirm the perpetrators of the attack were rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

 

FDLR rebels have been active in this part of the DRC since the end of the Rwandan genocide.

 

The attack is one of the worst suffered in the park, which spans 7 769 square kilometers in the east of the country, along the borders of Rwanda and Uganda. Virunga has seen much conflict, and there has always been competition for the park’s rich natural resources. FDLR rebels have been active in this part of the DRC since the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, attacking ethnic Tutsis in the DRC and sometimes launching cross-border raids into Rwanda.

 

A picture taken on July 17, 2016 shows trucks carrying people and being part of the Congolese army convoy which drives through the national park of Virunga. The convoy, established by the Congolese Army on early 2016, aims to insure security in face of a wave of civilian kidnappings between the villages of Kiwanja and Kanyabayonga, in the southeastern part of the province of North Kivu. Eduardo Soteras / AFP
An army convoy traveling through Virunga National Park. (Eduardo Soteras / AFP)

 

Long-Standing Tensions

Lingering resentment over Rwanda’s involvement in the Second Congo War (1998–2003) has spoiled relations between the two nations, but diplomatic overtures between DRC president Félix Tshisekedi and Rwandan president Paul Kagame have sought to set political divisions aside and boost regional integration and private investments. However, the recent arrest of Tshisekedi’s chief of staff Vital Kamerhe, who helped to initiate the rapprochement between the two leaders, could potentially jeopardize these efforts. 

 

 

FelixTshisekedi
President Félix Tshisekedi (Ludovi Marin / AFP)

 

DRC state of emergency highlights divisions in the ruling coalition

The Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo confirmed the legality of President Félix Tshisekedi’s state of emergency declaration on Monday, April 13, resolving a dispute between supporters of the president and those who were demanding a legislative convention to formally ratify the presidential decree, issued on March 24.

The standoff reflects rifts that have emerged in the ruling coalition, formed between Tshisekedi’s CACH and that of the FCC, the party of former president Joseph Kabila. Several members of the FCC, including senate president Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, have not been subtle about their belief that the state of emergency is a means for Tshisekedi to grant himself “full powers”.

 

In this photograph taken on March 13, 2020, Moroccan soldiers from the UN mission in DRC (Monusco) ride in a vehicle as they patrol in the violence-torn Djugu territory, Ituri province, eastern DRCongo. Fresh violences have been registered against civilians in this territory where more than 700 hundreds have been slaughtered since December 2017, leading the UN to denounce a possible crime against humanity. SAMIR TOUNSI / AFP
Moroccan soldiers from the the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) on patrol in the territory of Djugu, Ituri, eastern DRC, on March 13, 2020. (Samir Tounsi / AFP)

 

Their fears are not completely without merit

Late in February, Tshisekedi suspended General Delphin Kahimbi, a Kabila ally, from his post as head of the nation’s military intelligence on suspicion the general attempted to destabilize the country. He was found dead a week later. The cause of his death is said to be suicide, but rumors of foul play abound. More recently, Tshisekedi’s chief of staff Vital Kamerhe, head of the UNC party, was arrested for embezzlement, a charge Kamerhe denies.

These developments could suggest efforts by Tshisekedi to keep his coalition in check and to distance himself from his predecessor Joseph Kabila, whose party holds a majority in the DRC’s legislature and who has the nearly 10,000-strong Republican Guard behind him.

 

Delphin Kahimbi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s deputy chief of staff for the armed forces (FARDC) and head of military intelligence, passed away at the Hôpital du Cinquantenaire in the capital Kinshasa on February 28. The information was confirmed to Jeune Afrique by Kahimbi’s wife, Brenda Kahimbi, and several high-ranking government officials who wished to remain anonymous. The cause of death is still undetermined, with Ms. Kahimbi claiming it was a heart attack whereas other sources suggested he had shot himself. A government probe investigating the circumstances of one of the DRC’s most powerful generals is under way.

 

Why It Matters

General Kahimbi wielded immense power and influence under former president Joseph Kabila. He maintained this influence into the presidency of Felix Tshisekedi, who has struggled to prove he is not a continuation of Kabila’s rule despite several close associates of Kabila holding positions of power in the FARDC and government offices. Prior to his removal, Kahimbi oversaw the repatriation of M23 rebel soldiers hiding out in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. He was also advocating for the creation of a joint military and intelligence-sharing force between the DRC and its neighbors (Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) to fight rebel groups in the Congo's east. Kahimbi and several other military officials were under multiple sanctions for alleged human rights violations, leading to pressure from the United States, Europe, and humanitarian watchdog groups calling for his removal.

 

Recent Signs of Trouble

Kahimbi was recently relieved of his position, after being detained by migration officials on February 20 while attempting to board a flight to South Africa. He, along with the ex-head of the National Intelligence Agency, Kalev Mutond, were accused of distributing weapons in for the purpose of destabilization. Kahimbi was separately suspected of putting the Congolese government under unofficial surveillance. 

 

https://www.jeuneafrique.com/903161/politique/rdc-deces-du-general-delphin-kahimbi-le-chef-du-renseignement-militaire-congolais/

Celebrated Congolese rumba performer Fally Ipupa is set to perform in Paris on February 28, but not if a coalition of Congolese political activists in diaspora have anything to say about it. These “combattants”, as they are referred to in French, have repeatedly attempted to shut down performances by Congolese artists in Europe in an effort to draw attention to ongoing violence and political instability, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern provinces. And this extends beyond France; combattants boycotts of Congolese performers have also happened in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

 

Why It Matters

These protests demonstrate the extent of the Congolese diaspora in Europe and their continuing impact on the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s politics. Most of the petitions for and against a boycott of Fally Ipupa’s concert reflects the growing importance of social media for political organizing, especially for scattered populations. It also emphasizes a global shrinkage: the political and security situation in the DRC is not a localized problem but one that has impacted observers in Europe and elsewhere. The combattants’ targeting of cultural productions like a rumba concert also builds off a growing protest tactic that uses public art performances as venues for political agitation, which pulls participants out of an escapist mentality and forces a recognition of the interconnections between art, politics, and violence.

 

How It Began

The combattants first formed in 2009 in opposition to the presidency of Joseph Kabila, which was marked by repression and poverty. More than a tactic to raise awareness, their targeting of Congolese musicians stems from a desire to chastise performers who wrote campaign songs for Kabila during the 2011 presidential election, which Kabila won. Yet Ipupa and others who have had their performances threatened or canceled recently are from a generation of artists who were never involved with Kabila; they are just the unfortunate victims of a political momentum that has not abated.

This tactic is not supported by all Congolese in the diaspora. Shortly after the announcement by the combattants that they will try to have Ipupa’s February concert cancelled, an opposing group formed in his defense. Former Congolese politicians also took to social media to express their support for Ipupa and chastise the combattants for “politicizing” the DRC’s cultural heritage.

 

https://www.jeuneafrique.com/901729/politique/rdc-les-combattants-menacent-la-tenue-du-concert-de-fally-ipupa-a-paris/

More than 36,000 people gathered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern city of Goma for the Amani Festival, an annual celebration of music and dance. Named after the Swahili word for peace, the three-day festival featured musicians and dancers from the region and beyond, including Tanzanian pop star Diamond Platnumz and Senegalese soul and gospel singer Faada Freddy. Festivalgoers could indulge in dishes typical of the local cuisine and cultural experiences like the Rwandan dance Intore.

The aim of the annual event is to promote peace in the region and offer an escape for those weighed down by the ongoing violence in the DRC’s eastern provinces, which has killed hundreds of civilians as armed rebel groups clash with government forces. Though the event went off without any incident, participants who spoke with BBC and other foreign press acknowledged that the instability was on everyone’s mind despite the generally positive atmosphere.

 

Why It Matters?

Events like the Amani Festival push back against perceptions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern territories as a completely lawless warzone, and are a reminder that the conflict is not a small regional issue but impacts hundreds of thousands. Celebrations like these also elevate local art forms and serve as venues for intercultural solidarity, especially with artists hailing from neighboring Rwanda, whose military has been embroiled in the ongoing violence in the province of North Kivu, with Goma as its capital.

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51543822

Daily Picks
Nov 23, 2020