14 UN peacekeepers, 5 soldiers killed in attack in Congo

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

At least 14 UN peacekeepers, 5 soldiers killed in attack in Congo, Guterres expresses outrage

Established in 2010, MONUSCO, the United Nations’s largest peacekeeping mission, has recorded 93 fatalities of military, police and civilian personnel.

WORLD Updated: Dec 08, 2017 23:32 IST

Reuters, United Nations/ Abidjan
Indian soldiers, serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO), hold up their weapons at their base in northwest of Goma, Congo.
Indian soldiers, serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO), hold up their weapons at their base in northwest of Goma, Congo.(Reuters File Photo)

Rebels killed at least 14 UN peacekeepers and wounded 53 others in Congo and UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said on Friday the attack that targeted troops from Tanzania was the worst in recent history.

Guterres said the raid in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo constituted a war crime and he called on Congolese authorities to investigate and “swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice”.

“I want to express my outrage and utter heartbreak at last night’s attack,” Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

Three other peacekeepers are missing after a three-hour firefight that broke out at dusk on Thursday evening, said Ian Sinclair, the director of the UN Operations and Crisis Centre.

Suspected militants from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) staged the assault on a base for Congo’s UN mission (MONUSCO) in the town of Semuliki, the mission said.

The ADF is an Islamist rebel group from across the border in Uganda, who has been active in the area. MONUSCO said it was coordinating a joint response with the Congolese army and evacuating wounded from the base in North Kivu’s Beni territory.

Five Congolese soldiers were also killed in the raid, MONUSCO said in a statement.

Rival militia groups control parts of mineral-rich eastern Congo nearly a decade and a half after the official end of a 1998-2003 war that killed millions of people, most of whom died from hunger and disease.

The area has been the scene of repeated massacres and at least 26 people died in an ambush in October.

The government and UN mission have blamed almost all the violence on the ADF but UN experts and independent analysts say other militia and elements of Congo’s army have also been involved.

Increased militia activity in the east and centre of the country and a series of prison breaks have fuelled mounting insecurity in Congo this year amid political tensions linked to President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate expired last December.

An election to replace Kabila, who has ruled Congo since his father’s assassination in 2001, has been repeatedly delayed and is now scheduled for December 2018.

Established in 2010, MONUSCO is the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping mission and had recorded 93 fatalities of military, police and civilian personnel.

The death toll for the attack varied. A spokesman for Congo’s army, Mak Hazukay, said only one Congolese soldier was missing after the fighting and one had been injured, adding that 72 militants had been killed.

Guterres said most of the peacekeepers were from Tanzania. Tanzania’s defence minister declined to comment.

Rebels Break out Spiritual Leader from Congo Prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

Rebels Break out Spiritual Leader from Congo Prison

Nsemi

Rebels from an outlawed group in the Democratic Republic of Congo staged a prison break in the country’s capital, freeing their spiritual leader and 50 other inmates, the government announced.

“Followers of the Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) attacked Makala prison at dawn and broke out around 50 prisoners, including their guru, Ne Muanda Nsemi,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said, indicating that police had given chase.

BDK has called for an insurrection against Kinshasa. Nsemi – a self-styled prophet – was arrested along with his three wives and son in early March following a violent two-week siege of his home in Kinshasa, DR Congo’s capital.

According to a local resident, the attack began just before dawn when there were “prolonged exchanges of fire”. Other witnesses said they had heard gunfire near Makala prison at around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT) and saw prisoners wearing blue shirts with yellow collars in the streets.

One of the prisoners on the run told AFP he had managed to escape during violent clashes between the attackers and the prison guards.

The government has accused BDK followers of a string of violent attacks in western DR Congo since the start of the year.

By around 8:30 am (0730 GMT), a column of thick black smoke could be seen rising over Makala prison, with dozens of police and soldiers blocking off all access to the facility.

The United Nations warned its staff to avoid unessential movement around Kinshasa, saying the situation was calm but unpredictable.

Soldiers stopped young men for questioning near Nsemi’s house in the city’s district of Ngaliema and arresting some of them, a Reuters witness said.

Clashes between his followers and security forces have compounded wider tensions across Congo since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his mandate expired in December, raising fears of renewed civil conflict.

Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe told a local radio station that, aside from Nsemi, the prison’s most prominent prisoners, including political opposition leaders and soldiers convicted in the assassination of former President Laurent Kabila, had not escaped.

The dramatic assault took place as DR Congo marks 20 years since the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country — which was then known as Zaire — with an iron fist for more than three decades.

Mobutu was ousted by rebel chief Laurent-Desire Kabila, father of the embattled current President Joseph Kabila.

BDK stands for “Kingdom of the Kongo” in the Kikongo language, and its members want to restore an African monarchy that once included what is today Kongo Central (formerly Bas-Congo) along with parts of Angola, the Republic of Congo and Gabon.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Another African President Decides To Become A King/Dictator In The Congo?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’ NEWS AGENCY)

The Observer view on Congo and the failure of democracy in Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the latest country disintegrating because a leader wants to hang on to power
Joseph Kabila promised not to seek a third term as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Joseph Kabila promised not to seek a third term as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photograph: Reuters

Two decades ago, the Democratic Republic of Congo, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country, was engulfed in what became known as Africa’s Great War, a conflict that drew in half-a-dozen neighboring countries and raged for five years from 1998.

The conflict and its aftermath cost the lives of an estimated 5.4 million people, mainly from starvation and disease. This epic disaster was largely ignored outside Africa, even though it was the developed world’s insatiable demand for the DRC’s mineral riches that helped to fuel it.

The war was halted, in part, by the introduction of a new constitution and a democratic system of governance, replacing decades of Mobutu Sese Seko’s brutal dictatorship. In 2006 Joseph Kabila was confirmed as DRC president by popular vote, although the fairness of the election was widely disputed. In 2011 he was re-elected. Again, the results were hotly contested. A key factor in their acceptance was his pledge to honour the constitution and refrain from seeking a third term.

The DRC’s next presidential election is due next month. It isn’t going to happen. A court last week upheld a request by the election commission that the poll be postponed, ostensibly because voter rolls are incomplete. A “national dialogue” by the ruling coalition and involving fringe parties and civic groups, but boycotted by the main opposition and Catholic church, also agreed a delay until at least April 2018. In effect, Kabila and his security force backers have compromised the constitution and the judiciary and engineered a silent coup. His solemn 2011 promise has been broken.

This shameless subversion of the democratic process (parliamentary and provincial polls have also been put off) was condemned by the main opposition party, the UDPS, as a “flagrant violation”. Rassemblement (Gathering), the multi-party opposition organisation, reacted with fury and called a general strike last Wednesday. Kabila’s attempt to cling to power threatens the DRC’s hard-won and still precarious stability. Worse, it risks a return to national and regional upheaval, violence and war. At least this time the world is paying more attention. Maman Sambo Sidikou, the senior UN official in the country, warned the UN security council last week that “large-scale violence is all but inevitable” if the impasse is not resolved. “The tipping point could be reached very quickly.” After related clashes in Kinshasa last month, in which at least 50 people died, the US imposed limited sanctions on army generals implicated in human rights abuses. On Monday EU foreign ministers also agreed to pursue possible punitive measures.

Matters are not as clear-cut as they might seem. Kabila denies he wanted the delay. Analysts suggest the president, thrust into office after his father was assassinated in 2001, is a front man for the security apparatus. The opposition is fragmented and its readiness to resort to protests often leads to violence. Concerns over stability by countries such as France and Belgium are not wholly disinterested, commercially speaking. But that the leadership of another African country appears ready to ride roughshod over democracy and laws is clear. The DRC has never had a peaceful transition of power since independence in 1960. This is why term limits are so important. Last year the presidents of Burundi, Rwanda and Congo-Brazzaville overrode constitutional requirements that they step aside. In Burundi’s case, violence and displacement resulted. In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni looks determined to go on for ever. Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwean “presidency for life” and José Eduardo dos Santos’s Angolan ascendancy provide further examples of endemic disregard for democratic principles.

It would be a mistake to think Africans care less about self-serving, corrupt and irresponsible politicians than Europeans or Americans. The African Union has repeatedly stressed peaceful political transitions in embedding democratic habits. Studies show African voters value democratic systems but are increasingly frustrated at their malfunctioning and wilful subversion.

Nigeria demonstrated last year how it could be done. But South Africa, ruled since apartheid’s end by a single, over powerful party, is less of a shining light. It’s reported decision to renounce the International Criminal Court is another sign that too many African politicians would rather jettison democratic and legal norms than subject themselves to scrutiny and public judgment.