DR CONGO DIGEST – 2016 08

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AUGUST 2016

POLITICS | ARMED CONFLICT | ECONOMY/NATURAL RESOURCES | SOCIETY

FreeFred doneSUMMARY. Opposition groups continue to call for President Joseph Kabila to end his 15-year rule this December as mandated by the country’s constitution, as the electoral commission has re-affirmed that DR Congo’s election will likely not take place until 2017. There was positive progress on the country’s freedom of expression as four notable Congolese activists – Fred Bauma, Yves Makwambala, Jean-Marie Kalonji, and Christopher Ngoyi – have been released form prison ‘as part of an effort to ease political tensions’ following their arbitrary 2015 arrests on politically-motivated charges. LUCHA continues its calls for the Kabila government to respect democracy, civil liberties and the rule of law.

Multiple incidents of ethnic conflict have been reported in August, with the highest frequency of violence and attacks in North Kivu province. Local and state activists question the effectiveness and organization of DR Congo security forces and MONUSCO, and members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are put on trial for a civilian massacre near Beni.


POLITICS

What can be done to avert the impending constitutional crisis in DR Congo?

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Brookings hosts a discussion on the DRC’s political crisis featuring His Excellency François Nkuna Balumuene, ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United States; Anthony Gambino, former USAID mission director in Congo; and The Honorable Thomas Perriello, special envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa at the U.S. Department of State. Panelists differ as to the proper and constitutionally mandated processes that should guide President Kabila’s behaviour in addressing the increasingly tense political situation, but agree that efforts must be made to build confidence and trust between the government and the opposition. The guests all mentioned the importance of addressing DR Congo’s various economic obstacles that have largely resulted from external factors, including low commodity prices. While a constitutional crisis may be looming, panelists agree it is not too late to avert a largely preventable impasse. (FULL DISCUSSION / FULL VIDEO | Brookings / C-SPAN. August 18 2016)

DR Congo opposition rejects talks over election

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DR Congo’s main opposition alliance has rejected talks with President Joseph Kabila and his government over elections that were due to have been held in November but have been delayed, and called for a general strike. The strike call represents a significant escalation of opposition action in the country. The opposition demands Kabila end his 15-year rule in December as mandated by the constitution but authorities say the vote cannot be held until at least next July, with DR Congo’s top court saying Kabila can stay in power until the election is held. DR Congo’s voter registry will not be complete until July 2017, the electoral commission says, and the election will likely be delayed. Opposition groups fear Kabila will seek a constitutional referendum to extend term limits. (FULL ARTICLE | Al Jazeera English. August 21 2016)

DR Congo Opposition wants strike as election delayed until 2017

A coalition of DR Congo’s opposition parties is calling for a general strike after the country’s electoral commission says the presidential election won’t be held until next year – announcing Saturday that voter registration for the election would not be ready until July 2017 because of logistical issues and lack of money. The opposition coalition, recently formed by popular opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, says in a statement that it rejects the upcoming national dialogue’s African Union-appointed mediator, Edem Kodjo, saying he has ties to Kabila. The country’s third largest opposition party says it will participate because of the presence of the international community. (FULL ARTICLE | Associated Press. August 21 2016)

DR Congo releases high-profile political prisoners

4 pro-democracy activists have been released in DR Congo 11 days after youth activist group, LUCHA, called on president Joseph Kabila to release them, including: Christopher Ngoyi, Fred Bauma, Yves Makwambala and Jean-Marie Kalonji. Bauma and Makwambala were arrested in March 2015 during a workshop in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, to launch Filimbi, a platform to encourage responsible civic participation from Congolese youth. They were arrested along with 26 others and faced a number of charges, including “plotting a conspiracy against the head of state”. Filimbi welcomed their release, but said it does not go far enough. “President Kabila must leave the power at the end of his mandate even if the presidential election is not organized, the Constitution is clear,” Filimbi says. “All charges should be dropped, anyone involved in this case should be prosecuted and all political prisoners must be released. On 19 December at the latest Kabila must leave power and if he does not resign the population will act according to Article 64 of the Constitution.” Despite the provisional release of Bauma, Makwambala and Ngoyi, charges against them have not been dropped, and they remain at risk of re-arrest unless the charges are dropped completely. (FULL ARTICLE | IB Times. August 30 2016)

South Sudan opposition leader Machar seeks safety in neighboring DR Congo

South Sudan’s opposition leader, Riek Machar, has fled to neighbouring DR Congo, several weeks after he withdrew from the country’s capital, Juba, during clashes and renewed fighting with government troops. The UN says MONUSCO became aware of Machar’s presence in the country and contacted the Congolese government, which then asked the mission to pick up Machar. A spokesman for the DR Congo government, Lambert Mende, denies it had been in touch with any party on helping the former South Sudanese vice president, but a U.N. spokesperson has said Machar was removed from an area close to the border with South Sudan in support of DR Congo authorities. (FULL ARTICLE | Reuters. August 16 2016)

ARMED CONFLICT

DR Congo: Beni residents urged to become vigilantes after over 40 killed in massacre

At least 45 people have been killed in an attack attributed to armed rebels on August 13 in Beu – a commune located 4km southeast of Beni. Since massacres began two years ago in the territories of Beni, Butembo and Lubero in North Kivu, more than 1,150 people have been killed and kidnapped, with thousands more displaced from their homes.  Local residents have repeated their call for a change in the FARDC and security forces’ command, and troops, committed to the region. Congolese youth activist group LUCHA has condemned the attacks. In a statement, it has said: “Our thoughts are with all those compatriots once again victims of the barbarity that nothing can justify, as well as the state’s abdication (those who are supposed to protect Congolese)”. The group said it was preparing major actions to be carried out nationwide, “to honor the victims and hold accountable the authorities and MONUSCO”. (FULL ARTICLE | IB Times. August 15 2016)

South Kivu: Mutarule Mobile Court Hearing starting this coming Friday

Plagued by false disappearance of elements for the investigation and delays, the trial on the Mutarule slaughter – occurring June 6 – 7 2014 when approximately 30 people were killed and more than 5000 fled the area – the long-awaited trial will start on August 12 2016 with the firm determination of the Congolese authorities and support (financial, logistic, technical) from DR Congo partners: the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, MONUSCO, and the UNDP. The defendants are accused of having pushed military personnel to commit unlawful acts contrary to the military code, and for committing war crimes: murder, looting, rape, breach of physical integrity, attack against civilians, attacks on protected properties and destruction of properties. (FULL STATEMENT | MONUSCO. August 16 2016)

DR Congo puts fighters on trial for civilian massacres

DR Congo’s military court has begun the trial of 215 members of an armed group accused of killing hundreds of civilians in and around Beni, North Kivu. Eighty accused members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) from Uganda, Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan, were present in court on Saturday in Beni, where they face charges of massacring civilians. Six suspects who took the stand are accused of participating in the killing of 51 people near Beni in mid-August. The accused admitted at the hearing to having been “at the service of the ADF,” a Ugandan rebel group that later moved to DR Congo. Many massacres have taken place around Beni and have been blamed on the ADF, although independent observers have also blamed government troops. (FULL ARTICLE | Al Jazeera. August 20 2016)

Two women lynched, set on fire in Congo as ethnic tensions flare

A crowd in eastern Congo has lynched two Hutu women as inter-ethnic tensions in the region surge in the wake of massacres that have killed hundreds of civilians. A crowd in the town of Butembo, dominated the Nande ethnic group, say the two Hutu women who were traveling by minibus in North Kivu province were militants. DR Congo’s government blames the massacres over the last two years that have killed more than 700 civilians on Ugandan Islamist rebels but independent analysts say other armed groups are involved and ethnic rivalries likely play a role. Ethnic militias have killed dozens in “tit-for-tat” killings this year. (FULL ARTICLE | Reuters. August 25 2016)

DR Congo: 33 incidents of ethnic conflict reported in North Kivu province in 2016

“33 incidents involving ethnic conflict in North Kivu were recorded in 2016. Long-standing communal tensions in the southern half of North Kivu province have worsened in recent months, as military operations against the Hutu-dominated rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) have displaced numerous fighters and Hutu civilians to areas dominated by other groups (especially Nande), altering the local demographic and power balance. This has prompted local elites from the latter groups to create local militias to defend their position, sparking retaliatory killings. The upcoming election cycle is also exacerbating tensions, with local politicians using armed groups to intimidate their rivals and build popularity among local ethnic constituencies.” (FULL REPORT | Control Risks. August 2016)

ECONOMY / MINING /NATURAL RESOURCES

DR Congo’s 2015 Economic Growth slows to 7.7 percent– AfDB

The African Development Bank says DR Congo recorded a decrease in its economic growth of 7.7% for 2015 from a high of 9.2% in 2014. A slump in global prices of commodities has hit DR Congo’s mining industry which has been forced to scale back production from a crucial sector, and uncertainty on whether the country will hold its elections this year has foreign investors alarmed. Over the past five years, DR Congo has been one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s strongest performers in terms of real GDP growth as the economy recovered from civil war that ended in 2003. (FULL ARTICLE | TVC News. August 6 2016)

Congo Copper Deal With China May Draw $2 Billion of Investment

Gecamines, DR Congo’s state-owned mining company, says China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group may invest up to $2 billion to develop a prospective copper asset, the Deziwa concession. In June, Gecamines said that CNMC would finance the construction of the plant with an initial capacity for 80,000 metric tons of copper a year, in return for a 51 percent stake in the project. The CNMC will finance, build and operate a copper-processing facility before eventually transferring full ownership back to the state-owned miner, as a “new type of partnership” designed to increase revenue for the state. Gecamines, which currently has $1.58 billion of debt, borrowed $196 million to acquire Deziwa in January 2013, stating that it would provide the reserves needed to reintroduce the company as a major producer. Deziwa has the potential to produce 5 million tons of copper, placing it among Congo’s biggest metal deposits. (FULL ARTICLE | Bloomberg. August 15 2016)

Congo Slashes Growth Forecast After Drop in Copper Production

DR Congo cut its growth forecast for 2016 for the third time this year because of lower commodity prices and has warned the economy could slow further if other industries don’t perform. The government has now lowered the estimate for growth this year to 4.3 percent. The government first cut its growth forecast in April from 9 percent to 6.6 percent, reducing it again to 5.3 percent in June. The country depends on oil and gas revenue for 22 percent of gross domestic product and 95 percent of export earnings, which have been limited by the fall in prices. Copper output also dropped 14 percent in the first half, while cobalt production fell 13 percent. The DR Congo economy grew 6.9 percent last year. (FULL ARTICLE | Bloomberg. August 19 2016)

South Korea, DR Congo launch joint committee to expand economic cooperation

South Korea and DR Congo launches a joint committee this month to expand collaboration between the world’s 11th largest economy and the mineral-rich African country. During the talks, DR Congo proposed an action plan for building a tighter partnership between the countries, involving sectors like peace, security, agriculture, infrastructure building and information technology; the country’s secretary general also suggested that the DR Congo is ready to strengthen military cooperation with the Asian country. The meeting comes on the backdrop of rival North Korea’s efforts to tighten cooperation with African countries. (FULL ARTICLE | Yonhap News. August 19 2016)

SOCIETY

Rio Olympics 2016: Team Refugee’s Popole Misenga & Yolande Mabika Make History

Team Refugee’s Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa Mabika have “entered history” despite going out of the judo competition at the Rio Olympics. Unfortunately Misenga, 24, lost his last-16 -90kg bout as Mabika, 28, was knocked out in the first round of the -70kg contest, but in competing became a part of Olympic history. The competitors, both from DR Congo, are among 10 refugee athletes competing under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Misenga’s home city of Bukavu was one of the areas worst affected by the Second Congo War – both he and Mabika began seeking asylum in Brazil during the 2013 World Judo Championships in Rio. Mabika eventually lost to Israel’s Linda Bolder, but said afterwards: “I’m representing many nations and my victory is a victory for all refugees in the world. I lost, but I’m here. The fight did not end today. The fight is not only judo, the fight is life.” (FULL ARTICLE | BBC News. August 10 2016)

Civilian police group tries to curb sexual violence in Democratic Republic of Congo

 Nearly 40 percent of women in Eastern DRC reported having been exposed to sexual violence in their lifetime. But in Lubero Territory, a new law enforcement group has been formed: Protection de l’Enfant et des Violence Sexuelles, a civilian police unit known as PEVS, which began operations in Kirumba in 2015. Most provinces in DRC already have a similar unit. The objective, says PVES Commander Maurice Muyayalo Kisolu, is to hold perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions. In the last year, he says, 17 rape cases were reported to them in South Lubero and, for the first time, perpetrators were brought to court. Despite their progress, the group faces a number of long-term challenges, including corruption, a lack of resources, and limited transport availability. [FULL INTERVIEW | Seattle Globalist. August 16 2016)

As globe-threatening yellow fever epidemic explodes in DR Congo, people ask ‘where is the vaccine?’

The ‘Vector Control’ method, a poor alternative to vaccination, is being implemented in the fight against central Africa’s yellow fever outbreak, which has surpassed 6,100 suspected cases in Angola and DR Congo, killing at least 400. For months, vector control (a neurotoxin in high quantities) has been the only possible safeguard as workers wait for 15.5 million more vaccines. While there already exists a cheap, lifelong yellow fever vaccine – in December 2015, the entire global stockpile numbered just 6 million vaccines. And only this month, eight months after the start of the outbreak, a $34 million vaccination effort finally began to roll out. The campaign will vaccinate another 15.5 million people — totalling close to 30 million — many of who will receive only one-fifth of a dose to stretch the limited supply. Aside from support measures like fluid and oxygen, there is no treatment for yellow fever, and up to half of severe cases die. (FULL ARTICLE | Washington Post. August 22 2016)

New mobility for people living with disability in DR Congo

As a result of continuous civil wars and other armed insurgencies in the 1980s and 1990s, the health system in the DR Congo inevitably collapsed. As such, a whole generation of young Congolese never received necessary vaccines for illnesses like polio. But now DR Congo is making small but meaningful steps toward better access for people living with disabilities – including 36-year-old Congolese, Robert Mboyo. He is the founder of the Mboyo Foundation, started in 1997, that offers free wheelchairs and other walkers for those in need. Most disabled people cannot afford equipment and “It is important to support them but we do not get any assistance from the government,” he says. There are no reliable numbers as to how many disabled people live in the country, but estimates number around 15 percent of the population. Importantly, last year DR Congo ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and attempts are being made to implement the Convention’s measures. Since 2015 every child born in the DR Congo has been vaccinated against polio and no outbreak of polio has been reported in the country since 2011. (FULL ARTICLE | Deutsche Welle. August 26 2016)