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Info-Congo Kinshasa #161, June 2000

Summary & Comment: Bi monthly bulletin on events in Congo.

Author: Denis Tougas Date Written: 7 July 2000
Primary Category: Central Region Document Origin: Table Ronde
Secondary Category: -none- Source URL:
Key Words: Congo, rebels, humanitarian catastrophe, civil war, UN, natural resources


Printable Version

No. 161

Fighting almost everywhere
 In his report to the Security Council on June 12, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, noted a general deterioration in the observance of the ceasefire.

First in Equateur province, where the forces of Jean-Pierre Bemba's Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), supported by Uganda, have continued their pressure on the positions held by the Congolese Armed Forces (FAC) and have tried to close in on Mbandaka by taking Bururu and moving towards Bomonga.  On May 25, the UN Mission to the Congo (MONUC) accused the MLC of violating the Lusaka Accord and the Kampala Agreement of April 8, and thus of putting at risk the deployment of international observers in Equateur.  On May 23, Kamel Morjane, the Secretary General's representative, went to Gbadolite to demand explanations from Jean-Pierre Bemba, who claimed that his troops were only responding to FAC attacks and that measures would be taken to stop the hostilities.

 But the fighting has continued.  On May 31, Kinshasa claimed to have recaptured the towns of Mobaza and Bururu, and, on June 12 gave the MLC an ultimatum: leave the territory captured after July 1999 - meaning Zongo, Gemena, Libenge and Basankusu - within three days or be forced out.  The same day, the FAC bombarded Libenge.

 Elsewhere the two Kivu provinces have once again been the site of massacres, fighting, and reprisals against the population.  In his report to the Security Council, Kofi Annan noted that on June 9 a UN mission went to Sud-Kivu to visit the Haut Plateaux and Fizi regions. They found that a virtual blockade had isolated the inhabitants since March.  Repeated attacks by the Maï-Maï, the Interahamwe and supporters of the Burundian rebellion had driven out 35,000 Banyamulenge from an estimated population of 80,000.

 In addition, several sources, among them the African Association for Defence of Human Rights (ASADHO), reported the massacre of several dozen, perhaps hundrends, of civilians on May 14 at Katogota, between Kamanyola and Luvungi in Sud-Kivu.  According to ASADHO, these killings were perpetrated by RCD soldiers in reprisal for the assassination of a Munyamulenge commander during a disturbance. The official account makes the Maï-Maï and Interahamwe troops responsible for the massacre, contradicting eye-witness accounts, since the assailants fled towards an area harbouring an important Rwandan military base.

 Elsewhere, in the Kabare region north of Bukavu, several villages were looted between May 21 and 24, and community buildings were also ransacked.  On May 31 the Muresha Seminary and the commercial centre of the town were looted.  At least 3 people are said to have been killed.  At the start of June, according to the BBC, an attack by the Maï-Maï and Interahamwe militias on the villages of Nyabibwe and Numbi, in the Kalehe region, left 60 civilian victims.  Similarly on the night of June 18 and 19, Karbare was the target of looters again. Three civilians were killed, and the parish hall, the hospital, the convent and several local houses were looted. The attack led to an exodus of the population who fled to neighbouring villages and towards Bukavu.

 In response to this fresh outbreak of instability in Sud-Kivu, the province's governor, Katintima called for the organization of self-defence groups and told the local leaders in Kaziba, his native area, that he would arm their "people's militias."  However, some Civil Society groups in Bukavu question who is responsible for these attacks.  They noted that the troops stationed in Sud-Kivu  were being led more and more by the Rwandan Patriotic Army (APR), while the RCD officers had been sent further into the interior.  They say that the fighting is taking place in a clearly demarcated region which forms a semi-circle around Bukavu, from Kalehe in the north to Uvira in the south.   They ask why the RDC rebel authorities feel so little urgency to "liberate the people from these negative forces," as the Lusaka Accord calls on them to do, and question the freedom of movement the looters enjoy. Some see in it a deliberate strategy by Rwanda to "empty" certain regions;  for these attacks they would be using Rwandan "Hutus,"  volunteers or prisoners, in the pay of the APR.  They continue to ask for an independent internation commission of enquiry to be sent to shed light on a long series of massacres perpetrated with impunity.

 Elsewhere, in Nord-Kivu, though the perpetrators cannot be identified with any certainty, since June there has been significant fighting in the Bwito region, especially close to Kibirizi;  more than a hundred have been killed and a significant part of the population has fled.  Finally, in the last few weeks, humanitarian agencies have seen fighting near Ruthsuru, Lubero and Beni further north, forcing thousands of displaced people onto the roads.

Kisangani, «the six day battle»
 But it is at Kisangani that the cease-fire was most seriously violated when the troops of the self-styled allies, Rwanda and Uganda confronted one another for the third time for control of the city.
 However, following the meeting of the two presidents, Kagame and Museveni, on May 14 in Mwanza in Tanzania, a way seemed to have been found to demilitarise the city.   On two occasions, May 15 and 21, the commander of the Ugandan Forces (FDPO), Major General Jeje Odongo, and the Rwandan Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Kayumba Nyamwasa, met to finalize a plan to disengage their troops. This agreement, ratified in the presence of MONUC representatives in Kisangani, called for the gradual withdrawal of all military, excepting two companies (216 soldiers), one for each side, to defend the two airports.  The complete withdrawal was scheduled for June 10 leaving the area to the UN observers.

 However,  there was still dissension between the rebel factions and their sponsors over the control of the city. And contrary to what had been agreed after the first confrontations in August, 1999, the RCD-Goma, actively supported by Rwanda in this, opposed the organization of local elections to choose administrators.  Hence a separate agreement had been signed between the RCD-Goma and the MONUC on May 22 saying that all soldiers, without exception, should leave the city and that the administration would be handed back to the party based at Goma.  Bemba's MLC and Wamba's RCD-ML  rejected this, continuing to call for local elections.

 It looked as if all would go smoothly;  MONUC indicated its satisfaction when it increased the number of observers in the city to 21; Mbabazi, the Ugandan minister in charge of regional co-operation, proposed presenting the Political Committee, charged with supervising the Lusaka Accord, with this demilitarisation plan to act as a model for the whole country.  But it was all an illusion.  In the "besieged" city, tension mounted as the two adversaries used the two local radio stations to attack one another verbally.  The APR soldiers swapped their military uniforms for RCD police uniforms or civilian clothes and the Ugandan army reinforced its positions around the city.  Fighting broke out again with an intensity never seen before.

 From June 5 to 10, in spite of the announcement of many ceasefires, fighting continued openly throughout the city in flagrant violation of the ratified charters, conventions and international protocols against war crimes.  According to Congolese organizations on the spot more than 10,000 shells were exploded in the area, especially in the crowded neighbourhood of Tshopo.  From the start of the fighting electricity and water were cut off.  More than 60,000 people had to leave the city, forced out by the Ugandan military or fleeing from the fighting.  A statement from the Internation Red Cross, published June 19, numbered more than 520 dead, 319 of them civilians, as well as 1,664 wounded.  The Congolese organizations set the figure at 1,000 dead and 3,000 wounded. 

According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), more than 1,335 houses and buildings were completely or partially destroyed, among them the Cathedral.  For the third time in less than a year, Kisangani, the martyred city, has been victimized by a battle fought by two foreign armies on Congolese soil with total disregard for the lives of innocent civilians and international law.  Only an international tribunal could justly place the blame for these crimes where it belongs, as the Justice and Liberation Group asserted in its report on these events on June 30.

 On a military level, everything suggests that the intended objective was the Ugandan army's recapture of the centre of the city and the two airports from the APR.  At the end of the fighting the positions are unchanged. After intense diplomatic negotiations, Kigali and Kampala announced the withdrawal of their troops on June 11 and called on MONUC to help with the evacuation.  On June 7, the Security Council in effect had condemned the fighting and Kofi Annan had threatened to impose sanctions.  On June 8 there was a telephone conference with Presidents Museveni and Kagame, the UN Secretary General, and the American Richard Holbrooke. On June 10 and 11, President Chiluba visited Kampala and Kigali in turn calling the fighting "an embarrassment for all Africans, shameful and inexcusable . ."
 Rwanda and Uganda seem to have effectively withdrawn their troops to a hundred kilometres from the city, the distance already fixed before the renewed fighting. 

Just as after each of the two earlier battles, Presidents Kagame and Museveni met once again, this time at Entebe, on July 1 and 2.  Once again the closing communique asserted the cordial ties uniting the two countries.  The two heads of state reaffirmed their commitment to demilitarize the city of Kisangani and called on other groups not to take advantage of their withdrawal.  And to emphasize the normalization of relations between the two countries, on July 4 a representative of the Ugandan army was present at the celebrations marking the sixth anniversary of the victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) over the previous regime. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Burundi and Ethiopia were also represented.

  But the conflict between the different rebel groups over the control of Kisangani does not seem to have been settled.  Renewed fighting is always a fear, but this time fighting between RCD-Goma soldiers and those of the MLC.  In spite of their agreement of May 22 with MONUC, calling for the complete demilitarization of the city, the RCD-Goma announced that its troops would stay in the city as long as the international forces were not sufficient to defend it properly.  On June 22, Kisangani's Civil Society associations proposed a plan for depoliticizing the city. 

For them, in fact,  "the demilitarization of the city is really only the continuation of another evil:  the political monopoly of one group in the running of the city."  So they are suggesting that direction of the city should be handed over provisionally to the civil administration of the UN aided by technical people and leaders of Civil Society.  The humanitarian aid which the city so much needs, as well as the product of local revenue frozen in Kisangani, should be managed by this independent administration.  In addition, after their meeting on June 29 with the Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, as he passed through Kisangani, they asked for the suspension of European Union aid to Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda and its diversion to reconstruction of the city.  The political leaders and those in charge of local RCD Security Services reacted swiftly by calling one of the leaders of the signatory groups in for questioning and by threatening the others with reprisals if they continued to criticize the movement.
 
The UN demands the demilitarization of Kisangani
 In his report before the Security Council on June 13, Kofi Annan declared that given the recent events it would be neither possible nor prudent to proceed, as intended, with the despatch of MONUC forces to Kisangani.  He recommended the Council to refer to the clauses of Chapter VII of the UN Charter to demand that the two countries withdraw from the city immediately, then, speedily, from DRC territory.  He also proposed that the two countries should be held responsible for the loss of life and property damage inflicted on the population.

 After 2 days of discussion of  the fighting in the DRC in which the Foreign Affairs ministers of the those countries who signed the Lusaka accord took part, on June 16 the Security Council unaimously adopted Resolution 1304. It once again condemns the fighting at Kisangani "in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC."  In addition it demands that "Rwandan and Ugandan troops as well as the forces of the Congolese opposition and other armed groups withdraw immediately and completely from Kisangani."  And the two countries are ordered to leave Congolese territory " without delay" in conformity with the Lusaka Accord of July 1999 and the Kampala Agreement of April 8.  The Council gave its opinion that the two countries should provide compensation for the losses inflicted on civilians, and asked the Secretary General to provide an inventory of damage. The two countries quickly announced that they would contest these complaints.
 For some the resolution seemed very lenient considering what had happened, particularly in the matter of the delay "imposed" for the troop withdrawal.  The US and Great Britain effectively softened the resolution, whose first draft set October 15 as the date for troop withdrawal.

 Other pressure was exerted in Europe.  Two European Church organizations, the Christian Committee for Central Africa (CCAC) and the Great Lakes Advocacy Network (GLAN) petitioned first France, which will preside over the European Union for the next six months, and the countries of the European Union.  They wanted them to adopt a united European position aimed at putting an end to the war in Central Africa.

 In relation to the events at Kisangani, the Uganda Joint Christian Council, which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, on June 5 appealed to the Ugandan government to withdraw from the DRC and to confine its forces "within the limits of Ugandan borders."
 In Europe, the events in Kisangani have also led some forty Belgian figures, particularly union members, teachers, and lawyers, to address an urgent appeal to their government, to the Council of European Ministers and to the Security Council, to demand an "effective and lasting ceasefire" and a humanitarian corridor to allow help to reach the people of Kisangani.
 
A humanitarian catastrophe
 On June 8, the International Aid Committee (IAC), a New York organization founded by Albert Einstein in 1933, made public the conclusions of a study conducted in three of the five occupied provinces in the east of the country, between April 18 and May 27.  The data collected are alarming:  1.7 million people have died since August 1998 as a result of the war.  In addition to violent deaths, the IAC calculated deaths caused by illnesses neglected as a result of the displacement of people and the destruction of the health system infrastructure due to the ongoing fighting.  In normal Congolese health conditions, only 600,000 people should have died in the same period. 

"At least 2,600 people are dying every day in this war," said Les Robert, an epidemiologist and author of the study.  He added that the longer the conflict lasts, the higher the mortality rate will rise.  Children under 5 are the most affected, with nearly 590,000 deaths, and  displaced people. The IAS notes that civilians have been the principal target of the attacks by both sides.  In addition the east of the country has become a particularly dangerous area for the spread of contagious diseases such as meningitis, cholera and polio.

 The organization called on the belligerents to observe the ceasefire so as to allow access to disaster-stricken areas;  they asked the international community to increase the emergency aid in proportion to the catastrophe and to send a peace-keeping mission with more muscle to the DRC.
 On June 9 the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that there were now more than 1.3 million displaced persons in the DRC and that since last February  there were 90,000 more displaced persons in the two Kivu provinces.  The WFP also announced that it had begun distributing food to 64,000 displaced persons in Katage, Malemba-Nkulu and Lubumbashi.

 Finally, according to the co-ordinator of the High Commission for Refugees (HCR) in Congo/Brazzaville, a humanitarian catastrophe is imminent in the region  bounded by the mouths of the Congo and Oubangui rivers; between 35,000 and 40,000 Equateur inhabitants have taken refuge there from the clashes, particularly those around Mbandaka.  The HCR fears it will not be able to help them if the fighting continues.
 
The Inter-Congolese Dialogue in danger?
With the failure of the Cotonou attempt, some claimed that the Inter-Congolese Dialogue was in danger. But in reality what is in danger is the kind of dialogue the Lusaka Accord set up.  It is endangered because the configuration of the military-political relationship has changed greatly since then.

Among the rebels the melt-down of the movement continues.  All the heavyweights have left and are negotiating with Kinshasa.  The RDC-Goma is only a shadow of its former self with no leaders of national calibre, and Wamba's RDC-ML is, in the words of a former rebel, a fiction.  Bemba's MLC, meanwhile, is suspect because it is partly financed by the dinosaurs of the former deposed regime.
 Even if the Kinshasa regime continues to disappoint, it will no longer accept being put on the same footing as a rebellion which reveals its lack of substance every passing day. By refusing to go to Cotonou, Kinshasa sent a clear message. 

For them, Masire's plan was neither effective nor acceptable. Masire's way of going about things gave them the pretext.  The mediator could perhaps have avoided the obstacles if he had given more attention to certain factors.  A Western diplomat, used to political negotiation, noted that the preparatory list of the committee drawn up by Masire put the Kinshasa regime into a minority position of 1 against 3. According to him, no political power with equivalent strength would accept these conditions.
 
 Some European capitals have sent Messages arguing against Masire's initiative. More and more comments are heard like "peace in the DRC will be the result of negotiation among the countries engaged in the war in the DRC."  And some claim that they should not be deflected by either the armed or by the non-armed opposition and even less by the Civil Society, as they will have no influential leverage in the war. The last meeting between Kabila and Kagame is part of this scenario of negotiation between states. According to the defenders of this scenario, the real Inter-Congolese Dialogue will follow, and will be much easier without subregional interference.

 Strengthened by this discreet support and comforted by the Security Council's last resolution after the battle of Kisangani, the Kinshasa government have decided to move ahead. On June 21 they closed the moderator's office in Kinshasa and formally demanded the replacement of Kett Masire as moderator.  Masire, not feeling in any way threatened by these demands, went visiting the capitals of the SADC countries to persuade their heads of state to put pressure on Kabila. The UN Secretary General continues to support Masire, as do the US and Great Britain.  Under pressure, Kinshasa agreed to reopen the moderator's office on June 23, but has continued a home policy whose import has escaped more than one observer. 

The general tendency of Kinshasa is to nail everything down: no suppression of the CPPs, no liberalization of party politics. And as if this wasn't enough, Kinshasa is now setting up a legislative assembly which it is feared will be no more than a rubber stamp for the current government and in addition may guarantee the partition of the country.

 Thus on July 8 by decree Kabila set up his assembly comprising 300 deputies of whom 240 were already appointed and 60 others would be chosen later by himself.  To justify the government's action, Mwenze Kongolo claimed that it was a matter of "enlarging the basis for the process of decision making and reinforcing the Congolese people's ability to regain its cohesion, its territorial integrity and political independence through active participation in political life."

 The project already goes back several months.  In a speech addressed to the representatives of Civil Society and the officially recognized political parties, Kabila justified his decision by the fact that the OUA's designated mediator for the Congo crisis had not yet assembled the funds promised to support the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. However, he added, "the setting up of an assembly was not going to exclude the holding of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue."  This was not the opinion of the internal unarmed and armed opposition groups and the majority of the Civil Society then, no more than it is now.  For all of them, the setting up of this assembly means that Kabila simply intends to control the political environment and prevent the holding of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. In spite of all this, voices are continually heard from east, north, or west, calling for pressure to be put on the warring parties.

It was in this context that Etienne Tshisekedi, President of the UDPS, spoke during his visit to Canaada at the end of April.  He urged  the speedy imposition of an international embargo on the belligerents in the DRC, as a means of pressuring them to bring them to the negotiating table. In concrete terms he proposes that a total embargo on the sale of diamonds coming from the DRC should be declared to prevent the warring protagonists from buying arms.

Ministers arrested
 Amid many rumours about the setting up of a new goverment with a prime minister to be designated as its head, the cabinet of ministers is in the process of being "purged." Last month, the security services arrested three ministers, then released them. Finally, in the last week of June, a presidential decree relieved them of their duties. 

The following were involved: the Minister of Mines, Kibassa Maliba, dismissed for illegal activities, fraud, and granting mining concessions in violation of the country's laws; the Minister of Finance, Bemba Saolona, whose son is one of the rebel leaders based in Equateur province, accused of breach of his oath of loyalty to the government, violation of the exchange laws and fraudulent financial activities; the Minister for Planning, Badimanyi Dilembu Mulumba, accused in particular of trading in the national currency. Last on the list, the Transport Minister, Odette Etoa Babandoa was arrested on July 10. She was said to have accepted bribes from a foreign airport construction company.

The Kabila-Kagama meeting
 A significant event in the last weeks was undoubtedly the meeting between President Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart, General Kagame, at Eldoret in Kenya on June 3. This meeting, which surprised many, seems to be the result of efforts from several directions.  While we wait for the American role to be revealed, we know, from statements by the Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, that Belgian diplomacy has been actively involved. 

And before the Kenyan President, Arap Moi, came to Rwanda, on May 13, the Congolese president sent his Justice Minister and one of his closest collaborators, Mwenze Kongolo, to Kigali "carrying a personal message from Kabila to his Rwandan counterpart." However, on May 5, Kabila had already sent one of his presidential advisors, Ismaïl Tutewmoto Lubenga, to Kampala to meet President Museveni.  Officially, Ismaïl Tutewmoto was there to ask him to reopen his embassy in Kinshasa. It seems that Museveni had also been expected at Eldoret.

 According to the communique issued by the head of the Rwandan Information Office, Joseph Biden, the two presidents have had two meetings, the first with the Kenyan president, the second between themselves. Nothing seems to have been released about these two meetings, except for Kabila's promise to "deal with the problem of the Interahamwe and to take into consideration Rwanda's security worries.  In return, Rwanda would withdraw its troops from the Congo.
 While all the countries in the region have greeted the meeting as an important step towards the resolution of the Congolese conflict, media close to the Ugandan government have put a negative interpretation on it.  They feel  Kabila and Kagame are agreeing to set aside the Lusaka Accord, isolating Uganda and the rebels they support  Kabila is said to have assured Rwanda of access to the Congo's mineral resources and of the creation of a buffer zone the length of the Rwanda-Congo border for Rwanda's security.  This reaction clearly indicates that those in Kampala hardly accept Kigali's loudly touted desire to be independent and to emerge from the shadow of Museveni's leadership in the region.

An investigation into the pillage of Congolese resources
 Recalling the reasons for the confrontations between Rwandan and Ugandan troops, Colette Braeckman of the Belgian newspaper Le Soir de Bruxelles recently wrote about Kisangani: "If Kisangani has become prey, if its inhabitants are being sacrificed with a cynicism reminiscent of the slave-dealers . . . it is because the province is rich, too rich. Coffee, diamonds, precious woods are the real stake in this war, a booty which the Rwandans, having fought to capture the city, do not intend to abandon to the their Ugandan neighbours. The two aggressors against Congo-Kinshasa may well invoke national security reasons to justify the presence of their troops in the Congo, but no-one believes any more in the necessity of their deploying soldiers more than 1,000 km inside the Congo, strangely enough in the areas rich in diamonds and gold.  The systematic pillage of these resources and their use to finance the continuation of the war have forced the UN Secretary General to react.  In this way, the UN hopes to deprive the belligerents of the means of financing the war, as it did in Angola where it is trying to put an end to the traffic in diamonds which is feeding the civil war waged by UNITA.

So, on June 2, the United Nations Security Council decided to set up a group of five independent experts to "bring together information on all illegal exploitations of natural resources and other wealth" in the DRC, "especially those in violation of the country's sovereignty."  In addition, to respond to the desire of some members of the Security Council to put pressure on Kabila's allies, the group of experts will also study "the existing ties between the exploitation of the DRC's natural resources and the continuation of the fighting." The team of investigators, based in Nairobi, will submit their final report in six months.

Rights still treated with contempt
In the territories controlled by the Kabila government arrests, threats and abuses have multiplied for  the regime's favourite targets: journalists and leaders of Civil Society associations.  Two journalists from Radio Television Kin Maleba were called in for questioning and roughed up on May 17 because they had dared to show another side to the celebrations of the third anniversary of the takeover by the AFDL.  Freddy Loseke, held since December 31, was finally condemned on May 24 to 3 years in prison after a trial during which the charges brought against him were changed several times.
 Jean-Kenge Mukengeshayi, editor in chief of the paper Le Phare was called in by the Special Branch of the National Police, first on June 8, then on June 14 when he was imprisoned.

 Richard Nsamba Olangi, editor of the bi-weekly Le Messager Africain was arrested June 12 for "publishing scandalous lies,  damaging to the authorities and their reputation."
 Caroline Pare from the London BBC was arrested on June 23, as was her assistant Pierre Monbele and their driver, while she was getting ready to interview Jonas Mukamba Kadiata, the former director of MIBA (the Bakwanga Diamond Mining Company) about the last moments of Patrice Lumumba.  She was released and expelled from the country on June 27.

 On June 24 Émile-Aimée Kakekse, manager of the weekly Le Carrousel was called in for questioning by the National Security Agency (ANR).

 The leaders of Civil Society have also had their share of harassment: since May 25, Floribert Chibeya, the leader of the civil rights defence group La Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), with other activists in the organization, has had to go underground for several days, after the issue of a report covering the first four months of the year which damned the Kabila regime.  Their office was closed and phone calls to their number were diverted to the Military Office for Detection of Anti-Patriotic Acts (DEMIAP).  On May 29 and June 2, the Treasurer of the National Council of Development NGOs (CNONGD) Georges Kazimbaka, and the executive secretary of the organization, Felicien Malanda Nsumbu were arrested.  They were held until June 26. It is difficult to understand what they were accused of: ties with the rebels? Currency trafficking after they paid for the aeroplane tickets of members of CNONGD who came from the East?

 But the most obscure case is still the arrests, starting June 23, of more than 30 people linked to the National Brotherhood of Congo Prisons (FNPC) and to Jonas Mukanda Kadiata, one of its members but also the former director of MIBA.  Amnesty International, worried by the vagueness of these arrests, on July 7 questioned the real motives for them.  A 265 carat diamond, the subject of litigation between those who found it in the Kasai, the eventual purchasers in Kinshasa and certain members of the government must be involved. 

 The only positive act by the Kinshasa government was the June 9 signing of a decree forbidding the recruitment of children younger than 18 and the setting up of a National Commission to demobilize and reintegrate them.  Olara Otunnu, the Secretary General's Special Representative for Children in War, and UNICEF are to be congratulated on this significant advance in Africa.

 In the territories controlled by the different rebel factions and their respective sponsors massacres and abuses of all kinds continue to be perpetrated with total impunity.   In its May 16 report entitled "State of Terror: Killing and Repression in the East of the Congo," Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the complete absence of a system of justice in this part of the country.  Worse, civilians who called for justice to intervene have been intimidated, if not assassinated. 

HRW's investigators on the spot were able to meet survivors of the many massacres denounced up to the present, particularly that in Kilambo on February 5 which left 30 victims, and that of Mwenga, where women were buried alive.  HRW also reported that rape and sexual enslavement have become common practices, both for RCD-Goma and APR soldiers and also for the Hutu militias. During the course of their visit, HRW noted a rising anti-Tutsi feeling in the region. 

According to the organization, abuses perpetrated by the RCD-Goma and APR soldiers, the majority of them Tutsi, are the origin of this resentment which is tending now to include all of Tutsi origin.  The terror tactics adopted by RCD-Goma and its allies are feeding ethnic hatred and could feed the struggle for a long time.

 HRW has called for the setting up of a special court within the International Penal Tribunal to treat crimes against humanity committed in the DRC.

 On June 30, Amnesty International condemned the murderous collusion between Wamba dia Wamba's RDC-ML, the troops of the Ugandan army and some Hema militias in Kibali-Ituri province.  The Lendu population, according to the report, has been chased into the forest. On April 20, a joint operation left 15 dead, and on April 22 an attack on a camp of displaced persons at Buta is also said to have killed six or more while dispersing the residents.

 Meanwhile, Mgr Kataliko is still exiled in Butembo, in spite of the protests of the people of Bukavu. On May 18, the anniversary of his appointment as archbishop, 10,000 people met in the cathedral.  The next day, a petition with the signatures and addresses of 60,000 people, nearly a quarter of the city's population, was sent to RDC-Goma authorities.  No response.

 In the east also the authorities are going for the members of Civil Society.  On May 26, ASADHO condemned the arrest of Sylvain Mudumbi Masudi, in charge of public relations for the group Friends of Nelson Mandela.  He was put under arrest on May 14 when he returned from Geneva where he had taken part in the 56th session of the UN Human Rights Commission.  He has since been transferred to Kasindi in Uganda.

 On May 25, the manager of the weekly Les Coulisses was also imprisoned because he had accused members of the RDC-Goma leadership of trafficking in influence for land purchases.  According to AI, Bruno Bahati of South-Kivu Civil Society, is now detained in Goma's "mad dog" prison.  He was arrested on April 22 after a Civil Society meeting in Kinshasa, then transferred for some time to Kigali. There are fears for his safety.  This prison is notorious for the bad treatment meted out to its inmates.

Monetary devaluation and . . . diamonds
 When the gap between the official exchange rate and that of the black market reached 500%, causing the people enormous problems but also making huge profits for traffickers of all kinds, the government decided to devalue the Congolese franc (Cf) as it warned international institutions last January.  On June 10, the rate fell from 9 to 23.5 Cf to the American dollar.  But even with this level, the gap between the rates stayed at 100%.  Repercussions were immediate. The price of gasolene almost tripled as did the price of public transport.

 A 265 carat diamond.  On June 1, a group of buyers from Mbuji Mayi, led by Ngoy Kasanji, president of the Provincial Committee of Diamond Dealers and national president of the Congolese Federation of Gold and Diamonds, acquired a stone of 265 carats from mine workers for a sum in the neighbourhood of $US 1.5m. But when he reached Kinshasa on June 3 to start negotiations with would-be purchasers, Ngoy Kasanji, his wife, and members of his entourage (at least 15 people) were arrested by members of the ANR, though no formal charges were laid against them.  However it seems all the formalities were observed.  Was this a disagreement with the two potential buyers? The miners' dissatisfaction? It's difficult to say.  But this single stone, valued at $US 13.5m can arouse many kinds of greed.

 Elsewhere, Oryx Diamonds, to whom Kabila granted the right to take diamonds from the Senga Senga River and the rich Tshibwe deposits near Mbuji Mayi, saw its stocks withdrawn from the London Exchange which decided to conduct an inquiry.  Oryx is a consortium formed by the Zimbabwean company Osleg, directed by the commander of Zimbabwe's armed forces, Vitalis Zvinavashe, and the private Congolese company Comiex, with close links to the president.  It looks as if the troubled world of international diamond trading is being seriously shaken up.

 In the face of stronger and stronger international pressure to stop financing murderous wars, like those in Angola or Sierra Leone, by trading in diamonds, the industry has undertaken to reform itself.  The Security Council's commission of inquiry into Angolan diamond trafficking, led by the Canadian, Fowler, last March revealed lax practices in the great international markets.  Since May, a series of meetings have taken place in South Africa, Angola, and recently in London, bringing together representatives of governments and the companies concerned. South Africa, Great Britain, the United States, Belgium, India and Israel are taking part.

All are in favour of measures to keep "war diamonds" out of the international markets, particularly those from Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia and the DRC.  But for the time being, they have been satisfied with declarations of principle, proposing in addition "the possibility of an international certification project for raw diamonds." Nevertheless London is proposing to bring up the subject during the next meeting of the G8 industrialized nations in Tokyo in July.

 In the east of the DRC, the RDC-ML now admits it was "taken to the cleaners" by the American businessman Van Brink.  This man, it will be remembered, signed an agreement with Wamba dia Wamba, four local traditional chiefs, and Willy Mushiki from the Congolese Movement for Peace and Development, an agreement which promised  them the sum of $US 48m for giving Van Brink's company. exclusive rights to exploit the resources of Orientale province and the administration of the future Central Bank.  On June 24, Kampala's New Vision revealed that Van Brink had effectively extorted $US 58m from other banks and financial groups elsewhere in the world on the strength of this mythical agreement.  Unfortunately, the conman disappeared with his millions.

Other news
 The airline company Air Tanzania resumed its flights to Lumumbashi from May 20, offering 2 flights a week. The company had suspended these links in 1998.

 The rebel factions continue to divide and multiply. On May 22, two MLC-ML dissidents, Shambui Kalala et Jim Balekwisha, are said to have founded a new movement, the Progressive Congress for Liberation.  On May 26, over Kisangani's Radio Liberté, controlled by Ugandan soldiers, Roger Lumbala announced his defection from RDC-Goma and the creation of a new party, RDC-National, of which he would be the president.

Finally in Kampala on June 4, a new party was created possibly called the Congolese Front for National Reconstruction. For several days now, the Ugandan media have been reporting the presence of a great many former generals from Mobutu's FAZ. Their president is said to be Mbayi Kalombo, formerly in the UDPS, their first vice-president, Richard Pendje Demodetdo, et their second vice-president, General Baramoto. The group is said to have asked the Ugandan authorities to help it in its relations with other rebel groups.  Kampala has formally denied this.

 On June 26, the International Court of Justice in the Hague began to hear the case brought before it by the DRC government a year ago.  Kinshasa accuses Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi of military aggression contravening current international laws.  Each of these countries will present a separate defence before the court.  The hearing began with Uganda, whom the Court ordered to desist from all hostile acts towards the DRC. The Court's verdict is expected in three years time.

 On June 26 in the United States, the Republicans blocked a proposal presented by President Clinton to raise the American contribution to UN peace-keeping missions, already set at $US 500, by US$ 241million.

 On July 5, the Belgian justice system charged the Congolese Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Yerodia, with crime under international law, invoking a 1993 law, which makes it possible to hunt down in Belgium those accused of crimes against humanity.  Yerodia, along with 4 other Kinshasa leaders, has been accused by a group of Congolese Tutsi of inciting racial hatred.  In August 1998, Yerodia, then the President's Cabinet Leader, made a public appeal for "the eradication and crushing of invading Rwandan and Ugandan vermin."  He declared that the Tutsi were "like insects who ought to be killed." 

The international warrant for his arrest could prevent Minister Yerodia from travelling in countries which have signed a judicial co-operation agreement with Belgium.  In reaction, on July 8, Kinshasa recalled its ambassador from Brussels. Surprised by this action at a time when Belgian diplomacy is actively trying to solve the conflicts which are tearing apart its former colonies, many Congolese, even those opposing the Kabila regime, have reacted negatively to this Belgian initiative.  Some opposition newspapers, like Le Phare, have even justified Yerodia's suggestions, interpreting them as "indignation and anger resulting from the treason of those co-operating with the Rwandans at the time rather than as a racist or ethnic act."  They even went so far as to ask why Yerodia should be pursued for his words while the massacres committed by the Rwandan and Ugandan armies at "Kisangani and elsewhere remained unpunished."

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