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Sunday, 14th August 2022
3:27:34am

Central Africa

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Tuesday with Congolese leader Felix Tshisekedi at the Kinshasa presidential palace as part of his three-nation African tour.

Tshisekedi was to "raise the questions of strategic partnership" between the DRC and the United States during the meeting. If the statesmen also discussed bilateral trade and investment, partnerships for regional security was top of the agenda.

Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 fighters. A rebel group operating in eastern DRC.  During a press conference with his Congolese counterpart, Christophe Lutundula,  the US top diplomat expressed concern about allegations of Rwandan support to the M23 rebels. Rwanda, rejects a report by United Nations experts saying they have "solid evidence" which incriminates the mountainous nation. 

"We are very concerned by credible reports that Rwanda has provided support to M23. We call on all parties in the region to stop any support or cooperation with M23 or, for that matter, any other non-state armed group, Blinken said. [...] Any entry of foreign forces into the DRC must be done transparently with the consent of the DRC."

US's top diplomat said his country will support the efforts led by Kenya and Angola to put an end to the violence in Congo’s east and to help solve the central African nation’s crisis with Rwanda.

Rwanda has denied the allegations of support to the M23. Kigali accuses the DRC of collaborating with another rebel group, the FDLR, and said regional security can’t be achieved until that issue is addressed. The FDLR was created by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda during the country’s 1994 genocide that killed at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Congo has denied supporting the group.

Climate conservation

Another topic on the table was climate change and the conservation of what’s considered the second most important forest in the world. Congo’s government was criticized last month when it opened an auction to explore 30 blocks of oil and gas located in the Peatlands in the Congo Basin forest. 

"The United States and the DRC will quickly set up a working group on climate change that will be a framework for consultation and joint action, Congo's Lutundula announced. This also is a guarantee, it is a structure that will help us reconcile the need for the Congolese to enjoy its natural wealth and to protect the common heritage of humanity."

Antony Blinken will also meet civil society groups. He announced that DRC has joined the Feed the Future program, which deals with the food crisis caused by climate change, COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.

Blinken will travel Wednesday to Rwanda to meet with President Paul Kagame and his Foreign affairs minister.

-Africa News

Rwandan troops attacked soldiers inside DR Congo and aided the M23 rebel group with weapons and support, a United Nations group of experts said, citing “solid evidence” despite reiterated denials by Kigali.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the militia, which stems from the long fallout from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and has captured swathes of territory in recent months. Kigali repeatedly denied supporting M23 and the armed group maintains it does not receive Rwandan support.

A 131-page report by United Nations Security Council experts found Rwanda launched military interventions inside Congolese territory since at least November 2021, providing “troop reinforcements” for specific M23 operations, “in particular when these aimed at seizing strategic towns and areas”.

Yolande Makolo, Rwanda’s government spokesperson, said in a statement the government would not comment on an “unpublished and unvalidated report.” She said an earlier report by the experts’ group in June “contained none of these false allegations”.

DRC government spokesman Patrick Muyaya welcomed the work of the UN group on Thursday. “The truth always triumphs in the end. We hope that conclusions will be drawn quickly to put an end to Rwanda’s interference and bring back lasting peace,” Muyaya wrote on Twitter.

The UN experts found evidence that M23 fighters and Rwandan troops “jointly attacked” a large DRC army base in Rumangabo, in eastern North Kivu province, on May 25, a day after Rwandan forces had crossed into the DRC. 

An estimated 1,000 Rwandan troops also cut the main highway leading to the provincial capital Goma, an important commercial hub on the Rwandan border, and attacked Congolese positions, it said.

“On repeated occasions, aerial imagery showed large columns of up to 500 armed men in the vicinity of the DRC, Rwandan and Ugandan borders, moving in a very organized manner,” the expert group said.

-Aljazeera

A Congolese military delegation was sent to Beni, northeastern DRC this Tuesday, two days after three people died and several were injured after UN peacekeepers opened fire on civilians in Kasindi at the border with Uganda.

"The government cannot abandon its people, that is why I am here and visiting the wounded while we are waiting for them to receive appropriate care in Beni or elsewhere, in accordance with the doctor's orders.", said Charles Ehuta Omeonga, military administrator of Beni territory.

Soon after the incident on July 31, the UN issued a statement reading its soldiers opened fire "for unknown reasons and forced their way through". The president of the Beni Urban Youth Council, said they want the U.N. to cover medical care for the victims. 

More than 30 people have died in protests in the last week in the North Kivu province. Participants are denouncing the failure of the UN's mission to protect people from armed groups.

U.N's Secretary-General, António Guterres said he was outraged by the shooting and called for an investigation of the Kasindi incident. And President Félix Tshisekedi chaired a crisis meeting as in addition to Kasindi other deaths were reported in Goma, Butembo, Uvira and Kanyabayonga.

The situation is still very tense in the region. On Monday, the Congolese police had to disperse around 100 protestors in Beni. The Congolese government said it would convene a meeting with MONUSCO to re-evaluate their withdrawal.

The United Nations mission in DR Congo (Monusco) on Thursday "deeply regretted" the decision to expel its spokesman Mathias Gillmann from DR Congo and "took note" of the request made by the Congolese authorities, in a statement.

The Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christophe Lutundula, asked Monusco on Wednesday to do everything possible to ensure that Mr. Gillmann leaves Congolese territory "as soon as possible", inviting the mission to give "the benefit of urgency" to this request.

"Monusco regrets the expulsion of its spokesman by the Congolese government," said Thursday a statement of Monusco, which "takes note" of this "decision of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to ask a member of its staff to leave the country. 

However, "the Mission is committed to continuing to work alongside the Congolese population and authorities to implement the mandate entrusted to it by the Security Council," the document added.

"The comments made by Mr. Gillmann on RFI stating that Monusco did not have the military means to confront the M23 are at the root of the current tension. We have asked Monusco in a friendly manner to leave the country," a government source told AFP on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"On a daily basis, Monusco prevents and responds to attacks against civilians through various mechanisms including intelligence gathering and exchange," a Monusco spokesman told AFP.

Monusco also provides warnings and regular technical and logistical support to Congolese security forces.

Since July 25, angry demonstrators have ransacked and looted Monusco facilities in the DRC since 1999. Four peacekeepers and 32 protesters have been killed in a week of demonstrations in at least four eastern towns, according to official reports.

Monusco is one of the largest UN missions deployed in the world with some 14,000 troops in several eastern cities. Since 2019, pro-democracy movements and some local elected officials have been calling for the departure of Monusco.

-Africa News

The death toll following the protests in Eastern DRC this Tuesday rose to 15. According to a UN spokesperson and the Congolese government, three members of the MONUSCO mission and at least 12 protesters were killed in two cities of the North Kivu province.

Since Monday, demonstrators have been gathering in various cities of Eastern DRC saying they want the UN's mission in the region to end and the peacekeepers to leave, claiming they haven't been able to counter armed groups. "The MONUSCO has been here in DRC for over 20 years, but there is no peace in North Kivu, no peace in the East, how can you explain the M23 rebel group has more powerful weapons than MONUSCO.", says Mugisho Muhindo a protester in Goma.

The situation in Butembo, the region's third city was chaotic all Tuesday afternoon and activities were paralysed. 

In the morning, hundreds of protesters had surrounded UN's logistics base in Goma and attacked the mission's transit camp outside the city centre. And according to journalists on the ground, Congolese security forces struggled to contain the crowd.

A UN spokesperson said that the situation was still tense and a backup would be sent.

-Africa News

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