Monday, 23rd September 2019

Central Africa

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Central African Republic may be getting safer, according to new figures from the United Nations that show a sharp drop in the number of attacks and human rights abuses since last year.

The head of human rights for the U.N. mission in the country said a peace deal between the government and 14 armed groups in February appeared to have allowed for a relative respite, but was hesitant to declare it a success.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission, called MINUSCA, recorded 565 incidents of abuse or human rights violations from January through June, compared to 1,674 in the same period of 2018 and 1,097 the year before.

These include rapes, attacks and the recruitment of children to armed groups. Of 1,082 victims, 403 were women and children.

Central African Republic has been in conflict since 2013, when mainly Muslim rebels ousted the former president, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militias. 

Thousands of people have died because of the unrest in the diamond and gold-producing country, and one in five of its 4.5 million population have fled their homes.

There has been only one major attack on civilians this year, in May, and no clashes between rival armed groups, said MINUSCA.

“I see a trend and I hope it will continue, but I don’t want to say that this is going to be the long-term trend,” said Musa Gassama, director of the human rights division of MINUSCA.

“Armed groups still control the areas, armed groups are still armed, and of course despite the peace process I cannot just say it is over,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

The African Union oversaw talks between the government and rebels that led to the signing of the peace deal in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, but it was not the first of its kind.

Similar agreements broke down in 2014, 2015 and 2017.


The head of Democratic Republic of Congo’s public finances watchdog was detained for questioning for several hours on Saturday, in what he said was retaliation for investigations by his office into spending by senior government officials.

Sylvain Kasongo, the capital Kinshasa’s police chief, confirmed to Reuters that Inspector General of Finances Victor Batubenga and one of his colleagues had been detained for several hours before being released.

He said the arrests were for “matters of common law”, but declined to elaborate.

Batubenga’s office has been investigating a $100 million line of credit opened in May by the central bank at the instruction of the interim economy minister to reimburse fuel distributors, according to a report his office issued in July.

It was also ordered by the National Intelligence Agency last month to audit spending by the interim government in place since President Felix Tshisekedi’s inauguration in January.

Since taking office, Tshisekedi has promised to clean up corruption which he said proliferated during his predecessor Joseph Kabila’s 18-year tenure.

Civil society groups, however, have accused his administration of profligate spending, charges he has denied. 

In an interview with Radio France Internationale, Batubenga said that after he and a colleague were arrested by the police, he was held by an aide to Tshisekedi’s national security advisor, Francois Beya.

“The aide (to Beya) ... said my work was causing problems,” Batubenga said. He said the aide also made threats against him and his family.

Neither Beya nor Tshisekedi’s spokesman could be immediately reached for comment.

The interim cabinet consists largely of holdovers from Kabila’s final government. New minister were finally named last week and are expected to be sworn in this week.

The report by Batubenga’s auditors in July found that interim Economy Minister Henri Yav had ordered 15% of the $100 million line of credit to be paid into a bank account controlled by the government committee that monitors fuel prices.

It said that money “did not benefit the state” and called on the government to explain how the money was used. 

Yav was not immediately available for comment.

The intelligence agency’s order last month said the audit of government spending since January was required “for urgent reasons of state security”, without elaborating.


The intelligence agency in Democratic Republic of Congo has ordered an audit of spending by the interim government that has run the country for seven months since President Felix Tshisekedi’s inauguration, the agency’s head said on Wednesday.

Intelligence chief Justin Inzun Kakiak declined in a phone interview to elaborate on reasons for the audit, ordered in an Aug. 17 letter to the inspector general of finances, but civil society groups have accused the interim cabinet of profligate spending.

Since taking office in January after a disputed election, Tshisekedi has promised to clean up the corruption he said proliferated under his predecessor, Joseph Kabila. Kabila, who had been in office for 18 years, was prevented by term limits from continuing in power.

The interim cabinet consists largely of holdovers from Kabila’s final government. They have remained in place as negotiations to form a new government dragged on between Tshisekedi and Kabila, whose coalition won large parliamentary majorities in December’s vote.

Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba finally named new ministers and vice ministers on Monday, but they have yet to be sworn into office.

Widespread corruption has helped make the country one of the world’s poorest despite copious reserves of copper, cobalt and gold. Kabila’s anti-corruption czar estimated in 2015 that the country loses up to $15 billion a year due to fraud, three times the federal budget.

The intelligence agency letter, written on Inzun’s behalf by his deputy, orders the inspector general of finances to “audit all spending from the public treasury to all government ministries since (Tshisekedi’s) inauguration”.

It says the order is “for urgent reasons of state security”, without elaborating. Inzun confirmed its authenticity.

Watchdog groups have criticised heavy spending by the interim government, some of whose ministers have overseen two or three portfolios at a time after other ministers left to take up seats in parliament.

For example, it sent a delegation of more than 170 people to the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in Egypt in June. By the end of July, the presidency had already exceeded its budget for the entire year by 37%, according to official data. 

Tshisekedi’s spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. Tshisekedi has previously dismissed media reports about wasteful spending as “speculation” pushed by his adversaries.

Tshisekedi’s authority is tenuous given the large majorities enjoyed by Kabila’s allies in parliament.


The death toll from Democratic Republic of Congo’s year-long Ebola outbreak has climbed above 2,000, government data showed on Friday, as responders battle to overcome community mistrust and widespread security problems.

The government team overseeing the response said the number of confirmed and probable cases had also hit a milestone of more than 3,000 in what has become the second-worst epidemic of the virus on record.

Despite the development of an effective vaccine and treatments, health workers have struggled to control the spread of the disease in remote and conflict-hit areas of eastern Congo, where many locals are wary of the response effort.

“For the treatments to work, people need to trust them and the medical staff who administer them. This will take time, resources and a lot of hard work,” the International Federation of the Red Cross said in a statement. 

This is Congo’s 10th Ebola outbreak, but it is the first in the densely forested hillside provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, where militia-led violence and ethnic killing have undermined security in certain areas for decades.

The government data released on Friday showed Ebola deaths reaching 2,006 and cases at 3,004.

Only the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been deadlier. More than 11,300 people died then out of 28,000 who were infected.


Congo’s prime minister announced a new government on Monday, eight months after President Felix Tshisekedi won an election, with around two thirds of posts going to allies of former president Joseph Kabila.

In the long-delayed election last December, Tshisekedi defeated a candidate officially backed by Kabila, whose own term limit was up, though opposition politicians said the result was rigged in a secret deal between Kabila’s and Tshisekedi’s camps.

They said the deal involved Kabila officially stepping down but maintaining control, a charge they both denied.

The cabinet list released by Prime Minister Illunga Illunkamba on Monday consisted mostly of people with little or no government experience. Of the 65 ministers named, 42 were from Kabila’s coalition and 23 were from Tshisekedi’s.

As well as retaining outsized influence over various security agencies, Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition won about 70 percent of seats in the lower house of parliament and an overwhelming majority of provincial assembly seats in elections also held on Dec. 30. 

“Apparently the FCC will maintain its grip because it controls many of the ministerial departments,” said Jonas Tshiombela, a prominent figure in Congo civil society.

Kabila had always been expected to have a big say in the government of Democratic Republic of Congo, a vast, mineral-rich central African country of 80 million people where he had been in charge since the 2001 assassination of his father, Laurent.

In May, Tshisekedi named Ilukamba, a close Kabila ally with years of government experience and previously the head of Congo’s national railway company, as prime minister. But negotiations over other government posts had been stalled since.

The new list has Gilbert Malaba, a member of Tshisekedi’s party, as minister of interior and security, while the defence ministry went to Ngoy Mukena, a close Kabila ally.

The mining portfolio went to Willy Samsoni, a member of Kabila’s coalition and a former mines minister in the local government of Haut Katanga province, while Congo’s former director general of taxes Sele Yalaghuli, also a Kabila stalwart, was named finance minister. 

Tshisekedi ally Jean-Baudouin Mayo Mambeke took the more junior role of budget minister.

Since being inaugurated in January, Tshisekedi has signalled a break with his predecessor in some areas. He pardoned three prominent political prisoners and 700 regular prisoners in March, a marked shift away from the policies of Kabila, who had scores of his opponents jailed.


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