Around 50 Feared Dead In DR Congo Mine Flooding

Hundreds of people gather in Kamituga, South Kivu, on September 12, 2020, at the entrance of one of the mines where dozens of Congolese artisanal miners are feared to be killed after heavy rain filled the mine tunnels. STRINGER / AFP

 

About 50 people are feared dead after an artisanal gold mine flooded in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after torrential rain, a provincial governor said Saturday.

The accident in the makeshift mine occurred on Friday in the town of Kamituga, in South Kivu province, about 270 kilometres (170 miles) southwest of the regional capital Bukavu.

DR Congo’s mineral-rich but volatile east faces regular attacks from a plethora of militias and rebel groups which operate freely in the region.

South Kivu governor Theo Ngwabidje Kasi deplored “the tragic deaths of 50 people, most of them young”.

However, Kamituga mayor Alexandre Bundya said “we are not yet sure of the exact number” of victims.

No bodies had been recovered so far, he said, adding that “19 families have come to look for their relatives”.

 

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi said he was “deeply saddened” and asked the government to “take strong measures so that such tragedies are not repeated.”

A local resident at the scene, Jean Nondo Mukambilwa, told AFP that only one body had been found so far.

Torrential rain had flooded a river close to the mine, and dismissed an earlier report that the mine had caved in, he said.

“It was not a collapse. It was because of the rains that the accident happened,” he explained.

“Water went into the three tunnels. When people tried to get out, there was no way as the water was flowing strongly, with high pressure.”

Hundreds of people gathered at the entrance to one of the tunnels, a video sent to AFP by the witness showed.

Men using shovels were trying to clear the entrance to the narrow passageway, as Red Cross workers stood waiting.

The mayor decreed two days of mourning and called on locals to help extract the bodies from the ground.

“Investigations must be carried out to find out the causes of this disaster,” said a representative of civil society, Nicolas Kyalangalilwa.

“The authorities must take responsibility instead of taxing” these miners.

Accidents in DR Congo’s makeshift mines are common and often deadly.

– Illegal mining rampant –

In June 2019, at least 39 men died when a copper mine in Kolwezi, in the southeastern Katanga region, partially collapsed.

Because many such mines are in remote areas however, the accidents are under-reported. DR Congo has huge reserves of gold, cobalt, copper and coltan.

It is the world’s largest producer of cobalt, crucial for making the batteries used in mobile phones and electric vehicles.

The illegal miners sell what they find to local traders, who sell it on to large foreign companies and are usually paid a pittance.

Mining hardly benefits DR Congo’s more than 80 million people. The World Bank said in 2018 that 72 percent of the population lived on less than 1.9 dollars a day.

Most Congolese earn their living in informal economic sectors such as makeshift mining.

According to a report by London-based specialist firm Darton, up to 16 percent of the cobalt extracted in the mineral-rich Katanga province came from illegal miners.

About 50 Feared Dead In DR Congo Mine Collapse

 

About 50 people are feared dead after a gold mine collapsed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo following torrential rain, local authorities said Saturday.

The accident in the makeshift mine occurred on Friday in the town of Kamituga, in South Kivu province.

Provincial governor Theo Ngwabidje Kasi deplored “the tragic deaths of 50 people, most of them young”.

However, Kamituga mayor Alexandre Bundya said “we are not yet sure of the exact number” of victims.

A local resident who was at the scene, Jean Nondo, told AFP that “according to witnesses, there are more than 50 dead. There is only one survivor.”

He said a river close to the mine had flooded after torrential rain.

“Water went into the three tunnels. When people tried to get out, there was no way as the water was flowing strongly, with high pressure,” he said.

Bundya blamed “soil subsidence caused by torrential rain” for the accident.

The mayor decreed a two-day mourning period and called on local residents to help extract the bodies from the ground.

Accidents in DR Congo’s makeshift mines are a common occurrence, and are often deadly.

Many such mines are in remote areas, meaning the accidents are under-reported.

The miners sell what they find to local traders, who sell it on to large foreign companies.

“Investigations must be carried out to find out the causes of this disaster,” said a representative of the civil society, Nicolas Kyalangalilwa.

“The authorities must take responsibility instead of taxing” these miners.

 

AFP

Amnesty Deal For DR Congo Militiamen Struggles To Bear Fruit

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa.

 

When DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi took office 18 months ago, he breathed life into hopes of ending bloodshed and lawlessness in the east of his vast country.

Eyeing the armed groups responsible for the mayhem, he revived the offer of an amnesty, money and the chance of a new life in the military if the fighters renounced violence.

“The new government is reaching out to you,” he declared.

Today, little of that pledge seems to have turned into action.

Frustration among militiamen who are willing to lay down their arms is growing, as is the death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east.

Over eight months, around 1,300 people were killed in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, according to a UN estimate in June. More than 100 armed groups are active in the region, according to experts.

Ituri legislator Gratien de Saint-Nicolas Iracan said an incursion into the city of Bunia last Friday by several dozen heavily-armed militiamen was aimed at “putting pressure on the government” over the reintegration programme.

Several sources say the fighters belong to the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), a notorious ethnic militia blamed for the massacring of hundreds of civilians.

“They were telling the government, ‘we want money in exchange for giving up our weapons,” the legislator said, adding that failure to push ahead with Tshisekedi’s plan was “not making it easy for them to return to the peace process.”

– ‘Nobody has called us’ –

Members of one armed group, the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Force (FRPI), signed an agreement in February with ministers from the central government, but say they are still waiting for the deal to be implemented.

In neighbouring North Kivu, 485 members of another group called the Nduma Defence of Congo-Renovated, or NDC/R, have mustered on Rumangabo military base near Goma after surrendering in late August.

“We told the authorities in Kinshasa about what we wanted to do, but nobody has called us so far,” said NDC/R leader Desire Ngabo.

Bertrand Bisimwa, head of a Congolese Tutsi group called M23 that was defeated in 2012 after mounting a rebellion in North Kivu, said that “the Congolese government has no serious programme to support (Tshisekedi’s) appeal to armed groups.”

Researcher Christoph Vogel said that since early 2019, there had been “several large waves of surrenders” in North and South Kivu, with a thousand fighters at each mustering point in those provinces.

But many fighters headed back into the bush, “because there was no support”.

Incorporating former Congolese militiamen into the armed forces has been a routine practice since the Sun City agreement of 2002 which ended the Second Congo War.

World Bank and western countries have typically contributed to previous demobilisation, disarmament and reinsertion initiatives.

But, “I haven’t seen the Congolese government approach funders to finance a new overall and national programme” of this kind, noted Vogel.

Adding to the entanglement is a moral debate about who should have the right to benefit from such funding.

“We cannot continue to reward killers,” the UN’s representative in DR Congo, Leila Zerrougui, said last week, angered by the “handing out of ranks” to former militiamen.

– ‘Discouraging’ –

NDC/R leader Ngabo said “it’s not the right time to make remarks like this. It’s discouraging armed groups who want to leave the bush and surrender their weapons.”

Researcher Judith Verweijen noted the UN had supported the peace agreement with the FRPI in Ituri, under which a law would be drafted to offer an amnesty, excluding war crimes and sexual violence.

One of the bloodiest groups is the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group initially founded by Ugandan Muslim rebels.

Months after Tshisekedi’s offer of an outstretched hand to armed groups, his armed forces last October launched an offensive against the ADF.

The militia has since killed hundreds of civilians in the Beni region as a further warning against the authorities, giving another spin to the cycle of violence.

AFP

DR Congo Declares End To Deadly Measles Epidemic

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday declared the end of a 25-month outbreak of measles that claimed the lives of more than 7,000 children aged under five.

The outbreak was countered by vaccination on a massive scale, in which millions of children and infants were immunised.

“For the past month, we are able to say that this epidemic has been eliminated from across our territory,” Health Minister Eteni Longondo told a press conference.

“We can say that measles (in the DRC) no longer exists.”

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

Once common, the disease has been rolled back around the world thanks to a cheap and effective vaccine, but low rates of immunisation among a community can cause infection to spread quickly.

“The measles epidemic was unfolding at low level but was the deadliest. It carried off more than 7,000 of our children,” Longondo said.

Routine vaccinations will continue in order to prevent the virus from bouncing back, he added.

The first cases of measles in the latest outbreak were recorded in June 2018. As of January this year, the WHO had recorded more than 335,000 suspected cases of the disease, of which 6,362 were fatal.

By way of comparison, the DRC — a vast country the size of continental western Europe — has recorded 9,891 cases of coronavirus, of which 251 were fatal.

An outbreak of Ebola in the east of the country, which was declared over on June 25 after nearly two years, killed 2,287 people.

The announcement in Kinshasa came ahead of an expected declaration Tuesday by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) that wild poliovirus has been eradicated from Africa.

Health teams have been fighting to wipe out polio’s last vestiges on the continent, in northeastern Nigeria, where jihadists said vaccination was a conspiracy to sterilise young Muslims.

AFP

DR Congo Records 100 Cases Of Ebola In New Outbreak

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 09, 2019 Health workers are seen inside the ‘red zone’ of an Ebola treatment centre, which was attacked in the early hours of the morning in Butembo. Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP

 

One hundred cases of Ebola have been recorded in DR Congo’s northwest in less than three months, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday as it warned the response to the epidemic is underfunded.

The outbreak was reported in Equateur province on June 1, just as the country was preparing to declare an end to a separate Ebola epidemic in the east that claimed over 2,000 lives.

The latest outbreak — the vast central African country’s 11th since Ebola was identified in 1976 — has since spread to 11 of the province’s 17 health zones, and 43 people have died, according to WHO.

The number of cases has doubled over the past five weeks, it said.

“With 100 Ebola cases in less than 100 days, the outbreak in Equateur Province is evolving in a concerning way,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.

Affected communities are spread across 300 kilometres (185 miles) in remote and densely forested areas, presenting logistical challenges, Moeti said.

“Without extra support the teams on the ground will find it harder to get ahead of the virus,” Moeti said.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voiced concern about delays between the onset of symptoms and an alert for a suspected case of Ebola, which he said was five days.

“This is concerning, because the longer a patient goes without treatment, the lower their chances of survival, and the longer the virus can spread unseen in communities,” he said at a press conference in Geneva.

“The situation has been further complicated by a strike by health workers, which is affecting activities including vaccination and safe burials,” he said.

In early August, Ebola health workers went on strike to demand payment of their salaries.

“DRC has the best-trained workforce in the world for Ebola. This situation needs to be resolved as quickly as possible,” he said.

‘Ignore at our peril’

According to WHO, DR Congo’s health ministry has presented a plan to donors and partners requiring $40 million (34 million euros) in the fight against Ebola, and has committed $4 million.

WHO said it has already mobilised a total of $2.3 million to combat the epidemic.

“COVID-19 is not the only emergency needing robust support. As we know from our recent history we ignore Ebola at our peril,” Moeti warned.

 

On June 25, DR Congo officially declared an end to an Ebola epidemic that broke out in the east nearly two years earlier, which Health Minister Eteni Longondo described as “the longest, most complex and deadliest” in the country’s history.

The two epidemics have no common viral strain, according to WHO.

The virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

In May 2018, another Ebola epidemic in Equateur province was contained in less than three months, with 54 cases and 33 deaths recorded.

DR Congo has also faced a major measles outbreak and recurring flare-ups of cholera and malaria.

The country has recorded 9,802 cases of coronavirus and 248 deaths since the first cases were reported on March 10, according to the latest official figures.

DR Congo Ends Virus Health Emergency, Borders To Reopen

 

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has lifted a health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak and ordered a reopening in three stages of business activities, schools, and borders.

The vast country of more than 80 million people has recorded 8,534 infections including 196 deaths since March 10.

Tshisekedi said the figures place the Democratic Republic of Congo as ninth worst-hit country in Africa in terms of the number of cases and 12th in terms of deaths, “putting paid to all catastrophic forecasts for our country at the start of the epidemic.”

Tshisekedi’s government proclaimed a health emergency on March 24 in which borders were closed, as well as schools, bars and restaurants.

In a televised speech late on Tuesday, the president announced an end to the emergency.

He said that from Wednesday all shops, banks, restaurants and bars would be allowed to reopen, public transport can resume and large gatherings are permitted.

Schools and universities can reopen on August 3, and airports, ports, borders and places of worship on August 15.

But he warned that “the end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of the COVID-19 epidemic in our country,” reminding citizens to wear masks in public and wash their hands frequently.

Ebola Cases Rise In New DR Congo Outbreak

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 09, 2019 Health workers are seen inside the ‘red zone’ of an Ebola treatment centre, which was attacked in the early hours of the morning in Butembo.  (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

 

The Ebola outbreak in the DR Congo’s northwest is growing, according to health officials, sounding the alarm weeks after the country officially declared an end to a separate Ebola epidemic which claimed over 2,000 lives.

There have been 54 confirmed cases since June 1 in Mbandaka, a transport hub in Equateur province, including 22 deaths, according to figures released by the country’s health ministry on Friday.

There were four additional suspected cases.

The outbreak is DR Congo’s 11th since Ebola was identified in 1976.

On June 25, the vast central African country officially declared an end to an Ebola epidemic that broke out in the east two years ago, which Health Minister Eteni Longondo said was “the longest, most complex and deadliest” in the country’s history.

The two epidemics have no common viral strain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO called the latest figures “of great concern”, saying that it had identified 56 cases by Thursday.

“It is now surpassing the previous outbreak in this area which was closed off and controlled at a total of 54 cases,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, referring to a 2018 Ebola outbreak in Equateur in which 33 people died.

– Remote villages –

The epidemic is spreading from Mbandaka’s urban centre to surrounding remote villages in forests along the Congo River, some of which can only be accessed by canoe or all-terrain vehicles.

“There are infections in several villages,” a local official, Moraliste Nembetwa, told AFP.

The virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

Serge Ngalebato, a doctor at the Bikoro hospital, said the epidemic affects “an area with fragile health”.

“In 2018, we had the Ebola epidemic. In 2020, the measles epidemic. As I speak, we have five cases of polio,” he said.

The country is facing a measles outbreak which has killed more than 6,000 people since early last year, as well as recurring flare-ups of cholera and malaria.

DR Congo is also struggling with the new coronavirus, with 8,249 cases including 193 fatalities.

WHO officials worry that because of these competing health crises, there could be a lack of funding for the Ebola epidemic.

“We have less than two million dollars in our account,” said WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib about funding for the current Ebola outbreak.

– ‘Put lives at risk’ –

DR Congo’s partners and donors may be cautious over worries that an injection of money could create fertile ground for conflicts of interest, a source close to the United Nations told AFP.

An investigation by The New Humanitarian last month found that payments to security forces and job kickback schemes “may have jeopardised humanitarian operations and put lives at risk”.

The influx of money to combat the spread of the virus in the east “has raised people’s expectations”, the source said.

Ebola experts said the experience of the eastern outbreak will be vital for informing further action.

Officials must “listen and involve communities in time, in dialogue and planning the response… otherwise we risk being counter-productive,” said Abdou Dieng, head of the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response.

Health authorities have launched a vaccination campaign, as was done in the east where two experimental vaccines were widely deployed and more than 320,000 people received a jab.

“More than 8,000 people have been vaccinated,” said Alhassane Toure, a vaccination coordinator.

“All the affected health zones have been covered by the vaccination.”

 

 

-AFP

DR Congo Set For Fresh Protests Over Appointment Of Top Election Official

Motorcyclists drive past a barricade in the road at the Kinshasa Grand market on June 9, 2020, during a demonstration where demonstrators ask for the re-opening of the shops around there which has been closed by the government as a precautionary measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Photo by ARSENE MPIANA / AFP)

 

Political parties and campaign groups in DR Congo have vowed to carry out a wave of protests over the proposed head of the country’s election panel.

Anger has been triggered by plans to name a figure accused by the opposition of helping former president Joseph Kabila to rig past elections.

An opposition coalition called Lamuka on Tuesday called for nationwide demonstrations for July 13, with “strict observance” of coronavirus precautions.

This will be preceded on Thursday by a march in the capital Kinshasa, which President Felix Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Progress (UDPS) announced earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC), which is close to the powerful Catholic church, has called for a “great peaceful protest march” in major cities on July 19, along with other grassroots groups.

The CLC staged a march last Saturday that drew several hundred supporters before it was dispersed by police on its arrival outside parliament.

The demonstrations have been triggered by a decision by the National Assembly, which is dominated by Kabila supporters, to appoint Ronsard Malonda as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).

Malonda, currently CENI’s secretary-general, is accused by Lamuka of “abetting every stolen election since 2006”.

The protests have been scheduled while Tshisekedi has still to approve Malonda’s appointment.

The largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been notoriously volatile since it gained independence from Belgium 60 years ago this month.

Tshisekedi took office in January 2019 in the country’s first-ever peaceful political transition.

But he did so after elections roiled by accusations that the results were rigged to deny Tshisekedi’s rival, Martin Fayulu, of victory.

Tshisekedi has to govern in coalition with supporters of his predecessor Kabila, who have a huge majority in parliament.

Kabila stepped down after 18 years in power and still wields influence behind the scenes.

The coalition was rocked last month over judicial reforms put forward by Kabila allies that would define the powers of judges — a move that critics say is a ploy to muzzle the judiciary.

The country has declared a “state of emergency” to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The measures, which were extended for an additional 15 days on Monday, include a ban on gatherings of more than 20 people.

 

AFP

Militia Ambush Kills 11 In DR Congo’s Troubled Ituri Region

Gunmen
File photo

 

Gunmen killed 11 people including military and local officials in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said Sunday, an ambush attributed to a militia accused of a string of massacres.

Two vehicles coming from Bunia, the capital of Ituri province, were attacked Saturday at the village of Matete, Djugu territory administrator Adel Alingi Mokuba said.

“The death toll is 11, including the deputy territorial administrator in charge of economy and finance, three policemen and four soldiers,” he told AFP.

The convoy was carrying “a former provincial deputy, an accountant, police officers and civilians who were savagely massacred”, Ituri governor Jean Bamanisa said in a video posted online.

The governor warned the killers: “The army has not given up”.

The attack was the latest attributed to an ethnic militia called CODECO, the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo.

On Friday, DR Congo’s army said it had killed seven of the militia’s fighters, which claims to defend the interests of the Lendu ethnic group. The Lendu are predominantly farmers who have historically clashed with the Hema community of traders and herders.

Ituri is one of several provinces gripped by militia violence in eastern DR Congo, a country the size of continental western Europe.

More than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Ituri since December 2017, including 375 since March, according to the United Nations.

“These acts could constitute crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned on June 4.

– ‘Slaughtering local residents’ –

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has accused CODECO and other Lendu fighters of pursuing “a strategy of slaughtering local residents — mainly the Hema, but also the Alur — since 2017” to control natural resources in the region.

Tens of thousands of people were killed in Hema-Lendu fighting between 1999 and 2003. The fighting resumed in 2017, for reasons that are not clear.

Just before Saturday’s attack, a delegation of former militia leaders from the 1999-2003 conflict had arrived in Ituri on a peace mission at the request of President Felix Tshisekedi.

Among them was Mathieu Ngudjolo, who was prosecuted but acquitted by the ICC in 2015, Ituri governor Bamanisa told AFP.

Local media reported that Germain Katanga was also present. Katanga was released in March having served nearly 12 years after being convicted by the ICC of war crimes including attacks on civilians.

The European Union ambassador to DR Congo, Jean-Marc Chataigner, condemned attacks in Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu on Twitter, calling for support of the army and the UN mission deployed in DR Congo, MONUSCO, “to prevent (militias) from doing harm”.

‘We Have Failed’: DR Congo Looks Back On 60 Years Of Independence

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

As DR Congo marks 60 years of independence from brutal colonial ruler Belgium, some are lamenting how little progress has been made since in a country caught in a “vicious cycle of instability and poverty”.

Belgium’s King Philippe took the unprecedented step this week of expressing his “deep regrets” for the abuses suffered under his country’s yoke until the Democratic Republic of Congo broke away on June 30, 1960.

But many leaders in DRC have given a damning appraisal of what has happened in the country since.

“After 60 years of independence, the assessment is without doubt: we have shamefully failed. We have not been able to make Congo a more beautiful country than it was before,” said Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the archbishop of Kinshasa, in a country where the powerful Catholic Church has been deeply critical of the government.

In a sermon on the 60th independence anniversary, the cardinal also lambasted “the succession of autocratic regimes”, “the culture of impunity” enjoyed by those in power, and the poverty suffered by many in DR Congo.

“We have collectively failed,” he summed up.

– ‘Mafia’ political class –

President Felix Tshisekedi gave a speech on Monday in which he said that “over 60 years, we have gradually allowed our political class to turn into a sort of mafia”.

“The average Congolese has lost 60 percent of their wealth in the last 60 years,” he said.

“Our road network is only 10 percent of what it was in 1960 and the rail network 20 percent.”

He also denounced a “political class which is struggling to tear this nation out of a vicious cycle of instability and poverty.”

Belgium meanwhile has been riven with debate over its colonial record during the worldwide anti-racism protests following George Floyd’s death in police custody in the United States. Protesters have graffitied or torn down several statues of Belgium’s colonial-era king Leopold II in recent weeks.

Looking to redress the historical imbalance, the Belgian city of Charleroi on Thursday named a street after Congolese independence icon Patrice Lumumba.

His son Guy-Patrice Lumumba told AFP that it was a “balm for the heart, it’s a recognition of our father’s fight”.

Lumumba, who became the country’s first prime minister on June 30, meanwhile had an entire town named after him — Lumumbaville — in central DR Congo.

Belgium’s colonisation was considered brutal even by the 19th-century standards, with historians saying that millions of Africans from areas in what is now DRC were killed, mutilated or died of disease as they worked on rubber plantations belonging to Leopold, king from 1865-1909.

The scars remain, with two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line.

“I want to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past whose pain is reawakened today by the discrimination still present in our societies,” Philippe said in a letter to Tshisekedi on Tuesday.

– Reparations call –

Tshisekedi on Monday paid tribute to Philippe, “who, like me, seeks to reinforce ties between our two countries without denying our shared past”.

He also sought to soothe tensions regarding Belgium returning Congolese cultural artifacts such as masks and statues that were looted during colonisation.

Not all were so conciliatory.

Prominent grassroots group Lucha (for “Struggle for Change”) said that DRC is still waiting for “an official apology and concrete action to restore as much as possible of the looted heritage, to carry out material and/or symbolic reparations, and teach the true history to new generations.”

The call for reparations was echoed by Lambert Mende, the spokesman of Tshisekedi’s predecessor, ex-president Joseph Kabila.

“People should be willing to repair the damage in terms of investment and compensation with interest. That’s what we expect from our Belgian partners,” he said.

A group of pro-democracy activists published a “Manifesto for a New Congo” on Tuesday saying that “successive regimes and leader have proven to be new predators”.

They also pointed to the complicity of “neo-colonialists and imperialist forces” siphoning up the country’s vast mineral riches.

AFP

DR Congo Violence Displaces Over One Million In Six Months – UN

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

More than one million people have been forced to flee their homes in the violence-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the start of the year, the UN said Tuesday.

The UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, voiced alarm at an increasing number of attacks by armed groups on displaced civilians, saying it was “appalled” by the surging violence.

“In the last eight weeks, UNHCR and its partners have recorded multiple attacks by armed groups on displacement sites and villages,” it said in a statement.

It said the attacks were mainly in Djugu Territory in Ituri province; in Fizi and Mwenga Territories in South Kivu province; and Masisi and Rutshuru Territories in North Kivu province.

“Violence has displaced more than one million people in the last six months in these areas,” the refugee agency said.

The UNHCR urged the authorities in the DRC to strengthen the police and military presence in the east “to improve the security situation and hold the perpetrators accountable”.

– Killings, mutilation –

“UNHCR is receiving accounts of the way armed groups are unleashing terror on people as they flee, in displacement sites and hosting areas, and when they attempt to return, including reports of killings and mutilation, sexual violence and looting,” the agency said.

“The displaced population is also subject to reprisal attacks for their perceived support for the army by returning armed groups, once the army completes operations to clear areas and is no longer present.”

The agency said the attacks were worsening an already complex displacement situation in eastern DRC and were piling pressure on the areas hosting internal migrants, which were lacking food, water and healthcare services.

It also said health centres had been attacked, with medicines to treat people potentially exposed to HIV being looted.

The DRC has one of the highest rates of internal displacement in the world, according to the UN.

Over five million people within the country’s borders have been uprooted by insecurity, while nearly a million more have sought safety in neighbouring countries as refugees.

– Funding shortfall –

The UNHCR said those uprooted were overwhelmingly women and children and it was providing shelter, relief items and cash.

The agency appealed for further funding, saying it had only received 21 percent of the $168 million (149.59 million euros) it needed for its DRC operations this year.

Some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) from the capital Kinshasa, the eastern DRC is one of Africa’s flashpoints.

It was the theatre of two major wars, which ran from 1996-1997 and from 1998-2003, the second of which eventually involved nine countries and two dozen armed groups.

Millions died from the fighting, disease or malnutrition and violence and volatility remain acute today.

North Kivu in particular has suffered at the hands of militia groups, especially the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a mainly Muslim movement that originated in neighbouring Uganda in the 1990s.

Ethnic violence in Ituri, involving the Lendu and Hema communities, has meanwhile claimed nearly 300 lives since March.

AFP

DR Congo PM Lashes Out At Arrest Of Justice Minister

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s prime minister has chastised President Felix Tshisekedi over the “arbitrary” arrest of the justice minister in a deepening government rift over proposed judicial reforms.

Justice Minister Celestin Tunda Ya Kasende was detained for several hours on Saturday after clashing with Tshisekedi over the legal changes, which set off two days of violent protests in Kinshasa last week.

He was later released without charge, with the prosecutor saying it was a “pointless hassle” according to one of his supporters.

The feud has pitted Tshisekedi loyalists against supporters of his predecessor Joseph Kabila, who still wields huge behind-the-scenes influence 18 months after standing down from the presidency.

“Members of the government have expressed their indignation at the humiliation suffered by their colleague,” Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga’s office said in a statement dated Saturday and seen by AFP on Sunday.

The ministers “condemn this arbitrary arrest” which they said was “in violation of the basic rule of law”, the statement said, calling for an investigation into those who launched the arrest proceedings.

Several sources said Saturday that Ilunga had threatened to resign over the incident, a move that would have put an end to the fragile government coalition.

READ ALSO: Civilians Among Over 100 Victims Of Libya Mines – UN

Both Ilunga and Tunda Ya Kasende are members of the Common Front for Congo (FCC) a grouping close to Kabila which sits alongside Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) in government and accounts for about two thirds of cabinet posts.

The controversial judicial reforms were put forward by the FCC and include proposals to define the powers of judges, which critics say is a ploy to muzzle the judiciary in a country known for its instability.

Angry Tshisekedi supporters took to the streets for two days last week in violent demonstrations against the changes.

Tshisekedi took office in January last year in the first peaceful transfer of power in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country after 18 years with Kabila at the helm.

While the handover eased fears that the country would plunge again into civil strife, Tshisekedi has faced a bumpy ride and the sprawling coalition remains a source of tensions.

AFP