One Injured, 10 Arrested In Anti-UN Demonstration In DR Congo

 

A student was injured and 10 other people were arrested on Wednesday in renewed protests in eastern DR Congo at perceived UN failures to combat a notorious armed group, an AFP journalist saw.

Police used teargas to break up a demonstration outside the university in Goma, one of two cities in the province of North Kivu where public anger has boiled over.

Dozens of civilians in and around the town of Beni have been killed by a notorious but shadowy group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), since DR Congo’s army launched an offensive against it on October 30.

The mounting toll has caused people to take to the streets, accusing the authorities and the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO, of inaction.

On Monday, a crowd stormed one of the two UN camps near Beni and set fire to one of its offices.

Six people have been killed in the protests since Monday.

“Our demonstration is patriotic. MONUSCO is standing on the sidelines as the massacres unfold, when its chief mission is to protect civilians,” one of the demonstrators in Wednesday’s protest, law student Fiston Muhindo, told AFP.

“They have to go. MONUSCO is serving no purpose,” said fellow law student Junior Mastaki, adding that the Congolese authorities were “incapable” of protecting the public.

Eighty-one people in the Beni region have been killed since November 5, according to a not-for-profit organisation, the Congo Research Group (CRG).

It says the ADF — a group of Ugandan origin that has plagued eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since the mid-1990s — has killed more than a thousand civilians since October 2014.

MONUSCO, one of the biggest UN peacekeeping operations in the world, today comprises more than 16,500 military personnel and observers, 1,300 police and at least 4,000 civilians.

But it has struggled to make headway in a vast country beset by armed groups as well as entrenched poverty and poor governance.

It has pointed out that its troops are unable to deploy against armed groups without the approval of the host country and in coordination with national forces.

On Monday, the Congolese armed forces told AFP that it had taken “all of (ADF’s) strongholds and headquarters” in the forests around Beni.

The same day, the president’s office announced the DRC and UN peacekeepers would launch “joint operations” to beef up security in Beni, and the Congolese army would establish an “advance headquarters” in the town.

AFP

WHO Relocates Staff From DRC’s Beni Amid Unrest

 

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it had moved 49 staff out of Beni, eastern DR Congo, overnight amid growing insecurity, but warned of the impact on the fight against Ebola.

The UN health agency said it had flown more than a third of its 120 staff in Beni to Goma, further south on the country’s eastern border, as insecurity in the area surged.

But it said 71 essential staff remained in the town to try to push on with work to rein in the Ebola outbreak that has left some 2,200 dead.

“The violence needs to stop… This is very bad for the Ebola response,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told journalists in Geneva.

Insecurity has complicated efforts to rein in Ebola since the latest outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo began in August 2018.

But violence in the lawless east of the country has recently surged, with 77 civilians killed in the Beni region since November 5, according to a not-for-profit organisation, the Congo Research Group (CRG).

On Monday, at least four protesters were killed, according to the military, after clashes broke out and protesters stormed a UN camp over the perceived failure of UN peacekeepers to stop deadly attacks from militia groups.

“The security situation in Beni has definitely worsened overnight, or throughout the last days,” Lindmeier said.

But he stressed that unlike several previous spikes in violence, the anger this time had not specifically targeted Ebola responders.

Cases will rise

“As the community violence is not directed at the Ebola response, we will try as long as possible to maintain a minimum support for the community,” he said, stressing that those moved to Goma would also continue working remotely.

But the insecurity is nonetheless seriously hampering the response.

“Every day, every hour (that) we cannot go out (to) trace the contacts, help the communities with dignified burials, go out for vaccinations and for treatments … will most certainly result in rising cases,” Lindmeier said.

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

The work to halt the Ebola epidemic is based on vaccinating and carefully tracking anyone who has been in contact with those infected, and the contacts of the contacts.

Lindmeier said that while health workers typically are able to successfully track more than 90 percent of all contacts, on Monday they only reached 17 percent.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergency response chief warned last week that the violence and lack of access was “now preventing us ending this outbreak”.

Over the week ending on November 24, seven new cases were registered, bringing the total number of cases to 3,303, including 2,199 deaths, WHO said.

AFP

At Least Four Killed In DR Congo Anti-UN Protests

 

At least four demonstrators were killed on Monday in violence during protests in eastern DR Congo against UN peacekeepers, the military investigators told AFP.

“There were four deaths during the day,” military prosecutor Kumbu Ngoma said. “Ten civilians were wounded and three Congolese military were also hurt.”

Crowds defied warning shots fired by Congolese forces and stormed a UN camp, which had apparently been evacuated, in an angry protest over killings by an armed militia in the eastern town of Beni.

DR Congo To Play In CECAFA Cup In Uganda

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo will play in next month’s Confederation of East and Central Africa (CECAFA) Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda as a guest team, the organisers said on Monday.

The two-time African Nations Championships (CHAN) holders will be competing for the first time in the regional football tournament which will be held in Kampala from December 7-19.

“DR Congo is expected to bring a lot of football wealth to the tournament, especially with their domestic league clubs, TP Mazembe and Vita Club performing very well in the African football competitions. We are privileged to have them play in our competition,” CECAFA secretary Nicholas Musonye told AFP from Dar es Salaam where the draw was held.

The tournament will also see the return of the Eritrean national senior team which last competed in the Cecafa Challenge Cup in Kenya six years ago.

Titleholders, Kenya will play in Group C alongside Djibouti, Tanzania and Zanzibar.

The draw is:

Group A: Uganda, Burundi,Ethiopia, Eritrea

Group B: DR Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia

Group C: Kenya (holders), Tanzania, Burundi, Djibouti.

The two top teams from each group and the best two losers will qualify to the quarter-finals.

Updated: Plane Crash Kills 29 At DR Congo City

 

At least 29 people were killed Sunday when a small plane crashed after takeoff into a densely populated area of the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A survivor among the 19 people — 17 passengers and two crew members — who were aboard the plane was taken to hospital along with 16 others injured on the ground, the North Kivu regional government said.

“At this stage, 29 bodies have been found in the rubble,” the statement said.

The Busy Bee Dornier-228 smashed into two houses near the airport, the deputy transport minister Jacques Yuma Kipuya said earlier.

The first images from the scene showed smoke billowing above the neighbourhood and the aircraft in flames with local people throwing buckets of water on it.

READ ALSO: A Decade Of Plane Crashes In Residential Areas That Shook The World

A video seen by AFP showed the cabin of the plane still smouldering embedded in the wall of the house.

The aircraft had been headed for the city of Beni, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Goma, when it went down after takeoff in the residential area.

Busy Bee airline staff member Heritier Said Mamadou had earlier confirmed that 19 were on board the flight scheduled from Goma around 9:00 am (0700 GMT).

Busy Bee, a recently established company, has three planes serving routes in the North Kivu province.

The pilot “failed in his takeoff,” Nord Kivu governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita said in a statement.

One of the airline’s maintenance workers at the site, quoted by news site actualite.cd, blamed a “technical problem”.

Among the victims of the Goma crash was a woman who was the coordinator of an association for the defence of women’s rights, Mambo Zawadi, her NGO said.

There were also three civil servants in the housing sector “who were returning to their posts in Butembo and Beni after work sessions that I had organised,” their supervisor Molendo Sakombi said in a statement.

The UN mission deployed in DR Congo, MONUSCO, sent two fire engines to support local rescue services.

Aircraft accidents are common in the vast, conflict-wracked central African country.

Last month an Antonov-72 cargo plane that was providing logistical assistance for a trip by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi and carrying eight crew and passengers went missing after taking off from Goma.

Troubled Province

Goma is the capital of troubled North Kivu province near the border with Rwanda.

The plane’s destination, Beni, has been the scene of other tragedies in the province plagued with fighting between rival militias. More than 60 civilians have been massacred since October 30.

The failure of the army and police to stop the killings has prompted protests by civilians, the latest one on Friday.

The Nord Kivu governor went to Beni to calm the citizens and on Sunday offered condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash.

Beni has also been at the epicentre of an Ebola epidemic which so far has killed around 2,200 people in DR Congo in the last year.

AFP

Violence In DR Congo As Rebels Kill 14 Civilians In Revenge Mission

A picture of the DR Congo Flag

 

Assailants in DR Congo have killed 14 civilians in revenge for army offensives against Ugandan rebel strongholds in the east of the country, a local official said on Saturday.

The latest killings, which occurred in the night from Friday to Saturday, take the total number of those killed in revenge attacks to around 30.

 

AFP

President Tshisekedi Hopes To End Ebola In DR Congo By December

President of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Felix Tshisekedi reviews the guard of honor as he visits Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to discuss business between the two countries at the statehouse in Entebbe, Uganda, on November 9, 2019.
Sumy Sadurni / AFP

 

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on Friday voiced hope that the Ebola epidemic in his country would be stamped out by the end of the year.

“We believe that by the end of the year we will have eradicated the disease entirely,” Tshisekedi said during a visit to Berlin.

The epidemic began in August 2018 in North Kivu province before spreading to neighbouring Ituri and South Kivu — a remote and largely lawless region bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

READ ALSO: Second Ebola Vaccine Introduced In DR Congo

It has killed more than 2,000 people to date and is the second Ebola outbreak deadliest on record after an outbreak that struck West Africa in 2014-16, claiming more than 11,300 lives.

DRC officials have introduced two vaccines to fight the epidemic.

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

Following an incubation period of up to three weeks, a high fever develops, along with weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat.

This is often followed by vomiting and diarrhea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

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

The virus’s natural reservoir is suspected to be a tropical bat that does not itself fall ill but can pass on the microbe to humans who hunt it for food.

AFP

Ebola: Attackers Kill Journalist Shedding Light On Virus

Health workers participating in an Ebola preparedness drill. AFP photo.

 

A radio host who helped spread the word in the fight against Ebola has been stabbed to death at his home in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, the army said Sunday.

The motive for the murder in the town of Lwemba in the troubled Ituri region was unknown, but it came as health authorities were set to introduce a new vaccine against the disease in unaffected areas.

The attackers killed 35-year-old Papy Mumbere Mahamba and wounded his wife before burning down their home late Saturday, General Robert Yav, the commander of Congolese army forces in the Ituri town of Mambasa, told AFP.

Professor Steve Ahuka, national coordinator of the fight against Ebola, confirmed a local worker in Lwemba had been killed.

A journalist at Radio Lwemba, the local radio station where Mahamba worked, also confirmed the details.

“Our colleague Papy Mumbere Mahamba was killed at his home by unknown attackers” who stabbed him to death, Jacques Kamwina told AFP.

The Observatory for  Press Freedom in  Africa (OLPA), based in the DRC, called on the Ituri authorities to conduct a “serious investigation” into the murder.

DR Congo declared an Ebola epidemic in August 2018 in the conflict-wracked eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

The highly contagious haemorrhagic fever has so far killed 2,185 people, according to the latest official figures.

Efforts to roll back the epidemic have been hampered not only by fighting but also by resistance within communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.

It is the DRC’s 10th Ebola epidemic and the second deadliest on record after an outbreak that struck West Africa in 2014-16, claiming more than 11,300 lives.

Health workers have repeatedly come under attack.

A Cameroonian doctor from the World Health Organization (WHO), Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung, was shot dead in April in an attack on a hospital in North Kivu province.

A nurse and a police officer were killed in similar circumstances since the start of the epidemic.

In September, militiamen torched around 20 homes of health workers fighting Ebola in the area around Mambasa.

 Dangerous burial traditions 

The WHO has warned violence undermines the fight against Ebola, notably impeding safe burials of the highly contagious bodies and the administering of vaccines.

People often refuse to forgo traditional burial rites involving kissing, washing and touching of the dead body.

Funerals can become “super-spreading events” with up to 70 people infected in a single ceremony, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

To prevent contagion, health workers and volunteers form safe burial teams but deep mistrust of outsiders often hinders access to bereaved families.

Many people see Ebola as a hoax invented by medical personnel in order to land well-paid jobs.

New vaccine 

On Saturday, the authorities said they had received 11,000 doses of a second anti-Ebola vaccine from Belgium, the DRC’s former colonial power.

The Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine — an experimental product– is to be used to protect those living outside of direct Ebola transmission zones.

The vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson will be administered only to those who want it, the ministry said.

It will complement a first vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV-GF, manufactured by the US firm Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD), used in Ebola-infected areas to protect those who may have come into contact with victims of the disease.

Nearly 250,000 people have been vaccinated since the start of the programme in August 2018.

AFP

First Shipment Of New Ebola Vaccine Arrives In DR Congo

A young man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse in Goma on August 7, 2019. Three cases of the deadly virus were detected in the border city of Goma, the Congolese presidency said on August 1, 2019. Augustin WAMENYA / AFP

 

The Congolese medical authorities said Saturday they had received the first shipment of a new Ebola vaccine as the central African country battles its second deadliest outbreak of the virus this decade.

The health ministry for the eastern province of North Kivu said that a preliminary batch of 11,000 doses of the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson had arrived on Friday.

In all, a shipment of a total 50,000 doses is being sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help fight an outbreak that has killed more than 2,100 people since August 2018.

Until now, the only vaccine against the disease was one manufactured by US firm, Merck Sharpe and Dohme.

The DRC’s deadliest Ebola outbreak since the West Africa pandemic in 2014-2016 has affected the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri and left 2,183 people dead, according to the latest official figures.

Since the start of the vaccination campaign on August 8, 2018, a total of 245,999 people have been vaccinated.

Ebola fighters have been hindered by chronic insecurity in the affected provinces of eastern DRC, but much of the controversy surrounding the response has centred on the use of vaccines.

The World Health Organization had been pushing Kinshasa for months to approve the use of the J&J vaccine — an experimental product– to protect those living outside of direct transmission zones.

The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC’s former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.

But Ilunga’s resignation in July appeared to have paved the way for the second vaccine.

Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the new head of the anti-Ebola campaign, said Friday the J&J vaccine would be used from mid-November with the operation being launched simultaneously in DR Congo and Rwanda.

AFP

22 Killed, 10 Injured In DR Congo Mining Truck Accident

 

At least 22 people were killed and 10 wounded when a mining truck overturned in southeast DR Congo on Friday, police said.

The truck had many passengers on board when it tipped over at Mutetenya village in Tanganyika province, DR Congo’s national police said on Twitter.

“All the cargo of cassiterite (a mineral source of tin) spilled down the steep slope,” it added, giving a provisional death toll of 22.

The truck had been travelling from the town of Manono to Lubumbashi, the mining capital of the country.

The truck “hit a big rock before rolling”, said Pierre Mukamba, the administrator of the mineral-rich Manono territory.

The vehicle is owned by the Mining Mineral Resources (MMR), an Indian company registered in Tanzania.

Deadly traffic accidents are common in the vast, poor central African country, where the mostly dirt roads are poorly maintained.

Lacking cars or public transport, many people jump on board long-haul cargo trucks in often risky conditions to travel across the country.

Congo Army launches ‘Large-Scale’ Operation Against Armed Militias

PHOTO USED TO DEPIC THE STORY: A picture taken on November 13, 2018, shows Tanzanian soldiers from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patroling against Ugandan Allied Democratic Force (ADF) rebels in Beni. The Beni area has for the last four years been under seige from the ADF, an Islamist armed group that has killed hundreds of people since 2014. PHOTO: John WESSELS / AFP

 

DR Congo’s army said on Thursday it had launched “large-scale operations” against the many armed militias that have been causing violence in the country’s troubled east for nearly a quarter of a century.

The central African country has been wracked by conflict near its eastern border, with many of the militias having evolved from the two Congo wars (1996-1997 and 1998-2003).

“The DRC armed forces launched large-scale operations overnight Wednesday to eradicate all domestic and foreign armed groups that plague the east of the country and destabilise the Great Lakes region,” General Richard Kasonga, spokesman of the Congolese army, told AFP.

“The operation was launched from Nyaleke (Beni region), where artillery shelled rebel positions,” he said. “Ground troops have been engaged since this morning.”

The Beni region, in the North Kivu province which borders Uganda and Rwanda, has been particularly affected by militia violence.

An Islamist-rooted Ugandan armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), has targeted Beni, killing hundreds of civilians over the last five years. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are also active in the region.

The Congolese army shared a video with the media showing tanks firing shells and soldiers taking positions on a dirt road in a mostly deserted village. Scattered gunfire could be heard in the background.

Five Great Lakes countries — the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda — decided last week to combine their military operations in the region.

The UN’s peacekeeping mission in DR Congo has supported DRC troops in the region, but has ruled out backing any foreign intervention.

AFP

Four Journalists Arrested In Burundi For Undermining National Security

AFP photo

 

Four journalists and their driver are still being held in Burundi after being arrested for undermining national security while covering a rebel attack from neighbouring DR Congo, the attorney general said.

The Burundian reporters were detained on Tuesday last week while reporting in Bubanza, in the country’s northwest, prompting calls from free press groups for their immediate release.

The journalists, from the Iwacu newspaper, one of the last independent publications in Burundi, were detained along with their driver while trying to speak to residents fleeing fighting between rebels and national forces.

“The attorney general of the Republic wants to reaffirm here that these people were not arrested because they are journalists but for the things they are accused of,” Sylvestre Nyandwi said in a statement released late Thursday.

He said they were “apprehended on a hill where clashes were taking place and facts at the disposition of the prosecutors indicate that they could have had this information beforehand,” he said.

He said the court in Bubanza had “decided on the preventive detention” of the five for “undermining national security”.

At least 14 Burundian rebels were killed in the attack, the first by the RED-Tabara group since 2017, according to Burundian police.

The rebels meanwhile claim killing about 10 defence personnel.

Burundi has been locked in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 announced he would seek a controversial third term in office, sparking civil unrest that has left 1,200 dead and over 400,000 displaced.

The next presidential election is scheduled to be held in 2020.

The international media rights group RSF recently warned that there was such a crackdown on the press in Burundi that “there is a risk of all forms of independent journalism disappearing” less than a year before the election.

Burundi is currently ranked 159th out of 180 countries on the RSF’s world press freedom index.

AFP