Crowd Lynches Two Suspected Militants As UN Envoy Visits DRC

People gather in Oicha, on November 29, 2019, as 27 victims of the latest massacre in the country’s volatile east were being buried, with hundreds paying homage while lashing out at security forces for failing to stop attacks. Bienvenu-Marie BAKUMANYA / AFP

 

 

A crowd in eastern DR Congo on Saturday lynched two people they suspected of being members of a militia blamed for the killing of more than 100 civilians over the past month, an AFP journalist said.

The killings came on the same day that the United Nations peacekeeping chief arrived in eastern DR Congo where anti-UN protests have erupted since the militia attacks.

Munitions were found in the bags of the two people, a man and a woman dressed in civilian clothes, in the town of Beni.

The crowd of several dozen people accused them of being members of the Allied Democratic Forces, a shadowy armed group with links to Ugandan Islamists, the journalist said.

The arrival of UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix in Beni came several days after an angry mob stormed a UN base in the town in protest over a perceived failure of peacekeepers to stop militia violence.

Lacroix will visit the base of the UN mission, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, mobbed by protesters on Monday, and hold talks with the Congolese army and local authorities, a UN spokesman said.

At least seven people have been killed in clashes during the anti-UN protests this week.

– Hacked to death –

The east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been troubled for years by militia violence, but most recent attacks are blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces or ADF, a shadowy armed group with links to Ugandan Islamists.

DR Congo forces launched operations against the ADF in the restive eastern region at the end of October. But in response the ADF has carried out massacres, in an apparent bid to discourage civilians from helping the military.

Another 27 people were hacked to death on Wednesday, bringing the number of people killed in militia violence to 107 since November 5 in and around Beni.

The European Union has also condemned the “cowardly attacks” by armed groups and called for perpetrators to be bought to justice.

“Closer cooperation is needed between the FARDC (Congolese armed forces) and MONUSCO to reinforce protective measures for civilians,” the European Union spokesman said in a statement on Friday.

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 progress in a vast country beset by armed groups as well as an Ebola epidemic, poverty and poor governance.

Responding to criticism of inaction, MONUSCO says its troops are unable to deploy in combat without the approval of the host country and in coordination with national forces.

The DR Congo presidency earlier this week announced joint military operations with the UN to reestablish security in the Beni area.

AFP

Ebola Still An ‘Urgent’ Global Health Emergency – WHO

 

The deadly Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains an “urgent” global health emergency, The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday at its Emergency Committee meeting.

DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

“The public health emergency will be maintained for an additional three months”, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference.

“This outbreak remains a complex and dangerous outbreak,” he said, deploring the lack of funding.

The status of a global health emergency is an exceptional measure that has been used by the WHO four times: in 2009 for the Swine flu virus, in 2014 for polio, in 2014 for the Ebola epidemic which killed more than 11,000 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and in 2016 for the Zika virus.

Last week, the director of the WHO Emergency Program, Michael Ryan, expressed “cautious optimism” that the epidemic was confined to a smaller region.

The DRC health ministry said earlier this week Ebola had returned to Ituri province in the north-east of the country after nearly 300 days without any new cases.

“The number of cases has declined each week for the past four weeks. But these encouraging trends should be interpreted with caution,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“The area is a very complex area, it’s a very volatile area. We have made very significant progress, the number of cases have plummeted.

“But if there is insecurity incidents, we may lose what we have gained so far.”

Since the most recent Ebola outbreak, a vaccine a developed by Merck Sharp and Dohme has been used on more than 230,000 people.

On Friday, the vaccine which has yet to be licensed, received a green light from The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in a step towards its commercialisation.

A second experimental vaccine manufactured by the Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson is to be introduced in November, according to DR Congo medical officials.

DRC Approves Use Of Second Experimental Ebola Vaccine

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is to introduce a second vaccine next month to combat the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 2,100 people in the country, /AFP

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo will introduce a second Ebola vaccine next month, the World Health Organization said Monday, as a top medical charity accused the UN agency of rationing doses of the main drug to protect against the disease.

DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed more than 2,100 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

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.

READ ALSO: Mugabe Died Of Cancer, Says Zimbabwe Media

More than 223,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma giant Merck.

The WHO has for month been pushing Kinshasa to approve the use of a second experimental product, made by Johnson & Johnson, 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 pave the way for approval of the second vaccine.

In a statement issued on Monday, the health ministry said the second vaccine would be used as a “preventive” measure, given the risk that stocks of the Merck vaccine could run out if the epidemic persists.

The ministry said it had scrutinised candidate Ebola vaccines, and “the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has most scientific data… it is not toxic and can provide protection.”

“This vaccine presents no danger to the public,” the statement said, adding that the first priority would be to use it to inoculate “Congolese traders who regularly visit Rwanda.”

“We must also protect Rwanda”, it said.

The WHO said in a statement that DRC planned to introduce the J&J product from “mid-October.”

“This vaccine, which is given as a 2-dose course, 56 days apart, will be provided under approved protocols to targeted at-risk populations in areas that do not have active Ebola transmission as an additional tool to extend protection against the virus.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the latest decision by DRC authorities, who he said “have once again shown leadership and their determination to end this outbreak as soon as possible”.

– ‘Rationing’? –
Doctors Without Borders, which has repeatedly criticised WHO’s leadership of the Ebola response, levelled fresh criticism against the agency on Monday.

“One of the main problems currently is the fact that, in practice, the (Merck) vaccine is rationed by the WHO and that too few people at risk are protected today,” the charity known by its French acronym MSF said in a statement.

In an interview with AFP in July, MSF’s international president Joanne Liu called on WHO to vaccinate whole villages where Ebola cases had emerged, rather than simply targeting the contacts of those infected.

The charity also renewed its complaints over “the opaque management of the vaccine supplied by the World Health Organization.”

“It’s like giving firefighters a bucket of water to put out a fire, but only allowing them to use one cup of water a day,” Natalie Roberts, MSF’s emergency coordinator,” said in a statement.

“Merck recently stated that in addition to the 245,000 doses already delivered to WHO, they are ready to ship another 190,000 doses if required and that 650,000 additional doses will be available over the next six to 18 months,” MSF said.

The charity also called for the creation of “an independent international coordination committee” to “guarantee the transparency of the management of stocks and data sharing”.

– ‘Everything possible’ –
The WHO denied limiting the availability of the vaccine, saying it was doing “everything possible” to end the epidemic.

“Along with the DRC government, no-one wants to bring this epidemic to an end more than WHO,” the agency’s emergency director, Mike Ryan, said in a statement.

The WHO is “not limiting access to the vaccine but rather implementing a strategy recommended by an independent advisory body of experts,” Ryan added.

The agency said last week that as of September 17, DRC had registered a total of 3,145 cases of Ebola since the outbreak began over a year ago, including 2,103 deaths.

It has declared the Ebola epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern”, a rare designation used only for the gravest epidemics.

Ebola Death Toll Crosses 2,000 DR Congo Ahead Of UN chief’s Visit

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

 

The Ebola outbreak in DR Congo showed no signs of easing Friday on the eve of the UN chief’s visit to the country, with the death toll from the highly contagious virus crossing 2,000 and a new fatality in neighbouring Uganda.

The latest casualty in Uganda was a nine-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo, reviving fears that the virus could cross the porous borders of the central African country, where it erupted in August last year.

DR Congo health officials said late Thursday that there have been “2,006 deaths (1,901 confirmed and 105 probable)” since August 2018. adding that 902 people had been cured.

The toll is a setback coming a day before UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits for a first-hand assessment of the fightback.

Guterres wants to “express support for the teams engaged in the Ebola fightback,” the UN said.

More than 200,000 people have been vaccinated during DR Congo’s tenth and most serious Ebola epidemic.

It is the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

Containment efforts have been hindered by conflict in eastern DRC as well as attacks on Ebola fighters within affected communities.

“For the moment, the situation is better than the past weeks. But in certain zones, there are many cases of community resistance. These are the zones which have brought forth the most confirmed cases,” Robert Bahidika Nasekwa from Oxfam said.

“As a result, those who came in contact with confirmed cases have not been followed up,” he said.

Jean-Edmond Bwanakawa Masumbuko, the mayor of Beni — a major city which Guterres is due to visit — said some people “had the tendency of viewing Ebola treatment centres as deathtraps.

“Out of the city’s 14 zones, there are only four which continue to pose problems,” he said.

Fourth Uganda death

The nine-year-old girl who tested positive in Uganda after travelling from DR Congo died early Friday, a Ugandan health official told AFP.

“She passed on at around 0800 (0500 GMT) this morning,” said Yusuf Baseka, health director in Kasese, a district in southwestern Uganda along the border with DR Congo.

The child was diagnosed after exhibiting symptoms at a border crossing in Kasese on Wednesday.

She was subsequently isolated and transferred to an Ebola treatment unit.

The girl is the fourth victim diagnosed with Ebola in Uganda, which has been on high alert since last year, to have died from the virus.

In June, three members of a single-family tested positive after entering from DR Congo. Two died in Uganda, while the third succumbed to the disease after returning to DR Congo.

The outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus began in the North Kivu province in eastern DR Congo on August 1, 2018, and spread to the neighbouring Ituri province.

The pathogen causes fever, vomiting and severe diarrhoea, often followed by kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

The disease is spread by contact with infected bodily fluids and is fought with the time-honoured but laborious techniques of tracing contacts and quarantining them.

Stepped up checks

The WHO has declared the epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern”.

The virus has also spread to DR Congo’s South Kivu province, which shares a land border with Rwanda and Burundi.

Screening is vital but imperfect.

Ebola can take up to three weeks to incubate and cannot be spread until the infected person has symptoms, the WHO says.

But it can be difficult to clinically tell Ebola from malaria, typhoid fever or meningitis.

Uganda has stepped up checks for hundreds of schoolchildren who cross over from DR Congo every day to attend school there as jobs and educational opportunities are greater.

But it is not without inconvenience.

“Sometimes we get to school late, because we have to be in line for checking and it takes time,” said Doreane Kambari, a 16-year-old attending high school in Bwera in Kasese.

AFP

Ebola Cases In DR Congo Break 2,000 Mark

 

DR Congo’s health ministry said it had recorded more than 2,000 cases of Ebola, two-thirds of which had been fatal, since the disease broke out in the country’s east 10 months ago.

“Since the start of the epidemic, the total number of cases stands at 2,008, of which 1,914 have been confirmed [by lab test] while 94 are probable,” it said in an update issued late Monday.

“In all, there have been 1,346 deaths (1,252 confirmed and 94 probable) and 539 people have recovered.”

The ministry said it was important to retain the overall perspective, despite the breaching of the symbolic threshold of 2,000 cases.

“In recent weeks, the trend has been positive, although vigilance is still necessary,” it said.

There have been fewer attacks on Ebola teams by armed groups, which means health workers have “recovered some of the lost time to contain the spread of the epidemic,” it said.

The epidemic was first declared in North Kivu province on August 1 and then spread to neighbouring Ituri, although there have not been any cases in neighbouring countries.

Oxfam’s director for the DRC, Corinne N’Daw, said “it is clear the current response to tackle Ebola isn’t working. No matter how effective treatment is, if people don’t trust or understand it, they will not use it.”

She added: “Our teams are still meeting people on a daily basis who don’t believe Ebola is real… many cases are going unnoticed because people with symptoms have been avoiding treatment.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also voiced its concern.

“Worryingly, the number of Ebola cases has increased significantly in recent weeks to between 15-20 new cases per day,” it said in a press release.

It called for a “reset” of the response, combining scaled-up aid with a greater role for local people in carrying it out.

Efforts to tackle the crisis have been hampered both by militia attacks on treatment centres and by the hostility of some local people to the medical teams.

Five workers have been killed, according to an AFP tally, and important preventative work, such as vaccination programmes and burials of Ebola victims, has been delayed, said N’Daw.

The outbreak is the 10th in Democratic Republic of Congo since the disease was identified in 1976.

It is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck three African countries between 2014-2016, leaving more than 11,300 people dead.

On May 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) appointed David Gressly, serving as the UN’s deputy special representative in DR Congo, to coordinate the global response to the epidemic.

At Least 18 Die In DR Congo In Acid Truck Accident

 

At least 18 people were killed in DR Congo’s mining belt on Wednesday when a truck laden with industrial acid collided with a bus, spewing its contents on passengers, sources said.

The accident happened near the village of Fungurume, in the heart of a copper and cobalt mining area between Lubumbashi and Kolwezi in the southeast.

“A Tanzanian-registered tanker truck carrying acid hit a stationary bus. The acid poured out onto the passengers,” police captain Corneille Lwitetele, in charge of road traffic in Lualaba province, told AFP on Thursday.

He gave a toll of 21 dead and 12 injured, while Lualaba’s provincial health minister, Samy Kayombo, gave a figure of 18 dead and 12 injured with burns.

The UN radio channel Okapi said the damaged truck continued to spill its contents until midday on Thursday, and acid flowed as far as the village of Kabwe.

Traffic on the busy highway resumed at midnight Wednesday, police said.

Acid is widely used in mining to leach metal from rock.

Road accidents are tragically common in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the main causes being poor road surfaces, excessive speed and badly-maintained vehicles.

AFP

President Buhari Congratulates Tshisekedi Of DRC On Election, Inauguration

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the newly elected President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on his victory and inauguration.

The President’s felicitation was contained in a statement by his special media aide, Femi Adesina.

President Buhari commended the Government and people of DRC for their determination and commitment to democratic principles, which resulted in the first peaceful transfer of democratic power since independence in 1960.

He also saluted the Congolese people for peacefully exercising their franchise during the national elections in their country.

READ ALSO: DR Congo’s Tshisekedi Falls Ill During Inauguration Speech

“Following the affirmation of President Tshisekedi’s victory at the December 30, 2018 polls, by the Constitutional Court of the country, President Buhari urges all Congolese, especially political stakeholders to rally behind the new leader and support his vision to build ‘‘a modern, peaceful, democratic State for every citizen,’’ as succinctly expressed in his inauguration speech on Thursday.

“Recognizing the important role played by former President Joseph Kabila in the historic electoral process and transition, President Buhari assures the new Congolese leader of Nigeria’s readiness to work with his government to consolidate peace, stability, reconciliation and development in the Central African country,” Femi Adesina’s statement partly reads.

Regional Powers Back Tshisekedi As DRC Leader Despite Dispute

Felix Tshisekedi gestures as he is surrounded by his wife, relatives, and supporters of his UDPS party (Union for Democracy and Social Progress), a few minutes after he was declared winner of the presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), in his father’s historic residence in Limete, Kinshasa on January 10, 2019. France on January 10, 2019.
Caroline Thirion / AFP

 

Regional powers hailed Felix Tshisekedi as DR Congo’s incoming president on Sunday, despite claims by his opponents of an election stitch-up and the African Union earlier warning of “serious doubts” over the result.

Announcing the final results of the much-delayed poll, the Constitutional Court threw out a legal challenge by runner-up Martin Fayulu in an overnight declaration early on Sunday.

It declared Tshisekedi the winner, paving the way for him to take over from the country’s longtime leader Joseph Kabila, 47.

The election dispute has raised fears of fresh bloodshed in the vast and volatile central African nation.

The chairman of the African Union (AU), Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was due in Kinshasa on Monday after the AU questioned the election results.

The bloc had called for the final results to be delayed.

But the 16-nation Southern African Development Community congratulated Tshisekedi on Sunday for being declared president-elect and called for a peaceful handover of power.

“The SADC reiterates the need to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC,” its chairman Hage Geingob, president of Namibia, said in a statement.

“SADC calls upon all Congolese to accept the outcome, consolidate democracy and maintain a peaceful and stable environment.”

Hundreds of Tshisekedi’s supporters celebrated by blowing whistles and horns near his party headquarters in the capital Kinshasa, where the atmosphere was otherwise calm on Sunday.

Fayulu alleges ‘coup’

Fayulu has described the outcome of the vote as an “electoral coup”.

He called for peaceful protests, though no major incidents were reported across the country on Sunday.

Fayulu has alleged that Tshisekedi promised to protect Kabila’s political and financial interests in return for helping to ensure his victory.

“I ask the entire international community not to recognise a power that has neither legitimacy nor legal standing to represent the Congolese people,” he said of Tshisekedi.

The winning candidate called for unity.

“This is not a victory for one side or the other,” Tshisekedi said in a video message.

“The Congo we are going to build will not be a Congo of division, hate and tribalism — it will be a Congo that is reconciled, a strong Congo, looking towards development, peace and security for all.”

Recount call rejected

Tshisekedi’s victory was provisionally announced earlier this month by the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) but it was challenged both at home and abroad.

On Sunday, the Constitutional Court, which is made up of Kabila’s allies, said Fayulu had failed to prove any inaccuracies in the figures. It described his call for a recount as “absurd”.

The court declared Tshisekedi as the “president of the Democratic Republic of Congo by simple majority”.

The Financial Times and other foreign media have reported seeing documents that confirm Fayulu as the winner.

The influential Roman Catholic Church, which says it deployed 40,000 observers to monitor the poll, has also dismissed the official outcome.

Fears of bloodbath

Awaiting Sunday’s court announcement, hundreds of Tshisekedi’s supporters gathered outside the court holding placards saying “No to interference” and “Independent country” as riot police stood nearby.

Leader of the country’s oldest and biggest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, 55-year-old Tshisekedi has never held high office.

The dispute has raised fears that the political crisis that began when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office two years ago could turn into a bloodbath.

The vast country lived through two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003. The previous two elections, in 2006 and 2011, were marred by bloody clashes.

Doubts over vote result

At a summit on Thursday, AU leaders said there were “serious doubts” about the election figures and called for the final results to be delayed.

DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende had snubbed the demand, saying: “I don’t think it is the business of the government or even of the African Union to tell the court what it should do.”

He said the new president would “probably” be sworn in on Tuesday along with a new legislature — dominated, according to official election results, by Kabila allies.

Ahead of Kagame’s visit, the European Union said it joined the AU in inviting “all the Congolese players to work constructively with this delegation to find a post-electoral solution which respects the Congolese people’s vote”.

AFP

DRC Court Confirms Tshisekedi Winner Of Disputed Presidential Election

The five-judge bench led by Noel Funga (C) of DR Congo’s Constitutional Court, is pictured in Kinshasa on January 15, 2019, during the opening of the hearing of an electoral petition filed by opposition politician Martin Fayulu, who petitioned the court to nullify Felix Tshisekedi’s victory in the December 30 presidential poll citing electoral fraud. TONY KARUMBA / AFP

 

DR Congo’s top court on Sunday declared opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the winner of disputed presidential elections after throwing out a legal challenge by the runner-up.

Announcing the final results of the much-delayed poll, the Constitutional Court said Tshisekedi had won by a simple majority, paving the way for him to take over from longterm leader Joseph Kabila.

Runner-up Martin Fayulu, who has previously described the outcome as an “electoral coup” forged by Tshisekedi and Kabila, immediately called on the international community to reject the results.

“I ask the entire international community not to recognise a power that has neither legitimacy nor legal standing to represent the Congolese people,” he said of Tshisekedi, declaring himself “the only legitimate president”.

Tshisekedi’s victory was provisionally announced earlier this month by the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) but it was challenged both at home and abroad, with the African Union appealing for the final results to be delayed.

On Sunday, the Constitutional Court said Fayulu’s claims were “unfounded” and he had failed to prove any inaccuracies in the figures, describing his call for a recount as “absurd”.

“Only the CENI has produced authentic and sincere results,” judge Noel Kilomba said.

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The court went on to declare Tshisekedi as the “President of the Democratic Republic of Congo by simple majority”.

The ruling was considered unsurprising, with the court made up of Kabila’s allies.

Hundreds of supporters of Tshisekedi had gathered outside the court holding placards saying “No to interference” and “Independent country” as riot police stood nearby.

The CENI has previously scheduled the swearing-in of the next president for Tuesday.

DRC Presidential election Runner-up and opposition candidate Martin Fayulu had claimed he was cheated of victory and appealed to the Constitutional Court, without success. TONY KARUMBA / AFP

‘Not their business’

The election commission announced on January 10 that Tshisekedi had provisionally won with 38.57 percent of the vote against Fayulu’s 34.8 percent.

The head of the country’s oldest and biggest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, 55-year-old Tshisekedi has never held high office or even a managerial role.

At a summit on Thursday, AU leaders said there were “serious doubts” about the figures and called for the final results to be delayed.

But DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende had snubbed the demand, saying: “I don’t think it is the business of the government or even of the African Union to tell the court what it should do.”

The AU had planned to send its commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, currently the AU chairman, to DR Congo on Monday.

The European Union said it joined the AU in inviting “all the Congolese players to work constructively with this (AU) delegation to find a post-electoral solution which respects the Congolese people’s vote”.

Appeal

The Financial Times and other foreign media have reported seeing documents that confirm Fayulu as the winner.

The influential Roman Catholic Church, which says it deployed 40,000 observers to monitor the poll, has also dismissed the official outcome as not reflecting the true result.

“If the court declares Tshisekedi victor, the risk of isolation would be enormous and untenable for a country positioned right in the middle of the continent,” Adeline Van Houtte of the Economist Intelligence Unit wrote on Twitter.

Fayulu’s camp had hailed the AU appeal for the final result to be put on hold, but Tshisekedi’s entourage branded it “scandalous”.

The dispute has raised fears that the political crisis that began when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office two years ago could turn into a bloodbath.

An internet shutdown, ordered by the authorities on December 31 following the election, ended just before final results were announced in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The vast and chronically unstable country lived through two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003, and the previous two elections, in 2006 and 2011, were marred by bloody clashes.

The AU has taken the firmest line of all major international bodies with regard to the post-election crisis.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a bloc that includes Angola and South Africa, initially called for a recount and a unity government.

But in a later communique, it made no mention of those demands, instead of calling on Congolese politicians to “address any electoral grievances in line with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Constitution and relevant electoral laws”.

US Ambassador Calls For ‘Credible’ Vote In DRC

 

The new US ambassador to Kinshasa said Saturday that a “credible and transparent” presidential vote in the Democratic Republic of Congo next week would pave the way to enhanced cooperation with Washington.

“Credible and transparent elections would create an occasion for new possibilities of cooperation between our two countries,” Mike Hammer said in a French-language statement.

Hammer presented his credentials more than two months after he was named, and just after DR Congo’s presidential poll was delayed until December 30

It was to have taken place on Sunday, but was postponed after a fire broke out in a Kinshasa warehouse used by the national electoral commission.

The vote “might represent the first democratic and peaceful transition of power” in the country and “the United States is prepared to give its support,” the statement said.

It added that the country was of “strategic importance” to the US.

The presidential poll is to designate the successor to Joseph Kabila, who has held power in DR Congo for more than 17 years and has already been delayed twice owing to violence.

A long history of political turmoil, bloodshed, and dictatorship explain the tension behind the elections.

Since 1996, the Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered two major wars that left millions of dead and two ongoing conflicts in the center and east of the country that have caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

AFP

82 Killed Following Ethnic violence In Western DR Congo

 

About 82 people have been killed in ethnic violence since Sunday in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s west.

George Kapiamba, head of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ) told newsmen that “There are 82 confirmed dead,”

The figures Kapiamba cited were according to witnesses, they were backed up by one man who escaped the violence.

The survivor in speaking to AFP said, “according to what I’ve learnt, there are 80 people dead”.

On Tuesday the governor of the western Mai-Ndombe province, where the violence broke out, put the provisional toll at 45 dead with more than 60 injured.

Meanwhile, earlier in December, seventeen people were killed in two attacks by the ADF militant group in the troubled Benin region of eastern DR Congo, a local mayor said Friday.

Twelve civilians died in Mangolikene on the outskirts of Beni city in North Kivu on Thursday while another five were killed overnight in the Paida area, mayor Nyonyi Masumbuko Bwanakana told AFP.

Explosions were heard overnight in Paida, according to local civil society representative Kizito Bin Hangi.

The regional army’s spokesman said the five killings in Paida happened during an attack on barracks in the city.

“We are searching for ADF (fighters),” Captain Mak Hazukay said.

The government has often blamed the group for killings, robberies, and kidnappings, but sometimes it is unclear who the true assailants are.

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is a shadowy armed group rooted in Ugandan Islamism that has killed hundreds of people since 2014.

ADF was forced out of Uganda and now the group operates in the border area in the DRC’s North Kivu province, an area where other armed groups are also active.

On Tuesday 11th of December, the group reportedly struck again killing nine civilians.

The massacre occurred overnight in the town of Oicha, in the Beni region, local administrator Donat Kibwana told AFP.

The assailants were suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group blamed for hundreds of killings since 2014.

“They entered Oicha late at night, they pillaged and made off with farm animals. We lost nine people in the attack,” Kibwana said.

The toll was confirmed separately by military spokesman Mak Hazukay.

“The ADF got around our position and carried out their dirty work in eastern Oicha… there are nine civilians dead,” he said.

Local teacher Prospere Kasereka said “the ADF arrived in my area around 7.30pm. They started looting, smashing down doors and firing guns.”

He added: “I fled when they got in my house. I saw the bodies of nine inhabitants this morning.”

One Killed, Scores Injured In Fresh Violence Ahead Of DRC Vote

 

A clash between supporters of rival candidates in the DRC has led to the death of at least one person, with over 80 others injured in the weekend.

The latest violence comes just days ahead of DR Congo’s crucial presidential election.

The country is on edge ahead of the December 23 vote to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the resource-rich nation since 2001.

Sources said on Monday that unrest erupted in Tshikapa, a city in the restive central Kasai region, on Sunday when the planes of two rival candidates — opposition heavyweight Felix Tshisekedi and former education minister Maker Mwangu — landed at the airport just a few hours apart.

Observers at the scene said at least one person had been killed and around 20 arrested.

But others in the region said the toll could be higher.

READ ALSO: Nine Killed In Eastern DR Congo

“A young local chief who was among Maker Mwangu’s supporters was attacked with stones,” Faustin Dostin Luange of the local community radio station told AFP.

The man was rushed to hospital but later died of his injuries, he said.

The attack prompted a furious reaction from other Mwangu supporters, who then attacked a motorcycle driver “whom they took for an activist of (Tshisekedi’s) party and beat him to death”, he said.

“I have seen two bodies but the toll could rise.” Other sources also spoke of two dead, and although the police confirmed the unrest, they did not give a toll.

Authorities are on alert for a resurgence of communal conflict in the wider Kasai region, which descended into violence in summer 2016 after troops shot dead the Kamwina Nsapu, a local tribal chief from the Luba ethnic group who opposed Kinshasa.

Rebels fighting in his name have since battled Congolese troops as well as a pro-government militia called the Bana Mura.

Around 3,000 people were killed in less than a year of unrest.

AFP