Democratic Republic of the Congo 2018
Congo. In January, at least three people were killed in Kinshasa as security forces attempted to dissolve a demonstration in which participants demanded the resignation of President Joseph Kabila. Protests were also organized in several other of the country’s major cities. It was the Catholic Church who called for peaceful demonstrations against Kabila, whose mandate as president actually expired in 2016 but which remained in power by delaying the elections when his successor would be elected. In January, however, the country’s election commission announced that the work of registering just over 46 million voters before the upcoming election was completed.
According to Countryaah.com, Kinshasa is the capital city of Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country located in Central Africa. New deaths in connection with demonstrations occurred in February. The regime’s repeated onslaught against opposition protests has been criticized internationally several times. For example, in an unusual statement for African conditions, Botswana claimed that Kabila personally was responsible for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country and the steadily deteriorating security situation. The UN Human Rights Commissioner was also one of the critical voices.
In March, the head of UN humanitarian operations in the country described how the number of internally displaced people in one year had increased from 2.3 million to 4.5 million and how 13 million people were in need of humanitarian aid. According to the Congolese Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Bernard Biango, the number of internally displaced persons was no more than just over 230,000.
In addition to the widespread violence, the country was hit by the worst cholera outbreak in 15 years with over 100 casualties and partly by an outbreak of Ebola fever. By mid-October, about 140 people in the eastern part of the country had died of the dreaded infectious disease.
In March, the UN force MONUSCO’s mandate was extended until March 2019 by the Security Council. At the same time, the force was commissioned to assist the authorities in preparing for the election. The country’s UN ambassador objected to the decision on the grounds that the UN soldiers were in the country to fight rebel groups and create peace in eastern Congo.
In August, news came that many had been waiting for, namely that Joseph Kabila did not intend to stand for re-election. Kabila supported former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary’s candidacy. He thus became the candidate that the newly formed coalition Congo’s Common Front (FCC) launched. Shadary (born 1960) was considered loyal to Kabila and was one of the people the EU imposed sanctions against in May 2017 for human rights violations. As Minister of the Interior, he was then responsible for the opposition being arrested and for the security forces behaving violently against protesters.
Others interested in trying to get elected president were Félix Tshisékédi, who in March was named presidential candidate of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moïse Katumbi. However, the latter was prevented from returning to the country. Katumbi was also subject to legal proceedings, accused of threatening the country’s security by trying to recruit mercenaries.
Bemba was forbidden to stand on the grounds that he was convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for bribing witnesses. Earlier in the year, Bemba was released by the ICC after being released on charges of war crimes committed in the Central African Republic in 2002–03.
At a meeting in Geneva in November, seven leaders of various opposition parties agreed to launch a joint presidential candidate. The election fell on Martin Fayulu, a 62-year-old businessman and MP. He was for almost two decades a senior manager of the oil company ExxonMobil and hails from the Lingala-speaking western part of the Congo. The alliance was named Lamuka, which means ‘Awakening’ in both Swahili and Lingala. However, the following day, however, Vital Kamerhe of the Union of the Congolese Nation (UNC) and Félix Tshisékédi announced that they did not intend to support Fayulu.
The election, which was scheduled for December 23, was postponed for a week, partly because 8,000 electronic voting machines were destroyed in a fire. The election day itself became relatively calm, although there were problems with the electronic voting system in many places. Several election observers reported irregularities. Both the opposition and the government claimed on election day that their presidential candidate had won. According to the Election Commission, the official result would be announced in mid-January. Due to violence and outbreaks of Ebola fever, the elections were postponed in certain areas in the provinces of Nordkivu and Mai-Ndombe, where several hundred people were killed in December.
In October, some 300,000 Congolese were forced to leave Angola. According to media reports, half the mining town of Lucapa’s population had been forced to flee their homes, which were then in many cases looted. The Congolese migrants had greatly relied on digging for diamonds and their presence had been tolerated by Angolan authorities. According to Angola, the Congolese had voluntarily returned to their homeland.
The violence in the Ituri province in the north-east of the country is often described as a conflict between the farmers of Lendu and Hema, who are shepherds. From the end of 2017 to April 2018, around 300 people were killed in various attacks and up to 300,000 people were killed on the flight, many of them across the border to Uganda.
Even in the two provinces south of Ituri – North Kivu and South Kivu – the civil war-like state continued. The conflict has become notorious for the widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon against civilians. Gynecologist Denis Mukwege, working at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in Northern Kivu, founded by him, has treated thousands of women and made great efforts to raise awareness of the current situation. For this work, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with Iraqi (Yazidian) human rights activist Nadia Murad.
In March, two people were arrested for the murder of two UN experts, the Swedish Zaida Cátalan and the American Michael Sharp, in the Kasaï region in March 2017. Later in the year, UN investigators accused the Congolese security service of intervening in the investigation. In November, the UN was accused by several international media of withholding information about the Congolese security service’s involvement in the murders. In December, Colonel Jean de Dieu Mambweni was arrested for participating in the act.