Central Africa's largest and most populous country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is bordered by nine countries: the Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola. With the exception of Zambia and Tanzania, none can claim to be a consolidated competitive democracy. But most have at least managed to hold presidential elections within the last two years. In contrast, with this month's postponement of the scheduled election for 2016, the DRC has joined South Sudan and Angola in extending a "no elections" scenario.
Few, if any, observers would venture to predict the next few months and years, as domestic protest plus international criticism and mediation has been met with state violence and continued stalling. But the consensus view is "not good"; veteran commentator on Central Africa Colette Braeckman, for example, notes that "the milk has been spilled" and warns that there is danger of "breaking the bottle" or even "butchering the cow."
This issue of AfricaFocus contains a diverse set of recent articles and other links providing summaries, analyses, and background on the current situation, without venturing into predictions or solutions.
Included below is an editorial from The Observer, the very short commentary by Braeckman (in French), a report on a $413 million bribery case judgement against the New York hedge firm Och-Ziff, brief excerpts from an extensive Washington Post feature article on "The cobalt pipeline: From dangerous tunnels in Congo to consumers' mobile tech," and a commentary from African Arguments raising the question whether President Joseph Kabila can trust his security forces.
Poll shows Kabila support at only 7.8%, October 25, 2016 http://tinyurl.com/jpzvg77
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/congokin.php
Other sources particularly worth following for updates and commentary
Additional links of related interest
UN Human Rights Report, October 21, 2016 http://tinyurl.com/hl7b8xr
Statement by European Union, October 17, 2016 http://tinyurl.com/jsho57n
MONUSCO statement to UN Security Council, October 11, 2016 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55266
Le Monde background on violence in September, September 21, 2016 http://tinyurl.com/j84nb46
Reviews of The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Hope and Despair, by Michael Deibert. African Arguments, 2013. http://tinyurl.com/zt4t2jm and http://tinyurl.com/j39mhj2 - Editor's Note
The Observer view on Congo and the failure of democracy in Africa
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the latest country disintegrating because a leader wants to hang on to power
22 October 2016
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree - Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/hx8mrtk
Two decades ago, the Democratic Republic of Congo, sub-Saharan Africa's largest country, was engulfed in what became known as Africa's Great War, a conflict that drew in half-a-dozen neighbouring countries and raged for five years from 1998.
The conflict and its aftermath cost the lives of an estimated 5.4 million people, mainly from starvation and disease. This epic disaster was largely ignored outside Africa, even though it was the developed world's insatiable demand for the DRC's mineral riches that helped to fuel it.
The war was halted, in part, by the introduction of a new constitution and a democratic system of governance, replacing decades of Mobutu Sese Seko's brutal dictatorship. In 2006 Joseph Kabila was confirmed as DRC president by popular vote, although the fairness of the election was widely disputed. In 2011 he was reelected. Again, the results were hotly contested. A key factor in their acceptance was his pledge to honour the constitution and refrain from seeking a third term.
The DRC's next presidential election is due next month. It isn't going to happen. A court last week upheld a request by the election commission that the poll be postponed, ostensibly because voter rolls are incomplete. A "national dialogue" by the ruling coalition and involving fringe parties and civic groups, but boycotted by the main opposition and Catholic church, also agreed a delay until at least April 2018. In effect, Kabila and his security force backers have compromised the constitution and the judiciary and engineered a silent coup. His solemn 2011 promise has been broken.
This shameless subversion of the democratic process (parliamentary and provincial polls have also been put off) was condemned by the main opposition party, the UDPS, as a "flagrant violation". Rassemblement (Gathering), the multi-party opposition organisation, reacted with fury and called a general strike last Wednesday. Kabila's attempt to cling to power threatens the DRC's hard-won and still precarious stability. Worse, it risks a return to national and regional upheaval, violence and war. At least this time the world is paying more attention. Maman Sambo Sidikou, the senior UN official in the country, warned the UN security council last week that "large-scale violence is all but inevitable" if the impasse is not resolved. "The tipping point could be reached very quickly." After related clashes in Kinshasa last month, in which at least 50 people died, the US imposed limited sanctions on army generals implicated in human rights abuses. On Monday EU foreign ministers also agreed to pursue possible punitive measures.
Matters are not as clear cut as they might seem. Kabila denies he wanted the delay. Analysts suggest the president, thrust into office after his father was assassinated in 2001, is a frontman for the security apparatus. The opposition is fragmented and its readiness to resort to protests often leads to violence. Concerns over stability by countries such as France and Belgium are not wholly disinterested, commercially speaking. But that the leadership of another African country appears ready to ride roughshod over democracy and laws is clear. The DRC has never had a peaceful transition of power since independence in 1960. This is why term limits are so important. Last year the presidents of Burundi, Rwanda and Congo-Brazzaville overrode constitutional requirements that they step aside. In Burundi's case, violence and displacement resulted. In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni looks determined to go on for ever. Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwean "presidency for life" and José Eduardo dos Santos's Angolan ascendancy provide further examples of endemic disregard for democratic principles.
It would be a mistake to think Africans care less about selfserving, corrupt and irresponsible politicians than Europeans or Americans. The African Union has repeatedly stressed peaceful political transitions in embedding democratic habits. Studies show African voters value democratic systems but are increasingly frustrated at their malfunctioning and wilful subversion.
Nigeria demonstrated last year how it could be done. But South Africa, ruled since apartheid's end by a single, overpowerful party, is less of a shining light. Its reported decision to renounce the International Criminal Court is another sign that too many African politicians would rather jettison democratic and legal norms than subject themselves to scrutiny and public judgment.
Le lait est renversé
Le Carnet de Colette Braeckman, Le Soir
October 18, 2016
http://blog.lesoir.be/colette-braeckman/ - Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/hrvsb8y
On le pressentait, c'est désormais confirmé: le lait est renversé. Les élections n'auront pas lieu cette année, ni même l'an prochain. Ce qui a manqué? L'argent peut-être, la préparation sérieuse sans doute, mais surtout la volonté politique. Le pouvoir est à blâmer car tout a été fait (ou pas fait ... ) pour qu'il soit impossible d'organiser le scrutin dans les délais constitutionnels et qu'un 'rabiot' de deux ans au moins soit accordé au président Kabila.
Le lait est renversé, car la population gronde, qu'en septembre déjà le sang a coulé. Poussés dans la rue, des jeunes ont brûlé vifs deux policiers et entamé des pillages. Appelés en renfort, des militaires ont tiré à bout portant et fait, au moins 50 morts. Et demain, que va-t-il se passer? Le dialogue qui vient de se conclure avec une partie de l'opposition fera-t-il rentrer le lait dans la bouteille, réussira-t-il à calmer les esprits, repartira-t-on comme si de rien n'était ? Certainement pas: les délais sont inacceptables, les signataires ne représentent pas la totalité de la classe politique et même l'inclusion des absents ne garantira l'apaisement. Comment croire que l'association d'Etienne Tshisekedi, qui, l'été dernier encore, négociait pour son fils le poste de Premier Ministre et qui fut depuis Mobutu l'homme de toutes les volte face, suffirait à calmer le jeu?
Ce qui est sûr, c'est que si le lait est renversé, la confiance rompue, il faut aujourd'hui veiller à ne pas briser la bouteille. Et surtout ne pas risquer de dépecer la vache elle-même, ce Congo si convoité, qui n'a pas encore échappé aux risques d'implosion et de rebellions diverses. Les progrès enregistrés depuis quinze ans sont loin d'être irréversibles, les acquis peuvent encore être annulés, par la révolte populaire sinon par la guerre.
La tâche du futur Premier Ministre s'apparentera à celle de Sisyphe: auprès du président Kabila, il devra exiger un engagement clair, avec une promesse de retrait assortie de dates précises, et surtout il devra avoir les mains libres pour diriger en toute indépendance. Ce qui supposerait, au minimum, que des technocrates sans allégeance politique soient nommés aux postes clés: les finances, l'économie, l'Intérieur, la banque nationale. Rétablir la confiance, c'est aussi assécher les réseaux mafieux, redistribuer plus équitablement les ressources, privilégier le 'social'. Même au bord du précipice, il n'est pas interdit de rêver.
The Och-Ziff Files: Who are The Congolese Who Benefitted?
Congo Research Group | Groupe d'Etude Sur le Congo
September 30, 2016
http://congoresearchgroup.org/ - Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/jopx7xg
This week, big news from the financial world. Och-Ziff, a leading New York hedge fund that at its height managed $48 billion, has been fined $413 million for over $100 million in bribes it paid to government officials in Libya, Guinea, Chad, Niger, and the DR Congo. Yes, that seems a paltry fine given the abuse involved and how much it affected the countries involved - - its CEO Daniel Och, who is worth several billion dollars, will pay a mere $2.2 million, and no one except a consultant will face jail time for now.
The story is huge for several reasons: It is a rare occasion the US government is enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for corruption in the Congo, and it is a huge blow to one of the behemoths of the hedge fund world. It is also the first time, to my knowledge, that we have a solid paper trail proving that the senior Congolese officials, including the Congolese president himself, were direct beneficiaries of over $100 million in bribes from foreign companies.
As part of their deal with the US Justice Department, Och-Ziff provided a public plea of guilt (aka "deferred prosecution agreement.") You can read it at http://tinyurl.com/je3lhmr (please, read it). It include Hollywood-ready details of how Och-Ziff dealt with Congolese officials. It features three protagonists: DRC Partner, DRC Official 1 and DRC Official 2 and says they both received millions in bribes from Och-Ziff. For reasons that will become obvious, you can substitute those names with Dan Gertler, Joseph Kabila, and Katumba Mwanke.
Here's an example of the detail of the document. In 2008, when Dan Gertler was trying to wrest control of a mining concession from Africo, a Canadian firm, one of Gertler's associates texted him:
Hi [DRC Partner], ... im with the main lawyer ... in the Africo story, he has to arrange with supreme court, attorney gemal [sic] and magistrates, he wants 500 to give to all the officials and 600 for 3 lawyers cabinets that worked on the file in defense[lawyer]and batonnier [lawyer]. the converstaion is vey tough. (while talking I said to ask money to [one of the Akam shareholders], [the Akam shareholder]said he cant because most of the money has to go to ·[DRC Official 2] . . . i dont know if he wants to provoke me or it was something [the Akam shareholder]invented ...) but they are now at 1. 1 in total.
He's talking about about thousands of dollars.
Shortly afterward, Gertler responds: "We can't 'accept a mid result ... Africo must be screwd and finished totally!!!!"
All in all, the legal document says that Gertler transferred $23.5 million of Och-Ziff's money to Katumba Mwanke between 2008 and 2012, and $10.75 million to a person who is most likely Joseph Kabila. Bloomberg reported that Gertler ("DRC Partner") paid a total of over $100 million in bribes to Congolese officials.
How do I know that those are the people involved?
Bloomberg's article clearly identifies Gertler through other sources familiar with the case, and the document itself is fairly clear: "an Israeli businessman [with] significant interests in the diamond and mineral mining industries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
It says that "DRC Official 2," was "a senior official in the DRC and close advisor to DRC Official 1. Since at least 2004, DRC Official 2 was an Ambassador-at-Large for the DRC government and also a national parliamentarian." It goes on to say, citing an Och-Ziff employee, that he was Gertler's "guy in the DRC." Finally, it says he died on February 12, 2012. There is no doubt that is Katumba Mwanke.
As for DRC Official 1, it says that Katumba was his closest aide and advisor. When Katumba died, Gertler sent a text message to an OchZiff employee saying: "I'm fine ... sad but fine ... I will have to help [DRC Official 1] much more now ... tomorrow the burial will take· place." Again, I cannot imagine that being anyone but Kabila - - Katumba was not an aide to anyone else in the Congolese government during this time. In private, US government officials have confirmed this to me.
The cobalt pipeline: From dangerous tunnels in Congo to consumers' mobile tech
By Todd C. Frankel
The Washington Post
September 30, 2016
Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/zo63cws
The sun was rising over one of the richest mineral deposits on Earth, in one of the poorest countries, as Sidiki Mayamba got ready for work.
Mayamba is a cobalt miner. And the red-dirt savanna stretching outside his door contains such an astonishing wealth of cobalt and other minerals that a geologist once described it as a "scandale geologique."
This remote landscape in southern Africa lies at the heart of the world's mad scramble for cheap cobalt, a mineral essential to the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles made by companies such as Apple, Samsung and major automakers.
But Mayamba, 35, knew nothing about his role in this sprawling global supply chain. He grabbed his metal shovel and broken-headed hammer from a corner of the room he shares with his wife and child. He pulled on a dust-stained jacket. A proud man, he likes to wear a button-down shirt even to mine. And he planned to mine by hand all day and through the night. He would nap in the underground tunnels. No industrial tools. Not even a hard hat. The risk of a cave-in is constant.
"Do you have enough money to buy flour today?" he asked his wife.
She did. But now a debt collector stood at the door. The family owed money for salt. Flour would have to wait.
Mayamba tried to reassure his wife. He said goodbye to his son. Then he slung his shovel over his shoulder. It was time.
The world's soaring demand for cobalt is at times met by workers, including children, who labor in harsh and dangerous conditions. An estimated 100,000 cobalt miners in Congo use hand tools to dig hundreds of feet underground with little oversight and few safety measures, according to workers, government officials and evidence found by The Washington Post during visits to remote mines. Deaths and injuries are common. And the mining activity exposes local communities to levels of toxic metals that appear to be linked to ailments that include breathing problems and birth defects, health officials say.
The Post traced this cobalt pipeline and, for the first time, showed how cobalt mined in these harsh conditions ends up in popular consumer products. It moves from small-scale Congolese mines to a single Chinese company — Congo DongFang International Mining, part of one of the world's biggest cobalt producers, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt — that for years has supplied some of the world's largest battery makers. They, in turn, have produced the batteries found inside products such as Apple's iPhones — a finding that calls into question corporate assertions that they are capable of monitoring their supply chains for human rights abuses or child labor.
[For continuation of this feature story: http://tinyurl.com/zo63cws]
DR Congo in crisis: Can Kabila trust his own army?
September 20, 2016 by James Barnett
http://africanarguments.org - Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/jopdtcy
James Barnett is currently a Boren Scholar in Tanzania, having previously researched at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter @jbar1648. All views expressed are his own.
Despite protests intensifying with outbreaks of violence and deaths, President Joseph Kabila has yet to call on his armed forces to maintain order. He might regret it if he did.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is in the midst of a protracted political crisis as President Joseph Kabila manoeuvres to stay in power past the end of his second term, which expires this December.
Kabila's undemocratic machinations - most notably le glissement ('slippage') or delaying of elections due to "logistical" issues - have drawn the ire of much of the population with frequent protests and strikes rocking the country since early 2015.
Yesterday, these reached a new pitch as protesters took to the streets, angry at Kabila's recent efforts to promote a "national dialogue" - a move the opposition sees as a cynical ploy to legitimise le glissement. In Kinshasa and Goma, violence erupted as heavily armed police confronted protesters, leading to the deaths of at least 17 according to the government and more than 50 according to the opposition. Four people also reportedly died when the headquarters of three different opposition parties were burnt down in the night.
With further protests sure to follow and the possibility of continued violence looming large, it is worth asking why Kabila has yet to deploy the military. The answer lies in a deep history of mistrust.
Preferred instruments of intimidation
The DRC is among the most heavily militarised states in Africa, with its 70,000-strong Congolese armed forces (FARDC) deployed within the country to combat various low-intensity threats. However, thus far it has not been the army that Kabila has called upon on to "restore public order" but the national police (PNC), the civilian intelligence service (ANR), and, most notably, the Republican Guard - Kabila's personal security outfit.
According to an October 2015 report by the UN's Joint Human Rights Office, there were 142 human rights violations against members of the political opposition that year. Tellingly, 69 of these were carried out by the PNC, 24 by the ANR, and just 9 by FARDC. The actual number of FARDC violations is lower, however, as the report fails to note that the Republican Guard operates outside the army's chain of command.
Since he came to office in 2001, Kabila has steadily built up civilian security forces, over which he exercises direct control, at the expense of FARDC, the loyalty and effectiveness of which are in doubt.
He has built the PNC into a veritable paramilitary force, most notably in the capital city and opposition stronghold of Kinshasa where the police chief, Kabila's longtime ally Celestin Kanyama, has earned the moniker espirit de mort ('spirit of death'). He has managed to effectively purchase the ANR's loyalty, which has its roots in the intelligence agencies of Mobutu Sese Seko's rule (1965-97).
And, most crucially to the survival of his regime, Kabila has buttressed his presidency with a disproportionately formidable Republican Guard. Nominally a simple presidential security outfit, the Republican Guard enjoys full-division strength and receives superior weapons and training than FARDC. The unit's top officers hail from the president's home state of Katanga, an obvious ploy to ensure the unit's loyalty.
The existence of a disproportionately sized and financed presidential guard is generally considered to be indicative of a weak security sector and poor governance, and Kabila's Republican Guard is no exception.
FARDC's patronage politics
The Congolese military took its current name and structure in 2002 in the midst of the Second Congo War. As part of the Sun City Agreement, which sought to end the conflict through a power-sharing arrangement, the largest rebel groups were incorporated into the armed forces, including the Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma, the Ugandanbacked RCD-Kinsangani and MLC groups, and various Mayi-Mayi ethnonationalist militias. In 2009 the CNDP, a formidable rebel group formed to defend Congolese Tutsis, joined FARDC's ranks as well.
FARDC thus acts as an instrument of political patronage to co-opt rivals more than as a fighting force to provide security. By one estimate, 65% of the FARDC are officers, 26% of whom are highranking, creating an absurdly top-heavy organisation that begets unnecessary bureaucracy and promotes impunity.
Combined with poor training, low pay, a critical lack of espirit de corps, and a culture of corruption and politicisation that dates back to independence - the Congolese military has attempted nine coups since 1960 - the result is one of the least professional armies in Africa.
Furthermore, despite pledging loyalty to the president, former rebels brought into FARDC have frequently maintained separate chains of command. The danger of this arrangement came to a head in April 2012, when former CNDP rebels defected en masse and took up arms against the government, calling themselves the M23 movement.
With the help of the Force Intervention Brigade - the first UN peacekeeping force in history with a strong offensive mandate - FARDC eventually defeated the rebels in October 2013, but the counterinsurgency highlighted strong turf wars within FARDC which frequently hampered operational effectiveness.
Speculation remains that one of the FARDC's most competent officers, Col. Mamadou Ndala, was assassinated by rival commanders during the counterinsurgency, highlighting the mistrust that permeates FARDC's ranks.
Wary of another rebellion, Kabila ordered a significant reshuffle of FARDC in October 2014. The reshuffle is unlikely, however, to have significantly tightened the president's grip on the fractious military. Many of those who benefited from the reshuffle were former rebel commanders who had remained loyal to FARDC during the M23 rebellion. But these commanders sided with government not because they felt any strong allegiance to Kabila, but rather because the M23's grievances were very specific to former CNDP combatants.
In the reshuffle, some of Kabila's fellow Katangans also secured top commands. Such moves exacerbate the debilitating patronage which lies at the core of FARDC's institutional weakness. Members of the Republican Guard reportedly even threatened to stage a coup out of disapproval of their new commander, forcing the president to hastily reassign the general in question.
Who can restore order?
This week's events suggest that Kabila will not be able to maintain the status quo through half-hearted "dialogue". This being the case, we can expect the opposition to seek to resolve matters on the streets through protests of a more frequent, widespread, and violent nature than the country has heretofore experienced.
Regardless of whether Kabila can fully trust the Republican Guard (and history from Caligula to Kabila's late father teaches us not to depend too heavily on bodyguards), the force would be too small to confront a nationwide crisis, even with support from the police and ANR. Indeed, reports indicate that in the latest round of clashes, protestors managed to overwhelm police barricades, killing two officers.
Kabila may thus be left with little choice but to call on the armed forces. Such a deployment is liable to make matters worse for everyone. Given the abysmal record of human rights abuses by FARDC in the eastern Congo, such a deployment would almost inevitably lead to wanton bloodshed. Given the fractious state of the Congolese military, it could also backfire on Kabila's regime itself.
URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/drc1610.php