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DR Congo – Indigenous Land Crisis

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Bambuti people face conflicts with rebel groups, extractive industries and conservation initiatives, loosing large swathes of land.

Idjwi island, situated in the middle of Lake Kivu, has for the large part been spared from the violence that has persisted across DR Congo. However the ‘indigenous’ Bambuti are being pushed aside for the ethnic Bantu who now comprise around 95% of the islands population of 280,000.

The process started in the 1980s as the authority figures for the Bahayu Bantu people expelled the Bambuti from the forests and deprived them of their primary means of livelihood and subsistence. These groups, like many others who are facing similar struggles worldwide, are largely hunter gatherers and practice shifting cultivation with no formal land titles.

The chief of the Idjwi Bambuti, Charles Livingstone, said “we are no more than 7000 on the island, relocated on uncultivable land and scattered on the coast in makeshift camps on the fringe of villages, in total destitution,” reported UK-based the Independent.

Adolphine Byaywuwa Muley, the head of a Bambuti women empowerment group said that South Kivu is a “province where there are a lot of land issues, land disputes everywhere, so you are told nothing can be done.”

However, Gervais Rubenga Ntawenderundi, who is a Bantu customary chief in the north of Idjwi said that there were “no problems on the islands between the two ethnic groups…the pygmies have never been driven out of the forest and have always lived near villages in this way.”

The DR Congo national parliament discussed a law to protect Bambuti rights in 2007 but as of yet there has been no progress or a vote on the proposed bill.

Today, according to the Independent, many Bambuti work for landowners and are treated with contempt, often earning much less than other workers, and have to resort to selling handicrafts to supplement their income.

Some have settled in camps; in Kagorwa camp around 300 were resettled from the Nyamusisi forest, but in their new location crops will not grow and many suffer from malnourishment.

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Displaced Mbuti childrenCC

According to the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) there are four main groups in DR Congo; the Bambuti (Mbuti), the Baka, the east Batwa and the west Batwa. The label often used to described them collectively, pygmies, is often considered to be discriminatory. Their exact numbers are unknown but are thought to be between 600,000 and 2 million.

Across the country many have lost their land and been taken as bonded labour for Banti landlords, and such dynamics are particularly evident in North Kivu and South Kivu. In the other provinces of Orientale, Equateur and Bandundu, indigenous groups are facing widespread displacement for industrial development.

The forests in DR Congo represent the second largest forest basin in the world, but the same area contains an abundance of mineral resources and the presence of numerous factionalised rebel groups.

“The state is itself a threat to our forests: it makes a complete mess of things by handing out timber licences. It gives them to anyone willing to pay, and we see these people come and cut down our trees with impunity. They cut down our medicinal trees and, with them, the bark and fruits used for our medical treatments. They cut down our caterpillar trees, our oil trees,” said Irangi, who is a member of the Mbuti Pygmies in Itombwe, reported the Guardian.

In 2006 the Congolese government created the Itombwe nature reserve facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); all human activity was forbidden in an area over 15,000 square km.

Similarly in Virunga National Park, the oldest in Africa, the Bambuti are forbidden from hunting or living inside the boundaries and are caught between both park rangers and armed groups, reported the Inter Press Service.

In the 1980s in the Kahuzi-Biega national park nearly 6000 indigenous people were moved from their villages and left to make a living outside of the forest. Many of these groups now live in precarious conditions – deprived of traditional livelihood sources and forms of religious and social identity, they often work as manual labourers.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Rebel Groups Torment Residents
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21184A–21184C

DR CONGO: ADF & FDLR Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146C–21147B

DR CONGO: Humanitarian Concerns
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21040A–21040C

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DR Congo – Protest Crackdown

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A number of civilians are killed during protests against the failure of the President to schedule elections.

There has been growing local and international pressure on President Joseph Kabila to step down in December this year at the end of his second term, the constitutionally defined limit to rule. Protestors have taken to the streets of the capital Kinshasa in dismay over his apparent aim to extend his hold on power and failure to schedule elections.

According to Georges Kapiamba, Director of the local NGO, Congolese Association for Access to Justice, the protests also took place in Goma, Bukavu and Beni regions. According to a Deutschewelle correspondent, the offices of President Kabila’s party as well as offices of other political parties allied to the president were burnt down.

European nations and the United States (US) have considered imposing sanctions, with a senior member of the US State Department stating that sanctions would be considered against any individual who worked to undermine the democratic institutions and elections process.

Phil Clark, a political scientist at SOAS University of London, commented that “It is looking increasingly unlikely that a new leader will take control of the Democratic Republic of Congo…all of Kabila’s moves over the past few months have suggested that he is doing everything he can to remain in power…there is a real concern in the Congo that this situation could continue to get drastically out of hand.”

Kabila took power in the DR Congo in 2001 after his father, Laurent Kabila, was killed by one of his bodyguards. The country has not seen a peaceful transfer of power since the Belgian colonial handover in 1960, reported Deutschewelle.

031106-D-2987S-019 President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo meets with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon on Nov. 6, 2003. The two leaders are meeting to discuss defense issues of mutual interest. DoD photograph by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released)

President Joseph Kabila – CC

Amnesty International has released a report titled ‘Dismantling dissent: DRC’s repression of expression amidst electoral delays‘, documenting the lengths that President Kabila is going to to keep himself in power.

“The government is violating the rights of opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly while expelling foreign researchers and threatening human rights organisations that are working to monitor these violations with closure,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for east Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Sarah Jackson, said in a statement.

“The DR Congo government is riding roughshod over its regional and international human rights obligations. Denying people the right to freedom of expression could trigger violence in an already tense political climate,” Jackson stated, reported News24Wire.

Similarly Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released evidence documenting the crackdown on activists over the last two years. Government repression spiked in the days leading up to planned protests on September 19th. On September 16th, police in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi fired teargas and live bullets to disperse opposition party members.

On September 17th, security services arrested human rights activist, Patrick Pindu, after he participated in a civil society meeting. He was released the next day on the condition that he report to the intelligence agency every 15 days. At least 14 civilians and three police officers have been killed in the protests in recent days.

Rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate rights abuses and for international powers to impose sanctions. According to local sources, much of the repression is being orchestrated by the Intelligence Agency Director, Kalev Mutond.

Many view the government’s efforts at ‘national dialogue’ as a ploy to delay elections and prolong Kabila’s stay in power, and most of the main opposition parties have not participated in the process, reported CAJNews.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Opposition Rally
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.8, Pp.21105C–21107A

DR CONGO: Increased Magnitude of Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue. 8, Pp.21109B–21110B

DR CONGO: National Dialogue Group
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21066B–21067A

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today. 

DR Congo – Toxic Gas Threatens Communities

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Lake Kivu sees rising levels of noxious gases as concerns for the welfare of local communities grows.

DR Congo’s Lake Kivu, particularly the Gulf of Kabuno, in the eastern part of the country, is seeing increased seepage from underground carbon dioxide; according to the Ministry of Energy and Water, in 2008 the gas was around 25 metres below the surface but now it is around 12 metres.

One fisherman said, “If you leave the fishing net long inside the water, the gas destroys it, and if you go into the lake, the skin becomes white. That scares me,” reported Deutschewelle.

However other commentators have said that the situation has yet to be scientifically proven. Even though CO2 is nontoxic to humans, in large quantities it hinders the absorption of oxygen which can lead to death. Areas that could be affected include villagers around the Gulf of Kabuno, and the United Nations (UN) mission MONUSCO stationed nearby.

The Congolese government, despite not confirming the threat, has moved to implement as US$3 million project to remove the carbon dioxide from underneath the lake.

Engineers have installed a platform 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from shore with a pipe that extends down to the lakefloor. Project Manager at Limnological Engineering, Pierre Lebrun, said that then a special piece of equipment, a gas lift, pulls the water to the surface where the CO2 is separated off.

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However a large part of the problem is that underneath the lake are two active volcanoes, Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira, so the pipes would have to remain in the lake to deal with the constant stream of the gas.

The lake also emits methane, although more on the Rwandan side than in DR Congo. The Rwandan authorities have sought to produce electricity from the methane emitted, and Kigali and Kinshasa are seeking to construct a shared methane power station.

Similarly the Congolese government wants to plant around 360 hectares of land with 560,000 eucalyptus trees, although there are concerns, as there are across much of the African continent, that quick growing non-native species such as eucalyptus are used as a quick fix for forest cover statistics.

There also remain concerns that efforts to pump out the gas will mean that the purified water will be pumped back into the lake, potentially dislodging the chemical nature of different water layers. Mathieu Yalire from Goma Volcanological Observatory said that “it would be a disaster if the remaining water would be in the bio-zone. That would destroy the ecosystem. The fish and other animals may no longer exist,” and this would have enormous consequences for the people who depend on fishing the lake as a livelihood.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

Drought and Hunger Across Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.2, Pp.21167A–21167B

SOMALIA: Drought Spells Disaster for Herders
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.2, Pp.21169B–21170A

WATER: Zimbabwe
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.1, Pp.21156A–21157C

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Africa – ‘Panama Papers’

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As global reverberations are felt following unprecedented leaks, some of the most pressing concerns are in Africa.

A number of high profile African leaders and businessmen have been named in the recent ‘Panama Papers‘ leak involving the Panama-based firm Mossack Fonseca, detailing the global scale of tax avoidance and evasion; top officials from at least 15 African countries have been named.

The leaks have added to the calls, made in an African Union (AU) and UN Economic Commission for Africa report in 2015 that African money kept in foreign banks should be repatriated to the continent. At a conference in 2015, former South African President Thabo Mbeki said that Africa was loosing US$50 billion through illicit cash flows, more than double the Official Development Assistance (ODA) the continent receives, although a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put the amount higher at $150bn, reported Deutschewelle.

The information released in the leaks strongly correlates with findings of the report and confirms the existence of a network of offshore accounts and investment vehicles, driving tax avoidance and evasion. According to a report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, it is an undeniable fact that these illicit financial flows deserve our full attention continentally and globally.

“There are illicit funds from Africa in European banks. We started discussions with the European Union (EU) some years ago to bring back these funds. We find it morally and economically good for the banks to send the funds back,” said the African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

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BBC

In July 2015, at the UN Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African nations led the G77 bloc of developing countries who offered to forego international aid if western countries closed tax loopholes and shut down tax havens, reported the Daily Maverick.

The leaks are not entirely new revelations as many in Africa have been pushing for the global tax system to be overhauled, pointing to the billions that is lost from the continent each year. However it is the scale of the networks of financial secrecy, essentially set up to be unaccountable, that is becoming clear, and the intricate and murky connections between world leaders and businessmen.

Journalists have yet to make their way through but a tiny fraction of the 11-million documents and the high profile and politically connected nature of the African individuals implicated, seems to indicate that more are yet to come.

The leak was obtained from Mossack Fonesca by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung who worked in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and around 106 worldwide news organisations. Mossack Fonseca is a leading creator of shell companies, corporate entities that are used to hide asset ownership. The leaked internal files contain information on 214,488 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.

A full breakdown of findings from the ICIJ are available here.

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African Public Officials Implicated – ICIJ

Country Level Findings

Botswana

The President of the Court of Appeals, Justice Ian Kirby, has been named in the leaked files, being said to hold shares in up to five offshore companies mainly in the UK, although he has insisted that all of these are legal. Much of Botswana’s wealth comes from diamond mining, and has been noted to have checks and balances in place to avoid illicit flows of wealth. However, commentators said that it was a worrying sign that many wealthy people in Botswana were considering to invest offshore, reported Deutschewelle.

DR Congo

A leading financial institution with close connections to the gold mining industry, Rawbank, has been implicated in the leaks, which show that the Rawji family, the shareholders of the bank, make extensive use of tax havens and shell companies, maintaining a web of offshore structures such as Khazana Holdings and Hurricane Investments in the British Virgin Islands, Pix Business and Trading Mamu Investments in Panama, and many more. Each of the entities are connected to many other shell companies, which lead to a complex and illusory network of financial connections. There have been concerns that with Dubai’s rise as a gold buyer, a destination for around 70% of DR Congo’s gold, coupled with its financial secrecy, illicit financial flows are growing, reported the Daily Vox.

Jaynet Desiree Kabila Kyungu – twin sister of President Joseph Kabila – considered one of the most influential people in the country, owns a media company together with a Congolese businessman, who were both co-heads of an offshore company in the South Pacific, said to have shares in mobile telecoms operators in DR Congo, reported Deutschewelle.

Egypt

The son of the overthrown President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak was named; Pan World Investments INC, owned by his son Alaa Mubarak, was managed by Credit Suisse in the British Virgin Islands. After the toppling of Mubarak authorities asked Mossack Fonseca to freeze Pan World’s assets, although it is claimed that this was never fully implemented, reported Aswat Masriya.

Ghana

Ghana’s former President John Agyekum Kufour ‘s eldest son, John Addo Kufour, allegedly controlled a bank account in Panama worth US$75,000. They appointed Mossack Fonseca, to manage the fund, reported Deutschewelle.

Guinea

Mamadie Toure, widow of Guinea’s late president, Lansana Conte, was allegedly granted the power of attorney to Matinda Partners and Co Ltd, a British Virgin Islands company, in November 2006. Authorities in the US claimed that Toure received $5.3 million to help a mining company win a mining concession from President Conte just before he died in 2008, reported Deutschewelle.

Kenya

The company which recently bought a controlling stake in the Raila Odinga’s molasses plant in Kisumu – Energem Resources Inc – has been linked to many dubious diamond mining companies in West and Southern Africa and tax havens in the British Virgin Islands.

Kalpana Rawal, Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice was implicated in several business deals linked to two companies based in British Virgin Islands. The documents revealed Rawal’s involvement in real estate in the UK through offshore companies. Kenya’s constitution bars public servants from owning a bank account outside the country, reported Deutschewelle.

Separately, a Danish national, who has previously been accused of land grabbing in Kajiado Country, has been accused of running Avon Developments Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, reported the Daily Nation.

Namibia

The leaks have revealed details about the Sicilian Mafia’s business network between Italians and Namibian businessman Zacky Nujoma, the youngest son of founding President Sam Nujoma. According to reports even though much of the criminal syndicate is imprisoned, the empire – with connections to Namibia, Italy and South Africa – has used financial secrecy companies in the British Virgin Islands, reported the Namibian.

Nigeria

Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, who has already been implicated for embezzling up to $75m in London property, has been named in the leak, leading to concerns that the true amount involved could be much higher.

Senate Bukola Saraki, said to be the third most powerful person in the country, has been named as failing to declare offshore assets in his wife’s name.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote and his half-brother Sayyu Dantata, have also been linked to Mossack Fonseca’s shell companies. The two are said to have repeatedly bought and sold shares in 13 companies, mainly in the Seychelles, reported Deutschewelle.

Theophilus Danjuma, a retired army general and former defence minister, is one of Nigeria’s richest people, due to ownership of one of Nigeria’s most lucrative oil blocs. The leaks exposed another of his companies – Eastcoast Investments Inc – which he incorporated in Nassau, in the Bahamas, reported the Premium Times.

South Africa

President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Clive Khulubuse has been mentioned in the leaks, as being authorised to represent the offshore company Caprikat Limited, which purchased oil blocks in the DR Congo. According to reports the leak showed that he did not directly benefit from the deal which “deepens the mystery as to what he was doing there. The question arises why would they use him and what benefits would he have gained from that?” Sam Sole, from the investigative team at South African newspaper the Mail & Guardian said.

Zimbabwe

The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has called for an investigation after the Panama Papers brought to light links between two wealthy Zimbabwean business men, and the Zimbabwean regime. Billy Rautenbach and John Bredenkamp were named as engaging in widespread tax avoidance and externalising huge sums of money outside the country. PDP spokesman Jacob Mafume said “Bredenkamp is an arms dealer and mining tycoon while Rautenbach is the owner of GreenFuels and is involved in diamond mining”, both well known funders of the ZANU-PF ruling regime.

“As a result of the controversial links between Rautenbach and Zanu PF, major shareholders in fuel retail companies such as Sakunda and Redan have been elbowed out of business as the Zanu PF cartel has moved in to create a total monopoly in the fuel sector and thus keep consumers hostage to high fuel prices…What concerns us at the PDP is that the Panama Papers are being released when Mugabe in February said over $15 billion of proceeds from diamond mining remained unaccounted for,” Mafume added, reported New Zimbabwe.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

KENYA: Graft-Tainted Ministers Sacked (Free to Access)
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.11, Pp.21059B–21060B

Transparency International: “Endemic Corruption” Plagues Most of Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20627B–20627C

TANZANIA: Illicit Outflows Report
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.5, Pp.20413C–20414B

NIGERIA: Illicit Oil Proceeds Laundered
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.9, Pp.20119A–20120C

AFRICA: Illicit Financial Flows
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.49, Issue.2, Pp.19449C–19450C

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DR Congo – Worrying Signs

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With crucial elections at the end of the year there are concerns of an increase in politically motivated violence.

As the sporadic and fragmented violence continues in the country, United States (US) officials have stated that the situation will only deteriorate if President Joseph Kabila does not step down later this year, during elections scheduled for November.

According to ambassador Thomas Perriello speaking on February 10th, “If the DR Congo chooses the path taken by Burundi, the scale of human suffering could dwarf what we have seen next door,” reported the East African.

There are concerns as Joseph Kabila has already served his two constitutionally granted presidential terms and has made no indication as to whether he will step down; it was a similar situation regarding presidential term limits that sparked violence in neighouring Burundi.

There have been fears of a return to the 1998-2003 ‘African World War‘ which saw nine countries engaged in conflict, particularly considering violence ongoing in neighbouring Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan.

In DR Congo there are plans for protests on February 16th by coalition group Citizen Front 2016 in an attempt to pile pressure on Kabila. There had been earlier attempts to hold pro-democracy rallies, but they were stalled due to the withdrawal of a key supporter, the Catholic Church.

Previous protests have been often brutally repressed and the opposition leader Charles Mwando Simba has urged workers to keep away from work and parents to avoid taking children to school on the day of the protest, reported the Daily Nation.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently commented that President Kabila seems set on clinging to power and has pursued a violent crackdown on those calling for credible and fair elections in November.

The US is also considering targeted sanctions, particularly assets freezes, in an attempt to deter Kabila from further repression, and to encourage him to step down from his post in accordance with constitutional law.

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Joseph Kabila – CC

According to another HRW report, a number of key countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have narrowed the sphere for criticism of the government, particularly DR Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland and Angola.

The 659 page World Report 2016 detailed widespread pressure on rights activists, journalists and opposition members in many African countries. It documented how in January 2015 the DR Congo security forces brutally repressed demonstrations in the capital Kinshasa leaving 38 dead.

Security forces also targeted friends and acquaintances of injured opposition members as they visited them in hospitals. Activists have been detained for months without charge, including many members of a youth organisation.

In addition to concerns over politically-motivated violence and reprisals, DR Congo is also currently dealing with multiple rebel insurgencies.  In eastern DR Congo the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a mainly Rwandan Hutu rebel group, has been committing widespread atrocities.

Self-proclaimed community militia (‘Mayi Mayi’) have also proliferated as a response to rural insecurity. These are mainly sporadic and community organised militias, but have also formed more organised groups.

Some of the worst recent violence has taken place in Lubero, North Kivu, where locals have been caught between a Mayi Mayi rebel group, who are ethnically Nande, and the FDLR, who are predominately Hutu. The violence has been linked to attempts by a local Nande tribal leader to stop the return of Congolese Hutus, who he claims are trying to “conquer” Nande.

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The Allied Defence Forces (ADF), a largely Islamist Ugandan group, continue to be active in the Beni area of North Kivu province, particularly in the Rwenzori mountain areas. In Beni the ADF has coordinated attacks on both the army and the United Nations (UN) mission (MONUSCO) leading to the deaths of over 500 civilians since 2014.

In Ituri province, the Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri (FRPI) rebel group also continues to commit serious human rights abuses. In Nyunzu in former Katanga province ethnic Luba fighters attacked a displaced person camp on April 2015, targeting members of the pygmy Batwa community.

There are concerns that these conflicts are taking on increasingly ethnic overtones and continue to be fuelled by the huge trade in illegal minerals and resources. Many multinational companies are often unable to track the origins of minerals in supply chains, particularly rare metals, reported the International Business Times.

Tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold are central to the production of high-tech goods and are the main sources of revenue for rebel groups in the country, generating estimates of around US$185 million a year, reported the East African.

However there have been some recent attempts by companies such as Intel to cut conflict minerals from their supply chains, with legally binding provisions in force since 2011 in an attempt to stop the financing of rebel groups. Campaigns group Global Witness provide a useful collection of resources on the mineral trade in DR Congo.

It is the increasingly politicised situation in DR Congo, with multiple rebel groups engaged in widespread often ethnically-motivated atrocities on civilians, the huge trade in illegal resources, and worries over the attempt of President Kabila to claim a third term, which have generated concerns that DR Congo will follow the same path as neighbouring Burundi but with possibly much more devastating consequences.

Find out more in the African Research Bulletin today

DR Congo – National Unity Bid
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, Pp.Page: 20855B

DR CONGO: Ethnically Motivated Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, 20859B–20860C

DR CONGO: Political Opponents Harassed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.20820B–20821C

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East Africa: Investments in Rail Infrastructure

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Members of the East African Community pledge to use Central and Northern Transport Corridors to unlock the region’s economic potential

East African Community (EAC) member states, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda are hoping to implement joint infrastructure projects to further boost regional trade and growth. Tanzanian President and Chairman of the EAC, Jakaya Kikwete is quoted by Tanzania Daily News as saying “it is my wish to see the Northern and Central Corridors infrastructure to be one in the future”.

Following a Northern & Central Corridor Investors Forum in Dar es Salaam on March 25th, EAC members launched the construction of the US$14.2 billion East African Central Corridor Railway. According to Transport Minister Samuel Sitta the project will be “the single biggest project ever to be implemented by the Tanzanian government since our countries independence”, report Reuters.

The project will involve constructing 2561km of standard gauge railway to connect Dar es Salaam to landlocked neighbours of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zambia and eastern DR Congo,  costing around $7.6bn, while two other additional lines will be constructed to serve mining regions in the southern and northern Tanzania, at a cost of around $6.6bn. The main line will contain spur lines that will connect to Kigali, Rwanda, Bjumbura in Burundi, and Masaka, Uganda, explain Tanzania News Daily.

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Landlocked countries in Africa are reliant on rail and road links through to main coastal economic and commercial hubs; in East Africa particularly Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya. In direct competition to the Tanzanian railway plans, Kenya is also constructing a standard gauge railway, funded by China Road and Bridge Corporation, from Mombasa-Nairobi to Kampala.

The Kenyan government has claimed the new railway from Mombasa to the Great Lakes region will boost economic growth by 1.5% per year, report Ventures Africa, eventually extending to replace the ageing colonial-era narrow gauge railway that reaches towards DR-Congo. The initial 609 km section from Mombasa to Nairobi has been started with a finish date set for 2017.

China has agreed to finance part of a $3.2 billion Uganda rail plan, report East Africa Business Week; construction of the Eastern and Northern Standard Gauge Railway that will connect Kampala, Malaba on the Kenyan border and Nimule in South Sudan, while joining the wider standard gauge network, giving fruitful economic benefits from links to Kenya’s coastal commercial hub.

AFKInsider comment that Kenya and Tanzania are vying to be the preferred regional transport hub and with recent oil and gas discoveries in the region, the area has become a hive of exploration. Transport minister Sitta said “We are in competition at all times with the Mombasa port…its a competitive business so we need to be efficient”.

Both countries are also planning to invest in new port projects at Bagamoyo in Tanzania and Lamu in Kenya, report Tanzania Daily News. The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project was first proposed in the 1970s to provide Sudan and Ethiopia access to the Indian ocean. In 2013 China Communications Construction Co Ltd won the US$445 million contract for the first three berths of the port and according to the Kenyan government the LAPSSET project is nearing advanced stages. The project includes an economic corridor comprised of road networks, oil pipelines, three airports and a standard gauge railway network from Lamu to Juba, South Sudan and Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia (shown on map below).

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The majority of financing for large infrastructure projects across East Africa, and large parts of the African continent as a whole, is stemming from China, who have recently signed agreements with the African Union (AU) for a network of high-speed rail links in the next few decades.

Chinese companies and banks are financing a variety of railway projects across the region  including the Addis-Ababa Light Rail Transit System in Ethiopia. In 2014 China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation completed the reconstruction of the Benguela railway connecting Angola, Zambia and south-eastern DR Congo, and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is constructing the $4 billion, 740-km electric railway that connects Addis Ababa and Djibouti.

Open database, Aid Data, provide a useful visual mapping of Chinese-financed projects in Africa, available here.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Roads & Railways: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp. 20715B-20716A

Ports & Shipping: Tanzania
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.10, Pp. 20607A-20608A

Roads & Railways: Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.8, Pp.20536B-20537C

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DR Congo: Better the devil you know?

Taking its lead perhaps from the Obama administration, the international community seems generally willing to accept continued rule in the Democratic Republic of Congo by President Joseph Kabila despite his questionable legitimacy as president and his government’s violent repression.

Joseph Kabila, president of DRC

Millions of Congolese went to the polls on November 28th 2011 to cast votes in presidential and parliamentary elections. Since then, there has been a tense political climate in the country and several outbreaks of violence.

Both the US and the UN have spoken out recently on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the aftermath of election results widely viewed as fraudulent. What they are not saying, however, is at least as important as their declarations of concern, analysts say. Neither the US nor UN is calling for new elections or for sanctions to be imposed on the Kabila government. Instead, the DRC’s re-installed leader is being urged to listen to opposition voices and to respect democratic norms.

As high-ranking US State Department official Donald Yamamoto told Congress earlier in the month, “The importance of the DRC to the United States is multifaceted and profound.” However, although he called for the “formation of an inclusive DRC government,” Yamamoto explicitly said, “We are not advocating a coalition government.”

The East African cites independent analysts in Washington who suggest that Congo’s severe poverty and absence of truly national institutions leads policymakers to calculate that superior alternatives to Kabila’s rule are not available.

Some see Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the main opposition party, as yesterday’s man. Congressman Donald Payne recently declared that “the future of Congo is not with Tshisekedi. His time has come and passed.” Tshisekedi is seen by some – both in Washington and elsewhere – as “volatile and potentially unfriendly”.

At a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York on February 8th, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, emphasized that the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) must continue to work with the Congolese authorities, especially to ensure that future elections can be carried out more smoothly.

Mr Ladsous acknowledged that the circumstances under which elections were held were challenging, and underlined the need for MONUSCO to continue working closely with Congolese authorities to prepare for the next phase of elections – provincial and local – so that they “satisfy the Congolese political actors, contribute to dialogue and the opening of the political space.”

A statement issued by the US State Department on February 14th said the United States continued to closely monitor the electoral process, and the hundreds of legal disputes against some legislative election results. It also said it remained “deeply concerned about multiple allegations of human rights abuses by security forces, including illegal and arbitrary detentions throughout the electoral process”.

However, it said that despite these concerns, the US encourages “all political parties to participate fully when the National Assembly is seated in order to preserve and protect the basic democratic principle of representative government in the Congo”.

Find out more with the following back issues of the Africa Research Bulletin

Parliamentary results Vol.49 No.1

Kabila’s tainted victory Vol.48 No.12

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