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Increasing tension in the DRC and the army’s declining role in the stabilization process in Africa

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Operational situation. Congolese rebel group called the March 23 Movement (M23) declared their readiness to “free” the whole territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo after seizure of its capital city of Kinshasa.

This was announced by the group’s representative Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarama. After seizing the country’s largest Eastern city of Goma located on the border with Rwanda on November 20, the rebels declared their intention to take control of the city of Bukaka, and then advance towards the capital city.

President Joseph Kabila refuses to hold negotiations with the rebels. However, he went to Uganda to meet its President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame whom he accuses of supporting M23.

Military operations in the region of Congolese city of Goma started immediately after UN and US imposed penalty on 38-year-old M23 leader and ex-Colonel of the Congolese Army Sultani Makengi. He is accused of murders, kidnapping and military use of children as soldiers.

Escalating violence in the DRC was the result of choosing wrong, in our opinion, tactics for settling the conflict between the tribes of Hutu and Tutsi.

According to 2008 ad-hoc report of Da Vinci AG analytical group demilitarization of units of General Nkunda and FDLR soldiers will not settle the current issues as the presence of rival tribes itself on the territory of Congo where neither is represented in the government de facto creates equal conditions for them – thus allowing settling the conflict by means of guerrilla war and ethnic cleansing. This forecast turned out to be correct since arrest of General Nkunda in 2009 on the territory of Rwanda resulted only in disintegration of CNDP and strengthening of the fraction led by Bosco Ntaganda’s (the “Terminator”) who now controls rebel armed forces. The attempt of integration of Nkunda’s soldiers into the DRC’s armed forces failed and was followed by the creation of the M23 group which de facto replaced other previous units representing Tutsi’s interests.

V.Kazarama’s statements iterate L.Nkunda’s rhetoric in 2008. At that time, he too turned from the outgivings regarding control of the province of Kivu to threats to take control of the whole territory of the DRC. Just as four years ago we still believe that such outgivings are mostly demonstration of power rather than rebels’ plans. M23 – as well as forces led by General Nkunda – is supported only by representatives of the Tutsi and cannot count on support of most of Congolese population. Especially considering the fact that the Tutsi represent minority even in Rwanda of which they hold control and Burunda.

Moreover, M23’s main unit is now located 1600 km away from Kinshasa (2706 km road distance) which makes marching towards the capital city rather difficult, especially taking into account that it means leaving the Tutsi’s compact habitation. M23 group – according to different estimates – consists of around 5500 soldiers which rules out the possibility of simultaneous movement towards Kinshasa and maintaining full control of Kivu. This, in our opinion, reduces the possibility of capital seizure and at the same time increases chances for further localization of rebels’ operations in the province of Kivu.

Therefore, according to our estimations, M23 is seeking to use the current situation to take complete control of the province of Kivu and locate its troops on the territory providing possibility of granting autonomy thereto in future. It is obvious that the conflict will be supported by relative passivity on the part of President Kabila – an ethnic Lubo who time and again actually stood for ethnic Hutu dominating in the ethnic composition.

We believe that the optimal way of settling the issue would be transferring the conflict into political mainstream, as well as forming M23 and FDLR as political forces. In this case creation of political alternative to the Congolese Rally for Democracy actively supported by Rwanda and Burundi will have strategic significance which will result in political contradictions within the ethnic Tutsi group and decreasing the external influence on the part of official Bujumbura and Kigali. Further politicization of this process will allow balancing the interests of the tribes via holding local election, change of governors and bringing representatives thereof to the cabinet. Implementation of this scenario will be facilitated by election of members of the Senate and provincial governors scheduled for June 2013.

Otherwise the relations between the tribes will remain at the phase of confrontation between the Hutu military groups and the Tutsi rebels. Such infiltration will cause not only military confrontation within Congo but also instability within the regions bordering with Rwanda and Burundi for which the conflict in the DRC means the opportunity to avoid transferring the confrontation to their own territory.

At the same time, the tactic of arresting leaders of rebel movement turns out to be inefficient as here an ethnic conflict is concerned which is actively supported from abroad and goes beyond the DRC’s geographic borders involving neighbouring countries. After Nkunda’s arrest significant decentralization among rebels took place which are now to a great extent influenced by several leaders: Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero, Bosco Ntaganda and V.Kazarama. In our opinion, before Nkunda’s arrest rebel leadership was more centralized, and provided there was a sole leader Joseph Kabila could hold effective negotiations and implement a conflict regulation plan.

The issue of national defence policy as a cause of destabilization of the situation in Africa. Weakening of national armies in African countries significantly increases the risk of destabilization of the situation within the region. Regular army units traditionally constitute the basis for statehood and guarantee stability of inter-tribe relations on the continent. Development of the situation in Congo in November 2012 and in Mali in July 2012 shows that weak state support of national armed forced facilitates increasing confrontation and decentralization processes in the countries suffering from ethnic contradictions. Thus, in both mentioned countries destabilization of the situation was the response to the militants’ discontentment with the living and material conditions. Therefore, the army’s declining role in the society, as well as its social and economic importance and prestige increases the possibility of aggravating the current ethnic conflicts.

Hence, scenarios of integration of rebels in regular armies will be vain in case of maintaining the current amount of financing, supply and national military policy.

At the same time, no forces today can confront soldiers on the territory of these countries. Thus, regular troops more and more prefer to avoid confrontations. For example, 2100 government soldiers and 700 policemen came and laid down their arms in Goma upon request of the rebels.

According to our estimations, the nearest future might see similar scenarios of revitalization of ethnic confrontation – when national armed forces will find themselves unable to restrain the spread of violence – in a number of other countries on the continent.

Corruption in the regular army also facilitates material and technical support to rebels which is proven, in particular, by discharge of Major General of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Gabriel Amisi who is suspected in the creation of a network of weapon and ammunition trade to  poachers and rebels, including members of the March 23 Movement.

Under such conditions United Nations Peacekeeping Mission (MONUC) not only lose the opportunity of efficient conflict prevention but also grow extremely vulnerable in front of rebel groups. This is confirmed by Kazarama’s statement, “We warn DRC MONUC that bombed our units instead of remaining neutral – attacked must stop immediately. M23 group so far never attacked units of UN peacekeeping forces. However, this may change soon”. We believe that attacks on peacekeeping forces under M23’s direct instruction are most improbable, however, such attacks may be launched by separate rebel fractions. In our opinion, today’s situation somewhat differs from the events of 2008 as M23 members include ex-representatives of regular armed forces which qualifies them different from those acting under command of General Nkunda.

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Africa

Money seized from Equatorial Guinea VP Goes into Vaccine

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As a classic precedence, the Justice Department of the United States has decided that $26.6m (£20m) seized from Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue be used on purchasing COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical programmes in Equitorial Guinea, located on the west coast of central Africa.

“Wherever possible, kleptocrats will not be allowed to retain the benefits of corruption,” an official said in a statement, and reported by British Broadcasting Corporation.

Obiang was forced to sell a mansion in Malibu, California, a Ferrari and various Michael Jackson memorabilia as part of a settlement he reached with the US authorities in 2014 after being accused of corruption and money-laundering. He denied the charges.

The agreement stated that $10.3m of the money from the sale would be forfeited to the US and the rest would be distributed to a charity or other organisation for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea, the Justice Department said.

The UN is to receive $19.25m to purchase and administer COVID-19 vaccines to at least 600,000 people in Equatorial Guinea, while a US-based charity is to get $6.35m for other medical programmes in Equatorial Guinea.

Teodorin Nguema has been working in position as Vice-President since 2012, before that he held numerous government positions, including Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Known for his unquestionable lavish lifestyle, he has been the subject of a number of international criminal charges and sanctions for alleged embezzlement and corruption. He has a fleet of branded cars and a number of houses, and two houses alone in South Africa,

Teodorin Nguema has often drawn criticisms in the international media for lavish spending, while majority of the estimated 1.5 million population wallows in abject poverty. Subsistence farming predominates, with shabby infrastructure in the country. Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

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African Union’s Inaction on Ethiopia Deplorable – Open Letter

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The crisis in northern Ethiopia has resulted in millions of people in need of emergency assistance and protection. © UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

A group of African intellectuals says in an open letter that it is appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. The letter, signed by 58 people, says the African Union’s lack of effective engagement in the crisis is deplorable. The letter calls on regional bloc IGAD and the AU to “proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict”.

The letter also asks for “all possible political support” for the AU’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, whose appointment was announced on August 26, 2021. A United Nations Security Council meeting on the same day welcomed the former Nigerian president’s appointment.

Earlier in August 2021, UN  chief Antonio Guterres appealed for a ceasefire, unrestricted aid access and an Ethiopian-led political dialogue. He told the council these steps were essential to preserve Ethiopia’s unity and the stability of the region and to ease the humanitarian crisis. He said that he had been in close contact with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and had received a letter from the leader of the Tigray region in response to his appeal. “The UN is ready to work together with the African Union and other key partners to support such a dialogue,” he said.

August 26, 2021 was only the second time during the conflict that the council held a public meeting to discuss the situation. Britain, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the United States requested the session.

Fighting between the national government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front broke out in November 2020, leaving millions facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the United Nations. Both sides have been accused of atrocities.

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More African Countries Register Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine

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Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is a specialized technical institution of the African Union (AU) that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.

During the outbreak of the coronavirus, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), was established by African Union, as a component in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy and was endorsed by the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government on 20th of August 2020.

Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has emphasized: “Africa has to team up with development partners to achieve its 60% continent-wide vaccination in the next two years. I think that is why we should as a collective of the continent, and of course, in partnership with the developed world make sure that Africa has a timely access to vaccines to meet our vaccination targets.”

An official media release in February 2021, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team from the African Union (AU) informed that Russia would supply and deliver 300 million Sputnik V vaccines to Africa. That step was intended to support African countries to attain their targeted immunization of 60% of the population by the year-end. That vaccine story disappeared, but instead what become so common is the speedy registration of Sputnik V on bilateral basis in various African countries.

According to the latest, Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. The use of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has been approved in Nigeria, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in an official statement.

“The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) announces the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control of Nigeria (NAFDAC). Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. Total population of all countries, where Sputnik V is approved for use, now exceeds 3.7 billion people, which is nearly half of the global population,” the statement said.

“Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and the approval of Sputnik V will provide for using one of the safest and most effective vaccines in the world. Sputnik V is based on a proven human adenoviral vectors platform and is successfully used in over 50 countries. Approval in Nigeria will make an important contribution to the country’s fight against the pandemic,” CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said.

Besides Nigeria, other African countries have registered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Reportedly, the vaccine has been registered in Algeria, Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, the Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.

Russia’s drive to share Sputnik V vaccine, of course, offers a chance to raise its image and strengthen alliances in Africa. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has made efforts promoting the vaccine using all its channels. But supply and delivery have largely lagged behind, the pledges have simply not been fulfilled. Russian authorities have oftentimes said that they would step up efforts for fruitful cooperation in combating coronavirus in Africa.

Promising more than can be delivered appears to be a universal problem with coronavirus vaccines, and it is a real risk for Russia as well, said Theresa Fallon, Director of the Brussels-based Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies. “They have won the gold medal for creating this very effective vaccine,” she said. “But the problem is how are they going to implement production and delivery?”

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), with profit motivation, has attempted supplying the Russian vaccines through, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, from the Monarch family and a third party in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to a number of African countries. For instance, the Republic of Ghana reportedly signed US$64.6 million contract for Sputnik V vaccine from Russia through Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum. It was double the price from the producer as reported in the media.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted, in a speech early September, that advanced countries that produce vaccines against the coronavirus do little to protect humanity from the pandemic.

“The benefits of vaccination are enjoyed mostly by advanced economies. The bulk of the vaccines is made there, and it is used to protect their own population. But very little is being done to protect humanity in the broad sense,” Putin said at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, the Far East of Russia. “This is very bad for the producers, because all this boomerangs around the globe. For instance, in Africa the level of protection with vaccines is minimal, but contacts with the African countries continue. There is no getting away from this. This infection will return again and again.”

According to an official release obtained late February, the Sputnik V vaccine the following advantages:

• Efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6% as confirmed by the data published in the Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals; It is one of only three vaccines in the world with efficacy of over 90%; Sputnik V provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19. 

• The Sputnik V vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors, which cause the common cold and have been around for thousands of years. 

• Sputnik V uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots. 

• The safety, efficacy and lack of negative long-term effects of adenoviral vaccines have been proven by more than 250 clinical studies over two decades. 

• The developers of the Sputnik V vaccine are working collaboratively with AstraZeneca on a joint clinical trial to improve the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine. 

• There are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V. 

• The price of Sputnik V is less than $10 per shot, making it affordable around the world. 

In February, peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet published an analysis from Phase III clinical trial of the Russian vaccine, showing its 91.6-percent efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19. The Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

Sputnik V was registered in Russia on August 11, 2020 as the world’s first officially registered coronavirus vaccine. Russian vaccines have advantages as no deaths have been reported after vaccination with the Sputnik V, Alexander Gintsburg, Director of the Gamaleya Center, the vaccine developer, said and was reported by TASS News Agency. “As of today, no deaths after vaccination with Sputnik V have been registered,” he said.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund established in 2011 to make equity co-investments, primarily in Russia, alongside reputable international financial and strategic investors. RDIF acts as a catalyst for direct investment in the Russian economy. RDIF’s management is based in Moscow.

In Africa, during first of September, the coronavirus-related death toll has topped 196,190, while more than 6.9 million recoveries have been reported. South Africa accounts for a majority of coronavirus cases and deaths across Africa – 2,777,659 and 82,261 respectively. The death toll in Tunisia climbed to 23,451, and 664,034 cases have been confirmed. Egypt recorded 16,736 deaths and 288,441 coronavirus cases.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia is ranked second to South Africa (308,134 cases and 4,675 deaths) and is followed by Kenya (235,863 cases and 4,726 deaths) and Nigeria (191,805 and 2,455). The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached almost 8 million in Africa, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa.

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