by PETER DOERRIE
Democratic Republic of Congo
The last weeks again saw widespread violence in the east of the DRC. In a more or less typical incident, units of the national army killed its own general Kisembo, vice-commander of the 7th military region over allegations that he was in the process of founding a new rebellion in Ituri, a region in the north-eastern part of the country. Kisembo, like most of his colleagues, was a former rebel and integrated into the army after the end of the Congo Wars.
His possible defection may be due to the irregularities preceding the presidential elections, due to be held in December. There is the widespread feeling that president Joseph Kabila has used his parliamentary majority to change electoral law dramatically in his favor. None of the opposition candidates so far has threatened to challenge any election results violently, but it remains unclear how a rigged election would influence the situation in the volatile country.
In a separate incident, local militias and units of the FDLR launched a series of attacks on villages in the region of Lubero. These attacks come at a time,when the former president and vice-president of the FDLR stand trial in a landmark case in Germany for their command responsibility in relation to FDLR crimes in Congo.
Rising prices for food and fuel have led to a series of protests in Kampala during the last weeks. Dubbed “walk to work”, the protests were largely peaceful, until the security forces started to disperse them by force, using tear gas and live bullets. As a result, at least two people died and 120 were injured. Opposition leader and recent contender in the presidential elections, Kizza Besigye, was shot in the hand while being arrested during the fifth day of protests and was flown out to Kenya for treatment, after the diplomatic missions of several European countries intervened.
“Bread riots” are not unusual in many African countries and the current Ugandan government finds itself in a position of strength after recently winning the presidential and legislative elections. But with the public finances in disarray — partly due to the enormous expenditures taken during the campaign period — there seems to be little room to mitigate public discontent by introducing new subsidies. The administration probably hopes to suppress any further protest until oil production starts later this year, which would generate the revenue needed to tackle high consumer prices.
Despite the expected independence of South Sudan problems persist in what used to be the largest country on the continent. Cattle raiders killed more than 80 people in a remote part of South Sudan. This incident, not atypical in type or in scale, clearly demonstrates that the government still has a long way before it, until it can reliably guarantee security after the longest civil war in Africa.
Meanwhile, the increasing militarization in the oil-rich region of Abyei strengthened fears that fighting could break out between the armies of the northern and southern parts of the country. The status of Abyei has yet to be decided, with both future states claiming it as part of their territory. As a reaction to the stand-off, a high-level delegation of the southern government was sent to the north and both parties agreed on the withdrawal of their forces from the region and on the introduction of joint military units to guarantee security.