Massacres mount in eastern DRC
Militants from the ISIS-aligned Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed at least 15 people, more than haf of them women, in attacks on the villages of Manyala and Ofay in Ituri province of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local authorities reported Jan. 30. On Jan. 23, presumed ADF fighters massacred at least 20 people at a bar where local residents were drinking beer in Makugwe village, in the Beni region of neighboring North Kivu province. On Jan. 16, presumed ADF fighters killed some 20 Christian worshippers in a bomb attack on a church in Kasindi village, North Kivu. (MTT, VOA, Defense Post, BBC News)
Massacre claim overshadows DRC peace talks
A third round of peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo government and rebel movements opened Nov. 30. But the M23 armed group—which has seized large chunks of territory in recent months—was not invited. A government spokesperson said the insurgents must vacate occupied areas before they can join the talks. More than 50 armed and civil society groups are present at the dialogue, being held in Kenya under the auspices of the East African Community. Those attending have been told to cease hostilities and join a new program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate combatants into society. Rwanda, accused of backing the M23, has also been invited to this round of talks.
East African troops deploy against M23 in Congo
Kenya is set to deploy a battalion of soldiers to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a regional military response to advancing M23 rebels. Kenya will command the new East African force, which will include troops from Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda. A notable absentee from this intervention will be Rwanda: Congo accuses Kigali of supporting M23, and tensions are soaring. In the past weeks, M23 has dramatically expanded the territory it controls, forcing UN peacekeepers to abandon a strategic base at Rumangabo, and closing in on the key city of Goma. In a region with a history of foreign meddling—in which more than 120 rebel groups operate—the East African deployment is distrusted. Both Burundi and Uganda already have troops inside Congo pursuing their own interests. It remains unclear how the new East African force will be funded; how it will coordinate with UN peacekeepers (in which Kenya also has a contingent); and what its exit strategy will be. Some are urgently calling for regional dialogue as the solution to Congo's instability, fearing the military option will only make matters worse.
Mozambique insurgency spreading —again
It's been a year since forces from Rwanda and a southern African regional bloc deployed to Mozambique's northernmost Cabo Delgado province to battle a jihadist insurgency. Yet attacks are rising again, with more people displaced last month (over 60,000) than at any time this year. Foreign troops helped capture major towns from the insurgents—known locally as al-Shabab—allowing some displaced people to return home. But scattered fighters regrouped and are now spreading their attacks to southern parts of the province previously untouched by conflict. The new incursions have led to reports of beheadings and sparked security fears in Pemba, the provincial capital and a hub for aid operations. Humanitarian groups are calling for increased funds, with around 800,000 people uprooted since the start of the insurgency in late 2017. The militants are affiliated to the so-called Islamic State, but a mix of local issues is driving the war.
Confused DRC peace dialogue in Kenya
The first round of talks between armed groups and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo concluded April 28 in Nairobi. The Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) wasn't invited, however, while the Ituri-based CODECO was approached but didn't attend. M23 representatives were meanwhile ordered out after their forces resumed clashes with the DRC military. The list of participants was initially unclear and analysts seemed confused by the meeting's strategy as rebels arrived in dribs and drabs.
Podcast: against Chomsky's genocide complicity
In Episode 120 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg invites the enmity of his comrades on the left with a long-overdue deconstruction of the increasingly sinister, genocide-abetting politics of Noam Chomsky. In relentless sycophantic interviews, Chomsky inevitably opposes a no-fly zone for Ukraine, war crimes charges against Putin, or even sanctions against Russia, on the grounds that such moves would lead to nuclear war. He offers no acknowledgment of how capitulating to Putin's nuclear threats incentivizes such threats, and the stockpiling of the missiles and warheads to back them up. This is part of a long pattern with Chomsky. He has repeatedly engaged in ugly and baseless "false flag" theorizing about the Syria chemical attacks, leading activists in the Arab world to accuse him of "regime whitewashing." He similarly abetted Bosnia genocide revisionism and (especially through his collaborations with the late Edward Herman) denial of the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia. All this can be traced to the analytical and ultimately moral and intellectual distortions of the so-called "Chomsky rule"—the notion that we are only allowed to criticize crimes committed by "our" side. An illustrative irony is that Chomsky will cynically exploit the suffering of the Palestinians to distract from and relativize the oppression of Uyghurs in China, yet his stance on Palestine is actually timid and cowardly—clinging to a "two-state solution," and opposing BDS as a form of pressure on Israel. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
DR Congo: M23 rebels stage bloody comeback
Thousands have been displaced after new fighting broke out between M23 rebels and the army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province. A UN helicopter was shot down March 29 (for which both sides blamed each other), and the fighting has sparked regional tensions as Kinshasa accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels (a charge Kigali denies). M23 was responsible for the last major rebellion in eastern DRC, seizing large chunks of territory in 2012 and 2013 before a joint UN-government offensive forced its fighters into Uganda and Rwanda. Efforts to demobilize the group stalled and a cluster of combatants resettled in DRC in late 2016. Fresh skirmishes were reported in November, though the strength of the group remains unclear, as are its objectives. M23 is but one of over 100 armed groups active in eastern DRC.
Pact indefinitely keeps open 'Australia's Gitmo'
A new memorandum of understanding allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru was signed on Sept. 24. Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving by boat have been barred from settlement in Australia and sent to offshore detention centers instead. The deal extending use of the Nauru facility comes just as the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) finally reached an agreement to close the contentious Manus Island Regional Processing Center. In the deal announced Oct. 6, Australia and the PNG finalized a Regional Resettlement Arrangement in which detainees on Manus Island will either be transfered to Nauru or allowed to remain in Papua New Guinea with a "migration pathway" allowing eventual legal residency.
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