Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has threatened to terminate the mandate of an East African Community military force that deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year. The force was set up to contain an insurgency by the Rwanda-backed M23 rebel group, which has uprooted nearly a million people in the country's east. The EAC claims the rebels have pulled back from occupied areas thanks to their intervention, but Congolese officials say the group remains at large and accuse the EAC of inaction. The regional mission was unpopular from the outset among Congolese, who are mindful of the destructive role neighboring states have played in their country. Yet new military interventions are being prepared, with the Southern African Development Community (which includes South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania) announcing plans to deploy troops. The focus on the M23 is, meanwhile, pulling attention away from DRC's other armed groups, some of which are intensifying attacks and expanding their territory.
A US special forces raid in Somalia ordered by President Joe Biden killed a key regional ISIS leader, Bilal al-Sudani, the Pentagon said in a statement Jan. 26. Sudani apparently died in a gun-battle after US troops descended on a cave complex in a mountainous area of northern Somalia. No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, officials said. The statement did not specify the location of the raid, but the announcement followed reports in Somali media describing a US drone strike on a stronghold of the self-declared Islamic State-Somalia (ISS) in the Iskushuban area of the Cal Miskaad mountains, in the northern autonomous region of Puntland. (Defense Post, Military.com, LWJ)
The UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, concluded Dec. 19 in Montreal, with what is being hailed as a landmark agreement to address the current unprecedented loss of species, now termed the planet's sixth mass extinction. The centerpiece of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, conceived as a match to the Paris Agreement on climate change, is the so-called "30x30" pledge—with countries committing to protect 30% of their territory for habitat preservation by 2030.
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.
In Episode 147 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the recent statement from the UN Environment Program that "only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster." Studies from similarly prestigious global bodies have raised the prospect of imminent human extinction. An International Energy Agency report released last year warned that new fossil fuel exploration needed to halt by 2022 in order to keep warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. Adoption of new technologies and emissions standards does mean that CO2 emissions from energy generation (at least) are likely to peak by 2025. But the IEA finds that this would still lead to global temperatures rising by 2.5 C above pre-industrial levels by century's end—exceeding the Paris Agreement limits, with catastrophic climate impacts. And the catastrophic impacts, already felt in places like (just for example) Chad and Cameroon, win but scarce media coverage. Climate-related conflict has already escalated to genocide in Darfur, and possibly in Syria. The oil companies, meanwhile, are constitutionally incapable of writing off the "stranded assets" of vast hydrocarbon investments. Climate protests in Europe—at oil terminals and car shows (as well as, less appropriately, museums)—do win some attention. But the ongoing resistance to still-expanding oil mega-projects in places like Uganda and Tanzania are comparatively invisible to the outside world. The dire warnings from the UN and IEA raise the imperative for a globalized resistance with an explicitly anti-capitalist politics. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The United Nations Human Rights Office on Oct. 14 expressed concern over Turkey's adoption of legal measures "that risk substantially curtailing freedom of expression in the country." One day earlier, the Turkish parliament passed a package of laws that could see journalists and activists imprisoned for up to three years for spreading "disinformation." (Jurist) The day before that, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act into law, which advocacy group Unwanted Witness called a "looming nightmare to the freedom of expression and speech." (Jurist) Last month, Tunisian authorities promulgated Decree No. 54 on Combating Crimes Related to Information & Communication Systems, imposing five years imprisonment for spreading "fake news." (Jurist)
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.
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.