Growing dissent within Democratic Republic of Congo military has forced President Joseph Kabila to cancel this year’s 58th Independence celebration.
Today, the DRC turns 58-years-old but President Kabila will not hold any official celebrations. He addressed the nation last night calling for unity.
The Congolese are geared for elections, but its government does not seem keen. The unease from ordinary members is now spreading to the army where President Kabila has had a grip.
“Even the bigger part of the military is no cooperating,” an official close to events in government states. “So, going into this celebration with a divided military will expose the regime.”
Those within his power system say President Kabila has lost the grip on much of the army and feared holding a massive military operation would expose him.
The sources say President Kabila only enjoys protection from the presidential military guard which make up a very small fraction of the collective army personnel.
Congo’s independence day parades, held each of the last three years, are usually festive events that mark the end of Belgian colonial rule in 1960 and have been used to show off the Central African country’s latest arms acquisitions.
Kabila’s deputy chief of staff, Jean-Pierre Kambila, had also hinted to Reuters news agency on Thursday that there would be no military parade on June 30 “for security reasons”.
The parade was also cancelled in 2012 and 2013 during the country’s war with the M23 rebel group.
Rising violence, a growing humanitarian crisis and a spate of prison breaks have unsettled Africa’s largest copper producer in recent months, adding to an already tense political climate,
President Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate in December 2016, increasing instability and raising fears of a backslide to the civil wars of the turn of the century that killed millions.
Thousands of inmates have escaped from jails this year, including about 4,000 from the capital Kinshasa’s main high-security prison last month. In response, police and army have set up night-time checkpoints in Kinshasa’s business district of Gombe.
Meanwhile, fighting between government forces and a local armed group in the central Kasai region has killed more than 3,300 people and forced 1.3 million to flee their homes since August.
Opponents accuse Kabila, in power since 2001, of deliberately delaying the next presidential election in order to cling to power, but the government says the delays are due to a slow voter registration process and financing shortfalls.
Meanwhile, The UN Security Council on Friday extended its arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on the Democratic Republic of Congo until July 1, 2019 and the mandate of the Expert Group assisting the Sanctions Committee through Aug. 1, 2019.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2424 (2018), the Council reaffirmed that the sanctions would apply to individuals and entities designated by the Committee established pursuant to Resolution 1533 (2004) that met criteria outlined in previous resolutions.
By other terms, the Council expressed its intention to review the Expert Group’s mandate and take action on any further extension no later than July 1, 2019.
It requested the Expert Group to provide a mid-term report no later than Dec. 30, 2018, and a final report no later than June 15, 2019, as well as to submit monthly updates to the Committee, except in the months when the mid-term and final reports were due.
In that context, the Council reiterated the need for the government to swiftly and fully investigate the killing of the two members of the Group of Experts and the four Congolese nationals accompanying them, and to bring those responsible to justice.
The experts, Michael Sharp, 34, an American, and Zaida Catalan, 36, a Swede, were investigating crimes associated with a rebellion in central Kasai Province of the DRC when they were abducted along with four Congolese colleagues in March 2017.
The bodies of Sharp and Catalan were found two weeks later, about 75 miles south of Kananga.