Congo. A closer relationship took place in 2009 between the governments of the Congo and neighboring Rwanda after many years of tense relations. In January, around 4,000 Rwandan army soldiers were released into the Congo to participate in the hunt for the Rwandan hutumilis Democratic Forces Liberation Rwanda (FDLR), which terrorized the people of eastern parts of the country. According to countryaah, the UN force MONUC contributed indirectly to the offensive through transport assistance and medical care. However, the offensive performance was limited.
When the Rwandans left the country after a few weeks and the Congo army was withdrawn, the rebels returned from their hiding places in the jungle and exposed the civilian population to even worse plagues. In March, a quarter of a million people were reported to be fleeing the FDLR. The reinforcement of 3,000 men that the UN Security Council had promised at the end of 2008 failed. MONUC’s ability to intervene was also limited.
It was not only the Huturebeles who committed grave abuse on the civilians. According to a UN report, in April, army soldiers in search of rebels had killed 50 civilian hut refugees from Rwanda and robbed and raped and killed about 40 Rwandan women. The army leadership promised to stop the abuse but nothing happened. MONUC was put under pressure from the outside world to both review its cooperation with the army and to intensify its efforts against FDLR.
However, another conflict in the eastern parts of the country seemed to end. The National Tutsimilis National Congress of the People’s Defense (CNDP), which in the autumn of 2008 threatened to take control of large areas, put down its weapons and signed a peace agreement after leader Laurent Nkunda was arrested on Rwandan land. The government granted amnesty to all former rebels except for Nkunda and other leaders with personal responsibility for war crimes.
In August, the presidents of Congo and Rwanda promised each other to work for enhanced economic and military cooperation between the countries. They also sent ambassadors to their respective capitals.
A whole new conflict forced 150,000 people to flee in northwestern Congo in the autumn, some of them into neighboring Congo (Brazzaville). Hundreds of people were killed when rival ethnic militias clashed over fishing rights.
In The Hague, the Netherlands, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began its activities seriously. The first trials involved militia leaders from the Ituri region in northeastern Congo. Thomas Lubanga was charged with recruiting child soldiers, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui for a massacre of 200 villagers. Prosecutions were also filed in June against former militia leader and Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba for abuse his soldiers must have committed in 2002–03 in the Central African Republic, where they were sent to help defeat a coup attempt.
The Congo government was upset in July by a Swiss court’s decision to allow the Mobutu family access to the equivalent of over SEK 50 million that the former dictator placed in Swiss banks. The government, and most political analysts, considered that the money was misappropriated from the Treasury.
In October, Chinese companies signed a $ 6 billion loan with Congo to develop the country’s infrastructure. The money is intended for roads, railways, schools and hospitals. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had warned of the loan, which, according to the Fund, risks making the country’s debt situation more difficult.
The government terminated 57 percent of all forest harvesting contracts after a long review of planned and ongoing projects. The purpose of the review, which was done with the support of the World Bank, was to reveal projects that were created by corruption or which were environmentally inferior. The decision meant that harvesting had to be interrupted on almost 13 million hectares; an area about the size of Greece.
Two Norwegians were sentenced in September to death by a court in the city of Kisangani. They were accused of murdering their driver during a trip in northeastern Congo. The circumstances surrounding their visit were unclear. Among the speculations were that they were mercenaries or had plans to start a security company here. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said he had received guarantees that they would not be executed. The men were also convicted of espionage on behalf of Norway, and the Norwegian state was required to pay $ 60 million in damages. Norway denied the accusations of espionage and rejected the claim.