Katrina's Feed
Apr 16, 2010

Vodacom says ready to rejig Congo JV stakes

KINSHASA, April 16 (Reuters) – South African mobile phone
company Vodacom <VODJ.J> is ready for direct local participation
in its Congolese joint venture in a bid to resolve its dispute
with partner CWN, a senior official told Reuters.

Congo-based Keratsu Holding has a 19.6 percent stake in CWN,
and Vodacom’s corporate affairs chief Bob Collymore raised the
possibility that if it were to be “unbundled”, it could be
turned into a direct stake in the joint venture, Vodacom Congo.

Apr 10, 2010

Spaniard seized by Congo rebels seeking war fetishes

MADRID/KINSHASA, April 10 (Reuters) – Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo have kidnapped a Spanish doctor and shaved off all his body hair in the hope it will give them magic powers in battle, according to a Congolese government minister.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry confirmed on Saturday that Mario Zarza Manresa, a doctor who was travelling through the vast Central African nation, had been kidnapped.

Zarza Manresa was seized on April 1 while travelling down the Congo River on a boat that was overrun by rebels, who later attacked the capital of the northern Equateur province, leading to two days of fighting that killed dozens last week.

Congolese Information Minister said late on Friday that Zarza Manresa had been "shaved completely by Ibrahim (a rebel leader) who believes in magical fetishes made with hair and body hair of whites".

Gunmen from Congo’s plethora of rebel and pro-government armed groups often adorn themselves with trinkets or traditional garments before heading into battle, in the belief that they will protect them from the bullets of the enemy.

Some believe wearing fetishes will turn bullets into water.

The Spanish government could not confirm the reports of Zarza Manresa’s shaving, but Felix Costales, the country’s ambassador in Congo, told Spanish television that fishermen in the area had seen the hostage and he was well.

Zarza Manresa was in Congo as a tourist and not for work.

The Enyele, the ethnic group that the rebels come from, has not previously had any gripe with Europeans, Costales said.

The incident took place 50 km (30 miles) north of Mbandaka, the provincial capital that was attacked last weekend.

Government troops backed by United Nations peacekeepers eventually repelled the rebels but the clash marked the fighters apparently expanding their rebellion and underscores Congo’s simmering violence, four years after post-war elections. (Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Giles Elgood)




Apr 9, 2010

U.N. failed civilians during Congo rebel attack

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Congo’s government accused United Nations peacekeepers Friday of failing to protect civilians when rebels attacked a northern town last weekend, but said the violence should not delay a possible U.N. withdrawal.

What was a remote insurgency spread to a provincial capital as the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which is much criticized but backs a weak national army against rebel groups across Democratic Republic of Congo, is under pressure to start withdrawing this year.

Apr 8, 2010

DR Congo risks falling into anarchy: report

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo risks falling into anarchy if a move toward authoritarian rule developing under President Joseph Kabila continues, a conflict watchdog said on Thursday.

A report from International Crisis Group (ICG) said an “authoritarian trend” has seen the president’s office concentrate power, undermine the judiciary and fail to implement plans to decentralize, in an “abysmal” record since 2006.

Apr 7, 2010

Vodacom, CWN seek arbitration of Congo dispute

KINSHASA, April 7 (Reuters) – South African mobile phone
company Vodacom <VODJ.J> and local Congolese partner CWN will
seek international arbitration to settle an acrimonious dispute
over fees at their joint venture, both firms said on Wednesday.
“We’ve agreed to go to an arbitrator in Belgium,” Alieu
Conteh, chairman of Congolese Wireless Networks (CWN), which
holds 49 percent of the Democratic Republic of Congo joint
venture, told Reuters by telephone from South Africa after a
meeting between the firms.

Majority owner Vodacom, owned by UK-based Vodafone <VOD.L>
wanted to make a capital call to restructure the firm’s balance
sheet, but CWN refused and said according to Congolese law the
company should be dissolved instead.

Apr 6, 2010

Vodacom, Congo partners in financing row

KINSHASA, April 6 (Reuters) – South African mobile phone
company Vodacom Group Pty Ltd <VODJ.J> said it is to meet
partner CWN on Wednesday to try to resolve a financing dispute
and prevent its Congolese partner from carrying out a threat to
dissolve the company.

The partners in the Central African nation are involved in
a long-running dispute over fees between majority owner Vodacom
and Congolese Wireless Networks (CWN), which owns a minority 49
percent stake.

Apr 5, 2010

Army recaptures airport after clash in north Congo

KINSHASA, April 5 (Reuters) – Congolese government forces backed by U.N. troops recaptured a provincial airport from rebels on Monday after heavy fighting in which three U.N. workers and several soldiers and police officers were killed, officials said.

Sunday’s surprise attack on Mbandaka, capital of northern Equateur province, was part of a spreading insurgency that began over fishing rights and illustrated the central African nation’s continued dependence on peacekeepers who are expected to start withdrawing in June.

"We have taken back control of the airport. It is now in our hands," General Janvier Mayanga told Reuters by telephone from Mbandaka. "Several soldiers and police have been killed," he said, without giving details.

Three U.N. personnel, including a Ghanaian peacekeeper and a South African pilot, were killed in the fighting, as well as four government soldiers, two police officers and nine rebels, according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.

Enyele rebels, who are from the remote north and are not linked to higher-profile rebel conflicts in the east, attacked the town on Sunday and seized the airport where the world’s largest U.N. mission has aircraft stationed.

Mayanga said the rebels, who mounted a series of ambushes around the airport, fled into the surrounding forest and the army pursued them. Peacekeepers from the U.N. mission, known as MONUC, took part in the counter-attack, he said.

The U.N. mission, which has grown into the largest U.N. peacekeeping force in the world, has been central to efforts to pacify Congo since a 1998-2003 war in which millions of people were killed.

The mission is under government pressure to begin withdrawing in June when the vast state celebrates 50 years of independence from Belgian colonial rule, and to leave completely by 2011 when elections are due.

Human rights groups have said MONUC’s withdrawal could spell disaster for civilians caught up in the conflicts.

The violence may also discourage foreign investment in a country that depends heavily on mining revenue and is trying to persuade foreign oil majors to develop its oil reserves.



PROVINCE STARVED OF GOVERNMENT

Most of the nearly 22,000 U.N. peacekeepers are based in east Congo, where they are helping the government try to oust Rwandan Hutu rebels. The stretched force also faces local rebellions and Ugandan rebels in the remote northeast.

"As long as insecurity persists throughout (Congo), and the Congolese government and military are incapable of resolving crises such as Equateur independent of international support, the drawdown of the U.N. mission remains premature," advocacy group Refugees International said in a report last week.

The organisation said more than 200,000 people had fled the violence since a tribal dispute over fishing rights flared in October and a local witchdoctor led an attack on Dongo, 100 km (62 miles) north of Mbandaka, killing hundreds.

Equateur’s Vice Governor Vincent Mokako said Mbandaka had been taken by surprise on Easter Sunday when 100-150 fighters attacked as people were attending mass, and that the civilian population was still hiding in its houses on Monday.

Analysts said a long-standing row between the Enyele, a sub-tribe of the Lobala, and the Boba, may have been hijacked by groups trying to foment trouble in the region, which was once favoured by government but is now an opposition stronghold.

"The place has been starved of any government support since Mobutu was kicked out," said a diplomat, referring to Congo’s dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was from the province and poured money into it for decades until he was ousted in 1997.

Since Mobutu, the region’s highest-profile politician has been former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, now awaiting trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court. (For a FACTBOX on Congo conflicts, click [ID:nLDE6340DM]) (Editing by David Lewis, Richard Valdmanis and Andrew Dobbie)




Apr 4, 2010

Fighters kill U.N. peacekeeper in north Congo attack

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Dozens of unidentified fighters attacked a provincial capital in northern Democratic Republic of Congo Sunday in a battle that has so far left one U.N. peacekeeper dead, U.N. officials said.

At least 30 fighters believed to be part of a mushrooming ethnic conflict in the region crossed the Congo River by boat to Mbandaka, capital of Congo’s northern Equateur province, attacking the governor’s residence and taking control of the city’s airport in a surprise assault on Congolese and U.N. forces, a U.N. official said.

Mar 31, 2010

DRC aims to attract energy investment with oil code

KINSHASA, March 31 (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo
hopes to make its oil sector more attractive to foreign energy
firms by offering competitive contracts and speeding the process
for awarding blocks, according to energy ministry
recommendations seen by Reuters.

The proposals are part of a hydrocarbons code due to be
voted during parliament’s current session, and come amid rising
investor interest in the central African nation’s tough-to-reach
crude reserves after big finds in neighbouring Uganda.

Mar 28, 2010

Troops, cash needed to fight Uganda rebels: group

KINSHASA (Reuters) – The United Nations must boost peacekeeping forces in areas of Africa where Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels operate to stop massacres such as one that killed more than 300 people in December, a rights group said.

The Ugandan rebel group has killed and abducted people on a regular basis for the last 23 years, from Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch noted in a report.