Congo. By the November 2011 presidential and
parliamentary elections, President Joseph Kabila had
consolidated his hold on power. But the election had been
bordered by accusations of cheating and other
irregularities. In addition, the Independent National
Electoral Commission (CENI) first presented the formal
election results on February 1, 2012. CENI then confirmed
that Kabila had won the presidential election with close to
49% of the vote before Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the
Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), which
received just over 32%. In the parliamentary elections, the
parties supporting Kabila's own majority in the National
Assembly, but the president's own party, the People's Party
for Reconciliation and Development (PPRD), received only 63
seats, 48 fewer than in 2006. According to
countryaah, the UDPS became the largest
opposition party with 41 seats. 17 mandates could not be
added due to accusations of violence and cheating.
Tshisekedi, who had been placed under house arrest after the
election, urged his party mates to boycott the work of the
National Assembly, but all but three UDPS members took their
seats. According to a UN report in March, forces loyal to
President Kabila had killed at least thirty people in
Kinshasa around the 2011 election.
A difficult blow for President Kabila was when his
closest adviser, Augustin Katumba Mwanke, died in a plane
crash on February 12.
In the troubled eastern parts of the country, the
situation deteriorated drastically in April when several
hundred, perhaps a thousand, government soldiers deserted.
The soldiers had previously belonged to the Tutsid-dominated
rebel movement CNDP (Congrès national pour la defense du
peuple), which had been incorporated into the government
forces three years earlier. Through a peace agreement in
March 2009, their army unit was given responsibility for
North Kivu, the province where the CNDP had previously
fought the government army and shot itself at the rich
natural resources. Their leader, Bosco Ntaganda, had been
appointed general despite being called on by the
International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague since 2008
on suspicion of war crimes.
Initially, it was claimed that it was a soldier revolt
that was triggered by dissatisfaction with unpaid wages and
poor living conditions, but in May it was clear that it was
more than that. Then a new rebel group was formed, called
the Movement on March 23 (M23) after the date the 2009 peace
treaty was signed. It was speculated as to why the uprising
started right then. One reason seemed to be that the Army
unit was about to lose its strategic location by relocating
it to another province. In addition, there were signs that
the Kinshasa government was preparing to arrest Ntaganda to
bring him to trial in Rwanda's homeland.
The violence gradually increased and the M23 took control
of increasingly large areas near the border with Rwanda and
Uganda. A ceasefire announced between the government army
and the M23 in July did not last long. From April to
November, about half a million people were displaced.
Although M23 was formally led by Colonel Sultani Makenga,
most observers were convinced that it was Ntaganda who had
the highest command. In June, information leaked to the
media from the report that the United Nations Expert Group
for the Congo (Kinshasa) would submit to the Security
Council. In it, Rwanda, and even Uganda, were accused of
supporting M23. In an even more detailed report in October/
November, UN experts went even further, claiming that M23
was in principle under the command of Rwanda's defense
minister and that both Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers fought
alongside the rebels. Rwanda would also have helped M23
recruit new combatants. Both Rwanda and Uganda denied the
In November, the M23 advanced and entered Goma, the
capital of Northern Kivus, and the rebel force threatened to
continue to Kinshasa to overthrow Kabila. However, the
rebels left the city in early December, after President
Kabila and Makenga agreed on a peace plan. However, the
situation in the area remained tense. In several cities in
Northern and Southern Kivu, the people protested against the
M23, but also against Kabila and the UN force MONUSCO, which
failed to protect them.
The situation remained uncertain and M23 threatened to
resume fighting if Kabila failed to fulfill its promises or
refused to continue the negotiations. On the last day of the
year, the UN Security Council decided to impose sanctions on
several of the leaders of the M23 and the hutumilis FDLR.
According to them, they were charged with travel bans and
had their financial assets frozen.
A clear signal to suspected war criminals about what they
could expect was when the ICC sentenced Thomas Lubanga,
leader of the UPC militia, to 14 years in prison for July
having recruited and used child soldiers in the fighting in
the Ituri district in 2002–03. It was the first sentence
that the court handed down since it was established in 2002.
However, the sentence was significantly lower than many had
expected, the prosecutor had pleaded to 30 years in prison.
Another defendant, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui - also he from
Ituri - was acquitted in December, when the judges
considered that the evidence against him was insufficient.
He had been charged with ordering a massacre in the village
of Bogoro, where at least 200 people were killed in 2003.
Doctor Denis Mukwege, who has become known around the
world for his work in helping Congolese rape victims, was
subjected to a murder trial in October in the city of
Bukavu. He survived, but one of his employees was killed.