Sunday, February 8, 2015

DRC: Mobile Phone Service Providers Restore SMS & Mobile Internet But Continue To Block Facebook & Twitter

Major telephone service providers in the Democratic Republic of Congo--including TIGO, VODACOM, and ORANGE--announced with much fanfare at the week's end they'd be restoring SMS and Mobile Internet services, blocked at the request of government since the riots of January 19, respectively on February 7 and 8.

There was a caveat that these phone service providers failed to mention to their customers: social media--Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube--would continue to be blocked.

These companies ought to come clean and confess to their outraged customers that they're continuing to be coerced by the government to infringe on users and citizens' rights to free access to information and the Internet.

The sooner they'd do this the better, or else they'd be seen as willing participants in the outrageous censorship of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube on Mobile Internet. 

At least one  of those phone service providers, ORANGE, in which the French government owns controlling shares, is known to have aided and abetted Internet censorship in Ethiopia in 2012 by deploying Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of all Internet traffic in that country. (See my post of June 11, 2012:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kinshasa: Goofing Museveni opens 17th COMESA With Gay Antijokes Amid Guffaws

PHOTO: Outgoing COMESA chairman Yoweri Museveni hands over the organization's flag to incoming chair Joseph Kabila


That Africa is segueing backwards into the 21th century was evident this mid-morning in Kinshasa when Uganda's homophobic president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, right at midpoint in his opening keynote address as outgoing chair of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), chose to tell an insipidly unfunny gay joke.

After, among other things, bemoaning the fact that despite COMESA, trade between members was still negligible; priding his chairmanship for insisting on regional programs to boost infrastructure; and boasting about the anti-imperial stance of Uganda in forcing oil companies to build refineries in his country; Museveni, in a goofing mood, then expressed the wish that in the upcoming encounters between COMESA and American, western and other Africa's global partners--though the continent wouldn't necessarily see eye-to-eye on many issues with those stakeholders--there will still be areas of common interest, as in the development of infrastructure and energy. 

For, Museveni went on to add with mirth, even Africa's western partners would agree that homosexuals need electricity too!

By the way, I was watching the event unfolds live on TV; I still need to read the actual transcript of the speech. Though it seemed that Museveni had ad-libbed this gay joke, he had to repeat the sentence after he was interrupted by cheerful guffaws from many among audience members for whom gay-bashing sallies are part of benign inside jokes.

For some of us watching on TV, however, this wasn't a joke; it was a cruel antijoke!


PHOTO CREDITS: Photo by John Bompengo via

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kinshasa: MP Martin Fayulu's Crusade against Electoral Commission Chair Apollinaire Malumalu

PHOTO 1: MP Martin Fayulu, chairman of the political party ECiDé (Engagement pour la Citoyenneté et le Développement)


PHOTO 2: Fr. Apollinaire Malumalu, Chair of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI)

Yesterday in the early afternoon, at the populous Kinshasa square of "Rond-Point Ngaba," MP Martin Fayulu, the head of ECiDé,  and some of his party activists donning white bibs with "Sauvons la RDC" (Let's Save the DRC) painted in blue letters on them were nabbed by cops as they were calling on citizens to sign their petition to oust the chairman of CENI, Fr. Apollinaire Malumalu.

(The political platform "Sauvons la RDC" was launched in Kinshasa by Fayulu and Vital Kamerhe on November 18, 2013 with the outlandish goal of being the "policeman of the democratization process in the DRC.")

The group was detained before being released in the evening, with the ever-defiant Kinshasa lawmaker vowing "to continue to have the petition signed." 

This wasn't the first time that activists of the platform "Sauvons la RDC" have been arrested lately in Kinshasa squares for garnering citizens' signatures for their anti-Malumalu petition. 

On February 18, the platform activists were arrested at Kintambo/Magasin square and the documents bearing the 600 signatures on their petition secured that day confiscated.

No one knows what MP Fayulu is planning on achieving with his petition to force Malumalu out.

As a matter-of-fact, on the subject of petitions, the Constitution is vague, stating in its Article 27:

"All Congolese have the right, individually or collectively, to submit a petition to the public authority which responds to it within three months.

"No one may be subject to discrimination in any form whatsoever for having taken such an initiative."

Besides, the Constitution doesn't spell out to which  "public authority" one is supposed to take their petition. Nor is there a threshold at which a response is mandated from the unnamed "public authority."

That's why some people are calling Fayulu's anti-Malumalu petition drive a frivolous stunt or an outright fool's errand. Others are advising that Fayulu takes his quest directly to the National Assembly, the body to which he's a member and which can impeach Malumalu.

In any event, Fayulu launched his fierce campaign against Malumalu shortly after January 31, the date on which the CENI chair went to the National Assembly to deliver his "election roadmap" of the electoral cycle 2013-2016--a roadmap which is not to be confused with an "election calendar," as he now keeps insisting.

(MP Fayulu and other opposition leaders walked out of the National Assembly hemicycle when Malumalu was presenting his election roadmap.)

Malumalu's roadmap included the following two controversial "hypotheses" whose adoption would require amending some provisions of the Constitution:

1) Given financial constraints and the electoral backlog at the level of municipal and local elected offices dating as far back as 2006, Malumalu proposed that direct suffrage be held for municipal and local elections (2014-2015). Then afterward indirect suffrage could be organized for the election of provincial deputies, senators, communal burgomasters, governors, mayors and city councillors. After which, direct suffrage will then be held for legislative and presidential elections in 2016.

2) Hold direct suffrage elections of provincial deputies, national MPs, and president of the republic in 2016. Then, in 2017, organize indirect suffrage to elect senators, governors, and lieutenant-governors.
It's somewhat strange that Fayulu is opposing local elections on the grounds that they would exacerbate communal and ethnic tensions!
It's also certain that in the quite unlikely event of Malumalu's impeachment, any other person who'd be designated by the pro-Kabila majority in parliament to chair CENI will be preemptively accused of rigging.
Fayulu has just done that with his petition. On Twitter, he also accused Malumalu of nefarious intentions when the latter appointed his cabinet members.
@MartinFayulu tweeted in French on February 8:
"Mr. Malumalu has appointed his cronies at the helm of the national executive secretariat of the electoral commission (...) to gear up for fraud."
Nothing new here, after all, DRC politics is often fraught with insults, slanders, libelous imputations... and stubborn refusals to accept election results!
PHOTO CREDITS: Photos 1 & 2 by John Bompengo via

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DRC: Season of Treason And Uncertainties Within Kabila's Camp

(PHOTO: Albert Yuma Mulimbi, Chair of DRC Chamber of Commerce, CEO of state mining giant GECAMINES, and chief auditor of the Central Bank)


This year seems to have opened yet another long season of the seemingly never-ending political uncertainties in the DRC--though this season is peculiar in that much of the bigger uncertainties are coming from within the very own camp of President Joseph Kabila.

To be sure, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the still pending so-called "national cohesion government" that was slated to come out of the much-vaunted "National Consultations"--which were boycotted by a number of opposition parties, including Etienne Tshisekedi's "Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social" (UDPS), Vital Kamerhe's "Union pour la Nation Congolaise" (UNC), and MP Martin Fayulu's "Engagement pour la Citoyenneté et le Développement" (ECiDé).

But some other opposition elements saw those national consultations as a springboard for political rebirth and were consequently accused by radical oppositionists as opportunists scrambling for personal financial gains.

Especially, these critics were quick to point out, as the siren call was sounded by none other than Senate President and National Consultations Presidium co-chair, Sen. Léon Kengo wa Dondo himself--a political master contortionist who'd bent himself in every conceivable position from the dawn of his political career in the heyday of the Mobutu dictatorship down to his very enviable current position in the Kabila regime.

Last year, even before the opening of the National Consultations, Kengo had assured hungry sharks waiting in the wings in the opposition and in front of cameras of the national television that a new government of "national cohesion" would necessarily issue from those proceedings.

In the meantime, a very embarrassed MP Fayulu, a hardline contradictor of the regime and an ally of Vital Kamerhe, took the extraordinary step of suspending from ECiDé one of its rising stars, Serge Welo, who'd turned up without his party's credentials at the National Consultations as the self-appointed "representative of the diaspora." 

And lately while Fayulu has been undertaking the lame crusade to garner citizens' signatures for a petition to oust Apollinaire Malumalu from the chairmanship of the national electoral commission, Kamerhe on his part has embarked on a likewise fruitless solo off-season electioneering in the Kivu.

Much lot of good both ventures have done them! Both men are instead seen as self-serving pols and the faction of the opposition they represent as listless.

Running true to form, however, Sen. Kengo has just came out this Wednesday, February 19 with a mega political platform called "Opposition Républicaine" (OR) corralling more than 30 opposition political parties--a feat that makes some pundits wager he may be either the next Prime Minister or at the very least the "informateur" or headhunter of the upcoming cabinet.

So forget the antics of drama-queen Kamerhe! The most interesting thing to watch these days is the deadly no-holds-barred power struggle being played out within Kabila's Majorité Présidentielle (MP).

On Thursday, January 30, 2014 this bloody fratricidal power struggle that was being waged behind closed doors broke out in the open at the Grand Hotel in Kinshasa. But prior to that date, there was the ever widening rift between Prime Minister Matata Ponyo--hated within the MP for allegedly effectively plugging money leaks--and Deputy PM and Budget Minister Daniel Mukoko Samba.

Anyway, the frontal attack against PM Matata was unleashed in the evening of January 30 at Kinshasa Grand Hotel by Albert Yuma, the influential president of Fédération des Entreprises du Congo (FEC), the national Chamber of Commerce; CEO of the mining giant GECAMINES; and a pro-Kabila stalwart. 

Taking advantage of his speech at the traditional Christmas and New Year greetings to business operators and to the Congolese people, with Mukoko Samba in attendance, Yuma blasted the economic program of Matata--accusing the prime minister of managing the country "like a neighborhood drugstore."

Yuma then went on to deliver a blistering anaphora worthy of some of the great oratorial moments of François Hollande, who relishes this rhetorical device:

"As for the profiles of the candidates for the upcoming government, the FEC expects that they be women and men who share the vision of the President of the Republic of never betraying the Congo and whose loyalty toward the country and its leader won't be circumstantial; women and men who will be vectors of national unity and concord and not of exclusion and sectarianism; women and men who will ensure that the state is managed in an impartial and impersonal fashion; women and men competent in the fields they will be performing in, on the basis of verifiably successful past experience, and who will be accountable of their achievement; women and men who will be aware that entering into government is a sacrifice, and why not a priesthood in the service of other people, underpinned by flawless morality; women and men who will come out indiscriminately from all the provinces of the country, with the common goal of teamwork in order to address the challenge of self-reliant development of the DRC with a bold prospective vision; finally, women and men who, everyday, as they carry out their duties, will have in mind the motto of the country: Justice-Peace-Work."

Wow! Impressive piece of rhetoric Yuma delivered there--but it is just that: empty rhetoric!

In fact, the brilliant piece of oratory proffered by Yuma sounds eerie and creepy if you read it against the background of instances of his malevolent governance at the helm of GECAMINES, as documented by Global Witness.

For instance, on October 18, 2013, Global Witness published a press release titled "Secretive plans to sell a lucrative Congolese mining asset raise further Congo corruption concerns."

From the press release:

"New reports indicate that the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned mining company, Gécamines, is in an advanced stage of negotiations to sell its stake in a lucrative copper mine without informing the Congolese Ministry of Mines. If true, this would follow a pattern of opaque deals in Congo mining sector giving rise to concerns about poor value for money and possible corruption, said Global Witness today.

Bloomberg has reported on the potential deal today involving the transfer of ownership of 20% of Kamoto Copper Co (KCC), which is set to become the country’s top producing copper mine next year.  Bloomberg cited evidence that the Ministry of Mines had not been informed of the sale."


In other words, Yuma needs to first clean his own house (and act) before accusing others!


PHOTO CREDITS: Photo by Baudouin Muanda,

Friday, February 7, 2014

DRC: 1) Tshisekedi scraps trip to the US & 2) MP Wivine MoleKa v Vital Kamerhe Case

(PHOTO: MP Wivine Moleka, Vital Kamerhe's erstwhile buddy turned foe)


1) Tshisekedi scraps trip to the US 

Radio-Trottoir has downgraded "President" Etienne Tshisekedi from mercurial maverick to shameless liar. 

And people are wondering why the one his supporters have nicknamed the Sphinx doesn't live up by his moniker and not bother anyone any longer with his serialized empty party communiqués.

The case in point is his trip to the US, billed by his press release as a "prayer and work visit" in the US, but which has now turned out to be an abortive attendance at the 62nd National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington on Thursday, February 5.

No one knows who might have invited Tshisekedi at the event and why he'd chosen to cancel the trip and to send instead Albert Moleka, his chief of staff.

Why Tshisekedi chose to publicize his trip in the media in the first place is anyone's guess.


2) MP Wivine Moleka v Vital Kamerhe Case

The prosecutor in the MP Wivine Moleka v Vital Kamerhe case requested a prison term of three years for defendant Kamerhe in his closing statement on Tuesday, February 4. The court has taken the prosecutor's request under advisement and will issue its final ruling shortly.

Kamerhe ripped the prosecutor's closing statement and said he was quite "surprised" by the needless "politization" of the case while an out-of-court amicable settlement, proposed by MP Moleka was agreed upon by the parties and a sum of $7,000 paid to the accuser.

The politization, according to Kamerhe, is designed to sideline him in the presidential election of 2016.

But Moleka's lawyer, Gérard Ledi Mukoko, at a presser held two days earlier, claimed the monetary compensation isn't enough. He insisted that anything short of a public apology "through the same venues" Kamerhe used to libel MP Moleka won't do.

I had occasion to comment on the long-drawn judicial battle pitting Vital Kamerhe against pro-Kabila MP Wivine Moleka (the sister of Tshisekedi's chief of staff, Albert Moleka) on this blog in 2012 here:


But to sum up:

In the throes of the contentious general elections of November 28, 2011, presidential contender Vital Kamerhe, in order to illustrate what he claimed to be the massive vote rigging orchestrated by the Kabila camp, gave the example of his own erstwhile buddy and political ally, MP Wivine Moleka, who was running on the list of Kabila's PPRD party in in the Lukunga constituency of Kinshasa.

Not content with publicly accusing Moleka on national television of vote rigging and voters intimidation in the Mbudi precinct of Kinshasa, Kamerhe then reiterated his unsubstantiated charges in a damning letter sent to a slew of diplomats accredited to Kinshasa as well as to local and international media.

Kamerhe's letter stated in part:

"At Mbudi, a Kinshasa suburb in the Mont-Ngafula Commune, with an escort of cops carrying ballot boxes crammed with ballot sheets, Honorable Moleka showed up with a large sum of money she then proceeded to distribute to election officials. Outraged, the population chased her down and her bodyguards reacted by firing in the air to disperse witnesses. Consequently, the population decided not to vote and voting stations were shuttered."

Now, as it turned out, MP Moleka, who was tailed by the media all day long on election day, was nowhere near the Mbudi precinct.

Still, Kamerhe's refusing to apologize and is even daring the court to throw him in jail.


PHOTO CREDITS: via Facebook page of Wivine Moleka

Friday, January 31, 2014

DRC opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi to embark on a fortnight "prayer visit" in Washington

(PHOTO: Etienne Tshisekedi and wife Maman Marthe Kasalu stumping at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa, Tuesday August 9, 2011)


Kinshasa daily tabloid La Prospérité published today a press release issued on January 30 by Joseph Kapika, UDPS spokesman, announcing that opposition leader and self-proclaimed DRC president Etienne Tshisekedi is about to embark on a fortnight private "prayer and work visit" to Washington, DC.

The press release doesn't mention the names of those who've extended the invitation to the eighty-one-year-old mercurial pol, the tabloid notes.

The press release states that:

"The President and the retinue that accompanies him will leave Kinshasa on Sunday, February 2, 2014 aboard a regularly scheduled commercial flight of Air France. The delegation will depart from the French capital on Monday, February 3, to Washington where it will arrive on Tuesday, February 4." 

Tshisekedi's "retinue" includes his wife and longtime aide Marthe Kasalu and Albert Moleka, his chief of staff.

The tabloid also notes that the return of Tshisekedi in Kinshasa on February 16 coincides with the anniversary of the 1992 Christians' demo violently broken up by 

Mobutu's security forces.

In Kinshasa, the anniversary has since turned into a flashpoint of violent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations by opposition and pro-regime supporters with heavy-handed interventions by riot cops.


PHOTO CREDITS: Photo by John Bompengo via

Monday, January 20, 2014

FARDC Launches Operation Sukola Against ADF/NALU Amid Dismal Morale

(PHOTO: President Joseph Kabila, middle, with Gen. Didier Etumba, left, and Col. Mamadou Ndala, far right, in Goma on November 30, 2013)


After Operation "Pomme Orange" (Pink Apple) to root out M23 insurgents (October 25-November 10, 2013), the FARDC have just launched this past January 16 Operation "Sukola"--Lingala for "mop up"--against the Ugandan Muslim rebels of ADF/NALU (Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda).

There's however a huge chasm between the two operations.

By the end of Operation Pomme Orange, morale was high among FARDC troops and among the rest of Congolese citizens who were all surfing the towering waves of Col. Mamadou Ndala's season of strange military victories.

But that was then... 

In the intervening period, Col. Ndala, who'd gone to the Beni area in preparation of Operation Sukola now underway, was murdered in an ambush that has since turned out to be an FARDC inside job, triggering wild rumors and sending the country's morale tumbling down in free fall.

Another morale-deflating cause in Congolese citizens is that the investigation into the murder of Col. Ndala is shrouded in secrecy and, as Radio-Trottoir has it, might end up being botched (un)intentionally.

This opacity in turn fans swirling rumors about sightings of one of the alleged main suspects in the murder of Col. Ndala, Gen. Moundos, freely walking in Beni streets or hopping Kinshasa "ngandas" (sidewalk bars).

As Operation Sukola was starting, an outrageous rumor stormed the country alleging that it was an operation jointly mounted by the FARDC and the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF).

Given the unpopularity of Yoweri Museveni among Congolese who blame him and his Rwandan counterpart for hatching M23 and Congo's other real and imagined woes, the DRC government scrambled to forcefully dispel the notion of a Ugandan participation in Operation Sukola.

Thus, at the very beginning of the press briefing held Saturday January 18 at Beni to unveil Operation Sukola, Brig. Gen. Léon Richard Kasonga Tshibangu, FARDC spokesman, had to dismiss the damning rumor:

"There has never ever been any joint operations of the Congolese army and that of Uganda against ADF/NALU."

Another worrying rumor was the alleged conspicuous absence of MONUSCO's Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) from the Beni theater of operations.

MONUSCO military Spokesman Col. Félix Basse attempted last week with limited success to dispel that rumor by insisting that the UN Mission is indeed providing critical logistical and intelligence-gathering supports to the FARDC.

"We've deployed Force Intervention Brigade troops," Col. Basse told the press last Saturday, "with the aim of protecting civilians, and above all, of providing support to the offensive of government troops for achieving objectives determined by the FARDC."


"MONUSCO is on the ground with Force Intervention Brigade, but also with [MONUSCO] North-Kivu brigade and the Nepalese battalion that is deployed north of North-Kivu."

But still people don't see MONUSCO gunships pounding ADF/NALU positions.

The FARDC have already seized from the ADF/NALU a dozen hamlets and villages the Ugandan rebels had occupied--including their stronghold of Mamundioma, about 45 Km northeast of Beni. 

Close to the theater, there's another rumor spreading of ADF/NAFU simply drawing back from the area and moving northwestward to Orientale Province.

A rumor Brig. Gen. Kasonga also tackled squarely:

"In the event they'd attempt to move to another province, the security mechanism we've put in place would automatically function, for our mission this time is to completely neutralize armed groups."

Despite the stated ambition ("to neutralize all armed groups"), breath (North- and South-Kivu provinces), and the early successes of Operation Sukola, the morale of the Congolese continues to be in dismal shape as if the death of one citizen--Col. Ndala--had broken the spirit of an entire nation.


PHOTO CREDITS: via Twitter @magloirepaluku