Friday, January 24, 2014

DR Congo: "And I don't give a damn for the Fleet Street aficionados. "

Reporters sans Frontières (Paris) Reports


                                                         Colonel Mamadou Ndala

Reporters Without Borders condemns attempts by military and civilian officials in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu to prevent journalists from covering the spectacular murder of an army colonel, Mamadou Ndala, in an ambush near the city of Beni on 2 January.
Several journalists in Beni and the neighbouring Butembo region have been the targets of intimidation attempts in the course of trying to report on the murder.
There are a huge number of question marks over Colonel Ndala's death. Officially it was the result of an ADF ( Allied Democratic Forces ) ambush ( Ugandan Muslim rebels). Goma journalist and blogger Chantal Faida blogs: 

" Since then, this term refers to the traitors working inside for the enemy. Their modus operandi is known: espionage, propaganda, destabilization attempts and attacks. The eastern DR Congo is plagued by repeated wars. It is strangled by armed groups, the main ones: M23 (folded in Uganda), FDLR, ADF / NALU and nebulous "MAIMAI" These are the four groups mentioned columns. And the fifth is within the regular army. If this were not the case, why the general Olenga he speaks often of the "purification" of the troops?Some cases of unsolved murders corroborate this theory of the existence of the "fifth column" within the FARDC."

Chantal is a very sensible commentator and I suggest if she is asking questions alongside Reporters without Borders then FARDC has a major problem developing. Did elements of the Congolese Army kill Colonel Ndala ?

“We condemn the threats that civilian and military officials have made against journalists covering Col. Ndala’s murder and the ongoing investigation,” Reporters Without Borders said.
This time last year I would have and did described FARDC as bunch of thieves and rapists. That changed during the course of last year and we started to see the emergence of a professional military. Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa blogs:   

" In addition, the army is now giving more prominence to the commando battalions, the 321 and 322 trained by the Belgians (a third is currently being trained in Kindu), the 391 trained by the Americans, and one by the Chinese (on the northern front line in Tongo). During the operations last year, these battalions had been mismanaged by the military hierarchy, which dismantled them, sent them to areas where there was little to do, and "sabotaged them by sending them into battle without supplies or knowledge of the terrain," according to one Belgian trainer."

In other words this is a huge step backwards on the part of FARDC.

“The media must be allowed to do investigative reporting and to talk freely about this case without being constantly harassed. Censuring the media’s coverage of this murder just draws attention to the behind-the-scenes rivalries that are affecting the investigation.”
Stearns concludes:
" Of course, the problems of the Congolese army are far from over. As argued here before, the real challenge of army reform lies in tackling the culture of patronage, racketeering and impunity that undermines military discipline and any sense of hierarchy in the armed forces."
Reporters Without Borders added: “We urge the military high command to order their officers to stop this intimidation and we call on the civilian authorities to formally tell the media that they can safely talk about Col. Ndala’s murder, because this information is in the public interest.”
That is a huge understatement. FARDC along with MONUSCO and its offshoot the Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade are tasked with cleaning out the rebels holed up in the East and if FARDC have personnel that are not signed up to this objective then they should be dismissed. Keeping the Eastern DR Congo public and the International Community ( who are funding these operations ) informed of progress and setbacks is an obligation FARDC can't just ignore as inconvenient.

Col. Olivier Amuli, the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) in Nord-Kivu, publicly threatened two journalists – Austere Malivika of Voice of America and Keny Katombe of Reuters – on 15 January.
What a bloody moron. Again from Jason Stearns:

" Both sources agreed that the departure of dozens of senior officers to Kinshasa––where around 120 officers have been sitting around in hotels in January, ostensibly for training seminars, but in reality awaiting redeployment––helped, as well. "These officers had been embezzling funds and running parallel chains of command. Their departure has simplified the military hierarchy." The Congolese intelligence officer argued: "Some of these people had been in collaboration with our enemies. Getting them out of here helped."

He accused them of “sticking their noses into the army’s business,” in particular, trying to cover the army’s operations against the ADF/NALU Ugandan rebels. And he threatened them with the same fate as journalists in other parts of Africa such as Moussa Kaka (imprisoned in Niger) or Ghislaine Dupont and Jean Hélène (murdered in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire respectively).
Colonel Oliver Amuli should be sacked.
This public threat followed several attempts by Col. Amuli to intimidate them by phone, especially as regards video footage that was filmed a few minutes after the attack on Col. Ndala’s convoy, which Amuli wanted to prohibit.
I have watched that footage and I can't see anything in it that would materially hurt the reputation of FARDC. Colonel Amuli on the other hand has damaged the reputation of FARDC beyond belief with his threats to kill journalists. Not only that but Voice of America and Reuters, the man is fool.

When reached by Reporters Without Borders, the FARDC spokesman for the 8th military region denied that any journalists had been threatened and insisted that the armed forces had a “good partnership” with the media.
I don't believe FARDC. 

Beni’s local media has also been affected by the censorship. Col. Dieudonné Muhima asked Beni’s mayor to prevent local reporters from meddling in the case.
Colonel Dieudonné sounds like he is putting his hand up for dismissal as well. FARDC needs to clean up this mess and clean out the dead wood.

On 7 January, Nord-Kivu governor Julien Paluku Kahongya asked the region’s journalists not to cover Col. Ndala’s murder because this was “obstructing the investigation.” He reversed his position at a news conference two days later, after talking to Reporters Without Borders.
Yes...“obstructing the investigation.” , sounds more like compromising the cover up.

Members of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) threatened freelance reporter Alain Wandimoyi and Agence France-Presse stringer Albert Kambale in Butembo on 4 January, accusing them of knowing too much about Col. Ndala’s death and insisting that they surrender the material they had gathered on the case.
You fight bad information with good information as a certain New Zealand blogger often points out. He is right. Suppressing information has only increased speculation and death  threats aimed at journalists attempts to confiscate information, instructing civil authorities to become involved in the cover up is batshit crazy.

Col. Ndala, who headed the 42nd Battalion’s Rapid Reaction Unit, has been posthumously promoted to brigadier-general. The exact circumstances of his death and the identity of those responsible have not yet been established.
The question is will they ever be established, one has to wonder why FARDC are covering up this. If there is a fifth column operating in the army the arrest the pricks and make it it clear that treason will not be tolerated but do it publically.   
He was combatting the ADF/NALU Ugandan rebels at the time of his death and was very popular with the region’s media because he was always very open and ready to talk to them.
Which of course makes the colonels clowns mentioned above look even more stupid and unprofessional.

Democratic Republic of Congo is ranked 142nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
I suspect that will decline as a result of this fiasco.

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