DR Congo army says rebel group ‘annihilated’ in restive east

This photo taken on July 8, 2012, shows Col. Sultani Makenga (R), head of the rebel M23 group, followed by soldiers and walking in Bunagana, a town near the Ugandan border. The United States ordered sanctions on Sultani Makenga, the head of the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on November 13, 2012, for his role in atrocities in the country. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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DR Congo army says rebel group ‘annihilated’ in restive east

BUKAVU, DR Congo: DR Congo’s army claimed Friday to have “annihilated” a rebel group in the country’s chronically troubled east, killing at least 48 insurgents, capturing 150 others and winning back key territory.
The offensive against forces loyal to William Amuri Yakutumba, a deserter fighting President Joseph Kabila, saw thousands of Congolese crossing Lake Tanganyika into Burundi as clashes raged between government forces and Yakutumba rebels in the eastern province of South Kivu.
“The operation was a success, the rebels have been annihilated. There is no more fighting and we are in the midst of cleaning up operations,” said army spokesman Major Louis-Claude Tshiwanga.
He said since the launch of the operation on January 21, “48 Yakutumba have been killed and 150 captured.”
The army paraded the captured rebels as well as cannons and machine guns seized during a press conference on Thursday in the town of Uvira.
The Yakutumba attacked Uvira at the end of September in a naval operation before being pushed back from the area by MONUSCO, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The army spokesman said people were slowly returning to the town.
Security sources said the rebel chief had not been captured but could have been wounded in fighting last week.
But the UN radio Okapi, citing General Philomen Yav who was in charge of the offensive, said 83 rebels and six government soldiers had died in the fighting.
“Almost all the territory under the control of the Yakutumba has been recovered,” the radio said.
The DR Congo government has announced it is waging “war” against two militias in the east — the Yakutumba and the Ugandan Islamist rebels of the Allied Democratic Force (ADF).
The Congolese Yakutumba are in South Kivu while the ADF are active in North Kivu.
Both regions border Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.
Rival militia groups have long held sway over large areas in the two provinces, often competing for their rich mineral resources.


Trump blames DC, as military parade plans unravel over costs

Updated 18 August 2018
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Trump blames DC, as military parade plans unravel over costs

  • Cost of parade estimated at $92 million
  • Trump said he wanted the US to have its own parade after attending Bastille Day celebrations in France last year

WASHINGTON: The cancelation of President Donald Trump’s Veterans Day parade came swiftly when senior White House and Pentagon leaders saw the estimated $92 million price tag play out in public, setting off a chaotic volley of tweets and accusations between the president and the mayor of the nation’s capital.
The drama that unfolded Thursday and Friday also highlighted, not for the first time, a disconnect between the Pentagon and the White House when it comes to turning some of Trump’s more mercurial ideas into reality.
While Defense Secretary Jim Mattis dismissed the price estimate for the parade as fiction — likening the report of it as the work of someone who had been smoking pot — Trump wasn’t denying the projected costs. He was lashing out at Washington, D.C., politicians he claimed were to blame for the sky-high price.
“When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I canceled it. Never let someone hold you up!” Trump tweeted.
He held out hope of holding the parade next year instead, and said this year he would travel to Paris for events marking the centennial of the end of fighting in World War I, which falls on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. “Now we can buy some more jet fighters!” he added.
Despite Trump blaming municipal authorities for the high estimate, the bulk of the cost was the $50 million Pentagon portion that would cover military aircraft, equipment, personnel and other support. The remaining $42 million would cover costs borne by the city and other agencies and largely involved security costs.
The Republican president’s finger-pointing set off a social media spat with D.C.’s Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser. She shot back on Twitter Friday that she was the one who “finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad).”
District of Columbia officials called the price-gouging charge by Trump “patently false.” A city official said the $21.6 million estimate of the costs the city would incur was their “best stab at it,” since they did not know what the exact route would be or how long it would last. The official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said there had been little interaction with the Pentagon and few details provided.
Trump decided he wanted a military parade in Washington after he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in the center of Paris last year. Several months later Trump praised the French parade, saying, “We’re going to have to try and top it.”
It was a demand that drew criticism not just from Trump’s political opponents but some Republicans too. As the Pentagon began planning for the US version, the cost became a politically charged issue — as did the prospect of streets in the nation’s capital being churned up by tank treads.
According to officials familiar with the unfolding events, senior Pentagon leaders were briefed Wednesday about the parade costs. But officials said the estimates were still preliminary and so were not submitted to Mattis or Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings and conversations.
When details came out publicly Thursday, senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, were angry about the $92 million amount, which was more than triple early estimates of $10 million to $30 million by the White House budget director. It’s not clear when Trump was told, but the order to cancel the parade came quickly and was made by the end of the work day. The Pentagon announced the decision just before 8 p.m.
Throughout the day, multiple US officials had confirmed the $92 million estimate that was put together by the interagency parade planning group. And Pentagon officials did not push back or at any point suggest the reporting was wrong.
Still, when asked about the price Thursday evening, Mattis excoriated the media and said he had seen no such estimate.
“I’m not dignifying that number ($92 million) with a reply. I would discount that, and anybody who said (that number), I’ll almost guarantee you one thing: They probably said, ‘I need to stay anonymous.’ No kidding, because you look like an idiot. And No. 2, whoever wrote it needs to get better sources. I’ll just leave it at that,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him.
He said that whoever leaked the number to the press was “probably smoking something that is legal in my state but not in most” — a reference to his home state of Washington, where marijuana use is legal.
Mattis’ comments came hours after the estimate was made public, and not long after the cancelation decision was made — giving his staff plenty of time to ensure he was made aware of the planning estimate’s accuracy.
One reason for the political sensitivity was that Trump himself had boasted that the cancelation of a major military exercise with South Korea amid easing tensions with North Korea would save the US “a tremendous amount of money.” The Pentagon later said the Korea drills, which typically take place every August, would have cost $14 million — an amount dwarfed by the estimated cost of the parade.
The cancelation of those drills, like Trump’s demand for a parade, initially caught the Defense Department unawares. Mattis was also widely viewed as being unenthusiastic about the president’s plans to set up a Space Force as a new branch of the military — but as in the other cases, he has toed the line of the commander in chief.
The parade was expected to include troops from all five armed services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — as well as units in period uniforms representing earlier times in the nation’s history. It also was expected to involve a number of military aircraft flyovers, which can carry significant costs in personnel, aircraft and support.
A Pentagon planning memo released in March said the parade would feature a “heavy air component,” likely including older, vintage aircraft. It also said there would be “wheeled vehicles only, no tanks — consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure.” Big, heavy tanks could tear up streets in the District of Columbia.