Congo: Suspect arrested in deaths of 2 UN investigators

A civilian talks to peacekeepers serving in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrolling in the Limete Municipality of the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, in this April 10, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 April 2017

Congo: Suspect arrested in deaths of 2 UN investigators

KINSHASA: A suspect has been arrested in connection with the deaths of an American and a Swedish investigator for the UN and their interpreter, but another suspect has escaped, a Congolese military official said Friday.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Ponde Isambwa said four police officers who held the suspects have been brought in for questioning.
The bodies of American Michael Sharp, Swedish national Zaida Catalan and interpreter Betu Tshintela were found late last month in a shallow grave in Congo’s Central Kasai province.
They had been looking into alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups. Three other local members of their team remain missing.
Their deaths raised an outcry, with Sweden opening a murder investigation and Congo’s President Joseph Kabila vowing punishment for those responsible.
It was the first recorded disappearance of international workers in the once-calm Kasai provinces, where at least 400 civilians have been killed since August amid a rebellion loyal to former traditional leader Kamwina Nsapu. The UN has said 23 mass graves have been found in the region, and at least 434,000 people have been displaced.
“Anyone who has information in connection with the serious acts committed in the greater Kasai is asked to come forward with it,” said Ponde, adding that everything is being done to protect those who might be in danger.
The prosecutor of the International Criminal court has said the killing of the UN investigators and other violence in Congo could be crimes under her court’s jurisdiction.


‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

Updated 45 min 20 sec ago

‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

SYDNEY: China’s financial largesse in the Pacific carries “clear risks” for stability if left unchecked, a Sydney think tank warned, while saying allegations of “debt-trap” diplomacy are so far overblown.
In a study released Monday, the influential Lowy Institute warned that fragile Pacific nations risked borrowing too much and leaving themselves exposed to demands from Beijing.
China has repeatedly been accused of offering lucrative but unserviceable loans to gain leverage or snap up strategically vital assets like ports, airports, or electricity providers.
While Lowy said allegations that China was engaged in “debt-trap” diplomacy in the Pacific were overblown, the trend was not positive and countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were dangerously exposed.
Between 2011 and 2018, China committed loans to the region worth $6 billion — around 21 percent of regional GDP.
A majority of that money, $4.1 billion, was earmarked for Papua New Guinea.
Only a fraction, less than $1 billion, has so far been dispersed but China is still the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
“The sheer scale of Chinese lending and the lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries mean a continuation of business as usual would pose clear risks,” the report said.
The South Pacific has become a forum for intense competition for influence between China, the United States, and Australia in recent years.
The island nations sit on a vital shipping crossroad, contain vast reserves of fish stocks, and provide a potential base for leading militaries to project power well beyond their borders.
Beijing has stepped up engagement in the region through a series of high profile visits and no-conditions lending via its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently announced they would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing after a long courtship by the country’s Communist leaders.
Six Pacific governments are currently debtors to Beijing — the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Lowy said many of China’s loans carry a modest two percent annual interest rate.
But it warned that China would need to adopt formal lending rules if loans were to be made sustainable as natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can quickly upend countries’ ability to pay back loans.
“Three small Pacific economies — Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu — also appear to be among those most heavily indebted to China anywhere in the world,” it said.