Congo Watch: May 2005

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

DRC: Women take brunt of human rights abuse: Amnesty

In no way do I see myself as a feminist but I do feel strongly that women should be in charge of African countries for a change. To nurture peace and help heal. Africa needs mothering. By great innovative women such as:

Wangari Maathai in Kenya
Gertrude Mongella in Tanzania
Winnie Byanyima in Uganda

Last year, Bishop Desmond Tutu said women should rule the world. Media baron Ted Turner said men have made such a mess of things, women should rule for 100 years. Note AFPs report on the latest from London-based Amnesty International. Here is a copy:

Women and girls faced "horrific" levels of abuse in 2004 worldwide, Amnesty International said in its annual human rights review, blaming widespread rape and violence on a mix of "indifference, apathy and impunity".

From honour killings carried out by the victims' families to sexual violence used as a weapon of war, abuse frequently went unpunished and survivors were often abandoned by their own communities, the London-based group said.

Amnesty said it had sought in the past year to argue that violence against women in conflict situations was "an extreme manifestation of the discrimination and abuse they face in peacetime", notably domestic violence and sexual abuse.

"When political tensions degenerate into outright conflict, all forms of violence increase, including rape and other forms of sexual violence against women."

The annual report, covering 131 countries, noted abuse across the world but highlighted several grave examples: in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), both armed groups and UN forces are guilty of rape; in Turkey, family abuse of women is widespread; in Darfur, Sudan, gang rape is systemic; and in eastern Europe, economic need fuels the trafficking of women.

In Darfur, where a local rebellion sparked a brutal government backlash, Khartoum-backed militias have staged mass rapes, including of schoolgirls, and "frequently abducted" local women into sexual slavery, Amnesty said.

Tens of thousands of women and girls were also subject to rape and sexual slavery in the DRC, and as in Darfur, victims were often then abandoned by their husbands and families, "condemning them and their children to extreme poverty".

All parties in the ongoing conflicts in the eastern DRC have committed the abuses against women, including military and police officers, and United Nations peacekeepers charged with the protection of civilians.

The two African cases were "not exceptional", Amnesty warned.

Latin America had the highest risk of all types of sexual victimisation, according to UN report findings cited by Amnesty.

In Colombia, the group said, security forces, left-wing rebels and paramilitaries targeted women and girls to "sow terror, wreak revenge on adversaries and accumulate 'trophies of war'."

In Turkey, between one-third and one-half of all women are estimated to be victims of physical violence by their families - raped, beaten, murdered or forced to commit suicide - while the country sorely lacked shelters and legal protection for victims.

Amnesty noted some progress in Ankara, with legal reforms that recognised marital rape as a crime and did away with the possibility that a rapist's prison sentence could be reduced or annulled if he agreed to marry his victim. Still, authorities largely failed to investigate most women's complaints of abuse.

Serbia and Montenegro "remained a source, transit and destination country" for women and girls who were trafficked to the West into forced prostitution, while the problem existed throughout the poorer countries of Eastern Europe.

"With clients including international police and troops, the women and girls are too afraid to escape," Amnesty said. -AFP
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Quotation

"When our resources become scarce, we fight over them. In managing our resources and in sustainable development, we plant the seeds of peace."

WANGARI MAATHAI, of Kenya, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

DRC: Rwandan rebels abuse Congolese civilians - UN report

Rwandan Hutu rebels based in eastern Congo are responsible for hundreds of summary executions, rapes, beatings and hostage-taking of Congolese civilians in the territory of Walungu, South Kivu Province, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUC, said on Wednesday in a report documenting the human rights violations.

"The 1,724 accusations of abuse are essentially against two groups of Rwandan combatants," Fernando Castanon, the head of the MONUC section of human rights, said.

He said one group is the Rwandais forces democratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) while the other one, known as the Rastas, consists of Rwandan Hutus and some Congolese.

The report is based on 405 confidential interviews taken from 12 to 29 April by a multidisciplinary team from MONUC. The alleged abuses took place from June 2004 to April 2005. Full Report IRIN, 19 May 2005
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UN mediates in aftermath of conflict in Mbuji-Mayi

The UN is mediating among political parties in Mbuji-Mayi, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kasai Oriental Province, following last week's violence.

The UN Mission in the country, known as MONUC, sent additional peacekeepers to the city on Friday to beef up security.

"MONUC finds it necessary to have a stronger presence to help diffuse this crisis as well as to ensure against similar crises in the future," Mamady Kouyate, the head of the mediation effort for MONUC, told IRIN on Monday.

Violent demonstrations last week left at least two people dead and 12 others wounded. The offices of all the main political parties in the province were ransacked and burned. Full Story IRIN, 24 May 2005.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Cleaning up corruption in DRC

'This is currently the most expensive UN peacekeeping operation on the globe' writes Jean-Jacques Cornish in a report at Mail & Guardian May 20, 2005.
Corruption is the biggest hurdle in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) transition to its first democratic elections since independence in 1960. The legacy of Mobutu Sese Seko, epitomising African klepto-cracy remains disturbingly alive. This is the view of several European and United Nations officials the Mail & Guardian spoke to in Kinshasa and Goma last week.
The report reveals Ondekane managed in eight months to salt away more than $10-million of money from the UN and the international donor community.

It also says Britain is standing by to contribute to the reintegration process, but is waiting to see a comprehensive plan.

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Media fast for Mojtaba

Excerpt from a post at Committee to Protect Bloggers Thursday, May 19, 2005:

The CPB is asking bloggers and other concerned people to observe next Thursday, May 26 as a Media Fast for Mojtaba.

Mojtaba Saminejad, a blogger from Iran, has declared a hunger strike. He is being held at Tehran's Gohar Dashat prison, which has a reputation for mistreatment of detainees. He is being held in the general population, the overwhelming majority of which are common criminals.

Mojtaba was arrested for reporting the earlier arrest of three of his fellow Iranian bloggers. (Iran has arrested over 20 bloggers over the last year.) Iranian bloggers who have been released have reported being the victims of torture.

Read full story at Committee to Protect Bloggers: Media fast for Mojtaba .

[via Curt with thanks] Tags:

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The future of public radio in the age of podcasting: Anybody can create their own public radio online

Note Rebecca MacKinnon's post linking to a live webcast from Harvard's Berkman Center today, May 17, 2005.

Jake Shapiro of the Public Radio Exchange will talk about the future of public radio in the age of podcasting, which enables anybody to create their own public radio online.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Open Source. It'll be a radio show. May 30, 2005

Here is a don't miss, must-do: listen to Open Source's pilot on podcasting and bloggers without borders. Hear phone interviews and discussions with Rebecca and Ethan of Global Voices, and several other bloggers, hosted by smooth (and thankfully not-so-fast) talking American Christopher Lydon at Harvad's Berkman.

See Ethan's follow-up post "On hold with Chris Lydon".

Note also GlobalCoordinate.com Geo-Community. Click on the map to zoom in. You can add your own comments, stories, or photos at any location.

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Role of Rwanda's president is questioned

See article by Jonathan Curiel, Staff Writer, San Francisco Chronicle May 15, 2005 entitled No heroes in genocide - Role of Rwanda's president is questioned.

Friday, May 13, 2005

UN soldiers attacked in DR Congo

BBC news today says the UN is trying to disarm the Ituri militias:
"Various militia groups have continuously fought over the Ituri region of the Congo, with backing from Uganda, Rwanda and the Congolese authorities in a struggle to control the gold and other minerals in the area."
Excerpt from report May 13, 2005:

Note, various militia groups have continuously fought over the Ituri region of the Congo, with backing from Uganda, Rwanda and the Congolese authorities in a struggle to control the gold and other minerals in the area. Around 50,000 people have died in the clashes in the region since 1999.

The UN mission has more than 15,000 peacekeepers in the country, but has struggled to keep a lid on violence in the east.

More than 9,000 militamen have been disarmed in Ituri under a UN programme launched in September last year and planned for completion in June.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

DRC: UN decries insecurity, malnutrition in Kasai Oriental

NAIROBI, 11 May 2005 (IRIN) - Ongoing insecurity is the cause of deteriorating levels of nutrition among people in the south-central province of Kasai Oriental in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the UN Mission there known as MONUC, reported on Monday.

"The worst famine-hit areas in the Sankuru District [in Kasai Oriental Province] include Kole, Tchumbe and Lubefu, located within the 500-km range from [the provincial capital] Mbuji-Mayi," Patrice Bogna, the information focal point for MONUC's Humanitarian Affairs Section, said in a statement detailing the mission's weekly humanitarian highlights.

The UN Word Food Programme (WFP) has not confirmed the areas as "famine-hit", but has said that several of its partners have reported high malnutrition rates in Sankuru.

WFP Information Officer Aline Samu told IRIN on Tuesday that the agency had not been able to start food distribution because of "logistics access" and "increased needs in eastern DRC". However, she said WFP was establishing a field office in Mbuji-Mayi.

"This will ease the management of food consignments," she said.

She added that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had just launched several needs assessment missions to the area, in which WFP was participating.

Bogna said a new mission by OCHA and several humanitarian partners was planned for 16 May to 3 June to assess the needs of communities in key areas.

He said that during a recent inter-agency meeting in Mbuji-Mayi, the humanitarian community put the level of malnutrition affecting children from six to 59 months at 24 percent in Sankuru. Food insecurity, he said, continued to worsen with "pillaging, physical violence and other exactions perpetrated by Mayi-Mayi combatants".

He added: "Unconfirmed information also suggests that some 300 Pygmies have fled to neighbouring forests in Lomela, near Mbuji-Mayi, as a result of harassment by armed soldiers."

Therefore, Boga said, MONUC was sending military observers and humanitarian personnel to review the situation.

The so-called pygmies, known as the Batwa, are forest-dwelling hunters-gatherers indigenous to central Africa.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Instapundit's review of BlogNashville Conference - Is big media on the run?

In his post at MSNBC titled "Big media on the run?" Prof Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com writes:
"Do blogs and other alternative media have traditional media organizations running scared? Some people are saying so, but I think there's more going on than fear. Still it's clear that the blogosphere is having an impact.

This past weekend I attended the BlogNashville conference at Belmont University, billed as the largest blogging conference to date. There were some representatives of Big Media organizations there, one of whom said straighforwardly "I'm here out of fear," but others of whom were looking for ways to incorporate blogs, and bloggers, into their operations."
Read full story.

Looks interesting. I'm keeping it aside to read later on. Just wanted to share it here right away. I think professional journalists have lots of reasons to fear blogland. Chewing over and pointing out rubbish in mainstream media, along with the spin, truths, half-truths, downright lies, political propaganda and character assassinations is what we bloggers, around the world, are placed to do well.
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Also today, Instapundit points out Adam Cohen's unimpressive ruminations on blog ethics in today's New York Times - and Virginia Postrel who writes in Forbes, "There's something about blogs that makes a lot of respectable journalists hyperventilate."

Heh.

P.S. Foundations can expect more scrutiny in an age of weblogs, according to this article.

Make Poverty History - Tony Blair chairs G8 summit July 6, 2005

Email just received from Patrick Kielty (pictured below):

Make Poverty History

Hello,

Over the past few months more than a quarter of a million people have sent a message to Tony Blair and asked him to make poverty history.

It's an achievable aim that has risen up the political and news agendas like never before - thanks to the actions of people like you.

But we are rapidly approaching the critical moment of this campaign - and it really is time to turn up the heat.

After last week's election result we now know for sure that it will be Mr. Blair who sits at that all-important G8 summit table in Scotland on July 6th. Last month, he said he would work "night and day" on this issue until the summit. Now he has the chance to prove it, and the responsibility to deliver.

30,000 children will continue to die needlessly every day unless he succeeds.

So please, if you are in the UK click here [outside the UK click here] and urge Tony Blair to make this his number one post-election priority.

Even if you have emailed him before, now is the time to do so again.

The countdown has begun to the biggest day ever in the fight to end poverty and we need to make sure that our message is getting through loud and clear.

Thank you,

Patrick Kielty

DRC: 30 arrested in alleged Katanga secession plot

IRIN report 9 May 2005:

At least 30 civilians and military personnel suspected of plotting the secession of Katanga Province from the Democratic Republic of Congo have been arrested, Deputy Provincial Governor Chikez Diemu said on Monday.

"They are people of all ages, among them politicians," he said.

He said judicial and security agents had made the arrests on Friday in the southeastern Katanga town of Lubumbashi. The detainees, he added, were being questioned over their participation in a network "whose aim was to destabilise the Congolese institutions".

DRC President Joseph Kabila visited Lubumbashi on Sunday, but his spokesperson declined to confirm whether or not his visit was related to the arrests.

The Katanga-based Centre for Human Rights said hundreds of people had been arrested, but the total number has still not officially confirmed.

Andre Tshombe, son of former Congolese Prime Minister Moise Tshombe, who led Katanga's secessionist war in the 1960s, was also arrested. He is the leader of a local political party. The vast majority of those arrested were members of ethnic groups from southern Katanga, which is the DRC province with the greatest mineral wealth.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Witness - Child Soldiers in the DRC

Via Joi at Global Voices - with thanks:

"WITNESS - Child Soldiers in the DRC
Since 1996, war has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some four million people have died as a result of the armed conflict and over ten thousand children have been used as child soldiers. Today, the country is in fragile transition, with over ten armed groups still operating in the Eastern region. All parties have recruited and used child soldiers in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.

In 2004, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced the DRC to be the subject of the Court's first investigation. Under the Court's jurisdiction is the recruitment and use of child soldiers as a war crime. The ICC remains the only competent and impartial Court that can bring justice to the thousands of children whose rights were violated and childhood taken away from them.

Through the voices of child soldiers, "A Duty To Protect" explores the complexity of the war, the issues confronted by girl soldiers including rape and sexual exploitation and the importance of the International Criminal Court to end the rampant impunity reigning in Eastern DRC. The video gives specific recommendations to strengthen the work of the ICC and calls for the international community's engagement to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Witness is a great organization and shows how intermediaries like this can help get global voices out and is also a great example of using video as a medium."

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