Congo Watch: December 2005

Sunday, December 25, 2005

UN captures DR Congo rebel town

An operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, involving helicopter gunships and 1,900 UN and Congolese troops, has taken a key town from a rebel militia.

The town of Nioka has been captured, UN military spokesman Major Hans-Jakob Reichen, told the BBC.

The town, 80km (50 miles) north of Bunia, had been a rebel stronghold.

The joint operation, which began on Thursday, was against a militia led by Peter Karim. He has now fled northwards, the UN says.

Two of his bodyguards have been captured and the UN and Congolese troops hope to take him as well.

The militia he leads has been accused of atrocities against civilians in the region, which borders Uganda and Sudan.

Full report (BBC) 24 Dec 2005.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Angelina Jolie and John Prendergast's Congo Journal

Note Congo Journal by Angelina Jolie, John Prendergast and read Ripples of Genocide: Journey Through Eastern Congo.

[via Ali's Salon with thanks]

'Cursed' gold - on the trail from militia-controlled gold mines to Uganda

See On the trail of DR Congo's 'cursed' gold, a report by BBC correspondent Will Ross in Mongbwalu dated 3 June 2005.

Note he is following the gold trail to Uganda which begins in Mongbwalu, in DR Congo's Ituri district.

DR Congo 'backs new constitution'?

DR Congo's infrastructure has been wrecked by war and misrule but on 20 Dec 2005 BBC report also says DR Congo 'backs new constitution'.

According to the report, voters in the DRC have overwhelmingly backed a new post-war constitution in a referendum, early results indicate - and the president of DRC's electoral commission said the 'yes' campaign had won 78% of votes, compared to 21% for the 'no' campaign, on a 34% count.

However, according to a 16 Dec 2005 BBC report - DR Congo set for 'mystery' vote - voters in DR Congo were set to vote on a new constitution last Sunday but many complained they did not know what it contained.

African democracy

Photo: These women queued for a copy of the draft constitution.

DR Congo backs new constitution?

Photo: This man is one of the lucky few who has got a copy of the constitution.

Read BBC's Q&A: DR Congo vote.

DR Congo 'backs new constitution'?

Photo (AFP/BBC) Huge crowds turned out to welcome President Joseph Kabila when he made his first official visit to Bukavu.

Vist Ali's Salon of News and Thought for DRC news and list of Presidential Candidates.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Photos from the Rutshuru mission

Congo

Good news, Louis of Telegraphe Congolaise is safe, well and blogging. See Too much gun talk, keep on scrolling and be sure to click on each of the photos for great magnification and read On the march.

Asylum questions for DR Congo

What happens to asylum seekers who are sent home? As part of a BBC World Service investigation, Jenny Cuffe has followed the footsteps of failed asylum seekers sent back from Europe to the Democratic Republic of Congo. What she found raised questions over how European governments are treating those they deport. Full story 1 Dec 2005 (BBC). Note, the report says:

Although Africa's bloodiest conflict has cost an estimated four million lives since 1998, many EU countries judge it safe to send failed asylum seekers back. They say that there is a transitional government which plans elections next year.

Malnutrition is widespread in Congolese prisons. United Nations has described the regime in DR Congo's prisons as one of rape and torture. If prisoners do not have relatives to bring them food, they may eventually die of starvation, it reports.

Human rights lawyer Celestin Nikiana has started to list the prisoners in Makala. He has found two of the prisoners to be former asylum seekers who have been there for more than five years without charge: Alain Londole, who was returned by Belgium, and Willy Ayi-Ansha, sent back by Italy. Mr Nikiana believes there is at least one other asylum seeker, returned from Belgium, being kept in the prison's political wing.

The UN has also criticised unofficial jails run by DR Congo's national intelligence service. These are said to be places where prisoners are subjected to "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and even torture". Human rights campaigners say they have information that one former asylum seeker is being kept in one of these secret centres.

Although campaigners have warned some people deported from Europe may be put at risk, they have not yet been able to produce convincing evidence.