Congo Watch: February 2006

Sunday, February 26, 2006

38,000 people die every month in Congo's continuing conflict: ICG

Source: Xinhua People's Daily Online 26 Feb 2006:

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains a humanitarian disaster despite the presence of UN troops and the recent approval of a new constitution that paved the way for elections in April, said a report from a think tank on Saturday.

As many as 38,000 people continue to die every month as a result of the ongoing conflict in the central African country, while the world's attention has been focused instead on the conflicts in Sudan's Darfur region and Cote d'Ivoire said the latest report issued from the Washington-based International Crisis Group.

Most of the deaths result from malnutrition and easily preventable diseases such as fever, malaria and diarrhea, which turn deadly because insecurity restricts access to basic infrastructure and sanitation, it said.

The report said poor relations between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda have heightened tensions and made resolution of the respective conflicts more difficult.

The DRC still hosts many militia groups often backed by outside powers and interests, and its mineral wealth and weak border controls have allowed many of these to become self-sustaining. The economy is in tatters, and ethnic and regional fault-lines are both many and deep, it said.

Insecurity is prevalent throughout the country, with the population destitute and exposed to high rates of crime. In many larger towns and cities, protests and riots may erupt in response to the failure of the transitional government, which came to being in July 2003, when Joseph Kabila remained the president, joined by four vice-presidents representing the former government, former rebel groups and the political opposition, according to the report.

Friday, February 24, 2006

South Sudanese in "LRA Triangle" flee Ugandan LRA rebels

Coalition for Darfur points us to a Sapa-AFP report 24 Feb 2006 that claims deadly raids by the LRA have forced scores of villagers in southern Sudan to flee their homes to spend nights in the bush fearing abductions and killings, a German humanitarian group has said. Excerpt:

The insurgents have been carrying out raids in vast southern Sudan belt called the "LRA Triangle" which lies between Rasola town near the DR Congo border, the region's capital Juba and Lokukei town near the Ugandan border.

"The threat imposed by the LRA forces the local population to leave the village during the night to hide in the bush," said Klaus Stieglitz, the deputy director of Sign of Hope.

Last week, LRA fighters attacked villages around Rajef, 12 kilometres south of Juba and brutally hacked to death three people, including a 70-year-old man and looted cassava farmland, the group said.

"It is a shame that these people nearly feel like animals. They are in fact deprived of their human dignity," he said after touring villagers around Rejaf and Nimule outposts in southern Sudan, where the group delivered humanitarian support.

In areas outlying Nimule, about 150 kilometres southeast of Juba, the insurgents have abducted at least 92 people, including children, and villagers believe that most of them are still held by the ruthless insurgents, they said.

"The villagers told us they can identify the attackers as the LRA because of the ethnic Acholi accent in their language," Stieglitz told a press conference in Nairobi. Sapa-AFP

Annan welcomes DR of Congo's new legal framework

Press Release: United Nations via Scoop 23 February 2006:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the new Constitution and electoral laws of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the United Nations is helping to organize one of the biggest polls in which it has ever participated.

"These steps mark important milestones in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo," Mr. Annan said in a statement released by his spokesman.

"The Secretary-General looks forward to the early publication by the Independent Electoral Commission of an electoral calendar providing for the timely holding of free, fair and transparent elections," the spokesman added, pledging all possible UN support for the elections and the Congolese peace process as a whole.

In December, about 25 million Congolese registered to vote in a referendum to endorse the Constitution, paving the way for the country's first free elections in more than four decades and one of the biggest polls - with 36,000 vote offices and nearly 200,000 electoral agents - in which the UN has participated.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Rwandan genocide feature film and blog: Shooting Dogs

Further to Congo Watch blog entry Jan 20 re Rwandan genocide feature film Shooting Dogs, it now looks likely that BBC Films and the UK Film Council are releasing the film on March 31, 2006.

[Via Coalition for Darfur with thanks]

Forbes' list of the world's most corrupt countries includes DR Congo, Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Kenya

ComingAnarchy.com publishes Forbes' list of the world's most corrupt countries and notes 9 of the 16 countries are in Africa. DR Congo is one of them. Here is the list, in no particular order:

Chad
Bangladesh
Turkmenistan
Myanmar (aka Burma)
Haiti
Nigeria
Equatorial Guinea
Ivory Coast
Angola
Tajikistan
Sudan
Somalia
Paraguay
Pakistan
Kenya
DR Congo

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

1,200 people die every day as result of conflict in DRC: UN confirms 6 ex-rebels die of hunger

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Photo: Mai Mai fighters are being integrated into the army - BBC report 17 Feb 2006:

Six former rebels who were being integrated into the Democratic Republic of Congo's army have died of hunger, the United Nations has confirmed.

The ex-Mai Mai fighters were at a training camp in Kamina in the east.

The UN says it has repeatedly protested that rations and payments are not reaching ex-rebels in training centres.

Under the terms of the 2002 peace deal, rebel militia are being integrated into the army as the country prepares for elections to be held by June.

Eighteen army brigades are supposed to be fully trained by the middle of this year, but the UN says that so far only six are fully functional.

Some 17,000 UN peacekeepers are in DR Congo in the lead-up to parliamentary and presidential polls due in April, in what will be DR Congo's first national multi-party elections for four decades.

A possible presidential run-off will take place in early June.

Conflict is still continuing in the east, where bands of militia groups still terrorise civilians and use the rich minerals and timber of the region to finance their operations.

The Mai Mai militiamen were a nationalist Congolese government reserve in the east of the country

Several neighbouring countries - including Rwanda and Uganda - were drawn into DR Congo's brutal conflict which led to some 3m deaths.

The BBC's World Affairs correspondent Mark Doyle says the Mai Mai are fiercely nationalistic and implacably anti-Rwanda.

On Monday, the UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said the after-effects of the five-year conflict were responsible for the deaths of some 1,200 people every day.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Kiva: Loans that change lives, become a lender to a small business in Africa

Kiva website states it provides a new, sponsor a business option for individuals to connect with small enterprises in developing countries through flexible loans and invites readers to become a lender to a small business in Africa and be reimbursed for the loan.

Sounds like a good initiative. Not sure how it all works. According to the website, Kiva is experiencing a huge outpouring of support and cannot list businesses fast enough. Excerpt:
"Latest journal from Peace Poultry Tororo, Uganda , January 3, 2006: This business has received loan money worth $300. The money has already been put in business to increase the stock."
Source: Trey's blog.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

UN says won't support Congo army if abuses continue

United Nations peacekeepers will stop fighting alongside Congolese government forces if they continue to commit human rights violations during operations, the world body said on 8 Feb 2006.

The U.N. mission began documenting army abuses after government soldiers killed two people suspected of being militiamen in December, hacking off their limbs and burning their remains in the middle of a town in north-eastern Congo.

UK-based Amnesty International on Wednesday also called for the government, as well as rebels and militia groups that continue to operate in eastern Congo three years after the end of a civil war, to be held accountable for abuses.

NATIONAL ARMY

As Democratic Republic of Congo prepares for elections due by the end of June, U.N. peacekeepers are arming, supporting and fighting alongside poorly paid and ill-equipped government soldiers in an attempt to pacify the lawless east.

Under peace deals that ended Congo's five-year war, tens of thousands of fighters from a plethora of rebel factions, militia groups and units loyal to Kinshasa's government were supposed to be integrated into a cohesive national army.

But just a handful of integrated brigades have been set up and all units are poorly paid, lack training and discipline and have virtually no equipment or logistical support.

Amnesty International said the failure to build a unified army was contributing to instability in the east, where access to resources and ethnic conflicts continue to fuel violence.

Civilians have been complaining for some time of abuses by soldiers, particularly after the United Nations transported hundreds of Congolese troops late last year into the remote town of Aba, where Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels were thought to be based.

"The U.N. brought the soldiers to chase away the LRA rebels. But we now want them back as they were not as bad as these guys who are raping and stealing," one resident told Reuters by phone from the remote province, which borders Sudan.

Congo is due to hold elections by the middle of this year but ongoing insecurity is threatening the process and, experts say, killing 1,000 people daily on top of the 4 million thought to have died from war-related hunger and disease since 1998.

Full report (Reuters) by David Lewis.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ugandan LRA terrorist group chief Joseph Kony flees Southern Sudan into DR Congo

See Sudan Watch One of the world's most wanted men: Ugandan LRA terrorist group chief Joseph Kony flees Southern Sudan into DR Congo - UN calls NGOs into Kony hunt.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Songs by child soldiers in DRC's Aveba disarmament camp

Save the Children UK journalist Suzanne Fisher recently travelled to the Aveba Transit Camp, a disarmament camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo that helps children who have been associated with armed groups.

Suddenly she found a group of children started to sing. They were not members of a choir and had no formal musical training but knew the same songs and performed them in perfect five part harmony for Suzanne, who had basic recording equipment with her. Here are links to the recordings of those songs.

UK grad student Jennifer of Soldier Child rightly describes it as a truly remarkable recording. Please listen to video clip and tell me you don't care.

Songs from Aveba by DR Congo child soldiers

More recordings and info at Save the Children UK 25 January 2006.

Read Suzanne Fisher's Staff Diary published 2005.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

UN WFP Emergency Report 27 Jan 2006 re DR Congo

UN World Food Programme Emergency Report 27 January 2006 re DR Congo:

(a) The security situation was extremely volatile in areas located at 50 - 100 km south of Bunia. Violent clashes between government troops and militias from Forces de Resistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) occurred throughout the week. The violence caused massive movements of displaced people to several locations near Bunia (Bogoro, Kotoni, Marabo, and Zumbe). In Kotoni, over 403 displaced households (some 2,800 persons) were assisted with 16 tons of WFP food by Cooperating Partner (CP) German Agro Action (GAA).

(b) In another incident, on 23 January, eight UN peacekeepers were killed and five others injured during a four hour exchange of fire with armed people in the Garamba National Park, near the borders of Sudan and Uganda.

(c) Since 19 January, insecurity has worsened in North Kivu province. Violent clashes between dissident and loyalists troops took place in Rutshuru and between governmental troops and untamed militias. According to the CP Solidarite, more than 17,000 people have been displaced to areas in the northeast of Butembo. In addition, over 10,000 people are reported to have crossed into Uganda.

(d) In South Kivu province, Government troops focused on ousting Front Démocratique pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) from the Bukavu-Mwenga axis. From the forest in which they hide, FDLR militias raided several villages under the government troops' protection. In addition to the long history of armed violence, the population in Ruzizi Plain are adversely affected by drought that lasted from September to end November. Production of staple food including corn, sorghum and beans was insufficient. WFP and FAO are considering the distribution of seeds and seeds protection food packages, provision of WFP safety net rations to families of malnourished children, rehabilitation of the irrigation system in the area through food for work activities and a reforestation programme.

(e) In Maniema province, WFP's cooperating partner Action de la Cooperation Technique pour le developpement (ACTED) is planning to start therapeutic and supplementary feeding programmes in Kabambare in early February 2006. A nutritional survey carried out by ACTED in March 2005 found global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate as high as 14.8 percent. The area of Kabambare, 400 km from Kindu, received no assistance for a lengthy period of due to poor road conditions. According to ACTED, about 1,500 people may need food assistance under the nutritional programme.

(f) In Bunia (Ituri district), WFP released 74 tons of food, including 56 tons to GAA for displaced persons and other groups at high risk. Between 12 and 20 January, WFP provided 230 tons of food to 26,600 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the Beni-Oicha-Eringeti axis through CP Lutheran World Federation (LWF). In Uvira (South Kivu province), WFP provided three-month food packages for 1,000 returnees resettled by UNCHR in Uvira and Baraka.