Congo Watch: April 2006

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Telegraph Correspondent David Blair visits Docs Hospital in Goma

The Daily Telegraph's Africa Correspondent David Blair recently returned home to Johannesburg after a week long tour of eastern Congo, taking in Bunia, Beni, Goma, Gisenyi and blogging an account -- note [Hello Louis!] the April 24, 2006 blog entry for "Day Five" about his visit to Docs Hospital in Goma.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Uganda backs Revolutionary Movement of Congo (MRC)

Uganda backs rebels responsible for ravaging the rugged hills and dense rainforest of Congo's Ituri district, according to UN officials and western diplomats.

Gunmen, styling themselves the Revolutionary Movement of Congo (known by their French acronym MRC), have forced tens of thousands to flee in the last three months alone

See Telegraph report by David Blair in Bunia 27 April 2006.

Congokin.com forum - DRC

UN suspects Uganda is fighting in Congo

UN peacekeepers are investigating reports that Ugandan soldiers crossed into neighbouring Congo in pursuit of rebels on Wednesday and clashed with Congolese troops, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

Security sources in Kinshasa said Ugandan soldiers clashed with the Congolese army near the town of Aba, in the remote northeastern frontier with Uganda and Sudan - after crossing the border to hunt down the Joseph Kony-led Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels hiding there.

Full report Monitor Online 28 April 2006.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

UN Security Council authorises European force in DR Congo

The United Nations Security Council today endorsed the deployment of a European Union reserve force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bolster stability in the vast country for its June 2006 presidential and parliamentary elections and up to four months afterward.

Full report UN News Centre 25 Apr 2006.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Goma Film Project and LUMO by American blogger and film maker Louis Abelman

Great news. American blogger Louis Abelman has launched a website for The Goma Film Project showing a trailer of his first film, LUMO shot in Goma, DRC.

Louis, who authors Telegraphe Congolais, has spent the past few years producing and directing LUMO, a deeply sensitive documentary about the lives of rape survivors in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo as they work with medical staff and counsellors to regain their health and dignity.

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Louis lives in New York. After attending Brown University where he majored in African History, he worked for the International Herald Tribune as an editorial assistant and as a news assistant at the New York Times.

Several photos featured here at Congo Watch, including those here below - and in Congo Watch title banner - were shot by Louis. Links to more photos can be found in the sidebar of his blog.

The fabulous Mama Jeanne Banyere

See The savagery in the Congo is beyond imagination - excerpt:
Jeanne Banyere, or Mama Jeanne to all who know this remarkable woman. "I used to cry, but have now become more desensitised. This happens all over this area, sometimes to children as young as nine." Mama Jeanne - who also looks after 62 orphans - is one of a handful of dedicated people from the Women's Protestant Federation that network these remote parts of the Congo, providing counselling and hope to these women.


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Photo: Mama Jeanne (tallest, yellow headscarf) with returned patients in village of Mema (Louis Abelman)

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Photo: Close up of drawing on outer wall (Louis Abelman)

Note May 1, 2006 screening of LUMO in New York at the IFC center, further details at gomafilmproject.org.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hague referral for Bemba and Patasse

BBC report 14 April 2006 says the top court in the Central African Republic has referred former President Felix-Ange Patasse to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Mr Patasse was referred, along with the vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, on charges of rape and murder.

Also included in the referral are a French policeman and two aides of ex-president Mr Patasse.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Security Council approves UN troop redeployment from Burundi to DR Congo

The Security Council today authorized the temporary redeployment of peacekeepers from the Organization's operation in Burundi (ONUB) to its mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) to strengthen security and oversight for the upcoming Congolese elections. Full story UN News Centre 10 Apr 2006.

The EU's strategy for Africa

EU aid means the difference between life and death for many Africans, argues Louis Michel:
"For all of them, "Europe cares", Europeans care. It is important to remember that when people in our countries express doubts about European integration and the added value of the EU - this is added value. For millions of people, our aid makes the difference between life and death."
- 40m euro programme for Sudan
- 38m euros for Democratic Republic of Congo
- Major programmes to help drought victims in the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes refugees living in camps in Tanzania, the frightened communities of Northern Uganda and the many highly vulnerable people still struggling to survive in Burundi and Liberia in the aftermath of long-running conflicts.

Full story at EUPolitix.com.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Swedish soldiers to join EU Congo force

April 9 Xinhua -- Sweden is to send 40 to 50 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which will be part of an EU mission to provide security during the summer election in the troubled central African country, local media reported on Sunday.

Defense minister Leni Bjoerklund told Social Democrats on Saturday that the government would put the proposal for the Swedish contribution before parliament soon, according to Swedish news agency TT.

The EU force of around 1,000 soldiers from ten countries will support 17,000 UN peacekeeping troops. Eight UN soldiers have lost their lives in the country.

The election in the DR Congo will be the first since 1961. It was scheduled for June 18th but has been postponed until July due to security fears.

The exact task of Swedish soldiers from the elite Special Protection Group (SSG) in DR Congo is still not clear, the report said.

The SSG, which reports directly to the Commander-in-Chief of the Swedish armed forces, is trained for battle, personal protection, intelligence gathering and a range of other combat duties.

Sweden's contribution will cost a maximum of 60 million kronor (about 7.7 million U.S. dollars), according to the report.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

France asks UN to redeploy troops to DRCongo

April 7, 2006 (AFP) - France on Friday proposed that the Security Council redeploy UN troops from Burundi to bolster a mission in the DRC during elections:

France circulated a draft resolution that would transfer an infantry battalion, a field hospital and 50 military observers from the UN mission in Burundi, to the mission in RDC, until July 1, with the possibility of extending the redeployment. The proposal would redeploy more than 800 UN troops now in Burundi under Resolution 1650.

Burundi has been trying to leave behind 12 years of civil war and is governed by elected officials after a long political transition. The UN mission there was deployed in 2004 and has nearly completed its mission, foreseen to end on December 31.

The RDC has set elections for later this year, before the end of a fragile political transition that began in 2003 after several years of warfare. Election day, initially set for June 18, has been put off for logistical reasons and a new date has not yet been set.

Friday, April 07, 2006

�WFP airpdrops food aid into DR Congo's embattled Katanga province

The United Nations World Food Programme said today it had started dropping food aid from an aircraft into violence-wracked Katanga province in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo – marking the agency's first food aid airdrops outside Sudan since 1998.

The airdrops of WFP food from an Antonov-12 aircraft near the town of Dubie in Katanga started on Wednesday and are the first ever into the DRC, where WFP usually transports food aid by trucks and airlifts. But the current rains have made it especially difficult to move by road sufficient amounts of food aid to Dubie, where malnutrition rates are increasingly alarming.

Full report UNWFP via ReliefWeb 7 Apr 2006.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

World Food Program sends aid to refugees in DRC

The World Food Program (WFP) began to dispatch aid to refugees in Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday, a WFP official told Xinhua.

Aline Samu, who is responsible for WFP press information, told Xinhua that about 12 tons of aid had been sent to 13,000 refugees in Dubie, 500 km north from Lubumbashi, capital of Katanga province, adding that another two rounds would arrive on Thursday.

According to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the DRC (MONUC), a total of 80 tons of aid will be dispatched to the region in the following four to five days.

Samu admitted that the transportation cost climbed to 1,200 U.S. dollars per ton because of the awfully bumpy roads to the region, noting that only 530 tons of food supplies were sent to Katanga from January to March due to road conditions.

The fighting between the Mayi-Mayi militia and the national Army Forces of the DRC in Katanga had forced about 11,000 families to leave their homes since the end of 2005.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sudan's Darfur, DRC top agenda at Annan's talks in NY

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan held separate talks in New York March 31 with top African and European officials on Darfur, Sudan, and the DRC, UN News Centre reported 31 Mar 2006:

In a meeting with Mr Konare, Chair of the AU Commission, the two discussed the Abuja peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur. They also discussed support for the AU force in Darfur, including the possibility of a donors' conference.

On the DRC, they reviewed a number of issues, including how to ensure an inclusive electoral progress.

Mr Konare, who travels to the DRC next week, also spoke with Mr Annan about the Chad-Sudan border, and steps being taken to defuse the tension there.

Darfur and the DRC were also on the agenda at a separate meeting between Mr Annan and European Common Foreign and Security Policy High Representative Javier Solana. They reviewed EU support for the AU force in Darfur and for the electoral process in the DRC.

Congo Caritas Development sends urget humanitarian aid to refugees in DRC

Urgent humanitarian aid has been sent to war refugees in the DRC. The aid, totaling 360 tons of food, medication and seeds, would be dispatched to around 30,000 people from 5,000 families in Mitwaba, 500 km north of Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga province, said the Congo Caritas Development (CCD), a member of Caritas Internationalis on Monday.

According to the CCD, the displacement of the refugees is caused by fighting between the Mayi-Mayi militia and the national Army Forces of DRC (FARDC) since the end of 2005, which forced about 11,000 families to leave their homes. The CCD will also dispatch aid to another 5,800 families in the regions of Pweto-Mwenge and Pweto-Kizabi in a month. - Xinhua 4 Apr 2006.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

World letting DRC down: UN

Violence and curable diseases are now estimated to kill around 1,200 people every day in DRC, up from a daily 1,100 in 2005.