Congo Watch: May 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

UN Security Council tour June 5 ends in Kinshasa, DR Congo

A 10-day UN Security Council tour led by British Ambassador Sir Emyr Jones Parry, along with French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, begins on June 5 and includes Khartoum, southern Sudan, refugee camps in Darfur and Chad and African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The trip ends in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. - Reuters May 30, 2006.

UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo is the largest and costs $1 billion a year

Reuters report May 30, 2006 tells us the largest UN peacekeeping mission of 17,000 troops and civilians is in the Congo at a cost of $1 billion a year.

What's Needed to Prevent the Deaths of Millions More Congolese - Time Magazine

Email just in from Friends of the Congo May 30, 2006:

In its June 5th issue, Time magazine features on its cover the Congo crisis, entitled, "Congo:The Hidden Toll of the World's Deadliest War" by By Simon Robinson and Vivienne Walt.

Time correctly raises the critical issue of "what's needed to prevent the deaths of millions more [Congolese]." However, its accounting of the facts are incomplete and it's analysis does not lead us to a comprehensive prescription for preventing more dying and suffering in the Congo.

Time claims, in part, that the world has let "Congo bleed" because of its "maligned reputation and feckless rulers." Aside from the fact that there is absolutely no justification for letting "the Congo bleed" to the tune of 4 million dead since 1998, Time totally misses the central cause for the conflict and unbearable human toll in the Congo. The reason why the Congo bleeds today is the same reason it bled under Belgium's King Leopold II's genocidal reign of the Congo from 1885 - 1908, when at least 10 million or half of the Congolese population perished in a 23 year span as the King brutally and illegally exploited the resources (at that time rubber and ivory) and labor of the Congo.

The central issue of the Congo has long been its enormous wealth and the nexus that exists among local sycophants seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, greedy neighbors with visions of regional grandeur and the veracious appetite by Western governments and corporations to profit from the natural resources of the Congo with no regard for Congolese lives. Until this issue is squarely and honestly addressed the Congo will continue to "bleed."

Johann Hari hit the nail on the head in his article Congo's Tragedy: the War the World Forgot" published in the May 6 edition of the Independent online. He stated "This war has been dismissed as an internal African implosion. In reality it is a battle for coltan, diamonds, cassiterite and gold, destined for sale in London, New York and Paris. It is a battle for the metals that make our technological society vibrate and ring and bling, and it has already claimed 4 million lives in five years and broken a population the size of Britain's. No this is not only a story about them. This - the tale of a short journey into the long Congolese war we in the West have fostered, fueled and funded - is a story about you"

Click here to read entire critique.

Monday, May 29, 2006

DR Congo peacekeepers 'missing'

One Nepalese peacekeeper has been killed and another seven are missing after clashes with rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN says.

There are some reports that the troops may have been kidnapped but the UN says it cannot confirm or deny these.

The peacekeepers were trying to disarm militias in volatile eastern DR Congo.

There are some 17,000 UN troops in DR Congo - the world's largest peacekeeping force - ahead of elections due on 30 July. - BBC May 29. 2006.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pictures of the $100 laptop: 1st working model of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

From May 23, 2006 blog entry by Pablo Halkyard at PSD blog - The World Bank Group:
Pictures from the unveiling of the first working prototype of the $100 Laptop at the Seven Countries Task Force today. Green became orange, and the hand-crank is gone. Compare with Intel's sub-$400 entry and AMD's $185 version.
Note, at the entry a techie commented: "Awesome. I want one. What is there to stop gringos from buying them all to have their recipes on the kitchen or to use as poolside or beach laptop?"

Click here to learn about One Laptop per Child and view pictures of original green prototype with hand crank.

1st working model of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) on Flickr

Photo: 1st working model (OLPC) - taken at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2006; cameraphone upload by ShoZu - Uploaded to flickr by Pete Barr-Watson

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

DRC: 32 "mercenaries" arrested in Kinshasa

From IRIN report today:

Security agents in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, arrested 32 foreigners on Tuesday for plotting a coup against the government of Joseph Kabila, Interior Minister Theophilus Mbemba said.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

CAR: Thousands protest widespread violence

IRIN report May 19, 2006 - excerpt:
At least 3,000 people took to the streets of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, on Friday in protest against escalating violence in the country; especially in the northwest where fighting between armed raiders and the army has left up to 70,000 civilians displaced.

"For sometime now, insecurity has continued unabated in the capital as well as in provinces, especially in the northwest region," Noel Ramada, chairman of the country's largest trade union, the USTC, said. "We want peace, not violence."

The protestors carried banners that read: "No to Rebellion" and "No to Bad Governance". They urged rebels and the government to stop the fighting and to work for peace.
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Friday, May 19, 2006

UN mission reports dozens of crimes by DR of Congo's soldiers

The Democratic Republic of Congo's own soldiers were responsible for the majority of the nearly seven dozen complaints of crimes and human rights violations under investigation by the United Nations mission (MONUC) for the last two months, according to a new report. - UN News Centre

Monday, May 15, 2006

EU to send peacekeepers to Congo - and agreed to prolong training and airlift to AU troops in Darfur, W Sudan

Irish Examiner 15 May 2006 says the European Union today insisted it will be ready to provide support to UN peacekeepers in Congo during elections starting in July despite difficulties in mustering the troops needed for an EU military mission.

“The EU will … be in a position to make a significant contribution to creating a more stable and secure environment during the election period,” EU foreign and defence ministers said in a Brussels statement.

The ministers also agreed to prolong the bloc's support for peacekeeping efforts in another African trouble spot, extending until at least September its limited program providing training and airlift to African Union troops in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Oxfam says deaths in DR of Congo: 100,000 in 3 months - 3.9m over past 8 years - 1,200 people are dying every day from conflict-related causes

The aid agency Oxfam has criticised donor countries for failing to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, BBC reported today:

Oxfam says donor countries have contributed only $94m (£50m) to a $682m special appeal launched in February.

It says more than 100,000 people have died in the three-month period from diseases that might have been cured.

Oxfam says DR Congo is a forgotten disaster zone in which 3.9m people have died over the past eight years.

The Humanitarian Action Plan was launched by the United Nations, the Red Cross and aid agencies in February.

It comes as the country approaches UN-backed elections in July, which will be the first democratic polls the DRC has ever held.

The BBC's World Affairs Correspondent Mark Doyle says it is unusual for aid agencies to name - and try to shame - specific countries.

But Oxfam has called the contributions of the United States and Japan "minuscule" compared with the size of their economies and said that Germany and France had committed little and Italy nothing.

The aid agency calculates what it calls "fair shares" by comparing the amount appealed for with the size of economies.

According to Oxfam, Britain gave only about half of the share it could have been expected to contribute.

But a spokesman for the Department for International Development told the BBC that the UK had pledged £60m in additional aid to the DR Congo over the next two years to help with the humanitarian situation in the country.

He said the money would go to providing emergency food and shelter, medical equipment , clean water and to rebuild schools destroyed by the conflict.

Oxfam's representative in Congo, Juliette Prodhan, said it was good that donors had agreed to help finance the forthcoming polls, but that the country's problems would not be cured by voting alone.

"Rich country governments have a moral obligation to act when 1,200 people are dying every day from conflict-related causes," she said.

After years of war and misrule, there is little infrastructure in DR Congo, which is about the size of Western Europe, and there are no road or rail links from one side of the country to the other.

Fighting - particularly in the east - continues between rival militias and government forces. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes.

A United Nations peacekeeping force of nearly 17,000 troops - the world's largest - operates in the country and is being augmented by a 1,500-strong European Union rapid reaction force over the election period.

DR of Congo: militia group comes forward to enter disarmament process

UN News Centre 12 May 2006 – A group of around 250 members of a renegade militia in the troubled Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have come forward to enter the country’s disarmament and reintegration process, the United Nations mission in the country (MONUC) said today.

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that three months after the launch of the 2006 Action Plan for the DRC, which aims to provide relief aid and promote stability in country, the international community has met just 13 per cent of identified needs, delivering only $90 million of the $682 requested.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Uganda says most LRA rebels relocated to DR Congo

May 5 2006 Xinhua/ST report in full:

The Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) has said about 95 per cent of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in southern Sudan have relocated to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The UPDF 5th Division spokesman, Lt Chris Magezi, told Xinhua by telephone on Friday 5 May that most of the rebels have crossed to the DRC to join rebel leader Joseph Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti who are believed to be hiding in the jungles of Garamba National Park, eastern DRC.

"About 95 per cent of the LRA are now hiding in the DRC after our hot pursuit in southern Sudan," said Magezi.

He noted that there just a few remnants that are remaining in southern Sudan which the rebels used as their base to launch attacks against the Ugandan government, in a rebellion that has left tens of thousands of people dead.

"Our forces in southern Sudan have made major successes in wiping out these rebels. And because of our fire power, they are fleeing to the DRC," Magezi added.

UPDF spokesman, Maj Felix Kulaigye told Xinhua by telephone on Friday that Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi had returned from Sudan where he had gone to meet President Omar Al-Bashir and the UN Khartoum team to reach a regional mechanism to handle the LRA.

President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday that there is need for the government to work in conjunction with the Sudanese government, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and the United Nations Force in the DRC (MONUC) in ending the war in northern Uganda.

The Ugandan military said recently if Kony and his 150 armed combatants are given a safe haven in the DRC, they could build up and become a regional problem.

According to Minister Mbabazi, Uganda is to send defence and foreign affairs officials to meet the DRC authorities on how the two neighbouring countries can wipe out LRA rebels.

"It is a matter we are pushing with vigour and we are sure to receive positive reports," Mbabazi said shortly before leaving for the Khartoum meeting.

About two weeks ago, the Ugandan government proposed to the UN Security Council to allow the UPDF pursue the LRA rebels in the DRC.

Last week, the DRC government said UPDF soldiers were sighted on its territory pursuing the LRA, a thing the Ugandan army denied.

The LRA rebels have been fighting the Ugandan government for the last 20 years in a rebellion that has left tens of thousands of people dead and over 1.4 million people living in internally displaced persons camps in northern Uganda.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sudan and DR Congo at top of 'failed states index'

Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the world's most vulnerable states, according to a new study.

FAILED STATES 2006 - TOP 10
1. Sudan (3)*
2. DR Congo (2)*
3. Ivory Coast (1)*
4. Iraq (4)*
5. Zimbabwe (15)*
6. Chad (7)*
(Tie) Somalia (5)*
8. Haiti (10)*
9. Pakistan (34)*
10. Afghanistan (11)*

* Position in 2005 report

The report - compiled by the US Foreign Policy magazine and the US-based Fund for Peace think-tank - ranked nations according to their viability.

Judged according to 12 criteria, including human flight and economic decline, states range from the most failed, Sudan, to the least, Norway.

Eleven of the 20 most failed states of the 146 nations examined are in Africa.

Full report BBC May 2, 2006 [Hat tip to Passion of the Present - http://www.passionofthepresent.org/ so sorry, permalinks and newsfeed to the site are still not working here]

Monday, May 01, 2006

U.S. Senators Leahy and Obama secure Key Panel's OK for aid for elections and military reform in DR Congo

"Congo Watchers--Have you seen this Press Release yet?" asks Taylor Walters in a comment here today at Congo Watch:

Senators Leahy and Obama Secure Key Panel's OK for Much-Needed Aid for Elections and Military Reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: April 4, 2006

Obama Contact: Robert Gibbs or Tommy Vietor, (202) 228-5511

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, April 4) -- U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) Tuesday successfully attached an amendment to the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill that would provide $13.2 million for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The amendment was cosponsored by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

The amendment, drafted as part of a collaborative effort by Leahy and Obama, provides $8.2 million for military reform and $5 million to support free and fair elections in the DRC. According to the United Nations, these are two key priorities if the DRC is to make a successful transition to democratic rule and bring peace and economic development to one of the largest nations in Africa.

Obama said, "If Africa is to achieve its promise, resolving the problems in the Congo will be critical. The country, which is the size of Western Europe, lies at the geographic heart of Africa and borders every major region across the continent. If left untended, Congo's tragedy will continue to infect Africa. This amendment accepted today represents a small but important step towards bringing peace and prosperity to the Congo. I commend Senator Leahy's leadership and the Appropriations Committee on this issue"

Leahy added, "U.S. leadership to support democratic elections and reform the Congolese military will be critical if the Congo is going to overcome decades of violence and misrule. I hope this amendment, by demonstrating that the United States is serious about supporting the Congo, will encourage all nations to join in a sustained effort in the country that holds the key to stability in central Africa. The UN peacekeeping mission deserves a great deal of credit for the progress that has been made so far."

The elections, scheduled for later this year, are the first in more than four decades. They represent by far the largest elections that the UN has ever assisted, in a vast country with minimal infrastructure, few roads and an electorate of more than 25 million people. The election breakthrough is the result of years of negotiations to reduce the fighting in the DRC, which involved five international peace agreements and more than 30 UN Security Council resolutions.

The amendment represents a growing concern in Congress about the DRC's future. In December, comprehensive legislation on the Congo, S. 2125, was introduced by Senators Obama, Brownback, Durbin, and DeWine.