Congo Watch: DR Congo: Rwandan army soldiers are fighting alongside Nkunda's CNDP while receiving Rwandan salaries - UN food convoy reaches rebel-held Rutshuru

Thursday, November 13, 2008

DR Congo: Rwandan army soldiers are fighting alongside Nkunda's CNDP while receiving Rwandan salaries - UN food convoy reaches rebel-held Rutshuru

DR Congo

Photo: A humanitarian disaster has been predicted by aid officials in Congo if the fragile ceasefire ordered by commanders of a rebel army fails to hold (Stephen Morrison/EPA/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)

Food aid reaches Congo rebel town
Wednesday, 12 November 2008 report from the BBC:

The UN has managed to send a convoy of badly-needed food aid across the front-line in eastern DR Congo to the rebel-held town of Rutshuru.

The World Food Programme delivered a tonne of high-energy biscuits for children and said it hoped to send more convoys to the area on Friday.

Some 250,000 people have fled violence that flared in August between rebel and government forces.

The UN peacekeeping head has asked for 3,000 more troops to protect civilians.

There are 9,000 UN peacekeepers in the region, out of 17,000 nationwide.

The UN mission in DR Congo, Monuc, is its largest peace force in the world, but its leader says there are not enough troops to protect people from violence.

The latest crisis began when rebels loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda advanced towards Goma, the capital of North Kivu, which is now ringed with refugee camps.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a ceasefire to allow aid workers to reach 100,000 refugees cut off in rebel-held areas north of Goma.

DR Congo

Photo credit: Getty Images/BBC

BBC discovers 1,500 displaced people in DR Congo camp

All sides were notified about the UN food convoy ahead of the delivery.

Other deliveries are being made around the town of Goma, drawing on a shipment of 65 tonnes of food that arrived in Goma on Wednesday.

But the BBC's Mark Doyle says many have received no significant food aid.

Two hours' drive south of Goma he found 1,700 displaced people outside Minova town.

They were living in shelters made from bent sticks hung with the leaves of banana trees, which our correspondent says served as a hopelessly flimsy roof against often torrential rains and the biting cold of the night.

There were no aid workers at the makeshift camp.

He says at least four children have died in this camp in recent days. Tumu Sabire, 30, says her two-year-old son died from malnutrition.

"I have no food because I ran from the war," she said.

The baby's name was Musaade, which means "help" in Swahili, our reporter says.

DR Congo

Photo: Thousands of people are living in flimsy shelters because of the unrest (AFP/BBC)

Rwandan soldiers

Meanwhile, Britain's Financial Times newspaper says soldiers from the Rwandan army have been fighting alongside the dissident general Laurent Nkunda.

Their reporter in eastern DR Congo interviewed former rebels and observers who said some soldiers were continuing to receive their Rwandan salaries while fighting with the general.
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DR Congo

Photo: Nkunda’s forces are holed up nine miles from Goma, where truckloads of drunken government troops have looted stores, murdered men and raped women as they retreated in panic from the rebel advance (Yasuyoshi Chib/AFP/Getty/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)

Here is a copy of the Financial Times report, mentioned in the BBC report above.

Former rebels put Rwanda under spotlight
November 11, 2008 by Matthew Green in Goma

Rwanda has sought to portray itself as little more than a bystander to the scenes of advancing rebels forcing refugees to flee that are unfolding again over the border in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

But in interviews with the Financial Times, former rebels and observers on the ground say the uprising – led by Laurent Nkunda, the renegade former Congolese general – relies heavily on recruitment in Rwanda and former or even active Rwandan soldiers.

DR Congo

Photo: Nkunda: 25 per cent of his army is said to be Rwandan

Former rebels point to a close but complex relationship in which Rwanda’s government is able to exert considerable leverage on Mr Nkunda. Diplomats say Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, personally intervened to dissuade the rebel commander from over-running Goma when he reached the edge of the city late last month.

Yet, publicly, Mr Kagame has sought to distance Rwanda from the Congo crisis and international diplomatic efforts to resolve it. At a press conference in Kigali last week he said: “What have I to do with what is going on in the Congo?”

The answer lies partly in the hillside villages and refugee camps in Rwanda that are a vital recruiting ground for Mr Nkunda’s CNDP movement. Former rebels say that in recent years he has recruited Congolese Tutsi refugees there, as well as Rwandan nationals, many of whom are former soldiers acting as mercenaries. Military experts say Rwandans make up at least a quarter of his 4,000-6,000-strong army.

One Rwandan told the FT he had left his cassava farm in March to join six countrymen in the rebellion. “I was looking for money,” said the former Rwandan army soldier. “There was no payment – that’s why I left.”

The United Nations mission in Congo says 73 Rwandans, mainly combatants, were repatriated after leaving Mr Nkunda’s forces last year. A further 76 followed between January and September 10 this year. Human-rights workers say many more are likely to stay in the rebel ranks. Those that have left say would-be deserters are beaten or executed.

Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan information minister, dismissed the testimonies of former CNDP fighters as not “credible” and told the FT: “There is zero involvement of Rwanda in CNDP.”

Rwanda says any recruitment on its territory is clandestine and without its support. But human-rights activists say it could try harder to stop recruitment. UN officials suspect that the CNDP has a network of financial backers that stretches from Rwanda to South Africa and the US.

According to another rebel who recently deserted, units of Rwandan soldiers have fought next to Mr Nkunda’s forces during the past few years. “There were groups of soldiers from Rwanda who were with us,” he said.

He said his uncle, a Rwandan army officer, continued to receive his salary while fighting with Mr Nkunda, and that Rwandan troops who wanted to visit home were given border passes by the Rwandan government

Other former fighters have described using razor blades to remove the Rwandan flag from uniforms sent to the rebel forces.

Evidence of more recent Rwandan support surfaced on October 29, when Uruguayan peacekeepers and international journalists reported seeing Rwandan tanks and artillery firing across the border at Congolese troops defending Goma.

Mr Nkunda’s latest offensive secured a chunk of territory that connects the plateau around his headquarters with a strip of land along the border that might ease infiltration of fighters or weapons from Rwanda.

Mr Nkunda and Rwanda’s government, military and business elite share a history from before the 1994 genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority. Mr Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi, was an intelligence officer in the guerrilla army that Mr Kagame, a Rwandan Tutsi, used to stop the massacre and seize power.

Mr Kagame launched invasions of Congo in 1996 and 1998 and supported uprisings that Rwandan officials maintain were aimed at neutralising the threat posed by ethnic Hutu fighters who fled following the genocide.

The Congolese government of Joseph Kabila, the president, has periodically adopted the exiled Hutu militias to bolster its weak authority in the east – putting it at odds with Kigali.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

DR Congo

Photo: Hundreds of thousands fled Goma, the regional capital, and the surrounding countryside when Congolese Tutsi rebel forces commanded by the renegade general Laurent Nkunda captured several key towns (Yasuyoshi Chib/AFP/Getty/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)
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EDITOR'S CHOICE

December 21, 2007 Financial Times' "Slideshow: Congo’s rebel forces" - excerpt:
The Congolese government last month launched a failed offensive aimed at finishing off the threat posed by General Laurent Nkunda, a rebel leader who fought for a Rwandan-backed rebellion during Congo’s 1998-2003 war.

When other factions in Congo bought into the peace process Mr Nkunda refused a job in the new army. He is now to estimated to have 4,000 men under his command.

Fighting between General Nkunda’s forces and the Congolese army has displaced nearly 400,000 civilians in North Kivu since the start of 2007.

Ft.com’s slideshow affords a glimpse behind the lines of the rebel forces.
The following is a list of reports published at FT.com over the past year. A quick glance through the titles of the reports tells a story. Note the reports re oil and nuclear. Some of the reports are copied, in full, here below.

Congo agrees to peace deal with rebels - Jan-22-2008

Warring factions in Congo sign peace pact - Jan-24-2008

Total forecasts increase in oil production - Feb-14-2008

Congo digs for more revenues from minerals - Feb-26-2008

Congo rebels cash in on demand for tin - Mar-05-2008

Congo asks for bigger mining share - Mar-20-2008

Oil majors rebuked for lack of openness - Apr-27-2008

Oil price rises lift BP and Shell - Apr-29-2008

Analyst warns of oil at $200 a barrel - May-06-2008

Record oil prices boost Total to $5bn - May-07-2008

Eni finds oil sands deposits in Congo - May-19-2008

Total and Eni eye nuclear option - Jul-08-2008

Oil price prompts nuclear move - Jul-08-2008

Congo prepares to sell off mining assets - Sep-08-2008

London police probe UN-Congo charity deal - Oct-06-2008

Editorial Comment: Congo reignites - Oct-29-2008

Congo rebels ‘cease fire’ as UN urges restraint - Oct-30-2008

Congo’s truce holds as rebels close in - Oct-31-2008

Rebel grip tightens in eastern Congo - Nov-02-2008

Congo faces fresh cataclysm - Nov-06-2008

Editorial Comment: Conflict in Congo - Nov-09-2008

Congo campaign to drive out peacekeepers - Nov-09-2008

DR Congo

Photo: The UN peacekeeping force currently deployed is stretched to its limit. An upsurge in fighting in the volatile east means more troops are needed urgently (Walter Estrada/AFP/Getty/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)

Congo campaign to drive out peacekeepers
November 9, 2008 Financial Times report by Matthew Green in Goma:

United Nations officials have revealed evidence of a campaign of deadly intimidation by rebels loyal to General Laurent Nkunda, which they believe is aimed at forcing peacekeepers out of Congo.

“They know very well our strengths and weaknesses, and they play with them. This is a war of nerves, a psychological war,” said Sylvie van den Wildenberg, of the peacekeeping mission, known as Monuc, in the eastern city of Goma. “They want us out, that is clear."

Warning letter: Laurent Nkunda, the Congo rebel leader

In a letter to the UN dated October 27, two days before his forces threatened to overrun the eastern city of Goma, Gen Nkunda warned he could not guarantee peacekeepers’ safety.

“In the current circumstances in which our forces are directly confronting the government coalition, we cannot be held . . . accountable for the security of Monuc forces present on the front,” according to the letter, which was made available to the Financial Times by another UN official who requested anonymity.

The letter followed a telephone threat by one of Gen Nkunda’s commanders to kill Indian peacekeeping troops if the force scrambled attack helicopters to support Congolese government forces.

Another UN official, who also declined to be identified, said the phone call was made by Major Castro Mbera during a rebel attack on one the government’s main bases at Rumangabo, 50km north of Goma, on October 7.

Gen Nkunda’s CNDP rebels were not immediately available for comment either on the telephone threat or the letter, which bore his signature and stamp.

It was unclear what impact the threat might have had so far on Monuc operations, although such tactics could, at the very least, have already slowed down its operations.

A withdrawal by Monuc would represent a huge setback for the UN’s peacekeeping projects in Africa, already undermined by the failure of a joint UN-African Union force to end fighting in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

Gen Nkunda’s advance to the edge of Goma, which houses a UN base, has presented the Congo mission with one of its greatest challenges since it deployed troops to shore up a 2002 peace deal. The force has increasingly found itself cast in the role of a participant in fighting between the rebels and the government troops.

The UN, which is mandated to help support Congo’s fragile national institutions – including the military – has provided logistical support and attack helicopters to back up the poorly disciplined and equipped Congolese army, which has been repeatedly routed.

The UN contingent in Goma, which includes troops from India and Uruguay, are now encircled by Gen Nkunda’s forces.

Thousands of troops are scattered in vulnerable bases throughout the region. Monuc has appealed for a further 3,000 peacekeepers from the UN Security Council, but no decision has been taken on making them available.

UN officials say Gen Nkunda’s political supporters have waged an increasingly effective campaign of intimidation and propaganda using a mobile radio station and websites to exploit popular frustration when Monuc fails to protect civilians. Stone-throwing crowds have repeatedly attacked UN vehicles and compounds in recent weeks.

The government of Joseph Kabila, the president, has also stoked antipathy towards Monuc by saying it should be taking a more robust approach towards Gen Nkunda.

(UK business involved in unethical dealings in war-torn eastern Congo should be targeted by international rules that allow government to name and shame companies, Rights & Accountability in Development, a campaign group, argues on Monday, writes Michael Peel)

DR Congo

Photo: Warning letter: Laurent Nkunda, the Congo rebel leader (Credit: Getty Images)

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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DR Congo

Photo: Nkunda’s rebel forces also share a reputation for savagery and war crimes. Nkunda has said that he has halted his advance and ordered a ceasefire to create a "humanitarian corridor" and allow people to return to their homes. (Jerome Delay/AP/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)

Conflict in Congo
November 9, 2008 (Financial Times) Editorial Comment:

In the turbulent aftermath of independence, Congo hosted the first United Nations attempt at supporting nation building. When that mission failed to prevent civil war, it gave “peacekeepers” a bad name for generations of Congolese, abandoned to the kleptocratic regime of Mobutu Sese Seko.

Nearly half a century later, history is perilously close to being repeated. The UN’s 17,000-strong peacekeeping force in Congo is the largest in the world and, at a cost of more than $1bn a year, its most expensive. But it is spread across a country the size of western Europe and it is coming under fire from every side. Should it collapse, contributing nations will be more reluctant to commit to future UN missions, and peacekeeping may falter across Africa.

The blue helmets are sandwiched between Congolese rebels, intent on forcing them into a humiliating withdrawal, ill-disciplined government troops, and a population angered by their failure to protect civilians. Monuc, the French acronym by which the mission is known, has too few combat troops to hold its own. UN officials fear that the fall of the city of Goma, where UN and government forces are encircled, could be a catalyst for the unravelling of their mission.

France appeared to understand the severity of this threat when it proposed the deployment of a separate 1,500-strong European Union force. Britain helped shoot down the idea, and sent David Miliband, the foreign secretary, to the region as a stop-gap measure. Diplomacy has played a part since in slowing the rebel offensive. But it is no substitute for more robust intervention to save the UN mission.

Peacekeepers have a terrible record in central Africa. But there is one successful precedent. Operation Artemis, the EU intervention in north-eastern Congo in 2003, was limited in size and scope. But the mainly French soldiers were equipped to make a difference. They rescued a besieged contingent of Uruguayan blue helmets, halted the massacre of civilians and provided breathing space for a political solution to be found.

Monuc shares some of the blame for its own failure to do the same around Goma. But assistance from the EU would give the UN time to get its house in order. It would send an important signal to combatants that the world is serious about preventing another regional war. And it would allow more serious efforts to address the causes of the conflict to begin. The cost might be high at a time of global penny-pinching. But the consequence of inaction will ultimately be far higher.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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DR Congo

Photo: The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has reported that some refugee camps in rebel-held territory had been "forcibly emptied, looted and burnt" (Karel Prinsloo/AP/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)

Congo faces fresh cataclysm
November 6, 2008 Financial Times report by Matthew Green in Goma:

On a plain of lava outside the eastern Congolese town of Goma, three young men oversee a roadblock made from empty crates of ammunition. Their makeshift barrier marks the end of a narrow strip of no man’s land surrounding the town and the start of rebel country.

With their motley fatigues, battered AK-47 rifles and wary expressions, the gunmen could belong to any of myriad armed groups that have skirmished for years for a slice of wealth and power in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s chaotic east.

But this rebellion, in which Laurent Nkunda, the renegade general, has marched his troops almost to the gates of Goma, is turning out to be different. Just when many Congolese – and the west – had hoped the country was emerging from a nightmarish decade of civil strife, it appears once more to be on the brink.

“We will take Goma,” says a rebel officer, who gave his name as Lieutenant Muragizi, speaking in the almost deserted village of Ruhagi farther up the track, abandoned by residents fleeing from the rebel advance. “And the whole of Congo.”

People in Goma – who have witnessed the passage of rebel armies, waves of refugees and, in 2002, a lava flow that razed much of the town – are braced for another cataclysm.

“It’s certain the rebels can come to Goma,” says Furaha Zubeda, a middle-aged woman who ventured beyond the frontline to look for relatives in villages emptied by the rebel advance. “We don’t know what will happen from one day to the next.”

An estimated 250,000 Congolese have been forced to flee Gen Nkunda’s latest onslaught, on top of 1m already displaced in the past two years.

Crowding into camps on the edge of Goma, thousands must queue in pouring rain for rations doled out by aid agencies. For the west, the violence threatens to tear up the script they had written in the hope of piecing Africa’s fallen giant back together.

Elections held two years ago – the country’s first presidential polls since independence from Belgium – were supposed to have ushered in an era of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction, and to have opened up mining concessions worth billions of dollars.

Instead, Joseph Kabila, Congo’s president, faces the biggest military threat since the end of a conflict which dragged in various foreign armies five years ago. Fears are intensifying that the rebellion, currently confined largely to the North Kivu region, could spread.

Reports of ethnic killings by the rebels at Kiwanja, some 80km north of Goma, have raised the risk of reprisals.

Allegations of involvement by Congo’s neighbours have also raised the risk of an escalation. The US has said Gen Nkunda’s forces have used Rwanda as a rear base. Some UN officials suspect a higher degree of collaboration, while many in Goma regard the rebels as proxies for the Kigali government.

Mr Kabila and Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, are due to meet in a hastily convened UN-backed summit in Kenya on Friday. But the fact that Gen Nkunda has managed to pose such a formidable threat has exposed precisely to what extent previous negotiations have failed to address the drivers of violence on the other side of the country from the capital, Kinshasa.

Gen Nkunda, an ethnic Tutsi whose forces have been accused of human rights violations, has sought to portray himself as protector of the minority of ethnic Tutsis in eastern Congo.

He cites Mr Kabila’s failure to disarm Hutu militia who fled to Congo after committing the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda as one of the reasons for his revolt.

He has also managed to mobilise powerful business and political interests to help turn his CNDP rebels into a more potent force. UN officials suspect the group has a network of financial backers that stretches through Rwanda, South Africa and the US.

Rwanda’s government, which has backed previous rebellions in eastern Congo to further its economic and security interests, denies providing support, although few in Goma believe that.

Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu, wants to see EU member states such as France and the UK turn discussions about the possibility of deploying a special force to protect Goma into action.

“If they deployed a well-equipped force, with attack helicopters, it would be a deterrent,” he told the Financial Times from his residence overlooking Lake Kivu on the edge of the city. “The international community must put pressure on Nkunda.”

With such a deployment apparently a distant prospect, diplomatic approaches to Gen Nkunda may persuade him – and his Rwandan backers – that the cost, in terms of international credibility, of taking Goma may be too high.

While the people of the town wait for what may come next, time for talking is running short.

DR Congo

Photo: A rebel soldier pictured in a village in the Mulimbi mountain range. The militias allied themselves with the Congolese army as the Congo was plunged into war between 1998 and 2003 (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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DR Congo

Photo: Nkunda, pictured here in the northeastern Congolese town of Kitshoumba, accuses the Congolese Government of supporting the Rwandan Hutu militias who took part in the genocide and then, after being defeated, crossed the border to find sanctuary in eastern Congo. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty)

Rebel grip tightens in eastern Congo
November 2, 2008 Financial Times report by William Wallis, Africa Editor:

Rebels led by renegade commander Laurent Nkunda on Sunday tightened their grip over a swathe of territory in eastern Congo captured after they routed government forces in fighting.

However, the rebels have stalled their advance on the border city of Goma amid international efforts to prevent the United Nations’ 17,000-strong peacekeeping mission from unravelling and to stop a wider war in Congo from re-igniting.

International envoys have flocked to the region, visiting Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, and neighbouring Rwanda, since UN officials last week warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe prompted by the rebel offensive.

Hundreds of thousands of Congolese villagers have been displaced and are on the road without food or shelter, according to aid workers. There are reports that camps for the displaced have been forcibly emptied and burned.

David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary and Bernard Kouchner, his French counterpart called jointly at the weekend for political efforts to end the crisis. But they gave no firm promise of European Union military reinforcements, one proposal, for the struggling UN mission, after visiting Goma.

Gen Nkunda’s Tutsi-led rebels reached the outskirts of the city bordering Rwanda last week before calling a unilateral ceasefire. Panicked government soldiers retreated into Goma, looting some neighbourhoods before UN peacekeepers and other government forces regained some control.

“The crisis, even if averted in the short term, will return without a new, vigorous and united political effort,” the British and French foreign Ministers said in a joint statement.

Diplomats in the region said a regional summit could take place in Kenya as soon as next week, but it is unclear what prospects for success any such summit would have.

Gen Nkunda claims he is fighting to protect the Tutsi minority in the region from an alliance of Hutu militias, some of whom took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Congolese government soldiers and other armed groups.

Congo in turn accuses neighbouring Rwanda of supporting Gen Nkunda, who has made repeated attempts to take control of the eastern Kivu provinces neighbouring Rwanda since Congo’s 1998-2003 war formally ended.

Alexei Thambwe Mwamba, Congo’s foreign minister, told the Financial Times he had urged Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president in a meeting in Kigali, to exert pressure on Gen Nkunda to rejoin a peace process which collapsed in August following repeated ceasefire violations.

“We did not get a clear response on this,” Mr Thambwe Mamba said. However, he added that Rwanda had intervened to dissuade Gen Nkunda from taking Goma.

Officially, the Congolese government is insisting that the rebels disarm before any negotiations begin. But with Kinshasa’s positioning weakening by the day, even some government members are now dissenting.

Mbusa Nyamwisi, the minister of local government and a former warlord, said it was imperative to open direct talks with Gen Nkunda, and that a means was found to neutralise the Rwandan Hutu militias he claims to be fighting.

Their presence in eastern Congo has twice provided a pretext for Rwanda’s invasion of the country and its support for a succession of rebel proxies.

Regional specialists and experts in the UN mission believe there is a danger that Gen Nkunda’s latest offensive could draw in other disaffected Congolese groups to a broader rebellion that could spark the intervention of regional armies who participated in Congo’s 1998-2003 war.

”We must do everything we can to stop that happening again. This country has suffered so much already,” Mr Nyamwisi said by phone from Kinshasa.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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DR Congo

Photo: A woman cries as displaced people march into the provincial capital of Goma. The 1998-2003 conflict sucked in Rwanda and neighbouring African countries. Up to 5 million people are thought to have died (Walter Astrada/AFP/Getty)

Congo rebels ‘cease fire’ as UN urges restraint
October 29, 2008 Financial Times report by William Wallis in London [last updated: October 30 2008 09:20]:

Congolese rebels have declared a ceasefire after four days of fighting that have precipitated “a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic dimensions” according to the United Nations.

As the UN Security Council pleaded for restraint, the forces of renegade Tutsi commander Laurent Nkunda on Wednesday tightened their noose around the eastern city of Goma and captured a significant Congolese army base. By the evening they had captured a stretch of territory along the Rwandan border and were advancing towards Goma, threatening to overwhelm UN peacekeepers who have their principal base there.

Tens of thousands of Congolese villagers fled, alongside routed government troops. Aid workers said there was a risk that more than 1m people displaced over the past two years would be cut off from humanitarian aid.

Gen Nkunda claims to be protecting Congo’s minority Tutsis from Rwandan Hutu militias who have been present in eastern Congo ever since they carried out the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. He has been fighting an intermittent battle in the region against government forces, whom he claims are working with the militias.

His activities have mostly been contained to the province of North Kivu. But he now threatens to take the battle to Kinshasa, 1,500 km away, and there are growing suspicions that his latest offensive has the support of neighbouring Rwanda.

Any such involvement could lead to a serious escalation of the conflict. The Kinshasa government accuses Rwanda of backing the rebels, and on Wednesday said Rwandan tanks had fired on Congolese territory.

Kigali responded with similar accusations against the Congolese. The UN said Rwandan troops had crossed into Congo in pursuit of government soldiers after an exchange of artillery fire and Jendayi Frazer, US assistant secretary of state, said “Rwandan territory is being used to support” the rebels.

Rwanda has invaded Congo twice in the past decade, in support of rebel proxies attempting to take power in Kinshasa. The wars that ensued drew in armies from most of Congo’s nine neighbouring countries and led to conflict over control of its immense mineral resources. It is estimated that 5m Congolese died in the process.

Under heavy international pressure, foreign forces withdrew from the country in 2003, and since elections returned Joseph Kabila to the presidency in 2006, a 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force has contained the violence.

However, this time there is a real risk that the UN mission will be overwhelmed, a senior diplomat in the region said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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DR Congo

Photo: The Save the Children charity, which was forced to pull out of Goma after government troops went on the rampage last week, has now sent an emergency team back into the city (Karel Prinsloo/AP/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)

Congo reignites
October 29, 2008 Financial Times report:

The war that has claimed more victims than any other since world war two is reigniting at potentially horrific cost. Several million Congolese died before international efforts to broker peace began to bear fruit in 2003. The United Nations’ largest peacekeeping force has since prevented a legacy of localised conflicts regaining nationwide momentum, although atrocities have continued on a monstrous scale. This time, however, the pattern of fighting, and of bellicose statements emanating from neighbouring capitals, bears alarming similarities to events that led in the past to a devastating regional war.

Ethnic Tutsi rebels allied to neighbouring Rwanda are poised to capture the eastern city of Goma, where UN forces have their principal base. More than a million displaced villagers risk being cut off from aid. Congolese government troops are on the run and Kinshasa is appealing to Angola to intervene on its behalf. History is repeating itself. Britain and America – as Rwanda’s principal western allies – risk playing a proxy role in a possible bloodbath and collapse of the UN mission if they fail to use their leverage.

A conflagration is inevitable if Rwanda becomes more explicitly involved. The Rwandan government denies supporting renegade commander and alleged war criminal Laurent Nkunda, who is threatening to take his battle to Kinshasa, 1,500km away. But if Kigali has not already contrived to make his latest offensive possible, it is intervening on his behalf now, exchanging fire with Congolese troops.

The Kinshasa government is far from saintly itself. It holds part of the blame for the collapse of a ceasefire accord signed last year. The UN mission has proved only partially effective. A policy of containment has cooled tensions but left causes unaddressed. Among these is the continued presence in eastern Congo of Hutu militias, bearing the same philosophy that fuelled the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Few analysts believe they pose a significant threat to Rwanda now. But they provide a pretext for General Nkunda to maintain a standing army to protect the business interests of wealthy minority Tutsis.

Speaking about Russia in Georgia, David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary, said this week that whatever the rights or wrongs, they did not justify one country invading another. Britain is Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor. The US is a key ally too. Together they have influence in Central Africa, which they did not have in the Caucasus, to prevent Rwanda crossing Congo’s border and to force it to restrain Gen Nkunda.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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London police probe UN-Congo charity deal
October 6, 2008 Financial Times report by Michael Peel, Legal Correspondent

City of London police are probing whether a landmark United Nations deal to supply life-saving drugs to Congo was marred by bribery involving two key contractors employed to help prevent corruption.

British and Danish investigators are examining about $1m (£563,000, €725,000) of alleged payments by Denmark’s Missionpharma, a leading supplier of generic medicines to poor countries, to a British-registered charity that advised the UN on the project, people familiar with the case said.

The case is being investigated by City police’s anti-corruption unit, which was set up two years ago as part of government efforts to counter criticism of Britain’s alleged hypocrisy in calling for poor countries to root out bribery while failing to prosecute the western companies involved in it.

The allegations – surrounding a $34m deal to supply HIV and malaria drugs between 2005 and 2007 to one of the world’s poorest countries – highlight the problems of suspected bribery that still dog multinational companies and humanitarian aid.

The international Global Fund for disease prevention, which financed the project, said it was “deeply concerned that companies or individuals trusted with money provided to save lives in the fight against Aids, tuberculosis and malaria may have abused that trust”.

It added: “We have been working closely with police authorities to unearth any evidence of wrongdoing.”

The police probes in London and Copenhagen have worked jointly since last year on investigating a complex series of transactions suspected of routing the money from Missionpharma to a British bank account linked to World Response, which is registered in the UK as a charity and in the US as a nonprofit organisation, people familiar with the case said.

City police last week arrested Guido Bakker, director of World Response, on money laundering charges, after the earlier arrest of Art Scheffer, the organisation’s president. The men, both Dutch nationals, have been released on bail until next year.

World Response did not answer a series of questions submitted by the Financial Times to its website.

Neither Mr Bakker nor Mr Scheffer could be reached.

Mr Bakker was the Global Fund’s procurement manager between 2002 and 2004, according to World Response’s website.

The Global Fund said Mr Bakker joined it on secondment from a US non-governmental body, then worked between 2003 and 2005 on a number of short-term engagements and consultancies.

Missionpharma, which has its roots in supplying cheap drugs to missionary clinics associated with Scandinavian churches, has customers in more than 80 countries, including governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.

Kim Ginnerup, Missionpharma’s managing director, confirmed he and his company were under investigation in Denmark, but declined to give details. He denied all wrongdoing and said the way events were unfolding was “a little bit tragic”.

He said: “For more than 30 years, we [have been] a respectable company. So this is really something that has been very unpleasant.”

An article last year in the Global Health Council’s magazine described how the Congo project was “harnessing the magic of the marketplace” to deliver help to a country in which the life expectancy is about 50 years and millions of people had died in the deadliest conflict since the second world war.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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Congo prepares to sell off mining assets
September 8, 2008 Financial Times report:

The government of Democratic Republic of Congo is planning to privatise some of its most valuable mining assets, as well as take a larger share of any future discoveries made in the mineral-rich country.

Victor Kasongo, Congo’s deputy minister of mines, said on Friday that “a major future initiative” for the government was the transformation of state-owned mining companies into commercial entities. He said new management would be drafted in to turn round ailing businesses and then they could be floated through an initial public offering or stakes could be sold to private mining groups.

The first mining flotation should happen “in less than 12 months”, said Mr Kasongo. “Gecamines [the state copper company] is a very interesting asset. And Okimo [the state gold company] has a lot of good reserves, it could be a good company for an IPO.”

The news comes as the government continues its review of the country’s mining contracts, many of which were signed when Congo was embroiled in a bloody civil war.

Mr Kasongo said that of the 61 mining companies involved in the review, the government was satisfied that 14 were developing their projects in a way that was fair and transparent. But 25 companies would have their contracts modified and a further 22 companies “have contracts so far out of line with mainstream international practice as to warrant cancellation”. These groups would have to renegotiate their contacts completely.

Companies including Freeport McMoRan, Lundin Mining, Anvil Mining, Katanga Mining and First Quantum Minerals are involved in the long-running talks with the government. The uncertainty over their contracts has depressed their share prices, while several other large mining companies are waiting until the review is completed before investing in the country.

Mr Kasongo declined to say which companies had not satisfied government requirements and risked having their mining licences revoked. “We want to leave the negotiations some room.”

The government also revealed that it would take control of any future mineral discoveries made in the country by private companies. It said state-owned companies such as Gecamines and Okimo would automatically own 51 per cent of any mining project, which it claimed was “based on the standard international practice of countries such as South Africa and Zambia”.

www.ft.com/commoditiesboom
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Eni finds oil sands deposits in Congo
May 19, 2008 Financial Times report by Ed Crooks in Pointe Noire, Congo
[Last updated: May 19 2008 19:14]

Eni, the Italian oil group, has discovered a large oil sands deposit in the Republic of Congo that is expected to become Africa’s first large unconventional oil development and could hold several billion barrels.

Paolo Scaroni, Eni’s chief executive, said the project, due to begin production in 2011, opened “a new front” in the development of “unconventional” oil.

Unconventional resources, such as oil sands, which have in the past been considered too difficult or expensive to extract, are expected to provide an increasing proportion of the world’s fuel supply in future as conventional reserves run down.

Canada’s oil sands and Venezuela’s Orinoco belt have the world’s biggest known heavy oil reserves. The area to be developed by Eni is on a smaller scale, but is still likely to be very substantial.

Eni has not put a figure on the scale of the resources in its 1,790 square km licence area, but a sample 100 square km area that Eni has studied is estimated to hold 500m to 2.5bn barrels of recoverable oil.

That suggests the area as a whole could hold more oil than Eni’s entire reserves of 7bn barrels of oil equivalent.

It would put the resource base on a par with the 9bn-13bn barrels of oil equivalent at the problem-plagued, Kashagan field in Kazakhstan, where Eni is one of consortium members.

The deal giving Eni the oil sands licence, which was agreed last month, is part of an energy package it signed with Brazzaville.

It also includes investment in conventional oil production, a new power plant that will supply 80 per cent of Congo’s electricity, and 70,000 hectares of plantations to produce palm oil for food consumption and biofuels. Eni is also investing in capturing the associated gas from its oil fields that is burnt off in flares, to use in the power plant and the heavy oil processing plants or upgraders.

In total, Eni plans to invest $3bn in Congo, during 2008-11, excluding the heavy oil project. It could spend several billion more on upgraders to process the heavy oil into a form that can be readily sold on world markets. Each upgrader, with a capacity of 40,000 barrels per day, is expected to cost €1bn ($1.5bn). Eni suggested it could build five.

Eni has been in Congo since 1969, but stepped up its interest last year with the $1.4bn purchase of assets from Maurel & Prom of France, and the £1.7bn ($3.3bn) takeover of London-listed oil independent Burren Energy.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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Congo to review mining contracts
June 11, 2008 Financial times report by Dino Mahtani in Lagos:

The government in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday said it had started a review of about 60 mining contracts signed during war-time and subsequently by an unelected power-sharing government.

The review comes as part of an expected shake-up of Congo’s mining sector after Joseph Kabila, the transitional president, won elections last year making him the country’s first elected leader in four decades.

Pressure for the review has come from international donors and lobby groups who have argued that the contracts do not give war-shattered Congo a good deal and were signed in opaque circumstances.

Corruption and misuse of the mining sector in Congo played a big role in the country’s 1998-2003 war, which dragged in several neighbouring countries and killed up to 4m people.

During the war, many of Congo’s mining concessions had been mortgaged off by government and rebels alike to pay for weapons and the support of foreign armies. Mr Kabila has retained a strong influence in Gecamines, the state-owned copper company, which has its most lucrative concessions in his southern home province of Katanga.

In an internal memo leaked to the FT last year, a senior World Bank official also raised concerns that three of the biggest Gecamines joint ventures, approved under Mr Kabila’s transitional government in 2005, were not transparent and were too generous to the external partners.

The deals were approved before a consultant was brought in, under pressure from the World Bank, to restructure Gecamines.

Giant mining multinationals and smaller players alike have been crowding each other to invest billions of dollars in Congo’s lucrative mining sector now that relative stability has returned to the central African country.

While Mr Kabila’s government has commissioned the review as part of its plans to regain the credibility of international donors, senior government officials are keen the review does not disrupt their investment plans.

Mines minister Martin Kabwelulu said the review would highlight “irregularities” and “dishonesty” in each contract.

”I don’t want to say just yet if there will be any eventual cancellation of contracts,” he told Reuters. “We are confident that the partners we’ve signed contracts with want to see our country develop. I hope no contracts will be cancelled.”

Last year, Paul Fortin, the consultant brought in by the World Bank to help restructure Gecamines, told the FT that he did not expect wholesale changes in contracts.

In March, Congo, which holds some of the world’s biggest deposits of copper and cobalt as well as diamonds and gold, suspended all negotiations on future deals pending a review.

Ministry officials say the review could take three months but some mining experts say it could take longer, especially if there are issues of transparency.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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Total and Eni eye nuclear option
July 8, 2008 Financial Times report by Carola Hoyos in London:

Two of Europe’s biggest oil and gas companies, Total and Eni, each plan to bring nuclear power to countries in the Middle East.

Their proposals mark a contentious shift in an industry being squeezed out of many of the biggest oil and gas fields.

Total plans to help build nuclear power plants with a view to negotiating better terms and access in the oil and gas industry in countries with which it has long relationships, Christophe de Margerie, chief executive, told the Financial Times.

The strategy, he said, was behind plans unveiled in January for Total, Areva, the French nuclear group, and Suez, the utility, to build two pressurised water reactors in the United Arab Emirates. He expected to sign a similar deal with another Middle Eastern country soon.

In a separate interview, Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Eni, said he was considering following Total’s lead. Egypt and Algeria were possible candidates.

Nuclear companies such as Areva have failed to gain a significant foothold in the Middle East because executives assumed that the gas-rich region would not need their services.

However, other than Qatar, many countries have failed to tap their gas resources and face looming shortages amid booming economies and growing gas-heavy industries such as petrochemicals.

“I told the UAE, ‘why don’t you think about nuclear?’” Mr de Margerie said, adding that, in the longer term, Total could also help India build nuclear reactors to produce power.

Total would not settle for a broker’s fee for such an arrangement, he said. “Why should we get rewarded just as electricity contractors?”

Mr Scaroni said Eni would suggest nuclear power capacity as an alternative to gas for power generation to countries that either needed gas for other internal uses or to sell abroad. “It is logical for us [to say to them], ‘we make nuclear and you keep the gas’.”

Oil companies had the experience of running and financing big, complex projects and the contacts in the countries that could benefit from nuclear power, he said.

Mr Scaroni said it would be more difficult for Eni to go nuclear than for Total, even though Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, has embraced nuclear power. “For us it is difficult, but not impossible,” he said.

The strategy has its critics, not least those concerned at the spread of nuclear power in such a volatile region.

However, oil industry sources said Total had the full support of the French government. The oil company’s new-found interest fits well with France’s ambitions to advance its nuclear technology internationally so that it forms the basis of a nuclear renaissance in countries such as the UK, China and Russia.

Mr de Margerie ruled out any interest in Total taking over Areva, whose office faces that of Total on the outskirts of Paris.
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Oil price prompts nuclear move
July 8, 2008 Financial Times report by Carola Hoyos:

When Christophe de Margerie, Total’s chief executive, floated the idea early last year that the French oil and gas company eventually needed to be part of the “nuclear adventure” he stressed this would only be in the very long term.

Even so, the rest of the industry scoffed at the notion that an oil and gas company would some day go nuclear.

But the very long term has become the short term and Mr de Margerie has mapped out his strategy far more quickly than even he had expected.

Through bringing nuclear energy to the Middle East, Mr de Margerie wants to win access to oil reserves, make a decent return and help the region overcome its gas shortage.

And the unusually frank and sometimes provocative Frenchman is no longer alone. Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of Italy’s Eni and a fierce competitor, wants to do the same.

The catalyst, ironically, has been the oil price. International benchmark oil prices have more than doubled in the past year, prompting oil-rich countries, such as Kazakhstan and Venezuela, to demand an ever-increasing stake in projects and to squeeze international oil companies out of fields.

This has meant big oil and gas companies, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Eni, Total, ExxonMobil and Chevron, have struggled to increase their production and are looking for new ways to grow.

Many are moving into liquefied natural gas but even here there is a limit to the amount of projects available in the next decade.

That leaves the companies sitting on huge piles of cash. Even with a generous buy-back policy and consistent dividend payment plan, ExxonMobil, the biggest of the bunch, holds more than $40bn.

Exxon may not be ready to move into nuclear energy yet – an adventure the company says it tried unsuccessfully in the 1980s – but Eni and Total believe nuclear may be a better place for their money than the bank.

The move may be controversial but it would also help the world meet the huge challenge of generating the 50 per cent increase in energy forecasters say will be needed to satisfy demand in the next 22 years.

To cut CO2 emissions aggressively while meeting demand, the world would need to build 32 new nuclear plants each year from 2010-2050, the International Energy Agency, the developed countries’ watchdog, told the G8 last month.

That makes nuclear a more interesting industry than alternatives such as solar and wind, in spite of its high entry cost, some oil executives believe.

But why are Total and Eni focusing first on the Middle East?

The nuclear industry long assumed that the region would use its gas resources and therefore have no need of nuclear power.

However, the Middle East now faces an acute shortage gas and power.

In spite of billions of barrels of reserves, the region is short of gas, largely because its countries have failed to invest adequately in oil’s “poorer brother”.

Some analysts estimate the total shortfall for the six countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates – will reach at least 7,000bn cubic feet by 2015.

That is as much as 41 per cent of the UK’s entire remaining proven gas reserves. This shortage could have profound effects on the countries’ ability to meet the quickly rising power demand that comes with booming economies in need of air conditioning, or to fulfil their ambitions to grow their petrochemicals business, which needs gas as a feedstock.

Eni and Total believe they can capitalise on the region’s interest in nuclear energy – and perhaps in the process redefine themselves.

Even Saudi Arabia, in whose rich oilfields most international oil companies wish they could operate, has expressed an interest in nuclear power.

There could be other benefits from moving into the nuclear arena.

Eventually companies such as Total may well be forced by dwindling natural gas supplies to use nuclear power to extract extra heavy oil from the Alberta tar sands.

Having an understanding of the industry could give them an edge over their competitors. Even those who do not agree with Total and Eni’s nuclear vision acknowledge that their companies are having to change profoundly.

Antonio Brufau, executive chairman of Repsol YPF, said oil and gas companies would have to find new ways to grow in the future. “In 10-15 years companies like us will become energy companies, not oil companies,” he said.

“Markets will narrow, we are converging into one single thing.”

Mr Brufau said this would happen gradually and include acquisitions, resulting in companies involved in everything from oil and gas exploration to providing power to the end consumer. “In the end we will have to invest more in markets.”

Judging from the speed with which Mr de Margerie has moved towards nuclear, that time may be closer than Mr Brufau thinks.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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Congo_2_03_423325a.jpg

Photo: A Congolese soldier carries a rocket in the town of Kibumba. The present fighting could rekindle conflict on such a scale that it has led to an international scramble to solve the crisis. Mr Nkunda however has made it clear that his men would resist any international force that took sides in the conflict (Walter Astrada/AFP/Getty/FT.com Nov 3, 2008)

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