Congo Watch: September 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

DRC's PM resigns - DRC is a country the size of Western Europe & contains a third of the world's cobalt and 4% of global copper reserves

Bloomberg report by Franz Wild September 25, 2008 Congo's Prime Minister Resigns, Citing Health Reasons (Update 1) - excerpt:
Democratic Republic of Congo Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga resigned for health reasons, his spokesman Patrick Muyaya said.

The 82-year-old leader's resignation means the entire Cabinet will have to be replaced, Muyaya said in a telephone interview today from the capital, Kinshasa. Gizenga is a member of the Unified Lumumbist Party, known by its French acronym Palu, which is the second-largest party in the governing Alliance for the Presidential Majority.

Congo held its first democratic elections in four decades in 2006, a key step in the central African nation's transition after civil wars between 1996 and 2003 killed more than 4 million people. The country, the size of Western Europe, contains a third of the world's cobalt and 4 percent of global copper reserves.
Hat tip Friends of the Congo

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

YouTube video from The Frontline Club: "Demystifying the Congo"

Note this multimedia presentation on DR Congo for Frontline Club, London, UK:



Added to YouTube by Frontline Club on April 28, 2008
542 views, as at September 24, 2008.
URL: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnW3ZnU3mSo

Hat tip Ali M (The Malau) of The Salon

Frontline's membership is drawn from the most talented photographers, cameramen and writers in independent news gathering. It also embraces people from the wider media, NGOs and individuals who care about press freedom and the world's conflicts and struggles. See more at http://www.youtube.com/user/FromTheFrontline

Bookmark the Frontline's website: http://www.frontlineclub.com

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

University of Bergen in Norway is searching for Congolese musicians who perform Congolese music (Update 2)

Email just received:

From: maria DOT glenna AT student DOT uib DOT no
Subject: Congolese musicans
Date: 23 September 2008 09:29:01 BST
To: ingrid DOT jones AT virgin DOT net

Dear Madam.

I'm a student at the University of Bergen in Norway. Some fellow
students and I are interested in human rights issues in The Democratic
Republic in Congo and especially women and children.

We plan to arrange a concert and are looking for Congolese musicans,
hopefully whom are interested in the same issues. We have searched the
internet for such a musician, but have not been successful. We therefore
contact you to ask if you have any suggestions of Congolese musicians
who perform Congolese music.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards,
Maria Glenna
- - -

UPDATE (1) - THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2008

Thanks to Ndesanjo Macha, Saharan Africa Editor at Global Voices, for picking up on above post. Check out comment already received at Ndesanjo's Global Voices post - D.R of Congo: Searching for Congolese musicians - by Ira Simmons:
Ndesanjo Macha,
I’m working with several of the most popular Congolese musicians based in Kinshasa.
When would you like them to come to Norway?
(Papa Wemba, JB Mpiano and Fally among others)
Ira Simmons
Note, Ndesanjo is a Tanzanian blogger, journalist, lawyer and digital activist interested in finding ways to amplify voices from non-English speaking parts of the world. He mostly blogs in Kiswahili at Jikomboe and at Digital Africa and can be reached at: africa AT globalvoicesonline DOT org

P.S. This is more proof of the power of blogging. In my experience, ask a blogger anywhere in the world a good question and you get feedback within hours. I love bloggers and blogging! One of the reasons I have a network of blogspots (100 in all) is to show how any person in the world, no matter what their circumstances, situation or health, can become a blogger and start blogspots such as this site, Congo Watch, without it costing a penny via the wonderful Blogger.com and free photo hosting at Flickr, not to mention free news readers (I use NetNewsWire) and super easy to use SiteMeter for traffic counting and statistics (also used by Instapundit). One day, I'll post some graphs of Congo Watch traffic stats courtesy of SiteMeter.

Here's another tip, whenever anyone I know is thinking of buying, renting or borrowing a computer, I highly recommend any Apple Mac because they are fabulous to use and, unlike personal computers and Windows software, get no hassle with viruses. I have adored Apple Macs ever since I started using one at work, for desktop publishing, in 1988. Not sure if they still do it, but each week on a certain day, Apple online advertise refurbished Macs for sale at knock down prices.

P.P.S. Where's Louis and Ali et al? Must find out. I've missed our little bunch of original Congo Watchers. I'm working on some posts to try and unearth them. Of course, I could email them but this way is much more interesting fun.
- - -

UPDATE (2) - THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2008

Email just received from Maria Glenna at University of Bergen, Norway:

From: maria glenna
Subject: Congolese musicans
Date: 25 September 2008 13:00:05 BST
To: ingrid jones

Good Afternoon Ingrid.

I have contacted you about Congolese Musicians. There is a special
reason why this is so important to me and to my fellow students in Bergen.

This morning at 10 a.m. local time the Laureate of the Rafto Prize 2008
was announced. The 2008 Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize is
awarded to Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué for his dedication to end the
plight of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The prize ceremony will take place Sunday 2nd of November.
Traditionally musicians whom relate to that particular human rights issue will
perform at the prize ceremony. We are therefore looking for Congelese
musicians who relates to the human rights issues Pastor Bulambo has been
working hard to promote.

You can read more about the Rafto Foundation here:
http://www.rafto.no/?page=20

The English press release is attached to this email.

Best regards,

Maria Glenna
On behalf of the Rafto Foundation.
- - -

PRESS RELEASE - September 25, 2008

The 2008 Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize is awarded to Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué for his dedication to end the plight of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

2008 Rafto Prize Laureate Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué

Photo: The 2008 Rafto Prize Laureate Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué outside the office of Communauté des Eglises Libres de Pentecôte en Afrique (CELPA) in Bukavu, eastern Congo. Photo taken: August 28, 2008. Photo: Tor Magne Kommedal/the Rafto Foundation

The 2008 Rafto Prize awarded to Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué ‐ DRC Church leader brings hope to eastern Congo

The Board of the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights awards the 2008 Rafto Prize to Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué for his dedication to end the plight of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His work brings hope for peace, reconciliation and human dignity to a people that have suffered from the deadliest conflict since World War II.

The most frequent targets of this hidden war are women. In the last ten years in Congo, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, many in excessively brutal gang rapes.

Pastor Bulambo’s message is clear and simple: “We can no longer accept that our daughters, our sisters and our wives are raped. It should be possible for women to be safe. It is our responsibility to make life safe.”

The DRC faces a grave humanitarian crisis resulting from what has become known as the First African World War.

The war in the Congo is significantly linked to the Rwandan genocide. Many African countries and countless militia groups are involved.

Since 1998 more than 5 million people have lost their lives, and ordinary civilians are disproportionately affected by the conflict.

The Eastern Congo region is particularly unstable. Law and order has broken down, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate and fears are rising that the hostilities will escalate.

Women have been systematically abused and raped as a strategy of war. Children are kidnapped and forced into service as child soldiers and as sex slaves. The scale of the atrocities has created a society in which the norms of conduct have been broken down and women and children live in constant terror of brutal assault.

From this turbulent environment, Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué emerges as a visionary church leader with high personal integrity and a unique ability to turn strategies into concrete action. He works ceaselessly and selflessly at the grassroot level to help the people of his country help themselves. Pastor Bulambo is also a team builder and has recruited competent local leaders who, under the most challenging of circumstances, run schools, support programs for child soldiers and survivors of rape.

Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe serves as Vice President of the Protestant Council of Churches, the Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC), in the DRC’s South Kivu province. His prominence as a church leader has allowed him to preach democratic ideals in an effort to quell rising tensions between ethnic groups in the region.

Bulambo Lembelembe Josué is also the Vice President of Héritiers de la Justice, a human rights organization he helped to establish in 1991. The organization works to raise awareness of human rights, assists victims of human rights abuses and stop impunity from sexual violence. Bulambo stresses that no amnesty should be given to perpetrators of sexual violence.

As the president of the Pentecostal church (1995‐2005), Communauté des Eglises Libres de Pentecôte en Afrique (CELPA), Pastor Bulambo initiated a rehabilitation program for women victims of rape (CAMPS). The program offers medical and psychological treatment, in addition to training and assistance to enable the women to start their own businesses and become valuable members of their society. A special focus is placed on building respect and dignity for women who suffer from the social stigma attached to victims of sexual assault.

Through CELPA, Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué also established a program to help child soldiers. Approximately 40 per cent of these are girls, many of whom have been subjected to sexual violence in addition to traumatizing experiences as soldiers.

Bulambo Lembelembe Josué has shown a remarkable ability to organize and implement programs that have helped to relieve the suffering of civilians in the face of war. Furthermore, he has worked actively to create peace. He initiated, and is currently leading, a dialogue project that works at the local level to disarm and repatriate groups linked to the Rwandan genocide.

The international community has, despite a wide‐ranging engagement, not yet succeeded in putting an end to the horrific acts of violence in the DRC. However, Bulambo Lembelembe Josué through his example and achievements is a source of hope that the Congolese themselves, through rebuilding their civil society, step by step can achieve reconciliation and secure the respect for human rights and human dignity. The Rafto Foundation calls on the international community to support their efforts.

The 2008 Rafto Prize is awarded at the National Venue of Theatre (Den Nationale Scene), in Bergen, Norway on Sunday 2 nd of November at 18.00‐19.30

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Break the Silence Benefit CD "Congo's Angels" for Congo Week Oct 19-25

Irma Thomas, Neko Case, and Susan Cowsill Join Prominent Women Singers, Songwriters and Poets on Break the Silence Benefit CD for Congo Week

Excerpt from a Press Release just received from Friends of the Congo:
Washington, DC - September 19, 2008 - Grammy winner Irma Thomas, Americana singer Neko Case, and pop icon Susan Cowsill join forces with noted women singers, songwriters and poets to benefit rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Contributors include Eliza Gilkyson, Caroline Aiken, Karen Protti-Bailey, Claire Holley, Kim Carson, Theresa Davis, Mary LaSang, Ruby Rendrag, Gospel Gossip, Sonia Tetlow, Herman Put Down the Gun, Karen Garrabrant, Dede Vogt, Caroline Herring, Janet Bean, and Leilani Rivera Bond

Women singers, songwriters, and poets have joined forces and donated 20 tracks for a limited edition compilation CD to raise awareness about violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "Congo's Angels" is scheduled for release during Break the Silence Congo Week, October 19-25. Congo Week is a global initiative led by students throughout the globe to raise awareness about the escalating violence against women and children in the Congo and provide support. Students and community organizers in at least 100 countries and 1,000 campuses are expected to organize an activity or event in solidarity with the people of the Congo.
 
On Monday, September 22, 2008 from 10 AM, a press conference will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to launch the countdown to Congo Week.
 
All proceeds from the sale of "Congo's Angels" will go directly into a special account, designed to offer transparency in accounting. Friends of the Congo (www.friendsofthecongo.org), a U.S. based tax-exempt non-profit, will manage this account. No monies, except minimal distribution costs, will be taken from sales.
Friends of the Congo, 1629 K Street, NW, Ste 300, Washington, DC 20006
www.friendsofthecongo.org

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Map of attacks and LRA base - DR Congo's army has sent 200 troops to Dungu, DRC

Earlier this month, the Democratic Republic of Congo's army and the UN began a military operation to try to contain the activities of Ugandan LRA terrorist group leader Joseph Kony.

Map of LRA bases & attacks

Source: BBC News 'Rebel leader targeted in DR Congo' report dated Monday, 8 September 2008. Excerpts:
The campaign follows failed attempts to negotiate an end to the rebellion by his Lord's Resistance Army.

Congo's army has sent 200 troops to the northern town of Dungu, where hundreds have sought refuge from the LRA.

The LRA fought a 20-year war against the government in northern Uganda. Some two million people were displaced.
Note, the report says Mr Kony is thought to have been rebuilding his forces.

Also note, as stated here many times before, the USA treats the LRA as a terrorist organisation and, in my view, rightly so.

One wonders about the financing and arming of the LRA over the past 20 years. How come, in this day age, the sources of funding, armaments and munitions for African rebel groups manage to remain such a secret over past twenty years? I wish professional journalists would tell us because it would help make sense of what is going on in and around Africa and why.

[Cross posted to parent site Sudan Watch and sister sites Uganda Watch and Niger Watch]