Congo Watch: December 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

UNHCR: LRA killed 1,200 & abducted 1,400 in N.E. Congo Sep 2008 to Jun 2009 + killed 80 in 27 attacks in S. Sudan Dec 2008 - Mar 2009

UN report details attacks on civilians
Report from Associated Press, December 22, 2009:
GENEVA - The United Nations accused the Uganda-based Lord’s Resistance Army yesterday of killing, mutilating, and raping villagers in Sudan and Congo in what may have been crimes against humanity.

The rebels killed at least 1,200 people and abducted 1,400 in northeastern Congo from September 2008 to June 2009, said a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A separate report by the UN’s rights office said that, in at least 27 attacks on villages in southern Sudan, the Lord’s Resistance Army killed more than 80 civilians and kidnapped many others to use as child soldiers, sex slaves, and spies. The report said the attacks in Sudan took place between December 2008 and March 2009.

Both reports were based on hundreds of interviews with survivors and several field trips to the remote areas by UN employees, said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the high commissioner.

Survivors in Sudan told UN investigators that armed Lord’s Resistance Army rebels arrived in groups of between five and 20 and attacked people with axes, bayonets, hoes, knives and machetes. They reserved the use of firearms for those who tried to flee, the report said.

The attacks in Sudan may amount to crimes against humanity, while the widespread abuses in Congo may have been war crimes as well, it said.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

UN ends Congo campaign - 21,000 peacekeepers in DRC

Report from BBC News online at 23:01 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009:
UN ends criticised Congo campaign
The UN envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo says a joint military operation against rebels will be concluded at the end of this month.

Alan Doss told the UN Security Council that the campaign in the east of the country had "largely achieved" its goal of weakening the Rwandan Hutu rebels.

The operation was criticised by rights groups, who accuse Congolese government troops of killing and raping civilians.
UN experts had said the campaign failed to dismantle militia infrastructure.

But Mr Doss declared that had not been the objective, as the rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), is deeply entrenched in eastern Congo.

He did acknowledge there was a dilemma at the heart of the peacekeeping mandate to both protect civilians and work with an undisciplined Congolese army.

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch said the offensive had seen 1,400 civilians murdered this year by both Congolese troops and rebels.

New mandate

Mr Doss told the Security Council that Congolese troops backed by the UN force "will now concentrate on holding ground recovered from the FDLR and preventing attacks on civilians in areas of vulnerability".

The FDLR has been active in eastern Congo for 15 years.

Some of its older members are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, which targeted the Tutsi minority and claimed about 800,000 lives.

Mr Doss said during the first half of next year UN officials would propose a realistic plan for reconfiguring the 21,000-strong peacekeeping force in Congo, known as Monuc, which has been deployed in the country for the past 10 years.

Diplomats say a draft resolution submitted to the Security Council would extend the peacekeepers mandate by five months.

At that point, the idea would be to begin phasing them out of combat and into a programme to reform the army and police forces, says the BBC's Barbara Plett at the United Nations in New York.
KEY STORIES
File picture of an FDLR rebelRebels Inc 
Is the feared FDLR being run from Europe? 
BACKGROUND

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Rwanda's Kagame concerned by dominance of DR Congo radios

Source: RNA news agency, Kigali, in English 10 Dec 09 via BBC Monitoring:
Rwandan leader concerned by dominance of DR Congo radios
December 10th, 2009 - 11:06 UTC by Andy Sennitt.
Text of report in English by Rwandan news agency RNA
President Paul Kagame demanded Thursday that the national broadcaster deploys any appropriate technology to stop the dominance of DR Congo state radio and other FM stations which relay to western Rwanda, RNA reports.

Most areas bordering the large neighbour have for years not been able to capture Radio Rwanda or even state TV. Instead, they watch several Congolese television channels as well as radio stations including Congolese State Radio.

Local officials from there and parliamentarians petitioned the government arguing that their people were not closely following government programmes because there is no communications medium. The Ministry of Information was directed to take up the issue. At the ongoing National Dialogue, a person raised the issue by SMS and President Kagame was on hand - putting whoever is responsible to task.

Former Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that in addition to new relay antennas that are being installed, her office was engaging the Congolese government to reduce the strength of radio signals which come from there.

President Kagame was not convinced, wondering whether Congo needs to reduce the strength of its signal or Rwanda had to increase the capacity of its own broadcaster. He also wondered how a signal from such a large country can reach some parts of Rwanda - dominating the signal from Kigali

“Do you ask your neighbour to reduce the volume of their radio when yours has a low volume or you simply increase the volume?” he demanded amid loud cheers, as Ms Mushikiwabo struggled to explain.

The former minister, now Foreign Affairs Minister, said her office had also preferred to engage with DRC officials to have the signal from Kinshasa regulated.

“No, that is not how things are done,” Kagame said. “The solution is increasing the volume of your radio.”

He also complained that it had been too long but this problem of Radio Rwanda and TV Rwanda remains unsolved. It should not be simply that something is going or is being done, he said adding “we want time lines for when the problem will be over”.

The minister said in a period of six months, the problem will be no more. The state broadcaster ORINFOR has injected some 13m dollars into upgrading its transmission equipment.

American firm Harris Corporation - a broadcast communications technology provider will install new antennas, put up new studio equipment, buy new long-distance relay vans and train technical staff.

The areas bordering Uganda also [more] easily capture FM stations from there than Rwanda state radio.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

First visit of ICC President to DR Congo

Source: International Criminal Court (ICC)
First visit of ICC President to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
KINSHASA, Dem. Rep. of Congo (DRC) December 10, 2009/APO/ — ICC-CPI-20091209-PR485
The President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Sang-Hyun Song, will begin tomorrow, 10 December, 2009, a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where he will be meeting with senior government representatives, members of the local civil society, and affected communities in Ituri, until 15 December, 2009. This first visit of the ICC President to the DRC will provide an opportunity to strengthen the country’s co-operation and to enhance local awareness in order to fulfil the Court’s mandate in the DRC.

In the country’s capital, Kinshasa, President Song will meet with the Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission in the DRC and with members of the diplomatic community.

President Song will address the members of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) during its conference on Justice and peace in the Great Lakes’ region and Central Africa. The focus of the conference will be on the impact of justice in the Great Lakes and Central Africa, including the DRC and on security and post-conflict recovery, with particular attention on the protection of women and children. He will also participate in an outreach event of the Court with Congolese academic and judicial communities.

The President will then travel to Bunia, the capital of the Ituri District, in eastern Congo, where he will meet the members of communities affected by the crimes currently under investigation before the ICC and with local authorities, members of local tribunals, local human rights organisations, and journalists.

His journey will conclude in the town of Fataki, 85 km north of Bunia, one of the sites of conflict in 2003, for a town-hall style meeting with the general public, including local authorities, religious and traditional leaders, teachers, women’s groups representatives and local media.

The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was referred to the Court by the Government of the DRC on 3 March, 2004. The case of The Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui is the second case in the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after that of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, whose trial commenced on 26 January, 2009, before Trial Chamber I. A fourth warrant of arrest was issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I on 22 August, 2006, against Bosco Ntaganda, who remains at large.

For further information please contact Ms Sonia Robla, Head of Public Information and Documentation Section at +31 (0)70 515-8089 or +31 (0) 6 46 44 87 26 or at sonia.robla@icc-cpi.int.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Rwanda: Mixed reactions on restoration of Rwanda - France relations

From The New Times (Rwanda)
December 1, 2009 (via Afrika.no)
Rwanda: Mixed reactions on restoration of Rwanda - France relations
Kigali (Rwanda) — The announcement by government Sunday that Rwanda is set to restore relations with France has been received with mixed reactions, with many, particularly the diplomatic corps, welcoming the development.

The government announced the decision to reinstate relations with France after Presidents Paul Kagame and Nicolas Sarkozy spoke on phone Sunday and agreed to start the process of normalizing ties.

It says this has been the finale of prior extensive consultations between the two governments, at different levels, and Rwanda emphasized willingness "to working out in due course all outstanding issues based on mutual understanding."

A seemingly ecstatic Ivo Goemans, the Belgian ambassador in Kigali, told The New Times that Belgium, being a European country, was pleased and would "welcome our French colleagues when they come to reopen their embassy in Kigali."

"It is very good news, but we are waiting for details of course, especially on how the crucial problem (indictments by a French Judge) will be resolved. The judicial problem is the most important - it was the origin of the breakup.

"This also concerns the other EU countries and we are really eager to know about it," Goemans said.

German Ambassador, Elmar Timpe, also welcomed Sunday's revelation, saying it is "a very good step and very good news" for both countries.

"I think that each and every one in the international community and in Europe is very pleased by this step - and that there will be progress made in order to improve relations. We can only congratulate them," Ambassador Timpe said.

However, Theodore Simburudali, the head of the genocide survivors' organization, Ibuka , seemed not entirely moved by the development largely due to France's role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

"We don't make these decisions - it is the government of Rwanda that decides who to have relations with as well as with whom not to have relations with," Simburudali said.

"It is okay as long as it doesn't diminish France's responsibility - the role they played in the killing of the Tutsi during the Genocide in this country."

Since the election of President Sarkozy, Paris says the country has made efforts to turn the page and normalize relations with Rwanda. Presidents Kagame and Sarkozy have met twice since the breakup.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has travelled to Kigali twice, and Rwandan and French officials have held several discussions in an effort to find a common ground.

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Rwanda becomes a member of the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth has admitted Rwanda as its 54th member.

The African country was admitted at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, a statement from the group said.

A Rwandan minister said the move showed his country's "tremendous progress" over the last 15 years.

The former colony of Germany and Belgium is the second country to be admitted without a British colonial past or constitutional link to Britain.

Mozambique is the only other Commonwealth member without historic UK ties.

It joined the organisation 14 years ago.

Full story: BBC News, Nov. 29, 2009 - Rwanda becomes a member of the Commonwealth

SEE ALSO What would the Commonwealth do for Rwanda?

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