Congo Watch: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Top UN man in DR Congo mission as unrest escalates

John Holmes will meet president Joseph Kabila during five-day mission.

Top UN man in DR Congo mission as unrest escalates
From BBC News, Kinshasa
By Thomas Fessy at 22:59 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 23:59 UK:
The UN's top humanitarian official has flown into the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo as armed groups continue to spread insecurity.

John Holmes will travel to three provinces where humanitarian workers face increasingly difficult conditions.

He will also visit a region where tens of thousands of people have reportedly been forced to flee their homes.

Human rights abuses such as rapes and lootings are reported regularly in the country.

Fighting and banditry

Mr Holmes will visit the Kivu region, where a military campaign backed by the UN against Rwandan Hutu rebels has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Aid workers say better protection for civilians was promised at the end of similar joint military operations last year.

But, in reality, human rights abuses such as rapes and lootings are reported regularly.

And, they say, displacements of populations are constant. The situation is becoming increasingly difficult for humanitarian workers whose operations have been restricted by fighting and banditry.

As a result, thousands of people in need are left with no assistance.

Mr Holmes is also travelling to the north-eastern part of the country, where attacks by Ugandan rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army on villages are still frequent.

His Congo tour will eventually take him to the western province of Equateur, where a recent insurgency by Enyele fighters has pushed thousands of people into the bush.

The Congolese authorities have asked the UN mission to prepare for a withdrawal; Mr Holmes will be discussing civilian protection issues with President Joseph Kabila on Monday.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

DR Congo: More than 8,000 women were raped during fighting in 2009, the UN says

Women in DR Congo are being escorted to market by UN troops.

UN official calls DR Congo 'rape capital of the world'
From BBC News online at 16:50 GMT, Wednesday, 28 April 2010 17:50 UK:
The Democratic Republic of Congo is "the rape capital of the world", a senior UN official has said.

Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence in conflict, urged the Security Council to punish the perpetrators in DR Congo.

Rape remained a dominant feature of the ongoing conflict in eastern DR Congo, with impunity being the rule rather than the exception, she said.

More than 8,000 women were raped during fighting in 2009, the UN says.

"Women have no rights, if those who violate their rights go unpunished," Ms Wallstrom told the UN Security Council on her return from DR Congo.

"If women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced," she said.

The UN mission in DR Congo, Monuc, has been trying to deal with the problem by escorting women on their way to market, developing early warning systems and working with local officials, according to a UN statement.

In April, research on sexual violence in DR Congo's eastern South Kivu province produced shocking findings.

The report by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative showed that 60% of rape victims in South Kivu were gang raped by armed men, more than half of the assaults took place in the victims' homes and an increasing number of attacks were being carried out by civilians.

Eastern DR Congo is still plagued by army and militia violence despite the end of the country's five-year war in 2003.

Monuc troops have been backing efforts to defeat rebels linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, who are operating in eastern DR Congo.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Enough Project: Florida Students Turn to Facebook to Find Congressional Champion for Congo

Copy of Enough Project Press Release:

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL:
April 19, 2010

CONTACT:
Jonathan Hutson, Enough Project, 857-919-5130
jhutson@enoughproject.org

Florida Students Turn to Facebook To Find Congressional Champion for Congo

Enough Project campaign uses social media to ask Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to Change the Equation for Congo

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On April 19, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) will find some new faces on his/her official Facebook page, as part of an innovative human rights campaign to "
Change the Equation for Congo."

Enough Project, local partners and student advocacy groups are launching a five-day effort to gain ten new Congressional sponsors for the Conflict Minerals Trade Act, using
Facebook, Twitter, and viral videos. On each of the five days, grassroots supporters will focus on two of the targeted representatives, posting messages on their Facebook walls urging them to co-sponsor the bill, while tweeting this same message and using other innovative social media tools to spread the word.

The Conflict Minerals Trade Act is a bi-partisan bill that, if passed into law, will give consumers a choice to purchase conflict-free electronics products. It must pass through two powerful committees, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, before it can be put to a vote in the full House of Representatives. Each of the ten representatives targeted by Change the Equation for Congo is a member of one of these committees.

Along with the Enough Project and partners, local student advocacy groups will be driving the Change the Equation for Congo effort. Among the participating local groups are chapters of the student-led anti-genocide project STAND from Florida, Arizona, California and other states across the nation.

"We're seeking ten new Congressional champions, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to co-sponsor the Conflict Minerals Trade Act," said John Norris, Executive Director of the Enough Project at Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. "This bipartisan bill will help take the fuel out of the conflict by giving consumers a choice to buy conflict-free cell phones and other electronics. Human rights advocates, faith groups and electronics manufacturers alike have praised the bill as a vital step toward creating a practical and enforceable means to end the conflict minerals trade that funds mass atrocities in Congo."

Student groups in Representative Ros-Lehtinen's district have been vocal in pushing for support of the Conflict Minerals Trade Act.

Marilyn Winkle, Florida state representative of the student anti-genocide group STAND says; "It's critical that we urge our congressional leaders to support this bill before another legislative cycle passes. The people of the Congo deserve it."

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, northern Uganda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, contact Jonathan Hutson, jhutson [AT] enoughproject.org, 857-919-5130.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Economist is looking for a new Africa correspondent to be based in London

Africa correspondent
From The Economist print edition 15 April 2010:
The Economist is looking for a new Africa correspondent to be based in London, to edit and commission articles, to write on African issues, and to report from any part of the continent. Please send applications, including a covering letter, cv and two past articles, to newafricapost@economist.com by May 3rd.
Where is the Telegraph's David Blair these days, I wonder. He'd do a great job as Africa correspondent for The Economist. I miss his reporting on Africa.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eight Red Cross staff kidnapped near Fizi in South Kivu by Mai Mai Yakutumba militia

Red Cross: 8 staff kidnapped in eastern Congo
From The Associated Press, Tuesday, 13 April 2010:
GENEVA - Eight Red Cross staff have been kidnapped by an armed group in eastern Congo, the international aid agency said Tuesday.

The seven Congolese and one Swiss national were seized Friday afternoon near the town of Fizi in South Kivu province by the Mai Mai Yakutumba rebels, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva.

"The ICRC has been able to get in touch with some of our colleagues after the incident," spokesman Marcal Izard told The Associated Press.

He declined to say whether the Red Cross is in contact with the kidnappers.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the situation and was in touch with the Red Cross and Congolese authorities.

The Red Cross has several offices in South Kivu, which like much of eastern Congo has been wracked by violence since the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda spilled war across the border. The shadowy Mai Mai militia is one of many armed groups in the area. Their fighters have been seen using rudimentary weapons like spears and their group is believed to value mysticism.

In early 2009, a top rebel leader from another militia was arrested and the Congolese government began a campaign to integrate all militias, including the Mai Mai, into the national army.

"It is in order to protect and assist armed-conflict victims that we have been carrying out our activities in the area," said Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC's mission in Congo.

"We continue to insist that the strictly neutral, impartial and humanitarian nature of our work be recognized, and that our colleagues be able to return to their loved ones soon," he said in a statement.

Staff of the neutral aid group have also been targeted for kidnapping in other conflict regions recently.

Three foreign Red Cross workers were kidnapped in the Philippines last year, and French staff members were seized in Chad and Sudan. All have since been released.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Uganda enlists ex-rebel forces to end a war

Ugandan soldiers on patrol in the Congo

Ugandan soldiers on patrol in the Congo look for tracks of the Lord’s Resistance Army in late March 2010. Former rebels of the LRA have now been given the mission to hunt down their one-time boss Joseph Kony and his remaining forces. (Jeffrey Gettleman / New York Times News Service)

Uganda enlists ex-rebel forces to end a war
By Jeffrey Gettleman / New York Times News Service
Published: April 11. 2010 4:00AM PST
OBO, Central African Republic — The night is inky, the helicopters are late and Cmdr. Patrick Opiyo Makasi sits near a dying cooking fire on a remote army base, spinning his thoughts into the darkness.

“It was either them or me,” Makasi said of the countless people he has killed. “Them or me.”

The Lord’s Resistance Army, a notoriously brutal rebel group, snatched him from a riverbank when he was 12 years old, more than 20 years ago, and trained him to burn, pillage and slaughter. His name, Makasi, means scissors in Kiswahili, and fellow soldiers said he earned it by shearing off ears and lips.

But now he has a new mission: hunting down his former boss.

In an unorthodox strategy that could help end this seemingly pointless war, the Ugandan army is deploying special squads of experienced killers to track down the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, one of the most wanted men in Africa, who has been on the run for more than 20 years.

These soldiers, like Makasi, are former LRA fighters themselves, and just about all of them were abducted as children. They recently surrendered and are now wading through black rivers and head-high elephant grass across three of the most troubled countries in the world — the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan — where the last remnants of the LRA are believed to be hiding. They say they know all of Kony’s tricks.

Some critics may not think this wise, putting so much trust in men whose moral compass had been turned upside down for so long.

But the Ugandan government is desperate to finish this conflict, which has raged for more than two decades and killed thousands. The government’s policy is to grant amnesty to all LRA fighters except the top three, who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court: Kony; Okot Odhiambo, his deputy; and Dominic Ongwen, another commander who is widely believed to have planned a massacre in Congo in December in which hundreds of civilians were bludgeoned to death.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Security Council Report: Seeking a New Compact: Resolution 1906 and the Future of MONUC

Security Council Report has published a Special Research Report: Seeking a New Compact: Resolution 1906 and the Future of MONUC.

In April the Security Council will undertake a mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and neighbouring countries. The main issue under consideration will be the future role of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC and the development of a new vision for it that will help to build a new compact with the DRC government acceptable to both the government and the Council. At the heart of this exercise will be resolution 1906, which the Council adopted in December 2009 to extend the mandate of the mission until the end of May. At this crucial time, we offer an in-depth analysis of this long and complex text.

Special Research Report in PDF

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Security Council Report
One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
885 2nd Avenue @ 48th St, 31st Fl
New York NY 10017

T: 212.759.9429 F: 212.759.4038
contact@securitycouncilreport.org

www.securitycouncilreport.org

Monday, April 05, 2010

DR Congo attack kills two UN workers

Heavily armed rebels attacked the town of Mbandaka and overran the airport, UN officials said, killing a Ghanaian peacekeeper and another UN employee.

The BBC's Thomas Fessy in Kinshasa says the joint operation to retake the airport, launched by Congolese and UN troops, has been suspended overnight, and should resume in the early hours of the morning.

DR Congo attack kills two UN workers

Full story: BBC News, Monday, 05 April 2010 -
DR Congo attack kills two UN workers

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