Thursday, March 17, 2005

UN reports atrocities in Congo. Congo death toll nearing 4m

Please do not miss the below copied report from the Guardian UK by Sarah Left and agencies, dated 17 March, 2005.

Photos courtesy Ali's excellent blog and commentary on the Congo, a country where the world's greatest humanitarian crisis is going unnoticed by the rest of the world.

When reading the report, please bear in mind that in December of last year, the death toll was reported as 3.8 m. Now, nearly 4 million people have died in Congo since the start of war between government troops, militias and armed tribal groups, that began in 1998. Most of the deaths are due to hunger and disease brought on by the men fighting and, I believe, half of the victims are women and children. After blogging about Darfur for almost a year, I have come to the conclusion that men really are barbarians. Even animals are not sadistic.

In my view, African women, supported by the rest of the women in the world, could make a powerfully Gandhi like march and stand. Call for male rapists to be castrated and those responsible for crimes against humanity be arrested and put on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It seems obvious (to me anyway) that all the male African leaders (are there any women in leading positions?) are either incompetent or corrupt, or both. None of them seem capable of managing a country and maintaining law and order.

The only glimmer of hope I see is through women who are capable of taking a peaceful stand. Collectively, en masse, women could sort out the men from the boys and the games they all play. Enough is enough. Child soldiers, slavery and using rape as a weapon of war must stop. Put sand in the cogs of macho toys and castrate the rapists. The UN needs to take a firmer stand on behalf of the rest of the world. Rebels and governments responsible for crimes against humanity should cease all violence and be forced into peace talks until solutions are agreed or be put on trial at The Hague. I am serious.

Take a good look at Ali's blog and these photos along with the Guardian's report:

Armed militia groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo kidnapped hundreds of rival tribe members, tortured, mutilated, raped and decapitated their victims, and even boiled alive and ate two girls in front of their mother.

The humanitarian crisis in north-east Congo's embattled and lawless district of Ituri has replaced Sudan's Darfur region as the worst in the world, UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said yesterday, launching the report on abuses allegedly committed by the Forces of Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI). He said the fighting is killing thousands every month.

The UN report summarised testimony from witnesses gathered over a year. It found hundreds of people have been kidnapped by militias in the region and that some have been killed by torture and decapitation. Those not killed are held in labour camps and forced to work as fishermen, porters, domestic workers and sex slaves.

The UN mission in Congo said its human rights experts had interviewed 120 people who managed to escape the attacks by the FRPI, one of five ethnic armed groups operating in Ituri. The militia hails from the Ngiti tribe, which is close to the Lendu ethnic group, the Hema's main rivals in Ituri.

10 January massacres at Ituri in the Congo

"Vital organs were said to have been cut off and used as magic charms. There were also reports that [ethnic] Hema children were thrown on to arrows stuck into the ground," the report said.

"Those responsible for atrocities will be brought to justice," Major General Patrick Cammaert, the Dutch Navy commander of UN forces in Congo, said. He said the UN mission in Congo (Monuc) was working to cut off weapons supplies to armed militias, which apparently entered the country from neighbouring Uganda across Lake Albert.

Monuc is resolved to "proceed with actions against the armed groups refusing to lay down weapons and integrate into the disarmament process," said Gen Cammaert. He called on the militiamen to follow the example set by one of the Ituri armed groups in the district of Aru, the Armed Forces for the Congolese People, which was allowing itself to be demobilised by peacekeepers and reintegrated into the community.

FRPI militiamen were suspected of killing nine UN peacekeepers in a February 25 ambush. On March 1, militiamen fired on Pakistani peacekeepers and the peacekeepers fought back, killing up to 60 fighters, UN officials said at the time.

Nearly 4 million people have died in Congo since the start of a six-nation war that began in 1998, most succumbing to hunger and disease brought on by the conflict. Though foreign armies left Congo under a peace accord in 2002, fighting has continued between government troops, militias and armed tribal groups.

Sexual abuse by men continues in the Congo

Women in the region have been brutally victimised, and not only by the militias. An internal UN investigation concluded that peacekeepers had engaged in widespread sexual abuse of women in Congo.

Yesterday's report contained the first detailed charges of cannibalism to emerge since the war, when occasional charges surfaced.

The UN report was accompanied by a separate account from Zainabo Alfani in which she described to UN investigators being forced to watch rebels kill and eat two of her children in June 2003.

The report said, "In one corner, there was already cooked flesh from bodies and two bodies being grilled on a barbecue and, at the same time, they prepared her two little girls, putting them alive in two big pots filled with boiling water and oil." Her youngest child was saved, apparently because at six months old it didn't have much flesh.

The woman herself was gang-raped by the rebels and mutilated. Ms Alfani survived to tell her horror story, but she died in hospital on Sunday, nearly two years after the attack, of Aids contracted during her torture, the UN report said.

She gave her account in February, but the UN waited to publish it until after her death, for fear she would become a target for reprisal.

The head of Monuc, William Swing, is due to fly to New York along with Gen Cammaert, and will brief the UN security council on the DRC situation on Wednesday March 23. The next day, he is scheduled to address the US congress and hold talks with several US officials.

Special report on the Congo at the Guardian - Tens of thousands raped by militias in Congo conflict - March 8: Babies and elderly not spared, rights group reports.

Congo surpasses Darfur, Sudan as world's worst humanitarian crisis

Bunia residents cheer as French soldiers arrive, Friday, June 6 2003 outside the U.N. compound in Bunia, Congo. An advance party of French troops has arrived in this northeastern corner of Congo to prepare the ground for the arrival of an EU-led force intended to stabilize the region after hundreds were killed in more than a week of tribal fighting. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

Congo:  The world's worst humanitarian crisis

An official uses a stick to keep internally displaced people at bay, Friday, June 20, 2003 at a food distrubution centre outside the United Nations compound in Bunia, Congo. Unknown assailants have abducted two unarmed U.N. military observers after attacking their residence in northeastern Congolese city of Beni. Beni is 155 kilometers (96 miles) southwest of Bunia where fighting among tribal militia has killed 500 people, mainly civilians, since the beginning of May.(AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

Useful links Congo-Kinshasa
Le Congo Sans Frontieres
Official Web Site of the Permanent Mission of the DRC
Child charity work, fundraising & volunteering with Save the Children UK
Special reports on the Congo.


TheMalau said...

THak you for passing on this vital message. Now, for African leaders, I agree... but not totally. It takes great (wo)men to be like Gandhi, or Mandela. Most people feel so helpless, and powerless, that they figure going with the floe might actually be less harmful. It will take a lot of grassroots convincing - by the Intenational Community - to trigger a sense of responsibility in those politicians; oh, and a lot of money and threats... a carrot and stick kind of deal. Because right now they are all in a survival of the fittest mode, a game of self-preservation in a dangerous environment of nepotistic power-mongering that has been cultivated for 40 years among our elites and politicians. The cycle has to be broken... the problem is that many diaspora people that went back, entered the very same schemes... or "died".

Ingrid said...

Hello Ali, I appreciate receiving comments, thank you. Most of the time I find commenting takes as long as writing a post and I can't always keep up with both, so apologies for the delay in replying here.

Often I think about Gandhi and wonder what, if he were alive today, he would say about Africa as a whole. Sometimes I post things about him at my other blogs. Early on in his working life, I believe he said something along the lines of "African solutions are needed for African problems". This followed the time he spent in Africa which had a deep and lasting impression on him. It forged his thinking and philosophy on non-violence.

Over the past month, with Africa in mind, I have been working on drafting a post on Gandhi and gathering some quotations. Here are a few:

"If exponents of armed struggle were less concerned with proving their manliness and more concerned with the welfare of the people they claim to stand up for, they might discover that nonviolent forms of struggle, everything considered, work better."

Here is another, titled "Gandhi's Talisman". It is one of the last notes he left behind in 1948, expressing his deepest social thought:

"I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."
- - -

Back to your comment: I agree that most people feel helpless and powerless and so go with the flow. But I am beginning to think that perhaps going with the flow just prolongs everything for hundreds of more years. Recently, I read something a blogger had written that I found myself agreeing with: that if the Africans of today took a stand and lost their lives through it, it would be worth it, if it left a decent future for their children and grandchildren to come. [Apologies for making the quote sound so crude - I cannot recall the words exactly - but they made me think]

This morning I read a news item about people rising up in Bolvia, taking to the streets instead of going the route of activism and ballot box. Seems after 20 years they are disillusioned with democracy as it has not brought them the changes they'd hoped for.

Also today I have been working on a post about an event that took place 40 years ago today - March 21, 1965. It changed America: Martin Luther King's "On the Road to Montgomery Freedom March" began at Selma - US troops were on guard - 3,200 took part in the protest as 54-Mile Rights Walk to Montgomery started. Dr King's vision for the march was 'A New Alabama' and 'A New America'. He was right.

It seems (to me anyway) it doesn't take much to make such a huge difference [see the quote by Margaret Mead in my sidebar].

I completely agree with you that African politicians need to have the right sense of responsibility but I'm not sure how money and threats would work over the long term. In the first few years it might but as soon as the backs of those holding the sticks and carrots are turned, African leaders and politicians would get up to their same old tricks.

Don't you think it needs to come from grassroots in Africa backed up and supported by other world citizens (and not expect the so-called "international community" to take the lead).

Everyone needs to work at shaming African politicians into working honestly on behalf of their nation and people. Politicians work for the people - not the other way round - so the people can work hard to get an education, make a living, bring their skills and goods to market, pay their taxes and support their families.

I couldn't agree more that "the cycle has to be broken".

Who knows, maybe one day you will go back to the DRC and do some important work - maybe even become a leader to help break the rotten cycle.

Africa has everything going for it and the resources too. It needs an enormous amount of help from the rest of the world to get it going. I have yet to hear anyone say they would not be willing to help [but I am sensing that some are getting fed up with others who want hand outs while not being willing to work as hard for it themselves - "God helps those who help themselves"]

From what I can gather, the West has bent over backwards to help Africa but does not get very much credit - in fact quite the contrary, it tends to get insulted. I wonder what Africans would do or say if the situation were reversed?