Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Diamond miners laboring in an illegal mine of the DR Congo

"Before you buy that next piece of gold and diamond jewelry for your loved ones or for yourself, remember these images of the laborers and slaves who suffered to extract, cut, and polish that beautiful jewel from the jungle," writes Bill at Jewels in the Jungle:
"Help save lives by supporting the rule of law and justice, transparency in the diamond and gold mining industries and trade, fair wages, and humane working conditions for the people shown in these photo essays."
Diamond miners laboring in an illegal mine of the DR Congo


Monday, September 26, 2005

Congo army says will forcibly disarm Ugandan rebels

MONUC report Sep 26 confirms the Democratic Republic of Congo's army said on Sunday it would forcibly disarm 400 Ugandan rebels who have crossed into the northeast of the country and are refusing to lay down their weapons:
"A regional military commander, General Padiri Bulenda, told Reuters he would have to disarm the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in order to prevent thousands of Ugandan soldiers from crossing the border into the Congo to hunt them down."
The report ends by saying:
"Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly warned Congo's fragile transitional government that he would take action against Ugandan rebels in Congo if he felt they were a threat to his country.

A source close to Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila called the presence of Ugandan soldiers on Congo's border "a distraction from pressure being applied on Museveni because of his meddling in Congo and attempts to prolong his presidency at home"."
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Museveni to occupy Southern Sudan?

A blogger in America, Menya Kilat, has an interesting theory on connections between Uganda and Southern Sudan and wonders if LRA leader Kony is the red herring to allow Museveni occupy Southern Sudan.

It is a theory I do not share. But, when it comes to African politics, nothing would surprise me.

The US recognises the LRA as a terrorist organisation.

A report today by the BBC says Kony remains with his fighters in southern Sudan and the UN says it has held a meeting with LRA rebels for the first time.

Kony's deputy Vincent Otti is in DR Congo talking to the UN. Uganda says Otti and about 50 fighters left their hideouts in southern Sudan's lawless mountains last week and crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Sunday.

[Cross posted to Sudan Watch and Uganda Watch]


Friday, September 23, 2005

Congo Refugees Return, Determined to Vote

Note this post by Publius Pundit pointed out by Captain Marlow [with thanks]


Thousands of Congo's displaced exiles are returning to their homeland in extreme hardship solely for the privilege of voting. Don't anyone ever tell me they had the option to vote here in the states and just didn't do it. Look at what these brave revolutionaries in Congo are doing.

The news item is here and Robert or I will put together a news and blogger roundup if there is any further information we can get:

Thousands of Congolese refugees are piling their furniture, bicycles, pots and pans onto barely seaworthy boats and heading back to their war-ravaged homeland, determined to vote in presidential elections.

"I want peace, I want to vote and I want a good life for my children," said Mukato Selemani after crossing Lake Tanganyika aboard a blue barge from Tanzania on Saturday, nine years after fleeing pillaging gunmen. A real citizen will not miss the elections.

Selemani, 29, does not even know if his village still exists.

But he joined the thousands of refugees making the journey back home in hopes of voting in the election next year - their vast mineral-rich country's first in nearly half a century.

Read the whole thing here.

Congo election return

Photo: An unidentified woman refugee carries her belongings from a boat on Lake Tanganyika near the town of Baraka, Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, Sept, 17, 2005.

Those in Tanzania represent nearly half of an estimated 380,000 Congolese refugees still living in neighboring countries, said Jan Hesemann, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Congo, with nearly 30,000 of those who escaped the war having returned since last October.(AP Photo/Anjan Sundaram/Yahoo)

Uganda says top LRA rebel wants asylum in DR Congo

Uganda-CAN picks up on a report by New Vision that claims President Museveni has demanded the immediate extradition of Kony and remnants of his army that have recently crossed into the DR Congo (DRC).

According to the report, sixty fighters led by Kony's second-in-command Vincent Otti recently fled northern Uganda and southern Sudan to cross into northeastern DRC. The Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) claimed the rebels are hiding in Garamba game park in the DRC.
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Uganda says top LRA rebel wants asylum in DR Congo

The deputy leader of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is asking for political asylum in Congo after fleeing into its remote northeastern jungles, Uganda's defence minister said today.

Uganda says Vincent Otti and about 50 fighters left their hideouts in southern Sudan's lawless mountains last week and crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Sunday.

But the Congolese government said on Friday it had no information about the group's presence on its territory or of any asylum request.

See full story Sep 23 2005 (Standard)


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

US promises support for military operations to fight LRA

Xinhua reports that US National Security Advisor Steve Hadley has assured Uganda of his country's cooperation in the planned joint operation between Uganda, Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) against remnants of rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

On a group of LRA ebels entering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) through southern Sudan, Hadley said US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton will take up the matter of UN Observer Mission in Congo to improve UN presence and performance in the DRC.

LRA rebels have killed tens of thousands of civilians and displaced over 1.4 million people in their 19-year-old rebellion in northern Uganda.

[via Uganda-CAN with thanks]


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Africa's peace seekers: Petronille Vaweka

Out of the mist of a rural African morning, a great lion springs into the path of a young woman walking to work in the fields.

Tail twitching, the beast stares at her, ready to pounce.

But she knows better than to flinch. Moving slowly, she bends her knees and places her iron hoe gently in the dirt.

Staring straight back, she begins talking to the lion. "I'm not your enemy," she says. "I'm only going to the field, and I won't hurt you."

The lion watches. The woman stands silently. Moments pass. With a swish of his tail, the lion leaps away.

Petronille Vaweka, a top official ineastern Congo, grew up hearing this story about her grandmother's courage. She tells it today as a defining tale in her own life - a life devoted to using the power of words to disarm the gun-toting militias that stalk the villages in this lawless corner of Africa.

"If you are facing someone who is violent, you must never use force," Ms. Vaweka recalls her grandmother saying. "The first thing is to put down all your instruments. Then look at them, right into the eye."

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The militia leader's conditions were clear: No large contingent of bodyguards could come with her; no United Nations peacekeepers. Vaweka, on a mission to free two kidnapped government workers, would be allowed to negotiate for their freedom accompanied only by her husband and a few aides.

She agreed, despite the militia's menacing reputation. The Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri (FRPI in French, the main language) is one of the groups implicated in the brutal killing of nine Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers in a Feb. 25 ambush. FRPI leader Germain Katanga is now in prison awaiting trial.

Vaweka knew this was her task, and hers alone. She's the top official in the fledgling government of Ituri, a province the size of West Virginia in a country as big as Alaska and Texas combined. Ituri is one of Congo's richest regions - and one of its most violent. It's chockablock with gold, diamonds, oil, and coltan (a rare ore used in cellphones and laptops). But the UN estimates that 60,000 people have died here since 1999. Greedy outsiders - including leaders in neighboring Uganda and Rwanda - have stoked ethnic tensions and supplied the region's many militias with weapons to fight for control of the riches.

Read full story by Abraham McLaughlin, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, September 14, 2005.
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Africa's peace seekers:  Petronille Vaweka

Photo: Petronille Vaweka (center) talks with an Army chief. (Jiro OSE/Special to the CS Monitor)
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Click here to see at a glance the march to peace in Congo, Africa's heartland.

DR Congo
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DR Congo

Photo: Many of the militias, like this one on the streets of Fizi, in eastern Congo, are now part of the new national army forged under a peace deal signed in 2003.
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DR Congo

Members of the UN mission in Congo, known as MONUC, patrol Bunia. There are more than 16,000 UN troops and police in the country.
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DR Congo

Photo: An AK-47 rifle is given to a United Nations peacekeeper as part of the disarmament process in Bunia, Congo.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sudan: Spotlight on Darfur 1 and The Darfur Collection

Huge thanks to Catez Stevens in New Zealand for initiating and hosting Spotlight on Darfur 1, a great round up of posts authored by 14 different bloggers from around the world.

Spotlight On Darfur

Catez also produced The Darfur Collection last May.

Please email Catez at Allthings2all if you have a post for the next Spotlight on Darfur 2 or 3.

Picture courtesy Tim Sweetman's post Let Us Weep.

Thanks to Global Voices for their third post and links to Congo Watch featuring this initiative.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina aid - Blogbursts - Spotlight on Darfur 1 and Darfur Collection

Further to an earlier post here below, I have just received word from Catez saying Spotlight on Darfur has been put forward to 5 September as the blogosphere has had planned blogbursts on Hurricane Katrina aid. This means bloggers can email Catez with posts until Sunday 4 September.

Thanks to Global Voices for picking up on my post at Congo Watch publicising the initiative.