Thursday, November 23, 2006

DR Congo leader issues ultimatum

Nov 23 2006 BBC report says the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, has given the forces of his presidential rival 48 hours to leave Kinshasa.
Mr Kabila has been declared the provisional winner of recent polls.

However, his rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba, has complained of fraud. The Supreme Court is to rule on the claims shortly.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

DR Congo court burnt in poll protest

Nov 21 2006 BBC report Congo court burnt in poll protest - excerpt:
The Democratic Republic of Congo's Supreme Court has been set on fire during protests over alleged fraud in the presidential run-off.
Supporters of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the ex-rebel leader who says he was cheated of victory, clashed with police.

Police used tear gas and UN peacekeepers fired shots in the air, with two vehicles burnt by protesters.

The violence led the Supreme Court to suspend its hearing into Mr Bemba's claims he was cheated of victory.

Mr Bemba's party has condemned what it called "acts of vandalism" against the court, and said it would have no reason to try to derail court proceedings.

President Joseph Kabila was last week declared the winner, with 58% of the vote against 42% for Mr Bemba.

The elections are supposed to draw a line under a five-year conflict in which some four million people died.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

European military to reinforce DRC presence

Oct 19 2006 Sapa-AFP report via IOL
Kinsasha - A European Union military force deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ahead of landmark elections will augment its number to almost 1 500 men at the weekend, it announced on Thursday.

EUFOR spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thierry Fusalba said 200 Dutch and German soldiers currently based in Gabon will fly to the DRC capital Kinshasa between on Friday and the start of next week.

"This doesn't mean EUFOR has received intelligence leading to fear of trouble," Fusalba said. "It's a precautionary measure to be sure we're ready for anything."

Voters in the huge central African country will go to the polls on October 29 for the last round of a presidential election in which the incumbent Joseph Kabila faces a strong challenge from former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. The poll is the culmination of a difficult transition to democracy.

Violent confrontations between Kabila and Bemba supporters have taken place daily, leaving at least half a dozen people injured, in different towns across the nation since the final part of the campaign began last weekend.

The EUFOR operation currently consists of about 1 200 troops in Kinshasa and a standby force of roughly the same number in Gabon. They were deployed with a UN mandate to keep the peace in the capital, easing the burden of the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC).

EUFOR troops did intervene in Kinshasa when heavy fighting erupted between armed supporters of Kabila and Bemba on August 21 in the capital after results of the first round were issued.

Those clashes claimed 23 lives and German reinforcements were flown in from Gabon, but they took 24 hours and Fusalba said that operation was too long. The extra troops were coming to "shorten the delay in intervention".

The MONUC force is the largest UN mission in the world and includes 17 600 troops, 80 percent of whom are now deployed in the more volatile east of the DRC, where mobile operational bases have been reinforced.

MONUC has been monitoring and supporting a drawn-out peace process in the country since before it emerged in 2003 from the last of successive conflicts. The 1998-2003 war drew in the armies of more than half a dozen countries and directly or indirectly claimed more than three million lives.

Monday, September 04, 2006

MSF aid workers pull out of Gety, DRC

Aid workers have fled Gety, in the Ituri District of DRC, after attacks by armed gangs. They have retreated to Bunia, the district capital, 60 km northwest, and are trying to find a way to continue assisting more than 40,000 displaced people, an official said.

Full story IRIN 1 Sep 2006. Excerpt:
"We were attacked by armed groups and it could happen again at any time," Patrick Albert, the head of Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Gety, said on Friday.

"The health of the displaced people there is terrible and they now have grossly insufficient food," he said.

"Many only recently emerged from the forest where they had been hiding for up to four months," he said. "They are fragile and the mortality rate is high."

At least 10 people are dying every day in displacement camps in Gety, the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA) said in August. "It's higher than the norm," Modibo Traore, the head of OCHA in Bunia, said.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Top UN aid official to visit DRC, Uganda and southern Sudan

UN News Centre report 31 Aug 2006 - excerpt:
Although the troubled eastern half of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has made some progress recently, there have also been serious setbacks and donor funding falls way below local needs, the United Nations' most senior humanitarian official said today.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told reporters at UN HQ in New York that the humanitarian needs in the eastern DRC are probably greater than anywhere else in the world as he announced he would visit central Africa next week.

Mr Egeland will then travel to Uganda before finishing his tour in Juba, southern Sudan, where peace talks involving the Ugandan Government and the rebel LRA are taking place. Last weekend the LRA and Uganda signed a cessation of hostilities agreement to end their 20-year conflict in the north of the nation.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

DRC: Guns silenced with a ceasefire

Bodies are still lying in the streets of Kinshasa and pillaging continues in some neighbourhoods but a ceasefire reached late on Tuesday between President Joseph Kabila and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba seems to be holding.

Full report IRIN 23 Aug 2006.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

EU boosts DRC force amid battle

Some 400 extra European Union troops are being flown into DRC capital, Kinshasa, in an attempt to quell gun battles.

The Dutch and German peacekeepers were on standby in nearby Gabon in case of violence during last month's elections. - BBC

Monday, August 21, 2006

UN peacekeepers in DRC rescue trapped envoys

UN peacekeepers in the DRC have rescued several foreign ambassadors trapped in a house in Kinshasa by heavy shooting.

"They're out and they'tr coming to UN headquarters. Everyone's safe," a spokesman for the UN force said, after the diplomats were rescued. - BBC

Diplomats flee DR Congo shooting

Several foreign ambassadors in the DRC have sought shelter in the house of an opposition leader after heavy shooting, BBC reported today:
They include the UK envoy and the head of the UN mission, a UN official said.

He said the UN, which has the world's largest peacekeeping force in DR Congo, has sent armoured vehicles to the area.

The gunfire follows Sunday's clashes between forces loyal to President Joseph Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba, rivals in October's election run-off.

UN spokesman Jean-Tobie Okala said the situation was confused, but confirmed that the envoys had sought refuge in Mr Bemba's residence in the city centre.

The ambassadors from the permanent five members of the UN Security Council - the UK, France, Russia, the US and China - were due to have been meeting Congolese politicians nearby although it is not yet clear which of them is trapped there.

Breaking News: Gunfight pins down envoys in DRC capital

This is terrible: just in, from The Salon Breaking News: DRC:
Gunfight pins down envoys in Congo capital - Yahoo! News: "KINSHASA (Reuters) - Soldiers loyal to Congo's President Joseph Kabila opened fire on Monday around a house where U.N. officials and ambassadors were meeting his main political rival Jean-Pierre Bemba, witnesses said.

They said the presidential guard used at least one tank and heavy machine guns in a gunfight with Bemba's armed supporters around his riverside house.

The gunfire erupted for a second day, hours after electoral officials announced a presidential run-off vote between Kabila and Bemba following July 30 elections.

'The entire CIAT (foreign donors' group) is in Bemba's house having a meeting with him. Kabila's people are firing on the area,' a U.N. source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

A western diplomat said the ambassadors were pinned down in a safe room in the house.

A Reuters correspondent saw plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the area of the residence.

The shooting followed gunbattles on Sunday between soldiers loyal to Kabila and armed supporters of Bemba. The two are due to face off in a second-round vote on October 29."

DR Congo election outcome forces run-off

President Kabila wins DR Congo's landmark poll, but fails to secure 50% of the vote, forcing a second round.

Full story: BBC

Sunday, August 13, 2006

DRC elections: final results expected Aug 20

President Joseph Kabila has taken 90 percent of the vote in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, Maniema and Katanga.

But he managed only 16 percent in the capital, Kinshasa, where his chief rival, Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, appears to have swept the board.

The results betray Congo's deep divisions. Bemba is a former rebel.

Read full story by David blair 9 Aug 2006.

Kabila

Photo: Joseph Kabila with his wife, after voting in Kinshasa (David Blair)

Aug 7 2006 Telegraph Blogs: David Blair: Congo's election drags on - excerpt:
All the votes cast on July 30 are supposedly being counted at the moment. But reports from around the country suggest this process is degenerating into a shambles. A counting centre holding about one quarter of all the votes cast in the capital, Kinshasa, mysteriously caught fire last week.

All across Congo, reports have emerged of ballots being taken to counting centres and then dumped in large piles and ignored. Others seem not to have made it to counting centres at all. Used ballot papers have been mixed with blank or spoiled ones. Meanwhile, the local media have busily reported "unofficial" results - apparently leaked from the counting centres - suggesting that President Joseph Kabila is sweeping eastern Congo but trailing behind his main rival, Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa and the west.

While in Kinshasa, I wrote that the key question for the election was whether the three vice-presidents who are running for the top job will accept the outcome of the poll. One of them, Azarias Ruberwa [pictured here below], has now announced that he will challenge the result when it emerges. Another, Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, denounced the contest even before voting began.

ruberwa1.jpg

This election was intended to give Congo its first legitimate government for 45 years. But if the count is a mess and the result bitterly disputed, it could have exactly the opposite effect and provide Congo with yet another spur to conflict and division. Final results are now expected on August 20, but a second round between the top two presidential candidates - probably Kabila and Bemba - will almost certainly take place in October. At present, the prognosis looks bleak.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Iran tried to import uranium from Lubumbashi mines in DRC

Ali at The Salon picks up on a story about Iran trying to import uranium from DRC: the shipment was intercepted in Tanzania, The Sunday Times reported, citing a senior Tanzanian customs officer.

Here is a copy of the Sunday Times report - Iran's plot to mine uranium in Africa - by Jon Swain, David Leppard and Brian Johnson-Thomas Aug 6, 2006:
IRAN is seeking to import large consignments of bomb-making uranium from the African mining area that produced the Hiroshima bomb, an investigation has revealed.

A United Nations report, dated July 18, said there was "no doubt" that a huge shipment of smuggled uranium 238, uncovered by customs officials in Tanzania, was transported from the Lubumbashi mines in the Congo.

Tanzanian customs officials told The Sunday Times it was destined for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, and was stopped on October 22 last year during a routine check.

The disclosure will heighten western fears about the extent of Iran's presumed nuclear weapons programme and the strategic implications of Iran's continuing support for Hezbollah during the war with Israel.

It has also emerged that terror cells backed by Iran may be prepared to mount attacks against nuclear power plants in Britain. Intelligence circulating in Whitehall suggests that sleeper cells linked to Tehran have been conducting reconnaissance at some nuclear sites in preparation for a possible attack.

The parliamentary intelligence and security committee has reported that Iran represented one of the three biggest security threats to Britain. The UN security council has given Iran until the end of this month to halt its uranium enrichment activities. The UN has threatened sanctions if Tehran fails to do so.

A senior Tanzanian customs official said the illicit uranium shipment was found hidden in a consignment of coltan, a rare mineral used to make chips in mobile telephones. The shipment was destined for smelting in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, delivered via Bandar Abbas, Iran's biggest port.

"There were several containers due to be shipped and they were all routinely scanned with a Geiger counter," the official said.

"This one was very radioactive. When we opened the container it was full of drums of coltan. Each drum contains about 50kg of ore. When the first and second rows were removed,the ones after that were found to be drums of uranium."

In a nuclear reactor, uranium 238 can be used to breed plutonium used in nuclear weapons.

The customs officer, who spoke to The Sunday Times on condition he was not named, added: "The container was put in a secure part of the port and it was later taken away, by the Americans, I think, or at least with their help. We have all been told not to talk to anyone about this."

The report by the UN investigation team was submitted to the chairman of the UN sanctions committee, Oswaldo de Rivero, at the end of July and will be considered soon by the security council.

It states that Tanzania provided "limited data" on three other shipments of radioactive materials seized in Dar es Salaam over the past 10 years.

The experts said: "In reference to the last shipment from October 2005, the Tanzanian government left no doubt that the uranium was transported from Lubumbashi by road through Zambia to the united republic of Tanzania."

Lubumbashi is the capital of mineral-rich Katanga province, home of the Shinkolobwe uranium mine that produced material for the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

The mine has officially been closed since 1961, before the country's independence from Belgium, but the UN investigators have told the security council that they found evidence of illegal mining still going on at the site.

In 1999 there were reports that the Congolese authorities had tried to re-open the mine with the help of North Korea. In recent years miners are said to have broken open the lids and extracted ore from the shafts, while police and local authorities turned a blind eye.

In June a parliamentary committee warned that Britain could be attacked by Iranian terrorists if tensions increased.

A source with access to current MI5 assessments said: "There is great concern about Iranian sleeper cells inside this country. The intelligence services are taking this threat very seriously."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ed Rackley's Rackleyed blog covers Congo

Just received an email from Dr Edward B Rackley in Washington, DC, USA telling me he works in Congo regularly and other African countries as well.

Ed has worked in conflict and post conflict countries for most of the last 15 years. His work involves setting up emergency aid programs, running them, or evaluation them.

Across the divide: analysis & anecdote from Africa is a blog he started earlier this year as a critique from within the international aid industry; political commentary from a number of African countries. He covers Congo fairly regularly. I've not yet had a chance to read Ed's blog but will do later on, after I've added it to my newsfeed.

Thanks Ed! It's always a pleasure to hear from readers. Here's looking forward to following your blog entries. I did a quick scroll and was pleased to find this image of DRC's flag. I wonder if it is DRC's latest flag. I've had trouble finding an image of the new flag. The only one I could find is in the sidebar here - click on its image for more details.

DR Congo flag

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

DR Congo wins UN praise for general calm as it holds first free elections in 45 years

Secretary-General Kofi Annan led a chorus of UN voices today in congratulating the DRC for the largely peaceful manner in which the vast African country has held its first free and fair elections in 45 years.

Full story UN News Centre 31 Jul 2006.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

BBC's DRC election reporters' log

For regular updates on the election, visit Ali's blog The Salon. Ali is a young Congolese chap living in America. His mother works for the UN.

A team of BBC reporters is covering the polls and journalists are sending their observations. Keep an eye out for updates at Congo election reporters' log.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Daily Telegraph's Africa Correspondent David Blair visits DRC

David Blair, the Daily Telegraph's Africa Correspondent, has just returned to Johannesburg from a week in DR Congo. See his latest blog entries, great photos and his blogroll - my blogs on Sudan, Congo and Uganda are listed... thanks David!

Jul 24 2006 re the search for water: Congo looks to the future - On Sunday, Congo will hold its first contested elections in 46 years. The importance of this event is hard to exaggerate. Congo is arguably the most important country in Africa, endowed with more mineral wealth than anywhere else in the continent ...

Jul 25 2006 re Joseph Kabila, an international player: The man for the job? - Sitting in Kinshasa the other day, I jotted down the key facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo's election. Here's what you need to know ...

Jul 26 2006 re Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and a place called the "Inner Station": Kisangani marks the spot - Kisangani, where Conrad spent three unhappy months...

Jul 28 2006 re being arrested by soldiers of Congo's elite presidential guard: Arrested on board a dugout canoe - River travel isn't always this tranquil...

DR Congo: The trickiest election ever?

Election workers in Democratic Republic of Congo are putting the finishing touches to possibly the most complex and challenging elections the world has ever seen.

Helicopters, canoes, motorbikes and porters have been used to transport election material to almost 50,000 polling stations across a country two-thirds the size of western Europe, with just 300 miles of paved roads.

Behind the barbed wire which surrounds the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) headquarters in the capital, Kinshasa, officials were scurrying around with just hours to go before the polls open at 0600 (0500GMT) on Sunday. Full story BBC 29 July 2006.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

DRC: Police disperse anti-poll demonstrators

Police used teargas to disperse thousands of placard-carrying demonstrators, who vowed to disrupt general elections, in Kinshasa, capital of the DRC, on Tuesday. Full report IRIN 25 July 2006.

DRC: Lead-up to elections - backgrounder

NAIROBI, 24 Jul 2006 (IRIN) via VOGP - The general elections due on Sunday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are billed as the first fully democratic vote to be held in the country since Patrice Lumumba became prime minister in 1960. Beginning with his murder a year later, and the coup in 1965 staged by Mobutu Sese Seko, who introduced a one-party system, the past 40 years have witnessed the systematic impoverishment of one of the potentially wealthiest countries on the African continent.

Turning the country around is vital for the continent as a whole, not just because of its sheer size - 2.5 million square kilometres, bordering nine countries - but because of its mineral wealth; it holds one-third of the world's cobalt reserves; two-thirds of its coltan, used in mobile phones; and one-tenth of its copper; as well as diamonds, gold, oil, silver, timber, uranium and zinc. Its river system could power the entire continent and the country contains 50 percent of Africa's forests. And yet, the DRC is one of the world's poorest countries, ranked 167 out of 177 in the 2005 United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) human development index.

The potential rewards of peace and stability are high. But so are the risks. While human rights groups have accused some foreign companies mining in the DRC of exploitation and corruption, encouraging investment is not straightforward in a country whose physical infrastructure is virtually non-existent - of 145,000 km of roads, only 2,500 km are asphalt - and poor governance is endemic.

Indeed, the weakness of state institutions, in particular the security forces, courts and parliament, and the fact that the Congolese state has suffered from corruption before and after independence in 1960, means that restructuring the economy and addressing issues of capacity-building are of particular importance if the new government is to effect meaningful change for its population.

Poor governance is of particular concern to aid agencies as the impact is severe in humanitarian terms: corruption means revenue losses, so state employees, such as soldiers, go unpaid and intimidate and harangue civilians, often brutally; continued fighting over mineral rights and cross-border raids result in displaced civilians. UN agencies and NGOs estimate that at least 1,000 people continue to die every day in the DRC as a result of non-existent health services and preventable diseases.

The legacy of Mobutu's 32-year Western-backed rule extends beyond endemic corruption; to offset potential political opposition his rule was absolute, with the 1974 constitution granting him authority over the executive, legislature and judiciary branches of government. Furthermore, he maintained a system of patronage while maintaining the loyalty of the police and army, all of which required money. By 1990, the country was US $14 billion in debt. With the end of the cold war, Mobutu was no longer of any use to the US in its fight against Soviet influence in Africa, and his lines of credit were cut off.

The first war was prompted by an invasion of Rwandan and Ugandan troops in a bid to flush out Hutu militia - at the same time capitalising on popular discontent to oust Mobutu. However Laurent-Desire Kabila's coup in 1997 did little to change the prevailing political and economic climate. He banned political activity, issuing laws by presidential decree. By 2000, inflation was 511 percent and GDP $100 per capita, compared with a rate of $259 at independence. When Kabila attempted to limit the influence of Rwanda and Uganda on the economy, a second war opened up in what has been called Africa's first world war. This involved Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe on Kabila's side against Uganda and Rwanda. A study by the International Rescue Committee in December 2004 estimates that 3.8 million people died, nearly half of them children, from disease, famine and violence, mainly in the east. An additional three million are in acute need of assistance, according to the UN.

The first peace accord was signed in 1999 and foreign armies agreed to withdraw troops but a power-sharing agreement between the rebel factions was not implemented until 2003. The resulting transitional government comprised three main factions: the DRC government (PPRD supported by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia), the RCD-Goma (Rwanda) and the MLC (Uganda). Fighting, however, continues in eastern DRC.

The present incumbent, Joseph Kabila, 35, who took over from his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was assassinated in January 2001, is the favourite to win the presidential vote, which is being contested by 33 candidates. Another 9,000 politicians are vying for 500 parliamentary seats. However, security remains a problem, despite the presence of the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, comprising 17,000 troops, which will be backed up by 2,000 EU forces over the election period. In addition, 5,000 national and 500 international observers will oversee the polls.

Etienne Tshisekedi, 73, the veteran opposition leader, originally boycotted the polls only to change his mind - but too late to be included in the electoral process. His withdrawal means millions of his traditional supporters will be effectively disenfranchised.

Campaigning is a logistical nightmare in a country with poor transport facilities; most of the 50,000 voting stations are deep in the forest or along the river and accessible to officials only by air. The budget for the elections is put at $500 million, most of it donated by the UN, EU and others. While the results will not be known until September, analysts are concerned that international interest will wane once the immediate goal of successful elections is achieved. Programmes in support of good governance and strengthening state institutions and helping to repair the country's infrastructure need to be backed up by increased aid if a return to conflict is to be avoided.

Every day 1,200 people die from violence, disease in the DR of Congo: UNICEF

July 24 2006 UN News Centre report, excerpt:
Every day 1,200 people, half of them children, are killed in the conflict-hit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because of violence, disease and malnutrition, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a report issued today.

The report, Child Alert: DRC, also states that more children under age five die each year in the African country than in China - a country with 23 times the population. It draws attention to the to the appalling fact that the total countrywide death toll every six months is similar to that for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 230,000 people in 12 countries.

Despite such grim statistics, the author of the report, UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies Martin Bell, says that Sunday's landmark elections in the war-ravaged country could be a turning point.

"It is easy to be overwhelmed by what has happened in DRC because of the sheer scale of it. But we owe it to the children to give them the future they deserve and these elections may be the opportunity of their lifetime."

UNICEF says that around four million people have been killed in the almost decade-long conflict in the DRC, making it the world's deadliest, humanitarian crisis, but despite the scale of the suffering it has not received the attention it deserves.

"Children bear the brunt of conflict, disease and death, but not only as casualties," said UNICEF DRC Representative Tony Bloomberg, who attended the report's launch in London. "They are also witnesses to, and sometimes forced participants in, atrocities and crimes that inflict physical and psychological harm."

"While DRC has experienced death rates like that of the tsunami every six months, it has not received the attention it deserves, either from the media or the public. UNICEF issued this report to call attention to this hidden emergency and its impact on children. We stand ready to work with the elected government and all other actors to begin immediately improving the lives of Congo's children."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cross your fingers for DR Congo election July 30 - Rwanda's Shadow, From Darfur to Congo (NYT Lydia Polgreen)

Cross your fingers for DR Congo.
On 30 July 30 2006 one of the largest countries of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is due to hold what should be its first free presidential election. The country has known mostly dictatorship or war for more than a century, first under colonial rule and then under African rule.
Please note, the New York Times report here below, relates to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) not Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).
Democratic Republic of Congo: A vast country with immense economic resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has been at the centre of what could be termed Africa's world war. This has left it in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. The five-year conflict pitted government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. Despite a peace deal and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, the threat of civil war remains.

congomap.jpg

Congo (Brazzaville): Brazzaville, the political capital of Congo, is routinely appended to the country's name so as to distinguish it from the much larger Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) next door.
Most of the posts at this blog relate to DR Congo.

Congo

Photo: Neena Ngosi, 3 months old, in a looted hospital with her mother, Ngava. They were displaced by the rampant fighting in Congo (Lynsey Addario NYT)

Rwanda' Shadow, From Darfur to Congo by Lydia Polgreen New York Times July 23 2006. Excerpt:
The crisis in Darfur, long neglected, finally burst into the world's consciousness. Congo remains largely forgotten. It is hard to understand why. Four million people have died in Congo since 1998, half of them children under 5, according to the International Rescue Committee. Though the war in Congo officially ended in 2002, its deadly legacy of violence and decay will kill twice as many people this year as have died in the entire Darfur conflict, which began in 2003.

But such numerical comparisons belie a deeper truth. Darfur holds the world's gaze because of that magic word, genocide. The word, implying that there are clear criminals and clear victims, has been perhaps the single greatest attention-getter for efforts, however feeble, to end the fighting and organize relief efforts, even though the fighting has lately turned in directions that indicate the situation was never so clear-cut.

The conflict in Congo, by contrast, long ago descended into a free-for-all with many sides. Instead of Darfur's seeming moral clarity, it offers a mind-numbing collection of combatants known by a jumble of acronyms. And that has been a particularly cruel fate, since the long-lasting war there in fact had its roots in the greatest mass killing since the Holocaust - the unambiguous genocide of 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda in the spring of 1994.

After Rwanda's civil war ended, Hutus who had carried out the genocide fled into Zaire, as Congo was then known, followed by their Rwandan enemies, bent on revenge. The rest of the world, wracked by guilt because it stood by as Rwanda bled, did not intervene in Rwanda's Congolese conquests. This fighting touched off the next decade of killing. Rwandan military leaders, with help from Uganda, decided to enrich themselves at Congo's expense, and rival home-grown militias soon joined the fray.

"A lot of the killings and horrors were in large part overlooked, either deliberately or not," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch for Congo. "The Rwandan genocide was initially why there was limited criticism of Rwanda and Uganda coming in."

Nearly a decade later, the memory of how little the world did to stop the slaughter has been invoked in efforts to end the newest atrocities, in Darfur.

Darfur seemed to present a clear moral choice. The crisis began in 2003 with a rebellion that sought to end the marginalization of non-Arab tribes by the Arab-dominated government. The Sudanese government's brutal military response, aided by murderous Arab militias, turned into a campaign that killed more than 200,000 people and drove millions from their homes.

In taking up the cause, many activists and politicians made the conflict into a morality play -- a clear example of genocide in which one group, the Arabs, was determined to slaughter another, Africans. The Bush administration, which had already intervened to end the Muslim-led government's suppression of Christians, describes the killings in Darfur as genocide. [edit]

On July 30, Congo will hold an election, the first real chance for the people to choose their own leaders since 1965. The world hopes this event will finally draw a line between the tragic past and an unknown future. The journey from mass murder to peace, by way of a gruesome civil war, has been long and deadly.
- - -

See Mar 18 2005 The savagery in the Congo is beyond imagination

Friday, July 21, 2006

EU force shows muscle ahead of Congo polls

EU troops in DR Congo

Photo: French and Portuguese troops from a European Union Force perform military exercises in the Congolese capital Kinshasa July 20, 2006. The EU has sent some 1,000 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of this month's presidential and parliamentary elections aimed at ending more than a decade of conflict in the central African nation. Reuters/David Lewis

July 20, 2006 Reuters report by David Lewis [via The Salon]
A European Union military force sent to Congo showed off its firepower and technology on Thursday, saying it was ready to help U.N. peacekeepers maintain security during this month's elections.

Soldiers parachuted into their Kinshasa base from helicopters before special forces teams performed a simulated hostage rescue and the force illustrated how it could quickly deploy men and armoured vehicles.

Congolese politicians, military personnel, as well as foreign and local media were also shown the unmanned surveillance planes and weaponry the force has as its disposal.

"We have tried to show you that we are credible and ready to fulfil our mission," German General Karlheinz Viereck, commander of the EU mission, told the audience after the display at N'Dodo airport.

The EU has sent some 1,000 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo, meant to act as a deterrent against anyone disrupting or challenging the result of the elections.

The July 30 polls are the cornerstone of peace deals that ended Congo's 1998-2003 war, which has killed some four million people, and are billed as the former Belgian colony's first free and fair elections in over 40 years.

Despite the world's biggest U.N. peacekeeping force, voting will take place amid tension. Thousands of rebels operate in Congo's east, many candidates say the process is unfair and opposition parties are calling for demonstrations and boycotts.

"At the end of the month, my men will be ready to fulfil their task of securing the elections if there is trouble and the UN cannot deal with it," Viereck added.

FOUR-MONTH MISSION

The EU force has a four-month mission, starting the first day of voting, but will only intervene if the Congolese police and army, as well as the U.N. are unable to control violence.

Some 33 presidential candidates and nearly 10,000 parliamentary candidates will contest the polls, which are costing the international community over $400 million and are the most complicated the U.N. has ever helped organise.

Commanders have been reluctant to give details on what sort of operations the European soldiers would carry out, stressing however, that they were not in Congo to support any candidate and would do more than just evacuate expatriates.

During the demonstration, French and Portuguese special forces teams simulated a rescue mission, roping down from helicopters to free hostages in a bus before airlifting them to safety.

A Hercules C130 transport plane then flew in soldiers and armoured trucks, showing how the EU could deploy men equipment across the vast country, which is the size of Western Europe, at short notice.

Meanwhile, Belgian surveillance drones and an array of sniper rifles, machine guns and mortars were put on display.

The EU has a reserve force of 1,200 soldiers stationed in nearby Gabon but, with only one company of combat troops in Kinshasa, analysts say a successful mission would be one that does not have to act.

Some Congolese, however, believe the international community is tacitly backing incumbent President Joseph Kabila while others fear the Europeans have come ready to fight a war.

"Don't speak about war," Viereck told local journalists. "We have just showed a few options for dissuasion."

Illegal uranium mining at shuttered Congo site-UN

July 21, 2006 Reuters report by Irwin Arieff [via The Salon]:
Uranium is being mined illegally at a site in Congo that provided the radioactive material for the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, U.N. experts reported on Thursday.

The Shinkolobwe mine in mineral-rich Katanga province in southwestern Congo was ordered shut down by U.N. investigators in 2004 who found it unsafe to operate.

The investigators, sent in after a partial collapse of the mine killed eight people that year, concluded it was likely to collapse further and miners were in danger of chronic exposure to radiation.

But a team of experts monitoring a U.N. arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of Congo said they found ample signs of "artisan mining" by small groups of private individuals during a recent visit.

Local police and residents told them "local agents of the mining police and of the National Intelligence Agency not only encourage but also charge fees from the miners," the experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.

"These observations stand in stark contrast to the assurances given to the Group of Experts by officials of the Ministry of Mines and of the National Intelligence Agency," the experts said.

"They assured the group that the mine is secured and that no artisan mining is taking place," their report said.

Some 14,000 miners, mainly youths under 18 living in the adjacent village of Shinkolobwe, once earned their living in the mine. The United States used uranium from the site to make the first nuclear weapons used in warfare.

The Congolese authorities destroyed the village in August 2004, at the same time the U.N. investigators ordered the mine closed.

But the U.N. experts said they found seven villages within a few miles of the mine, with a total population of nearly 10,000 people. They said they were able to drive their all-terrain vehicles right up to the mine and encountered "no barriers or even simple warning signs."

Part of the experts' work is to advise the Security Council on how to prevent Congo's rich supply of natural resources from being used to fuel internal conflict that has long plagued the vast central African nation.

Monday, July 03, 2006

DRC: Thousands flee army-militia showdown in Ituri

BUNIA, 3 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Thousands of civilians have fled advancing militiamen who have now retaken the town of Tcheyi in the northeastern district of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a United Nations local humanitarian official said on Monday.

"UN helicopters located a column of displaced people heading towards Geti, north of Tcheyi; and others heading to Bukiringi, about 12 km southeast of Tcheyi," Arsene Kirero, the liaison officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in Bunia, the main town in Ituri.

"We do not have the actual figures of the displaced as there are no humanitarian actors in the militia-occupied areas," he added.

To the west of Tcheyi, all of Nyankunde's 5,000 panic-stricken residents fled on Saturday to Marabo, 40 km south of Bunia, Kirero said. Most of the residents of Aveba also fled.

On Monday, the army spokesman in Ituri, Capt Olivier Mputu, said: "We have killed about 100 militias in Aveba although we have counted 12 dead and 33 wounded. Each time we attack the militias, they take away their dead; it is therefore difficult to get an exact count."

He said fighting was still raging in Songolo, a village northeast of Tcheyi.

The militias, thought to be members of the Forces nationalistes et intégrationnistes (FNI), took advantage of the country's independence day festivities on Friday to launch their attack on Tcheyi and Aveba.

On 22 June, OCHA had identified 938 people displaced by previous fighting in Tcheyi, 305 of whom are children; and another 6,788 people in Aveba, 100 km south of Bunia.

Ituri has remained volatile due to continued militia activity. The latest fighting continues as the country gears up towards the first democratic elections in 45 years, scheduled for 30 July.

In an effort to crush the militias and secure the district for the elections, the army recently appointed Gen Mbuayama Nsiona as the commander for Ituri.

At least 2,000 militiamen had surrendered by Friday, at the end of a government and UN ultimatum for the militias to disarm voluntarily and join a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme.

Friday, June 30, 2006

As DR of Congo election campaign begins, UN Council extends expanded force

Saying that armed groups in eastern DRC still threaten elections in the vast central African nation where political campaigns officially kicked off today, the UN Security Council today decided to extend until 30 Sep its authorization for a strengthened peacekeeping force in the country.

The Council, through a unanimously adopted resolution, stressed the temporary nature of the increase in military and police strength of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), and once again called on all Congolese institutions and parties to ensure that the elections are free, fair, peaceful and timely.

The poll, slated for 30 July, is the largest and most expensive electoral assistance operation the UN has ever undertaken, and the Security Council in October 2005 authorized an increase of MONUC military personnel by 300 staff. - UN News Centre 30 June 2006.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

DRC: An Update by UN's Ross Mountain

Committee on Conscience publishes an update on the humanitarian situation in DR of Congo.

[via Voices on genocide prevention, with thanks]

Monday, June 26, 2006

Congo militia threaten to execute UN peacekeepers

June 26, 2006 Reuters report from Kinshasa by David Lewis:

Congolese militia linked to gunmen holding seven Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers hostage on Monday threatened to order their execution after clashes last week.

But some U.N. sources questioned whether the group of gunmen holding the peacekeepers would take orders from the militia issuing the threat.

The men were taken hostage last month during clashes between the U.N. and gunmen, highlighting the insecurity in eastern Congo one month before historic elections are due to be held.

Militiamen loyal to Ituri warlord Peter Karim have issued a range of demands, including ransoms and the release of fellow militia fighters being held by the government, but the U.N. has called for the unconditional release of their men.

The Revolutionary Movement of Congo (MRC), a loose coalition of gunmen in the lawless northeastern district, issued the execution threat on Monday following clashes between government forces and militiamen late last week.

"If there is another such attack, the ... MRC will feel obliged to order the pure and simple execution of these hostages," the MRC said in a statement.

The MRC, which was set up in neighbouring Uganda last year and brought together various ethnic groups, said the clashes took place when the U.N. and government forces tried to rescue the hostages.

ETHNIC VIOLENCE

But a U.N. spokesman denied any operation to rescue the hostages had taken place and said he understood it was the militia who had attacked the Congolese government positions and no U.N. peacekeepers were involved.

"Negotiations (to free the hostages) are ongoing," Major Hans-Jakob Reichen, spokesman for U.N. forces in eastern Congo, said on Monday.

"During this period U.N. forces will not conduct actions that could endanger the success of these negotiations. (But) this time of negotiations can't be considered a time of impunity," he added.

Ituri has been a bloody corner of Congo where ethnic violence and clashes between militia groups vying for control of mines and taxation have killed 60,000 people since 1999.

Long accused of not doing enough to protect civilians and prompted by the killing of nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers, the U.N. tried to crack down on the militia groups last year, launching joint operations with government forces.

Thousands of gunmen signed up to a disarmament programme but abuses by government forces sent to Ituri and the failure to offer former fighters new opportunities has allowed militia numbers to swell again.

Both Hema and Lendu ethnic fighters joined the MRC but alliances in Ituri are fluid and some U.N. sources questioned whether Karim's men would obey orders from the MRC.

Ituri is just one of several parts of eastern Congo where violence continues despite three years of official peace and the presence of the U.N.'s largest peacekeeping mission.

The July 30th presidential and parliamentary polls are meant to draw a line under Congo's 1998-2003 war, which sucked in six neighbouring countries and has killed four million people, mostly from hunger and disease.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

AK-47s Known as 'Credit Cards' in Lawless East

Reuters report via CFD - 22 June 2006 by David Lewis BUNIA, Congo:

Some fight in flip-flops, others hope potions will turn their enemy's bullets into water and most take little time to aim, trusting in the theory: "He who makes most noise wins."

But the government soldiers, militia fighters and bush bandits in eastern Congo all have one thing in common -- an AK-47 assault rifle.

"At $20 to $50 each, it's pretty easy to get your hands on an AK out here," explains a source close to the militia groups in Democratic Republic of Congo's lawless Ituri district.

"There is no shortage of weapons, there are plenty of them," the source added. "Of course ammunition is needed, but that comes in from Uganda easily."

Ituri is a particularly bloody corner of Congo, a mineral-rich but shattered country where four million people have been killed, mostly from war-related hunger and disease, since 1998.

Far removed from central government authority, Ituri has long porous borders with countries coveting its natural resources and a thinly stretched body of United Nations peacekeepers. The region highlights the challenges of controlling the flow of arms around Africa's Great Lakes.

Fighting between ethnic militias exploded in Bunia, Ituri's main town, in 2003 and European soldiers were dispatched to restore order after U.N. peacekeepers failed to prevent hundreds of civilians from being killed.

As Congo prepares for elections this year, thousands of militia fighters have signed up for disarmament programs, in theory swapping guns for school, training and jobs as civilians.

U.N. peacekeepers ceremonially burned stacks of weapons, while serviceable guns seized off militia were given to the new army. An arms embargo is meant to cut off fresh supplies.

'CONGOLESE CREDIT CARD'

But, frustrated with the lack of opportunities in their new lives, angry at the excesses of poorly paid government soldiers and loath to stop looting civilians and plundering gold mines, many in Ituri have found it easy to take up arms again.

"There are still weapons that are coming in and this will continue so long as there are people who are willing to pay for them," said Major Hans-Jakob Reichen, spokesman for the U.N. forces in eastern Congo.

Sanctions have been imposed on those breaking the arms embargo. U.N. helicopters fly at night, using thermal imaging to try and catch smugglers. And peacekeepers in speedboats patrol hundreds of miles of lakes separating Congo and its neighbors.

But militia ranks have swollen in recent months and, as a reminder of their strength, they are holding seven U.N. peacekeepers hostage following a gun battle last month.

Reichen says the United Nations can act as a deterrent but can only do so much to rid the nation of guns.

"It is a huge task that the U.N. will not be able to fulfill until the authority of the state is imposed."

Ituri is a microcosm of the Congo where, analysts say, the wealth in gold, timber, diamonds and other minerals needed by expanding Western economies has been plundered by local and foreign armed groups during years of chaos and instability.

During Congo's two wars, the last of which officially ended in 2003, officials handed out weapons to civilians, telling them to use them to defend their ethnic groups from attacks by rivals.

Despite the billions invested in peacekeeping and the determination of the international community to hold Congo's first free elections in over 40 years in July, vast swathes of the country remain outside the government's control.

And thousands of gunmen continue to roam the lawless east armed with their AK-47s -- known to some as the "Congolese credit card" -- harassing and killing civilians.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

DRC: New disarmament deadline, amnesty offer for militiamen

IRIN report June 15, 2006:

Militia active in Ituri District in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have until 30 June to disarm, according to an ultimatum by the national army and the United Nations Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC.

The army has deployed Brig-Gen Mbuyamba Nsiona from the capital, Kinshasa, to Ituri to take charge of the operation, which is aimed at securing the district ahead of general elections set for 30 July. Speaking in Bunia, the main town in the district, Nsiona said on Thursday that after the expiry of the deadline, militiamen who refuse to surrender would be forcibly disarmed.

Two disarmament sites would be opened from 19 June for those who wish to surrender: one at Aveba, 70km north of Bunia, and one at Kpandroma, 120km north of Bunia. All militia who give themselves up before the deadline would receive amnesty from the government, he said. Upon disarmament, they would receive certificates to distinguish them from militia who had not surrendered.

"There will be no victimisation," Nsiona said, adding that government soldiers who prevent or discourage militia from disarming would be punished.

The DRC's National Commission of Disarmament estimates that out of 16,300 militiamen that had been identified in Ituri, at least 4,000 had defied an earlier disarmament deadline - 30 April - issued by MONUC. A majority of those who are yet to disarm are loyal to a new alliance of several militia groups, the Mouvement révolutionnaires Congolais (MRC).

On Wednesday, at least 121 militiamen gave up their weapons under a joint disarmament operation between MONUC and the National Commission for Disarmament. The militia surrendered in Katoni village, 15km south of Bunia. Katoni is also is home to at least 18,000 people who have been displaced by fighting, said Idrissa Conteh, an information officer with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Among the surrendered weapons were 47 AK-47 rifles; 16,000 rounds of ammunition; and three bombs, a source at the disarmament commission said.

"Fifty other militias also voluntarily surrendered their weapons to the army," Brig-Gen Nsiona said. Among the militia who surrendered were 31 combatants from Tcheyi, 100km south of Bunia, where the army is fighting the MRC.

MONUC had identified five child soldiers in Tcheyi. "They were spies for the militias," Nsiona said.

A Congolese army captain who requested anonymity said they had information that there were 100 other militiamen who were willing to surrender, "but they are afraid of certain FARDC [Congolese national army] forces on the ground."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bush for talks with Congo on Sudan conflict

United States president George Bush will meet with the president of the Republic of Congo and head of the 53-nation African Union, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, at the White House on Monday.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the two leaders would discuss the Darfur conflict in Sudan.

The two presidents also will discuss ways to strengthen democracy and improve the lives of the Congolese people, said Snow. - Sapa-AP via Cape Argus June 2, 2006.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

UN Security Council tour June 5 ends in Kinshasa, DR Congo

A 10-day UN Security Council tour led by British Ambassador Sir Emyr Jones Parry, along with French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, begins on June 5 and includes Khartoum, southern Sudan, refugee camps in Darfur and Chad and African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The trip ends in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. - Reuters May 30, 2006.

UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo is the largest and costs $1 billion a year

Reuters report May 30, 2006 tells us the largest UN peacekeeping mission of 17,000 troops and civilians is in the Congo at a cost of $1 billion a year.

What's Needed to Prevent the Deaths of Millions More Congolese - Time Magazine

Email just in from Friends of the Congo May 30, 2006:

In its June 5th issue, Time magazine features on its cover the Congo crisis, entitled, "Congo:The Hidden Toll of the World's Deadliest War" by By Simon Robinson and Vivienne Walt.

Time correctly raises the critical issue of "what's needed to prevent the deaths of millions more [Congolese]." However, its accounting of the facts are incomplete and it's analysis does not lead us to a comprehensive prescription for preventing more dying and suffering in the Congo.

Time claims, in part, that the world has let "Congo bleed" because of its "maligned reputation and feckless rulers." Aside from the fact that there is absolutely no justification for letting "the Congo bleed" to the tune of 4 million dead since 1998, Time totally misses the central cause for the conflict and unbearable human toll in the Congo. The reason why the Congo bleeds today is the same reason it bled under Belgium's King Leopold II's genocidal reign of the Congo from 1885 - 1908, when at least 10 million or half of the Congolese population perished in a 23 year span as the King brutally and illegally exploited the resources (at that time rubber and ivory) and labor of the Congo.

The central issue of the Congo has long been its enormous wealth and the nexus that exists among local sycophants seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, greedy neighbors with visions of regional grandeur and the veracious appetite by Western governments and corporations to profit from the natural resources of the Congo with no regard for Congolese lives. Until this issue is squarely and honestly addressed the Congo will continue to "bleed."

Johann Hari hit the nail on the head in his article Congo's Tragedy: the War the World Forgot" published in the May 6 edition of the Independent online. He stated "This war has been dismissed as an internal African implosion. In reality it is a battle for coltan, diamonds, cassiterite and gold, destined for sale in London, New York and Paris. It is a battle for the metals that make our technological society vibrate and ring and bling, and it has already claimed 4 million lives in five years and broken a population the size of Britain's. No this is not only a story about them. This - the tale of a short journey into the long Congolese war we in the West have fostered, fueled and funded - is a story about you"

Click here to read entire critique.

Monday, May 29, 2006

DR Congo peacekeepers 'missing'

One Nepalese peacekeeper has been killed and another seven are missing after clashes with rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN says.

There are some reports that the troops may have been kidnapped but the UN says it cannot confirm or deny these.

The peacekeepers were trying to disarm militias in volatile eastern DR Congo.

There are some 17,000 UN troops in DR Congo - the world's largest peacekeeping force - ahead of elections due on 30 July. - BBC May 29. 2006.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pictures of the $100 laptop: 1st working model of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

From May 23, 2006 blog entry by Pablo Halkyard at PSD blog - The World Bank Group:
Pictures from the unveiling of the first working prototype of the $100 Laptop at the Seven Countries Task Force today. Green became orange, and the hand-crank is gone. Compare with Intel's sub-$400 entry and AMD's $185 version.
Note, at the entry a techie commented: "Awesome. I want one. What is there to stop gringos from buying them all to have their recipes on the kitchen or to use as poolside or beach laptop?"

Click here to learn about One Laptop per Child and view pictures of original green prototype with hand crank.

1st working model of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) on Flickr

Photo: 1st working model (OLPC) - taken at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2006; cameraphone upload by ShoZu - Uploaded to flickr by Pete Barr-Watson

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

DRC: 32 "mercenaries" arrested in Kinshasa

From IRIN report today:

Security agents in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, arrested 32 foreigners on Tuesday for plotting a coup against the government of Joseph Kabila, Interior Minister Theophilus Mbemba said.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

CAR: Thousands protest widespread violence

IRIN report May 19, 2006 - excerpt:
At least 3,000 people took to the streets of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, on Friday in protest against escalating violence in the country; especially in the northwest where fighting between armed raiders and the army has left up to 70,000 civilians displaced.

"For sometime now, insecurity has continued unabated in the capital as well as in provinces, especially in the northwest region," Noel Ramada, chairman of the country's largest trade union, the USTC, said. "We want peace, not violence."

The protestors carried banners that read: "No to Rebellion" and "No to Bad Governance". They urged rebels and the government to stop the fighting and to work for peace.
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Friday, May 19, 2006

UN mission reports dozens of crimes by DR of Congo's soldiers

The Democratic Republic of Congo's own soldiers were responsible for the majority of the nearly seven dozen complaints of crimes and human rights violations under investigation by the United Nations mission (MONUC) for the last two months, according to a new report. - UN News Centre

Monday, May 15, 2006

EU to send peacekeepers to Congo - and agreed to prolong training and airlift to AU troops in Darfur, W Sudan

Irish Examiner 15 May 2006 says the European Union today insisted it will be ready to provide support to UN peacekeepers in Congo during elections starting in July despite difficulties in mustering the troops needed for an EU military mission.

“The EU will … be in a position to make a significant contribution to creating a more stable and secure environment during the election period,” EU foreign and defence ministers said in a Brussels statement.

The ministers also agreed to prolong the bloc's support for peacekeeping efforts in another African trouble spot, extending until at least September its limited program providing training and airlift to African Union troops in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Oxfam says deaths in DR of Congo: 100,000 in 3 months - 3.9m over past 8 years - 1,200 people are dying every day from conflict-related causes

The aid agency Oxfam has criticised donor countries for failing to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, BBC reported today:

Oxfam says donor countries have contributed only $94m (£50m) to a $682m special appeal launched in February.

It says more than 100,000 people have died in the three-month period from diseases that might have been cured.

Oxfam says DR Congo is a forgotten disaster zone in which 3.9m people have died over the past eight years.

The Humanitarian Action Plan was launched by the United Nations, the Red Cross and aid agencies in February.

It comes as the country approaches UN-backed elections in July, which will be the first democratic polls the DRC has ever held.

The BBC's World Affairs Correspondent Mark Doyle says it is unusual for aid agencies to name - and try to shame - specific countries.

But Oxfam has called the contributions of the United States and Japan "minuscule" compared with the size of their economies and said that Germany and France had committed little and Italy nothing.

The aid agency calculates what it calls "fair shares" by comparing the amount appealed for with the size of economies.

According to Oxfam, Britain gave only about half of the share it could have been expected to contribute.

But a spokesman for the Department for International Development told the BBC that the UK had pledged £60m in additional aid to the DR Congo over the next two years to help with the humanitarian situation in the country.

He said the money would go to providing emergency food and shelter, medical equipment , clean water and to rebuild schools destroyed by the conflict.

Oxfam's representative in Congo, Juliette Prodhan, said it was good that donors had agreed to help finance the forthcoming polls, but that the country's problems would not be cured by voting alone.

"Rich country governments have a moral obligation to act when 1,200 people are dying every day from conflict-related causes," she said.

After years of war and misrule, there is little infrastructure in DR Congo, which is about the size of Western Europe, and there are no road or rail links from one side of the country to the other.

Fighting - particularly in the east - continues between rival militias and government forces. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes.

A United Nations peacekeeping force of nearly 17,000 troops - the world's largest - operates in the country and is being augmented by a 1,500-strong European Union rapid reaction force over the election period.

DR of Congo: militia group comes forward to enter disarmament process

UN News Centre 12 May 2006 – A group of around 250 members of a renegade militia in the troubled Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have come forward to enter the country’s disarmament and reintegration process, the United Nations mission in the country (MONUC) said today.

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that three months after the launch of the 2006 Action Plan for the DRC, which aims to provide relief aid and promote stability in country, the international community has met just 13 per cent of identified needs, delivering only $90 million of the $682 requested.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Uganda says most LRA rebels relocated to DR Congo

May 5 2006 Xinhua/ST report in full:

The Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) has said about 95 per cent of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in southern Sudan have relocated to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The UPDF 5th Division spokesman, Lt Chris Magezi, told Xinhua by telephone on Friday 5 May that most of the rebels have crossed to the DRC to join rebel leader Joseph Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti who are believed to be hiding in the jungles of Garamba National Park, eastern DRC.

"About 95 per cent of the LRA are now hiding in the DRC after our hot pursuit in southern Sudan," said Magezi.

He noted that there just a few remnants that are remaining in southern Sudan which the rebels used as their base to launch attacks against the Ugandan government, in a rebellion that has left tens of thousands of people dead.

"Our forces in southern Sudan have made major successes in wiping out these rebels. And because of our fire power, they are fleeing to the DRC," Magezi added.

UPDF spokesman, Maj Felix Kulaigye told Xinhua by telephone on Friday that Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi had returned from Sudan where he had gone to meet President Omar Al-Bashir and the UN Khartoum team to reach a regional mechanism to handle the LRA.

President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday that there is need for the government to work in conjunction with the Sudanese government, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and the United Nations Force in the DRC (MONUC) in ending the war in northern Uganda.

The Ugandan military said recently if Kony and his 150 armed combatants are given a safe haven in the DRC, they could build up and become a regional problem.

According to Minister Mbabazi, Uganda is to send defence and foreign affairs officials to meet the DRC authorities on how the two neighbouring countries can wipe out LRA rebels.

"It is a matter we are pushing with vigour and we are sure to receive positive reports," Mbabazi said shortly before leaving for the Khartoum meeting.

About two weeks ago, the Ugandan government proposed to the UN Security Council to allow the UPDF pursue the LRA rebels in the DRC.

Last week, the DRC government said UPDF soldiers were sighted on its territory pursuing the LRA, a thing the Ugandan army denied.

The LRA rebels have been fighting the Ugandan government for the last 20 years in a rebellion that has left tens of thousands of people dead and over 1.4 million people living in internally displaced persons camps in northern Uganda.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sudan and DR Congo at top of 'failed states index'

Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the world's most vulnerable states, according to a new study.

FAILED STATES 2006 - TOP 10
1. Sudan (3)*
2. DR Congo (2)*
3. Ivory Coast (1)*
4. Iraq (4)*
5. Zimbabwe (15)*
6. Chad (7)*
(Tie) Somalia (5)*
8. Haiti (10)*
9. Pakistan (34)*
10. Afghanistan (11)*

* Position in 2005 report

The report - compiled by the US Foreign Policy magazine and the US-based Fund for Peace think-tank - ranked nations according to their viability.

Judged according to 12 criteria, including human flight and economic decline, states range from the most failed, Sudan, to the least, Norway.

Eleven of the 20 most failed states of the 146 nations examined are in Africa.

Full report BBC May 2, 2006 [Hat tip to Passion of the Present - http://www.passionofthepresent.org/ so sorry, permalinks and newsfeed to the site are still not working here]

Monday, May 01, 2006

U.S. Senators Leahy and Obama secure Key Panel's OK for aid for elections and military reform in DR Congo

"Congo Watchers--Have you seen this Press Release yet?" asks Taylor Walters in a comment here today at Congo Watch:

Senators Leahy and Obama Secure Key Panel's OK for Much-Needed Aid for Elections and Military Reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: April 4, 2006

Obama Contact: Robert Gibbs or Tommy Vietor, (202) 228-5511

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, April 4) -- U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) Tuesday successfully attached an amendment to the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill that would provide $13.2 million for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The amendment was cosponsored by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

The amendment, drafted as part of a collaborative effort by Leahy and Obama, provides $8.2 million for military reform and $5 million to support free and fair elections in the DRC. According to the United Nations, these are two key priorities if the DRC is to make a successful transition to democratic rule and bring peace and economic development to one of the largest nations in Africa.

Obama said, "If Africa is to achieve its promise, resolving the problems in the Congo will be critical. The country, which is the size of Western Europe, lies at the geographic heart of Africa and borders every major region across the continent. If left untended, Congo's tragedy will continue to infect Africa. This amendment accepted today represents a small but important step towards bringing peace and prosperity to the Congo. I commend Senator Leahy's leadership and the Appropriations Committee on this issue"

Leahy added, "U.S. leadership to support democratic elections and reform the Congolese military will be critical if the Congo is going to overcome decades of violence and misrule. I hope this amendment, by demonstrating that the United States is serious about supporting the Congo, will encourage all nations to join in a sustained effort in the country that holds the key to stability in central Africa. The UN peacekeeping mission deserves a great deal of credit for the progress that has been made so far."

The elections, scheduled for later this year, are the first in more than four decades. They represent by far the largest elections that the UN has ever assisted, in a vast country with minimal infrastructure, few roads and an electorate of more than 25 million people. The election breakthrough is the result of years of negotiations to reduce the fighting in the DRC, which involved five international peace agreements and more than 30 UN Security Council resolutions.

The amendment represents a growing concern in Congress about the DRC's future. In December, comprehensive legislation on the Congo, S. 2125, was introduced by Senators Obama, Brownback, Durbin, and DeWine.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Telegraph Correspondent David Blair visits Docs Hospital in Goma

The Daily Telegraph's Africa Correspondent David Blair recently returned home to Johannesburg after a week long tour of eastern Congo, taking in Bunia, Beni, Goma, Gisenyi and blogging an account -- note [Hello Louis!] the April 24, 2006 blog entry for "Day Five" about his visit to Docs Hospital in Goma.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Uganda backs Revolutionary Movement of Congo (MRC)

Uganda backs rebels responsible for ravaging the rugged hills and dense rainforest of Congo's Ituri district, according to UN officials and western diplomats.

Gunmen, styling themselves the Revolutionary Movement of Congo (known by their French acronym MRC), have forced tens of thousands to flee in the last three months alone

See Telegraph report by David Blair in Bunia 27 April 2006.

Congokin.com forum - DRC

CONGOKIN: Discussion Forum

UN suspects Uganda is fighting in Congo

UN peacekeepers are investigating reports that Ugandan soldiers crossed into neighbouring Congo in pursuit of rebels on Wednesday and clashed with Congolese troops, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

Security sources in Kinshasa said Ugandan soldiers clashed with the Congolese army near the town of Aba, in the remote northeastern frontier with Uganda and Sudan - after crossing the border to hunt down the Joseph Kony-led Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels hiding there.

Full report Monitor Online 28 April 2006.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

UN Security Council authorises European force in DR Congo

The United Nations Security Council today endorsed the deployment of a European Union reserve force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bolster stability in the vast country for its June 2006 presidential and parliamentary elections and up to four months afterward.

Full report UN News Centre 25 Apr 2006.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Goma Film Project and LUMO by American blogger and film maker Louis Abelman

Great news. American blogger Louis Abelman has launched a website for The Goma Film Project showing a trailer of his first film, LUMO shot in Goma, DRC.

Louis, who authors Telegraphe Congolais, has spent the past few years producing and directing LUMO, a deeply sensitive documentary about the lives of rape survivors in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo as they work with medical staff and counsellors to regain their health and dignity.

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Louis lives in New York. After attending Brown University where he majored in African History, he worked for the International Herald Tribune as an editorial assistant and as a news assistant at the New York Times.

Several photos featured here at Congo Watch, including those here below - and in Congo Watch title banner - were shot by Louis. Links to more photos can be found in the sidebar of his blog.

The fabulous Mama Jeanne Banyere

See The savagery in the Congo is beyond imagination - excerpt:
Jeanne Banyere, or Mama Jeanne to all who know this remarkable woman. "I used to cry, but have now become more desensitised. This happens all over this area, sometimes to children as young as nine." Mama Jeanne - who also looks after 62 orphans - is one of a handful of dedicated people from the Women's Protestant Federation that network these remote parts of the Congo, providing counselling and hope to these women.


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Photo: Mama Jeanne (tallest, yellow headscarf) with returned patients in village of Mema (Louis Abelman)

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Photo: Close up of drawing on outer wall (Louis Abelman)

Note May 1, 2006 screening of LUMO in New York at the IFC center, further details at gomafilmproject.org.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hague referral for Bemba and Patasse

BBC report 14 April 2006 says the top court in the Central African Republic has referred former President Felix-Ange Patasse to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Mr Patasse was referred, along with the vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, on charges of rape and murder.

Also included in the referral are a French policeman and two aides of ex-president Mr Patasse.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Security Council approves UN troop redeployment from Burundi to DR Congo

The Security Council today authorized the temporary redeployment of peacekeepers from the Organization's operation in Burundi (ONUB) to its mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) to strengthen security and oversight for the upcoming Congolese elections. Full story UN News Centre 10 Apr 2006.

The EU's strategy for Africa

EU aid means the difference between life and death for many Africans, argues Louis Michel:
"For all of them, "Europe cares", Europeans care. It is important to remember that when people in our countries express doubts about European integration and the added value of the EU - this is added value. For millions of people, our aid makes the difference between life and death."
- 40m euro programme for Sudan
- 38m euros for Democratic Republic of Congo
- Major programmes to help drought victims in the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes refugees living in camps in Tanzania, the frightened communities of Northern Uganda and the many highly vulnerable people still struggling to survive in Burundi and Liberia in the aftermath of long-running conflicts.

Full story at EUPolitix.com.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Swedish soldiers to join EU Congo force

April 9 Xinhua -- Sweden is to send 40 to 50 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which will be part of an EU mission to provide security during the summer election in the troubled central African country, local media reported on Sunday.

Defense minister Leni Bjoerklund told Social Democrats on Saturday that the government would put the proposal for the Swedish contribution before parliament soon, according to Swedish news agency TT.

The EU force of around 1,000 soldiers from ten countries will support 17,000 UN peacekeeping troops. Eight UN soldiers have lost their lives in the country.

The election in the DR Congo will be the first since 1961. It was scheduled for June 18th but has been postponed until July due to security fears.

The exact task of Swedish soldiers from the elite Special Protection Group (SSG) in DR Congo is still not clear, the report said.

The SSG, which reports directly to the Commander-in-Chief of the Swedish armed forces, is trained for battle, personal protection, intelligence gathering and a range of other combat duties.

Sweden's contribution will cost a maximum of 60 million kronor (about 7.7 million U.S. dollars), according to the report.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

France asks UN to redeploy troops to DRCongo

April 7, 2006 (AFP) - France on Friday proposed that the Security Council redeploy UN troops from Burundi to bolster a mission in the DRC during elections:

France circulated a draft resolution that would transfer an infantry battalion, a field hospital and 50 military observers from the UN mission in Burundi, to the mission in RDC, until July 1, with the possibility of extending the redeployment. The proposal would redeploy more than 800 UN troops now in Burundi under Resolution 1650.

Burundi has been trying to leave behind 12 years of civil war and is governed by elected officials after a long political transition. The UN mission there was deployed in 2004 and has nearly completed its mission, foreseen to end on December 31.

The RDC has set elections for later this year, before the end of a fragile political transition that began in 2003 after several years of warfare. Election day, initially set for June 18, has been put off for logistical reasons and a new date has not yet been set.

Friday, April 07, 2006

�WFP airpdrops food aid into DR Congo's embattled Katanga province

The United Nations World Food Programme said today it had started dropping food aid from an aircraft into violence-wracked Katanga province in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo – marking the agency's first food aid airdrops outside Sudan since 1998.

The airdrops of WFP food from an Antonov-12 aircraft near the town of Dubie in Katanga started on Wednesday and are the first ever into the DRC, where WFP usually transports food aid by trucks and airlifts. But the current rains have made it especially difficult to move by road sufficient amounts of food aid to Dubie, where malnutrition rates are increasingly alarming.

Full report UNWFP via ReliefWeb 7 Apr 2006.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

World Food Program sends aid to refugees in DRC

The World Food Program (WFP) began to dispatch aid to refugees in Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday, a WFP official told Xinhua.

Aline Samu, who is responsible for WFP press information, told Xinhua that about 12 tons of aid had been sent to 13,000 refugees in Dubie, 500 km north from Lubumbashi, capital of Katanga province, adding that another two rounds would arrive on Thursday.

According to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the DRC (MONUC), a total of 80 tons of aid will be dispatched to the region in the following four to five days.

Samu admitted that the transportation cost climbed to 1,200 U.S. dollars per ton because of the awfully bumpy roads to the region, noting that only 530 tons of food supplies were sent to Katanga from January to March due to road conditions.

The fighting between the Mayi-Mayi militia and the national Army Forces of the DRC in Katanga had forced about 11,000 families to leave their homes since the end of 2005.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sudan's Darfur, DRC top agenda at Annan's talks in NY

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan held separate talks in New York March 31 with top African and European officials on Darfur, Sudan, and the DRC, UN News Centre reported 31 Mar 2006:

In a meeting with Mr Konare, Chair of the AU Commission, the two discussed the Abuja peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur. They also discussed support for the AU force in Darfur, including the possibility of a donors' conference.

On the DRC, they reviewed a number of issues, including how to ensure an inclusive electoral progress.

Mr Konare, who travels to the DRC next week, also spoke with Mr Annan about the Chad-Sudan border, and steps being taken to defuse the tension there.

Darfur and the DRC were also on the agenda at a separate meeting between Mr Annan and European Common Foreign and Security Policy High Representative Javier Solana. They reviewed EU support for the AU force in Darfur and for the electoral process in the DRC.

Congo Caritas Development sends urget humanitarian aid to refugees in DRC

Urgent humanitarian aid has been sent to war refugees in the DRC. The aid, totaling 360 tons of food, medication and seeds, would be dispatched to around 30,000 people from 5,000 families in Mitwaba, 500 km north of Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga province, said the Congo Caritas Development (CCD), a member of Caritas Internationalis on Monday.

According to the CCD, the displacement of the refugees is caused by fighting between the Mayi-Mayi militia and the national Army Forces of DRC (FARDC) since the end of 2005, which forced about 11,000 families to leave their homes. The CCD will also dispatch aid to another 5,800 families in the regions of Pweto-Mwenge and Pweto-Kizabi in a month. - Xinhua 4 Apr 2006.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

World letting DRC down: UN

Violence and curable diseases are now estimated to kill around 1,200 people every day in DRC, up from a daily 1,100 in 2005.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

DRC: Civilians seek refuge near UN military camp to escape fighting

At least 1,000 residents of two villages in the DRC northeastern district of Ituri sought refuge on Wednesday around a camp of Bangladeshi UN troops following fighting between militiamen and the national army, an official of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said. Full report (IRIN) Mar 29 2006.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Congo rebel group says it will go to polls

Congo's biggest former rebel group said on Friday it would end its boycott of the huge country's peace process and contest elections in June, reports IOL Kinshasa March 25 2006:

Azarias Ruberwa's RCD-Goma, backed by neighbouring Rwanda during Congo's devastating 1998-2003 war, said he would stand for president on June 18 in the country's first free national parliamentary and presidential polls in more than four decades.

"I have already been designated as presidential candidate by the party," Ruberwa told reporters in the capital Kinshasa, saying he would lodge his nomination papers in the next few days.

The announcement follows weeks of wrangling within the transitional government over the allocation of parliamentary seats in the territory formerly controlled by RCD-Goma, which still enjoys widespread support and influence in the area.

RCD-Goma had suspended its participation in all transitional institutions and cast doubt on whether it would take part in the June elections.

Ruberwa met United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan who visited Congo this week to encourage preparations for the elections and ensure all parties take part in the polls.

A statement from RCD-Goma acknowledged Annan's mediation role but said the dispute over constituencies had not yet been resolved and it would not rule out further protest action.

An RCD-Goma boycott could seriously jeopardise the credibility and organisation of elections in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where militia still operate and aid workers say 1,000 people are being killed every day, mainly through hunger and disease.

An estimated 4 million people have died as a result of the conflict since 1998.

The United Nations has its biggest peacekeeping operation in Congo, and the European Union plans to send troops to help safeguard the elections.

Friday, March 24, 2006

New website for friends of the DR Congo

Email just in introducing new website for Friends of the Congo. Good luck and best wishes to all concerned.

Museveni braces to fight Ugandan rebels in DR Congo

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has reiterated his warning to pursue rebels of the Lord`s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern DR Congo where they have reportedly gathered to attack Uganda, reported AngolaPress March 24, 2006. Excerpt:

"We will pursue the LRA rebels into the DRC if they launch attacks on any part of Uganda, with or without approval of the international authorities. Uganda had a right to self-defence under international law," Museveni warned in an interview published in the state-owned Sunday Vision.

The repeated threat but the strongest follows reports by Uganda army that LRA leader Joseph Kony, crossed into north-eastern DR Congo last week to join his loyal deputy, Major-General Vicent Otti, who is holed up in the Gramba game reserve.

The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) claimed that LRA rebels have found jungles in north-eastern DRC, particularly the Garamba game reserve, a new sanctuary for them to re-group, re-organise and freshly attack Uganda since they were flushed out of their rear bases in southern Sudan.

In a related development, UN envoy Dennis McNamara has described the rebel war in northern Uganda as a shame to the Museveni regime, the international community and the United Nations.

"Twenty years is so long, we have failed the people in the north. They are crowded in camps without being protected. This is a huge challenge nationally and internationally," McNamara told a news conference here Friday.

"The conflict is one of the world`s most serious humanitarian crises, with crude mortality rates among displaced children which are higher than those prevailing in Darfur [western Sudan], and three times more than the rest of Uganda."

"You cannot achieve peace and security when you militarise the whole area when civilians have to be at the front and the military at the back.

"Even in peacekeeping missions like Darfur, they don`t keep the military at the front, McNamara said.

There should be a collaborative effort to ensure that peace returns to the region," added McNamara, at the end of a weeklong multi-donor mission in Kampala.

But Uganda army and Defence spokesman, Major Felix Kulayigye responded to McNamara`s remarks indifferently, saying, "A military situation requires a military action".

"In a war situation there is no law and order. You cannot resort to peaceful means. Agreeably we have had our weaknesses, but we have learnt lessons and addressed these weaknesses," Kulayigye told journalists.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Press conference by Special Representative of Secretary-General for Burundi

Press conference by Special Representative of Secretary-General for Burundi.

Source: United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) 22 Mar 2006, courtesy ReliefWeb.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Number of refugees: Sudan 5m - DRC 3m - Uganda 2m

African leaders bear much of the responsibility for the continent's 12 million people living in poverty in their own countries after being driven from their homes, a senior United Nations official said on Wednesday, Reuters reported March 22, 2006. Excerpt:

Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland was speaking at the launch of a report showing that last year Africa accounted for half of the world's "internal refugees" and Zimbabwe alone for nearly a third of the 2 million new ones.

"The African leadership has been horrendous in the last generation in so many of these situations, and they have to face the truth," Egeland, former head of Norway's Red Cross, told a news conference.

The Norwegian report, "Internal Displacement: Global View of Trends and Developments in 2005", said Sudan with 5 million remained the country with most internal refugees, and numbers were swelling further because of the conflict in Darfur.

Uganda, which Egeland said he planned to visit shortly, had 2 million internal refugees, almost all in the north of the country where a rebel Lord's Resistance Army has created havoc for years and regularly raids camps for the displaced.

The DRC still had 1.7 million, and there were 1.3 million in Iraq, many of them left over from population movements enforced under the regime of Saddam Hussein ousted by a U.S.-led invasion three years ago.

The Norwegian report is available at www.internal-displacement.org.

Monday, March 20, 2006

DR Congo rebel Thomas Lubanga due in Hague court

The leader of a Democratic Republic of Congo militia is set to become the first war crimes suspect to be charged at the International Criminal Court.

Thomas Lubanga was transferred to ICC custody on Friday from DR Congo.

The court, based in the Dutch city of The Hague, said he would face three charges related to the use of children in armed groups.

Full story (BBC) 20 March 2006.

Note, the report states Thomas Lubanga's UPC has been battling for control of Ituri's gold. Read On the trail of DR Congo's 'cursed' gold.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Congo hands militia chief to Hague court - UN source

Excerpt from Reuters report today:

The Congolese government is handing over a militia leader suspected of ordering the killing of nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers last year to the International Criminal Court, a U.N. source said on Friday.

The case would be the first dealt with by the world's first permanent global war crimes court to try individuals.

The U.N. source in Congo, who asked not to be named, said Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) ethnic militia in eastern Congo's lawless Ituri district, was being transferred to the ICC headquarters in The Hague.

ICC officials in The Hague declined to comment.

The ICC issued its first warrants last year for five leaders of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which also operates in northeast Congo, and has launched investigations into war crimes in Congo and Sudan's Darfur region.

DR Congo rebel Thomas Lubanga faces Hague trial

The UN force in DR Congo is the biggest in the world. The leader of a DRC militia group is to be sent to the world court over the killing of UN troops, a Congolese human rights group says Voice of the Voiceless, reported BBC Mar 17, 2006. Excerpt:

Thomas Lubanga was arrested a year ago after nine Bangladeshi United Nations peacekeepers were killed in the volatile north-eastern Ituri region.

This would be the first case dealt with by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Dutch city of the Hague.

The ICC was set up to deal with war crimes and genocide around the world.

Mr Lubanga was brought out of his jail in the capital, Kinshasa, by the Congo military on Thursday and informed that he will be judged by the ICC, according to Congolese human rights group Voice of the Voiceless.

Mr Lubanga is accused of having ordered the killing of the peacekeepers in February 2005 and of being behind continuous insecurity in the area.

Several teams of ICC investigators have been sent to Ituri in recent months where more than 50,000 people have died since the inter-ethnic war began in 1999.

Thomas Lubanga's ethnic Hema Union of Congolese Patriots has been battling their Lendu rivals, partly for control of Ituri's large deposits of gold.

Some 17,000 UN peacekeepers are in DR Congo, tasked with ensuring that elections planned for June go smoothly.

They have been backing up the Congolese army as it conducts raids against the numerous rebel groups based in the east.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Uganda: Kony Joins Otti in eastern DRC?

allAfrica.com report March 16, 2006 by F. Ahimbisibwe (New Vision, Kampala)

THE Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) chief, Joseph Kony, has joined his deputy Vincent Otti in the Garamba National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Kony left his hideout in southern Sudan on Tuesday with over 70 soldiers, according to the army sources.

Army spokesman Major Felix Kulayigye yesterday said the army had confirmed that Kony had crossed, prompting the UPDF to reinforce deployment at Uganda's border with the DRC.

"We have stepped up security and we are on high alert although Kony and his men are weakened. We do not want to take chances. We have to ensure that our people at the border are safe," he said.

Kulayigye said they had alerted the DRC authorities and the United Nations to disarm or arrest the rebels.

"Since we are not allowed to cross over and hunt them down, we have alerted DRC authorities to find them and annihilate them wherever they may be hiding," he said.