Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

UN ends Congo campaign - 21,000 peacekeepers in DRC

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

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

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

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

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

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

New mandate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rwanda's Kagame concerned by dominance of DR Congo radios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First visit of ICC President to DR Congo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Rwanda: Mixed reactions on restoration of Rwanda - France relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rwanda becomes a member of the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth has admitted Rwanda as its 54th member.

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

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

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

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

It joined the organisation 14 years ago.

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

SEE ALSO What would the Commonwealth do for Rwanda?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

DR Congo war crimes trial begins - Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui have pleaded not guilty

According to the following report, interethnic violence in DR Congo has claimed the lives of 60,000 people since 1999, NGOs say.

From Aljazeera.net (Agencies), Wednesday, November 25, 2009:
DR Congo war crimes trial begins
Two Congolese men accused of directing an attack on a village, during which at least 200 people were killed, women raped and child soldiers allegedly recruited, have gone on trial in The Hague.

Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui appeared at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, facing charges of seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The men, who pleaded not guilty, stand accused over an attack by their forces on the village of Bogoro in Democratic Republic of Congo's northeastern Ituri region in February 2003.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the court's chief prosecutor, said the pair were "responsible for some of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community".

"They used children as soldiers, they killed more than 200 civilians in a few hours, they raped women; girls and the elderly, they looted the entire village and they transformed women into sex slaves," he said.

"Some were shot dead in their sleep, some cut up by machetes to save bullets. Others were burned alive after their houses were set on fire by the attackers."

'Killing without distinction'

Katanga, 31, an ethnic Ngiti, is said to have commanded the Patriotic Resistance Force (FRPI), while Ngudjolo, 39, a Lendu, is accused of being the former leader of the National Integrationist Front (FNI).

The prosecution say more than 1,000 fighters from both groups, including child soldiers, entered Bogoro in the early hours of February 24, six years ago.
"The plan was to wipe out Bogoro. They killed without distinction," Moreno-Ocampo said.

Until the attack, Bogoro had been controlled by rival Thomas Lubanga's Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), blocking FRPI and FNI fighters and camps from the road to the key city of Bunia.

Lubanga's own war crimes trial, the ICC's first, started in January.

Defence lawyers disputed whether Katanga or Ngudjolo were actually the commanders of the groups at the time of the attack and suggested both the governments' of Uganda and DR Congo had much to gain from the violence.

'Clear conscience'

David Hooper, Katanga's lawyer, said that his client's role during the conflict "was merely to defend his own people", accusing Uganda of fuelling the violence through its "plunder" of the natural resources.

"The defence disputes that Germain Katanga ... planned the attack or that he participated in it," Hooper said.

Jean-Pierre Kilenda, the defence counsel for Ngudjolo, said his client had a "clear conscience" and "was never involved personally or through intermediaries in the attack on Bogoro".

Non-governmental bodies say that inter-ethnic and militia violence in Ituri, largely over control of the area's gold mines, has claimed 60,000 lives since 1999.

Katanga was handed over to the ICC by the Democratic Republic of Congo government in October 2007, while Ngudjolo was arrested and transferred to The Hague in February 2008.

The two defence teams will give their opening statements later on Tuesday.
Quote of the Day
"The plan was to wipe out Bogoro. They killed without distinction" -Luis Moreno-Ocampo, ICC chief prosecutor

ICC's Outreach Programme is active in Uganda, DR Congo, CAR and Darfur (Sudan)

Currently, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Outreach Programme is active in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Darfur (Sudan). The programme promotes access to and understanding of judicial proceedings and fosters realistic expectations about the court's work. This in turn has engendered greater local community participation by addressing their concerns and countering misperceptions.

From The Guardian in Nigeria, Wednesday, November 25, 2009:
ICC registrar presents outreach report to member states
By Francis Obinor
THE International Criminal Court (ICC) has presented its Outreach Report 2009 to representatives of States and Non-Governmental Organisations attending the Eighth Session of the Assembly of the States Parties to the Rome Statute in The Hague.

The court's head of the Outreach Unit, Claudia Perdomo, yesterday told The Guardian that the Registrar, Silvana Arbia, informed those present that during the period covered by the report, from October 1, 2008 - October 1, this year, more than 39,665 individuals participated in 365 Outreach activities.

According to her, the use of local radio and television stations was dramatically increased in order to expand the number of people receiving the message of the Court in a most effective way and to support daily Outreach activities.

"It is estimated that nearly 34 million people were regularly informed through the media during the yearly timeframe," she said.

Arbia recalled that the Outreach Programme was established to cultivate a level of awareness and understanding of the court's mandate and activities among the most affected communities of situation and cases before the court.

Currently, the Outreach Programme is active in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Darfur (Sudan). The programme promotes access to and understanding of judicial proceedings and fosters realistic expectations about the court's work. This in turn has engendered greater local community participation by addressing their concerns and countering misperceptions.

Building on the experience of the last three years, in the upcoming period, the Outreach Unit will continue to apply participatory and interactive methodologies in all activities, and will prioritise themes agreed upon with beneficiaries of the Outreach Programme.

To facilitate this evolving process, the following four categories have been defined, under which activities and key target populations are grouped, and relevant thematic approaches are identified: the Community Outreach Programme engaging affected communities and civil society organisations; the Legal Outreach Programme engaging legal practitioners; the Academic Outreach Programme engaging schools and universities; and the Media Outreach Programme engaging journalists.

The Registrar concluded that "in all situations, to fulfill the mandate to communicate with affected communities support from States, including national authorities and local civil society organisations, remains crucial. Putting public radio stations and television channels at the court's service would ensure public access to the court's proceedings which is a fundamental element of a fair trial."

Lastly, a video documenting key findings of the Outreach Report in each of the situation related countries was shown. Questions asked by State's delegates attending the meeting, as well as Civil Society representatives, were answered by ICC staff, including the Outreach Co-ordinators who are based in the field, in the situation countries.

Meanwhile, ICC prosecutor has told judges at the international court that two Congolese militia leaders sent child soldiers and other fighters to wipe out a village in a revenge attack that left more than 200 men, women and children dead.

"Some were shot in their sleep, some cut up with machetes to preserve bullets. Others were burned alive after their houses were set on fire," Luis Moreno Ocampo said in his opening statement.

The two alleged commanders, Germain Katanga, 31, and Mathieu Ngudjolo, 39, both pleaded not guilty to three crimes against humanity and seven war crimes, including murder, rape, sexual enslavement and pillage.

It was only the tribunal's second trial since it began operations in 2002. The first case, of alleged Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga who is accused of recruiting child soldiers, started in January.

Prosecutors say Katanga and Ngudjolo led two mobs of child soldiers and older fighters armed with automatic weapons, machetes and spears to destroy the village of Bogoro in Congo's mineral-rich Ituri Province on February 24, 2003. Many of the victims were hacked to death.

The village was strategically located on a crossroad and was the base of a rival militia known as the UPC.

Ocampo said the attack went far beyond a legitimate military campaign to become revenge for earlier UPC attacks.

"The plan was to wipe out Bogoro," he said. "Destroy not only the UPC camp but the whole village."

Katanga and Ngudjolo both sat impassively as Ocampo outlined his case, accusing their soldiers also of raping women and forcing others into marriage or sexual slavery.

He quoted Katanga as boasting after the attack that "nothing was spared. Absolutely nothing. Chickens, goats, everything ... was wiped out."

Lawyers for some 345 victims - including some of the child soldiers forced to carry out the massacre - are also taking part in the trial.

"Their childhood was brutally interrupted and they have been in hell from one day to the next," said Belgian attorney, Jean-Louis Gilissen, who is representing child soldiers. He said the children were abducted and ordered to fight "as vanguard troops for the butchery of Bogoro."

Another victims' lawyer, Fidel Nsita Luvengika, said establishing the truth will allow his clients to mourn slain family members.

"They don't know what happened to their families. They don't know how they were killed or whether they were buried," he said.

Prosecutors plan to call 26 witnesses to support their case. In an indication of the ongoing climate of fear in Ituri, 21 of them will testify with their identities shielded from the public.

Among other cases at the world's first permanent war crimes court, former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba is in custody and is scheduled to go on trial next year for alleged crimes in the Central African Republic. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and two other Sudanese have been charged with atrocities in Darfur. The leaders of brutal Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army also are under indictment.
Cross-posted to Sudan Watch and Uganda Watch.

Monday, November 23, 2009

LRA leader Kony has instructed his troops to move into Darfur, Sudan?

Note that I have put a question mark against each of the following news reports because the reports could be propaganda aimed at diverting attention and gaining publicity.   The information contained within each of these reports, until verified elsewhere, ought to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Sudan Watch, November 23, 2009:
LRA leader Kony has instructed his troops to move into Darfur, Sudan?

Uganda Watch, Monday, November 23, 2009:
Ugandan security forces kill senior LRA commander Okello Ukuti in CAR?

Sudan Watch, November 06, 2009:
Leading LRA rebel commander Charles Arop surrenders to Ugandan army?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

DR Congo: Calls for LRA to face Congo charges

Source: Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)
Date: 18 Nov 2009 (via ReliefWeb)
DR Congo: Calls for LRA to face Congo charges
Campaigners want ICC to indict Ugandan rebels for crimes they are alleged to have committed in DRC.
By Melanie Gouby in the Hague and Gabriel Shabani in Kinshasa (AR No 236, 18-Nov-09)
Human rights activists are calling on the International Criminal Court, ICC, to charge the Lord's Resistance Army leaders with a series of brutal crimes they are accused of perpetrating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

LRA leader Joseph Kony and two others are wanted by the ICC for war crimes in northern Uganda. However, the LRA moved into the DRC in 2005 and since 2008 has staged raids across the northeast – reportedly raping, abducting and burning villages in retaliation for attacks by the Ugandan army. They have also alleged to have committed crimes against civilians in the Central African Republic, CAR, and Sudan.

One of the most recent attacks took place on September 25 in Digba, DRC, where 22 people were killed with machetes and knives in a raid carried out by over 40 members of the LRA, according to the Agence France Presse.

A leading Congolese human rights activist says the crimes committed in DRC should be added to the indictment against the LRA. Kony, Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odiambo and Dominic Ongwen were charged with crimes against humanity five years ago. Lukwiya and Otti have since been killed.

"The crimes committed by Kony's troops in the DRC correspond to the description of international crimes punishable by the ICC. Therefore they must not be left aside. Kony and the other leaders have not been arrested yet and the case has not moved forward, thus [the ICC] has plenty of time to add new charges," said Delly Mawazo Sesete, executive director of Goma-based Creddho.

Elise Keppler, senior counsel at Human Right Watch, echoed Mawazo's call for additional charges against the LRA leaders.

"In order to see justice done it is vital that there be prosecution for the crimes committed in the DRC in addition to the crimes committed in northern Uganda," she said. "Human Right Watch has urged the ICC to look closely at the crimes that have been committed in the DRC, and if the evidence meets the necessary threshold to add charges or to issue arrest warrant for additional persons."

The LRA was formed in 1987 and claimed to represent the Acholi people of northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni. Fighters are said to have mutilated victims by cutting body parts such as noses, ears or lips. They are also believed to have abducted over 20,000 civilians, many of them children, to use them as soldiers.

Between 2005 and 2008, the violence diminished as the LRA took refuge around Garamba national park in the DRC. But in 2008, as peace negotiations with the Ugandan government failed, Kony called for his men to take up arms and atrocities began again in the northeast.

A coordinated offensive by the Ugandan, Congolese and Sudanese forces merely scattered the fighters across the region.

ICC rules say it is possible for prosecutors to add new charges against the LRA with article 58.6 of its founding Rome Statute stating, "The prosecutor may request the pre-trial chamber to amend the warrant of arrest by modifying or adding to the crimes specified therein. The pre-trial chamber shall so amend the warrant if it is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person committed the modified or additional crimes."

But that doesn't seem likely to happen soon. A representative of the ICC's office of the prosecutor told IWPR that arresting Kony and the others is the court's priority, not adding new charges to the existing indictments.

"Too much time has been wasted and the reason why crimes are continuing is the lack of arrest of persons for whom arrest warrants were issued in 2005," Emeric Rogier said.

"The highest priority for the office of the prosecutor, and for all those seeking to put an end to continuing LRA crimes, needs to be the arrest of the three top commanders of the LRA for whom arrest warrants have been outstanding for more than four years now."

However, Rogier said the ICC has investigated alleged LRA crimes in DRC.

"In the last 18 months, this office collected information, including victim and insider witness testimony, which indicates that, following orders by Joseph Kony to begin a new abduction campaign, there have been more than 2,000 abductions, more than 1,250 killings and well in excess of 300,000 people displaced in DRC, Sudan and CAR," he said.

The Congolese government also believes the arrest of Kony should be the top priority.

"For everything that occurred after the arrest warrant was issued, we must take into account that the court will be able to add these new developments when the arrest is made. The prosecutor will be able to add them to his indictment," said Lambert Mendé, the DRC minister of communication.

Mendé estimates the number of LRA fighters in DRC at 150-200 though others suggest the figure is closer to 1,000.

Keppler says new charges are important for the victims of the LRA.

"Currently there are Ugandan victims' communities represented by the existing charges. Communities in the DRC are not incorporated into the charges for the crimes that currently exist," she said. "Insuring that justice is done includes having a sense of redress for the victims, which will not be possible where there is no representation of the kind of crimes committed in the DRC."

Mariana Goetz from the NGO Redress, which works with torture victims, agrees that DRC-related charges should be added to the ICC case against the LRA.

"For the victims, it is important that justice publicly acknowledge their sufferings," Goetz said.

Melanie Gouby is an IWPR reporter in the Hague. Gabriel Shabani is a Kinshasa-based journalist who produces IWPR's Facing Justice radio programme.

ICC Trust Fund for Victims: Elisabeth Rehn elected to the Board of Directors

From the Finnish Government's Ministry for Foreign Affairs
November 18, 2009 14.24
Elisabeth Rehn elected to the Board of Directors of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims
Elisabeth Rehn has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims within the International Criminal Court. The Board members were elected at the session of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court on 18 November in the Hague.

States Parties have been grouped into geographical areas, each of which has a representative on the Board of the Trust Fund for Victims. Elisabeth Rehn represents the group of Western European countries and Australia, Canada and New Zealand. A distinguished and internationally recognised human rights expert, she has previously served as a Member of the Finnish Parliament, Minister of Defence, Minister of Equality Affairs, a Member of the European Parliament, as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, and as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the former Yugoslavia. In recent years, she has dedicated herself to international tasks. In particular, the impact of war on women and their role in peace building have figured prominently on Rehn’s agenda.

Besides Elisabeth Rehn, the following persons were elected to the five-seat Board of Directors: Betty Kaari Murungi, human rights lawyer from Kenya; Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former President of Latvia; Eduardo Pizarro Leongómez, President of the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission o Colombia; and Ambassador Bulgaa Altangerel of Mongolia. The Board’s principal task is to guide the Trust Fund’s activities and allocation of resources and to coordinate and oversee assistance projects. The Board reports to the Assembly of States Parties. The new Board will start its three-year term on 1 December 2009.

The Trust Fund for Victims was established in 2002. Its objective is to assist victims of crime and their families in cases being processed by the International Criminal Court. The crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC are genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Trust Fund and its mandate are unique when compared against other international tribunals.

The special target groups of the Trust Fund’s assistance efforts are victims of sexual violence, former child soldiers and abducted children, the families of murder victims and victims of other brutal crimes, and victimised villages. The Fund’s assets are mainly used for the physical and psychological rehabilitation of victims and for material support. The Fund may also pay victims damages or other reparations by virtue of a decision given by the ICC during a trial. Initiatives for assistance projects come directly from target areas approved by the ICC. At present, a total of 29 projects are under way in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda. The intention is to expand the scope of activities to the Central African Republic and to Sudan/Darfur.

The bulk of the funds used for assistance come as voluntary donations from states. Donations can also be made, for instance, by corporations, private individuals and organisations. The Court may also order that fines or other assets obtained be transferred to the Trust Fund. Finland has consistently supported the Trust Fund’s activities. In terms of the total contribution, Finland is one of the Fund’s biggest donors.

Additional information: Legislative Counsellor Sari Mäkelä, Unit for Public International Law, mobile tel. +358 40 739 2853, First Secretary Miia Aro-Sanchez, Embassy of Finland in the Hague, tel. +31 70 3110143
Crossposted on Sudan Watch and Uganda Watch.

DR Congo: Germany arrests top Rwanda rebels FDLR leader Ignace Murwanashyaka & deputy Straton Musoni

Ignace Murwanashyaka, the leader of the FDLR rebel group, and his aide Straton Musoni were held on suspicion of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Source: BBC News at 17:52 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009. Copy:
Germany arrests top Rwanda rebels

Ignace Murwanashyaka, leader of FDLR rebel group

Mr Murwanashyaka has lived in Germany for several years

Police in Germany have arrested two Rwandan militia leaders on suspicion of crimes committed in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ignace Murwanashyaka, the leader of the FDLR rebel group, and his aide Straton Musoni were held on suspicion of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

FDLR leaders fled to DR Congo after the Rwanda genocide in which some 800,000 people - mostly ethnic Tutsis - died.

The FDLR's presence in DR Congo has been at the heart of years of unrest.

The arrests come as UN peacekeepers continue to help the Congolese army battle the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda).

The operation has been underway since January but the FDLR remains active.

The FDLR is accused of funding its arms purchases by smuggling gold and other minerals from areas it controls in the North and South Kivu provinces, just across the border from Rwanda.

Mr Murwanaskyaka, 46, was arrested in the city of Karlsruhe, while 48-year-old Mr Musoni was held in the Stuttgart area, German prosecutors said in a statement.

The statement said that the pair were the leader and deputy leader of the FDLR.

"The accused are strongly suspected, as members of the foreign terrorist organisation FDLR, of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes," it said.

It added that "FDLR militias are believed to have killed several hundred civilians, raped numerous women, plundered and burned countless villages, forcing villagers from their homes and recruiting numerous children as soldiers".

'Brutal crimes'

Lobby group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has welcomed the arrests.

"Our research clearly indicates that Mr Murwanashyaka has a powerful influence over the FDLR militia who have deliberately targeted and killed hundreds of civilians in eastern Congo and that he is directly linked to the crimes," said HRW DR Congo expert Anneke Van Woudenberg.

Mark Doyle, BBC News

There is no doubt that Ignace Murwanashyaka has had direct command and control over some of the illegal mining activities of Rwandan rebels operating in eastern DR Congo.

I know, because when I travelled in the area earlier this year with a BBC team, it was he who gave us permission to enter the rebel mining strongholds in the South Kivu region.

I had sought permission from rebel officers on the ground. All of these officers declined to give us permission to enter their area until Mr Murwanashyaka agreed.

It was a public relations gaffe on the rebels' part, however, because we managed to prove, despite rebel denials, that they were deeply involved in illegal mineral mining.

From rebel areas to beer can

"Mr Murwanashyaka's arrest on war crimes and crimes against humanity is a welcome step to bringing justice for these brutal crimes," she added.

Mr Murwanashyaka, an ethnic Hutu, has lived in Germany since before the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

He has always denied that his men, believed to number 5-6,000, were involved in the genocide and says they are fighting to bring democracy to Rwanda.

He was among 15 people whose assets were frozen by the Security Council in 2005 on suspicion of involvement in war crimes in Rwanda or DR Congo.

The FDLR's presence in eastern DR Congo has led to years of fighting in the region, and Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government has twice invaded, saying it is trying to wipe them out.

Some FDLR leaders have been accused of involvement in the Rwandan genocide.

Ethnic Hutu, aged 46
Been in Germany since before Rwanda genocide
Denies charges his men are linked to genocide
Says fighting for democracy in Rwanda
Commands 5-6,000 men
FDLR said to smuggle gold from DR Congo to buy weapons
Accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity
Accused of killings, rape, looting and conscripting child soldiers in DR Congo

Congo gold 'still funding' rebels

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

AGI: Tony Blair meets with 'visionary leader' Paul Kagame during latest two day visit to Rwanda

Tony Blair meets with Paul Kagame

From The Office of Tony Blair
Monday, November 16, 2009:
Tony Blair meets with 'visionary leader' Paul Kagame during latest two day visit to Rwanda
Tony Blair hailed President Kagame's visionary leadership as he saw for himself the remarkable pace of Rwandan progress during a two-day visit to the East African country.

The founder of the Africa Governance Initiative met with the President and senior officials to discuss ways in which Mr Blair and his team could help Rwanda build the capacity to deliver on the priorities of the Rwandan people, before witnessing examples of Rwandan progress in education, clean energy and business.

Speaking during his visit, Tony Blair said: "I'm delighted to be back in Rwanda working with my good friend Paul Kagame. It is through his visionary leadership that Rwanda has become the African success story it is today, a country moving in the right direction at a remarkable pace."

At the Institute of Scientific and Technical Research in Kigali, Rwandan scientists showed Tony Blair how they transform Jatropha and vegetable oil into biofuel for motor vehicles.

He said: "These Rwandan scientists are developing the green technology that could one day produce Rwanda's main source of energy. Projects like this are the mark of a truly innovative and pioneering country with a leadership that is not only taking the threat of climate change seriously, but taking on the challenge with practical and sustainable solutions."

Tony Blair also visited the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to attend the signing ceremony of an Eco Fuels Jatropha bio-fuel investment worth $35m. Whilst at the RDB, Mr Blair visited the One-Stop Centre which helped the country gain its status as the top global reformer.

Speaking at the ceremony, Tony Blair said: "Whether you want to start a small business or construct a complex multi-million dollar deal, the Government of Rwanda is serious about helping people do that. With this progressive drive for green investment and clean technology development, Rwanda gives us hope that climate change can be tackled."

Tony Blair's visit takes place as his Africa Governance Initiative enters its second year. The charitable organisation works with African governments to help them to develop the capacity to drive sustainable development.

Tony Blair added: "I'm extremely proud of my excellent team who are working side by side with their Rwandan counterparts to build the capacity to deliver on the priorities of the Rwandan people such as health, education, technology and building infrastructure in this great country."

President Kagame and Tony Blair have agreed to place 10 expert advisers in areas across government:

- In the Presidency where advisers will work in the Strategic Policy Unit, The Executive Office and the Communications Unit where they will help deliver on key priorities for Rwanda's development.

- In the Prime Minister's office where two advisers will focus on government delivery, especially in the Coordination Unit.

- In RDB where three expert advisers will work to help to increase the ability of the RDB to grow Rwanda's private sector.

- In the Ministry for Labour offering assistance and advice to the Government on its capacity building strategy.
Cross posted to Blair Foundation Watch.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NEW PUBLICATION: Peace and Security Council Report - November 2009

Here is a copy of an email received
From: Security Council Report
Subject: Peace & Security Council Report
12 November 2009

Readers of Security Council Report may be interested to know of the recent launch in Addis Ababa of a similar publication designed to provide monthly information about the work of the AU Peace and Security Council. It is called the "Peace and Security Council Report" (To access the November 2009 edition you can click here).

Peace and Security Council Report is produced and published by the Addis Ababa office of the Institute for Security Studies of South Africa. Security Council Report has assisted ISS with the development of this concept and it is pleased that ISS has taken SCR's Monthly Forecast as a model. We are pleased to have been able to help.

You are able to subscribe to regularly receive the Peace and Securty Council Report by clicking here.

Further details may be obtained from the programme directly at:
Peace and Security Council Report Programme
Institute for Security Studies
PO Box 2329
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251-11-372-11-54
Fax: +251-11-372-59-54


Security Council Report
One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
885 Second Avenue at 48th Street, 31st Floor
New York NY 10017

Tel: 212.759.9429 • Fax: 212.759.4038

Cross-posted to Ethiopia Watch and Uganda Watch and Sudan Watch and Kenya Watch.

Friday, November 13, 2009

IMPORTANT NEWS: Some Sudanese living abroad may vote in elections - Ten arrested for impersonating registration officials in Rumbek, Southern Sudan

Report by Sudan Radio Service, Thursday, November 12, 2009:
Some Sudanese Living Abroad May Vote in Elections
(Nairobi) - Sudanese living in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Malaysia will now be able to register for the elections scheduled for 2010.

The National Election Commission had earlier exempted some countries from participating in the voter registration exercise which started on November 1.

The Sudanese Ambassador to Kenya, Majok Guandong, told Sudan Radio Service in Nairobi on Thursday that he had received a circular from the NEC instructing him to start the voter registration. exercise in Kenya.

[Majok Guandong]: “Yes it is true, the news came yesterday morning (Wednesday) that the NEC has allowed us to establish voter registration centers in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Malaysia. So since yesterday we have been informing the Sudanese who are residing here, starting from tomorrow (Friday). The registration process will start at the Embassy and the GOSS liaison office. This is good news, because it is a constitutional right for the Sudanese to vote in the elections.”

Majok Guandong said that the registration period will be extended to compensate for the late start. He emphasized that the exercise will take 30 days, as required by NEC.

[Guandong]: “If we start tomorrow (Friday), we will be counting the days we have missed since the official start day, because it should be 30 days as scheduled. Secondly, all the documents are available at the Sudanese Embassy, and all Sudanese have the right. Since 1997, more than 5000 Sudanese have managed to get official documents, the passport, identity cards etc. The process is still on. So they have the right, if they need any official documents, there is no problem at all.”

Earlier, the deputy chairman of the NEC, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, told Sudan Radio Service that NEC was only concentrating on the countries with large Sudanese populations.

The countrywide voter registration exercise is scheduled to finish at the end of November.
- - -

Report by Sudan Radio Service, Thursday, November 12, 2009:
Ten Arrested for Impersonating Registration Officials in Rumbek
(Rumbek) - Ten people posing as registration officers have been arrested in Rumbek, Lakes state.

The 10 are under police custody as investigations are going on. They are being held for registering voters, collecting people’s identification and convincing people not to register at the official registration centers set up by the state High Elections Commission.

Our correspondent in Rumbek, Mageng Wade, sent this report.

[Mageng Wade]: “These people said that they were being sent and given money by the NCP to come and register people locally in order to prevent them from registering for the elections next year. So that is the agenda behind the registration of people in their houses.”

Rumbek Central county commissioner Abraham Akol Bol also spoke to Sudan Radio Service.

[Abraham Akol] “They have been arrested by the police and they are now under police investigation and we have not yet received information from the police whether this group belongs to a political party. They were trying to register people and were telling them not to go to the registration centers because they had already been registered. They also took ID cards from the citizens, those who tried to register but the culprits were found by police and they are now under investigation.”

The deputy governor of Lakes state, David Ngok, said that the people are trying to sabotage both the voter registration exercise and the elections.

[David Ngok]: “If there are some people who are trying to sabotage the voter registration process then they are also sabotaging the elections. We will not tolerate this as the government because this is government policy and it’s part of the CPA and the constitution so we will not allow them to do it.”

The deputy governor of Lakes state, David Ngok, spoke to Sudan Radio Service on Thursday
Click on 'Election' label (here below at Sudan Watch) to read news report Nov. 10, 2009, entitled "SSDF to sue NEC for denying Sudanese in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia a chance to register as voters in the general elections"

Cross-posted to Sudan Watch and Kenya Watch and Uganda Watch and Egypt Watch and Ethiopia Watch.
- - -

UPDATE: From Sudan Tribune by Ngor Arol Garang, Friday, Nov. 13, 2009:
National election board accepts additional countries for Sudanese Diasporas
November 12, 2009 (MALAKAL) — The National Election Commission (NEC) of Sudan today confirmed acceptance of additional countries to the previous list for registration and voting to enable Sudanese abroad to participate in the upcoming elections next year.

Following the publication of a list of countries comprised mostly the Golf countries where the members of the Sudanese Diaspora are from northern Sudan, the SPLM asked to take in consideration African countries where Southerners reside massively.

The initial list includes Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Sultanate of Oman, Bahrain, the UK, Belgium (for all Western Europe) and Washington, New York, Los Angles for the USA.

"We have allocated more registration and voting centers in Africa and Asia, said Abel Alier, NEC chairman at Malakal airport as he was en route to Khartoum after inspecting southern states voter registration centers.

Countries newly agreed upon for inclusion by the two parties in Africa includes Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa as well as and Malaysia, he said adding discussions are underway to add other neighboring countries.

Therefore, as commission, "we request Sudanese people residing in those countries to immediately establish contacts with the Sudanese embassies and other designated offices for registration," he emphasized.

Asked why being selective with countries hosting number of Sudanese people abroad to participate in the ongoing voter registration, he said, national election commission gets approval of countries to be included in the registration process from the presidency.

"The Presidency is the highest authority which decides on issues pertaining to country affairs such as voter registration," he commented expressing wishes all Sudanese people abroad open registration centers.

However, he was quick to say the Commission tries its best to ensure inclusion of more centers so that every Sudanese participates in the upcoming elections.

He said constitution allows participation of legally registered citizens to elect their leaders in the upcoming April 2010 elections.

"If you are not registered, it will be hard to vote for the person one sees as leader," he said adding voter registration remains opened to the last day of November 2009.

Alier also requested local authorities to give logistical supports to voter registration teams. He also acknowledged assistance being rendered by United Nation Mission in Sudan in transportation of voter registration materials and teams in where government supports is required.

"UNMIS is greatly supporting registration process in water zones and areas without good roads mostly in the southern part of the country and transitional areas," he stressed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meme: Joe Trippi's Eleven-Eleven 1111Campaign - America's and Britain's Veterans have given so much. Now, you can give back.

Joe Trippi, one of America's greatest bloggers, has launched Eleven Eleven Campaign. The objective of the Eleven Eleven Campaign is simple: to get 11 million Americans to donate $11 to support America’s Veterans. Here is a copy of Joe's latest tweet on Twitter:
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and now is our moment to encourage our friends, family members and colleagues to join us... http://bit.ly/9Iu9s
33 minutes ago from Facebook
Eleven Eleven
Hey Joe! Britain's Veterans have given so much too!

Stand with 11 million Brits and Give £11 to Support Britain’s Vets!

Take Action Today
Click here to support Britain's Veterans
November 11, 2009

Britain's Veterans have given so much.  Now, you can give back.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

MSF: DR Congo army has used vaccination clinics as "bait" to attack civilians in N. Kivu

The Congolese government says military operations in the area have been suspended to allow an inquiry into the UN allegations that soldiers had killed civilians.

From BBC News Friday, 6 November 2009:
DR Congo army 'used aid as bait'
The Democratic Republic of Congo army has used vaccination clinics as "bait" to attack civilians, says aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Thousands of Hutu civilians were targeted when they visited sites set up to combat a measles epidemic, in areas controlled by the rebels, MSF said.

It denounced the attacks in North Kivu as "an abuse of humanitarian action".

On Monday the UN withdrew its support for a government army unit, accusing soldiers of killing 62 civilians.

MSF said the clinics were targeted despite security guarantees from all parties to enable the mass immunisation scheme to be carried out in the Maisisi district north-west of the city of Goma.

It said it was operating in support of the Ministry of Health, whose workers were unable to access regions controlled by the Hutu rebel group, the FDLR.

"We feel we were used as bait," said Luis Encinas, head of MSF programmes in Central Africa.

"How will MSF be perceived by the population now? Will our patients still feel safe enough to come for medical care?"

The targeting of civilians has been a major concern for charities operating in DR Congo and UN support for the government had been dependent on it respecting the neutrality of civilians.

The Congolese government says military operations in the area have been suspended to allow an inquiry into the UN allegations that soldiers had killed civilians.

The UN had been helping the army tackle the FDLR since January 2009.

The rebels have been at the heart of years of unrest in the region.

Their leaders fled to the area in 1994 after being accused of taking part in Rwanda's genocide and have since been fighting with the local Tutsi population and government troops.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Leading LRA rebel commander Charles Arop surrenders to Ugandan army?

Report from Sudan Tribune by Richard Ruati Friday 6 November 2009:
Leading LRA rebel commander surrenders to Ugandan army
November 5, 2009 (KAMPALA) — Lt Col Charles Arop, a leading Ugandan LRA rebels (the Army of the Lord’s Resistance), has decided to surrender himself to the Ugandan army. Arop is responsible for a bloodbath perpetrated on Christmas Day last year in Faradje in the DRC during which at least 143 people have died.

He was left with only one rebel fighter, so he had little choice," a spokesman of the UPDF, LT Col Felix Kulayigye has said on Thursday. The Army spokesperson spoke to Sudan Tribune via telephone hookup from Kampala. Not a long time ago, Arop commanded an army of 100 rebel fighters, most of them having been decimated after actions from the UPDF.

Kulayigye revealed that “the surrender of Arop took place near Faradje, adding that his surrender is very significant given the fact he was Commander within Kony units, however this has degenerated and declined the commanding chain of LRA.”

He added that, “the surrender of Arop is fortunately making the arrest of Kony the next target of UPDF.”

Asked whether how many Kony fighters are still in the jungles, he said at moment the Ugandan Army doesn’t know, however Kony is believed to be in isolation in Central Africa Republic.”

Lt Col Felix dismissed future peace negotiations with LRA, saying that, “the only options left for Kony are to capture or kill him, except if Kony signs the negotiated agreement.

He dismissed the media reports that, “the Operation Light Thunder is a failure,” he tabled the rescue of 450 abductees and the capture of 20 LRA officers as a success, he also said there are no LRA rebels in DR Congo anymore.

Speaking to local journalist of Yambio FM in Western Equatoria, Lt Col Charles Arop said that, he was arrested in 1994 from Northern Uganda; he has been the immediate operation commander of Joseph Kony.

Arop appealed to his former LRA colleagues those still close to Joseph Kony to put down their guns and come out of the jungles, he directed his appeal mainly to his former closed commanders like Dominic Okello and Smart, that by the mercy of God they should come back home “the children of Acholi have finished in the bush.”

He advised the remaining LRA soldiers in the bush not to fear to hand themselves in to the UPDF.

He further appealed to Joseph Kony himself to come out open, as the war has claimed the lives of innocent civilians and displaced many others.

The Ugandan Army spokesperson said that, Arop may decide to remain as civilian or politician, however if at all he committed any crime against humanity, legal actions shall be taken against him by a competent law institution.

He also revealed that, since the Light Thunder Operations started last December only 12 Ugandans armies have lost their lives. The Ugandan army hunts down LRA fighters in the DRC, Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. Since the attacks of the army on the LRA at the end of last year, this movement has dispersed in small units.
Cross-posted to Sudan Watch and Uganda Watch

FOCA: China, Africa hold summit to reinforce bilateral trade

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao can expect a warm welcome from Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and finance and foreign ministers from 50 countries when the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCA) starts in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Sunday.

Ever-eager for raw materials and markets to sell its products, China has said the new meeting will lay down a “road map” to further boost cooperation between 2010 and 2012.

Direct Chinese investment in Africa leapt from $491 million in 2003 to $7.8 billion in 2008. Trade between the two has increased tenfold since the start of the decade.

Last year, China-Africa trade reached $106.8 billion - a rise of 45 percent in one year and on a par with with the United States, which estimated its two-way trade with sub-Saharan Africa at $104 billion for 2008.

Chinese imports from Africa last year were worth $56 billion, dominated by oil ($39 billion) and raw materials.

Its $56 billion of exports in 2008 consisted mainly of machinery, electrical goods, cars, motorbikes and bicycles.

FOCAC is held every three years and this will be the fourth since it started in 2000.

Source: AFP report via Saudi GazetteFriday 06 November 2009. Copy:
China, Africa hold summit to reinforce bilateral trade
CAIRO - Leaders from China and Africa start a three day summit on Sunday that will again throw the spotlight on Beijing’s strategic sweep for energy, minerals and political influence in the continent.

China has over the past decade paid for dams, power stations, football stadiums across Africa and scooped up copper, oil and other fuel for its breakneck economic expansion from Algeria to Zimbabwe.

It has invested billions of dollars while raising eyebrows in the United States and its allies by pursuing the hunt for oil and other resources in Sudan, Somalia and other nations that the West has shunned.

Many African leaders praise China however for not preaching about rights and corruption. So despite neo-colonialist qualms, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao can expect a warm welcome from Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and finance and foreign ministers from 50 countries when the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation starts in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Sunday.

FOCAC is held every three years and this will be the fourth since it started in 2000.

Ever-eager for raw materials and markets to sell its products, China has said the new meeting will lay down a “road map” to further boost cooperation between 2010 and 2012.

Direct Chinese investment in Africa leapt from $491 million in 2003 to $7.8 billion in 2008. Trade between the two has increased tenfold since the start of the decade.

Last year, China-Africa trade reached $106.8 billion - a rise of 45 percent in one year and on a par with with the United States, which estimated its two-way trade with sub-Saharan Africa at $104 billion for 2008.

Chinese imports from Africa last year were worth $56 billion, dominated by oil ($39 billion) and raw materials.

Its $56 billion of exports in 2008 consisted mainly of machinery, electrical goods, cars, motorbikes and bicycles.

Some in the West have accuse China of worsening repression and human rights abuses in Africa by supporting countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe.

US intelligence director Dennis Blair told a Congress committee in March that US agencies are keeping close tabs on China’s expanding influence in Africa, especially in oil-producing countries like Nigeria.
Cross-posted to:
China Tibet Watch
Egypt Watch
Ethiopia Watch
Kenya Watch
Niger Watch
Sudan Watch
Uganda Watch
Africa Oil Watch

AGI: Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative

AGI:  Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative

From The Office of Tony Blair
November 05, 2009
Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative to create development through good governance becomes charity
The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative has become a registered UK charity after creating a unique 'hands-on' approach to development and poverty eradication over the past eighteen months.

The Charity Commission approved the application from this relatively new organisation, which is underpinned by the belief that good governance and sustainable development are key to poverty eradication in the long term.

Tony Blair, founder of the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), said:

"I'm extremely proud of our excellent project teams who are working in partnership with the governments of Rwanda and Sierra Leone to reduce poverty and develop new opportunities for growth.

"It is a privilege to work with leaders as talented and as committed to their people as President Koroma and President Kagame who represent a new generation of leaders in Africa with a commitment to building a new future for their people.

"The developed world needs to keep up its commitment to Africa expressed at the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles. But lasting change in Africa will only come in the end from African solutions. By building the capacity to create sustainable long-term development through good governance and providing high level advice, we have already started to help deliver that change.

"And it won't stop here. Whilst developing our work in Sierra Leone and Rwanda, we want to launch new projects with other countries, sharing our knowledge, experience and expertise. We want more countries to develop sustainably, paving the way to a prosperous future.

"This work has reinforced my optimism about Africa's future, as well as my conviction that governance and growth are the key ingredients to effectively reduce poverty across the continent."

Commenting on Tony Blair and the work of the Africa Governance Initiative, Ernest Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, said:

"Mr. Blair has demonstrated an enduring commitment to Sierra Leone and its people. The work comes at a critical stage in Sierra Leone's development. I believe together we have an opportunity to ensure that Sierra Leone puts in place the policies, people and institutions to achieve real and lasting change."

Commenting on the work of AGI, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said:

"What I would like people to know is that the type of partnership we have with Tony Blair is totally different from the type of consultancy people are used to. We work in very strong partnerships whereby not only gaps are filled where they exist, but there's also the notion of transfer of skills, mentoring, actually doing things that are measurable such that over a period of time, we will be able to know what kind of impact was made."
Cross-posted to:
China Tibet Watch
Egypt Watch
Ethiopia Watch
Kenya Watch
Niger Watch
Sudan Watch
Uganda Watch
Africa Oil Watch

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Operation Natural Fire 10: Oct. 16-25 joint military exercise in N. Uganda involving about 450 U.S. troops

Here is some news of operation Natural Fire 10, a joint military excercise in northern Uganda involving about 450 U.S. troops.

From Peter Eichstaedt's blog post 12 October 2009 'Boots on the ground':
"... There's an interesting article in The East African, written by Keven Kelley, about the joint military exercise in northern Uganda involving about 450 U.S. troops.

According to Kelley's article, total troops will be about 1,000, with Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi each sending 150 soldiers to join 450 US military personnel in Kitgum for the October 16-25 event.

Labeled as operation Natural Fire 10, it is reportedly the U.S.'s largest African exercise this year. While this is clearly an exercise loaded with significance, it is the not the first such military exercise. Such joint maneuvers began across Africa in 1998, hence the name Natural Fire 10 -- this being the tenth. ..."
Read full story at this blog's sister site Uganda Watch, Saturday, 17 October 2009: Operation Natural Fire 10: Oct. 16-25 joint military exercise in N. Uganda involving about 450 U.S. troops

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Africa is focused on prosperity, says Kagame

On September 21, the president of Rwanda Paul Kagame gave a speech at the International Peace Institute in New York in which he said Africa’s own private sector has been gaining strength in the mobile telecommunications that are changing the lives of millions of Africans by increasing access to information, facilitating education, health and trade, reaching into even the remotest villages.

The latest World Bank Group’s “Doing Business” Report shows that Sub-Saharan Africa is reforming at a fast pace, he said noting that Liberia, a recent graduate from conflict, has become the second most active reformer in Sub-Saharan Africa and Sierra Leone.

“On the political and diplomatic front, we have now exchanged ambassadors with the DRC – paving the way for further efforts in the more important realms of economic growth and development – including joint projects in energy, environment, trade and investment,” he said.

Source:   The Independent, Uganda, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 -
Africa is focused on prosperity, says Kagame
On September 21, the president of Rwanda Paul Kagame gave a speech at the International Peace Institute in New York in which he outlined how Africa is “pushing the boundaries of peace, reconciliation and development”.

He said stability, peace, and development make today’s Africa unrecognisable from that of yesteryear.

“Present day preoccupation in Africa revolves around creating prosperity, especially strategies to mitigate the ongoing global economic crisis – including strengthening markets, regional integration, productivity, competitiveness, science, technology and innovation,” he said.

He said this has enabled most African countries to sustain economic growth rates of above 5% before the current global economic crisis, attract bigger volumes of venture and equity capital, a larger share of foreign direct investment, and broaden its sources of trade and investment beyond traditional partners of North America and Western Europe to Asian countries, especially China and India.

The president said more importantly, Africa’s own private sector has been gaining strength in the mobile telecommunications that are changing the lives of millions of Africans by increasing access to information, facilitating education, health and trade, reaching into even the remotest villages.

The latest World Bank Group’s “Doing Business” Report shows that Sub-Saharan Africa is reforming at a fast pace, he said noting that Liberia, a recent graduate from conflict, has become the second most active reformer in Sub-Saharan Africa and Sierra Leone.

“Our country, Rwanda, is identified as the top reformer worldwide, moving from one hundred and forty third position to sixty seventh out of one hundred and eighty three countries,” he said. “With the exception of a few conflict hotspots, Africa is a different place today.”

He said the establishment of the African Union (AU), with a fundamentally different vision and mindset from its predecessor, the Organization of the African Unity (OAU), is indicative of this significant shift.

He described how the AU supports peace operations in Burundi in 2003, in Darfur Sudan in 2004.

Rwanda has participated in African and UN led peace missions in Darfur, where it remains the largest contributor.

Commenting on Rwanda’s neighborhood, President Kagame said together with the Democratic Republic of Congo, “a major breakthrough towards extending the boundaries of peace” has been achieved in a conflict that has roots in colonial and post-colonial history, whose current manifestation arose in mid-1994 when the government that committed genocide in Rwanda fled – with all its institutions and a hostage population of three million – into what was then Zaire.

“Regrettably, the “definition” of this problem kept changing in the minds of the international community – resulting in delaying the closure of this chapter of misery and havoc,” he said.

Initially, he said, the issue was about caring for the millions of refugees in camps in Eastern Zaire without a willingness to separate genuine refugees from the genocidal forces.

He said Rwanda’s intervention brought about another distorted definition of the problem – Rwanda was now accused of exploiting DRC’s natural resources employing the pretext of hunting genocide perpetrators.

“Numerous reports on this subject were written by the `experts’ – all of them were false and were not worthy of the resources and time spent on them,” he said.

“The question I always ask is this: if in real fact Rwanda does not have the technical capacity to exploit our own mineral resources, how can we take advantage of those in DRC – a country like many others in Africa that have not fully utilized these resources for decades for their own advancement?” he said.

He said Rwanda’s developmental achievements since 1994 are not based on illegal exploitation of the resources of another country.

“We are steadily improving the lives of our people because Rwanda is making all the effort to build a nation of laws, and institutions that promote security, peace, reconciliation and development,” he said, “We are painstakingly building the confidence of domestic and foreign investors to put their money into our hotels, energy projects, agriculture, construction industry, and ICT, on the basis of transparent governance and predictability.”

The president said a stable, peaceful and more integrated sub-region enhances these objectives.

He described how, in 2002, the United Nations asked Rwanda to withdraw from the DRC and set up MONUC, a peace keeping mission of 17,000 “at a very high price without corresponding results”.

“The genocidal forces continued to operate, destabilizing both the host country and Rwanda,” he said.

He said the situation only changed fundamentally when Rwanda and the DRC undertook a joint military operation that weakened the command and control structure of these forces, repatriated nearly 1,000 combatants and over 5,000 civilians to Rwanda, thus raising confidence at leadership and citizen levels for further collaboration.

“On the political and diplomatic front, we have now exchanged ambassadors with the DRC – paving the way for further efforts in the more important realms of economic growth and development – including joint projects in energy, environment, trade and investment,” he said.

He thanked many global leaders, including the United Nations secretary general, for their support but restated that “today’s Africa is increasingly one that seeks its own solutions as well as a different relationship with the international community – one based on mutual respect, trust, and a collaborative outlook.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

African oil producers meet in Brazzaville - APPA countries produce more than 98 percent of oil in Africa

The 16-member states of Association of Petroleum Producers in Africa (APPA) include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Chad.

The APPA countries produce more than 98 percent of oil in Africa, with a combined daily production estimated at 10 million barrels per day.

Source: BRAZZAVILLE, Sept. 29, 2009 (Xinhua) African oil producers meet in Brazzaville on sustainable development --
The 16-member Association of Petroleum Producers in Africa (APPA) is holding an expert meeting in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, to discuss a common strategy for sustainable development.

The meeting, which runs from Monday to Wednesday, coincides with the 38th meeting of the APPA secretariat.

The experts are expected to examine a number of documents including a memorandum on the Eighth Action Plan of APPA 2011/2014.

A grouping of oil producing countries in Africa, the APPA sees much to be done to make it the best tool for socio-economic development for the people and the government of member countries.

" Despite the intended objectives of ensuring that the populations and the governments of the African countries benefit from the stocks of APPA, the association does not have, 22 years since its formation (1987), the required financial resources that can have an impact on the lives of the people and their development," said the representative of the Congolese hydrocarbon minister, Alfred Charles Sockath, at the opening of the meeting.

The 16 member states of APPA include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Chad.

The APPA countries produce more than 98 percent of oil in Africa, with a combined daily production estimated at 10 million barrels per day.

Editor: Fang Yang


According to the following copy of an email received today, 'Eastern Congo is being destroyed in one hand by rebel groups supported militarily and diplomatically by Rwanda and Uganda. And on the other hand, by armed groups from Rwanda and Uganda who try to resist them inside Congo. There are also armed groups of Congolese origin who try to fight the invasion by neighbouring countries'.  Here is a copy of the email.
Women’s Federation for World Peace
The Ballroom, 43 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NA
Sunday 20th September 2009

Dear sisters and brothers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased and honoured to stand here in front of you to celebrate this day, the wonderful day of peace.

As you know peace is a state of being quiet. Peace is our common responsibility, a world responsibility.

Women and Peace are the same thing, they get married forever.

It is important that the United Nations (UN) decide a particular date devoted to peace.

Peace is so important to humanity that when it breaks down, basic human rights such as right to live, to security and to freedom cannot exist.

So, it is good to pause for a while and meditate on the state of the world peace, celebrate with those who are able to celebrate but also try not to forget those who are excluded from celebration today.

If in many parts of the world important progress has been made towards peace, we must sadly say that in other areas peace is very far from being achieved.

I would like to focus with you on those hot islands of insecurity, of war, of violence and of human rights abuses where men, women, and children have no cause of celebration today.

In doing so, we can better see who we may build Peace Bridge with and, finally, we will be able to see how peace bridges can be built with the aim of bringing more people to the celebration of next year’s Peace Day.

We know that the UN Resolution 1325 (31.10.2000) made specific provisions for the protection of women during armed conflict. But the reality in the DRC is the entire contrary.

1. What about women in Congo (DRC)

There are many parts of the world where peace does not exist. As it is the case in my country, the DRC. I would like to share with you what is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC – with a particular stress on the fate of women and girls.

Women in Congo do not know peace long time ago; but they want peace.

What it happened?

As we know, the DRC is very rich in natural resources. Many western countries and multinational companies seek to control those natural resources. As they did during the slave trade and the colonisation of Africa, they have no intention of taking into account the rights and aspirations of the local populations:

· living as free people
· Having a normal life as human beings
· Having benefits from their natural resources and their trade
· Having a good government
· Peace within and outside of the Congo

These countries and multinational businesses just use violence. They usually help a rebel or a soldier to seize power by force. They assist him to hold power for several years and to become a strong man with very weak institutions, unable to hold him accountable. In fact the “so-called strong man” is a toy in the hands of western powers and of the multinational businesses.

In order to take control of the Congolese resources, some western political and capitalistic powers decided to topple Mobutu, a strong man they had helped to keep office for 32 years (1965-1997).

Since October 1996, the DRC has been victim of several invasions from Rwanda and Uganda. Among the actors of theses invasions, is the current president of the DRC, Joseph Kabila. He is president since January 2001, after the assassination of the then Laurent Désiré Kabila, the auto-proclaimed president of the DR Congo.

According to IRC (International Rescue Committee) more than 5 million Congolese died as a result of the permanent state of war and insecurity created and deliberately maintained by Rwanda and Uganda with the blessing of the International Community. It is worth stressing the specific ill-treatment reserved to women and girls in the eastern part of Congo.

According to MSF (Médecins sans Frontières or Doctors without borders) 200 000 women have been raped including old ladies aged more than 75 years and girls of 3 years of age. Women are easy targets when they go to the fields or when fetching water. They used to dig a hole to hide in when they are under threat of being raped. But many are not lucky enough to escape. How could they when their heads are loaded with wood, water or food for their families. Very often they are gang-raped or simply killed.

Those who are less lucky end up with their genitals cut off or fired at with live bullets. It is frequent that rape takes place in the very presence of the husband and children. Many female family members are raped in the presence of their male family members. As a result, they cannot keep living together. Families are broken and the social fabric of the community is torn apart.

In addition, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases are intentionally spread as a policy of ethnic cleansing let alone the psychological trauma. Those abuses are being committed every single day for 13 years now but till now none of the abusers has been punished or even investigated.

Because of the massive killings of 1994 in Rwanda, the International Community does not have the courage to stop the Tutsi-dominated regime of Rwanda from destroying lives in the Congo.

Multinational companies are more than happy buying cheap minerals, coltan from Rwanda and timber, gold and diamond from Uganda. Arms’ trafficking has increased in the area, enabling small armed groups to grow. Two violent groups, FDLR opposed to Rwanda and LRA opposed to Uganda are devastating the Eastern Congo: killing, raping, looting and burning villages in total impunity.

As a result more than 1.8 million local people live “in internal displaced persons” camps where conditions are sub-human: no proper sanitation, no drinking water and malnutrition.

In short, Eastern Congo is being destroyed in one hand by rebel groups supported militarily and diplomatically by Rwanda and Uganda. And on the other hand, by armed groups from Rwanda and Uganda who try to resist them inside Congo. There are also armed groups of Congolese origin who try to fight the invasion by neighbouring countries.

It is sad to say that the rest of the Congo is not safe as well. Women and girls are saved nowhere throughout the Congo. Young girls are sold in the borders of Congo-Cabinda (Angola) by the same military forces. Women and girls are abused at the hands of the police, of the army and of the security services. Rape is common place in prison and in police stations. It has become a weapon of war to exterminate Congolese women. And so, massive violations to human rights are taking place in Congo in total impunity (www.hrw.org/en/node/76188/section/6). We need a deep change.

As a lawyer, I used to assist many victims, men as well as women and girls. At one point in time, I felt that the war against those abuses must be fought at a higher level. I decided to stand for presidency of the republic. I still strongly believe that moral and competent leadership is the first requirement of progress.

My struggle was and is to keep our people free, to make an area of happiness for populations, and have a good and accountable government in the rule of law with a great respect for human rights.

But as you know, I was arrested on trumped up charges of inciting an insurrection to overthrow Kabila’s regime, of burning the Supreme Court and of possessing weapons. I was brought before a military tribunal. It is a hard thing to be considered as guilty without committing neither any offense nor crimes. Since my prison I pay more attention if someone is accused.

I always say thanks to the courage of the judges, of my lawyers, the international and national communities’ pressure and prayers done for me worldwide, I was acquitted with my 7 assistants on 30 April 2007.

Prison in Congo is a very painful experience. In addition to being overcrowded, the prison is a very dirty place without proper sanitation or drinking water. Mosquitoes, worms and flies are everywhere. I was kept in a cell next to a stinking toilet. I developed a respiratory infection and was about to die. Thanks to a military doctor and to my family who sent the medicine, I was saved. Many prisoners die of hunger or lack of medical care because the Congolese government does not feed its prisoners and there is no medical assistance provided. Only family members do.

While in prison, a young girl aged 11 was arrested on suspicion of stealing 150 dollars. She was beaten up and raped. I did all I could to secure her release. Congolese prisons are real hell. I wanted to share all this with you because all those victims are voiceless, and of course excluded from celebration today.

I keep shouting on their behalf but their voices will have a better chance to be heard if we are many to shout on their behalf.

On behalf of peace, of world peace and development, the blood regime in the Congo must change for real democracy and help so women and children live in quiet area. With the exceptional force of the women of the world it can be done. I will be grateful if you could put this case on your agenda as well as talk of the endless suffering of Congolese women and, why not send letters to world deciders. We expect from them to take action to stop the killings of Congolese people and the under-development of the Congo with Kabila’s regime.


The first step to building peace is to become peace agents ourselves. We need to become peaceful people inside and around us and to take action to prevent the breakdown of peace and actively contribute to rebuild it with all our abilities. As individuals we need to be aware of what is going on in some troubled places of the world such as Somalia, Nigeria, Darfur, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and the Congo and decide to do something about peace in those areas. For example, we support the Iranian women of refugee camp of Ashraf in Irak by standing before the USA Embassy here in London since July 2009.

We may just choose to raise awareness or to organise events in support of women and children affected in those places. We need to be creative and to show active solidarity.

Secondly, I believe that our organisations, our churches and mosques need to work together towards peace-making and support for victims. More will be achieved when we join together to raise awareness or support victims.

Finally, working in a network with organisations and individuals who are in direct contact with those affected in troubled places will make a significant difference. I know from my own experience how hard is to fight injustice and human rights abuses from inside. Very often you end up fighting against powerful people, in high position, cruel and arrogant. In conditions like these, the backing of an outside network can be very helpful.

Those who work on the grass-roots level in troubled areas need our moral, financial and psychological backing. In doing so, we can save many lives from death or prison. Then we will be able to bring more women, men and children to celebration next year.

Women of Africa and of the world, let us stand together for peace.

Thank you for listening.

Marie-Therese Nlandu
Human Rights lawyer
Amnesty International Prisoner of conscience 2006-7