Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remember the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour

On 2 May, 1915, in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed by a German artillery shell. He was a friend of the Canadian military doctor Major John McCrae. It is believed that John began the draft for his famous poem 'In Flanders Fields' that evening.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.


The poppy is the recognized symbol of remembrance for war dead. The flower owes its significance to the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) John McCrae, a doctor with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, in the midst of the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium, in May 1915.

The poppy references in the first and last stanzas of the most widely read and oft-quoted poem of the war contributed to the flower's status as an emblem of remembrance and a symbol of new growth amidst the devastation of war.

Remembrance Day Poppy

Two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month because that was the time (in Britain) when the armistice became effective. The two minutes recall World War I and World War II. Before 1945 the silence was for one minute, and today some ceremonies still only have one minute of silence despite this.

In the United Kingdom, although two minutes' silence is observed on November 11 itself, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday. - Wikipedia
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"The Meaning of God"

By Mahatma K. Gandhi
(Young India, October 11, 1928)

There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything.

I feel It, though I do not see It.

It is this unseen Power which makes Itself felt and yet defies all proof,
because It is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.

It transcends the senses....

That informing Power or Spirit is God....

For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.

Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is love.

He is supreme good.

But he is no God who merely satisfies the intellect
If He ever does.

God to be God must rule the heart and transform it.
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Gandhi's Peace Prayers

Hindu Peace Prayer
I desire neither earthly kingdom, nor even freedom from birth and death. I desire only the deliverance from grief of all those afflicted by misery. Oh Lord, lead us from the unreal to the real; from darkness to light; from death to immortality. May there be peace in celestial regions. May there be peace on earth. May the waters be appeasing. May herbs be wholesome and may trees and plants bring peace to all. May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May thy wisdom spread peace all through the world. May all things be a source of peace to all and to me. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (Peace, Peace, Peace).

Islamic Peace Prayer
We think of Thee, worship Thee, bow toThee as the Creator of this Universe; we seek refuge in Thee, the Truth, our only support. Thou art the Ruler, the barge in this ocean of endless births and deaths.
In the name of Allah, the beneficient, the merciful. Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us and made us into tribes and nations. Give us wisdom that we may know each other and not despise all things. We shall abide by thy Peace. And, we shall remember the servants of God are those who walk on this earth in humility and, when we address them, we shall say Peace Unto Us All.

Christian Peace Prayer
Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be known as The Children of God. But I say to you: love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To those who strike you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well. Give to everyone who begs from you; and, to those who take away your goods, do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would do unto you, do so unto them as well.

Jewish Peace Prayer
Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that we may walk the paths of the Most High. And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation - neither shall they learn war any more. And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.

Shinto Peace Prayer
Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us are all our brothers and sisters why, Oh Lord, is there trouble in this world? Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us? I earnestly wish the wind will soon blow away all the clouds hanging over the tops of the mountains.

Bahá'í Peace Prayer
Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgement and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind and a guiding light unto he feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart and a fruit upon the tree of humility.
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Further reading

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - Sudan Watch:
The Anglo-Zulu war - A Lesson Learned?


Cross posted to Sudan Watch, Uganda Watch, Ethiopia Watch, Kenya Watch

UN alleges war crimes in Kiwanja, DR Congo

The rebel forces of Gen Laurent Nkunda and pro-government militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been accused of war crimes by the UN.

The alleged crimes took place in the eastern town of Kiwanja this week when it was captured by Gen Nkunda's forces.

Read full story by BBC - UN alleges war crimes in DR Congo - Sunday, 9 November 2008.

Previous reports

See Congo Watch November 06, 2008: Kiwanja, DR Congo: Channel 4 News' Jonathan Miller & UN peacekeepers find bodies of civilians shot dead in cold blood (Update 3)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Kiwanja, DR Congo: Channel 4 News' Jonathan Miller & UN peacekeepers find bodies of civilians shot dead in cold blood (Update 3)

November 06, 2008 Channel 4 News Snowmail excerpt authored by the EMMA award-winning reporter and anchor of Channel 4 News, Krishnan Guru-Murthy:


Our team in Congo are working on another disturbing film tonight, having come across what appears to be the remains of a refugee camp.

It is not clear to us yet exactly who has done the destruction, but there have been widespread allegations against the Rwandan-backed rebels that they have engaged in such acts, and the UN says such allegations have credibility.

Jonathan Miller tells us that he has found the bodies of men, women and children in the remains. It sounds from his description to be truly desperate.

Viewers may find images in the following video report disturbing.

November 06, 2008 video report "DR Congo clashes claim more victims" by Channel 4 News' foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller. Jonathan has covered conflicts, revolutions, natural and unnatural disasters and has won three Royal Television Society awards for Channel 4 News.

DR Congo clashes claim more victims

As thousands flee eastern DR Congo, Channel 4 News finds evidence of brutality by Tutsi rebel forces.

This programme has discovered the bodies of civilians in the eastern Congo - victims of rebel troops who have been fighting government forces.

We came across at least a dozen corpses after Tutsi rebels retook the town of Kiwanja, in the east of the country, following two days of bitter fighting.

Conflict and instability has caused an estimated 250,000 people to flee their homes in the past month. Kiwanja has changed hands several times in the past two weeks.

Our foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller, who has been based in the eastern capital Goma for the past week, travelled to Kiwanja, on the northern edge of rebel-held territory.
Click here to watch Jonathan's disturbing report "Congo clashes claim more victims".
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Rebel commander General Laurent Nkunda tells Channel 4 News he is acting in the best interests of the DR Congo

November 03, 2008 Channel 4 News video report "Congo's Nkunda defends actions" by Jonathan Miller reporting from DR Congo.

Congo's Nkunda defends actions

The renegade general whose rebel army has been fighting government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo has defended his actions in an interview with Channel 4 News.

A quarter of a million people have been displaced by the conflict, but Laurent Nkunda told this programme he was acting in the best interests of his country.

For the first time in a week, much needed aid left Goma for rebel-held areas in the north east. But instead of finding tens of thousands of refugees - aid workers discovered empty camps in and around the town of Rutshuru.

The UN fears people have fled into the bush to escape rebel fighters. Others went looking for food and shelter themselves.

David Miliband interview

Krishnan Guru-Murthy talks to the Foreign Secretary David Miliband from Marseilles, where he was reporting back on his visit to the Congo to other European ministers.

Channel 4 News asks him if the government has linked British aid to Rwanda with a demand for the country to stop supporting the rebels in the Congo.
Click here to watch Jonathan's important report "Congo's Nkunda defends actions".

Further links related to this article:

November 02, 2008 Channel 4 News video report: "Tensions rise as ceasefire ends" - Jonathan Miller reports from Goma as the three-day ceasefire between government and rebel troops comes to an end. With additional reporting from Jane Dodge.

November 01, 2008 Channel 4 News video report: "UK calls for vital aid for Congo" - Jonathan Miller has been to one of the biggest refugee camps near Goma, DR Congo.
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Tutsi forces from the north loyal to General Laurent Nkunda

Excerpt from October 31, 2008 Channel 4 News report by Lucy Manning. According to Channel 4 News' website, Lucy is a reporter specialising in home affairs and has covered Abu Izzadeen's verbal attack on John Reid, the riots in Paris, plans for safe houses for herion users and the Madrid bombings.

Britain and France head to Congo

Tutsi forces from the north loyal to General Laurent Nkunda in the past days have moved south towards the city of Goma.

They currently hold positions just north of Goma's city limits. Congolese government forces have retreated to the south west after a ceasefire was brokered two days ago.

UN troops have formed an area of separation around Congolese government troops and along the road in rebel-held areas.
Click here to watch Lucy's report "Britain and France head to Congo".
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History of the conflict between Nkunda's rebels and the Congolese army

October 31, 2008 video report by Lindsey Hilsum, international editor and China correspondent for Channel 4 News, explains the history of the conflict between Laurent Nkunda's rebels and the Congolese army.

Lindsey recently had a world exclusive interview in Khartoum, Sudan with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Lindsey Hilsum in Beijing
Congo conflict - the background

"In 1994, a racist government told Rwanda's majority Hutu people to massacre their Tutsi neighbours. It was genocide.

"When a new Tutsi-led regime took power, the Hutus, many of whom had taken part in the killing, fled to the Congo.

"War followed them: Rwanda's Tutsi-led government pursued the Hutu genocidaires, who were hiding in the Congolese bush.

"The government of Congo joined forces with the Hutus. Four million died in the subsequent conflict.

"At one point five African countries were involved in the war in Democratic Republic of Congo. Local Tutsi rebels fighting Congolese forces were backed by troops from Rwanda and Uganda.

"The Congolese government then called on Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, all of whom sent troops.

"The result was plunder and slaughter. Until a peace deal was signed, foreign armies, local warlords and government soldiers fought for control of mines producing tin, copper, coltan and cassiterite - valuable minerals.

"As foreign armies withdrew, new local warlords emerged, including Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi backed by Rwanda. Last year, he celebrated a peace deal with the Congolese government.

"But now, he's breached that. He says he's trying to defeat the last of the Rwandese Hutu genocidaires, to protect the Tutsis. Others say he just wants power and money.

"Now, UN peacekeepers fear the conflict will spread, drawing in neighbouring countries once more."

Key dates

The five-year-long civil war (which involved five other African countries) ended in 2003.

Democratic elections were held in 2006, and president Joseph Kabila was inaugurated in December. During the election period there was armed conflict in the Congo's capital, Kinshasa, which resulted in civilian casualties.

A peace deal was struck in January 2008 between the Democratic Republic of Congo's government and armed groups, including Nkunda's rebels, but later collapsed.

Country background

Democratic Republic of Congo is the size of western Europe and borders nine other countries: Zambia, Angola and Congo to the south and west, Central African Republic and Sudan to the north, and Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east.

The central African country has rich mineral resources, but is one of the poorest in the world.

The population is around 60 million - similar to that of the UK, but half are under 18 years old and only a similar proportion have access to clean water.

The Kivu provinces, focus of the current troubles, lie to the east, on the border with Rwanda. Goma, in North Kivu, has a population of one million.

The UN presence

The UN's peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo is its biggest in the world, with 17,000 troops spread across the vast country.

But the agency says its peacekeepers are stretched to the limit.

There are around 6,500 troops in North Kivu. The UN is redeploying troops to support the 850 peacekeepers in the city of Goma.

The UN refugee agency says more than a million people have fled their homes in North Kivu.

It is extremely concerned about the plight of 50,000 people in camps to the north of Goma: the agency said today it was trying to verify reports that several camps in the Kivu town of Rutshuru, about 90km north of Goma, have been forcibly emptied, looted and burned.

Click here to watch Lindsey's report "Congo conflict - the background".
Further links related to this article
Channel 4 News

October 30, 2008: Chaos in Congo as rebels advance
October 28, 2008: Rwandan genocide haunts Congo
March 27, 2008: Horror of Congo's forgotten war
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Get Channel 4 News Services

Click here to watch Channel 4 video reports.

Click here to subscribe to RSS feeds, podcasts and mobile phone bulletins.
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UN peacekeepers found the bodies of a dozen civilians in rebel-held village

November 06, 2008 Reuters report (editing by Jon Boyle):
Dozen bodies found in rebel-held Congo village

KIWANJA, DR Congo - UN peacekeepers found the bodies of a dozen civilians on Thursday in an eastern Congo village occupied by Tutsi rebels, witnesses and a UN spokesman said.

A stench of death hung over Kiwanja when journalists and UN troops entered the village, where fighters loyal to rebel General Laurent Nkunda drove out pro-government Mai-Mai militia on Wednesday, sending its inhabitants fleeing in panic.

At least a dozen bodies of adult males, five in one house alone, were visible among the mud-walled and tin-roofed homes, a few of them burned, apparently hit by rockets or grenades.

There was nothing, neither uniforms nor weapons, to indicate the dead had been fighters. Some wore work overalls.
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Photo: UN soldiers and journalists found at least a dozen corpses in Kiwanja (AP) Source: BBC report November 06, 2008: DR Congo 'civilian deaths' probed

Map pinpointing Kiwanja, DR Congo


Source: BBC report November 06, 2008: DR Congo 'civilian deaths' probed
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UPDATE 1 on Friday 07 November 2008

From Congo Watch Ed: Saw this on Twitter:
channel4news: AM meeting: team in Congo news gathering while suffering from infestation of flees....

Twitter / channel4news 5/11/08 09:55
Maybe they mean fleas or flies. Whatever, an infestation of anything sounds bad. I know of someone who rode a camel in Tunisia for half an hour and got a backside full of flea bites. Itchy ones, hundreds of them... Heh.
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UPDATE 2 on Friday 07 November 2008

Excerpt from today's Channel 4 News Snowmail authored by Krishnan Guru-Murthy:

Our team in DR Congo have been telling us of another dangerous and harrowing day. Fighting has broken out between the Rwandan-backed rebels and government forces. There has been considerable artillery and gunfire. Another refugee camp has been emptied as people are either driven out or flee for safety.

There is supposed to be a peace conference going on but there is little sign of any progress, following reports by our team and others yesterday about civilians apparently executed in their homes by rebels after refusing to leave.

The United Nations has been accused of failing to protect people that were close to peacekeeping troops. The UN has in turn announced an investigation into what happened and says its findings will be passed to the International Criminal Court.

Watch Jonathan Miller’s report from lunchtime today: Congolese Tutsi rebels and government troops exchange fire in east Congo, just a few miles from a refugee camp. The latest violence erupted near the Kibati camp causing a stream of refugees to flee back towards the provincial capital of Goma 10 miles away.
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UPDATE 3 on Sunday 09 November 2008

The rebel forces of Gen Laurent Nkunda and pro-government militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been accused of war crimes by the UN.

The alleged crimes took place in the eastern town of Kiwanja this week when it was captured by Gen Nkunda's forces.

See Congo Watch Sunday, November 09, 2008: UN alleges war crimes in Kiwanja, DR Congo

Monday, November 03, 2008

Congo Watchers: The Republic of the Congo should not not be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo ("Congo-Kinshasa") is an African country to the east of the Congo River.

Not to be confused with the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), often referred to as DR Congo, DRC or RDC, and formerly known or referred to as Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire (or Zaïre in French), is the third largest country by area in Africa.

Though it is located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

It borders the Central African Republic and Sudan on the North; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi on the East; Zambia and Angola on the South; the Republic of the Congo on the West; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika on the East.

The country enjoys access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (25 mile) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly nine-kilometre wide mouth of the Congo river which opens into the Gulf of Guinea.

The name "Congo" (meaning "hunter") is coined after the Bakongo ethnic group who live in the Congo River basin.

Formerly the Belgian colony of the Belgian Congo, the country's post-independence name was the Republic of the Congo until August 1, 1964, when its name was changed to Democratic Republic of the Congo (to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo).

On October 27, 1971, then-President Mobutu renamed the country Zaire, from a Portuguese mispronunciation of the Kikongo word nzere or nzadi, which translates to "the river that swallows all rivers."

Following the First Congo War which led to the overthrow of Mobutu in 1997, the country was renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo.

From 1998 to 2003, the country suffered greatly from the devastating Second Congo War (sometimes referred to as the "African World War"). This was the world's deadliest conflict since World War II. Related fighting continues in the east of the country. (Source: Wikipedia)

Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Photo: Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Wikipedia)

Coat of Arms of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Photo: Coat of Arms of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Wikipedia)
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Not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville or the Congo, is an African country to the west of the Congo River.

It is bordered by Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Angolan exclave province of Cabinda, and the Gulf of Guinea.

The republic is a former French colony. Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. Congo became a multi-party democracy in 1992. However, a brief civil war in 1997 ended in the restoration of former President Denis Sassou Nguesso to power.

Flag of the Republic of the Congo

Photo: Flag of the Republic of the Congo (Wikipedia)

Coat of Arms of The Republic of the Congo

Photo: Coat of Arms of the Republic of the Congo (Wikipedia)
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Do not confuse Republic of the Congo with the DR Congo

Some news reporters refer to the Democratic Republic of the Congo as Congo.

Here is a good example. The following map, taken from a recent New York Times report entitled:

Many Flee as Congo Rebels Approach Eastern City: GOMA, Congo - The exodus has begun.


Compare the above map from the NYT with this one from IRIN.

DR Congo

Note the error in the NYT map, and the error in the title of the NYT report: Many Flee as Congo Rebels Approach Eastern City: GOMA, Congo - The exodus has begun. What a shame. Here are some superb but distressingly sad photos from the report.


Photo: Congolese tanks pulled back toward Goma after a day of battle with the forces of Laurent Nkunda, a renegade general. Some soldiers have already fled the fighting. (Karel Prinsloo/Associated Press 30 Oct 2008 via NYT)

Wounded Congolese soldier

Photo: Congolese soldiers carried one of their wounded. The rebels have been kept at bay before, but they appear stronger now. (Waler Astrada/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images 30 Oct 2008 via NYT)

Makeshift camp nr Kibati, DRC

Photo: Children waited for food to be cooked at a makeshift camp for displaced people near the village of Kibati. (Karel Prinsloo/Associated Press Agency 30 Oct 2008 via NYT)

Water tanker in Kibati, DRC

Photo: Displaced Congolese line up to get water from a tanker in the town of Kibati. Sarah Elliott/European Pressphoto Agency 30 Oct 2008 via NYT)

Photo source: New York Times report By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN October 29, 2008 - Many Flee as Congo Rebels Approach Eastern City: GOMA, Congo - The exodus has begun - Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from the United Nations.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

YouTube video: Rumangabo Fighting - Rebels seize DRC's Virunga National Park HQ at Rumangabo


Map source: ( Sunday 26 October 2008 report by Emmanuel - Congo Rebels Seize Park HQ at Rumangabo After Intense Fighting - excerpt:
Fighting at Rumangabo started at 0400 today between the rebels of Laurent Nkunda and the army. It has now totally engulfed the park station and our Rangers have been forced to flee into the forests for their lives. The rebels now are the only occupants of the park station at Rumangabo. This has never happened before.

This is a serious time. We need to get our 50+ Rangers back to safety in Goma, 45km south of Rumangabo. The main road is blocked because of the fighting so they are walking through the forests of the park south, to Kibumba, about 20km away, where we aim to pick them up in trucks. We are trying to maintain phone contact but they don’t have much battery life in their phones.


We also need to organize for them to stay in the camp in Goma - with their families. We need to get more food, fast.
If you would like to help toward supporting the Rangers in this crisis please donate in the sidebar to the right. You can make an open donation or you can donate using the Support For Ranger Evactuation from Virunga button. Thank you.
We will be issuing a press release shortly that will give you more information but for now I wanted you all to be aware of this.

YouTube video of Rumangabo Fighting. Rebels seized Virunga National Park HQ at Rumangabo after intense fighting.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

DRC crisis prompts peace talks - Channel 4 News' Jonathan Miller has been out to the rebel front line

Today's Snowmail just in from Channel 4 News, UK - excerpt:
Congo crisis prompts peace talks

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo is our main story today.

More than a quarter of a million people have been forced from their homes in and around the eastern town of Goma and although a rebel ceasefire is holding, aid agencies are warning of a looming catastrophe unless a long term solution is found soon.

In an effort to find a diplomatic route to that solution, Britain's David Miliband and France's Bernard Kouchner have arrived for talks with the leaders of Congo and of Rwanda. Rwanda is thought to be tacitly supporting the rebels.

Our correspondent Jonathan Miller has been out to the rebel front line, and to one of the overflowing refugee camps where he witnessed food being handed out to the desperately hungry people there.

Watch last night's report:

Congo Blog Photos - Bienvenue à Goma

A sample of photos from Congo Blog's photostream at flickr by Congo Blog's Cedric Kalonji in Kinshasa, République démocratique Congo.

Vue aérienne du fleuve Congo à Kindu

Vue aérienne du fleuve Congo à Kindu

Bienvenue à Goma

Bienvenue à Goma

Hôtel Nyra à Goma

Hôtel Nyra à Goma

Hôtel Nyra à Goma

Hôtel Nyra à Goma

Un jeune Tshukudiste dans une rue de Goma

Un jeune Tshukudiste dans une rue de Goma

Un Tshukudiste dans une rue de Goma

Un Tshukudiste dans une rue de Goma

Photos courtesy of upload 21/6/08

Further reading: Friday, 23 November 2007 (Global Voices Online by Fred R.) D. R. of Congo: Interview with ‘Best Francophone Blogger' Cédric Kalonji

Map of rebel-held positions and strongholds in DR Congo - Regional talks planned - UK's Miliband and France's Kouchner flying out to DRC today (BBC)

Fears are growing for thousands of people who have fled into the bush. BBC report Saturday, 1 November 2008:
The BBC's Orla Guerin witnessed scenes of chaos at a refugee camp in Kibati outside Goma, as desperately hungry people surged towards aid distribution points.

Children were trampled underfoot and panicked aid staff were forced to beat back the heaving crowd.

Some who reached Kibati told the BBC they had more chance of getting food in the forests than inside Goma.
Trading accusations

The UN refugee agency said camps sheltering 50,000 refugees in Rutshuru, 90km north of Goma, had been forcibly emptied, looted and then burnt to the ground.
DR Congo Virunga map

Photo: Detailed map of rebel-held positions and rebel strongholds in DR Congo (Credit: BBC)

Source: BBC report dated Saturday, 1 November 2008 - Regional DR Congo talks planned - further excerpt:
The Rwandan and Congolese presidents have agreed to try to end fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rwanda's Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila agreed to attend a regional summit after talks with a senior EU official on Friday.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband are due to meet the two men and visit Goma on Saturday.

The UN refugee agency has described the situation as "a total disaster".

Aid groups say they are struggling to reach 250,000 people fleeing fighting between government and rebel forces.

European Union Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said the only way to resolve the crisis was through a summit involving all regional leaders.

He said agreement had been reached on the prospect of a regional summit after two days of talks in the Congolese capital Kinshasa and the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

"They are both fully agreed on the idea of having this summit," Mr Michel told the BBC.

But renegade rebel general Laurent Nkunda had not yet been asked to join the talks, Mr Michel added.

A ceasefire is holding in and around Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, but aid agencies say the situation there remains highly volatile.

Gen Nkunda's forces are positioned some 15km (nine miles) from the city, which they have threatened to take unless UN peacekeepers guarantee the ceasefire and security there.

As diplomatic efforts to end the crisis gathered pace on Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called leaders in Africa, Europe and the US to urge them to "do all they can to bring the parties to a neutral venue for negotiations".

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the current African Union chairman, and AU Commission chief Jean Ping said the summit could be held in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam or the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Food, water and medicine in the city are scarce, and many international relief workers have pulled out after reports widespread rape and looting by retreating Congolese troops.

The origin of the ongoing conflict in eastern DR Congo is the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.

Gen Nkunda says he is fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attack by Rwandan Hutu rebels, some of whom are accused of taking part in the genocide.

The Congolese government has often promised to stop Hutu forces from using its territory, but has not done so.

There have also been accusations of collusion between DR Congo's army and Hutu guerrillas.

The Congolese government, for its part, has accused Rwanda of backing Gen Nkunda.

Rwanda denies this, but it has twice invaded its much larger neighbour in recent years.

Friday, October 31, 2008

UK's Channel 4 News team has reached Goma today and visited a refugee camp

Congo map

Today's Snowmail by the production team at Channel 4 News, UK - excerpt:
Our team has reached Goma today and also visited a refugee camp. Jonathan Miller will have an eyewitness report on the chaos and confusion as aid agencies withdraw, the rebels approach and the UN battles to protect civilians.

Communications are difficult with our guys, and power problems are making it difficult for them to operate, but we hope to get the pictures back in time for the top of the programme.

Watch the noon Congo report:

Read Congo conflict - the background:
Good luck and safe return journey home.

Camps sheltering 50,000 displaced people in eastern DR Congo have reportedly been looted and burned, says the UN

Friday, 31 October 2008 (BBC) report - DR Congo refugee camps 'burned' - excerpt:
Camps sheltering 50,000 displaced people in eastern DR Congo have reportedly been looted and burned, says the UN.

The UNHCR refugee agency said it was very concerned at reports that the camps in Rutshuru, 90km (56 miles) north of Goma, had been destroyed.

"There are some 50,000 people who were in those camps. We don't know where they would be, we're afraid that they may have just dispersed off into the bush," spokesman Ron Redmond said.

The BBC's Peter Greste in Goma says the road from Goma for mile after mile is choked with families buckling under stoves, food, clothes, bedding and children.

Gen Nkunda said on Thursday that he was opening a "humanitarian corridor" for people to return to their homes.

Our correspondent said that instead of an open corridor, he found people hurrying back to Goma.

"Someone has been shooting at us," one breathless woman said. "We can't go any further."

But those who did reach Kibati told the BBC that they had more chance of getting food in the forests and bushes around the village than inside Goma.

Congo vigil outside Rwanda Embassy, Washington, DC, USA

Email received from Friends of the Congo - excerpt:
The situation in the Congo has escalated tremendously in recent days. Friends of the Congo, the Africa Faith and Justice Network and their allies are asking all people of goodwill and those who participated in Congo Week to participate in a vigil in support of the people of the Congo.

There will be a vigil in front of the Rwanda Embassy on Friday, October 31, 2008 from 4 pm to 6 pm EST. The vigil will address the escalation of tensions in the East of Congo and Rwanda's implication in the instability in the region.

The location of the vigil is:

Rwanda Embassy
1714 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009

For questions, call 1-888-584-6510 or 202-884-9780 or send an email to

Short video: A history of Congo (Lindsey Hilsum)

Click here to view two short video clips at Channel 4 News' website showing recent tv report on DR Congo and "A history of Congo" by Lindsey Hilsum.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

CNDP are on the outskirts of Nord-Kivu

Laurent Nkunda

Photo: Nkunda denies accusations of rape and looting on the part of his forces (AFP)

"We are asking for freedom and we also have to fight for it" - Laurent Nkunda, speaking to Al Jazeera

Source: Friday, 31 October 2008 (Aljazeera and agencies) report - Rebel move sees DR Congo city empty - excerpt:
Troops loyal to Laurent Nkunda, a renegade army general, were on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Nord-Kivu on Thursday after government resistance appeared to have crumbled.

A statement signed by Nkunda said that the intention of his National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) was "not to panic the population of Goma as well as those who are in displaced camps in the immediate environs of the city".

In a letter to the UN mission in Kinshasa, the rebels said that they were opening humanitarian corridors for refugees camped outside the city.

However, residents fear that the CNDP will overrun the city if negotiations with Nkunda are not met.

'Allied to terrorists'

Nkunda, speaking exclusively to Al Jazeera, accused the Congolese government forces of being "allied to terrorists".

"Seeing the government using negative forces toward its people, it's a national problem.

"We have the most disciplined army in all of Congo and it is known by all of the international community," Nkunda said. "We are not involved in looting or raping.

"We asked for, many times, a ceasefire and peace talks, but they [the government] weren't accepting this. Many times we've been attacked by government forces."

"We are asking for freedom and we also have to fight for it ... We have to suffer sometimes to be free forever," he said.

When asked what he would do if the government didn't respond in the way that he desired, Nkunda said: "We will push the threat so far from Goma, so far from Congo. If they [the government] are not ready to talk, we are ready to push them so far from Goma, so far from Congo."

'Weak central government'

Marie-Roger Biloa, editor of Africa International, a monthly news magazine, told Al Jazeera that the central government in the DRC is very weak.

"There really is not much that the government can do in this conflict," she said.

"Despite the international community expressing its support, the rebels clearly have the upper hand here, and it is ultimately dialogue that is needed, not further violence."

The Kinshasa government accuses neighbouring Rwanda of supporting Nkunda, an ethnic Tutsi.

"The government of Rwanda is not in this conflict," Louise Muchikiwabo, Rwanda's minister of information, told Al Jazeera, saying it was a conflict between two Congolese parties.


According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the humanitarian situation in Goma is "catastrophic," with two hospitals have been sacked by looters on Thursday.

Government forces were reported to have fled on Wednesday night, relocating their tanks to the south on the road to Bukavu, in Sud-Kivu province.

However, accusations have been made of government forces, who have abandoned their posts, carrying out violence, including steeling and raping.

UN tanks had been drawn into position around the peacekeeping force's headquarters near the airport to the north of Goma. Madnodje Mounoubai, a UN spokesman, said that peacekeepers were also deployed at other strategic points.

Alain Le Roy, the head of UN peacekeeping operations, said an estimated 800 troops from the UN mission in DRC (Monuc) were currently patrolling Goma.

"We are trying to bring additional troops to protect the civilians in Goma in the coming three to seven days," he said. The reinforcements would be sent from other parts of DR Congo where Monuc has about 17,000 troops.

Julien Mpaluku, the governor of Goma, said that the UN remained in control of the city but "people are stampeding and panicking.

People carrying whatever they could carry streamed out of Goma on Wednesday, while another 45,000 refugees fled a makeshift camp in the nearby village of Kibati. 

The camp, just north of Goma, had seen an influx of 30,000 people over the past three days joining the 15,000 already there, after the CNDP launched a major offensive in the North Kivu region.

International pressure

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has warned that the conflict "is creating a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic dimensions, and threatens dire consequences on a regional scale".

US officials were among those who pulled out of the city and Jendayi Frazer, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, was expected to arrive in DR Congo's capital on Thursday.

Before departing for Kinshasa, Frazer urged Nkunda's forces to comply with previous agreements aimed at ending the conflict in the east of the country.

"I should say, they should not go into Goma, they will be held accountable for actions taking place," Frazer said in Nairobi.

Jean-Maurice Ripert, France's ambassador to the United Nations, said that he hoped that "Nkunda will announce that he stops his offensive" after declaring the ceasefire.

He also said he was planning to send a high-level envoy soon to support an initiative by Ban to facilitate dialogue between Rwanda and Congo.

Ban has reportedly been "alarmed" by reports that Rwandan soldiers were involved in the fighting against Congolese government forces, while the UN Security Council expressed concern at "reports of heavy weapons fire across the Democratic Republic of Congo-Rwanda border".

Congo fighting intensifies (Channel 4 News)

Today's Snowmail by Alex T, Channel 4 News, UK 18:17:03 GMT - excerpt:

Goma, in eastern Congo is tonight, a dangerous no-man’s land. This strategic frontier town, close to Rwanda has seen trouble across the day with rioting and reports of rape and looting. The Congolese army has fled.

The Tutsi rebels outside town stand ready to move in but have not done so as I write and have declared a ceasefire. It is the culmination of several years of increasing violence in the area and the stimulus, as ever, Hutu-Tutsi ethnic tensions. Hundreds of thousands of people already displaced, many of them from refugee camps in the first place.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UN peacekeepers in DR Congo urgently need reinforcements

Anarchy in DR Congo. UN's MONUC desperately needs more troops.

DR Congo:  UN

The UN mission in Congo has launched a counter attack in support of Congolese troops in an effort to block Gen Nkunda's troops from advancing on Goma.

DR Congo:  Bundles

Thousands of people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been fleeing a new outburst of fighting between government troops and rebel forces.

DR Congo:  Soldiers

Government troops near the Kibumba refugee camp have been pushed back by forces loyal to rebel general Laurent Nkunda.

DR Congo:  People

The rebels, who say they are protecting the areas' Tutsi minority, have captured a major army camp at Rumangabo, near the border with Rwanda.

DR Congo:  Jeep

Credit: AFP & AP photos and BBC captions from BBC report Monday, 27 October 2008 - In pictures: Thousands flee Congo fighting

Anarchy in DR Congo - MONUC chief desperately needs more troops (BBC)

Congolese government troops and UN forces have been involved in fierce battles against Tutsi rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Reports from the region suggest the strategic village of Kibumba, north of the regional capital Goma, is the latest to have fallen to the rebels.

Renegade General Laurent Nkunda's fighters say their next target is Goma, where thousands of civilians have fled.

The head of the UN mission in Congo says he desperately needs more troops.

Anarchy in DR Congo

Photo: The army is finding it difficult to locate the rebel fighters.

"We simply cannot send teams out into the countryside... it's too dangerous; it's anarchy" -UNHCR's Ron Redmond

Full story by BBC Wednesday October 29, 2008: Battles rage near key Congo town - excerpt:
The UN Security Council late on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire and issued a statement in which it "strongly condemned the offensive operations" against its peacekeepers.

UN forces have been using attack helicopters and tanks to try to stop the rebel advance, but they say the rebels work in small groups, making them difficult to locate and repulse.

Alan Doss, the head of the UN mission in DR Congo (Monuc), told the BBC his forces were stretched to the limit and needed urgent reinforcements.

He said his troops would do their utmost to stop major towns in the region from falling to the Tutsi rebels under Gen Nkunda.

"We are going to remain there, and we are going to act against any effort to take over a city or major population centre by force," he said from Kinshasa, the Congolese capital.

Monuc has 17,000 troops in DR Congo - the largest peacekeeping force in the world - but has come under criticism from residents in the east of the country for being unable to protect them.

The head of UN peacekeeping, Alain Le Roy, briefed the Security Council, and said the appeal for more troops had been "heard clearly by all member states".

Refugee crisis

The towns of Rutshuru and Rubare have also been threatened by the rebel forces.

Rutshuru houses tens of thousands of displaced people and dozens of aid workers are usually based there.
Click into BBC's report above and see link to 'Eastern DR Congo's hell in pictures: Thousands flee fighting'.

UPDATE: New pictures posted at Congo Watch on Wednesday, October 29, 2008: UN peacekeepers in DR Congo urgently need reinforcements

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tragedy looms in DR Congo - Tens of thousands of people fleeing fighting (Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News)

October 28, 2008 (Channel 4 News, UK) Snowmail by Krishnan - "Tragedy looms in DR Congo" - excerpt:
" ... there is a new and urgent human emergency unfolding in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The pictures of tens of thousands of people fleeing fighting are heart-rending. The core of what’s happening is the advance of Rwanda-backed rebels towards the main city of Goma. The UN is pulling out and retreating from its positions, and civilians are once again on the move.

So once again this deeply unstable country, largely ignored by the outside world, has been pushed to the brink of terrible tragedy. Our international editor Lindsey Hilsum will have the story. And we are inviting various international figures to appear on our programme tonight."
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October 28, 2008 (Channel 4 News, UK) report by Lindsey Hilsum - Rwandan genocide haunts Congo:
The Democratic Republic of Congo slips back towards all-out war as the biggest UN peacekeeping force in the world fails to thwart rebel fighters.

A human emergency is unfolding in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as Rwandan-backed rebels close in on the strategic city of Goma, despite attacks from peacekeepers in helicopter gunships.

Government troops are retreating in tanks, lorries and on foot, and tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing a rebel army with a reputation for brutality.

The rebels are advancing on the town of Rutshuru, 60 miles north of Goma. Their leader, General Laurent Nkunda, has vowed to seize Goma to protect the minority Tutsi population from Hutus who escaped from neighbouring Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.

The 17,000-strong UN force has been firing on them from helicopters, but there is no sign of it stopping their advance.

Tens of thousands of refugees are on the move. Aid agencies say many are malnourished and even dying of hunger.
DR Congo refugees

Photo: Refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo flee ahead of advancing Tutsi rebels on the road between Goma and Kibati. Click on Congo refugees for Channel 4 News' full-screen picture of the day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

UN: 200,000 people displaced in E. DR Congo in past two months - 2m people displaced in Kivu area since 2007

October 24, 2008 BBC report Thousands displaced in DR Congo. Excerpt:
The UN says about 200,000 people have been displaced by renewed fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in the past two months.

Previously the United Nations had reported half that number.

Concern has been rising in the east of DR Congo, where the army has been battling fighters loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda.

Up to two million people are thought to have been displaced in the Kivu area since 2007, the UN says.

The UN says this vast displacement means many people are malnourished and some were dying of hunger.


Charles Vincent from the UN World Food Programme said: "The capacity of the World Food Programme and other humanitarian organisations is stretched to the limit [and] the situation has begun to deteriorate in the last [few] weeks."

"There is an enormous need for the women who have been abused," he added, saying that half the number of rapes in DR Congo are committed in Kivu.


The UN says that the population needs 33,000 tonnes of food or $46m (£29m) worth of supplies by March 2009.

A UN force has failed to halt fighting in the east, where violence has intensified since August between government troops and Gen Nkunda's forces.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Give free rice to hungry people by playing a simple game - Spread the word about hunger

This is my contribution to World Food Day, October 16, 2008. (Cross posted yesterday at some of my other blogs).

My top tips: Don't waste an inch of food or water. Cook fresh home made meals from scratch. Don't drink unnatural juice. Make and mend. Recycle food, water, paper, metal, glass. Adopt a rescue cat to ensure no mice. Adopt a rescue dog for self protection and healthy exercise. Respect the land, sea and air. Be kind and generous. Try to love all people, animals, insects, flowers, trees and plants. Care about what happens to the thirsty, hungry, homeless, sick, disabled, and elderly. Visit friends in person or write note instead of phoning. Cut down on petrol pollution and plastic waste. Don't drive a distance that you could easily walk, bus or cycle. Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. Tithe 10% of your income and see how much more you receive in return.
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Notable Quote

"The best things in life aren't things" - Art Buchwald (Source: Bloomberg TV)
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On World Food Day - October 16, Spread the word about hunger

Give free rice to hungry people by playing a simple game that increases your knowledge.

World Food Day 16 October

Visit FreeRice,, to translate your right answers into rice for the hungry.

147,750,140 grains of rice donated yesterday. Over 47 billion grains donated to date. Sponsors pay for the donated rice.

Click into and give the right answer in the middle of the page. I reached level 41 with a donation total of 3040 grains. Will do more later.

"Help us mark World Food Day this year as high food prices, dramatic increases in fuel costs, and profound changes in climate conditions have conspired to bring new dimensions of suffering and hardship to the poor, depriving almost one billion people of the food they need to live a healthy life."  - UN

S.O.S. Please email Congo Watch - 2 years of emails lost

On Wednesday, 15 October 2008, two engineers from British Telecom IT Support were here for a specially ordered appointment to ensure a smooth changeover from my current ISP, Virgin Media, to BT Broadband.

Sadly, it turned into a 3-hour job. The engineer, after deleting the Virgin email address from my PowerBook G4 (Mac OS X 10.3.9) said it had never occurred to him that the contents of my AppleMac drafts email folder would also be deleted, along with the contents of my folders for sent and incoming emails. In their experience, such a thing had never happened before.

Groan. Over the past 3-4 weeks, apart from the 3 hours yesterday, I've spent what seems like a total of 20 hours on the phone to BT, from here to Scotland and India, ever since initial call to BT's broadband sales office.

BT couldn't set me up for broadband for a few weeks resulting in connection to BT dial-up service in the interim - for which I almost got charged £18 for Day One if I hadn't checked tarriff for the 'Pay As You Go' option that BT signed me up to, instead of the 'Anytime' package costing £1 for first month.

Not to mention the ordeal I went though trying to obtain an internet cable for a few weeks of the dial up service. And then the service itself. By the end of Day One, BT dial up Tech Support told me the loss of connection every few minutes was nothing to do with them and blamed my internal modem as being corrupted and broken. Not true, I discovered next day.

Yesterday morning, I awoke feeling gutted, bereft and exhausted over the whole experience. More than one thousand draft items and scores of photos for future blogposts which, despite Apple's best efforts (a further 1-hour ordeal over phone last night) are no longer recoverable. All gone. Vanished. Forever. Nightmare.

Years of hard work and precious energy wasted. I feel sad at losing so much, just when I was getting back into the swing of things after ten bereavements (including my mother and three longstanding friends) and the toll it took on my health.

Chin up. Worse things happen at sea. I'll endeavour to continue blogging while working on piecing together lost drafts, updating email address in my blogs. re-subscribing to news alerts, etc.

Right now, the thought of having to find all the pieces to put back together again, and recall people's latest email addresses that may or not be in my computer's address book, is too overwhelming.

If you have ever emailed me, no matter how long ago, please email me NOW with copy of last email or just a few words or, better still, photo of your pet, to enable me to save your address safely in a new folder for easy future reference.

My new BT email address is now in the sidebar here at Congo Watch.

I'm always here, with my cat Ophelia, happy to receive emails that are not spam. It still pains me to be so slow in replying. I fear that taking weeks and months to reply puts people off from staying in contact.

Mostly I am sad at losing photos of pets belonging to some of my favourite bloggers. I adore cats and had collected some pretty special photos for a Cat Watch Blog that I'm creating as a place for me to visit when the going gets tough at my watch blogs and I feel disappointed in human beings.

If you know the personality of any cat (or dog, especially if it gets along with cats) and have a photo of the pet, please send it to me so I can create a little story for posting (with your permission and credit/link to you) at the most suitable of my three new blogs (currently under construction) namely: Cat Watch Blog, Heavenly Cats, Pets in Heaven.

Here's looking forward to learning about cats living in different parts of the world. I'm curious to know if cats all over the world have same habits and act in same way, or behave differently from mine here in England. If anyone ever thinks of sending us a greetings, especially over Christmas and New Year, anything for my pet blogs would be cheerfully received and warmly appreciated. I promise to reply with some observations and questions about your pet's charm and character.

Having said all that, I'm bracing myself for the possibility that no-one will take notice of this post although, even during blogging breaks, Congo Watch continues to receive thousands of visitors and page views. I have no idea of how many people read my blogs via a news reader and never visit in person. I don't even know if the feed for my Sudan Watch blog still works. It no longer works in my newsreader, NetNewsWire.

Hey is anybody out there? Please say something!

With love from Ingrid and cat Ophelia, posted by the sea on south west coast of England, UK xx

An edited version of this post will appear in some of my network of blogs, ie: Sudan Watch, Uganda Watch, Ethiopia Watch, Niger Watch, Egypt Watch, Kenya Watch, ME/CFS Watch, ME AND OPHELIA.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mountain Gorillas Eaten by Congolese Rebels

Warning: This story contains a graphic image that may be disturbing to some readers. January 19, 2007 report by James Owen for National Geographic News:
Mountain Gorillas Eaten by Congolese Rebels

Armed rebels have begun slaughtering and eating protected mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), conservationists reported this week.

So far, the dismembered remains of two gorillas have been discovered, according to wildlife workers in the DRC.

And it's feared that more of the critically endangered animals may have been killed, said Emmanuel de Merode, director of WildlifeDirect, a conservation group based in Kenya and the DRC.

"The fact that two were killed suggests they were deliberately targeted," de Merode said. "I suspect there was an element of vandalism."

Only around 700 mountain gorillas remain worldwide. More than half live in the Virunga volcanic mountains region shared by the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda.

The two eaten gorillas were adult males known as silverbacks. They died in Virunga National Park, a nearly two-million-acre (790,000-hectare) protected area in the eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo map).

Pair of Killings

The first silverback killed by rebels was reported dead on January 9, said senior park warden Paulin Ngobobo, who posts a blog on the WildlifeDirect Web site. (Related: "Exposing Atrocities, Blogs Give Wildlife Warriors Instant SOS" [December 5, 2006].)

"A local farmer was ordered to help the rebels collect the meat of the gorilla," Ngobobo said. "He told them that the meat was dangerous to eat and immediately informed us of the incident."

The other killing is thought to have occurred on January 11, but Virunga park wardens only this week found the gorilla's severed head, feet, skin, and other remains dumped in a pit latrine at a rebel camp.

"The stench was terrible, a mixture of rotting flesh and human excrement," reported conservationist Robert Muir of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Germany, who accompanied the wardens.

"Investigations continue, but it seems likely that the gorillas were killed for food," he added. "We do not suspect that body parts have been taken as trophies or for sale on the black market."

The dead gorilla was identified as an 18-year-old silverback known as Karema. The name means "handicapped"—the male had lost his left hand, most likely to a poacher's snare, Ngobobo noted.

Karema was used to the presence of humans, because he was part of a group visited regularly by tourists before civil war broke out in the DRC in 1996.

"He died at the hands of a species he trusted completely," Ngobobo said.

The gruesome dismemberment echoed human atrocities in neighboring Rwanda during ethnic massacres in 1994, Ngobobo added.

"This terrible act was done to humans during the Rwandan genocide," he wrote in his blog.

Rebel Group

The rebel group blamed for the slaughter is the Rally for Congolese Democracy-Goma (RCD-Goma), about 2,000 men led by Laurent Nkunda. Nkunda is wanted by the Congolese government for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last year, another rebel militia—the Mai Mai—was responsible for butchering hundreds of hippos along the shores of Lake Edward, also in Virunga National Park.

Since then, the DRC has completed its first democratic elections in more than 40 years, raising hopes of lasting peace in the war-ravaged country.

"The elections went remarkably well, all things considered," said Ian Redmond, chief consultant for the United Nations-led Great Apes Survival Project. "But there is the odd rebel faction which still hasn't accepted this."

But there are now good prospects of a peace deal between RCD-Goma and the government, he added.

In the meanwhile, conservation groups are calling on the international community to take immediate action to prevent further gorilla deaths.

The groups have also asked the United Nations to give extra support to Virunga's overburdened park wardens, 97 of whom have been killed in the park since 1996.

The wardens weren't able to protect the two slain mountain gorillas because heavily armed rebels had overrun ranger posts, Redmond said.

"The rangers might be well equipped for tackling poachers—but not when the poachers are well-trained, well-armed military," he said.

He pointed out that completely wild gorillas aren't difficult to hunt in the first place, because they leave a clear trail in the forest.

"But [the two killed] gorillas grew up in groups that are habituated for tourism, which means that they are very easy to kill," he said.

Tourism has been crucial to the successful conservation of Virunga's population over the past 25 years, he added. Numbers are up to about 380 from 240 in the late 1970s, when Redmond first visited the region.

"But tourism carries a risk that if you can no longer protect the gorillas, then they are very vulnerable," he said. "These rebels could continue munching their way through all these habituated groups, which would be catastrophic. Every individual is nearly a quarter of a percent of the population."

Even if the rebels eventually move out of the gorilla forests, Redmond added, "then the international support would be for rebuilding, because all the ranger posts have been looted and a lot of damage has been done."

African conservationist Richard Leakey, credited with helping to end the slaughter of elephants in Kenya in 1980s, said in a statement: "The survival of these last remaining mountain gorillas should be one of humanity's greatest priorities.

"Their future lies with a small number of very brave rangers, risking their lives with very little support from the outside world."
Hat tip: Rob Crilly, From The Frontline 13 Oct 08 -
Pirates Smuggle Somalia on to the Agenda

Saturday, October 11, 2008

DR Congo's President Kabila calls for citizens in E. DR Congo to take up arms against CNDP rebel leader Gen. Nkunda to protect unity of DR Congo

Congolese President Joseph Kabila has made a televised appeal for people in the east to take up arms against rebel general Laurant Nkunda.

His comments came after Gen Nkunda said he wanted to "liberate" the whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Meanwhile, the UN peacekeepers said rebel forces had withdrawn from an army base captured earlier this week.

Gen Nkunda was persuaded to withdraw from Rumangabo base with captured arms and supplies, a spokesman said.

Forces loyal to the general had overrun the base on Tuesday, forcing thousands of people to flee and capturing weapons abandoned by the fleeing government troops.

Full story: BBC - DR Congo president's call to arms - Saturday Oct 11, 2008.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Deployed peacekeeping veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have significant impairments in health-related quality of life

Nine years ago today, I was struck down with a flu like viral illness from which I never recovered. After the initial six months, my profoundly disabling condition was diagnosed by a Consultant Psychiatrist as a severe form of Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Still, to this day, there is no effective treatment or cure. In my experience, the condition is similar to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Gulf War Syndrome (GWS).

Over the past nine years my energy level has increased from one half hour to two hours per day. I am still virtually housebound. Last March, I was able to attend my mother's funeral. Next month, I am scheduled to attend a long awaited appointment with a CFS Consultant. Several years ago, I was bedbound for two years.

The following definition of ME is from a paper I wrote with a very dear friend (recently departed, God rest his soul) in March 2003:
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis - ME

Evidenced by muscle pain, with inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, ME has been known for half a century as 'a-typical polio'. The symptoms of extreme lassitude, and the swift onset of exhaustion that characterise the disease, also caused it to be known for many years as 'chronic fatigue syndrome' or CFS. It was only classified by the World Health Organisation of the United Nations as a neurological disorder in 1969.

The disorder is triggered by a virus infection that occurs worldwide in epidemic and pandemic form: seasonally and in selected geographical areas. It affects about 1% of the British population and there is no known cure. While three-quarters of those who become infected do not present advanced symptoms, 25% of ME sufferers are chronically affected with severe illness and pain, causing them to become profoundly disabled and very largely housebound. The condition can last throughout life without remission of any kind.

Doctors and sufferers generally agree that the worst effects of the disease can be 'managed by strict adherence to conservation of energy, reduction of stress and simplification of work: augmented by education, with practical and economic support'.
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We're not lazy nor crazy, tiredness is the least of our problems

This post today, 10 October 2008, here at Congo Watch, is to help raise awareness of the plight of military personnel suffering from ghastly life-wrecking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Below are some excerpts taken from Science Daily online. More on this topic at a later date.
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Peacekeepers are exposed to traumatic events which they are helpless to prevent under the United National rules of engagement
While the relationship among Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and physical and mental health impairment is well developed in combat veterans, it is less studied among the deployed peacekeeping veteran population.

Peacekeepers are exposed to traumatic events which they are helpless to prevent under the United National rules of engagement, which state soldiers must show restraint and neutrality. The feeling of being unable to control a situation at the time of trauma is an important risk factor for developing PTSD.
More from (Dec. 15, 2007):
Canada’s peacekeepers suffer similar rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) as combat, war-zone soldiers, according to a London, Ont. research team.

Psychiatrist J. Donald Richardson and his co-investigators also found that PTSD rates and severity were associated with younger age, single marital status and deployment frequency.
Vietnam Combat Linked To Many Diseases 20 Years Later
According to Boscarino, of the 1,399 Vietnam veterans studied, 24 percent (332) were diagnosed with PTSD sometime after military service, and nearly all cases of PTSD in the study resulted from exposure to heavy or very heavy combat in Vietnam.

He said his research and others' suggest that those with PTSD often have altered neuroendocrine and sympathetic nervous systems. Disturbances in these key body systems are the main reason for increases in a broad spectrum of diseases among combat veterans, he said. His research also uncovered abnormal immune functioning and clear medical evidence of coronary artery disease among the veterans studied. Read more at ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 1997)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder May Result In Heart Disease
Combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear to be at higher risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), according to a recent study of 4,462 male U.S. Army veterans.

"We believe that this research suggests a clear, definitive linkage between exposure to severe stress and the onset of coronary heart disease in humans," said Boscarino. Read more at ScienceDaily (Nov. 10, 1999)
PTSD Causes Early Death From Heart Disease, Study Suggests
A new study sheds light on the link between PTSD and heart disease. Vietnam veterans with PTSD suffered higher rates of heart disease death than veterans without PTSD.

The more severe the PTSD diagnosis, the greater the likelihood of death from heart disease, the study showed. Read more at ScienceDaily (July 8, 2008)
Whether combat or peacekeeping, PTSD impacts veterans' well-being
Deployed peacekeeping veterans with PTSD have significant impairments in health-related quality of life according to research by Dr. J. Donald Richardson of The University of Western Ontario and his co-investigators.

The research, published recently in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, found anxiety disorders such as PTSD are associated with impaired emotional well-being, and this applies just as much to peacekeeping veterans as to combat veterans. "This finding is important to clinicians working with the newer generation of veterans, as it stresses the importance of including measures of quality of life when evaluating veterans to better address their rehabilitation needs," says Dr. Richardson. "It is not enough to measure symptom changes with treatment; we need to objectively assess if treatment is improving their quality of life and how they are functioning in their community."

Richardson is a consultant psychiatrist with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic at Parkwood Hospital, part of St. Joseph's Health Care, London and a psychiatry professor with the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western. His team studied 125 male, deployed Canadian Forces peacekeeping veterans who were referred for a psychiatric assessment. The average age of these men was 41, and they averaged 16 years of military service. The most common military theatre in which they served were the Balkan states (Bosnia, Croatia, former Yugoslavia, and Kosovo), with 83 per cent having exposure to combat or a war zone. Read more at ScienceDaily (Oct. 3, 2008)
Post Traumatic Stress Has Tripled Among Combat-exposed Military Personnel
Concerns have been raised about the health impact of military deployment. Studies have estimated as many as 30% of Vietnam War veterans developed post-traumatic stress disorder at some point following the war and, among 1991 Gulf War veterans, as many as 10% were reported to have post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms years after returning from deployment. Read more at ScienceDaily (Jan. 17, 2008)
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I would be interested to hear from anyone affected by above issues. Feel free to email me anytime and forgive me if I am slow to respond. Note, my current email address will cease on November 28, 2008 because I am switching my ISP to British Telecommunications (BT) Broadband.

With love from me and my cat Ophelia xx

[Afterthought: As my network of blogs receives thousands of regular visits from military, health orgs, unis, govts, etc., I have decided to cross post this whole entry at some of Sudan Watch's sister sites: Congo Watch, Uganda Watch, Ethiopia Watch, Niger Watch, Kenya Watch, Russia Watch.]

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Rwandan troops 'invade DR Congo' threatening the city of Goma (BBC)

DR Congo accuses Rwanda of sending troops across the border, and threatening the city of Goma.

Full story: BBC News online Thursday 09 October 2008
- Rwandan troops 'invade DR Congo'

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gen. Nkunda, leader of the CNDP, claims the CNDP intends to overthrow DRC govt - US will work to bring to justice war criminals in E Congo & elsewhere

Press Statement
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 6, 2008

Statements by General Nkunda in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The United States condemns and rejects the statements made by General Nkunda, leader of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), claiming the CNDP intends to overthrow the elected and universally recognized Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (GDRC). The U.S. calls on the international community to support the GDRC as it works to consolidate its democracy and capacity to govern justly its entire territory. The U.S. opposes all those who seek to foment instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Goma Agreement and the Nairobi Communiqué remain the only true viable framework to bring stability to eastern Congo. The signatories should respect their commitments and implement them swiftly. All concerned parties should also respect the current cease fire and move quickly to disengage their forces in accordance with the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (MONUC) Global Disengagement Plan. The U.S. applauds MONUC for its efforts to stabilize eastern Congo and calls on all parties to cooperate with those efforts. Conflict between the CNDP and the DRC Armed Forces only detracts attention from resolving the root problem causing instability in the region posed by the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR), the Interahamwe, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The U.S. remains committed to supporting the GDRC and the people of the Congo to ensure a strong, democratic state, free from all illegal armed groups. At the October 3rd UN Security Council meeting on DRC, the U.S. condemned statements made by Nkunda and called for the improvement of MONUC capabilities to better carry out its mandate. The U.S. will continue to work with the DRC and the Great Lakes countries both bilaterally and through the Tripartite Plus process to strengthen regional cooperation and build a stable and prosperous region.

The U.S. will work to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in eastern Congo and elsewhere.


Released on October 6, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Uganda urges aid agencies to stop feeding LRA in DR Congo

Uganda's government has urged aid agencies to stop supplying food to the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in order to starve them out of their camps in the forests of the DR of Congo where they have been for a number of years.

Source: BBC News report 30 September 2008 - Uganda: Starve rebels for peace. Excerpt:
Minister for Disaster Preparedness Tarsis Kabwegyere said this would increase pressure on the group to sign a peace deal to end their 20-year war.

He said the LRA should be starved out of its camps in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The LRA refused to sign an agreement in April because of international arrest warrants against its leaders.

Mr Kabwegyere said rebel leader Joseph Kony had manipulated peace talks to gain access to food and medicine.

"Whoever is giving food to LRA should say: 'We're giving you food only when you can sign,'" he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The government had not given up hope on peace, he added.

"Kony [should] know that ending the war is the best thing to do."

His fighters have relocated to camps on the Sudan-DR Congo border over the past two years of peace negotiations.

Last week, Catholic aid agency Caritas said some 75,000 people had fled recent LRA attack in DR Congo.

The LRA has led a rebellion for more than 20 years which has displaced some two million people in northern Uganda.

Monday, October 06, 2008

ICC renews call for Ugandan LRA rebel leader Kony's arrest

Copy of AFP report via MONUC Monday, 06 October 2008 - ICC renews call for Ugandan rebel leader Kony's arrest:

THE HAGUE, Oct 6, 2008 (AFP) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court renewed calls Monday for the arrest of Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony following attacks by the Ugandan rebel group on Congolese citizens.

"In the light of serious and converging information on attacks by the LRA against civilians in the DRC, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo calls for renewed efforts to arrest LRA leader Kony and his top commanders," said a statement issued in The Hague.

"The criminals remain at large and continue to commit crimes and they are threatening the entire region. Arrest is long overdue."

The prosecutor claimed the LRA attacked villages in the Haut Uele district of the Democratic Republic of Congo on September 17.

"These attacks all follow a similar method with markets surrounded and looted, students abducted from school, properties burned and dozens of civilians killed, including several local chiefs," said the statement.

"Tens of thousands have now been displaced.

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Kony and two other top LRA commanders, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, in 2005.

They are accused of raping and mutilating civilians, enlisting child soldiers and massacring thousands.

In July, southern Sudanese lawmakers urged the ICC to defer the indictments to encourage the rebel leaders to sign a Sudan-mediated Ugandan peace agreement.

Kony has so far refused to sign the accord on the basis of the ICC arrest warrants.

"Kony -- just as he has many times in the past -- uses the peace talks to gain time and support, to rearm and attack again," said the prosecutor's statement.

"The price paid today by civilians is high."

Moreno-Ocampo's office urged regional and international organisations to support DR Congo and Uganda in planning and executing the arrests.

A semi-literate former altar boy, Kony took charge in 1988 of a regional rebellion among northern Uganda's ethnic Acholi minority.

Twenty years of fighting between the rebels and government forces have left tens of thousands dead and displaced two million people, mainly in northern Uganda. © 1999-2006 United Nations - MONUC

Friday, October 03, 2008

UN attack helicopters went into action in E. DRC after Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FRPI) rebels opened fire at UN reconnaissance planes

Thursday 02 October 2008 – United Nations attack helicopters firing rockets went into action in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today after rebels attempting to advance against the Government opened fire on UN reconnaissance planes.

The UN action was the latest in a series of strikes against the rebel Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FRPI) in Ituri province, and comes less than two weeks after peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) sent in combat helicopters against another rebel group in North Kivu province, to the south.

“MONUC is intervening with all the means at its disposal, including attack helicopters, to protect the civilian population which is in imminent danger,” the mission said in a news release. “Moreover MONUC is cooperating with the DRC armed forces to re-establish state authority over the whole of Ituri.”

Residual FRPI elements launched attacks on Monday against the army, capturing two camps and advancing towards the village of Aveba before they were repulsed by MONUC.

Full story at UN News Centre 02 October 2008 - UN helicopters respond to rebel attack in eastern DR Congo

Related reports

Sapa-AP report Friday 03 Oct 2008 by Eddy Isango: Bullets hit UN chopper during clash

AP report Thursday 02 Oct 2008: UN helicopters fire rockets at east Congo militia

1,200 Congolese flee from DR Congo into southern Sudan to escape brutal attacks by Ugandan rebel group LRA

About 1,200 Congolese have sought shelter in southern Sudan in recent days to escape brutal attacks by members of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that have included the abduction of children and the torching of homes, the United Nations refugee agency reported today [Wednesday, 01 October 2008].

The Congolese arrived on foot in the Sudanese villages of Gangura and Sakure after a four-day journey, telling local authorities and aid agencies about savage attacks on six separate villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The refugees said they fled to Sudan because the LRA, which has waged war against Ugandan Government forces for two decades, sometimes from bases in remote areas of the north-eastern DRC, had blocked all other routes out of the region.

“From what we have learned in speaking to the refugees, the attacks were ferocious and unremitting,” said Geoff Wordley, the assistant representative for UNHCR operations in southern Sudan, adding there are unconfirmed reports of bodies seen floating in local rivers.

“Many refugees being treated in the MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] clinic showed wounds from machetes and bullets.”

Full story: 01 October 2008 UN report: Hundreds of Congolese flee attacks by notorious rebels – UN refugee agency

DRC rebel General Laurent Nkunda 'to expand rebellion'

Renegade Congolese General Laurent Nkunda says he wants to "liberate" the whole of DR Congo, expanding his rebellion from the east.

Gen Nkunda has told the BBC he is now fighting to "liberate" the whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Until now, he had always claimed to be protecting his Tutsi people against Rwandan Hutu armed groups in the east.

Gen Nkunda said he was walking out of a January peace deal. Recent fighting between his troops and the army has led more than 100,000 people to flee.

DR Congo Defence Minister Chikez Diemu said his statement was "irresponsible".

Gen Nkunda says he wants to expand his theatre of operations for his CNDP forces from eastern DR Congo to the whole country.

The BBC's Africa analyst Joseph Winter says this is a definite change of tone from a man who has always portrayed himself as a defender of his Tutsi people.

"I am calling on the people of Congo to stand up for their liberty, for their freedom," he said.

He says they are under threat from some of those who carried out the genocide of their fellow Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda 14 years ago.

Such fighting talk will not go down well hundreds of kilometres away in the capital, Kinshasa, where President Joseph Kabila was largely elected on his promise to bring peace to the county after many years of war, says Joseph Winter.

There are some 17,000 United Nations peacekeepers in DR Congo, who will no doubt do their best to prevent the conflict from spreading any further.

The UN helped broker a peace deal in January in the east, which held, more or less, for seven months.

Source: BBC News Thursday 02 October 2008 - Congo rebel 'to expand rebellion'