Sunday, May 02, 2010

UN investigates claims of unreported February massacre in N.E. DR Congo

A senior UN official says as many as 100 people were killed in the alleged attack, which is believed to have taken place in February

John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, said on a visit to the country that an investigation was under way.

If the claims are true it would bring the number of people killed between December and March to more than 500.

The UN says that in the same period, more than 300 others - nearly half of them children - were abducted. An unknown number of villagers were also mutilated, according to the UN.

Source: BBC News - see report here below, plus eight others from DR Congo.

Photo of DR Congo LRA kidnap victim:
“They told me I was talking too much”

U.N. Says Congo Rebels Killed Scores in Village

LRA kidnap victim Marie Mbolihundele, who says she was held by three LRA rebels in a northern area of Niangara, DR Congo two weeks ago, says they sliced her lips off and one of her ears.
"They ordered me to lie down on the ground and they told me I shouldn't scream or they would kill me," she said.

"I started to pray, and then they pulled my lips with pliers and cut them off with a knife. Then they told me to run, so I stood up and fled."
Source: BBC report (see below) by Thomas Fessy in DR Congo 02 May 2010.

Photo: A 23-year-old woman wore a bandage in a Niangara, Congo, hospital on Saturday, 17 days after a group of Lord’s Resistance Army rebels cut off her lips and right ear during an attack. (Photographer Jehad Nga for The New York Times) Source: NYT report here below.

U.N. Says Congo Rebels Killed Scores in Village
From The New York Times
Saturday 01 May 2010
(KISANGANI, Congo) - United Nations officials said Saturday that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel force killed up to 100 people in a previously unreported massacre in the remote northeastern corner of this country.

Details are still emerging of exactly what happened. But according to John Holmes, the United Nation’s top humanitarian official, the L.R.A. struck a small village in February, two months after it killed more than 300 people from several villages in the surrounding area.

United Nations investigators have spoken with several witnesses and victims of the massacre in February, including two fishermen who said they saw dozens of bodies.

But the investigators have been unable to reach the exact location because of the difficulties of traveling in one of the most rugged and isolated corners of Africa.

Mr. Holmes said that while recent military operations may have weakened the L.R.A., “they are still capable of wreaking absolute havoc — and they still do.”

He said he learned about the February attack on Saturday, when he met with local authorities and victims in Niangara, an old trading post hidden away in the Congolese jungle that has recently been ringed by roving bands of L.R.A. marauders.

One of the people he met was a young woman whose lips had been sliced off last month. She was attacked by rebels while working in her field, she said Saturday, sitting in a hospital bed, her face a mask of gauze and tape.

“They told me I was talking too much,” she said.

The L.R.A. has been waging a brutal and bizarre rebellion for more than 20 years, starting in northern Uganda in the late 1980s.

Originally, it said it was guided by the Ten Commandments, but soon it was breaking every one, massacring and mutilating civilians and becoming notorious for kidnapping young children and turning them into 4-foot-tall killing machines.

The Ugandan Army eventually drove the L.R.A. out of Uganda but the rebels simply marched into neighboring northeastern Congo, where they set up bases in isolated areas.

Recently, the Ugandan military has killed dozens of fighters hiding out in Congo and the Central African Republic, though the L.R.A.’s leader, Joseph Kony, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity, is still on the loose.

In the December massacre, the L.R.A. killed more than 300 people in a brutal recruitment campaign near Niangara, in which a few dozen rebel fighters abducted hundreds of civilians, marching them in a human chain from village to village. Along the way, the fighters beat to death men, women and children they did not want to keep in their ranks.

“For anyone saying that the L.R.A. is finished, I would be careful not to count them out,” Mr. Holmes said. “They have an amazing capacity to regenerate themselves, especially by kidnapping children.”
Top UN man investigates massacre claims in DR Congo
From BBC News by THOMAS FESSY in DR Congo
03:48 GMT, Sunday, 2 May 2010 04:48 UK - excerpt:
Nearly half the people abducted by LRA were children, the UN says

Photo: Nearly half the people abducted were children, the UN says

A senior UN official says as many as 100 people were killed in the alleged attack, which is believed to have taken place in February.

John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, said on a visit to the country that an investigation was under way.

If the claims are true it would bring the number of people killed between December and March to more than 500.

Mr Holmes said rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army had carried out the massacre in the village of Kpanga in the north-east of the country, near the border with southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.

After visiting the remote town of Niangara, near the site of the alleged killings, Mr Holmes said an investigation had been launched to find out exactly what had happened.

It would bring the total number of people killed in DR Congo between December and March to more than 500.

The UN says that in the same period, more than 300 others - nearly half of them children - were abducted. An unknown number of villagers were also mutilated, according to the UN.

Among them is Marie Mbolihundele, who says she was held by three LRA rebels in a northern area of Niangara two weeks ago. She says they sliced her lips off and one of her ears.

"They ordered me to lie down on the ground and they told me I shouldn't scream or they would kill me," she said.

"I started to pray, and then they pulled my lips with pliers and cut them off with a knife. Then they told me to run, so I stood up and fled." (...)
An Indian peacekeeper from Monuc

Photo: An Indian peacekeeper from Monuc, the United Nations Mission in Congo, on patrol. (Photograph: Emmanuel Braun/Reuters) Source: see Guardian report here below

Lord's Resistance Army massacres up to 100 in Congolese village
From The Guardian
Sunday 02 May 2010 - excerpt:
Among recent victims Holmes met was Cornelia Yekpalile, a 23-year-old mother of four, who was mutilated 18 days ago when she went to fields near her village of Kpizimbi, set in dense forest in north-eastern Congo, to collect spinach-like pondu leaves to cook for lunch.
At Niangara hospital, where she is being cared for by Médecins sans Frontières, Yekpalile said she would not be going home when her wounds healed.

"There's no security in the villages," she said. "Here there are soldiers."

She said she had no idea why the rebels hacked off her lips and her right ear. "I was crying for mercy and crying 'Oh my God, oh my God, help me.' They said they would kill me if I carried on making a noise and then they did this," she said, pressing a bandage to a mouth covered in plaster.
UN says investigating LRA massacre of 100 in Congo
From The Washington Post
(Additional reporting and writing by David Lewis; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)
Sunday 02 May 2010; 10:38 AM - excerpt:
Leontine Masini, another resident, spoke of a six-month ordeal that ended when she escaped as the fighters were asleep.

"They take wooden sticks and ask those who have been captured to hit someone with that stick on the head. If you don't kill that person, you are being hit too," she said.

The 25 year-old said she had witnessed so many murders that "there is no way" to put a number on it. "I did hit people. I didn't kill them, so I got hit, too," she added.
UN reports massacre of 100 villagers in Congo
From The Associated Press by MICHELLE FAUL in NIANGARA, Congo
Sunday, 02 May 2010 - excerpt:
When Holmes visited the village of Mwenga on Friday, he was met by women singing a poignant song. "We are the living dead. They rape us! There's no life without women. There can be no Congo without women," they sang. Tears ran down the faces of some of the chanting women.

On Sunday, Holmes visits Mbandaka in northwest Congo, where a new rebellion has erupted. Enyele militiamen this month attacked U.N. peacekeepers guarding the airport, killing a Ghanaian peacekeeper and a South African pilot along with some 20 civilians.

That rebellion, in Equateur province, began between tribesmen fighting over farming and fishing rights. But the Enyele militiamen, in an Easter Sunday attack, targeted strategic and government locations. It took Congolese troops and U.N. peacekeepers two days' fighting to retake the airport. (...)

Mattia Novella, field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, said they see few wounded patients. "As I understand it, they do not wound, they kill, that's why we don't received many injured people."
Ugandan Rebels Kill 100 Civilians in Congo, UN Says (Update1)
From Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Sunday, 02 May 2010, 5:52 AM EDT
(Editors: Alastair Reed, Stephen Taylor.
To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Kavanagh in Kisangani at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at - excerpt:
The LRA has killed almost 1,800 Congolese civilians since 2007, including 407 since December, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The February attacks could bring the total above 500, it said. (...)

A joint military operation against the rebels by the Congolese and Ugandan armies began in December 2008, with the Ugandans getting support and training from the U.S. The offensive has weakened and scattered the LRA throughout northeastern Congo, southern Sudan and the Central African Republic, Holmes said. “Unfortunately, this scattering makes it even more dangerous than before,” he said.

The rebels are now traveling in groups of five to 10, attacking villages and threatening civilians, Holmes said. As many as 300,000 people have been displaced by LRA attacks and hundreds have been kidnapped, according to the OCHA. (...)

The region where the rebels operate is remote and hard to access, complicating efforts by the army and peacekeepers to secure villages and provide aid to the displaced.

The Congolese government has asked the UN peacekeepers to leave the country by 2011, something Holmes said would be detrimental to the fight against the LRA. “The presence of MONUC in the territory is essential in terms of protection of civilians,” he said.

“We’ve tried to finish this movement militarily many times. We’ve tried politically with a peace accord that wasn’t signed,” he said. “It’s up to the international community to come up with a solution to end this reign of terror.”
UN says Congo pull-out would undermine aid work
From The Washington Post
By THOMAS HUBERT (Reuters) in BUKAVU, DR Congo
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Maria Golovnina)
Saturday, 01 ‎May 2010‎ - excerpt:
Aid groups say Congo's national army is responsible for atrocities against the civilians they are charged to protect.

The U.N. is resisting pressure from Congolese President Joseph Kabila to start pulling out its force, known as MONUC, by the 50th anniversary of Congo's independence on June 30. (...)

U.N. peacekeepers have been in the central African nation since a 1998-2003 war that killed millions. The force has since grown in the world's largest global peacekeeping mission.

Congo's government says however that it is time for U.N. forces to pull out because of increasing evidence that its forces are prepared to fill the gap left by MONUC's departure.

During Holmes' visit to south Kivu, a region in Congo's east where Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels are active, a villager told him she was afraid of government forces in the next town.

"The 14th brigade, which is based in Kitutu and has a bad reputation, must be taken out for our protection," she told him.

Belgium's ambassador to Kinshasa, Dominique Struye de Swielande, said this month he was concerned about a hasty withdrawal of MONUC forces.
UN relief chief speaks out against Ugandan rebel violence in DR Congo
From UN News Centre - Saturday 01 May 2010 - excerpt:
In Niangara today, Mr. Holmes heard first-hand accounts from survivors, including one woman whose lips and ear had been torn off two days ago in a typically barbaric and inexplicable attack.

“This is unacceptable. We need a rapid solution to what has become a regional crisis,” he emphasized.

In meetings with authorities and humanitarian workers in the area, the official voiced concern that the possible drawdown of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MONUC, could have negative effects on the protection of civilians and on humanitarian access.

“MONUC is a deterrent for the LRA, and its presence is also essential to humanitarian operations in this province,” he stated. “I am concerned that their departure could increase the suffering of civilians, and reduce our ability to help them.”

Seven UN agencies and 23 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) carry out humanitarian work in Orientale Province's Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele districts, combined are home to at least 320,000 persons uprooted by LRA-related violence.

Due to the ongoing threat posed by the group's presence, the internally displaced persons (IDPs) have little prospects of returning home in the near future.

Aid workers have been able to reach nearly two-thirds of the displaced population, but face obstacles on a daily basis due to insecurity and the inaccessibility of many of the IDPs in an area with little or no road coverage.

Yesterday, Mr. Holmes visited uprooted people in Mwenga, approximately 80 kilometres south-west of the city of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province, also in northeast DRC.

“Civilians continue to suffer enormously and disproportionately in this armed conflict,” he said in Mwenga, where he helped launch a new feeding programme of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

North and South Kivu provinces have been ravaged by armed conflict mainly pitting DRC's national army against insurgents of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, better known as FDLR, the group's French acronym.

Local armed militias and bandits also contribute to insecurity in the two Kivu provinces, where an estimated 1.4 million people are internally displaced, more than 70 per cent of whom live with host families, increasing the burden on a population with already-scarce resources.
D.R. Congo: UN Humanitarian Chief Condemns LRA Violence
From United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Saturday 01 May 2010 (via ReliefWeb):
(Kinshasa/New York/Geneva, 01 May 2010): On the third day of his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes visited the troubled Haut-Uele District of Orientale Province, located in north-eastern DRC on the border with Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

"In this district, the Lord's Resistance Army [LRA] has continued to commit horrific atrocities against civilians, who are now displaced with no prospect of going back home any time soon", Mr. Holmes said after a visit to Niangara, located approximately 90 kilometres west of the district capital Dungu. "This is unacceptable. We need a rapid solution to what has become a regional crisis," he said.

The area was the scene of one of the worst massacres recently committed by the LRA. During the second week of December 2009, over 300 civilians were reportedly killed and over 250, including at least 80 children, kidnapped. Since December 2007, around 1,800 civilians are thought to have been killed by the LRA, and 2,400 abducted, throughout the province. In Niangara, Mr. Holmes was able to hear first hand appalling testimony from survivors, including one woman whose lips and ear had been torn off two weeks ago in a typically barbaric and inexplicable attack.

During meetings with authorities and humanitarians there and in the provincial capital Kisangani, Mr. Holmes expressed concern that the possible drawdown of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) would have negative effects on the protection of civilians and humanitarian access. "MONUC is a deterrent for the LRA, and its presence is also essential to humanitarian operations in this province", he stated. "I am concerned that their departure could increase the suffering of civilians, and reduce our ability to help them", he added.

In addition to the DRC, the LRA has attacked civilians in Southern Sudan and the CAR, since being driven out of Northern Uganda some years ago.

Seven United Nations entities and 23 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) carry out humanitarian work in the Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele districts. The districts host at least 320,000 persons internally displaced by LRA-related violence. Because of the continued threat posed by the LRA's presence, they have little prospects of returning home in the near future. Humanitarians have been able to assist an estimated 65% of the displaced population, but they face obstacles on a daily basis due to persistent insecurity and the inaccessibility of many of the displaced, in an area with little or no road coverage.

For further information, please call: OCHA Kinshasa: Maurizio Giuliano, +243 995 901 533,; Stefania Trassari, +243 99 2906637,; OCHA-New York: Stephanie Bunker, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 347 244 2106,; Nicholas Reader, +1 212 963 4961, mobile +1 646 752 3117,,
OCHA-Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs, +41 22 917 2653, mobile +41 79 473 4570,
OCHA press releases are available at or

The mission of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is to mobilize and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors [end of copy]

Friday, April 30, 2010

Top UN man in DR Congo mission as unrest escalates

John Holmes will meet president Joseph Kabila during five-day mission.

Top UN man in DR Congo mission as unrest escalates
From BBC News, Kinshasa
By Thomas Fessy at 22:59 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 23:59 UK:
The UN's top humanitarian official has flown into the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo as armed groups continue to spread insecurity.

John Holmes will travel to three provinces where humanitarian workers face increasingly difficult conditions.

He will also visit a region where tens of thousands of people have reportedly been forced to flee their homes.

Human rights abuses such as rapes and lootings are reported regularly in the country.

Fighting and banditry

Mr Holmes will visit the Kivu region, where a military campaign backed by the UN against Rwandan Hutu rebels has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Aid workers say better protection for civilians was promised at the end of similar joint military operations last year.

But, in reality, human rights abuses such as rapes and lootings are reported regularly.

And, they say, displacements of populations are constant. The situation is becoming increasingly difficult for humanitarian workers whose operations have been restricted by fighting and banditry.

As a result, thousands of people in need are left with no assistance.

Mr Holmes is also travelling to the north-eastern part of the country, where attacks by Ugandan rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army on villages are still frequent.

His Congo tour will eventually take him to the western province of Equateur, where a recent insurgency by Enyele fighters has pushed thousands of people into the bush.

The Congolese authorities have asked the UN mission to prepare for a withdrawal; Mr Holmes will be discussing civilian protection issues with President Joseph Kabila on Monday.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

DR Congo: More than 8,000 women were raped during fighting in 2009, the UN says

Women in DR Congo are being escorted to market by UN troops.

UN official calls DR Congo 'rape capital of the world'
From BBC News online at 16:50 GMT, Wednesday, 28 April 2010 17:50 UK:
The Democratic Republic of Congo is "the rape capital of the world", a senior UN official has said.

Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence in conflict, urged the Security Council to punish the perpetrators in DR Congo.

Rape remained a dominant feature of the ongoing conflict in eastern DR Congo, with impunity being the rule rather than the exception, she said.

More than 8,000 women were raped during fighting in 2009, the UN says.

"Women have no rights, if those who violate their rights go unpunished," Ms Wallstrom told the UN Security Council on her return from DR Congo.

"If women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced," she said.

The UN mission in DR Congo, Monuc, has been trying to deal with the problem by escorting women on their way to market, developing early warning systems and working with local officials, according to a UN statement.

In April, research on sexual violence in DR Congo's eastern South Kivu province produced shocking findings.

The report by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative showed that 60% of rape victims in South Kivu were gang raped by armed men, more than half of the assaults took place in the victims' homes and an increasing number of attacks were being carried out by civilians.

Eastern DR Congo is still plagued by army and militia violence despite the end of the country's five-year war in 2003.

Monuc troops have been backing efforts to defeat rebels linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, who are operating in eastern DR Congo.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Enough Project: Florida Students Turn to Facebook to Find Congressional Champion for Congo

Copy of Enough Project Press Release:

April 19, 2010

Jonathan Hutson, Enough Project, 857-919-5130

Florida Students Turn to Facebook To Find Congressional Champion for Congo

Enough Project campaign uses social media to ask Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to Change the Equation for Congo

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On April 19, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) will find some new faces on his/her official Facebook page, as part of an innovative human rights campaign to "
Change the Equation for Congo."

Enough Project, local partners and student advocacy groups are launching a five-day effort to gain ten new Congressional sponsors for the Conflict Minerals Trade Act, using
Facebook, Twitter, and viral videos. On each of the five days, grassroots supporters will focus on two of the targeted representatives, posting messages on their Facebook walls urging them to co-sponsor the bill, while tweeting this same message and using other innovative social media tools to spread the word.

The Conflict Minerals Trade Act is a bi-partisan bill that, if passed into law, will give consumers a choice to purchase conflict-free electronics products. It must pass through two powerful committees, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, before it can be put to a vote in the full House of Representatives. Each of the ten representatives targeted by Change the Equation for Congo is a member of one of these committees.

Along with the Enough Project and partners, local student advocacy groups will be driving the Change the Equation for Congo effort. Among the participating local groups are chapters of the student-led anti-genocide project STAND from Florida, Arizona, California and other states across the nation.

"We're seeking ten new Congressional champions, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to co-sponsor the Conflict Minerals Trade Act," said John Norris, Executive Director of the Enough Project at Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. "This bipartisan bill will help take the fuel out of the conflict by giving consumers a choice to buy conflict-free cell phones and other electronics. Human rights advocates, faith groups and electronics manufacturers alike have praised the bill as a vital step toward creating a practical and enforceable means to end the conflict minerals trade that funds mass atrocities in Congo."

Student groups in Representative Ros-Lehtinen's district have been vocal in pushing for support of the Conflict Minerals Trade Act.

Marilyn Winkle, Florida state representative of the student anti-genocide group STAND says; "It's critical that we urge our congressional leaders to support this bill before another legislative cycle passes. The people of the Congo deserve it."

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, northern Uganda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, contact Jonathan Hutson, jhutson [AT], 857-919-5130.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Economist is looking for a new Africa correspondent to be based in London

Africa correspondent
From The Economist print edition 15 April 2010:
The Economist is looking for a new Africa correspondent to be based in London, to edit and commission articles, to write on African issues, and to report from any part of the continent. Please send applications, including a covering letter, cv and two past articles, to by May 3rd.
Where is the Telegraph's David Blair these days, I wonder. He'd do a great job as Africa correspondent for The Economist. I miss his reporting on Africa.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eight Red Cross staff kidnapped near Fizi in South Kivu by Mai Mai Yakutumba militia

Red Cross: 8 staff kidnapped in eastern Congo
From The Associated Press, Tuesday, 13 April 2010:
GENEVA - Eight Red Cross staff have been kidnapped by an armed group in eastern Congo, the international aid agency said Tuesday.

The seven Congolese and one Swiss national were seized Friday afternoon near the town of Fizi in South Kivu province by the Mai Mai Yakutumba rebels, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva.

"The ICRC has been able to get in touch with some of our colleagues after the incident," spokesman Marcal Izard told The Associated Press.

He declined to say whether the Red Cross is in contact with the kidnappers.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the situation and was in touch with the Red Cross and Congolese authorities.

The Red Cross has several offices in South Kivu, which like much of eastern Congo has been wracked by violence since the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda spilled war across the border. The shadowy Mai Mai militia is one of many armed groups in the area. Their fighters have been seen using rudimentary weapons like spears and their group is believed to value mysticism.

In early 2009, a top rebel leader from another militia was arrested and the Congolese government began a campaign to integrate all militias, including the Mai Mai, into the national army.

"It is in order to protect and assist armed-conflict victims that we have been carrying out our activities in the area," said Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC's mission in Congo.

"We continue to insist that the strictly neutral, impartial and humanitarian nature of our work be recognized, and that our colleagues be able to return to their loved ones soon," he said in a statement.

Staff of the neutral aid group have also been targeted for kidnapping in other conflict regions recently.

Three foreign Red Cross workers were kidnapped in the Philippines last year, and French staff members were seized in Chad and Sudan. All have since been released.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Uganda enlists ex-rebel forces to end a war

Ugandan soldiers on patrol in the Congo

Ugandan soldiers on patrol in the Congo look for tracks of the Lord’s Resistance Army in late March 2010. Former rebels of the LRA have now been given the mission to hunt down their one-time boss Joseph Kony and his remaining forces. (Jeffrey Gettleman / New York Times News Service)

Uganda enlists ex-rebel forces to end a war
By Jeffrey Gettleman / New York Times News Service
Published: April 11. 2010 4:00AM PST
OBO, Central African Republic — The night is inky, the helicopters are late and Cmdr. Patrick Opiyo Makasi sits near a dying cooking fire on a remote army base, spinning his thoughts into the darkness.

“It was either them or me,” Makasi said of the countless people he has killed. “Them or me.”

The Lord’s Resistance Army, a notoriously brutal rebel group, snatched him from a riverbank when he was 12 years old, more than 20 years ago, and trained him to burn, pillage and slaughter. His name, Makasi, means scissors in Kiswahili, and fellow soldiers said he earned it by shearing off ears and lips.

But now he has a new mission: hunting down his former boss.

In an unorthodox strategy that could help end this seemingly pointless war, the Ugandan army is deploying special squads of experienced killers to track down the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, one of the most wanted men in Africa, who has been on the run for more than 20 years.

These soldiers, like Makasi, are former LRA fighters themselves, and just about all of them were abducted as children. They recently surrendered and are now wading through black rivers and head-high elephant grass across three of the most troubled countries in the world — the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan — where the last remnants of the LRA are believed to be hiding. They say they know all of Kony’s tricks.

Some critics may not think this wise, putting so much trust in men whose moral compass had been turned upside down for so long.

But the Ugandan government is desperate to finish this conflict, which has raged for more than two decades and killed thousands. The government’s policy is to grant amnesty to all LRA fighters except the top three, who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court: Kony; Okot Odhiambo, his deputy; and Dominic Ongwen, another commander who is widely believed to have planned a massacre in Congo in December in which hundreds of civilians were bludgeoned to death.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Security Council Report: Seeking a New Compact: Resolution 1906 and the Future of MONUC

Security Council Report has published a Special Research Report: Seeking a New Compact: Resolution 1906 and the Future of MONUC.

In April the Security Council will undertake a mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and neighbouring countries. The main issue under consideration will be the future role of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC and the development of a new vision for it that will help to build a new compact with the DRC government acceptable to both the government and the Council. At the heart of this exercise will be resolution 1906, which the Council adopted in December 2009 to extend the mandate of the mission until the end of May. At this crucial time, we offer an in-depth analysis of this long and complex text.

Special Research Report in PDF


Security Council Report
One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
885 2nd Avenue @ 48th St, 31st Fl
New York NY 10017

T: 212.759.9429 F: 212.759.4038

Monday, April 05, 2010

DR Congo attack kills two UN workers

Heavily armed rebels attacked the town of Mbandaka and overran the airport, UN officials said, killing a Ghanaian peacekeeper and another UN employee.

The BBC's Thomas Fessy in Kinshasa says the joint operation to retake the airport, launched by Congolese and UN troops, has been suspended overnight, and should resume in the early hours of the morning.

DR Congo attack kills two UN workers

Full story: BBC News, Monday, 05 April 2010 -
DR Congo attack kills two UN workers

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

UN probe into alleged massacre in remote northeast of DR Congo continues

UN probe into alleged massacre in remote northeast of DR Congo continues
From UN News Centre, 29 March 2010:
LRA attacks in DR Congo

Photo: Refugees who fled LRA attacks in DRC being registered in Gangura, southern Sudan

United Nations inquiries are continuing into a recent massacre of civilians in the remote northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), reportedly by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a UN spokesperson confirmed today.

The killings are reported to have occurred in the village of Mabanga in December, and human rights groups say at least 320 people were murdered. Machetes, axes and heavy wooden sticks were apparently used to carry out the killings.

Martin Nesirky, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, told reporters in New York that the UN cannot confirm the exact number of victims until the formal investigation by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (known as MONUC) has been completed.

The extreme remoteness of the area and the fact that witnesses may have moved were delaying efforts to gather reliable information, he said.

Mr. Nesirky said that MONUC strives to provide protection to all civilians in the area, but given the vast size of the territory, peacekeepers were only able to concentrate their efforts on the most populated areas.

The mission, however, continued to provide support to Government troops carrying out operations against the LRA, a notorious rebel group formed in Uganda in the 1980s whose leaders have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges.

Asked about MONUC’s strategy in dealing with the LRA, whose members often cross the border into the DRC and other neighbouring countries, Mr. Nesirky noted that the head of MONUC, Alan Doss, had reiterated that the area involved was equivalent to the size of Spain and protecting all civilians at all times was not feasible.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ben Affleck launches the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI)

Press Release from Eastern Congo Initiative
Ben Affleck Launches Initiative to Support Local Solutions in Eastern Congo
LOS ANGELES, 22 March 2010 /PRNewswire:
Actor, director and advocate Ben Affleck today announced the launch of the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), an advocacy and grant-making initiative with the mission of helping the Congolese people support local community-based approaches that create a sustainable and successful society in the long-troubled region. ECI is the first U.S. based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo.

In founding ECI, Affleck brings together a unique coalition of partners from across the public and private sectors who are interested in helping the people of eastern Congo create abundant opportunities for economic and social development, so that civil society can flourish. Additional founding members include Howard G. Buffett, Humanity United, the Bridgeway Foundation, Jewish World Watch and others.

ECI will support community-based organizations (CBOs) that are applying local solutions in the areas of:

Support for survivors of rape and sexual violence

Returning and reintegrating child soldiers into their communities

Community-level peace and reconciliation programs

Increasing access to health care and education

Promoting economic opportunity

ECI will support the development of CBOs through grants and capacity-building support. ECI will also work to raise awareness among policymakers and the media in the U.S. and Europe about the ongoing challenges in the region, and share the stories of hope found there through and the use of multimedia.

“The situation in eastern Congo has been neglected for far too long – it is one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in the world,” said Affleck, who returned today from a five-day trip to the region. “I brought together this unique collection of partners in order to bring their experience in humanitarian relief and sustainable development to bear as we focus like never before on local solutions to challenges in this region. Right now, the attention paid to this crisis doesn’t match the needs of those affected by it. We will raise that attention level, and work with the extraordinary Congolese people who are making a positive difference in their own communities.”

Ambassador Faida Mitifu, the Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the United States and a member of ECI’s Advisory Committee, congratulated ECI on its launch today, saying, “The Eastern Congo Initiative will help to bring much-needed attention to a region that has suffered for too long. An approach that focuses on community-based solutions and highlights the vision of local organizations that serve those affected by conflict is essential. We applaud Ben and the founding members for their foresight and commitment and look forward to working closely with the Eastern Congo Initiative. “

ECI has developed an advocacy and grant-making framework that focuses on maximizing impact. ECI has a team in the region whose primary objective is conducting extensive research to evaluate and support CBOs and prioritize advocacy efforts for long-term sustainability.

“I joined Ben in this effort because I believe strongly in investing in sustainable solutions to humanitarian challenges,” said Howard Buffett, ECI Founding Member, businessman and philanthropist. “My experience is that when you support locally initiated efforts, you lay a foundation for change that lasts long after relief agencies have left. I’m confident in Ben’s ability to bring a coalition of partners together who will influence a broader diplomatic strategy, increase philanthropic investment and foster coordination among the many organizations already doing great work in the region.”

More than a decade of conflict, political instability and poverty have left eastern Congo, its infrastructure, productive land and institutions decimated to the point that the government cannot provide for the basic food, health, education and security needs of its population. The DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 179th out of 182 on the UN’s Human Development Index.

Interethnic violence, since the 1994 Rwandan genocide spilled over into eastern Congo, has claimed the lives of more than five million people. It has forced millions more Congolese from their homes, villages and farms, resulting in widespread poverty and insecurity. Despite a 2008 peace agreement between 22 militias – many best-known for their practices of forced-recruitment of child soldiers and employing sexual violence as a weapon – sporadic violence continues to terrorize people in the region and hamper relief and development efforts. The UN reported in January that an estimated 160 women are raped each week in the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo, and that 30 percent of those in need of assistance in the region are inaccessible to international NGOs because of poor roads and insecurity.

In 2006, the country held its first democratic elections in 40 years. It has a new constitution that dramatically increases local representation and the rule of law, and will hold its next election in 2011. The UN and several international NGOs are on the ground providing security and humanitarian support. The Congolese people have formed community-based organizations to offer locally developed solutions to some of the most challenging legacies of conflict and human rights abuse in the region.

ECI takes the position that increasing attention to what is working in Congo – which investments are creating economic opportunities and, how communities are healing, shining a light on human rights abuses, and supporting public/private partnerships will have a positive and lasting impact.

More information including images and videos about ECI, and background on the crisis and the people and organizations making a difference in the region can be found at

About the Eastern Congo Initiative:

Founded in 2010 by Ben Affleck, the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) charity registered in the United States. Additional founding members include: Howard G. Buffett, Humanity United, the Bridgeway Foundation, Jewish World Watch and others.

The Eastern Congo Initiative is an advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. ECI provides support for Congolese organizations working to develop community-based approaches that create a sustainable and successful society in eastern Congo.

SOURCE: Eastern Congo Initiative

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Congolese mines’ harsh human toll is no deep, dark secret

Many mines are controlled by armed groups that ransack the land’s resources to buy weapons, robbing the country of tax revenues, and creating a situation the United Nations Security Council describes as “the world’s leading example of the financial losses and human suffering caused by illegal trafficking in natural resources.’’

From The Boston Globe
Mines’ harsh human toll is no deep, dark secret
Congo’s resources ransacked for minerals used in high-tech devices

Congo’s resources ransacked for minerals used in high-tech devices

Photo credit: Finbarr O’Reilly /Reuters

By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / March 15, 2010
In the heart of central Africa, an exhausted young man toils at a dangerous job: digging up bits of minerals from the earth. While he earns little for his efforts, soldiers that illegally control the mine reap the profits. The fruits of his labor are smuggled to neighboring countries, sold to multinational companies, and processed into metals that end up in cellphones, computers, and digital cameras.

That is the scenario portrayed by advocacy groups that say the illicit trade of minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo is fueling violence and human rights abuses.

Many mines are controlled by armed groups that ransack the land’s resources to buy weapons, robbing the country of tax revenues, and creating a situation the United Nations Security Council describes as “the world’s leading example of the financial losses and human suffering caused by illegal trafficking in natural resources.’’

The destruction may be happening more than 6,500 miles away, but it’s closer to home than many people realize, according to the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. “Ultimately, our cellphones, laptops, and other consumer electronics have been feeding into this war,’’ said David Sullivan, a researcher with the group.

The road from rural mines to retail store shelves where such electronic devices are sold is long and twisted, and until recently most US consumers knew nothing about it.

That is slowly changing.

Several efforts are underway to shed more light on the supply chain that leads to the cellphone in your pocket and the laptop on your desk.

US Representatives Barney Frank of Newton, James P. McGovern of Worcester, and Michael E. Capuano of Somerville support the Conflict Minerals Trade Act, which would require companies to certify whether their goods contain minerals that originate from conflict areas of Congo. The measure focuses on gold, cassiterite, wolframite, and columbite-tantalite (also known as coltan), minerals common in consumer electronics products.

The bill was introduced in November by US Representative Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington state who hopes it will raise awareness. “I’m always worried about what’s going on there,’’ said McDermott. “Central Africa is a black hole in the earth for most people.’’

McDermott’s legislation highlights problems that have long plagued Congo, a country that holds vast amounts of mineral wealth, but remains one of the poorest nations in the world. In the eastern part of the country, illegal Congolese and foreign militia groups have run rampant for years. They have kidnapped and forced civilians to work as laborers, soldiers, and sex slaves. Men and boys are also exploited through debt bondage, and coerced into working in mines for extremely low wages, according to the State Department. Such armed groups “are simply stealing ore and selling it to the international market,’’ said McDermott, and “everyone who has a cellphone has a piece of the action.’’

Similar legislation was introduced last April by US Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, and Democratic Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Their measure would require companies to disclose their use of Congolese minerals to the Securities and Exchange Commission every year. So far three senators from New England — Patrick J. Leahy and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — have signed on as cosponsors.

Congress also recently passed a defense budget that calls for the State Department to create a map of mineral-rich areas that are under the control of armed groups in Congo.

In April, manufacturers and processors of tantalum — a high-performance metal used in many electronic devices — will convene in Boston to brainstorm on ways they can specify the source of tantalum responsibly. The gathering is being sponsored by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, an association of 40 global companies that includes Apple Inc., Dell Inc., Intel Corp., EMC Corp., and Best Buy.

The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition and another industry group, the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, are working to develop a way to certify smelters who obtain tantalum through “socially and environmentally responsible mines’’ in Congo and surrounding countries.

The meeting will be hosted by Cabot Corp., a Boston company that is one of the world’s leading producers of tantalum products.

Andrew O’Donovan, general manager of Cabot’s supermetals division, said the industry coalition is trying to eliminate conflict minerals from the supply chain without freezing out legitimate suppliers in the region.

There are some legitimate mining operations in Congo that are “just trying to make a living like the rest of us,’’ said O’Donovan. But “today there is no system in place to determine the good from the bad,’’ he said.

Cabot officials say they do not get any tantalum from Congo, and have no plans to. The company also avoids tantalum from the Republic of Congo, Zambia, Burundi, and Rwanda.

O’Donovan estimates that the Democratic Republic of Congo supplies 10 percent to 15 percent of the world’s tantalum. “It’s hard to know what they supply, because so much leaks out,’’ he said.

Congolese minerals are two to three times cheaper than those mined in other countries, according to Donovan. That’s partly because large quantities of columbite-tantalite (a source of tantalum) can be found close to the surface of the earth in that region of Africa. Also, the lack of regulation and enforcement, combined with the nation’s poverty-stricken population, make labor cheap.

Since 2002, when the UN released an early report on the illicit trade of Congolese minerals, Cabot officials said they have repeatedly reminded customers and investors that they get tantalum from mines in Canada, Australia, and Mozambique. But none of those mines are now operating. Cabot recently suspended its mining operation in Canada, and the company that owns the mine in Mozambique did the same. In Australia, Talison Minerals ceased its mining operations (which supplied 30 percent of the world’s tantalum) in December 2008.

The recent mine closings will not affect Cabot’s operations, according to Susannah Robinson, director of Cabot’s investor relations, because the company has a large stockpile on hand.

“We have an adequate supply [of tantalum] to meet our needs,’’ she said.

Last year, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative commissioned Resolve Inc., a nonprofit based in Washington, to map the supply chain for tin, tantalum, and cobalt (a mineral used in batteries and magnetic recording media). The group only managed to trace one particular cobalt supply chain from start to finish, according to Resolve’s president, Steve D’Esposito.

Such efforts are a good start to addressing the trade of conflict minerals, said Sullivan, the researcher with the Enough Project. “You look at the last year, and much more has happened over the past year than the last nine years,’’ he said.

Still, Sullivan is concerned about the recent mine closings, and worries it could lead to the another “coltan rush,’’ like the one that took place in Congo a decade ago.

Consumer pressure, as well as increased commitment from companies, will be key to solving the problem, according to Sullivan.

“Companies are starting to look into their supply chains,’’ he said, “but we’d like them to do it with more urgency and resources.’’

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rwanda joins Commonwealth

Rwanda joins Commonwealth

President Kagame was in London this week as Rwanda took the latest step in its development journey as its flag was officially raised alongside those of 54 other Commonwealth nations. The move is hailed by Rwandans as an example of their openness to the world and determination to play a full role in the global community.

Full story: Tony Blair sends congratulations as Rwanda formally joins Commonwealth Thursday, Mar 11, 2010.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

UK Minister for Africa Baroness Kinnock makes inaugural visit to DR Congo

Here are some photos of British government minister Baroness Kinnock on her first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as Minister for Africa.

During her visit Baroness Kinnock met with Prime Minister Muzito and other key ministers to discuss, amongst other issues, the upcoming elections in 2011.

The UK is one of the largest bilateral donors to the DRC, providing support for stabilisation in the East as well as for governance, elections and police reform.

Minister for Africa makes inaugural visit to DRC

Photo: Minister for Africa makes inaugural visit to DRC (Photo credit: UK FCO)

Visit to DR Congo

Photo: Visit to DR Congo (Photo credit: UK FCO)

Muslim community in DRC

Photo: Muslim community in DRC (Photo credit: UK FCO)

Women activists in DRC

Photo: Women activists in DRC (Photo credit: UK FCO)

Minister for Africa makes inaugural visit to DRC
From UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Tuesday, 23 February 2010:
Baroness Kinnock makes her first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as Minister for Africa.

Baroness Kinnock, FCO minister with responsibility for Africa, visited Kinshasa and South Kivu as part of a wider visit to the region.

During her visit Baroness Kinnock met with Prime Minister Muzito and other key ministers to discuss, amongst other issues, the upcoming elections in 2011.

Baroness Kinnock also visited a Muslim community NGO, COMICO, which focuses on capacity building for Muslim women in the DRC. This was followed by a roundtable discussion with a number of MPs and NGOs focusing on women's rights.

Speaking during her visit, Baroness Kinnock said:

'The women in the eastern region of Congo have suffered the most terrible sexual abuse and violence and they suffer from terrible psychological trauma as well as physical problems of unimaginable kind. They need to feel that there’s some justice, that there is some way of dealing with the perpetrators of that violence, and those are the kind of issues that we need to keep raising. We need to see reform of many aspects of the institutions in Congo and I think whatever efforts we can make to support them, alongside the European Union, the United Nations and others, then we’re really up for doing that.'

The Minister was hosted by the British Embassy in Kinshasa, which won ‘Team of the Year’ at the UK Civil Service Awards in 2008 for its joined up approach with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence.

Later in the week, the Minister will travel to the east of the country, where she will visit the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), a water and sanitation project and Panzi hospital, which specialises in treating victims of gender based violence.
Glenys Kinnock said:

'When I’m in eastern Congo I will be meeting with the army, both the Congolese army and the United Nations forces, and talking about how they intend to review the way that they see the process of moving forward in Congo.'

The UK is one of the largest bilateral donors to the DRC, providing support for stabilisation in the East as well as for governance, elections and police reform.

Further information

DRC Embassy website

Glenys Kinnock on BBC News (23 Feb 2010)

Glenys Kinnock on BBC World News (22 Feb 2010)

Lord Malloch-Brown, previous Minister for Africa, visited DRC in November 2008.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

UK gov't job vacancy: A2 Statistics Adviser based within World Bank Nairobi Country Office, Kenya

Seen on twitter:
RT with correct link #DFIDjobs New vacancy: Statistics Adviser, Kenya. Apply now: Closing date: 27 Feb
6:29 AM Feb 5th from HootSuite
Based within the World Bank Nairobi Country Office, you will support the KNBS reform process, the design/implementation of the next KNBS strategic plan, and lead the sector's donor co-ordination. The closing date for applications is 27 February 2010. LAST UPDATED: 28 JAN 2010. Click here for specific vacancy information [PDF - 88 KB] and apply online.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Back to Africa: A new Haitian homeland?

If a proposal under consideration by the African Union this week were to bear fruit, Haitians made homeless by the earthquake could start afresh in a new homeland in Africa.

From The Independent (UK)
By Leo Hornak
Monday, 1 February 2010
Back to Africa: A new Haitian homeland?
African Union (AU) President Jean Ping yesterday announced that the idea of resettling displaced Haitians in Africa would be part of the AU's formal agenda during its annual summit this week. According to Mr Ping, Haiti's history as a creation of the slave trade and the world's first black republic creates a special obligation for African Union members.

"It is out of a sense of duty and memory and solidarity that we can further the proposal ... to create in Africa the conditions for the return of Haitians," said Mr Ping. The idea of a new Haitian homeland in Africa was originally suggested by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade last month, and now appears to be gathering momentum. As a first step, Mr Wade has asked African governments to naturalise any Haitians who wish to emigrate to their country, and to encourage African families to adopt Haitian children orphaned in the earthquake.

It would not be the first time that a new African state has been created to house the descendants of slaves from the new world. In 1847, the American Colonisation Society, an unlikely coalition of abolitionists and slave owners, created Liberia with the same aim in mind. Thousands of former slaves and their descendants eventually made the journey from the US to west Africa. Little care was taken to protect the rights of the tribes already living in the territory, however, and Liberian society has been divided between settler and indigenous communities ever since – indigenous Liberians were only given the vote in 1963.

Mr Wade has also referred to the Middle East as a model for his Haitian project. Speaking to Euronews last week he said: "It's not asking too much to transplant those who want it. Israel was desert. Palestine was desert. People were transplanted who today are building a country."

The resettlement idea also raises questions about whether many African countries have the resources to support a large influx of impoverished Haitian refugees, or would be willing to give up territory for a new state. Senegal has some points of cultural contact with Haiti, but it is far from wealthy. In 2009, Senegal was rated 166 out of 177 on the UN's Human Development Index. Haiti was 17 places higher at 149.
Click on label here below for related news.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

DR Congo & Rwanda - Land disputes at the root of African wars

Land disputes at the root of African wars

A selection of the African continent's fights over land that have turned into violent, conflict, or threaten to.

From The Christian Science Monitor
By Jina Moore Correspondent, 30 January 2010
Land battles that sparked African conflicts

Western Sudan (Darfur) In the 1970s, the government eliminated the country's native administration – a quasi-government and colonial holdover of traditional elders – and rejected traditional land rights, depriving Darfur's pastoralists of access to grazing lands. When famine exacerbated disputes about land in the 1980s, violence broke out. Land grievances were never resolved, and in 2003, a rebel movement made up in part of disenfranchised former landholders revolted against the Sudanese government, which retaliated by arming bands of camel herders known as janjaweed to repress the rebellion – and promising them hefty tracts of the land, emptied in the course of the violence the militia unleashed.

The Democratic Republic of Congo Often called Africa's most deadly conflict, violence in parts of the northeast started over grazing cows in1999, when Hema herders evicted Lendu farmers after purchasing their land. Eviction grievances led both tribes to pick up weapons. As violence spread, the value of other mineral-rich lands contributed to the chaos in which 5 million people have died.

Ethiopia and Eritrea A 1998 dispute over the dusty border town of Badme turned into all-out war, with 80,000 deaths in two years. The town became the flash point of an older argument over the border between the two countries. Both sides saw Badme as a symbol of their real economic concern: power over the port of Assab, the Red Sea trade gateway. Despite international court rulings, the countries consider the border dispute unresolved – and their presidents often rally support by threatening to resume the fight.

Kenya Many indigenous tribes lost rights to traditional lands when the British privatized land holdings. When Joseph Kenyatta, the first postcolonial president, sought land redistribution, he gave the most fertile to his Kikuyu tribe. In a later backlash, many Kikuyu were pushed off their pastures. This created ethnic land grievances that have inspired violence during Kenya's elections since the 1990s, most recently after President Mwai Kabaki, a Kikuyu, was accused of stuffing ballot boxes in 2007.

Rwanda The 1994 genocide may have been catalyzed as much by land scarcity as by ethnic tension. Africa's most densely populated country found itself nearly without enough land to make farmers trust that they and their children could support themselves. Though the slaughter of minority Tutsis was also ethnically motivated, land fears played no small part in the violence.

Zimbabwe Land grievances helped fuel the 12-year war that led to independence in 1979. But recent violence stems from land reform efforts. In the name of economic fairness, President Robert Mugabe seized white farms and turned them over to blacks, primarily government officials who knew little about farming. As a result, agricultural production plummeted, food became scarce, and inflation spiked. Mugabe held power in a 2008 election only with violent intimidation of Zimbabweans.

Combustible land disputes that could erupt in conflict

Burundi The past decade brought the return of more than a half-million refugees who'd fled violence that began with independence in 1963. Many found their homes occupied – and because laws give ownership to anyone who has peacefully occupied land for at least 30 years, many refugees lost their homes and livelihoods. Experts fear the grievance could spark renewed conflict.

South Africa At the 1994 transition to democracy, the government planned to redistribute 30 percent of white-owned farms to blacks within 20 years. Transfers are behind schedule, and more than half have failed. After an outbreak of racial violence last year, observers fear the status quo – with expectations so high, progress so slow, and livelihoods at stake – is combustible.

Southern Sudan The 2005 peace agreement that ended a 20-year fight for the south didn't resolve tensions between the nation's two land systems. Private property reform implemented in the north was rejected in the south, which continues to use traditional rules. Danger of a potential clash between parallel systems is amplified by what's at stake: The south is oil-rich.

Uganda After 20 years of violence in the north, peace is bringing people home – and disputes are erupting over who owns property. Eighty percent of Ugandans have property claims based on the traditional land system, but a generation of conflict has weakened the traditional authority, of elders to resolve disputes or enforce land rules. As the government steps in to fill the power vacuum, experts fear a backlash.

Zambia White farmers forced off land in neighboring countries, found fertile soils here, and were initially welcomed by the government (five years ago). The tone changed as some immigrant farmers agitated locals by putting down roots on traditional lands. New arrivals, especially those fleeing Zimbabwe, are closely scrutinized. Observers fear deepening tensions.

Related Stories

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paul Kagame speaks to This is Africa about Rwanda’s remarkable success story

From The Office of Tony Blair
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The following interview with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda appeared in the latest edition of This is Africa.
“A lot is changing. The voices of Africa are becoming more pronounced. There is insistence on Africa being taken seriously by Africans themselves, and Africans are trying to assert themselves and not only say the right things but also be seen to be doing the right things”

International capital investment will be vital for African development, but governance reform should be indigenously driven and not imposed by external actors, says Rwandan president Paul Kagame.

Mr Kagame, a softly-spoken former soldier, assumed power in 2000 and since then has overseen one of Africa’s – if not the world’s – most compelling stories of economic growth. Since the turn of the millennium, Rwanda’s GDP growth has averaged more than 7 percent per year. In the past five years the rate of that growth had been increasing, hitting a high of 11.2 percent in 2008, until the effects of the global economic downturn began to impact on the country, curtailing growth to 5.3 percent in 2009.

Underpinning this growth have been sustained private sector reforms that have attracted inward investment into agriculture and telecommunications. The World Bank’s 2010 “Doing Business” report, which tracks global business regulation, put Rwanda at the top of the reform table, stating that Kigali had lowered more barriers to investment than anywhere else in the world. It is this success that has elevated Mr Kagame to a platform from which he has been able to broadcast his message of self-determination with confidence and credibility. Aid, he has prescribed, is not working in its current form. It is through investment that the continent will develop, and the reform process that its governments undergo must be pushed by domestic factors, not by conditionality imposed by donors.

He acknowledges that the gulf between the perception of the continent and the reality on the ground is a massive challenge in terms of courting this investment. Rwanda perhaps suffers more than anywhere else in this regard. In 1994 the country was torn apart by a genocide that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead and whose aftershocks still contribute to ethnic tensions and instability in the region. The tragedy also imprinted on the Western consciousness an image of suffering that still endures 15 years later. Bridging that gap is, to some extent, a domestic issue, he says, “But it’s also the task for those from outside to pick up the right signals and to change their own perceptions about Africa, and also about the kind of relationship that has to exist between Africa and the rest of the world.”

In a Financial Times article in May 2009, Mr Kagame condemned the “sentimentality” of the G20 and other multilaterals in their discussions on Africa, as well as the prevalence of the donor-recipient model in international relations with the continent. However, that relationship is already maturing, he says. “I think a lot is changing. The voices of Africa are becoming more pronounced. There is insistence on Africa being taken seriously by Africans themselves, and Africans are trying to assert themselves and not only say the right things but also be seen to be doing the right things,” he says. “I also see the emergence of a new approach and attitude from outside of Africa from the rest of the world. There are certain realities that people are learning from… people are discovering that on their side there are a lot of things they need to do, for their own benefit and for their own countries, in Europe or America.”

This understanding of mutual self-interest is increasingly significant not only between the continent and its international partners, Mr Kagame says. The growing potency of the African Union and regional economic bodies, as well as their apparent willingness to step in to resolve disputes, is an encouraging sign. Mr Kagame’s Rwanda has made steps towards reconciliation with the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Kigali’s role in the region’s conflicts since the end of the genocide has been much criticised, but the past 12 months have seen an unprecedented degree of cooperation between the two nations. Diplomatic sources in Kinshasa say that there is a strong sense of buy-in from both sides of the border, which suggests that progress is being made on one of Africa’s most intractable areas of conflict.

Mr Kagame sees this as symptomatic of the growing understanding amongst leaders and civilians that they have an individual stake in regional stability. “We are working together at government level and we are also encouraging business to happen across borders. I think the people of Congo are beginning to realise that indeed they benefit more by working with people beyond their borders, rather than keeping their problems to themselves or blaming their problems on outside [influences].”

The thoughtfully controversial stance on aid perhaps demonstrates the kind of interlocutor that Mr Kagame wants to become on the world stage: conciliatory in his willingness to take responsibility for regional problems, but similarly unafraid to pick up on what he sees as hypocrisy in Western discourse. However, he seemed to break this façade recently in his public comments on Chinese investment into Africa. In an interview with Handelsblatt, the German newspaper, Mr Kagame was quoted as saying that China’s involvement was almost overwhelmingly positive, and stood in stark contrast to Western efforts.

Today, Mr Kagame insists that his support was not as unequivocal as has been reported, and he appears genuinely disappointed that the more nuanced message he favours has not come through. Instead, the comments have been built into a far less maturely argued controversy, with the president being cast as an apologist for China. The recurrent criticisms of China’s human rights record and the notion that its lack of conditionality fuel governance failures in Africa were revived. Why, one accusation went, should Mr Kagame accept investments from China while China invests in Guinea and Guinea is in political turmoil following a coup d’etat?

Notwithstanding the difficulty of establishing a causal link between Guinea’s troubles and China’s investment, Mr Kagame suggests there is an inherent hypocrisy in the suggestion that there is a choice between two opposing and mutually exclusive poles, whose approach is characterised by equally divergent views on governance and democracy.

“If that point was being taken seriously, China shouldn’t be allowed to invest in the West… or the West should not be investing in China because China is doing wrong things in Guinea,” he says with a faint smile. “My argument on this has been not to judge China or judge the West. I want to focus on Africa itself, so that we avoid seeing Africa as not a viable or effective player in world affairs, and only to be seen either as a victim or a beneficiary caught up between other players.”

Africa, he insists, should not be the subordinate partner in African affairs. The debate over China’s disinterested approach to governance, particularly where it focuses on the perceived likelihood that African leaders’ ability to reform will be undermined as a result, is “very patronising,” he says.

Likewise, that reform should not be imposed upon Africa. “We’ve seen China invest in Africa in areas that are key to Africa. My concern is: how are Africans prepared to make good use of these investments for their development, by China or anyone else,” he says. “My thinking is not to blame China for this, or the West for this. I want to start blaming [African countries] for not being … prepared to do their part and to benefit themselves and to benefit those who invest in them.

“What questions should China, or any country in the West be asking [when they invest]? The number one question they should be asking is: does it bring good returns for the investments that they are making? Now, if there are issues about governance and politics, they are free to ask these questions. But tying everything to these questions that have been asked for the last 50 years I think borders on, or even goes beyond, hypocrisy and double standards.”

Mr Kagame’s message of investment over aid and profit over sentimentality does seem to be resonating with the private sector, and his vision of a new narrative for Rwanda – and Africa as a whole – has proved compelling to many in the development community. Others, however, insist that economic reform does not translate into social reform, and that democracy and human rights remain off the table. Mr Kagame’s response is far more Washington consensus than Beijing.

“These investments also encourage positive developments, with more prosperity, with more wealth and more employment and more infrastructure and so on. Africa will develop and will take more control of its destiny, and governments will allow or even be pressured into allowing more freedom, more choices, good governance and democracy,” he says.
Further reading
Africa Governance Initiative

Friday, January 22, 2010

"A Prosperous and Exciting Africa in Our Lifetime" Tony Blair talks to African Investor magazine

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has the utmost faith that Africa will succeed, something the continent needs from investors and advisors. His ultimate vision for Africa is to see the continent achieve its own goals. "It's up to Africa and its leaders. I believe that we will see a prosperous and exciting Africa in our lifetime and we are approaching a point where the business community is waking up to the opportunities of Africa at a time when Africa has this new generation of leaders."

Source: "A Prosperous and Exciting Africa in Our Lifetime" Tony Blair talks to African Investor magazine
The Office of Tony Blair, Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010:
The following interview appeared in the January-February 2010 edition of African Investor magazine

"Africa has been at the top of my foreign policy for the last ten years," says Tony Blair, former UK prime minister. "From the very beginning I wanted to forge a new partnership with African leaders and countries. I really believe that Africa is the next big opportunity for investors, it would not only be good for business but could transform the lives of Africans."

Blair is now involved in supporting the continent through The Office of Tony Blair. He has established several other foundations, including The Africa Governance Initiative, to encourage governments across the continent to develop strong regulation to encourage investment in a clutch of African countries - Sierra Leone, Rwanda and now Liberia - and drive development.

"I firmly believe that, in the long-term, good governance and sustained economic growth are the key to poverty eradication. This is the basis of the African Governance Initiative that I set up 18 months ago," says Blair.

"We work with African countries who are serious about standing on their own two feet by growing their private sector and making government work more effectively," says Blair, with the aim of motivating African governments to be independent thinkers.

Blair has been developing his interest in Africa for a long time. He drew criticism for his emotive turn of phrase in calling Africa "a scar on the conscience of the world", accused of shoring up a negative image that Africa was unable to act for itself. At the time of the Commission for Africa, an organisation established to bring to light the core issues affecting the continent, Blair said: "I fear my own conscience on Africa. I fear the judgement of future generations, where history properly calculates the gravity of the suffering. I fear them asking: but how could wealthy people, so aware of such suffering, so capable of acting, simply turn away to busy themselves with other things?"

Now he supports countries he believes are getting on and up for themselves.

Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, says his government has taken great steps towards driving economic growth in the country. "The IMF has predicted that we will grow at twice the African average by the end of this year (2009)," he said. "But this is only the beginning; our country has a wealth of untapped potential. We are building a legislative framework that provides the right incentives for investors while ensuring that all feel the benefits of economic growth," says Koroma.

The Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Forum held in late November 2009 was attended by Blair and roused great enthusiasm for investing in the country.

"Sierra Leone has significant, unrealised potential and is open for business and investment," said George Soros, international business mogul, in a televised address. "If you look carefully at the real Sierra Leone, it is clear that the country has the genuine potential to become a leading African economy."

Although Blair gives money freely, he says "all African countries should aim to be in a place where they do not need development assistance.

"President Kagame of Rwanda and President Koroma in Sierra Leone, who I work closely with, are just two examples of a new generation of pro-business, pro-reform leaders from Africa who are serious about rooting out corruption, providing protection for investors and leading more stable, better-governed countries," he says.

"I have been through similar challenges to the presidents I work with, albeit in a very different national and regional context. You sometimes need the experience of someone who has sat on ‘the other side of the desk'."

Blair has the utmost faith that Africa will succeed, something the continent needs from investors and advisors. His ultimate vision for Africa is to see the continent achieve its own goals. "It's up to Africa and its leaders. I believe that we will see a prosperous and exciting Africa in our lifetime and we are approaching a point where the business community is waking up to the opportunities of Africa at a time when Africa has this new generation of leaders."