Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rwanda: Top genocide suspect Gregoire Ndahimana captured in the eastern province of North Kivu, DR Congo

By The Nation (Kenya) 13 August 2009 -
Rwanda: Top genocide suspect captured
Nairobi (Kenya) — A top Rwanda genocide suspect accused of planning the massacre of at least 2,000 Rwandan Tutsis during the 1994 genocide, was captured and arrested late Tuesday evening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to Congolese officials, Gregoire Ndahimana, wanted for crimes of genocide and complicity in genocide, was arrested in the village of Gashuga at 10 pm by the country's armed forces. He was arrested after 15 years of hiding.

Ndahimana had been fighting with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in eastern Congo, a rebel group made up of those responsible for the genocide, which is currently fighting the army and the United Nations in the country's troubled east.

However, Congolese officials said the fugitive had not been arrested in fighting, but rather during a civilian operation in which Ndahimana was caught by surprise.

"He was captured while he was coming to look for some food within the local population," Olivier Hamuli, a spokesperson for the national army, said via telephone.

"For now he is in the Intelligence Office in North Kivu, and we are still waiting for the political parts to come together."

Both Rwanda and Congo called it one of the largest achievements of the military operations against the Hutu rebels to date.

"We are happy for their service," said Eugene Munyakayanza, a chief diplomat in Rwanda's foreign ministry.

"He's one of the big ones," said Rwanda's justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama, adding that the arrest was the first of its kind in recent time. "But others are still out there."

Ndahimana is wanted by the United Nations specialised genocide courts in Arusha, Tanzania as a Category 1 suspect, a rank reserved for the chief planners and executers of the genocide that killed nearly 1 million ethnic Tutsi.

According to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Mr Ndahimana helped slaughter thousands holed up inside a church in the town of Kivumu. He allegedly bought, and then distributed gasoline that was used to burn down the church with the victims inside.

He was also responsible for organising a night-time circuit of dumping thousands bodies into mass graves.

Ndahimana fled Rwanda to Congo in 1994 as current president Paul Kagame's then-rebel force restored order to Rwanda and brought the genocide to an end. Ndahimana was one of the millions of Hutus who fled into eastern Congo, setting up the rebel group FDLR, whose mission has been to invade Rwanda and topple the current regime.

In May of 2008, the United States government put a bounty of $5 million on Ndahimana's head, along with any information on his, or other genocide suspects', whereabouts.

His arrest Tuesday night comes just after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the region, and as violence there has grown from bad to worse.

For over a decade, Rwanda and Congo have been at odds due to the peaceful existence of the FDLR members across the borders.

Rwanda has accused the Congo of supporting the group, and in turn the Congo had accused Rwanda of backing a myriad of militia that have rained destruction and pillage in return.

Both sides agreed in January to work together to solve the problem of the FDLR, but since then, the new operations have brought attention mostly for the carnage and horror it has brought to the Congo's civilian population.

Secretary Clinton's visit to the region highlighted some of the worst: thousands raped - women, men, children, then elderly - by both the rebels and the Congo's own army. Watchdog groups say 800,000 have been displaced in the east sine January, and nearly 1,000 killed as well.

Arrests like that of Ndahimana have been few and far between. The ICTR and Rwanda both claim that most of the remaining Category 1 suspects are hiding in the Congo.

One of the most sought-after suspects is Felicien Kabuga, a businessman accused of financing the genocide, thought to be hiding in Kenya.

The ICTR threatened in March to take the Kenyan government before the UN Security Council over its failure to help track down the fugitive. Kenya froze the kingpin's assets later in the year but the decision is now under appeal.

Hat tip:
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Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 1994

From BBC News at 17:03 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 18:03 UK:
Genocide suspect found in Congo
A man accused of planning the massacre of Rwandans during the 1994 genocide has been arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials say.

A government statement named the suspect as Gregoire Ndahimana, who is wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

He was detained by Congolese soldiers in the eastern province of North Kivu.

They were taking part in UN-backed operations against ethnic Hutu rebels, many of whom fled to DR Congo in 1994.

Some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in 100-day genocide.

Bulldozed church

"He was discovered by our units operating in North Kivu... He was hiding among the FDLR [Hutu rebels]," Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

According to his ICTR indictment, Mr Ndahimana is responsible for the deaths of at least 2,000 Tutsis, most of whom were killed when a church in which they had sought refuge was bulldozed.

The ICTR, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, has completed 45 cases.

It was initially due to complete its prosecutions by the end of 2008, but the UN Security Council has given the court until the end of 2010 to finish the trials.

Suspect in Rwandan Genocide Is Captured After 15 Years in Hiding

New York Times - Josh Kron - ‎9 hours ago‎
The fugitive, Grégoire Ndahimana, who is wanted for genocide and complicity in genocide, was arrested in North Kivu Province late Tuesday evening by ...

Today's other stories in brief

Irish Times - ‎10 hours ago‎
Grégoire Ndahimana was arrested by Congolese soldiers on Sunday during UN-backed operations to stamp out Hutu rebel group the Democratic Forces for the ...

WORLD briefs

la estrella - ‎4 hours ago‎
Gregoire Ndahimana, the former mayor of the town of Kivumu is alleged to have played a role in the massacre of more than 1000 Tutsis who took refuge in the ...

World briefs

Dispatch Online - ‎10 hours ago‎
Gregoire Ndahimana was arrested Tuesday in a village in North Kivu province, said Rwandan government spokesperson Lambert Mende. Ndahimana faces charges ...

Kashuga : recherché pour génocide Grégoire Ndahimana arrêté par ...

Radio Okapi - ‎15 hours ago‎
Grégoire Ndahimana, un ancien maire rwandais recherché pour son rôle présumé dans le génocide perpétré contre les Tutsis en 1994, a été arrêté mardi à ...

Ruanda soykırımında rolü olduğu gerekçesiyle aranan başkan yakalandı

Zaman - ‎Aug 12, 2009‎
Mahkeme kaynakları, Ruanda'nın batı kesiminde yer alan Kivumu'nun eski belediye başkanı Gregoire Ndahimana'nın, dün Kongo Demokratik Cumhuriyeti'nin ...

13.08.09 Belangrijke Rwandese genocidair opgepakt in Congo ...

CongoForum - ‎3 hours ago‎
KIGALI - De Rwandees Gregoire Ndahimana werd dinsdag gearresteerd in het oosten van Congo. De vroegere majoor uit het Rwandese leger en burgemeester van ...

Detido presumível genocidio rwandês procurado pelo TPIR

AngolaPress - ‎22 hours ago‎
O antigo presidente da câmara municipal de Kivumu (oeste do Rwanda) "Grégoire Ndahimana foi detido terça-feira no leste da RDC. ...

Congo prende responsável por massacre de 1994 em Ruanda

Estadão - ‎19 hours ago‎
Gregoire Ndahimana foi preso por soldados congoleses no domingo durante uma operação das tropas da ONU para retirar o grupo rebelde Forças Democráticas para ...

De Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Yves Leterme verheugt zich over ...

Nieuwsbank (persbericht) (abonnement) - ‎1 hour ago‎
De Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Yves Leterme verheugt zich over de aanhouding van de vermoedelijke genocidenpleger Grégoire Ndahimana, die gezocht werd ...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CECAFA U-17 football tournament: Eritrea v Rwanda (Medani, Sudan 5.30pm on 22 Aug 2009)

From Pana via Afrique en ligne, Wednesday, 12 August 2009:
Fixtures of Cecafa youth football tournament in Sudan
(Kenya) - Below are the fixtures for this month's Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) championships taking place in Sudan.

The regional event, known as the Cecafa U-17 tournament, is slated for 19-31 August in three Sudanese cities - Khartoum, Juba and Medani. It is being sponsored by Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir to the tune of US$ 700,000.

Aug. 19 - Ethiopia v Zanzibar (Juba 2.30pm); Kenya v Uganda (Juba 4.30pm).

Aug. 20 - Somalia v Nigeria (Khartoum 5.30pm); Sudan v Tanzania (Khartoum 9.30pm )

Aug. 21 - Zanzibar v Kenya (Juba 2.30pm); Uganda v Ethiopia (Juba 4.30pm).

Aug. 22 - Nigeria v Tanzania (Khartoum 5.30pm); Somalia v Sudan (Khartoum 9.30pm ),

Aug. 22 - Eritrea v Rwanda (Medani 5.30pm); Egypt v Burundi (Medani 9.30pm).

Aug. 23 - Kenya v Ethiopia (Juba 2.30pm); Zanzibar v Uganda (Juba 4.30pm).

Aug. 24 - Tanzania v Somalia (Khartoum 5.30pm); Sudan v Nigeria (Khartoum 9.30pm ).

Aug. 24 - Rwanda v Burundi (Medani 5.30pm); Eritrea v Egypt (Medani 9.30pm).

Aug. 25 - Rest Day.

Aug. 26 & 27 - Quarter finals

Aug. 28 & 29 - Semi finals (Khartoum).

Aug. 30 - Rest Day.

Aug. 31 - Third place play offs/Finals (Khartoum).
Cross posted from Sudan Watch on Wednesday 12 August 2009: Fixtures of CECAFA U-17 football tournament in Sudan 19-31 Aug 2009

Click on labels here below for related reports and updates.

Monday, August 10, 2009

MSF video report: LRA attacks villages, kidnaps children on Sudan-Congo border

Lord's Resistance Army Attacks Villages, Kidnaps Children On Sudan-Congo Border (VIDEO)
By Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) aka Doctors Without Borders
Monday, 10 August 2009 via The Huffington Post
With photography and video by photojournalist Brendan Bannon, Doctors Without Borders brings you the underreported story of hundreds of thousands of Congolese who are fleeing the violent attacks of Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistant Army (LRA).

Following a military offensive against them, the LRA has intensified attacks against civilians. During these attacks, entire Congolese villages are often looted and burned to the ground; people are hacked to death with machetes and women and children are abducted as sexual slaves, forced to carry looted goods or recruited to fight.

Approximately 250,000 people have been displaced from their land and livelihoods, many of them taking refuge in Southern Sudan. These are their stories:

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From UN - Daily Press Briefing (7 August 2009) by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General - excerpt:
Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), meanwhile, says that an unprecedented 55 rebel attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have displaced some 12,500 civilians in the past month alone. This is a spike from 23 LRA attacks in May and 34 in June.

UNHCR says that the Ugandan rebels have murdered 1,273 civilians and abducted 655 children and 1,427 adults. A number of women were also raped and houses were looted and torched. Fleeing civilians have found shelter in public buildings including schools and churches. And the situation is made worse by a lack of basic medical supplies at local hospitals, while aid agencies have so far reached only half of the internally displaced persons. And that’s due to widespread insecurity in the region. You can read more about this upstairs.


The World Food Programme (WFP) fears that the recent massacre of 161 people in Southern Sudan’s Jonglei State might lead to a spate of deadly retaliatory attacks. Some 700 people have been killed since March in the region while another 19,000 were displaced. WFP and its partners have called on the Government to put an end to inter-tribal fighting, which is endangering the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Full story
Cross posted to Sudan Watch 10 August 2009.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

David Blair's report from Witto, Western Equatoria, S. Sudan: LRA targets children of Sudan

Here is a long awaited report from The Daily Telegraph's Africa correspondent David Blair. I have lost count of the number of times over the past year that I wondered about his lack of reporting on Africa and even worried that he might be ill.  So, it was a wonderful surprise for me a few minutes ago to find the following report filed from South Sudan's Western Equatoria! Fingers crossed that he remains in the region to report more on what is really going on. On Monday morning (10 August 2009) I published news at Sudan Watch about southern Sudan where a humanitarian disaster more serious than that in Darfur, western Sudan is unfolding.
From The Daily Telegraph
Lord's Resistance Army targets children of Sudan
By David Blair in Witto, Western Equatoria province, South Sudan
Published: 7:00AM BST Monday 10 Aug 2009

The Lord's Resistance Army, which specialises in abducting and murdering the young, has turned on a new and pitifully vulnerable target: the children of southern Sudan, one of Africa's most isolated and troubled regions.

Lord's Resistance Army targets children of Sudan

Local people call LRA fighters the "ton-tong", meaning "machete", because this is their chosen weapon for murdering victims Photo: GETTY

The LRA, which emerged in neighbouring Uganda and has kidnapped tens of thousands of children during two decades of guerrilla war, is now striking across a vast area of bush and plain along Sudan's south-western frontier.
These raids on defenceless villages, usually mounted by small groups of rebels searching for children to abduct and food to steal, have forced more than 55,000 people to flee their homes. Western Equatoria province has been worst hit, with scores of villages abandoned and new refugee camps springing up.

Local people call LRA fighters the "ton-tong", meaning "machete", because this is their chosen weapon for murdering victims.
Mary Anja, who does not know her age but looks about 30, lived in Diko district until the LRA attacked her village. Knowing that the rebels were hunting for children, local people tried to evacuate as many as possible, along with their mothers, on two tractors.

Mrs Anja gathered her three infant sons and climbed onto one vehicle's trailer. Meanwhile, her daughter, Phoebe, who is about 12, boarded the second tractor.

But this tiny convoy drove straight into an LRA ambush. "The ton-tong fired bullets in the air, then they shot out the tyres of the tractor," said Mrs Anja. "When people tried to jump out, they shot at the people." As the terrified women and children tried to flee, one baby boy, less than a year old, was shot dead in the arms of his mother. Another woman was wounded in the leg, while a Sudanese soldier, who had tried to protect the convoy, died in a hail of bullets.

Mrs Anja managed to flee with her three sons. As she ran, she knew nothing of the fate of Phoebe, travelling on the second tractor. "I was thinking 'Phoebe is not here'. I started crying while I ran," said Mrs Anja.

By this time, Phoebe was already in the hands of the LRA. The guerrillas surrounded her tractor, firing in the air and singling out Phoebe along with five other girls and one boy. "They surrounded us. We couldn't run and then they said 'sit down'. One of the rebels tied us up," said Phoebe.

The captives were led away into the bush. For the next three days, Phoebe was forced to march for 18 hours at a time. "If you don't walk fast enough, you are beaten with sticks," she remembered. "I was thinking, 'I may be killed like those who have been killed by the ton-tong before'. And I asked myself 'what has happened to my mother and my brothers'?"

Phoebe could not have known that her family was safe. They had managed to reach another village, from where Mrs Anja and her sons were brought to a refugee camp at Witto, some 50 miles away.

Shortly before dawn on the fourth day of the march, Phoebe and three other girls managed to slip away as their captors slept. For the next 12 days, they walked through the bush, surviving on river water and wild berries, until they reached the town of Tore Wandi.

Phoebe, emaciated and dehydrated, was taken to hospital, where her mother eventually found her. Today, she has recovered and the family lives in Witto camp, where Oxfam provides sanitation and basic essentials for about 500 refugees.

They cannot understand why they have become the LRA's latest targets. This nihilist movement, which emerged in Northern Uganda more than 20 years ago, has no coherent aim. Its psychotic leader, Joseph Kony, claims to be a prophet and says that he wants to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments.

But Kony's rebellion has no purpose save murder, so no-one joins him voluntarily. Hence the LRA must abduct children, who are then brainwashed into becoming soldiers and sent to kidnap more young recruits. In this brutal fashion, the LRA constantly replenishes its ranks.

Uganda has managed to expel the rebels from its territory with a series of offensives. But the LRA has scattered across a new killing ground, covering Sudan's borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

No-one can tell how many children have disappeared in this vast area. Joseph Ngere Paciko, the deputy governor of Western Equatoria, has recorded 250 abductions in his province alone.

"There have also been cases in far-away villages, where we have no access, so the real number is certainly higher," he said. "Our people don't understand why this is happening. Why should the LRA come and kill our people every day?"

Friday, August 07, 2009

DR Congo: Hillary Clinton highlights Africa's potential but warns against corruption

Democracy cartoon: Obama comes to Africa

Obama Comes To Africa

Source: Friday, July 10, 2009, Patrick Gathara,
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US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s tour of seven African nations ends on 13 August 2009 after visits to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the DRC, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde

From Sudan Radio Service, Friday 07 August 2009:
Clinton Highlights Africa's Potential but Warns Against Corruption
(Nairobi) – During her visit to Kenya earlier this week, the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton described Africa as having the potential and the resources to compete in the world economy.

In a speech from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Clinton urged African countries to create markets with each other rather than focus on trading with first world countries.

[Hillary Clinton]: “Africa is capable and is making economic progress. In fact, one doesn’t have to look far to see that Africa is ripe with opportunities. The single biggest opportunity that you have right now is to open up trade with each other. The market of the United States is 3 hundred million people; the market of Africa is 7 hundred million plus people. Nations of Africa trade the least with each other than any region of the world. That makes it very difficult to compete effectively.”

However, Hillary Clinton has attributed the lack of economic progress in Africa to the failure by various governments to attract investors through stability.

[Hillary Clinton]: “It's not just about good governance, this is about good business. Investors will be attracted to states that do this and they will not be attracted to states with failed or weak leadership, or crime and civil unrest, or corruption that taints every transaction and decision.”

Clinton called on African states to reform their countries by ending bad governance, corruption and impunity. She encouraged government to ensure that the private sector and civil society organizations abiding by the rule of law.

Clinton’s tour of seven African nations ends on August 13th after visits to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the DRC, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.

Kenya Commercial Bank plans to increase the number of outlets in Rwanda to seven from one

Kenya Commercial Bank Ltd. (KNCB KN), the East African nation’s biggest lender by assets and outlets, climbed 3.6 percent, the most in six weeks, to 21.75 shillings.

The lender said July 30 first-half net income declined two percent to 2.41 billion shillings as expansion costs rose.

“Demand is coming from high net-worth individuals and institutional investors,” Snehal Shah, head of research at Nairobi-based Kestrel Capital East Africa Ltd. said in a phone interview. “They are discounting these results and looking ahead at future growth.”

The lender, which has 156 outlets in Kenya and 26 in four neighboring nations, plans to increase the number of outlets in Southern Sudan to nine from five and seven in Rwanda from one currently, it said July 30.

Source: Bloomberg, Friday 07 August 2009: Kenyan Stocks Climb: Kenya Commercial Bank, Standard Chartered

'New era' for DR Congo and Rwanda

Good news from BBC News 20:51 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 21:51 UK:
'New era' for DR Congo and Rwanda
The leaders of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo have pledged to boost economic and security ties, hailing an "all new era" after a rare meeting.

The talks took place 13 years after the neighbours broke diplomatic relations.

"It is the first giant step forward," Congo's President Joseph Kabila told reporters after the meeting near Goma.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame told his Congolese counterpart that Rwanda would never be a base for militias that could destabilise Congo.

They also agreed to develop projects to exploit natural gas reserves in Lake Kivu, which lies between the two countries, and to revive joint commissions that have lain dormant for years.

The meeting comes a month after both sides appointed ambassadors to their respective capitals and has been seen as a further sign of improving relations between the countries.

Military co-operation

In January, the two countries agreed to take joint action against the Hutu FDLR rebels in Congo.

Some of the FDLR leaders are accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, before they fled to DR Congo.

The Rwandan forces have also arrested Congolese Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, who is wanted in Congo, but has so far refused to extradite him over fears he may be executed.

But Mr Kagame sought to allay Congolese fears at the talks.

"I can give a very firm assurance that neither Laurent Nkunda nor [his group] the CNDP can base in Rwanda to cause any discomfort... or affect the stability created in DRC or between DRC and Rwanda," he said.

The two leaders are due to meet again in Kinshasa in October or November.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

DR Congo: Microfinancing - Launch of new Mobile Money Transfer Directory will focus on Sub-Sahara Africa

A new Mobile Money Transfer Directory at launches in 2 wks focus on Sub-Saharan Africa (by @CreditSMS)

Source: White African Erik Hersman via Twitter 04 Aug. 2009
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Snippets from CreditSMS website:
In December 2009, CreditSMS will launch several pilots throughout Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Additional pilot requests have been submitted for Kenya, Sudan, and Sierra Leone. Uganda and DRC have 87% and 66% rural populations respectively, constituting a nascent market of as many as 76 million potential clients and consumers. By enabling MFIs [microfinance institutions] to reach and meet the demands of this market, CreditSMS will facilitate a form of 'bubble up' development whereby the income of microloan recipients will increase and the price of newly-available goods and services will trend toward market equilibrium. All pilot results will be made free and accessible via as they become available.
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The Beginning...
By Ben Lyon
Published: July 14, 2009

Formal banks were hesitant to give "the bottom billion" loans because they didn't have collateral. Today, microfinance institutions (MFIs) fill that void by providing collateral-free loans to micro-entrepreneurs. In order to compete with traditional moneylenders, however, those MFIs had to charge exorbitant interest rates, mostly to absorb the high transport cost of making weekly visits to rural areas to collect loan repayments. With teledensity penetration and mobile commerce growing faster by the day, one has to wonder: why are loan officers still making the trip? Read More...
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Increasing revenue and impact through technology
By Ben Lyon
Published: July 22, 2009
[article written for Project Diaspora]

Aaron Ewedafe wakes up every morning at least one hour before the sun rises. Donning his satchel full of client records and repayment schedules, he hails the nearest okada driver and races into the surrounding countryside to begin a long day of loan group meetings. The trip from headquarters in Oshogbo to the village of Ojudo and back can take all day. Aaron rarely makes it home before nightfall. Altogether, Aaron spends 112 hours and 5,000 naira a week to manage 350 microloan recipients. His profit is negligible. Read More...
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The 'Phone as Cow' Model
By Ben Lyon
Published: August 1, 2009

Mobile phones are quickly becoming the hottest topic in development. Everyday, waves of new innovations are rolled out to connect 'bottom of the pyramid' (BOP) entrepreneurs to markets and information. But many advocates and implementers seem to neglect a fundamental question: What good are mobile innovations if BOP entrepreneurs can't afford handsets? According to Iqbal Quadir of Grameenphone, the answer is to issue the handset as the first microloan. Read More...
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Follow Credit SMS on Twitter

Check out Mobile Money Africa - Africa's leading online resource for mobile financial inclusion:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

DR Congo: Confronting rape as a weapon of war

In the rape capital of the world, some are seeking to curb sexual violence by focusing on men’s role in preventing it.

From Christian Science Monitor
August 02, 2009
Congo: Confronting rape as a weapon of war
By Matthew Clark, Staff writer
Kanyola, Democratic Republic of Congo
First his wife, then his daughter. Five years ago, Hutu militiamen tied up Lwaboshi Bahati and forced him and his children to watch as they raped those nearest to his heart. Then they took everything he owned.

“I was so angry. Up until now, I can’t forget. I can’t express how bad I feel,” says Mr. Bahati, an unemployed former small-business owner.

But at his wife’s time of greatest need, he kicked her out of the house. She was defiled; damaged goods. Besides, she might give him the AIDS virus that she must have caught from the militiamen. At least that’s how he saw things back then.

“I didn’t hate my wife, but I didn’t appreciate what happened. I was afraid,” Bahati whispers, behind a bush, out of earshot of villagers. For them to know would bring ridicule upon him, the man who couldn’t protect his wife.

And Bahati is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of men in eastern Congo are in the same position: The stigma of rape compels them to hide what happened and shun their wives, compounding a horrible situation.

This is what war looks like in what has been called “the rape capital of the world,” where the weapon of sexual violence is so commonly used that people seem numb to it. Doctors and activists call it an “epidemic.” Five million people have died, and an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 women have been raped in the past decade of tangled conflict among ethnic militias and regional militaries fighting for Congo’s mineral riches.

“Even in a wartime setting, Congo is unusual and exceptional,” says Michael Van Rooyen, the director of Harvard’s Humanitarian Initiative and an emergency physician with experience in international disaster zones. And, he says, it appears that “rape is becoming part of the culture.”

Focus on men’s role in preventing rape

Because rape is so prevalent in the war-torn east, Congo is perhaps an ideal laboratory for testing the premise of a global trend in the fight against rape: a new focus on men’s role in preventing it. Historically, it’s been the after-the-fact symptom of the problem – the women victims – that have absorbed attention and resources.

That’s why Washington-based Women for Women International set up here to get respected men to show others how devastating rape is to society. That’s why Bahati can talk now – even if only in hushed tones – about changing his views and reclaiming his family from the effects of rape.

“While we are an organization that values investment in women, you have to engage larger communities,” says Lyric Thompson, policy analyst at Women for Women. “In many places we work, the community leaders are men, so we use men’s position of influence. Our program in Congo is a model for other programs. It involves a huge paradigm shift from approaching men as the perpetrators – the enemy – to engaging them as allies; as fathers, sons, brothers.”

This past year, thanks to the program, Bahati took his wife back after four years of shunning her. (She also tested negative for the AIDs virus.)

“Before, it was hard to be with her, but today we are friends. We are smiling,” says Bahati, explaining that local leaders trained by Women for Women taught him that the rape episode wasn’t his fault and that punishing his wife for it not only brought unnecessary suffering to his family, but to all of society as well.

He no longer needed to be complicit in letting rape destroy his people. “Now life is OK. We’ve gotten over what happened,” he says.

Congo: Confronting rape as a weapon of war

Photo: Lwaboshi Bahati (center), with some of his children, banished his wife from their home after she was raped by militiamen in Congo’s running ethnic conflict. But, through a reeducation program, he realized this made his family and society suffer, so he welcomed her back. (Mary Knox Merrill / Staff)

An epidemic of sexual abuse

In Eastern Congo, men rape for a variety of reasons.

In an empty room in the countryside, a former militiaman – now a colonel in Congo’s Army, who doesn’t want to be named – pulls his hat over his face and explains to the Monitor on video camera why he used to rape: “I did it because we were in the bush for many months at a time. It was rare to meet women.… We wanted to seize the opportunity.”

He “only” raped twice, he says, and doesn’t remember the details, because he was high on marijuana at the time. Drug use is common among militiamen, and getting high makes it easier to raid and pillage villages, he says.

Other rebels in his group raped to punish women whom they thought were spies. “I witnessed men raping to punish,” says the colonel. “We did it for revenge. It happens all the time.

“When we were going to fight, maybe 150 rebels would go with only 10 guns,” he says. “Sometimes 50 of us would be killed in one battle. So I could be happy that I raped, because I could tell the other militiamen: ‘At least I raped one of their women.’ “

It’s not just militias. Gov ernment soldiers rape, too – a lot, he says.

“Sometimes women were used to lure soldiers to fall in love with them, so they could pass intelligence to the rebels they were collaborating with,” says the colonel. “So Army men raped to discourage this.”

“We behaved like animals,” he mutters in apology.

But now, he adds, things are different: “Today we are sensitized by [organizations] like Women for Women. They’ve showed us that we must respect women and avoid abuse. We’ve learned that nothing can be done without women.” And, he adds that he regularly talks to public groups about his case: “I don’t fear to tell others how bad rape is.”

Women for Women has made a special effort to train top military and police officials, and these officials are getting smarter about how to prevent rape by those under their command.

The colonel says commanders now tell soldiers not to rape and that “to destroy a woman is to destroy our nation.”

Plus, he says, “Now we’re stationed in town, so we can have sex with our wives.”

Congo: Confronting rape as a weapon of war

Photo: A Congolese Army colonel, who admits to committing two rapes when he was a militia member, says the program has ‘sensitized’ him to the crime. (Mary Knox Merrill/Staff)

Challenges in enforcing the law

Part of the reason that encouraging a culture of social responsibility is important, local authorities say, is that it holds more power than the law.

Enforcement is problematic because police and soldiers aren’t paid for months. And when they are paid, standard monthly pay is only $25, says Maj. Honorine Munyole, head of a 30-person police battalion charged with protecting women and children. “We don’t even have paper to write tickets on,” laments Ms. Munyole from her ramshackle office in the city of Buvavu. They don’t have vehicles to go anywhere on Congo’s muddy roads. “A 9-year-old girl was raped by a soldier the other day, but we couldn’t get there,” she shrugs.

Still, 217 suspected rapists were arrested last year, and 20 so far this year: But most escape justice by paying off judges. And, Munyole says, each of them threatened her and her staff: “We can’t work after 6 p.m., when it starts getting dark. Sometimes they throw stones at us. They broke my glasses with a stone.”

Munyole had to transfer her daughter to a new school after she was threatened with rape because of her mom’s work. “The perpetrators need to be punished, but there are always calls to release them,” she says. “Where will all of this end up? I feel bad. It touches me very deeply.”

Congo: Confronting rape as a weapon of war

Photo: Police Maj. Honorine Munyole (l.) has been threatened for trying to enforce rape laws in eastern Congo. She talks with Christine Karumba, who runs a Women for Women program that enlists men as allies against rape. (Mary Knox Merrill/Staff)

‘If men are not involved it will not change’

Women for Women is expanding its Men’s Leadership Program to a provincial capital, Goma. In a concrete hall, program director Cyprien Walupakah is giving a rousing speech on women’s rights to a select crowd of male leaders: priests, businessmen, teachers, government officials, soldiers, police. “Let’s talk about rape,” he thunders into a microphone. “Sex abuse is defined as anything against her will.”

After he reels off specific examples of bad behavior toward women, the heads of provincial police and military give reports, and explain the difficulty of enforcing rape laws. A priest stands to say that he’s happy the Army chiefs are present so he can tell them how military officials pull rank and release rapists from police custody.

The meeting gets lively when one man grabs the mike and dresses down the police and Army officials present, accusing them of taking second “wives” against their will when deployed in remote areas. The crowd breaks into raucous applause.

“We have a crisis of leadership [in Congo],” says Mr. Walupakah in an interview after the training session, adding that it’s rare to see military and police officers speak to a crowd and be held accountable. “If men are not involved [in preventing rape], it will not change.

“It’s a step-by-step process,” he says, explaining that each man trained is supposed to train five others.

Since the program started in June 2006, 1,600 men have taken it. It’s hard to measure how many have trained others, says Walupakah, cautioning that success over time will depend on what men bring back to their villages. At present, he estimates that only one-third of those who attend training remain active in their villages. Walupakah hopes to bring that rate up through continued visits and training. He admits that the group has a long way to go before rape rates go down, but he’s happy with the start: “If we resuscitate the leaders, we can really form a new generation.”

The next stage in the fight against rape

Women to Women has programs in Nigeria and Afghanistan. And groups in the US are focusing on men’s role in tackling rape. Men Can Stop Rape began in 1997 after men in Washington neighborhoods noticed little focus on men’s role in this “women’s issue.”

Now the group puts on 16-week “Men of Strength” workshops in high schools and middle schools in the United States and in the military. They’re set to open an office in Uganda next year and are considering one in Brazil. They’re even talking with Johns Hopkins and Howard universities to develop the first master’s program in prevention of violence toward women.

The group’s CEO, Stephen Glaude, says that the focus on men is the next stage in the evolution of the fight against rape – after treating rape victims and helping women reduce the risk of rape. “We are the next leg of the movement.”

Getting to the root of the problem isn’t easy. And explaining how men can stop rape is still a tough sell.

Back in Congo, Women for Women country director Christine Karumba says that it’s difficult to secure funding for the Men’s Leadership Training program compared with the group’s many other initiatives. “Most donors want to get involved in the relief services [for rape victims],” she says. “Many people think it’s not the right time [to focus on men]. We strongly believe it’s the right time. Men have to be part of the solution.”
Hat tip: Goatmilk

Britain funds pioneer land scheme to deter conflict in Rwanda

Millions of poor Rwandans will for the first time be given papers to prove they own their land under a pioneering British-funded scheme aimed at ending dangerous disputes.

From The Daily Telegraph, UK
Britain funds pioneer land scheme to deter conflict in Rwanda
By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi, 05 Aug 2009
The five-year project, funded with £20 million of British money, will create the country's first national database of land ownership in the east African country.

Currently, farmers cannot raise loans for fertiliser, equipment or seeds because they have no collateral to offer banks.

Disputes have erupted regularly over who owned what land in the country, the most densely populated nation in Africa with 10.1 million people living in a territory a little larger than Israel.

Pressures over land are believed to have played an underlying role in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 when an estimated 800,000 people were killed over 100-days of tribal bloodletting.

Following a successful three year trial, Britain's Department for International Development will fund Rwandan teams to travel to every town and village to recruit volunteer committees to investigate local land claims.

Using satellite imagery and speaking directly to the landowners, they will draw up comprehensive land tenure maps for the whole country.

Drafts will be posted in villages for people to see. Any concerns can be raised locally and public hearings will be held to resolve grievances.

"Many Rwandans have no way to prove what they own, making it too easy for others to take land away from them," said Mike Foster, the International Development minister.

"For the first time, men and women in Rwanda will be able to defend their land rights through the law courts, giving them the peace of mind to invest in their farms and build their businesses."

Among the greatest beneficiaries will be women, who have until now struggled to enforce their statutory rights under Rwandan law.

Land titles will be drawn up in the name of both husband and wife.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Clerics criticise Chissano’s stand on LRA rebels

From Daily Monitor Friday, July 24, 2009:
Clerics criticise Chissano’s stand on LRA rebels
(Gulu) - A statement by Mr Joachim Chissano, the outgoing UN Secretary General’s envoy for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) affected areas, recommending that both the peaceful and military option be pursued to end the conflict in northern Uganda has received round condemnation from a local religious group.

The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) yesterday released a press statement signed by its chairperson, Arch Bishop John Baptist Odama and his vice Alhajji Musa Khelil, saying the military option still being recommended by Mr Chissano failed to bring peace for over two decades.

“We respect the final recommendations which Mr Chissano presented to the Security Council however, as religious leaders, we always stand upon the principles of non-violence and dialogue to resolve conflicts,” ARLPI said in the statement.

The former Mozambique President briefed the UN Security Council on his final observations and recommendations regarding the state of the peace process between the government of Uganda and the LRA on July 15.

In the statement, the members said, while they appreciate the multiple consultations Chissano and his team conducted throughout the region, they do not want the region to recede to another war.
“We do not have the confidence that any military action will bring security to the region but instead will only further destabilise the relative calm which we are experiencing,” the statement adds.

The clerics urged all the stakeholders to put more efforts on building trust and confidence between the parties so that dialogue can continue to lead to the final signing of the peace agreement.

They further cautioned that military action could put in danger the lives of innocent civilians abducted by the LRA in Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic.

The Acholi religious Leaders Initiative has been at the fore front of pushing for peaceful resolution of the conflict in the north since its inception in the early 1990’s though the government believed that the military option was the best way of achieving peace in northern Uganda.

The Final Peace Agreement was negotiated between the government and the LRA, but the LRA’s leader Joseph Kony has repeatedly failed to sign the deal, citing indictments and arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as obstacles.

But the Security Council last week urged the LRA rebels to sign a peace agreement which seeks to end its decades-long conflict with the government.
(Hat tip:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

RARE INTERVIEW with Joseph Kabila - Rebuilding the lives of DR Congo's child soldiers

For Congo’s child soldiers, brutalised and forced to kill, rehabilitation is a long journey. Yet in war-ravaged eastern Congo one transitional centre is slowly helping them rebuild their lives. Mary Riddell sees it at work, and talks to Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila.

Rebuilding the lives of Congo's child soldiers
By Mary Riddell
Published: Thursday, 16 July 2009

Gilbert did not mean to kill anyone. He did not even intend to go to war. He was 10 when a relative enlisted him in a rebel army in eastern Congo and 12 when he led a raid in which his cousin died. 'I was ordered to kill the son of the leader in my village. I was put in charge of the group, and ordered to fire as people fled. The leader was my uncle; his boy was six years old.’

If Gilbert wished, he could make excuses for what he did. He could say, truthfully, that he would have been executed if he had failed to obey orders. In the frenzy of battle, he cannot even be sure whose bullet dealt the mortal wound. But, as the appointed leader, he shoulders all blame for an atrocity whose legacy he will never escape.

Gilbert is 16 now, and we meet in the transitional centre for former child soldiers where he has lived since UN peacekeepers rescued him two years ago. He is a solemn boy with a laddered yellow T-shirt and a face turned old by sorrow.

He has not told his story before, and he volunteers the information slowly. At first, he was enrolled by his relative in the CNDP (National Congress of the Defence of the People), the militia headed by Laurent Nkunda, now being held in a Rwandan jail.

Gilbert was tortured before fleeing into the arms of Pareco, a rival rebel group and another finishing school for juvenile killers.

By some fluke, Gilbert did not die in the crossfire between the two militias. One bullet hole is gouged in his neck close to the carotid artery; a second shot hit his groin. 'I was near a hospital, and a doctor bound up the wounds. But I wasn’t allowed to stay. After a few hours I was back in the forest. There were constant battles and, by the end, I was fighting every day. Then somone brought me here.

'I cannot go back to school. I have already reached adult age. I would love to see my family but I cannot go home to my village because of what I have done. My brother came to see me once, and I asked if I could return. He said that if I did, my old friends would kill me.’ I ask if he misses anything about being a soldier, and he says, 'I hate violence. But I think sometimes of my mitraillette [sub-machine gun]. I took it everywhere with me.’

Far from being the boast of a juvenile Rambo, this seems more like the nostalgia a normal adolescent might feel for an old toy. Gilbert has no other relics of childhood to cling to and no good future to embrace. He is a child of modern Congo: his story typical of a thousand others.

Congo should be a country of plenty. It possesses vast mineral wealth and its fertile land could feed the whole of Africa, but conflict and recession have left a nation the size of western Europe close to bankruptcy. About 5.4 million people have died in the war that has ravaged Congo for the majority of Gilbert’s lifetime. About 54 per cent of children here live in poverty; one third will not finish primary school.

These are the lucky ones. More than a fifth of children die in infancy, and 45,000 under-fives perish each year from avoidable causes. At the root of disease and exploitation is the internecine conflict whose fighters – easy to snatch and simple to train – are often under 10 years old. About 31,000 children have been demobilised from Congo’s battlefields since 1999, but at least 8,000 are still being used as combatants, porters and sex slaves.

The transitional centre where Gilbert lives stands in Goma, the major town of the eastern Kivu provinces. A row of shabby single-storey buildings is divided into classrooms and dormitories, where the 311 boys sleep, six to a room, in wooden bunk beds. The five girls who stay here have a room annexed to the director’s office to give them some vestige of privacy and extra protection.

A large playground running the length of the compound is bounded by high walls and security gates designed to keep intruders out. Although the layout suggests a halfway house between a boarding school and a young offender institution, the noise of boys at play reflects the joy of freedom.

This centre, set up in 2005 by a Congolese NGO called Cajed (Concert d’Actions pour Jeunes et Enfants Défavorisés) and financially backed by Unicef, is one of several similar institutions scattered across the country. Unicef helped reintegrate 4,657 child soldiers into their communities last year at a cost of $700 per child, but lack of funding means that a backlog of 3,000 youngsters are denied the specialist help on offer here.

Unicef’s regional head, Julien Harneis, urges all armed groups to give up their child soldiers. 'The conflict is causing untold humanitarian suffering and gross violations of children’s rights,’ he says.

Few understand such attrition better than Fidele Rutabagisha, the director of the Goma centre. He and his 17 staff are used to dealing with adolescents whose bitter experiences mean that their moods seesaw between glee and anger. From the moment they are referred to his care, Rutabagisha embarks on a regime of 'peaceful rehabilitation’.

'These children are used to the field of battle,’ he says. 'They have to live together in peace. First we give them clothes, blankets and sabots [plastic clogs]. Then we divide them into “family” units. They eat together and take care of their surroundings. They learn self-respect and la vie morale.’

Discipline is key to the curriculum. The children are woken at 6am and given an hour in which to wash, tidy their rooms and speak to their 'families’. Breakfast, which they prepare themselves, is from 7am to 8am. The rest of the day is divided into hour-long slots devoted to science, maths, music, sport and languages. 'Morality’ lessons focus on community life, courtesy and self-respect.

Outside counsellors are brought in to treat children with emotional and mental health problems, and pupils are gradually allowed out to mingle with townspeople. Some transfer to a halfway house to be taught alongside 'normal’ children: Oxfam, in conjunction with Cajed, offers counselling and training in carpentry, electronics, cooking and sewing to help teenagers back into the community.

Last year the joint programme arranged 558 homecomings. For the less fortunate, the only prospect is life with a host family, or a lone existence for those nearing adulthood. For the third of children who will never go home, the joy of others is sometimes hard to bear. Rutabagisha shows me a room damaged in a recent fracas. 'Some of the boys broke windows and smashed the roof. They were angry that no families could be found for them.’

Rutabagisha’s pupils, who range from eight to 16, have experiences to chill an adult soul. Some were abducted from loving families. Others were persuaded by influential adults that life as a soldier would be well-paid and easy. Guelord, 15, was invited to a relative’s home to meet his older cousin’s new bride. 'But there was no wife. My cousin said, “Get into this uniform. Here’s a gun.” I was trapped. I thought I could stay for a few days and then escape, but they paraded me as a soldier, and I could not go back after that. I did three years.

'The children serving with Pareco were on guard all night; many were assassinated by the CNDP, our enemy. If you made one mistake, you would be killed by your superiors. I did not kill anyone, but I wounded an older boy in an attack on the CNDP. I watched my bullet go into his leg, and I was frightened I would die, like many of my friends.’

Like many of the children here, Guelord was rescued by the UN. As yet no family has been found for him, but he hopes he will one day become a street trader or, if he is lucky, a shopkeeper.

Unlike the boys in the centre, Niclette never wanted to be here. She is 17, and five months pregnant. She went to war with her husband, who is in his thirties; not to fight, but because he told her they should be together. When a child protection team brought her here, she was distraught.

'No one bothered me when I was in the army. I was by my husband’s side, and I was not prepared for this. I didn’t know we would have to separate. I want and hope to see my husband again.’

Niclette cannot go home to her parents in Masisi, 30 miles away, because she is now the property of her husband. 'He gave my father and mother three goats as a dowry when we married, which means they cannot take me back.’ So she waits here, unsure what will happen to her or her child. 'I hope my baby will have the life of my parents, who grow beans and manioc,’ she says.

The civil war that defines modern Congo traces back to the country’s independence in 1960. A military coup by Joseph Mobutu in 1965 ushered in an age of corruption fuelled by the country’s mineral wealth. In 1997 neighbouring Rwanda invaded to flush out Hutu rebels, allowing anti-Mobutu insurgents to oust the president and install Laurent Kabila in his place.

In the ensuing fracas, Rwanda and Uganda tried to unseat Kabila, who was shot dead by one of his bodyguards in 2001, leaving his son to assume the presidency. A close-run election in 2006 established Joseph Kabila as Congo’s first democratically appointed leader.

Now, he tells me in a rare interview, his country is moving away from war. But the calm he proclaims is highly provisional. Earlier this year Kabila joined forces with his enemy, the Rwandan president Paul Kagame, to attack the rebel FDLR, made up of Hutu extremists who fled to Congo after orchestrating the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

In return, Laurent Nkunda – the CNDP leader who plotted to overthrow Kabila – was arrested and placed in custody by Rwanda, which had regarded him as an ally until international backers threatened to withdraw aid as a protest against the regime’s perceived approval of Nkunda’s killing sprees. This win-win deal, heralded as a great move towards peace by both leaders, has not so far benefited Congo’s beleaguered children. A few weeks after the end of hostilities, Oxfam reported that the FDLR were regrouping and that 250,000 more people had been displaced. As violence flared again, the charity repeated the call for the world to act and, in particular, to muster the long-promised 3,000 extra troops to boost Monuc, the UN’s biggest but enfeebled peacekeeping force.

Kabila refuses to acknowledge the frailty of a 'peace’ that has been dearly bought. The CNDP has been incorporated into the national army, and Nkunda’s brutish successor, Bosco Ntaganda, appointed a general in the government army, despite being wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, including conscripting child soldiers. 'We made a painful decision,’ Kabila tells me. 'In Congo, peace must come before justice.’

Though there is little of either, Kabila has another ace up his sleeve. A $9 billion deal will give China a slice of Congo’s vast reserves of copper, cobalt and other minerals, in return for building 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, 32 health centres and two universities.

While this may not stop the fighting, Kabila calculates that the planned improvements to his country will enhance his personal prestige. The new infrastructure, to be concentrated in the eastern heartland where Kabila needs the votes, could be a boon to Congo’s children. Instead, it seems possible that the deal will mean more exploitation. Youngsters not signed up as soldiers are often requisitioned as miners, labouring for a pittance to dig the minerals, such as cassiterite or tin ore that make warlords rich and fund Congo’s endless conflict. A spokesman for the charity Global Witness says, 'You see kids of seven working long days in small tunnels.’

China’s planned stake in the extractive industries has alarmed aid workers, who fear its dubious human rights record will make things worse. 'That would certainly be a concern,’ says Daniel Large, the research director of the Africa Asia Centre at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. 'Where you have weak regulation, Chinese companies are not unique in trying to get away with anything. But equally, you shouldn’t have only negative expectations. If anything, you can argue this is welcome. Congo needs investment, and it’s the first time a Chinese resource deal has had a social component, such as building schools.’

For decades the West has either violated Congo, in the case of the Belgian colonialists who inspired Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or averted its gaze from a land whose children are sacrificed to brutality and greed. British politicians, like their European counterparts, have promised to help, but their good intentions have faded into silence.

In the playground of the rehabilitation centre, the music group is singing. 'Les enfants réclament la paix dans leur pays. Toujours la paix (the children reclaim peace in their country. Always peace).’ They have learnt to believe in a better tomorrow. But who, in Congo and the wider world, will justify their faith?

Names of the child soldiers have been changed

Mandate of UN special envoy for LRA affected areas since 2006, ended on June 30th

Sad news from Sudan Radio Service, Thursday, 16 July 2009:
Mandate Ends for LRA Envoy
(Kampala) – Human Rights Watch has expressed concern over the suspension of the mandate of the United Nations special envoy for areas affected by the Lord's Resistance Army.

The mandate of the former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, who has been the UN special envoy for LRA affected areas since 2006, ended on June 30th.

Maria Burnett, Human Rights Watch's Uganda researcher spoke to Sudan Radio Service on Thursday. She described the likely impact of the UN envoy’s departure.

[Maria Burnett]: “Human Rights Watch remains extremely concerned about what the United Nations has done in terms of the protection of civilians who have been affected by the LRA in Congo, in Sudan and potentially in the Central African Republic. At the same time, we are also concerned about the warrant from the International Criminal Court and we hope that it will lead to Joseph Kony and other indicted LRA leaders facing justice for their crimes.”

She went on to say that there has been limited international action against the LRA and is calling on the international community to protect civilians from attacks by the LRA.

[Maria Burnett]: “We are looking to the Security Council and other international leaders. We have called on the United States for example to do more to protect civilians who are in the LRA affected areas where the LRA are continuing to commit abuses.”

According to Human Rights Watch reports, about 1200 civilians have been killed and over 250,000 people displaced by the LRA in the past eight months in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Institute for War & Peace Reporting - Africa: ICC Seen as Struggling to Communicate

According to the following article, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is accused of doing too little to tell people in Africa about its work.

From Institute for War & Peace Reporting (London)
Africa: ICC Seen as Struggling to Communicate
10 July 2009 (via AllAfrica)
The International Criminal Court, ICC, is under increasing pressure from lawyers, NGOs and journalists to do more to inform African communities affected by violence about the progress of investigations and trials of those accused of war crimes.

The ICC is based in The Hague in The Netherlands, thousands of kilometres away from the countries it deals with: Uganda, the Central African Republic, CAR, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

It is in the DRC - the country with the most indictees before the court - that the voices of discontent are the loudest.

IWPR has interviewed Congolese journalists, lawyers and civil society activists who say that people on the ground have little idea about what is going on in The Hague.
Read full story.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Uganda still pursuing LRA

Commentary by Peter Eichstaedt Thursday 09 July 2009:
Uganda still pursuing LRA
A new reports suggests that the Ugandan army may be in pursuit of units of the Lord's Resistance Army in the Central African Republic, despite its reported withdrawal from the region several months ago after the failed attempt to kill or capture the rebels fighters and their leader, Joseph Kony.

According to an article in today's Kampala weekly Observer by Edris Kiggundu, the Uganda army is hot on the heels of LRA forces led by Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen holed up in the Central African Republic, along with another LRA commander named Bok Abudema.

If the report is correct, it would fall in line with the government's suggestion that the fight is not over between Uganda and the LRA. And, it would support rumors that the contingent of advisers left behind in the DRC, supposedly to help the Congolese army finish the job, are more than that.

According to recent reports by escapees of the LRA, including one of Kony's top wives named Lily Atong, a significant LRA force retreated to the CAR. It makes sense that this would be the Odhiambo-Ongwen group, the apparent second and third top commanders of the LRA.

It would follow the tried-and-true tactic of the LRA to fragment and scatter, which allows it to operate in relatively independent groups and makes the LRA all the harder to effectively capture and/or eliminate.

Odhiambo and Ongwen were the two commanders who claimed they were willing to surrender earlier this year when the hunt for the LRA was in high gear with the Uganda's reportedly 3,000-strong force.

The two LRA commanders were in contact with an aid group that was working as an intermediary, but nothing came of it. The two commanders, along with their force of several hundred fighters, faded into the jungle.

According to the Observer, two units of the Ugandan army, the 301st and 309th brigades, have been given two weeks for the operation. At least one of these brigades is said to be composed of former LRA fighters, who are perhaps the only ones in the Ugandan army who have the stomach and endurance to effectively take on the LRA.

According to the article, the Ugandan army has also scored recent unreported victories against some scattered units of the LRA that have been wreaking havoc around Yambio, the capital of the Western Equatoria Province of South Sudan.

These attacks have been reported on a very limited basis, and sadly the only defense has been from poorly equipped local militia forces known as Arrow Boys. The name is apt because they are largely only armed with bows and arrows, and hardly a match for the LRA.

But what about Kony? The former wife of Kony said that the psychotic self-proclaimed prophet of his Acholi ethnic group, was frantic after the attack on his camps last December 14.

Apparently he is still in the vicinity of the Garamba National Park in northeastern DR Congo. If Uganda finds some success in the CAR, is Kony next?

Posted By Peter Eichstaedt to Peter Eichstaedt at 7/09/2009

Orphan bonobos set to be released into the wild in Congo

Orphan bonobos set to be released into the wild in Congo

A group of orphan bonobos are set to be released into the wild in what will be a world's first for the endangered species of primate.

Picture: BARCROFT MEDIA/Telegraph)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

LRA kill two in Maridi County, W. Equatoria State, S. Sudan

From Sudan Radio Service, Tuesday, 07 July 2009:
LRA Kill Two in Maridi
(Maridi) – The Lord’s Resistance Army attacked a village in Maridi on Monday, killing two and abducting an unknown number of people.

The LRA have scattered throughout the areas of Western Equatoria causing high levels of insecurity since the end of a joint operation carried out by Uganda, Congo and south Sudan in December 2008.

A resident of Maridi, Noel Kango, described the attack to Sudan Radio Service on Tuesday.

[Noel Kango]: “At around 8 o'clock on the night of 5th July, they appeared at the junction of Embe, in a place called Fenembea. They came there and killed two people: one called Ludu and the other one called Mardamba. They took the wife of Ludu and went with her the same night. The following morning, we heard that they abducted people. They took 7 people. Of the seven, two died. They killed them ahead there.”

It is not clear whether or not the attacks will continue but it has already caused fear among the people in Maridi.

[Noel Kango]: “They came through from the Congo border, they fought and ran back the same way. Nobody knows the reason for their coming but according to what people say, they came and started killing people. Usually, they only come in search of food but nobody knows their exact objective. Most people have run to Maridi and others have gone back to Edi, to a place where there are soldiers - in search of protection. Farmers will not be ready for the growing season if this continues.”

According to Kango, soldiers have been sent from both Edi and Maridi county to the affected area and the surrounding villages to monitor the situation.

Community youth groups are also on a high alert.

Monday, July 06, 2009

ICC launches a series of radio programmes in the Central African Republic (CAR)

From UN News Centre, Monday, 06 July 2009:
ICC begins radio series to explain activities to Central Africans
The International Criminal Court (ICC) today launches a series of radio programmes in the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of an outreach campaign aimed at informing the country’s population about the court’s mandate and activities.
The 13-episode series, which will be broadcast in the Sango language, is called “Understanding the International Criminal Court” and uses a question-and-answer format. At least 14 separate radio stations are expected to air the programmes.

The radio programmes are the result of some 50 outreach sessions held by the ICC in the Central African capital, Bangui, between January and June this year.

Individual episodes will be aired once a week, and the topics include the structure of the court, the rights of suspects, judgement and sentencing and the rights and responsibilities of witnesses and victims.

The situation in the CAR is one of four – along with Sudan’s Darfur region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda – currently under investigation by the Prosecutor of the ICC, an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Hat tip: UN Dispatch

Most of the LRA have crossed to Central Africa now?

From Sudan Radio Service, Monday, 06 July 2009:
LRA Still Present Near Yambio After Attacks
(Yambio, Southern Sudan) – Residents of Masumbo and Dimbiro left their homes in panic when at least one person was killed and three others were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army last week in Western Equatoria State.

Speaking to Sudan Radio Service from Yambio, deputy governor Joseph Ngere said that the LRA attacked the two villages south of Yambio before escaping to Central Africa.

[Ngere –Eng]: “The LRA is around; they have been with us for some time now. They attacked a village called Masumbo, about seven miles south of Yambio. They killed one person and abducted three others and they went back to Congo. Most of the LRA have crossed to Central Africa now. They divided themselves into groups. So I believe there are some groups who have stayed behind just to divert the attention of the main forces from attacking them. We will realign our deployment and increase our patrols so eventually we will get them.”

Ngere added that the attacks by the LRA were provoked by the joint SPLA, Ugandan and DR. Congo operations which intend to oust the rebel group from the region.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

DRC: UN Security Council Report July 2009 Forecast

The Council is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s report on the DRC, due on 30 June, 2009. The Council is expected to be briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the DRC, Alan Doss. The mandate of the MONUC expires on 31 December 2009. To read the full text, please click here.

Children and Armed Conflict
In July the Council is expected to consider the annual report on the activities of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009. The Council is likely to be briefed by both France, which was chair of the Working Group until the end of 2008, and Mexico, which took over in January 2009. By the end of July, the Council is also expected to take up the issue of expanding the criteria for including parties to armed conflict in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict, as foreshadowed in its 29 April presidential statement. To read the full text, please click here.

Women, Peace and Security
The Council is expected to hold a debate in July on implementation of resolution 1820 on sexual violence in conflict. (The Secretary-General’s report is due on 30 June). At press time it was unclear whether the report would be received on time and if the Council would consider it in July or August. It was also unclear whether there would be any formal Council action following the debate. To read the full text, please click here.
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Tel: 212.759.9429 • Fax: 212.759.4038