Sunday, May 24, 2009

At Last the UN Sides With People of the Congo: UN asks Congo to arrest army officers

UN asks Congo to arrest army officers

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — The U.N. Security Council said Tuesday that it had asked the Congolese government to investigate and arrest five high-ranking army officers known to have committed atrocities.

The officers joined the Congolese army after leaving their rebel groups as part of a peace deal.

The U.N. offered no specifics on the accusations against the five men but human-rights groups have said that members of the army have raped, robbed and killed civilians in recent months.

Improving the dismal performance of the army is a key step in the process of eventually reducing the size and cost of the world's largest U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Jean-Maurice Ripert, France's ambassador the U.N. said, "We even provided the government with the names of people whom we wished to see judged and arrested. We got a commitment from the government that encourages us."

Ripert would not name the men but said the Security Council had asked Congolese authorities to work on improving the army, police and judiciary.

Currently the underpaid and ill-disciplined army has a dismal reputation for raping and murdering the civilians it is meant to protect.

Human Rights Watch, an independent international rights group, said Tuesday that soldiers were responsible for 143 rapes in the north Kivu province since January, over half the 250 rapes it had documented. It said the army had also killed at least 19 civilians in the same period.

"Some women were taken as sex slaves by soldiers and held within military positions," it said.

Alan Doss, the U.N.'s top official in the Congo, said the army would have to improve if plans to increase the current U.N. peacekeeping force by 3,000 troops and then try to start reducing it by 2010 were to go ahead.

Congo has been wracked by conflict since genocidal forces from Rwanda fled into its forested mountains 15 years ago. At its height, the conflict in eastern Congo drew in half a dozen of the country's neighbors, each greedy for a share of the region's rich mineral resources. A peace deal in 2003 reduced the fighting but both the army and rebel groups still lurking in the forests continue to attack villages and mutilate and kill civilians.
"The Security Council cannot turn a blind eye when known human rights abusers are in senior positions in military operations they support," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher in the Africa division at Human Rights Watch.

The Security Council arrived in Liberia Tuesday to assess the state of the nation six years after the end of a devastating civil war. It is the last stop of the U.N. body's four-country tour.

Source: Associated Press. May 19th 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Save the Congo

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Congo Now

Artists, writers, parliamentarians and activists come together under the banner of Congo Now! to highlight not just the unacceptable suffering of the Congolese people, but also the country’s untapped potential, its creativity and cultural energy.

Monday 4 May, 11am-11.45am – Congolese international and West Ham star Herita Ilunga launches the week at a community football tournament in Regent’s Park in cooperation with Christian Aid. A Question & Answer session with budding footballers will be followed by a statement and photo opportunity at the Hub.

Thursday 7 May, 7.45pm – Congo Now! will reach its zenith in an evening of celebration hosted by the Southbank Centre, in collaboration with the All Party Group, photojournalist Susan Schulman and V-Day UK. British and Congolese musicians, writers and public figures including the celebrated Kasai Masai, singer/songwriter Safro, singer and actress Sharon D Clarke, Tim Butcher (Blood River) and Oona King will be joined by Thandie Newton performing a new monologue by acclaimed writer Eve Ensler. For details and tickets, please see the Southbank Centre.

Friday 8 May, 6pm – Doughty Street Chambers and Human Rights Watch will screen The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court, an award-winning documentary following the drama of how the world is seeking to apply the rule of law and hold to account perpetrators of unspeakable crimes in places like the Congo, Uganda and Sudan. The film will be followed by a panel discussion on the challenges of seeking justice in the Congo. Venue: 53-54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS. Please RSVP to events(at)doughtystreet.co.uk.

Friday 8 May, 9am-10am – Another Kind of Struggle: the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on the Democratic Republic of Congo – a discussion chaired by Dr Muzong Kodi at The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, 10 St James's Square, SW1Y 4LE.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I Must Not Forget

I Must Not Forget

A crack in the sky
Men woman and children demonized
Axes, Machetes… clenched the street
Cries; the crushing sounds of skulls from all ways you look
The unspoken was taking place:

She is accustomed to it, a voice from a New York said
Friends; neighbours stand and look, to say the least
Blameless souls broken down by rod and by rood
Hacked off at a yes or a no
Blue helmets, without arms, stand idly
as blood rust, and de-colored in soil

To this, my heart recoils from the thought of your agony
my soul torn by this rage inside
How was it possible that I was here, alive
when next door a carnival of carnage was taking place!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Congo: Voix des Sans Voix Urgent Actions

Dear friends,

Please find below an Urgent Action for three colleagues from Voix des Sans Voix who were arrested on 15th March. Please circulate it widely and send appeals to the authorities for their release.

Veuillez trouver ci-dessous une Action Urgente pour les trois collègues de la Voix des Sans Voix qui ont été arrêtés avant-hier. Merci de la diffuser largement et d'envoyer des appels aux autorités pour leur libération.

AI Index: AFR 62/006/2009
16 March 2009
UA 78/09

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
*Dolly Inefo Mbunga (m),
*Floribert Chebeya Bahizire (m),
*Donat Tshikaya (m), and all human rights defenders

Human rights defenders Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, Dolly Inefo Mbunga and Donat Tshikaya were arrested on 15 March in Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital, by officers of the Police Nationale Congolaise , national police force. According to eyewitnesses, the men were beaten, handcuffed and “thrown” into police vehicles and then taken to the Kin-Mazière detention centre in central Kinshasa, the headquarters of the Special Services police.

They have been held incommunicado since then, putting them at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International considers them prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their human rights activities and peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

The men were arrested at the offices of a national human rights network, RENADHOC (Réseau National des ONGs des Droits de l’Homme en RD Congo), just after they had held a press conference calling for a peaceful protest march and sit-in in of front the National Assembly, to protest against what they regard as unconstitutional attempts by the ruling AMP political coalition of President Joseph Kabila to force the removal from office of the President of the National Assembly, Vital Kamerhe, and other members of the National Assembly’s Secretariat.

Floribert Chibeya Bahizire is the President of the human rights NGO La Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), Voice of the Voiceless, and Executive-Secretary RENADHOC. Dolly Inefo Mbunga is the Deputy-Director of VSV and Donat Tshikaya is a RENADHOC staff member.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Special Services police (Direction des Renseignements Généraux et Services Spéciaux de la police (DRGS), is a special intelligence division of the national police force. The DRGS has been responsible for numerous arbitrary arrests of suspected opposition members and supporters, journalists and human rights activists, as well as acts of torture and other ill-treatment.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in French, English or your own language:

urging the authorities to release Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, Dolly Inefo Mbunga and Donat Tshikaya immediately and without condition, as they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,
- call on the authorities to allow Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, Dolly Inefo Mbunga and Donat Tshikaya
immediate access to legal representation as well as family visits and any medical attention they may
require,
- demand that the authorities stop the harassment and unlawful arrests of human rights activists in DRC.

APPEALS: We need you to do 3 things:
Copy and Paste this appeal and send it to as many people as possible pleading to them to do the same

Write to: Gordon Brown –the British PM; David Milliband –British Foreign Secretary; Lord Mallock Brown -British Foreign Secretary in charge of Africa; David Cameron –Conservative Opposition leader; and Nick Clergg –Liberal Democrat Opposition Leader, and urge them to call upon the Congolese authorities to release Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, Dolly Inefo Mbunga and Donat Tshikaya immediately and without condition, as they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

The Rt Hon Gordon Brown
UK Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA

The Rt Hon David Milliband
UK Foreign Secretary
Ede House
143 Westoe Road
South Shields NE33 3PD
milibandd@parliament.uk
(0191) 456 8910.

Lord Mallock Brown
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
Tel: 020 7008 1500

The Rt Hon David Cameron
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Email: camerond@parliament.uk

The Rt Hon Nick Clerg MP
85 Nethergreen Road,
Sheffield S11 7EH
Tel: 0114 230 9002. Fax: 0114 230 9614
Email: nickclegg@sheffieldhallam.org.uk

We need you to CONTACT YOUR MP and ask him or her to write to the PM Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary on your behalf asking him to:
- call for the release of all prisoner of conscious in the Congo; and
- urging the Congolese authority to stop all forms of arbitrary arrest
We have a DRAFT LETTER: “Human rights = Human life” which you can alter to send to your MP, PM or Opposition leader either by post or email. Please email Vava Tampa on: vava.tampa@savethecongo.co.uk for a copy
Note:
To find out the name of your MP (go to http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/commons/l/)
a. Their email address will be the first letter of the first name.surname@parliament.uk (e.g. for Gordon Brown it would be g.brown@parliament.uk)
b. You can actually write to 2 MPs! Your home MP and your Uni MP.
2) Personalize the generic letter by replacing the *red* text

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY, and if you need further details on the case check with the International Secretariat, or your section office or email Vava Tampa on: vava.tampa@savethecongo.co.uk

Thursday, January 29, 2009

SAVE THE CONGO - NEW MEDIA RELEASE

SAVE THE CONGO – NEW MEDIA RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 29 January 2009

Conflict Risk Alert: DR Congo
London, 29 January 2009: Save the Congo calls upon PM Gordon Brown to use his leverage on the Rwanda leadership, the Congolese government and regional powers to end the join military operation of Rwanda and Congo which threatens to plunge Eastern Congo further into what is already an unmatched human suffering in recent history without assurance that it will solve the region’s conflict.

President Joseph Kabila of DRC and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda have embarked on a join military operation to flush FDLR-rebels out eastern Congo. The operation has already impacted negatively on the ability of MONUC [UN mission in DRC] peacekeepers, as well as various UN agencies and aid agencies, to protect and assist the civilian population in some areas.

Rwanda has invaded Eastern Congo twice in recent years under the pretext of disarming the FDLR; and on both occasions, investigations and reports by aid agencies and the UN appointed Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, uncovered and unveiled primary evidences implicating President Kagame’s close friends and military elites in series of systematic plundering of Congo’s natural resources; summary executions of as well as orchestrated campaign of sexual violence against civilians, whom they believe were aiding the government, and force displacements which have led to the human tragedy engulfing the Congo.

In addition, Save the Congo fears a repeat of the 1996-1997 scenes as MONUC is not involved. In 1996-1997, when AFDL [alliance of Rwandan, Ugandan armies and anti-Mobutu groups under the leadership of Laurent Desire Kabila] marched into Congo, then Zaire, to oust Joseph Mobutu from a 32 years reign of power, the Hutu populations, some of whom were responsible for the 1994 genocide and some simple innocent civilians, living in refugee camps in Eastern Congo were systematically and indiscriminately slaughtered. An estimated 3 Million are said to have been killed.

Furthermore, Save the Cong warns of a political stunt by the Rwandan authority: between 1998-2001 Rwanda invaded Eastern Congo under the same pretext [disarming and flushing FDLR out of Eastern Congo] – throughout that period, Rwandan soldiers and its offshoot RCD-Goma did not go after or clashed with FDLR but, on the contrary, Rwanda and RCD-Goma occupied rich mining areas in Eastern Congo, collaborated with FDLR-rebels and coltan, cassiteririte, gold and diamonds exploited by the FDLR were being sold in Rwanda.

“More bloods will not cleanse bad blood” said Vava Tampa, a Congolese born and undergraduate student at Queen Mary College, University of London.
"The FDLR are in Masisi but the Rwandans have instead gone to Rutshuru. We don't really know what they are doing there because our access has been blocked” - said Jean-Paul Dietrich, MONUC military spokesman

“The world must not stand idly when armies bearing trade marks of war crimes embark on military assaults, that has no insurance of removing the cloud of war that has shadowed the region for sixteen years, in communities already gripped with humanitarian catastrophes that wouldn't exist in peaceful time to apprehend a group of individuals indistinguishable from ordinary Congolese civilian population” added Vava Tampa.

“Wounds still fresh… nightmares of the Rwandan military activities in the Congo in recent years still haunting the civilian population… and forcing such people -the local population, to share the same paths with Rwandan soldiers at the wake of the recent Rwandan backed war by CNDP which left over 500 000 killed; over 250 000 uprooted and scenes of war crimes across the Kivus between August 28 to December 12, is, in essence, pouring their wounds with gall and vinegar – said Vava Tampa, a Congolese born and undergraduate student at Queen Mary College, University of London.

“Given the Rwandan and Ugandan armies’ last clash over mining areas in Kisangani in 2002; fear, resentment, acute ethnic tensions and availability of tools of destructions in the Kivus; and MONUC’ inability to decisively deter those fuelling and perpetuating inhumane actions in ethnic line; the on-going join military operations, at its current form, risk to plunge the region into inter-state genocidal destruction; and unless PM Gordon Brown, who has a very significant influence upon the Rwandan and Congolese leadership, takes on a pro-active role to end the joint military operation, Eastern Congo could, once again, be transformed into huge battlefields.” – added Vava Tampa.

For further information, please contact:

Vava Tampa: +44 (0) 7960 705 829 (day or night)vava.tampa@savethecongo.co.ukwww.savethecongo.co.uk

Vava Tampa is a Congolese born and undergraduate student at Queen Mary College, University of London; and Director of Save the Congo –a UK based Congolese youth led advocacy organisation campaigning for and promoting the restoration of peace, security, justice and human dignity in the Congo.

Note to the editors:

The DRC is a home to vast expanses of pristine rain forest, rare animal species and a treasure trove of rare precious minerals – it houses all elements found on the periodic table. Its abundant reserves of Copper, Cobalt, Coltan -an essential component of mobile phones, laptops and game counsels, Cassiterite (tin ore), Diamonds, Hydraulic Cement, Iron, Gas, Gold, Lead, Lithium, Manganese, Nickel, Oil, Silver, Timber, Tungsten, Uranium and zinc have the potential to serve as the engine of growth in its reconstruction and eradication of poverty in the Central African region and beyond.

Yet its one of the poorest and chaotic nations, ruined by wars, sexual atrocities and humanitarian catastrophes. One can take all lives lost in Bosnia, Rwanda 1994, Darfur, the 2005 tsunami in Asia, and then add a 9-11 every single day for 356 days and then go through Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Put all of those together, multiply by 2 and you still don’t reach the number of lives that has been lost in the Congo since 1998.

NGOs estimate that over 6 millions have so far been killed; around 40% of all adult women have been made widows; around 2 million internally displaced; 100 000s of women and young girls brutally gang raped; and million more remain trapped between warring parties.

The UK is the largest unilateral aid donor to the Congolese government –providing more aid than France, Belgium and US combined; and the second largest aid donor to the Rwandan government.

The first report of the UN appointed Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was published on 12 April 2001

The Final report of the UN appointed Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was published on 12 December 2008 (S/2008/773)

The National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP)
CNDP is an armed group almost exclusively composed of ethnic Tutsis. It was established by Laurent Nkunda –a former officer of RCD-Goma which in 2003 signed the Sun City peace-deal and joined the transitional government with Laurent Nkunda as a Colonel but soon promoted to General.

However, in 2004, with the support and assistance of close allies of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Laurent Nkunda with some (former) RCD-Goma officers and militia retreated to the highlands of Masisi Plain, Eastern Congo, under the pretence of defending the interests of the Tutsi minority in eastern Congo and formed a band coalition, CNDP, of ethnic Tutsis from Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

On January 22, the Rwandan authority announced that they had arrested Laurent Nkunda; four days later, on the 26th, the Rwandan army spokesperson Maj. Jill Rutaremara, when questioned by the press, said “Laurent Nkunda was in Rwanda but “not in jail.” And he would not elaborate other than saying Nkunda was “safe”

Democratic Force for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)
FDLR is a coalition almost entirely composed of ethnic Hutus. It was formed in 2000 “after the merger of ALIR –the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda and a loose Hutu Congolese armed group

ALIR was overwhelmingly composed of Rwandan Hutus responsible for the genocide in Rwanda but fled to the Congo as Paul Kagame’s RPF advance toward Kigali in 1994. During the 1998-2003 war, FRDL sided with the Kinshasa government trying to end Rwandan and Ugandan led scramble of rich natural resources in Eastern Congo.

In March 2005, the FDLR announced it was abandoning its armed struggle against the Rwandan government and returning to Rwanda to form a political party but the move was not welcome nor aided by the Rwandan government and soon collapse. And have since resumed their military activities.