Thursday, January 29, 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 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.

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