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.