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News from the Democratic Republic of Congo

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North Kivu braces for potential UN-armed group clashes

GENEVA, 2 August 2013 (IRIN) - A UN ultimatum for armed groups around Goma, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC's) North Kivu Province, to disarm, expired on 1 August and a security zone has been set up around the city. Goma is calm, but civilians, aid agencies and NGOs wait nervously as the UN's first ever "offensive" peacekeeping force prepares to fully deploy.

"In North Kivu, MONUSCO [the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC ] considers any individuals who are not members of the national security forces and who carry a firearm in Goma and its northern suburbs an imminent threat to civilians and will disarm them in order to enforce a security zone to protect the densely populated area of Goma and Sake," MONUSCO said in a statement [ http://monusco.unmissions.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=buj0NsqnAho%3D&tabid=10662&mid=14701&language=en-US ] on 30 July, adding that the operation to enforce the security zone would, for the first time, involve its UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97999/is-more-force-in-the-drc-more-of-the-same ] a 3,000-strong international force mandated to "neutralize. and disarm" all armed groups in eastern DRC.

According to MONUSCO, about 75 percent [ http://monusco.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=10662&ctl=Details&mid=14594&ItemID=20029&language=en-US ] of FIB's troops - from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania - are already on the ground; the brigade "will carry out targeted offensive operations in support of the Congolese army or unilaterally".

Speaking to the press on 25 July, the brigade's commanding officer, Brig-Gen James Mwakibolwa of Tanzania, gave assurances that "Goma will never fall again as long as the FIB is on the ground. That's the reason why the brigade is doing all in its powers through patrols to protect Goma and its environs."

One of the first targets of the FIB will be the rebel M23, [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97779/briefing-m23-one-year-on ] mutineers who have been fighting the DRC's army, FARDC, since April 2012.

Since 14 July, FARDC and M23 have been fighting around Mutaho, Kibati and Munigi, on the outskirts of Goma. Already hundreds of thousands have been displaced in North Kivu and tens of thousands more have fled across the border to Rwanda and Uganda. Humanitarian agencies fear that clashes between FIB and M23 could cause further civilian suffering. [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/98510/drc-multiple-displacements-making-people-more-vulnerable ]

Proceed with caution

"Oxfam urges the UN Peacekeeping force to proceed with the utmost caution as it enforces their call for disarmament and to ensure that civilians are adequately protected from any ensuing violence," Tariq Riebl, Oxfam's DRC humanitarian programme coordinator, said in a 31 July statement [ http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/reactions/un-announcement-enforcement-security-zone-call-disarmament-goma ].

"The removal of so many arms that have been used to terrorize civilians in the area should help reduce the appalling levels of human suffering but the UN must ensure that its operations do not make a bad situation much worse."

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) [ http://www.direct.cd/2013/07/05/msf-accuse-lonu-dentretenir-la-confusion-a-lest.html ] has expressed concern about MONUSCO's offensive mandate and the blurring of lines between humanitarian and military action. In a letter, Bertrand Perrochet, head of mission for MSF in DRC, urged MONUSCO not to deploy troops around its health facilities lest the safety of patients and staff be impaired.

MONUSCO insists, however, that its mandate is not contradictory, and according to the media, spokesman Manodge Monoubai said the UN mission could not "fold our arms and allow armed groups to kill the population". [ http://www.voanews.com/content/doctors-without-frontiers-un-congo/1699859.html ]

The Congolese government has welcomed the establishment of the zone and the ultimatum. For its part, M23, which is not at present within the security zone, has denounced [ http://congodrcnews.com/?p=3080 ] MONUSCO's actions.

"We [will] stay within the area assigned us after retreating from Goma" M23's president, Bertrand Bisimwa, told IRIN. M23 briefly occupied Goma in DRC, and was ordered to withdraw during negotiations in Kampala brokered by the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which has been mediating in so far unsuccessful talks between the rebels and the government.

Analysts say the success of the FIB will be dependent on how it responds to threats and how it deals with the local population. "The intervention brigade can be a force for good; however, it is crucial for it to interact with local populations in a transparent and open manner," said Rémy Kasindi, director of DRC think tank CRESA.

Others are more sceptical of MONUSCO's ability to protect Goma and its population. "Prior to M23's capture of Goma, we heard similar announcements and afterwards the city was taken over by the rebel movement," Ley Uwera, a Goma-based journalist, told IRIN, expressing concern about the delay in the FIB deployment - the brigade was expected to be fully operational by the end of July.

"Targeted armed groups are likely to seek to avoid direct confrontation with the Intervention Brigade," Fred Robarts a former coordinator of the UN Group of Experts on DRC, told IRIN, noting that "yet more displacement seems inevitable as a result of future offensive operations.

"Most obviously, humanitarian actors will have to continue carefully to manage the need to coordinate with the peacekeepers while guarding their neutrality and independence. Much depends on [the FIB] establishing credibility at this early stage, and it remains to be seen how firmly the new brigade will respond when first tested."

Chantal Daniels, Great Lakes policy adviser for Christian Aid, told IRIN that within the aid community, there is "hope [that] the security zone is a first step in a wider PoC [Protection of Civilians] and security approach".

Shaky political process

Alongside the military manoeuvres, a shaky peace process continues, with ICGLR heads of state recently meeting in Nairobi and reiterating their support for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC [ http://www.peaceau.org/en/topic/peace-security-and-cooperation-framework-for-drc-and-the-region-signed-in-addis-ababa ] signed in Addis Ababa on 24 February.

However, on the sidelines of the ICGLR summit, diplomats privately told IRIN that many felt MONUSCO's ultimatum had dented the chances of a peaceful resolution to the crisis, sentiments also expressed by Rwanda, [ http://www.voanews.com/content/reu-rwanda-says-un-ultimatum-threatened-congo-peace-talks/1714694.html ] which has been accused of supporting M23, a charge it strenuously denies.

CRESA's Kasindi stressed that "the Congolese government, as well as other regional actors [must] assume a prime responsibility for what happens in the Kivu provinces."

"Whatever happens militarily, without strong political commitment it might lead to more tensions... especially if disarmament calls are not complemented by a new DDR [disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration] approach," said Christian Aid's Daniels.
kr/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98514

DRC multiple displacements making people more vulnerable

GOMA, 1 August 2013 (IRIN) - Since 2012 an estimated one million people have been displaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) eastern provinces of South and North Kivu, major ethnic and political flashpoints in the country.

However, for many of DRC's over two million internally displaced persons (IDPs), it is not the first time they are being uprooted from their homes. Multiple displacements have become a feature of the past two decades in DRC and, as the violence escalates, things do not look like improving any time soon.

"Multiple displacements are a significant problem in the DRC. Most of the IDPs we spoke to in North Kivu had been forced to flee their homes at least twice, and many others told us of having to flee from one camp to another with each new wave of violence. In many ways, the longer a person is displaced and the more times they have to flee, the more vulnerable they become," Caelin Briggs, Great Lakes advocate at international NGO Refugees International, told IRIN.

A 2013 report [ http://www.fmreview.org/en/fragilestates/beytrison-kalis.pdf ] by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) found that in some places, 65 percent of those interviewed had been displaced at least twice, while a further 37 percent had been uprooted more than three times as a result of violence.

According to official UN figures, there are more than 900,000 IDPs in North Kivu; just 148,772 of them live in the 31 official camps run by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Those who spoke with IRIN said they preferred staying in sites nearer to their homes from where they can monitor the situation and more easily assess the possibility of returning home.

"You just hope the war will end and [that you can] go back to farm and feed your family. When you are far from home, you don't know what the situation is," said Xavier, 31, who lives in Mugunga 1, a spontaneous (makeshift) site run by the International Organization for Migration.

"At times when you go back home, you stay three days and they [the rebels] attack again and you have to run," he said.

Analysts say the repeated displacements are exacerbated both by the continuing ethnic and political violence and the inability of the DRC administration to protect citizens.

"In the absence of physical security or rule of law provided by the state, further strains on social cohesion stem from the broader instability that has seen communities resort to using local defence militia which are typically established along village - and therefore frequently ethnic - lines," said the authors of the NRC report.

In November 2012, for instance, Kanyaruchinya, a camp hosting an estimated 50,000 people emptied within hours when violence broke out around Goma after people fled fearing for their safety, while in late February and March 2013 UNHCR reported that thousands of IDPs fled their sites to the UN peacekeepers' base in the town of Kitchanga following clashes between the DRC army and armed groups.

"You are always on the run"

Oliver Mutambo, 45, who comes from Mutaho, a farming village some 13km north of Goma told IRIN how he was displaced during the country's first war in 1996. Since then, he has had to run for his life eight times. On one occasion he had to escape from a camp when violence broke out, fearing those from his ethnic community would be targeted.

"I was displaced in 1996 when [Laurent] Kabila was fighting to overthrow Mobutu's government. I thought there would be peace when he took power, but since then I have fled my home eight times to live here [in a camp]," he said.

Today Mutambo lives in Mugunga III, a UNHCR managed site on the outskirts of Goma. He has lived there for a year.

"Running away from your home only gives you safety at that time. But also in places where you seek refuge, violence can break out between different ethnic communities and you have to escape again. In Congo, you are always on the run," Mutambo said.

Spontaneous sites more risky?

Experts like Briggs of Refuges International say those living in spontaneous sites face greater risks.

"People in spontaneous settlements are more vulnerable for two reasons: first, spontaneous settlements are often located in highly insecure areas. These sites are frequently a mid-way point between people's hometowns and the official camps, where people choose to settle to be able to monitor the security at their homes and go back and forth as needed to find food. Given this, the spontaneous sites are often closer to the frontlines of the violence and, as such, place IDPs in greater danger."

Aid agencies told IRIN repeated displacements had created a challenge in terms of keeping track of the number of IDPs and providing them with humanitarian assistance.

"People have been displaced many times and it is making it very difficult to have a verifiable number of those who have been displaced. At times this creates even a challenge in registration of the IDPs, and aid agencies find it hard to offer assistance because of the constant movements," said Mikala Gloria Ramazani, an external relations associate with UNHCR.

Protection lacking

Ramazani said that even in UNHCR-run camps such as Mugunga III, people are still vulnerable to attack. The agency no longer pays Congolese police to guard the camps as a result of resource constraints, and the government does not provide any protection.

"While official camps managed by UNHCR are relatively safer and their services better, people can still face insecurity because the police are not there. MONUSCO [UN Stabilization Mission in DRC] does patrol the camps but only intermittently," she said.

According to one aid worker, repeated displacement in North and South Kivu will continue unless the government can take charge of the region.

"People keep on moving because the violence is spreading even to areas where people had sought refuge. The government is lacking and the government security forces are too lethargic to act. They are busy looking for ways they can survive. The government doesn't take care of them," he said.

Half rations

Many people are unable to access their farms as a result of the conflict. Aid agencies like the World Food Programme provide food to the displaced and host communities but pipeline limitations have meant they are unable to cope with demand.

"Those in need of assistance as a result of the recurrent displacement are many. We are offering food in seven spontaneous sites but we are only giving half rations because we have little resources," Djaounsede Pardon, a WFP public information officer in Goma, told IRIN.

The DRC army has since pushed back the M23 rebels - one of the many militia operating in the region - and the 3,000-strong UN Intervention Brigade [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97999/is-more-force-in-the-drc-more-of-the-same ] is expected to swing into action soon, but the security situation in Congo's vast eastern region remains precarious.
ko/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98510

LRA "weaker than it has been in at least 20 years"

KAMPALA, 1 August 2013 (IRIN) - Joseph Kony is losing his grip on the fighters of his rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), with many wanting to defect, according to a new report by The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, an US-based advocacy group.

According to the report, Loosening Kony's Grip: Effective Defection Strategies for Today's LRA [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Loosening-Konys-Grip-Abridged-FINAL.pdf ], many LRA combatants in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are increasingly disillusioned by the leadership's failure to maintain contact with the increasingly fragmented group and by the difficulty of life in remote rainforests far from home, made worse by pressure from Ugandan military forces and US military advisers operating in the region. Some are also disenchanted with the group's recent shift towards forms of banditry, including harvesting elephant ivory.

"The Lord's Resistance Army is likely weaker than it has been in at least 20 years... and morale among the Ugandan combatants that comprise the core of its force is at a new low," the authors noted.

Weakening the LRA

The report says the LRA currently has an estimated 250 combatants - including 200 Ugandans and 50 low-ranking fighters from CAR, DRC and South Sudan - and another 250 dependents.

The authors suggest that a campaign dubbed "Come Home" - a collaboration between the Ugandan and US militaries that uses speakers mounted on helicopters circling LRA-occupied areas as well as leaflets, radio broadcasts and Safe Reporting Sites to encourage defection from the LRA - would yield better results if it were conducted in more areas where the group operates. According to the report, at least 31 Ugandan LRA combatants defected in 2012 and through the first six months of 2013.

Kony and his fighters are thought to operate in the border regions of CAR, DRC, Sudan and South Sudan; Uganda has some 2,500 soldiers deployed around these areas under the auspices of the African Union. In late 2011, the US deployed 100 special forces to the region as military advisers to the effort.

"The apparent weakening of the LRA's internal cohesion, their long tradition of holding civilian populations hostage to deter attacks, and the historic failure of military operations to achieve a decisive victory [suggest] that the most timely and cost-effective approach to dismantling the LRA is to encourage increased defections," the authors said. "The large majority of people in the LRA were forcibly conscripted, and most, including many Ugandans, want to defect."

Ugandan officials continue to encourage defection from the LRA, promising defectors amnesty from prosecution; an Amnesty Act [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/98133/rebel-amnesty-reinstated-in-uganda ] that lapsed in 2012 was reinstated in 2013. The Amnesty Act does not extend to top LRA commanders.

"The amnesty law is still there for those who are not indicted by ICC [International Criminal Court [ http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/situations%20and%20cases/situations/situation%20icc%200204/related%20cases/icc%200204%200105/Pages/uganda.aspx ] - Kony and three of his most senior commanders have been indicted on several charges, including crimes against humanity and war crimes]. We encourage them to abandon the rebellion and come out. They are welcome back home," Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesperson, told IRIN. "If they have no fighters, they have no future."

He added, "The hard-core ones like Kony and his top leadership can't surrender. We have an AU [African Union] force there. We shall resume hunting them once AU gets authorization from the new CAR authorities."

The hunt for Kony was suspended following a coup in CAR [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97721/car-coup-comes-amid-deepening-humanitarian-crisis ] by the Séléka rebel group, which overran the capital, Bangui, on 24 March, putting President François Bozizé to flight and naming Michel Djotodjia as the new head of state.

"There is need to continue to encourage and persuade the LRA members to defect. Let them abandon the rebellion and come back home. They are victims of circumstances," retired bishop Baker Ochola, a member of Acholi Religious Peace Initiative (ALPI), told IRIN. "Let them leave LRA to Kony and his people who started it... Kony will remain alone and will not have support."

Ochola warned that while the LRA may be weaker, "they are still at large. They still pose a challenge and are dangerous".

Beyond defection

Some analysts feel that defection is an incomplete strategy to tackle the LRA menace.

"The LRA survival strategy is abduction, as opposed to voluntary recruitment, and for every defectee, the LRA abducts double the number to replenish its forces, which keeps the insurgency in circles," Stephen Oola, a transitional justice and governance analyst at Uganda's Makerere University Refugee Law Project. "To suggest that the LRA can be dismantled from the bottom-up through defection is a recognition of the failed militaristic approach and an opportunity to call for resumption of peace talks to find lasting solutions.

"A comprehensive strategy to end the LRA conflict must engage top LRA leadership, address its legacy, and deal with Uganda's own governance crisis to find lasting peace," he added.

The authors of the report said there was a need for better disarmament, demobilization and reintegration strategy in order to increase the rate of defections, noting that the future remained uncertain for people who chose to defect, with "shamefully inadequate" reintegration support.

"Former abductees, particularly adults, must often face the challenge of rebuilding livelihoods, overcoming trauma, and coping with community stigmatization with little support. Awareness of these difficulties, combined with the risks of attempted escape, discourages many from defecting," the authors stated. "A well-resourced and dynamic disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) strategy could help break Kony's grip on the rebel group, allow hundreds of abductees to peacefully return to their families, and help keep civilians safer from further LRA attacks."

The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative recommended, among other things, a broadened "Come Home" programme, funding for comprehensive mapping of the LRA's command structure, and better funding for organizations providing medical and psychosocial assistance to returnees.

The LRA came into existence in the late 1980s, and fought a lengthy and brutal war with the government in northern Uganda for close to 20 years; for years, more than one million people were forced to live in camps for internally displaced people under terrible humanitarian conditions. The last LRA attacks in Uganda were in 2006.
so/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98509

Rights abuses on both sides in DRC conflict

GOMA, 29 July 2013 (IRIN) - As fighting continues in North Kivu Province between the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) army and the rebel group M23, both sides have been accused of committing human rights abuses against each other and civilians, some of which amount to war crimes, according to rights groups.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC had committed war crimes [ http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/05/dr-congo-war-crimes-m23-congolese-army ]; a second major report by HRW, released 22 July, finds M23's war crimes have continued [ https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/22/dr-congo-m23-rebels-kill-rape-civilians ].

Summarizing the report's findings, lead author Ida Sawyer told IRIN: "What we've documented is that war crimes committed by M23 fighters have continued since March, and those crimes include summary executions of at least 44 people, and rapes of at least 61 women and girls, and forced recruitment of scores of young men and boys."

Meanwhile, HRW, a report of the UN Secretary-General and other sources allege the Congolese army has also committed abuses, ranging from the desecration of corpses to mass rape and the killing of civilians.

The M23 rebellion [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97779/briefing-m23-one-year-on ] began in April 2012, with the DRC army and M23 clashing intermittently since then. The most recent spate of violence began on 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital. M23 currently controls the areas of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo.

The group came into existence when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

M23 response

In a September 2012 report on M23, HRW accused the group of deliberately killing at least 15 civilians since June and of executing 33 of its own combatants.

In its latest report, the group alleges that 15 civilians were killed by M23 over two days in April, and a further six were killed in June in reprisals for alleged collaboration with Congolese militias.

It says other civilians killed by the movement included a man who refused to hand his sons over to the rebels, a motorcycle driver who refused to give them money, and recruits caught trying to escape. It also reports that M23 tortured prisoners of war, including two who were killed.

HRW did not include any comments or reactions from M23 in its latest report.

Sawyer said her organization had arranged to interview M23 leader Sultani Makenga about its findings, but fighting broke out on the day of the interview. Makenga cancelled and was subsequently unavailable for a phone interview, Sawyer said.

Speaking to IRIN, M23 spokesman Kabasha Amani said: "When Human Rights Watch says people have disappeared in the territory we control, why doesn't it give the names of those people?"

He dismissed the findings as rumours, describing the DRC as "a country of rumours".

A lawyer working with M23, John Muhire, said that since the NGO has not given names of victims or the precise location of the supposed crimes, "they don't mention anything which really can be a proof that the crime has been committed".

Muhire accused a Congolese NGO that carried out field work for HRW of being biased against M23, adding that the rebel group had asked for a "neutral" investigation supervised by the UN.

HRW and other sources report that M23 has threatened to kill people who speak out against the movement; the organization does not name victims or precise locations of crimes to protect sources from possible harm.

The report has also been criticized by Rwanda - accused by Human Rights Watch of supporting M23, a charge Rwanda has denied - for wrongly stating that Rwandan soldiers had served with the peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. HRW published a correction but stood by its findings.

"We are very confident with our findings," Sawyer told IRIN. "What we've included in our report is only the information that we have confirmed with several credible witnesses. We rely on information from eyewitnesses who were present during the events - victims and witnesses to abuses. We do very in-depth interviews with all the people we speak to, to document this, and we don't include information that we think may be biased."

As an example of information not included, Sawyer cited a claim by the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) that M23 had executed 26 farmers in two localities between June 16 and 19, allegations for which the NGO could not find sufficient evidence.

Right abuses by DRC army and others

M23 was the main focus of the report, which deals exclusively with abuses within the zone that M23 tried to control and with evidence of Rwandan support for the group.

But M23 is not the only armed group operating within this zone, and the report includes a brief mention of abuses - three people killed and four raped - by another armed group, the Popular Movement for Self-Defence (Mouvement populaire d'autodéfense or MPA) in the same area since March.

It also notes that, according to the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Congolese army personnel have recently supplied ammunition to the Rwandan rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which HRW says has long been committing "horrific abuses" against civilians in eastern DRC.

Additionally, a press release accompanying the HRW report referred to Congolese army soldiers treating "the corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons", an incident seen in widely circulated photos. The press release also refers to allegations the army harshly treated M23 combatants captured in recent fighting.

On 17 July, the army arrested a lieutenant in connection with the desecration of the M23 fighters' corpses.

Col Olivier Hamuli, a DRC army spokesman, said the army condemned such behaviour, and added that the incident should be seen in context, as the actions of men suffering from "combat stress".

The UN Secretary-General's latest report on MONUSCO includes further references to abuses by Congolese army units in recent months. It highlights a mass rape, allegedly of more than 200 women, by Congolese troops at Minova, in South Kivu, in November 2012, and the killing of at least 27 civilians and the wounding of 89 others in clashes between the army and an armed group at Kitchanga, in North Kivu, in late February and early March.

UN and local sources told IRIN that most of the deaths at Kitchanga were attributable to the army's use of heavy weapons in a town centre. The army unit involved was led by a colonel who had fought alongside M23 leaders in a previous rebellion and was alleged to be still in alliance with them.

A recent bombing raid by Congolese army aircraft against an M23 military camp at Rumangabo also caused several civilian casualties, according to M23. The UN noted that M23 caused several civilian casualties in Goma when its shells landed in a displaced people's camp and other locations in the city suburbs in May and again this month.

Reporting "uneven"

Sources within MONUSCO commented that reporting of human rights abuses in DRC is uneven, tending to focus on more accessible areas and on groups - like M23 - which are considered to be a regional threat to peace.

Alleged abuses by other armed groups and by some units of the Congolese army may be under-reported compared to those attributed to M23. Complaints in December and January by a civil society organization in Tongo, North Kivu, alleging that an army unit there had been responsible for 93 rapes and eight murders over a six-month period have still not elicited an official response; MONUSCO could give no details of its investigation into these allegations.

Nevertheless, the Congolese army has suspended 12 senior officers and arrested 11 suspects in connection with the mass rapes at Minova. Nationally, the proportion of alleged rights abuses by the army that lead to prosecution has been increasing in the past few years.

Figures from MONUSCO show between July 2010 and July 2011, there were 224 convictions of DRC military personnel or police for serious human rights abuses (about half involving sexual violence), a big increase over previous years.

M23, which recently claimed to have appointed criminal investigators in its territory and to be carrying out trials, has yet to announce the results of any investigations of alleged abuses by its personnel. In reality, says MONUSCO, M23 has no real capacity to hold trials as there are no magistrates in its zone.

Civilians told IRIN that, in some cases, people accused of crimes by the rebels had already been put on trial. Some of them had been imprisoned, one civilian said, speaking just out of earshot of an M23 combatant.

"And some of them were killed," he added quietly.

Another civilian said: "Those who are arrested and can pay a fine can be freed. As for those who can't pay a fine, they can be put on forced labour or killed."

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC's borders with Rwanda and Uganda.
nl/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98490

DRC-based Ugandan rebel group "recruiting, training"

KAMPALA, 11 July 2013 (IRIN) - The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel movement based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is recruiting, training and reorganizing to carry out fresh attacks on Uganda, officials say.

"The threat is real. ADF is recruiting, training and opening new camps in eastern DRC. We are alert and very prepared to deal with any attack on our side of the border," said Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF). "We are sharing intelligence information with the DRC government [and] FARDC [DRC's national army] about their activities. We hope FARDC will be able to deal with the group."

According to media reports in DRC [ http://radiookapi.net/actualite/2013/07/11/nord-kivu-des-rebelles-adf-nalu-se-retirent-de-kamango-apres-une-breve-occupation/ ], early on Thursday morning the group clashed with FARDC in Kamango, a town in North Kivu Province close to the Ugandan border, briefly ousting the army before withdrawing. Uganda's NTV tweeted that thousands of Congolese had fled across the border to the western Ugandan town of Bundibugyo.

The ADF was formed in the mid-1990s in the Rwenzori mountain range in western Uganda, close to the country's border with DRC. The group killed hundreds in several attacks in the capital, Kampala, and in parts of western Uganda, and caused the displacement of tens of thousands. The rebellion was largely contained in Uganda by 2000, with reportedly just about 100 fighters finding refuge in eastern North Kivu. From the mid-1990s till 2007, ADF was allied to another Ugandan rebel group, the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda; together, becoming ADF-NALU.

The ADF's leader, Jamil Mukulu, a former Catholic, converted to Islam in the 1990s, and the Ugandan government has long claimed the group is linked with Islamist groups including Al-Qaeda and the Somali militant group Al-Shabab. The US placed the ADF on its list of terrorist organizations in 2001.

UPDF's Ankunda said: "There is no doubt; ADF has a linkage with Al-Shabab. They collaborate. They have trained ADF on the use of improvised explosive devices."

Kidnapping, recruitment

According to Ankunda, the ADF - now thought to have up to 1,200 fighters - has tried to increase its troop numbers through kidnapping and recruitment in North Kivu Province and in Uganda.

"What is worrying us is that the ADF has been carrying out a series of abductions, recruitment and attacks in DRC without much resistance from FARDC," Ankunda told IRIN. "We are critically following up their recruitment in Uganda. We have made some arrests."

According to a December 2012 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) [ http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/africa/central-africa/dr-congo/b093-eastern-congo-the-adf-nalus-lost-rebellion-english.pdf ], the ADF is "more of a politically convenient threat for both the FARDC and the Ugandan government than an Islamist threat lurking at the heart of Central Africa".

"They are still isolated, and actions against their logistic and financial chains have been quite successful," Marc-Andre Lagrange, DRC senior analyst at ICG, told IRIN. "As in 2011, ADF are now engaged in providing military support to other armed groups to sustain their movement. This demonstrates that ADF, as such, is now a limited threat despite the fact they remain extremely violent."

According to experts in Uganda, the continued presence of armed groups like ADF is a major concern for peace and stability in DRC, Uganda and the wider Great Lakes region.

"The allegations that ADF is regrouping are not new and should not come as a surprise. What should worry us as a country is the apparent collective amnesia of treating our own exported armed insurgencies as other people's problems," Stephen Oola, a transitional justice and governance analyst at Uganda's Makerere University's Refugee Law Project, told IRIN. "The LRA [Lord's Resistance Army] and ADF are Uganda's problems and will remain so, no matter where they are located at a particular time, until we seek a comprehensive solution to conflicts in this country."

Neutralizing the threat

At the moment, Uganda has no mandate to pursue the rebels within DRC. Ankunda said he hoped the new UN Intervention Brigade [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/98140/ngos-concerned-about-new-drc-intervention-brigade ] - tasked with defeating "negative forces" in eastern DRC and due to be fully operational at the end of July - will step in to curb the group's efforts to destabilize the two countries.

The ICG's report warned that it would be important to neutralize the ADF's cross-border economic and logistical networks; the group allegedly receives money transfers from Kenya, the UK and Uganda, which are collected by Congolese intermediaries in the North Kivu cities of Beni and Butembo. It also derives funding from car and motorcycle taxis in North Kivu and profits from gold and timber exports to Uganda.

"It would be wise to separate fiction from fact and instead pursue a course of weakening its socio-economic base, while at the same time offering a demobilization and reintegration programme to its combatants," the report's authors stated, adding that "Congolese and Ugandan military personnel colluding with these networks should be dealt with appropriately by the authorities of their country".

According to Makerere's Oola, Uganda needs to do some soul-searching if it is to defeat the rebellions that continue to destabilize the country: "We must sit down as country in judgment of oursel[ves], through truth-seeking and national dialogue, to ask the right questions. Why are they fighting? What should be done to end their rebellion? How do we address the impact of the cycle of violence that has bedevilled this country from independence?"
so/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98400

Briefing: North Kivu sees fresh clashes as peace talks stall in Kampala

KAMPALA/GOMA, 18 July 2013 (IRIN) - Fresh fighting between the rebel M23 and the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the eastern province of North Kivu could spell the end of efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict, analysts say.
In what have been described as some of the deadliest clashes since the rebellion began in April 2012, FARDC (the DRC army) and M23 have been fighting since 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital.

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/95715/drc-understanding-armed-group-m23 ] tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC's borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Humanitarians continue to flag the issue of civilian protection in and around Goma, where fighting over the past year has displaced more than 100,000.

IRIN has put together a briefing on recent developments in the talks and the conflict.

What's happening with the Kampala talks?
A new round of peace talks [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/98256/m23-kampala-talks-set-to-resume ] between the two sides in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, has stalled, with Raymond Tshibanda, the DRC foreign minister and head of the government delegation, and Apollinaire Malu Malu, his deputy, absent from the venue.
The talks, which kicked off in December 2012 under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), first broke down in April: M23 representatives walked out following a decision by the UN to deploy an intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups in eastern DRC.
"The two sides are still extremely far apart in their negotiating positions and a compromise is difficult to envision without hefty intervention by diplomats. So fighting is almost inevitable, even if only to improve negotiating positions," Jason Stearns, director of the Rift Valley Institute's (RVI), Usalama Project, [ http://congosiasa.blogspot.com/2012/11/what-is-usalama-project.html ] which conducts research on armed groups in eastern DRC.
"The Kampala talks are moribund. I can't envision a deal acceptable to the M23 that foreign diplomats and the Congolese government could sign off on; the M23 would have to disband and reintegrate into the national army, which its leaders will find difficult to stomach, as they don't trust the government."
Each side accuses the other of not being sufficiently committed to reaching a diplomatic settlement to the conflict.
"It depends on whether M23 is ready to accept on what has been decided in Addis Ababa and [with] UN for them to disarm. If they accept, we are ready to finalize the Kampala process," DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende Omalanga told IRIN by phone.
On 24 February, 11 African countries signed a Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region, aimed at, among other things, improving security and consolidating the state's authority in eastern DRC.
What are the accusations being traded?
But Omalanga accused Rwanda of continued influence over M23, a charge both the Rwandan government and M23 strenuously deny.
"Kinshasa is not interested in the talks, but a military option. We have been here seeking for a bilateral ceasefire. But government has since refused and prepared for the ongoing war," Rene Abandi, the head of M23's delegation, told IRIN. "It's playing double standards... trying both methods - peace talks and military solution."
Abandi added that until the head of the government delegation or his deputy arrived, M23 would not negotiate, and called on the ICGLR, the African Union and the UN to put pressure on Kinshasa to actively participate in the talks.

"Long before the resumption of fighting, the Kampala peace talks have had a bleak future. Over the course of the last seven months, the warring parties have employed deliberate delaying tactics, militaristic bluster and traded fierce accusations of foul play as a means of furthering narrow political agendas," Timo Mueller, Goma-based field researcher for the Enough Project, [ http://www.enoughproject.org/ ] which fights genocide and crimes against humanity, told IRIN. "As the fighting rekindled on Sunday [14 July], some analysts see a direct relationship between the deadlock in Kampala and the renewed fighting. But while the fighting is a near-death experience for the talks, both parties have an interest in keeping the talks alive so as to be seen as willing to seek political peace, albeit crippled they may be."
He added: "The rhetoric and actions of the Congolese army reflect a consistent strategy to pursue only military confrontation with M23 on the battlefield and forego any existing political efforts. But while military actions undermine and contradict the talks, Congo has no interest in unilaterally withdrawing from an initiative strongly favoured by the international community.

"M23, will desperately hold onto the talks to present itself as a grievance-driven group eager to discuss political reforms with Kinshasa and because it is too weak militarily to advance its interests outside political avenues. The talks offer the only existing avenue for M23 to deliver agreement on amnesty for senior leadership and military reintegration into FARDC, something that the UN PSCF [the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework] or any other international process would be unlikely to yield. Both parties will remain at loggerheads for the foreseeable future, leaving scant hope for a genuine peace agreement."
Could fighting spur talks?

According to Thierry Vircoulon, an analyst with the think tank International Crisis Group, "It may sound like a paradox but, for peace negotiations to start, the balance of power on the ground must be changed. The two parties will only negotiate if they lose on the battlefield. Kinshasa accepted to come to the Kampala talks only because it lost Goma last year and was dominated on the ground."
But Usalama's Stearns says neither side is keen to escalate the ongoing conflict. "The M23 is limited by its troop numbers, which are probably still under 2,000, with a large area to cover. For the Congolese army, they would probably want to wait until the UN Intervention Brigade is fully operational, which could take another month."
A 3,000-strong intervention brigade [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97999/is-more-force-in-the-drc-more-of-the-same ] mandated to "neutralize... and disarm" armed groups in eastern DRC is due to be fully operational at the end of July. The UN Stabilization Mission in DRC, MONUSCO, also intends to have unarmed surveillance drones in eastern DRC to monitor developments.
How much support is there for talks?
The problem in eastern DRC is primarily political, and "no amount of military power can solve it," Lt-Col Paddy Ankunda, Uganda army spokesman and spokesman for the talks, told IRIN.
"The causes of the M23 rebellion and the wider conflict are a mesh of political, socioeconomic and security factors. A political, non-military solution is needed, including, amongst others, security sector reform, democratization, decentralization, human development, reform of the minerals sector and regional economic integration," said the Enough Project's Mueller. "The Kampala peace talks should best be subsumed by the UN PSCF. It will also be critical to get Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda together to start negotiations to deal with economic and security issues that have been driving the war."
"[UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the Great Lakes] Mary Robinson must also ensure that the Congolese reform process and national Congolese dialogue are mediated by an impartial facilitator and have civil society directly at the table. If the process is not neutral and inclusive, the reforms will fail," he added. "Another behind-the-door deal among elites will be just another recipe for failure, likely brewing new dissent and stoking a wholesale resurgence of violence."
In eastern DRC, however, not everyone is keen on a peaceful solution to the crisis. Kabila has repeatedly done deals with rebels as a way of ending national and local conflicts, and has been criticized for this by oppositionists, civil society and national media. "Give war a chance" has been a popular refrain with many fierce critics of the regime.
Is there any unanimity on the ground?

"We think the government should crush the M23 rebellion," Thomas d'Aquin Muiti, president of The Civil Society of North Kivu (an association of NGOs working for better governance in the province), told IRIN, although privately, some of his colleagues deplored his statements.
Kabila's recent pursuit of the military option against the M23 certainly appears to have the support of many ordinary people in Goma. There were jubilant scenes on 15 July when it was learned that FARDC had retaken a hill overlooking Goma from which the rebels had threatened to target the airport. Crowds of men waving leafy branches did victory runs on the outskirts of the town, and rumours that MONUSCO was trying to block a further advance by the army prompted angry demonstrations outside a UN base.
A group of women who had been displaced by the fighting voiced strong support for FARDC when asked by IRIN what they thought of its offensive. "We will be very happy to see our village liberated and we hope the army will do it," said 44-year-old Fouraha Kanamu to a loud chorus of approval from the other women.
But condemnation of M23 is not unanimous in Goma. Thousands gathered and cheered the rebels after they briefly occupied the city in November 2012 and organized a rally in a stadium. Many of these people were government employees who were hoping the M23 would pay them, but even before the rebel takeover some citizens were quietly expressing support for the movement.
"They can't be any worse than those in power now," was the kind of comment heard from some people, who would claim that the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) rebels - a Rwandan-backed movement that occupied eastern Congo during DRC's second civil war (1998-2003) - had at least provided better policing and road maintenance in Goma.
The M23 makes much of the DRC government's notorious corruption and incompetence, but has never held any elections, and judging by the electoral record of its predecessor movement, the CNDP (National Congress for the Defence of the People, which won just one seat in the 2011 national elections) would be unlikely to win many votes.
However, M23's behaviour during the 10 days that it controlled Goma alienated many erstwhile sympathizers. "They plundered government offices, officials' houses and even a hospital, so we saw they weren't really interested in better governance," said one civilian.
 so/nl/kr/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98438

Bridging the gap between relief and development in DRC

GOMA, 26 June 2013 (IRIN) - Every year, for nearly two decades, the humanitarian community has responded to large-scale and complex crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This year, on the assumption that the crises are likely to continue, donors have agreed to fund longer-term and more flexible humanitarian projects in DRC.

For the first time, a common humanitarian fund (CHF) administered by the UN in Kinshasa will be financing projects of up to 24 months' duration, instead of the current 12-month limit. [ http://www.unocha.org/drc/financing/common-humanitarian-fund/pooled-fund-allocations-2013 ].

A review of the project proposals should be finalized in July; this year, the CHF hopes to receive US$70 million for multi-year funding (out of an $893 million humanitarian appeal for the country).

Multi-year funding is an innovation for the humanitarian system, said Gemma Cortes, interim head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' (OCHA) financing unit in Kinshasa.

"We're initiating this in the Congo," she told IRIN. "There's been a big discussion about this for years here. Now, the great challenge will be to link all the projects to development projects."


OCHA says these "transitional" projects "will address recurrent humanitarian needs that require sustainable interventions of a kind that help[s] build community resilience" and will "reduce the number of short-term emergency actions that respond more to symptoms than to causes".

Other projects funded with the $70 million "will reinforce emergency response capability" and "help build national NGOs' capacity". OCHA also foresees better data collection and monitoring, and well as costs savings.

"It should help to save costs on, for example, transport, recruitment, training and assimilation [of knowledge]," Cortes says.

The CHF is also considering streamlining programmes. For example, it could fund two organizations to do the kind of work done previously by eight separate, shorter projects.

Cortes sees a trend in project proposals towards greater promotion of agriculture and livelihoods, as well more durable solutions to water and hygiene needs.

"Agriculture is one of the sectors where the envelope has increased the most. Agencies and NGOs can now go beyond emergency activities to reinforcing capacities, introducing different agricultural and food-processing techniques, doing market studies and training cooperatives. We have also received a lot of proposals for buying and distributing goats, sheep and rabbits."

She estimates that around 15 percent of the multi-year funding might go to agricultural projects and 30 percent to livelihoods projects, although the final allocation has yet to be decided. 

"It's been very well received by aid workers, NGOs and by local communities. It was something lacking before. Each time we came and did the same thing, and they wanted something more lasting."

Olivia Kalis, protection and advocacy manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Goma, eastern DRC, agrees but suggests there is still debate over what is "more lasting".

"If we have short-term cycles only, people end up doing the same things, so it's very good that the CHF is now offering 24-month cycles. But a lot more work needs to be done to understand what resilience means in this context," Kalis said


As the concept of resilience [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97584/Understanding-resilience ] has been mainstreamed in aid agency circles, its definition has broadened.

Christophe Béné, a research fellow at the UK Institute of Development Studies (IDS), spoke at a recent IDS seminar about how the term has evolved. "Initially," he said, "resilience was simply about the capacity for recovery and bouncing back. And now, with time passing, we have got more and more people saying resilience is about learning and adapting. Recently, now, we have got anticipating and preventing [crises]."

Incorporating all of these meanings, a recent definition from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said resilience is "the ability to avoid disasters and crises or to anticipate, absorb, adapt to and recover from risks. in a timely and efficient manner".

The UN World Food Programme's coordinator in eastern DRC, Wolfram Herfurth, says resilience basically means self-reliance, and he suggests a practical way to ensure vulnerable communities are self-reliant.

"Let's not make this a rocket science. We have to provide simple, palatable livelihood options for people in camps. Since we know that about 85 percent of these displaced people are farmers, it's logical - we're looking at the closest solution - to provide farmers with tools and seeds so they can produce their own food and no longer need free handouts," he said.

"That is the fundamental approach. But the biggest obstacle is that, where the displaced people are now, there's mostly no free land available."

To this end, Herfurth proposes that agreements be struck with landowners to allocate land, either long-term or temporarily, to the displaced, who would then be assisted with seeds, tools and food aid until their first harvest.

Several initiatives in North Kivu are aiming to help the displaced gain access to land, either their own (many displaced people return home to find their land occupied) or land where they have found refuge. The CHF has a brief to support these initiatives.

Still, land is a delicate issue; NRC and UN Habitat have the biggest land dispute mediation programmes in DRC, but there are strict limits to what they can achieve, says NRC's Kalis. 

"The scale [of mediation] is very small in comparison with the problem. A lot of these disputes are over just a few metres of land. Once the military are involved, our commissions [local committees set up by NRC] can't deal with that - it's too dangerous," he said.

Large tracts of land in the Kivus are owned by senior army officers.

"We need to talk about political solutions [to the land problem]," says Kalis. "Donors need to push for these things."


Helping displaced people farm is not the only resilience-building activity aid workers are proposing.

IRIN also interviewed the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Oxfam, NRC and Catholic Relief Services and found a wide range of resilience activities proposed, notably information campaigns to help the displaced secure their rights and access aid, and the construction of more durable facilities to help them integrate with host communities.

UNICEF emphasized project proposals to build more durable classrooms and sanitation systems. NRC spoke of its work helping displaced children enrol in schools. Oxfam said it was planning to extend water systems and sanitation in host community areas.

The emphasis on host communities is essential, aid workers say, because most aid has been focused on camps even though most displaced people live with host families and will often settle in those communities.

"Many of the displaced are highly unlikely to go home," said Tariq Riebl, Oxfam's coordinator in North Kivu. "If you look at the history of Goma, many camps have been transformed into neighbourhoods - we find it quite negative that the state is still bulldozing camps."

"If we see a willingness by the state to give the displaced residency rights, we could start to provide schooling, health centres, etc. But the government is resisting this," he said.

There is also a trend towards focusing on more urban areas. In peri-urban areas where the state does not own land, it may need to deal with landowners to ensure displaced people can find homes, Riebl said.

Focusing aid on more easily accessible areas rather than trying to reach remote villages is also pragmatic, he points out.

"The support costs of trying to run projects in an area like Walikale [one of North Kivu's more remote territories] are enormous. No one is going to pay for all the land cruisers. Donors are looking for value for money."

Security is also a serious concern for projects in rural areas. A worker with FAO told a recent journalists' seminar in Goma that agricultural project workers could not do anything if there was not security.

More business surveys will be needed to help guide the displaced towards viable livelihoods, in either urban or rural areas, Herfurth told IRIN.

"We need more development experts," he said. "Maybe the number of relief workers here should shrink and the number of economists and agricultural engineers should increase," he said.

"But we also need to change the chemistry between the humanitarians and the DRC government to agree that - given there's more stability and peace - we focus on more durable interventions.

"Certainly the humanitarians themselves cannot easily do this alone. They need decisions by the government and coordination at village and provincial level. Different political levels need to play together."
nl/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98288

M23 Kampala talks set to resume

KAMPALA, 20 June 2013 (IRIN) - Delegates representing the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the rebel M23 are back in Kampala, Uganda, for a fresh round of peace talks, but analysts say that unless both sides are fully committed to the negotiations, a political solution to the crisis in the DRC's North Kivu Province [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97779/briefing-m23-one-year-on ] is unlikely.

The talks, which kicked off in December 2012 under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), broke down in April; M23 representatives walked out following a decision by the UN to deploy an intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups in eastern DRC. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations says the 3,069-strong force, comprising troops from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania, should be fully operational by mid-July. The force has been given a more forceful mandate than any previous military contingent with a UN peacekeeping mission.

"The representatives of both delegations are back here in Kampala. The talks will be resuming any time. We hope there will be commitment by both teams this time round," Crispus Kiyonga, the chief mediator and Uganda's Minister of Defence, told IRIN. "We shall be working towards the signing of the peace agreement. But how soon it will be reached depends on the progress and commitment of both parties. The fact that both parties keep coming and going back shows some commitment."

On a recent visit to DRC, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon [ http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44979&Cr=democratic&Cr1=congo#.UcAfE_lqmGc ] and his special envoy to the region, former Irish President Mary Robinson, urged both parties to remain committed to the Kampala-mediated talks.

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC's borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Humanitarians continue to flag the issue of civilian protection even as the DRC national army (FARDC) and M23 engage in intermittent battles in and around the provincial capital Goma, where fighting over the past year has displaced more than 100,000.

In May [ http://www.unhcr.org/519ce44b6.html ], four days of fighting between the government and the rebels saw thousands flee their homes for overcrowded camps on the outskirts of the city.


Some regional analysts are suspicious of M23's return to negotiations.

"The M23's return to the negotiation table should be seen first and foremost as a PR [public relations] manoeuvre. The movement wants to show that it is seeking peace by all means," said Michel Thill, Great Lakes Region programme manager at Rift Valley Institute (RVI). "Its demands, however, are well beyond what Kinshasa would agree to negotiate with what they consider terrorists - the M23 knows that.

"The tensions are mounting between the M23, the FARDC and the civil population in North Kivu, in the face of repetitive claims by UN senior officials and the Secretary-General himself that the international brigade will be deployed in mid-July," he added. "The renewed fighting in late May just before Ban Ki-Moon's visit to Goma proves this."

Other analysts see it differently: "The return from M23 to the negotiation table is a sign from M23 and its external support they want to solve the crisis politically. M23 does not receive the same support as in November 2012 and is no longer in a position to take Goma or conduct an aggressive war," said Marc-Andre Lagrange, DRC senior analyst for the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG). "Another question is how strong the M23 really is at the moment. There are rumours that Sultani Makenga [M23's military leader] is seriously ill and weak... It remains to be seen if the movement stands up to the current pressure."

M23 representatives deny that Makenga is unwell. They also accuse the DRC government of lacking the will to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis in North Kivu, and of preparing FARDC and its allies for further clashes in the region.

"We have to seize this opportunity of the international community's commitment to end this rebellion through dialogue. The military option can't end the conflict," Rene Abandi, the head of M23's Kampala delegation, told IRIN.

In a 13 June letter to Special Envoy Robinson, the rebels accused the government of refusing to negotiate at the Kampala peace talks and of preparing for further conflict in North Kivu, claims government officials have denied.

"Their allegations are baseless," Jean Charles Okoto Lulakombe, DRC ambassador to Uganda, told IRIN. "Some members of the government delegation are already here, and some are coming. We are determined to end this conflict through dialogue. We believe it is only the talks that can end this conflict, not military [methods]. We can't continue to allow our people to suffer and die because of this conflict."

Beyond talks

But analysts agree that it will take more than peace talks - and even peace agreements - to solve the problems in eastern DRC.

"I think a return to Kampala without a genuine commitment from both sides to address the root causes of the conflict, reasons for continuity and failures of past talks is a waste of time and money. It's simply a peace joke," said Stephen Oola, a transitional justice and governance analyst at Uganda's Makerere University's Refugee Law Project.

"DRC needs more than just peace talks. There is need for a shift in how the state fulfils its obligation to citizens and how local resources are accessed and utilized locally, nationally and internationally," he added.

"Anyone interested in returning peace to the DRC should focus on strengthening the Congolese government, not undermining it... There must be investment in ensuring that the government in Kinshasa is both legitimate and strong enough to have full control of its vast territory," said Nicholas Opiyo, a Kampala-based legal and political analyst. "The internal governance framework of the DRC must be re-engineered to be both accommodative of the various interests in the DRC and meaningful to the majority - if not all - Congolese."

"The solution for peace in the Kivus is not just political or only military. Economic cooperation has to be put in place between the countries of the Great Lakes," said RVI's Thill. "At the same time, minorities have to be protected and land issues solved. This can be achieved through politics."
so/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98256

NGOs concerned about new DRC Intervention Brigade

GOMA, 31 May 2013 (IRIN) - Nineteen international NGOs have sent a joint letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to express concern over the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and future military operations by a new UN Intervention Brigade.

The letter, dated 23 May and made public this week, asks the secretary-general to call on the 11 African states that signed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) in Addis Ababa in February to implement the agreement, and to work with UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Mary Robinson.

The letter also recommends that the UN Security Council "should seriously consider suspension of the [UN Intervention] Brigade if it does not perform well or if the Congolese government does not make sufficient progress in implementing its commitments under the PSCF" agreement.

The brigade of 3,069 troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, which the UN peacekeeping department says should be operational by mid-July, has been given a more offensive mandate [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97999/is-more-force-in-the-drc-more-of-the-same ] than any previous contingent with a UN peacekeeping mission. UN Security Council Resolution 2098 empowers it to carry out "targeted and robust offensives. with a view to neutralizing and disarming armed groups", whilst "taking into account the necessity to protect civilians and reduce risks".

The NGOs' letter asks Ban for his leadership "in ensuring that the operations of the Brigade. are clearly linked to the realization of the PSCF" and that it "is part of a broad, comprehensive approach to achieve long-term peace and stability".

The NGOs also call on Ban to ensure that "planning and conduct of the Brigade's operations prioritize mitigation of harm to civilians" and to urge "the Congolese government. to put in place a fully independent national oversight mechanism to oversee the implementation of its commitments outlined in the PSCF".

Dialogue and DDR

Under this heading, the letter says "this should include local level dialogue to address the local causes of conflict and community grievances, as well as comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) options for combatants, irrespective of nationality."

During his visit to the North Kivu provincial capital Goma on 23 May Ban made it clear that the UN does not see the Brigade as the sole solution to eastern DRC's conflicts.

"The Intervention Brigade will address all this violence" he told local media, "and will try their best to protect human lives, human rights and human dignity - but you should also know that this is only one element of a much larger process. I think a peace deal must deliver a peace dividend, health, education, jobs and opportunity."

NGOs fear being linked with military action

One of the concerns that prompted NGOs to write the letter was the possible impact on their own work of future operations by the Brigade, said Frances Charles, advocacy manager for NGO World Vision (which sent the letter on behalf of the signatories).

"The issue of how the Brigade is related to the rest of the integrated mission and how independent humanitarian actors such as NGOs relate to MONUSCO is, I think, a very big issue.

"We have to preserve independent humanitarian access. MONUSCO needs to make clear to communities how all the different parts of the (UN) mission work together.

"One thing we are very concerned about, as World Vision, is being linked to any military action. We are independent and we want to make sure that our access to communities is maintained."

Peacekeeping versus offensive action

Several observers have questioned whether MONUSCO's existing role of protecting civilians, particularly in displaced peoples' camps, will be possible in areas where the Brigade attacks armed groups, as this could result in retaliation against all UN military and civilian personnel as well as against other aid workers and civilians.

The interim head of MONUSCO's office in Goma, Alex Queval, told journalists that all necessary precautions would be taken to ensure that peacekeepers continue all their existing work, but he did not go into details.

For its part the M23 rebel group [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97779/briefing-m23-one-year-on ] has suggested that the Brigade will need to work in different areas to the other peacekeepers.

"It's a very complicated situation for us," M23 spokesman Rene Abandi told IRIN this week. "Blue helmets come with an offensive mandate while others are deployed in the same areas with a peacekeepers' mandate. They have really to separate areas so that we can make the distinction."

Speaking to the UN News Centre on 29 May, the commander of the Intervention Brigade, Tanzanian Brig-Gen James Aloizi Mwakibolwa, acknowledged there are fears among some observers that the Brigade will exacerbate tensions.

"Perhaps they expect collateral damage to the extent that several people are not positive about the Brigade," he said.

"It should be understood that our first concern should be the protection of civilians as we take on the armed groups," he added. "A UN peacekeeper is a person who must protect UN staff and UN property but, above all, he must protect the civilians."

The brigadier stressed that while he heads the brigade, he is not the head of the UN force in the country. "We are part of MONUSCO and our instructions come from the force commander of MONUSCO," he said.

Goma groups support Brigade

Civil society groups in Goma are generally supportive of the Intervention Brigade and its offensive mandate.

"For the first time people feel they can look forward to a better future - because the new force has a mission to put an end to the armed groups," said Goyon Milemba, team leader of the North Kivu civil society association's working group on security issues, after the arrival of the Brigade's headquarters staff in Goma last month.

"If people think you can protect civilians by stopping attacks on armed groups, they are wrong. We need a lasting peace and that peace will have to be imposed by striking hard against negative forces," the president of the North Kivu civil society association, Thomas d'Aquin Muiti, told IRIN.

He acknowledged there would be collateral damage but said the situation for the people in displaced camps is intolerable.

"This does not mean MONUSCO should stop protecting displaced people," he said. "Rather it should reinforce protection."

He added that the government should recognize it will have an additional responsibility for protection as the Brigade starts offensive operations.
nl/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98140

Beyond emergency needs in DRC

NAIROBI, 30 May 2013 (IRIN) - Humanitarian response in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) should broaden beyond emergency needs to encompass underlying dynamics of conflict, according to a report [ http://www.nrc.no/arch/_img/9676206.pdf ] by the international refugee NGO Norwegian Refugee Council.

"The chronic and extreme violence in the eastern DRC poses a stark challenge to traditional humanitarian 'urgent response mode' approaches. The humanitarian service machinery has become a virtually permanent fixture in the region, serving victims of multiple displacements and repeating cycles of violence for two decades. Protection in this conflict cannot be achieved solely by providing services to victims," says the report.

For instance, it argues that in the Kivus, which have borne the brunt of the conflict, every community is at constant risk of conflict and displacement "until military and armed-group violence against civilians is brought under control."

"There are no 'durable solutions' here without a change in the level of peace and stability, and changes in the destructive behaviour of the armed parties towards civilians," the report noted.

Many puzzle pieces

In an interview with IRIN, Kyung wa-Kang, the deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), called for a "clear commitment from both political leaders and the international community to improve governance" and help bring "security and help achieve human dignity in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the wider Great Lakes region."

The Congolese government has been accused of only half-heartedly implementing peace agreements with rebel groups.

"Rather than effectively implementing the 23 March 2009 peace agreement signed by the government and the CNDP (National Council for the Defence of the People), the Congolese authorities have instead only feigned the integration of the CNDP into political institutions, and likewise the group appears to have only pretended to integrate into the Congolese army," International Crisis Group,  global think-tank, said in an October briefing [ http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/central-africa/dr-congo/b091-eastern-congo-why-stabilisation-failed.aspx ].

"The peace agreements that have been signed between the government and rebel groups provides for a real opportunity to push forward the agenda for lasting peace, but each party must be serious in ensuring it works and they do their part in making this fruitful," Kang added.

In February, 11 leaders signed a UN-brokered peace accord aimed at ending the conflict in DRC and bringing peace to the wider Great Lakes region. "The agreement gives the people of eastern DRC their best chance in many years for peace, human rights and economic development," UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said during his recent visit to the region [ http://www.un.org/sg/offthecuff/index.asp?nid=2846 ].

In March, the UN Security Council passed a resolution setting up the first-ever UN peacekeeping brigade, whose mandate would include battling rebel groups in DRC and monitoring an arms embargo along with a panel of UN experts. It will observe and report on the flows of military personnel, weapons and equipment across the border of eastern Congo, including by surveillance aided by unmanned aerial systems.

Kang noted to IRIN, "Bringing lasting peace in the DRC will involve deepening democracy" and engaging all sides "involved the conflict", saying the recently proposed 3,000-strong UN-backed intervention brigade should be seen only as "a part of a wider puzzle."

Protection needs

The long-running conflicts in eastern parts of DRC have forced more than two million people to flee their homes. Thousands more have become victims of violence and abuse. In the last six months, the number of those displaced inside DRC  increased by more than 150,000 people, with most of the displacements being in North Kivu Province. The insecurity has further compelled an estimated 90,000 to flee into Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda over the same period, according to OCHA [ http://www.unocha.org/drc/reports-media/situation-reports ].

The international community, the NRC report argues, "has invested significantly in initiatives aimed at documenting protection needs - information gathering and early warning systems," something OCHA's Kang says might be threatened by the increasing crises in places like Syria, which continue to "suck donor funding and receive greater humanitarian attention."
ko/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98131

Malaria overstretching healthcare in DRC

KAMPALA, 20 May 2013 (IRIN) - Gaps in the healthcare system in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are hampering the fight against malaria, a leading killer of children, say experts.

Malaria accounts for about a third of outpatient consultations in DRC clinics, Leonard Kouadio, a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) health specialist, told IRIN. He added, "It is the leading cause of death among children under five years and is responsible for a significant proportion of deaths among older children and adults."

Kouadio continued: "Recent retrospective mortality surveys have revealed that in all regions of the country, the fever is associated with 40 percent of [deaths of] children under five."

Malaria is also a leading cause of school absenteeism in DRC, and it may have other adverse effects. "In cases of severe malaria, children who survive face serious health problems such as epilepsy, impaired vision or speech," he said.

According to UN World Health Organization (WHO) estimates [ http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs094/en/index.html ], out of about 660,000 malaria deaths globally in 2010, at least 40 percent occurred in DRC and Nigeria.

In DRC, malaria accounts for about half of all hospital consultations and admissions in children younger than five, according to the government's National Programme for the Fight against Malaria (NMCP). On average, Congolese children under five years old suffer six to 10 episodes of malaria per year, according to UNICEF's Kouadio.

Other leading causes of death among under-five Congolese children include acute respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases and malnutrition, according to UNICEF's 2013-2017 DRC Country Programme Document.

A deficient health system

"It is apparent that major deficiencies in the health system have contributed to the severity of recurrent outbreaks [of malaria]," Jan Peter Stellema, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operational manager, told IRIN via email.

"Mosquito nets are not being sent to vulnerable areas, and there are shortages of rapid diagnostic test [kits and] drugs and the equipment for carrying out blood transfusions vital for children suffering from anaemia caused by malaria."

Other problems include costly care and management challenges.

For example, the treatment of an uncomplicated bout of malaria ranges from about US$22 to $35, and treatment for severe cases can cost $75 to $100, according to NMCP. Such costs are prohibitive for a large number of people, many of whom live on about one dollar a day.

"In DRC, the absence of other healthcare providers and overstretched health systems leave people vulnerable to contracting malaria. Too many health centres lack the supplies necessary for coping with a new outbreak, and as a result children are dying because they did not receive care for malaria," MSF's Stellema said.

According to the DRC Country Programme Document, "Governance, management and coordination problems plague the [health] system at the national, provincial and local levels, thereby undermining political commitment, planning, budgetary expenditure, coordination and alignment of partnerships, the accountability and transparency of service providers, and the participation of the population in management of the services."

It adds, "Combined with extreme poverty, these factors create financial barriers hampering families' access to nutrition and services, and weaken the social standards that are essential for keeping families together and maintaining a protective environment for children."

Investment in healthcare needed

"The absence of government investment and the fragmentation of public assistance have eroded the capacity of civil society and of functional public facilities to maintain quality services," adds the DRC Country Programme Document.

"The re-mergence and expansion of certain epidemics (polio [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/91200/DRC-Polio-cases-on-the-rise ], measles [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/94516/DRC-Measles-immunization-campaign-targets-1-7-million-children ] and cholera [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/94028/DRC-Fighting-cholera ]) are proof of that. In addition, little has been done to modernize infrastructure. Essential supply systems, such as the cold chain, have not been put in place," it states.

There is an urgent need to address the struggling health system to fight malaria, experts say.

"The fight against this scourge must remain a top priority of the country, despite the lack of financial resources," said UNICEF's Kouadio. "The government and its partners should increase the funding for the fight against malaria in the DRC, in particular, acquisition and universal distribution of mosquito nets to households, provision of essential drugs and rapid diagnostic test [kits], and dissemination of environmental sanitation measures."

Malaria occurs almost year-round in DRC due its tropical climate and its river and lake system. The country has some 30 large rivers totalling at least 20,000km of shoreline, and 15 lakes totalling about 180,000km, which offer environments conducive to the proliferation of diseases and disease vectors, including the Anopheles mosquito, which spreads malaria.

According to MSF's Stellema, the DRC government and national and international health actors need to take rapid and sustainable measures to prevent and treat malaria in order to avoid unnecessary child deaths. In 2012, MSF treated half a million Congolese for malaria, many of them children under five.

"MSF's emergency response is saving lives in the short term. But in the longer term, the organization cannot address the [malaria] crisis alone," said Stellema.

so/aw/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98069

Briefing: Towards internal solutions to the DRC crisis

KAMPALA, 14 May 2013 (IRIN) - A UN intervention brigade [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97999/Is-more-force-in-the-DRC-more-of-the-same ] will soon be deployed to the troubled eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a bid to neutralize militia groups operating there.

The over-3,000-strong military force will work alongside the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) to carry out targeted offensives against militia groups, which have caused numerous civilian deaths and massive population displacements.

While some welcome the forthcoming military intervention, many analysts are advocating for Kinshasa-led initiatives - such as reforming key institutions - as necessary, if not alternative, solutions.

In this briefing, IRIN highlights some of the key issues that the DRC government needs to address to secure its restive east. 

How can the security sector be reformed?

An effective security sector is key to resolving most of DRC's problems, according to analysts.

"The Congolese government's inability to protect its people or control its territory undermines progress on everything else," according to The Democratic Republic of Congo: Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform, a 2012 report by a group of Congolese and international civil society organizations [ http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/drc-ssr-report-20120416-1.pdf ].

"An effective security sector - organized, resourced, trained and vetted - is essential to solving problems from displacement, recruitment of child soldiers and gender-based violence to economic growth or the trade in conflict minerals," the report says.

But little money is being directly spent on security sector reform (SSR), it notes.  For example, while official development assistance to DRC post-2006 has amounted to at least US$14 billion, just over one percent, or about $84.79 million, has gone to SSR.

The report blamed the international community for being "politically incoherent and poorly coordinated" with regard to SSR. It also blamed the DRC government's lack of political will to take on SSR, attributed to its endemic corruption. 

According to Naomi Kok, a research consultant with the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), "SSR is a long-term project for the DRC, and Kinshasa should take most of the responsibility for completing this successfully."

But DRC's government needs to take charge first. "The problem of the DRC is a weak, and some may argue an illegitimate, government, unable to take full control and charge of its vast territory," Nicholas Opiyo, a Kampala-based lawyer with the Akijul consultancy [ http://www.akijul.org/index.php ], told IRIN.

He added:  "The weakness or division in the Congolese army is only... a manifestation of the broader breakdown in the governance infrastructure of the country. As a result, everyone finds resort in a patchy solution, taking control of the instruments of violence."

How can the army be reined in?

Acts of violence against civilians in eastern DRC are rampant, with the DRC army (FARDC) and dozens of militia groups culpable.

FARDC troops are accused of violating human rights around the town of Minova, in South Kivu Province, last year while retreating from North Kivu Province  after the city of Goma fell to the M23 militia [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/96833/DRC-Fall-of-Goma-puts-200-000-children-at-risk ], according to  a  May UN Joint Human Rights Office report [ http://monusco.unmissions.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=Pj7jOWjAxWo%3d&tabid=10662&language=en-US ].

"In this context, at least 102 women and 33 girls were victims of rape or other acts of sexual violence perpetrated by FARDC soldiers," says the report, which noted the soldiers had arbitrarily executed at least two people, used forced labour and looted from villages.

FARDC is often regarded as weak, with poorly organized, unmotivated troops. The M23 [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95715/DRC-Understanding-armed-group-M23 ] mutiny in eastern DRC in 2012 by ethnic Tutsi FARDC officers, for example, was in part fuelled by grievances over pay and living conditions.

Training alone will not address FARDC's problems, which are structural, say experts.

"There is an overestimation about what training can achieve. Foreign partners (Belgium, USA, France, Angola, South African and China) have now been training the Congolese army since 2006, and the results are very poor," Thierry Vircoulon, an International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst, told IRIN in an e-mail.

"Training is only good when it can be applied but, given the state of the Congolese army, the trained soldiers are sent back to a dysfunctional organization without decent pay and working conditions. Training will not solve the structural problems of the Congolese army."

FARDC has also been plagued by ethnic divisions, with some troops still loyal to militia groups.

"The so-called Congolese army is a patchwork of fighters with various backgrounds - former Mobutu military personnel, militiamen from the MLC [Mouvement de liberation du Congo] of Jean-Pierre Bemba, Mai Mai, AFDL [Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo] fighters, etc. And there was not a process to unite these groups, and some of them managed to stay in their territories of origin - CNDP [Congrès national pour la défense du people]/M23 in North Kivu," noted Vircoulon.

"Therefore, ethnic and past affiliations remain and are stronger than the military discipline and command. The Congolese army is not an institution; it is a patchwork of undisciplined and untrained groups of fighters."

What about demobilization?

The process of integrating ex-combatants into the Congolese army, part of the government's disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme, is also mired in challenges.

"Currently, the national military is in a shambles, and there are various armed groups that are in various stages of DDR. This situation is aggravated by domestic and regional political manipulation," ISS's Kok told IRIN. 

Another challenge is the failure to address the causes of armed rebellion, making disarmament often short-lived.  In 2009, for example, the DRC government signed a deal with members of the CNDP, but failure to fully implement the deal led to the 2012 mutiny that gave rise to M23.

"[When] the M23 were integrated into the FARDC in 2009. their command and control structures [were] more or less intact. Thus, when the time came for them to defect and form a new rebellion, they were ready to do so," explained Kok.  

The absence of a vetting process for ex-combatants is also a problem.

"A strategy of integrating abusive warlords and their fighters into the Congolese army - in often short-lived deals with little or no vetting or training before former combatants are redeployed as Congolese army soldiers - have fuelled the cycles of violence and horrific human rights abuses in eastern Congo," Ida Sawyer, a researcher and advocate with Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IRIN. 

Reforming the judiciary  

Inadequate justice and accountability mechanisms further enable impunity for abuses.

Between 15 November and 2 December 2012, at least 58 cases of rape were reported during M23's occupation of Goma, according to the May UN Joint Human Rights Office report. M23 also executed 11 civilians, recruited and used child soldiers, and engaged in forced labour and looting.

Only a few DRC militia leaders have been arrested and convicted, among them Thomas Lubanga , who in, March 2012 was found guilty [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/95073/DRC-Lubanga-verdict-a-first-step ] of conscripting child soldiers in the northeastern  Ituri  region by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  In March, former M23 commander Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the ICC.  

Experts are calling for the establishment of specialized courts within DRC to try human rights crimes outside the ICC's jurisdiction.

"Together with Congolese civil society organizations, we have also called for the establishment of specialized mixed chambers or a specialized mixed court within the Congolese justice system, with the involvement of international prosecutors, judges and other personnel to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Congo since 1990," said HRW's Sawyer. 

"The need to hold to account those responsible for perpetuating grave crimes (government troops, rebels and militia) must not be short-changed for any short-term gains," added  analyst Opiyo.

According to ICG's Vircoulon, "The blocking of justice reform is the reason why impunity is rife in the DRC."

What about negotiating local solutions?

Peace talks  between M23 and the DRC government are ongoing in Kampala, under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), an approach favoured by analysts sceptical of the military intervention force [ http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44523&Cr=democratic&Cr1=congo ].  

"It all depends on the effectiveness of the UN intervention brigade, but from the point of the organization [ICGLR], we don't believe the intervention brigade is the final solution to the conflict," Stephen Mwachofi Singo, an ICGLR programme officer, told IRIN.

"Already, through [the] ICGLR process, there is a political process ongoing in Kampala. Such a process should be supported to its logical conclusion," added Singo.

Tackling ethnic tensions is key to pacifying conflict areas.

"DRC is a vast, multi-ethnic country, with some of the ethnic groups spanning the borders of neighbouring countries such as Angola and Rwanda. Unfortunately, past and the current DRC government[s] have used this multiplicity of ethnic groups against each other and for political connivance. This has brewed a sense of favour and disfavour," said analyst Opiyo.

"In order for the ethnic-based tensions to ease, there is need for not just a nationalistic army but a representative government. A centralized rather than devolved administration would provide a platform for a national, rather than an ethnic, outlook among the Congolese people."

According to Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist at Makerere University, "Lasting peace in the DRC cannot come out of the deployment of aggressive foreign forces."

"The causes of violence in that country [DRC] are internal. The solution therefore lies in resolving the internal problems that fuel the fighting. Only [the] Congolese can solve their problems in a sustainable way. Foreigners will not do it for them."

so/aw/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98036

Is more force in the DRC more of the same?

JOHANNESBURG, 8 May 2013 (IRIN) - A more belligerent DRC peace force (short)

- New force to "carry out targeted offensive operations"
- South Africa becoming more pro-intervention
- Offensive posture could worsen humanitarian situation
- Question marks over military cohesiveness

The imminent deployment of a UN-backed 3,000-strong international force mandated to "neutralize. and disarm" all armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) marks a switch to a more belligerent international stance towards rebel militia, but has met with scepticism in some quarters.

The deployment of this "international brigade" made up of troops from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania will complement the existing UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and is designed to help quell M23 [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/95715/DRC-Understanding-armed-group-M23 ] and other rebel militias.

When an intervention force was first mooted by the African Union (AU) last year, Sivuyile Bam, AU head of Peace and Support Operations Division (PSOD), told IRIN the plan was to "deal specifically with M23, and when M23 go away, they [the intervention force] go away". That has since evolved into preventing the expansion of all armed groups, and neutralizing and disarming them by deploying an "offensive" military force, said a UN Security Council resolution. [ http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2013/sc10964.doc.htm ]

Pretoria-based think tank the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) [ http://issafrica.org/ ] estimates there are more than 33 armed groups currently operating in eastern DRC. They are variously involved in mineral extraction and self-defence through to acting as proxies for the strategic interests of neighbouring states.

The intervention force, known as SADCBrig (Southern African Development Community Brigade), will "carry out targeted offensive operations. either unilaterally or jointly with the FARDC [DRC national army], in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner and in strict compliance with international law," says UN resolution 2098. [ http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2098%282013%29 ]

It will consist "inter alia of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special force and Reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma," the UN resolution adds.

Since the first deployment of "blue helmets" to the DRC in 1999, first as the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and then as MONUSCO, troop numbers have increased more than three-fold from the original 5,000-odd uniformed soldiers. There have been supplementary ad hoc military missions, such as the 2003 European Union (EU) military intervention in Bunia during the Ituri ethnic-based conflict dubbed Operation Artemis, [ http://eeas.europa.eu/ifs/publications/articles/book1/book%20vol1_part2_chapter12_operation%20artemis%20in%20the%20democratic%20republic%20of%20congo_kees%20homan.pdf ] and the 2009 operations Umoja Wetu (Our Unity) and Kimia II, a joint military offensive of DRC and Rwandan security forces against the armed group Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération de Rwanda (FDLR).

A military analyst serving with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), who declined to be identified, said the Security Council resolution was "a massive expansion of the task" first envisaged by the AU, but the mandate had to be "wider than M23" if the ambition was to protect civilians.

Zuma doctrine

The analyst told IRIN the intervention force was expected "to have initial capability by end of May and operational capability by end of June [2013]".

The deployment of South African troops in CAR and their participation in SADCBrig is being viewed by analysts as a departure from South Africa's previous military ventures, with a more aggressive stance towards resolving the continent's conflicts. It has been dubbed the [President Jacob] Zuma doctrine by analysts.

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told a media briefing on 29 April 2013 her country was in favour of "preventative diplomacy, intervening when there are situations of strife. When we are called upon to do that, we will always be there, we will never say no."

In a statement adjoining the UN resolution, Rwanda's Eugene-Richard Gasana hoped the force would tackle the "FDLR, which had sparked the 1994 [Rwandan] genocide". Rwanda, which is suspected of supporting M23, sees it as a bulwark against the FDLR.

The military analyst said MONUSCO had been "hesitant" to use force beyond self-defence - something for which the UN's largest peacekeeping operation was roundly condemned when M23 walked into Goma unopposed, despite the presence of more than 1,500 armed peacekeepers in the town and nearly 6,000 in North Kivu Province.

Ahead of the deployment of SADCBrig, and in the wake of 13 South African soldiers having been killed recently in the Central African Republic trying to prevent the rebel coup by the Séléka alliance, M23 taunted SANDF on social media saying it was "corrupt" and "old". [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/94597/Analysis-South-Africa-paper-tiger-of-African-peacekeeping-operations ]


Meanwhile, some doubt the new force can achieve its objective.

"Armed (DRC) groups are seen as a military threat but most of them are not. The military option against the armed groups has failed repeatedly and some [armed groups] deserve a small dose of military pressure but [also] a lot of police work in order to be neutralized. The intervention brigade in particular and the UN [MONUSCO] in general are not equipped for this," International Crisis Group (ICG) [ http://www.crisisgroup.org/ ] analyst Thierry Vircoulon told IRIN.

He said SADCBrig deployment was "security by substitution", and would delay reforms of the DRC national army (FARDC), which has been accused of being a serial human rights abuser by rights organizations. SADCBrig's more offensive posture would lead to "retaliations against civilians [by armed groups] and worsening of the humanitarian situation", unless stringent measures were put in place to protect civilians in the areas of operation.

Liam Mahony, author of a recent report commissioned by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) entitled Non-military strategies for civilian protection in the DRC, [ http://www.fieldviewsolutions.org/fv-publications/Non-military_protection_in_the_DRC.pdf ] said: "The international community continues to believe that military protection of civilians in the DRC may succeed, if there are only enough soldiers or a sufficiently strong mandate.

"However, there is little if any empirical evidence for this. Faith in military solutions is exaggerated by the mistaken belief that violence can only be met with more violence.

"The humanitarian service machinery has become a virtually permanent fixture in the region, serving victims of multiple displacements and repeating cycles of violence for two decades, while efforts to change the underlying dynamics of conflict have been insufficient and ineffective."

He told IRIN the approach by policymakers to armed groups in the DRC was "one size fits all. People tend to oversimplify or choose extreme interpretations of armed groups. People assume they are unreasonable and not open to negotiation and communication. This is not specific to DRC. It is true everywhere."

"I would not categorically dismiss the possibility that there may be armed groups with whom such approaches would fail, and there may be armed groups who would be more deterred from human rights abuse by an effective military counter-force. It is conceivable, but it must be the result of a very specific detailed analysis, not a generic knee-jerk approach."

Operational difficulties

Andre Roux, author of a recent ISS briefing [ http://www.issafrica.org/iss_today.php?ID=1605 ] on SADCBrig's deployment, said: "The realities of conducting operations in this remote and complex environment have been underestimated in the rush to put solutions on the table."

Roux said the capabilities of SADCBrig "to effectively conduct `war fighting' operations in an integrated manner, are questionable. With different operational doctrines, a variety of tactical deployment techniques and military equipment that is often not interoperable, the battalions can fight as individual units, but questions arise about whether they can or must fight as a cohesive brigade."

SANDF is expected to transfer its troops serving with MONUSCO to SADCBrig, which is supposed to operate in conjunction with FARDC, though past experiences of cooperation between SANDF and FARDC appear to have been problematical. "Members of the local army [FARDC] did not share information and they would steal anything without blinking an eye," said a June 2012 ISS report on relations between the two. [http://www.iss.co.za/pgcontent.php?UID=31642 ]

Roux noted that apart from the challenges of integrating military "tactics and doctrines", there was also the risk of "a protracted counter-insurgency-type scenario characterized by atrocities in which entire villages are wiped out by rebel forces in order to divert the attention of the brigade into a defensive mind-set focused on the difficult task of protecting civilians rather than neutralizing illegal armed groups.

"Is this again a peacekeeping band-aid that will struggle to meet the high expectations that do not consider the difficult realities of the situation?" he asks.

go/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97999

Trading conflict for coffee in DRC

GOMA, 8 May 2013 (IRIN) - Entrepreneur Gilbert Makelele wants armed groups in his part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to wake up and smell the coffee.

"You should tell the population to grow coffee, as it's the best way for them to make money," he told a militia member during a recent visit to the town of Kalonge, where he and his fellow cooperative members have planted a nursery for coffee seedlings.

The Kivu Cooperative of Coffee Planters and Traders (CPNCK), which Makelele founded five years ago, has planted six of these nurseries in the Kalonge-Pinga-Mweso triangle, a hotbed of militia activity.

"If the young men in this area knew how much they could earn with coffee, they would not be interested in joining militias," Makelele told IRIN.

"A paradise for coffee"

Coffee, a traditional export crop, was virtually abandoned across much of North Kivu in the past 30 years. DRC's production shrank from 110,000 metric tons in the late 1980s to about 50,000 metric tons in 2009, according to the DRC's national coffee office.

CPNCK says it is giving away half a million arabica seedlings to help relaunch coffee's cultivation.

Many people in the Kalonge area, including members of armed groups, appear to be interested in planting coffee. The militiaman told IRIN he would like to plant the crop on his ancestral land of more than 100 hectares, but that he would first have to raise US$1,000 to pay the land registry for title deeds.

Uncertainty about land titles and the involvement of Congolese and foreign armed groups are just some of the problems local farmers will face if they decide to take Makelele's advice.  Planting coffee is a long-term investment, prices have been volatile and the market is not as reliable as that for food crops.

Nevertheless, the crop has paid off for neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, which have increased their production in recent years. The crop is Uganda's single most important export, and coffee and tea together account for nearly half of Rwanda's exports.

The recent history of coffee prices could also deter would-be planters: The New York market price for mild arabica, currently slightly above the inflation-adjusted average for the past decade, has fluctuated by more than 300 percent since 2003, and has trended downwards since the late 1970s.

But coffee's promoters argue that increasing demand in middle-income countries, plus the possibility that climate change could lead to the spread of diseases in coffee plants, point to higher prices in future - and bright prospects for Kivu coffee.
Additionally, the temperate climate in the Kivu region's hills is thought to be protection against coffee rust, the most devastating disease affecting arabica. Partly for this reason, World Coffee Research describes the area as "a paradise for coffee".
This optimism has helped to persuade several NGOs - including Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Oxfam, the Eastern Congo Initiative and the Fairtrade organization Twin - to launch coffee projects in the Kivu provinces.
Twin has helped a South Kivu co-operative, Sopacdi, replant coffee and improve yields, quality and post-harvest processing, enabling its 3,500 members to become the first producers in Kivu to achieve organic and Fairtrade certification.
Income potential
Sopacdi has publicized the job opportunities it has provided to ex-combatants. A number of them work at a mechanized washing centre - paid for by Twin and employing 161 people - where the coffee berries are depulped and dried.
One of the staff at the washing centre, former rebel Habamungu Engavashapa, told IRIN he was happy with civilian life because he was able to spend nights in a house rather than in the forest.
Another ex-combatant, Abdul Mahagi, said Sopacdi had trained him as a machinist and given him a contract; he said he was beginning to see a way to organize his life. 
Other workers at the washing centre, however, complained that their salaries, about $60 a month, were barely enough to live on.
The main opportunities that coffee co-operatives are likely to provide for ex-combatants in the short term would be to clear land and plant seedlings.

CPNCK has been employing 50 ex-combatants on these tasks at a rate of $1 a day, much less than they would earn in artisanal mining, but not insignificant in most of the villages, says Jean-Baptiste Musbyimana, an agricultural journalist based in Goma.
The returns could be more enticing for ex-combatants and smallholder farmers who are able to grow coffee for themselves.

For information on the profitability of coffee versus that of alternative crops, IRIN consulted Franck Muke, an agronomist who has studied coffee production in DRC and in Brazil; Xavier Phemba, CRS's agricultural project co-ordinator in Goma; and Sandra Kavira, an agronomist working for the International Fertilizer Development Centre. 
Their data suggest returns from a hectare of 2,500 coffee trees could be two to three times as high as the returns from a hectare of maize or beans, assuming an absence of mineral fertilizers and only limited use of organic fertilizers.
Jean-Baptiste Musabyimana, of the Federation of Agricultural Producer Organizations of Congo (FOPAC), which does not promote coffee, said coffee is regarded as having several advantages over other crops, including the potential for intercropping with bananas, beans or legumes, which provide organic waste and additional profits from the same acreage.
Once the trees have been planted, coffee also requires less labour than annual crops and is less likely to be stolen.
"Armed groups won't cut off the berries and eat them," coffee plantation owner Eric Kulage told IRIN. "And the workers don't want the berries either, whereas when they are harvesting maize they always solicit some bags."
Coffee's major disadvantage is the cost of planting and the fact that the trees cannot be harvested for the first three years and do not reach their full potential for five to eight years. Muke estimated costs of planting 2,500 trees per hectare, and pruning for three non-productive years, at $850 to $950. These costs, and the risks involved, limit the acreage farmers will be willing to devote to the crop.
Helping DRC compete
A significant limitation to DRC's coffee industry is the lack of mechanized washing stations, which cut down on waste and help maintain product consistency. Washing stations are the norm in Uganda and Rwanda, but there are hardly any in Kivu, where producers depulp the berries by hand or sell the wet berries to merchants from Uganda and Rwanda.
Aid agencies are planning to install several washing stations at sites close to large population centres and to Lake Kivu. But Muke says this could be a mistake, as the lakeside areas have higher humidity, which is thought to promote coffee rust.
There could be social advantages to promoting a perennial crop in areas further from Lake Kivu, like Kalonge Pinga and Mweso, where many young men see joining an armed group as their most viable livelihood option. 
"If they have a perennial crop to look after, they will want to settle down," suggested CPNCK's Makelele.
But a major obstacle to promoting agriculture in areas where militias recruit is, of course, insecurity. Although armed groups are unlikely to steal coffee berries, they might try to steal bulk loads of dried coffee from washing stations. 
Plantation owner Kulage commented that, in his experience, armed groups had not succeeded in stealing and marketing large coffee harvests in recent years. He suggested that security forces might be deployed to protect washing stations during the limited periods when bulk loads of dried coffee are left there.
Oxfam's co-ordinator for North Kivu, Tariq Riebl, doubted whether any donor would accept the risk of building a washing station in a place like Kalonge. He noted that 90,000 seedlings had recently been stolen from a CPNCK nursery near Kalonge.
"If you mention that to donors, they won't want to hear anything more," he said.
But Makelele argues that the theft was not a problem because the co-op was going to give the seedlings away anyway.  
"I am very happy about it," he told IRIN. "It shows that people want to plant coffee."

nl/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97998

Conflict cuts off civilians in DRC's Katanga

KATANGA, 2 May 2013 (IRIN) - Tens of thousands of displaced people in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Katanga Province have received little or no humanitarian aid in the months since having fled ongoing conflict.

In one territory, Malemba Nkulu, the number of displaced is estimated to have risen from 12,000 to 42,000 between December 2012 and January 2013, and no food distribution has yet been organized. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says, "The global acute malnutrition rate is above 19 percent, and the severely malnourished need treatment."

"Nineteen percent global acute malnutrition is nearly twice the emergency threshold level," Quoc Nguyen, head of operations for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Katanga, told IRIN, adding that seven territories in Katanga have acute malnutrition rates above the 10 percent level.

UNICEF is assisting children and pregnant and lactating women suffering from acute malnutrition in several territories, including Pweto and Manono, where the rate is also above 19 percent; however this treatment is still not available in Malemba Nkulu. "There's no programme in Malemba Nkulu because of lack of funding, lack of access, insecurity and a lack of partners who can implement a programme," said Nguyen.

Malnutrition is a major contributor to the under-five mortality rate in the province, which UNICEF's latest survey put at 188 per 1,000. In its 16 April bulletin for DRC, OCHA said that in Malemba Nkulu "no humanitarian intervention has been implemented mainly because of difficulties of access and lack of funding".

Displaced people in the neighbouring territory of Manono - recently estimated to number 31,000 - have not had a food distribution since September, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) told IRIN this week, although a convoy of food trucks has just been sent there. WFP has distributed food in the past month at or near most of the other major population centres in Katanga where large numbers of displaced people have gathered.

But of 17,000 people who were displaced this year in the territories of Kalemie, Moba and Manono, most have not yet received any aid, nor have the 747 families living on the route from Mitwaba to Kisele, OCHA reported on 23 April.

Continued displacement

The total number of displaced in Katanga is estimated by the Commission on Population Movements (CMP) - an official body which collects data from aid workers - to have risen from 64,082 in December 2011 to 353,931 currently.

"Needs are. enormous both among the displaced and the host population," OCHA said in a report published on April 10 [ http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/dr-congo%E2%80%99s-neglected-%E2%80%9Ctriangle-death%E2%80%9D-challenges-protection ]. "Many IDPs have become more vulnerable due to repeated displacements, often across vast distances."

An upsurge in violence by Mai-Mai militia groups has been causing waves of displacement since late 2011. WFP's head of operations in Katanga, Amadou Samake, said the so-called 'triangle of death' between Mitwaba, Manono and Pweto had been emptied of most of its population - 75,000 households - by April 2012. By the end of last year, the displaced already numbered more than 300,000.

The flow outwards from conflict zones has continued, and Mai-Mai violence has spread west and south, to Malemba Nkulu, Lubudi and Kambove territories.

On 17 February, a gang from the newly created Mai-Mai militia known as Kata Katanga (meaning 'cut off Katanga') killed three officials and drove out the population at Kinsevere, only 40km from Lubumbashi, the provincial capital.

On 23 March, some 400 lightly armed Kata Katanga members marched from the bush to the centre of Lubumbashi, unopposed, before they were forced to surrender after a shootout with the elite Republican Guard.

Amid the persistent insecurity, fewer than the 10 percent of the displaced have returned to their villages, Samake estimates.

WFP assisted 250,000 people in Katanga last year, he said, but has not had the resources to guarantee the displaced three months of rations, the standard the agency aims for in North Kivu. Currently, he said, the agency has 5,915 tons in stock or en route and would need an additional 10,383 tons to feed 320,000 displaced people in Katanga through the second quarter of 2013.

If the displaced do not soon return to their villages, Samake added, another year of missed harvests will worsen food security across the province.

UNICEF's Nguyen commented that much of Katanga was already in the grip of a food security crisis before the Mai-Mai's resurgence in 2011. "There is a lack of basic services in every sector - health, water, nutrition and agriculture - and the conflict and displacement make an already bad situation much worse," he said.
Deteriorating security

OCHA reports the security situation worsened in April in Pweto, Manono and Mitwaba territories, with attacks by Mai-Mai groups on a dozen villages.

The national army, FARDC, recently retook the town of Shamwana, at the centre of 'the triangle of death', but International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst Thierry Vircoulon says the military seems to be having little success in suppressing the Mai-Mai. At the start of 2013, the army had only 1,000 men available in Katanga, but their number is now up to 2,500, UN sources told IRIN.

Central Katanga has been unstable since Mai-Mai commander Gedeon Mtanga escaped from prison in September 2011. He and more than 1,000 of his followers were freed from Lubumbashi's central jail by eight armed men in broad daylight; there was speculation that the jail break was arranged by local power holders. Gedeon had led a Mai-Mai group known for its brutality and attacks on civilians from 2002 to 2007. Africa Confidential reported on 1 March that "his ambition is to root out the old order" and "his men have killed at least 15 traditional chiefs in Nord Mitwaba alone".

According to OCHA, the other main driver of instability in the province is Kata Katanga, which has also been fighting FARDC.

Like the brutal Mai-Mai group Morgan [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/97314/Rainforest-riches-a-curse-for-civilians-in-northeast-DRC ], in DRC's Orientale Province, the Kata Katanga and Gedeon Mai-Mai seem to get much of their income from poaching, rather than minerals or agriculture. Therefore, they may not need much support from the local population.

There are no recent figures for the Mai-Mai in Katanga, but ICG estimated they might have numbered 5,000 to 8,000 in 2005 [ http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/central-africa/dr-congo/103-katanga-the-congos-forgotten-crisis.aspx?alt_lang=fr ].

Following the bloody suppression of a Kata Katanga rally in Lubumbashi on 23 March, a report by local civil society activists accused senior members of the regime of providing the group with arms and funding.

ICG's Vircoulon told IRIN he believes that several local "barons" are behind the Kata Katanga.

The DRC's former police chief General John Numbi - a native of Malemba Nkulu who built his career as a political organizer among the Balubakat, President Joseph Kabila's ethnic group - may have held the key to security in the province. ICG reports that Numbi was supplying Gedeon with arms from 2002 to 2004. Later, he organized the manhunt that led to the Mai-Mai leader's capture.

In 2010, Numbi was suspended as police chief following allegations that he was responsible for the murder of human rights defender Floribert Chebeya.

Significantly, Gedeon and many of his followers were captured in 2007, after Kabila had won elections with support from a broad coalition in Katanga and elsewhere in the country. That coalition is now crumbling, allowing armed groups to be reactivated in many areas of eastern DRC.

Protection needs

An April report [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Final%20version%20Protection%20Report%20Katanga%2011.04.pdf ] by OCHA in Katanga concludes: "Given the duration of the current conflict, humanitarian actors do not expect to see any improvements in terms of displacement numbers or humanitarian needs in the coming months."

The report highlights alleged abuses by the army as well the Mai-Mai, including allegations that 50 women and 20 girls were detained for two days and repeatedly raped by soldiers in February 2012.

"Without an increased presence" of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), says OCHA, "such abuses will continue and may even increase, as will further displacements".

Currently there are 450 blue helmets in Katanga, an area the size of France.

The report also calls for a political solution to the conflict in Katanga, for the government to reinitiate its programme to disarm, demobilize and re-integrate the Mai-Mai, and for humanitarian actors to establish contact with Mai-Mai groups so as to facilitate humanitarian access and sensitize the combatants on international humanitarian law.

nl/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97963

Briefing: M23, one year on

NAIROBI, 3 April 2013 (IRIN) - The M23 rebellion, the latest of a string of armed insurgencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) North Kivu Province, has been active for one year now, during which hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and many have lost their lives.

The Mouvement du 23-Mars, or March 23 Movement [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/95715/DRC-Understanding-armed-group-M23 ], came into existence in April 2012, when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of FARDC, the national army, mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/76275/DRC-Nkunda-s-rebel-group-spells-out-demands ], another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented. M23 is named after the date the agreement was signed.

In November 2012, M23 captured Goma, the provincial capital, but withdrew and subsequently entered into peace talks with the government. Neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda were accused of backing M23 by a UN Security Council Group of Experts report [ http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/17/us-congo-democratic-rwanda-uganda-idUSBRE89F1RQ20121017 ], charges both countries strongly deny.

In this briefing, IRIN outlines the group's impact on the province over the past year, its current position and avenues for peace in eastern DRC.

What is the humanitarian situation in North Kivu?

Although clashes between M23 and FARDC have subsided, "North Kivu remains highly insecure due to the proliferation of weapons, sporadic fighting between armed groups and the army, and inter-community tensions," according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHA%20PRESS%20RELEASE%20-%20GOMA%20RESPONSE%20PLAN%20%28ENGLISH%29.pdf ] (OCHA).

OCHA notes that since the beginning of the M23 rebellion, more than half a million people have been driven from their homes in North Kivu. The figure accounts for more than half of the 914,000 displaced people in the province. Tens of thousands more fled to refugee camps [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97742/Congolese-refugee-camps-in-Rwanda-full ] in Rwanda and Uganda.

According to Amnesty International [ http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/drc-bosco-ntaganda-must-be-surrendered-icc-2013-03-19 ], M23 has been responsible for human rights abuses "including violations of the duty to care for the civilian population when launching attacks, forced recruitment of children who were either trained to take part in hostilities or forced to work to build military positions, unlawful killings, and acts of sexual violence". The organization also blamed FARDC for widespread abuses against civilians.

Where are M23's leaders?

The movement's leadership now looks significantly different than it did in April 2012.

In February 2013, a rift was reported in M23's leadership, with one of the founders, Bosco Ntaganda, and M23's political leader, Jean-Marie Runiga, on one side and M23's military chief, Sultani Makenga [ http://www.congoforum.be/upldocs/RVI%20Briefing%20-%20Usalama%20-%20Makenga%20Profile%20%E2%80%93%203%20December%202012.pdf ], on the other. The two factions clashed in North Kivu, and Makenga sacked Runiga, who was the group's representative at the peace talks taking place with the DRC government in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Following more fighting in March, Ntaganda's faction surrendered. Both he and Runiga, along with several senior commanders and close to 700 fighters, fled to Rwanda.

On 18 March, Ntaganda surrendered himself to the US Embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court for trial over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. He made his first appearance in court on 26 March. According to a paper [ http://riftvalley.net/resources/file/RVI%20Usalama%20Project%20-%20Briefing%20-%20Ntaganda%20Profile.pdf ] by the Rift Valley Institute, Ntaganda had fallen out with fellow commanders early in the rebellion and had been effectively relegated to the sidelines.

Experts have lauded Ntaganda's arrest as a positive step in the fight against impunity in DRC, but warn that it does not mean an end to violence in the region.

Runiga has been placed under house arrest [ http://bigstory.ap.org/article/congo-m23-faction-leader-arrested-rwanda ] in Rwanda; the Rwandan government has disarmed [ http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/dr-congo-rebels-rwanda-moved-away-border?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ReliefwebUpdates+(ReliefWeb+-+Latest+Updates) ] the M23 troops who surrendered and moved them to a refugee camp more than 50km from the DRC-Rwanda border.

Various reports [ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/27/democratic-republic-congo-sultani-makenga ] indicate that Makenga is now consolidating his fighters, thought to number about 1,500, and M23-held territory in North Kivu, but he may also be preparing for further negotiations with President Joseph Kabila's government. According to Congo expert Jason Stearns [ http://congosiasa.blogspot.com/2013/03/m23-split-and-join.html ], "The internal M23 split may have provided the break they [DRC representatives] needed to make the deal acceptable for the rebels."

Any deal is likely to involve the integration of Makenga's fighters into FARDC, with lower cadre fighters automatically integrated and higher ranking officers considered for integration on a case-by-case basis. However, analysts say the re-integration method has not worked in the past and must be rethought.

"M23 integration in FARDC is feasible but is not suitable. The policy of repeated integration of armed groups in FARDC is [contributing] to the fragmentation and militarization of FARDC," Marc-Andre Lagrange, DRC senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, told IRIN via email. "Since that approach has proven, with M23, to be a failure, the DRC government with MONUSCO and UNSC should look for another option."

According to a recent article in the newsletter Africa Confidential: "Experts broadly agree that some kind of agreement between Kinshasa and M23 is in the offing and will be signed soon, but reliable sources in North Kivu diverge on what the outcome will be. Some feel that Makenga will reintegrate his troops into the FARDC, while others suggest that Makenga and [new] M23 political leader Bertrand Bisimwa can stay independent of the army while not being seen as a 'negative force'."

What is the fate of the peace talks?

The Kampala peace talks between M23 and the DRC government began in December 2012 [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97075/Analysis-Seeking-civilian-and-military-solutions-in-the-DRC ], under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The talks have made little progress and have been put on hold due to the rebel group's internal problems. Bisimwa has urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to revive the talks [ http://allafrica.com/stories/201304021191.html ].

On 24 February, a UN-brokered peace agreement [ http://www.peaceau.org/uploads/scanned-on-24022013-125543.pdf ] aimed at ending conflict in eastern DRC was signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, by 11 African countries - Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, DRC, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Dubbed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC, the deal's goals include the reformation of the DRC's army and an end to regional interference in the country. Among the decisions reached was the formation of a neutral intervention force aimed at fighting "negative forces" in eastern DRC - referring not only to M23 but other armed groups as well.

While the deal was lauded as a breakthrough by African countries, analysts are more sceptical, criticizing the agreement as being long on rhetoric and short on detail and solid action plans. A Foreign Policy Association blog post [ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2013/02/28/regional-peace-to-settle-violence-in-the-drc-shows-progress-not-so-fast/ ] noted that since the 1990s, a number of similar regional agreements had failed to bring peace to DRC. It pointed out that the some key players were not mentioned or involved - including armed groups like Raia Mutomboki [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/96899/DRC-Civilian-population-in-Masisi-at-risk ] (Swahili for "angry citizens"), Mai Mai Cheka and the Hutu-dominated FDLR, whose presence in eastern DRC is perceived as a threat by Rwanda.

"The primary aggressors present in the country for the last 10 years, the militia groups that patrol the eastern provinces, were not even included in the discussion," said the author, Daniel Donovan. "By excluding these groups, they hold no commitment to such an agreement, which begs the question: How does this move signify a guarantee for peace?"

What is next for the region?

On 28 March, the UN Security Council authorized [ http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44523&Cr=democratic&Cr1=congo ] an offensive "intervention brigade" to "address imminent threats to peace and security" as part of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).

"The objectives of the new force - which will be based in North Kivu Province in eastern DRC and total 3,069 peacekeepers - are to neutralize armed groups, reduce the threat they posed to State authority and civilian security, and make space for stabilization activities," according to the UN News Centre. It also aims to support the Addis accord.

Following the announcement, the DRC government said it supported the intervention brigade and warned M23 rebels to disband. M23's Bisimwa has rejected [ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21993655 ] the UN's decision to send the force, but said [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YAzl8128kE ] the group would neither fight nor flee the UN forces.

The International Federation of Human Rights [ http://www.fidh.org/DRC-An-intervention-brigade-within-MONUSCO-would-require-further-human-13106 ] has warned of a potential "escalation in military confrontations and increased risk of retaliatory attacks by armed groups against civilians" as a result of the force's entry into the fray, and urged MONUSCO to "mitigate against the increased risks that communities will face".

Experts say reforms in eastern DRC must go beyond military solutions. "The intervention brigade. should not be seen as the only solution but one element of a comprehensive solution," said ICG's Lagrange.

"After last year's fall of Goma and rise of the Mai Mai [rebel] threat, there is a serious need for a new approach against the armed groups. Such an approach should include the use of military force; a targeted policy of arrest on armed groups' leaders; a DDR [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration] offer focusing on civilian reintegration; the investigation and neutralization of the logistical networks of the armed groups; and development work in the communities that generate armed groups," he told IRIN.

"Groups like M23 are not a cause but a symptom of what's going wrong in the DRC," he added. "The Congolese government must commit to implement the security sector reforms, especially the reforms concerning the FARDC. It must also abandon its policy of peace prevailing over justice."

kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97779

Boost for healthcare in DRC

NAIROBI, 31 March 2013 (IRIN) - The British government has announced a major new programme [ https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-british-boost-for-healthcare-in-drc ] aimed at providing essential healthcare to six million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The five-year, US$270.7 million project will focus on rebuilding health facilities, training health workers, and supplying drugs and equipment.

Civil war has destroyed much of the country's health infrastructure, as well as the road networks and vital services such as electricity, meaning patients often have to travel long distances to health centres that may not be equipped to handle their complications.

IRIN has put together a list of five health issues in DRC that require urgent attention:

Maternal and Child Health - DRC's maternal mortality ratio [ http://www.unfpa.org/sowmy/resources/docs/country_info/profile/en_DRC_SoWMy_Profile.pdf ] is 670 deaths per 100,000 live births, with an estimated 19,000 maternal deaths annually. The country has a severe shortage of health workers - less than one health professional is available per 1,000 people.

With 170 out of every 1,000 children dying before they reach the age of five and 10 percent of infants underweight, DRC has one of the worst child health indicators [ http://www.unicef.org/sowc2012/pdfs/SOWC%202012-Main%20Report_EN_13Mar2012.pdf ] in the world. It is one of five countries in the world in which about half of under-five deaths occur. Some of the biggest killers of children are diarrhoea, malaria, malnutrition and pneumonia.

Sexual violence - Several studies report high levels of sexual violence perpetrated against women, children and men in DRC, both by armed groups and within the home; one study [ http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=186342 ], conducted in the North and South Kivu and Ituri in 2010, found that 40 percent of women and 24 percent of men had experienced sexual violence.

Between the stigma of rape and the dearth of decent health services in DRC, sexual violence often leaves survivors injured, infected with sexually transmitted illnesses and severely traumatized. Some of the main requirements are first aid and trauma services, counselling, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, HIV post-exposure prophylaxis and access to contraception.

During a recent visit to eastern DRC, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announced $312,110 in new funding [ http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/news/uk-announces-funds-to-help-survivors-of-rape-democratic-republic-of-congo.html ] to support the NGO Physicians for Human Rights, which works at Panzi Hospital in South Kivu Province, "to help efforts to develop local and national capacity to document and collect evidence of sexual violence".

Diarrhoeal diseases - The consumption of unsafe water is one of the main causes of the diarrhoeal diseases - such as cholera - that infect and kill children and adults in DRC. A cholera epidemic that started in June 2011 has infected tens of thousands and killed more than 200 people. In the capital, Kinshasa [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/95384/DRC-Poor-sanitation-systems-hinder-fight-against-cholera ] , which has been hit by the epidemic, less than 40 percent of people have no access to piped water. According to the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF [ http://www.unicef.org/media/media_68359.html ], 36 million people in DRC live without improved drinking water, and 50 million without improved sanitation.

Some of the measures to boost access to safe water and sanitation include hygiene awareness campaigns, rehabilitation of water supply and of sanitation facilities, disinfection of contaminated environments, chlorination of water, and distribution of soap.

Immunization - Despite the existence of an effective vaccine for measles at a cost of roughly $1 per vaccine, the disease is one of the leading killers of children in DRC. According to the Global Alliance for Vaccines, [ http://www.gavialliance.org/library/news/gavi-features/2012/seth-berkley-visits-dr-congo-to-view-progress-on-immunisation/ ] 20-30 percent of children in DRC do not have access to immunization. Some challenges to universal vaccine coverage include the poor road network, the size of the country (DRC is Africa's second largest country), unreliable electricity for vaccines that require refrigeration, and low awareness within the population.

HIV - More than one million people in DRC are living with HIV; 350,000 of these qualify for life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs, but only 44,000 - or 15 percent - are actually on treatment. Just 9 percent of the population knows of their HIV status, largely because of low awareness, but also because of a shortage of facilities - for instance, only one laboratory in the country is equipped to carry out polymerase chain reaction tests for early infant diagnosis.

Just 5.6 percent of HIV-positive pregnant Congolese women receive ARVs to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies; according to government figures, the mother-to-child transmission [ http://www.plusnews.org/Report/95346/DRC-End-of-mother-to-child-HIV-transmission-still-a-long-way-off ] rate is about 37 percent.

Humanitarian agencies have called on the government and donors to urgently boost funding [ http://www.plusnews.org/Report/95412/DRC-HIV-effort-needs-government-donor-commitment-to-succeed ] for HIV prevention, treatment and care. kr/rz [END]
This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97761

DRC considers cholera vaccination

KINSHASA, 31 January 2013 (IRIN) - Health experts,  including those from the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), are considering introducing immunization campaigns as a way of dealing with cholera [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95950/DRC-Concerns-over-cholera-mount-amid-clashes ] in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the disease is  endemic.

"Immunization against cholera opens up a new opportunity [for] treatment and [the] fight against the disease. We think that there is a new opportunity to use it in the DR Congo as a complementary measure to existing methods that that have been used in the past," Marc le Pape, chief of the MSF bureau in the eastern town of Kalemei, told IRIN.

The parts of DRC most affected by the disease are characterized by poor hygiene, lack of awareness about how cholera is transmitted, limited access to protected and monitored water sources, and lack of sanitation infrastructure [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95384/DRC-Poor-sanitation-systems-hinder-fight-against-cholera ] .

According to a cholera situation analysis [ http://www.afro.who.int/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=7815&Itemid=2593 ] released by WHO in September 2012, there were 22,792 reported cases of cholera in DRC between January and September 2012. There were 512 cholera-related deaths in the same period.

Sanitation focus

The government is considering a roll-out of the vaccine, but some government health officials have opposed calls for an immunization campaign, instead pushing for efforts to scale-up water and sanitation programmes.

"At the moment, we in South Kivu Province [think] immunization is not an emergency because a lot of work has been done to get clean water to reach more people there," Jean-de-Dieu Mpuruta, an official from the Ministry of Health, told IRIN.

"We believe that if everyone has access to clean water and applies hygienic requirements - such as drinking boiled water, washing hands, eating warmed foods, having a clean toilet, keeping the surroundings/environment clean etc. - cholera disease can be defeated," he added.

The provision of clean water and sanitation is critical to reducing the impact of cholera - a diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated - and other waterborne diseases.

Globally, there are an estimated 3-5 million cholera cases, resulting in 100,000-120,000 deaths, every year, according to WHO.

Plans underway

Health experts discussed these options at a conference held in the capital, Kinshasa, from 23 to 24 January. They also considered strengthening in-hospital care, using avail flexible financing, strengthening the epidemiological surveillance and communication system, and creating an emergency fund for cholera, as well as other measures.

Already, a five-year plan to combat cholera - especially in the eastern region, where a long-running conflict between the government and rebel forces has hampered prevention and treatment efforts - is being developed.

According to WHO, the vaccination against cholera will target mostly travellers, fishermen and farmers living along rivers.

In 2012, WHO convened a technical working group on the creation of a global cholera vaccine stockpile [ http://www.unicef.org/immunization/files/WHO_HSE_PED_2012_2_eng.pdf ].

A study [ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22028938 ] carried out in Kolkata, India, on the effectiveness of the oral cholera vaccine revealed that the vaccine had a 67 percent  protection efficacy against clinically significant cholera for two years, and showed that the vaccinated population had a 66 percent protection efficacy against all forms of cholera for three years after vaccination.

There are currently two WHO pre-qualified oral cholera vaccines, Dukoral and Shanchol. Another five are still under development.

In 2012, a cholera outbreak in the eastern town of Kisangani spread quickly to Kinshasa and also affected many towns along the Congo River.
pc/ko/rz[END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97385

Kony hunt still on after CAR coup

KAMPALA, 26 March 2013 (IRIN) - The search for the Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the rainforests of the Central African Republic (CAR) will continue despite the ouster of President François Bozizé by rebel group Séléka, officials say.

Séléka overran the capital, Bangui, on 24 March, putting Bozizé to flight. The rebels named their leader, Michel Djotodjia, the new head of state.

"I don't think the overthrow of President Bozizé by Séléka will change our mission and position in the hunt down of LRA rebels. We are in CAR with the mandate from [the] AU [African Union] and UN [United Nations]," Uganda's state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, told IRIN, adding that his country is committed to capturing LRA leader Joseph Kony.

Uganda has some 2,500 soldiers deployed around the border areas of CAR, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, where Kony and his fighters are thought to spend most of their time. The Ugandan troops are joined by 500 Congolese fighters, 500 South Sudanese and 350 CAR troops, all operating under the auspices of the AU. In late 2011, the US deployed 100 special forces to the region as military advisers to the effort.

Ploughing on

According to Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa project director for the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), "the fall of Bozizé will not change much the situation on the ground, except if the Séléka leaders insist on the departure of the foreign troops as stipulated in the Libreville agreement [a peace agreement brokered in January and breached by the latest fighting? but never successfully implemented]."

Potential problems

Some analysts say, however, that the AU's decision to suspend CAR from the organization following the coup could have negative consequences for the hunt for the LRA.

"The AU's suspension of CAR poses a great challenge and will slow down the hunt for Kony and his rebels. Uganda has to re-negotiate with Séléka rebels. in order for its troops to have the mandate to operate in their territory," Ronald Ssekandi, a regional political analyst based in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, told IRIN.

Angelo Izama, a political affairs analyst at the US-based Open Society Foundation, said the hunt for Kony and the LRA would largely depend on Séléka's control of the country.

"The deterioration of government in CAR is a significant complication for the hunt against Joseph Kony. The LRA's asymmetrical, low-tech survival strategy thrives in conditions of lawlessness and violence, especially in the hinterland," he told IRIN.

"Already the geographical terrain, as well as the size of CAR, has been a practical constraint against the forces hunting Kony. If Séléka is unable to consolidate control, it would further the physical and tactical net within which LRA can seek opportunities to rebuild weapons caches," he added. "The Séléka rebels do not have the capacity [to limit LRA activities]. In addition, Kony is not their problem; there are much more important emergencies to deal with."

According to Lt Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, commander of the Uganda People's Defence Forces' (UPDF) Land Forces, Kony's fighters currently number about 400, and they continue to roam around CAR, DRC, Sudan and South Sudan. He said some LRA defectors recently reported that Kony was in Sudan's western region of Darfur, while his senior commanders, Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo, are thought to be in CAR.

Kony, Odhiambo and Ongwen are wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [ http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/situations%20and%20cases/situations/situation%20icc%200204/Pages/situation%20index.aspx ] for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Uganda.

LRA still a threat

"The LRA no longer pose a big threat, but there are still [a] few pockets of LRA rebels operating in CAR under Odhiambo and Ongwen. They are a nuisance. They have continued to abduct, maim and kill unarmed people," Katumba told IRIN.

"It is important to recall that, despite [the] relatively small number of remaining elements, the LRA continues to pose a serious threat to civilians, with dire humanitarian consequences, in the affected areas in CAR, DRC and South Sudan," Abou Moussa, head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), told IRIN via email.

In February, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported [ http://www.hdptcar.net/sites/www.hdptcar.net/files/Bulletin%20humanitaire%2001%20eng-1.pdf ] that in the country's southeast, "there has been an increase in the LRA attacks against communities and hostages being taken."

According to LRA Crisis Tracker [ http://www.lracrisistracker.com ], the LRA was responsible for 13 civilian deaths and 17 abductions in CAR February 2013. UNOCA says an estimated 443,000 people are currently displaced in LRA-affected areas, many of them depending on international assistance for food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation. This includes an estimated 347,000 people in Province Orientale's Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé districts in DRC.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC's chief prosecutor, recently sent a message [ http://www.icc-cpi.int/fr_menus/icc/press%20and%20media/press%20releases/Pages/statement-OTP-18-03-2013.aspx ] to the LRA, assuring them that, should they be arrested, they would not be "tortured or killed" and would receive a fair trial.

Commitment to the cause

Analysts say if the LRA threat is to be laid to rest once and for all, countries in the region must show more commitment to finding Kony.

"It requires committed governments to arrest Kony. The ICC can only base its optimism in this practical possibility. There is no government in CAR, soft states in South Sudan and Chad, and support for LRA from Sudan. It's plausible that the situation above favours the LRA and not the ICC," said Open Society Foundation's Izama.

"Kony's continued existence, and that of his entire group, is part of a much larger problem in the Great Lakes region: failure by governments to resolve internal political problems and to work together in a concerted way to bring to an end cross-border insurgencies in the region," said Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist and senior research fellow at Makerere University's Institute of Social Research. "Their proliferation points to the existence of problems or grievances that ought to be addressed - questions to do with citizenship and nationality, land ownership, access to services and opportunity."

so/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97737

Boosting support for IDPs outside DRC's formal camps

NAIROBI, 21 March 2013 (IRIN) - Humanitarian agencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) North Kivu Province are working to increase their support for hundreds of thousands of displaced people living outside formal camps with little humanitarian support, often relying on the kindness of sometimes equally vulnerable host communities.

Fighting in North Kivu in 2012 displaced some 590,000 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In total, some 914,000 people are displaced in the province. According to the NGO Refugees International (RI), some 802,000 of these are living outside formal camp settings.

"Only 112,000 North Kivu IDPs live in UNHCR-operated camps, while 230,000 are in spontaneous settlements, and the rest are living with host communities," RI advocate Caelin Briggs [ http://refugeesinternational.org/content/back-field-drc ] told IRIN following a mission to the province.

"Across the board, we found extremely harsh conditions, particularly in the non-official camps - spontaneous settlements and people living with host families," she added. "Food is the number one need mentioned. For instance, between July and December 2012, there was no food distribution in Masisi [territory]. They try to get day labour on nearby farms, but there is just not enough work to go around."

Briggs noted that protection was another issue of concern. "In Goma, there is a big threat to women fetching firewood, especially as they now have to go deeper into the forest for it," she said. "They are advised to go in groups, but this is not really helpful against a group of armed men."

The DRC government has not yet ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) 2009 - also known as the Kampala Convention [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/96984/IDPs-African-IDP-Convention-comes-into-force ] - the world's first legally binding instrument aimed specifically at aiding people displaced within their own countries.

Harmonizing programmes

"Until recently, there was very little assistance and coordination of activities in spontaneous sites and for IDPs living in host families and other displacement situations," Simplice Kpandji, the UN Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) public information officer in DRC, told IRIN. "Over the last few months, the humanitarian community has sought to create a new, more holistic coordination/assistance system which includes not only CCCM [camp coordination/camp management] camps but also other displacement situations."

"Approaches to distribution, registration, security. etc. are being harmonized to ensure that all IDPs in various situations of displacement are treated equally," he added.

RI is making the case for the "the activation of a national-level CCCM cluster to jointly address the needs of displaced persons living in CCCM camps as well as those living in spontaneous settlements and with host families" [ http://refugeesinternational.org/policy/letter/letter-deputy-special-representative-monusco ]. In some countries, humanitarian actors working within a particular field, such as shelter or health, coordinate their activities through "clusters" [ http://www.unocha.org/what-we-do/coordination-tools/cluster-coordination ]. CCCM activities in the DRC are handled by a "working group" under the larger protection cluster.

Kpandji said that although the CCCM working group has been working "very much like a cluster", it lacks access to funding mechanisms available to clusters, such as the Central Emergency Response Fund [ http://www.unocha.org/cerf/ ] and pooled funds.

In January, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) joined UNHCR in coordinating spontaneous sites in North Kivu.

"Little is done for IDPs outside the formal camps, which is why IOM has developed a strategy to care for IDPs in spontaneous sites and those living with host communities," said Laurent de Boeck, chief of IOM's mission in the DRC.

"IOM has a three-tier approach to IDPs outside the camps: understanding and registering the people displaced using a displacement tracking matrix; analyzing the pull-push factors leading to displacement, and assessing the ability of host families to cope with crisis; and, based on the needs, deliver the immediate needs of the IDPs [including] food and non-food items, and encourage other humanitarian actors to help as well.

"Finally, we aim to build the resilience of the IDPs, both where they are and in their places of origin - when and if return is safe. We aim to create durable solutions, whether this means insertion into host communities, return back to their places of origin or. formal re-localization," he added.

Addressing the risks

De Boeck noted that displacement from one community to another could create tensions and make host communities vulnerable to possible insecurity.

He said access and identification of host families was particularly difficult. "Often both the displaced and the host families are vulnerable so there is a dilemma on who to focus on," he said.

"One risk for UNHCR and partners is encouraging the creation of collective sites in areas with insufficient/inadequate conditions to provide effective protection and assistance," said Kpandji.

"Contingency plans in the province should be updated regularly to ensure that suitable reception areas are identified in advance, and that the humanitarian community is prepared," he added. "Close cooperation with authorities - who should identify land for displacement sites in advance - should be maintained."

According to De Boeck, there is also a need for better harmonization between national humanitarian policy and regional implementation.

"In the overall approach, there is a misunderstanding between Kinshasa and the provincial level. Efforts are focused very much on North Kivu, with no systematic approach in other provinces," he said. "There are good initiatives by the government, i.e., the ministerial and national policy on development as well as a new governmental decree giving the Ministry of Humanitarian Action a coordination role. This needs to be reflected at the provincial level."

He added, "There is a need to dialogue with the population to better understand their needs and how to meet them."

Kpandji also pointed out the need to develop the agencies' ability to rapidly evaluate and respond to displacement, "in particular with regards to child protection and support to community-based protection mechanisms".


"Funding is a major challenge. We are really advocating for increased funding for IOM and UNHCR, as well as for OCHA's US$30.5 million [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHA_Humanitarian%20Action%20in%20the%20DRC%2018%20January%202013%20_%20FINAL.pdf ] request to cover the basic needs of IDPs in North Kivu," said Briggs.

"Our needs are $13 million over 12 months, and we will have $4 million before the end of the month, allowing us to work for six months. This is all for our work in North Kivu," said de Boeck. "We will also be appealing for funds for our operations in Province Orientale and South Kivu."

"Funding remains an issue. Sure, it is important, but equally as important - and arguably more important - is the end of fighting, an end to these sporadic bouts that prevent access and [hinder] aid organizations' work," said one aid worker, who preferred anonymity. "Money without access does not get us anywhere."

kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97702

Briefing: Militias in Masisi

MASISI, 6 March 2013 (IRIN) - The process of integrating armed groups into the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) army, FARDC, has stalled again amid heavy fighting at a base where hundreds of combatants had assembled.
The clashes, which started in Kitchanga, North Kivu Province, could jeopardize community reconciliation across much of the province's Masisi territory, which saw outbreaks of ethnic violence in 2012.
In this briefing, IRIN looks at armed group integration and community pacification in eastern DRC and asks how these processes might develop in Masisi and elsewhere in the region.
What has happened in Kitchanga?
Heavy fighting broke out on 24 February between FARDC and the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) militia, and continued until 27 February. It broke out again on March 3; as of 5 March, at least 70 people had been killed and thousands displaced from their homes.
Between 500 and 700 APCLS combatants are believed to have been in Kitchanga, alongside a regiment of about 1,000 FARDC soldiers. The combatants had been sent by their commander, Janvier Bwingo Karairi, who was negotiating with the army over the possible integration of his forces.
UN Radio says discussions broke down over the murder of an APCLS officer and attempts by the APCLS to attack ethnic Tutsi living in a displacement camp, who they alleged were hiding weapons. A witness to the fighting, Samson Ndako, said many houses in Kitchanga were burned as the fighters targeted each other's communities. The APCLS are largely ethnic Hunde, and many soldiers in the town are Hutu or Tutsi.
Most of the town's estimated 120,000 inhabitants have fled towards Tongo in the northwest.
Why are these latest clashes significant?
There is fighting between the FARDC and armed groups in many parts of DRC, but Masisi is a key area for political and strategic reasons. Tensions within this densely populated territory have repeatedly sparked or fuelled wars.
The area straddles an ethnic fault line between Banyarwanda people, who have Rwandan ancestry and include the Hutu and Tutsi, and other so-called "indigenous" communities, such as the Hunde, Nyanga, Tembo and Nande.
In 2012, the violence [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/96392/DRC-Army-commander-seeks-solution-to-Masisi-crisis ] in Masisi was worse than at any time since the 1990s, contributing to the displacement of up to half a million people in North Kivu.
That violence died down in December, when Hutu, Hunde and other armed groups agreed to a ceasefire. There was even a plan for APCLS's Janvier to take command of other armed groups and shepherd them into a mass integration into the army. That idea may now be shelved or abandoned.
Masisi is also at the frontline of the stand-off with the M23 rebels, who control most the neighbouring territory of Rutshuru.
What is the risk of a return to ethnic violence in Masisi?
The fighting in Kitchanga is not simply Hunde versus Hutu and Tutsi. Oxfam worker Eddy Mbuyi told IRIN that elements of the Rwandan, Hutu-dominated rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda(FDLR) have been siding with the APCLS, and other local Hutu militias appear to be neutral. Still, he said, there is virtually an ethnic war in Kitchanga, and it threatens to spread.
Yet progress towards reconciling Hutu, Hunde and other communities has been made in recent months. Since December 2012, at least three large pacification meetings have been held in the territory. The Jesuit Refugee Service described a meeting on 5 February at Masisi Centre as "historic" - it was the first time hundreds of Hunde and Hutu combatants had met at such a gathering.
The leaders of the APCLS and of the Hutu Force for the Defence of Human Rights (FDDH) militias were present at that meeting, and in an apparently strong gesture of solidarity, FDDH coordinator Emmanuel Munyariba said the FDDH would take orders from APCLS's Janvier.
However, that solidarity may have been conditional on good relations with the army (Munyamariba is also a local police chief), and the FDDH is not the only Hutu militia, nor is it united - three groups call themselves FDDH. In a recent Rift Valley Institute report [ http://rvi.asilialtd.com/download/file/fid/1121 ], Congo expert Jason Stearns [ http://congosiasa.blogspot.com/ ] referred to 15 mostly Hutu splinter militias in the neighbouring territory of Kalehe.
Reconciliation has a long way to go in the villages. The NGO Concern found some villages in Masisi still empty, and many formerly ethnically mixed villages are now inhabited by only one ethnic group. Forty-five percent of the villagers Concern interviewed said they had only just returned after fleeing the recent violence, and many remain displaced.
Notably absent from pacification meetings were representatives of the Tutsi community. The research head for the North Kivu Civil Society Association, Djento Maundu, said this was a major reason some community chiefs have not attended the meetings.
There is a serious risk of armed groups banding together against the Tutsi, who are widely blamed for the M23 rebellion [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/95715/DRC-Understanding-armed-group-M23 ] although many Tutsi have died fighting alongside the rebels. Most of the M23's senior officers are Tutsi, as are many generals in FARDC who were integrated into the army after fighting for Rwandan-backed rebel movements.
Some complain that past peace agreements have given the Tutsi too much power, and that they are using it to defend their large land holdings and dominant role in the economy.
Hunde elder and APCLS spokesman Kingi Mbayo told IRIN on March 4 that the APCLS is not against the Tutsi, and has some Tutsi in its ranks, including "Colonel" Philemon. He also said Tutsi ranches have not come under attack in the past year, which appears to be true.
But he added that many Tutsi who claim to be Congolese refugees, whose return to their land is one of the M23's demands, are not genuine Congolese, and called for more pressure on the Congolese and Rwandan governments to address this issue.
APCLS spokesman Jannot Makale Kale told IRIN on 4 March that the group would not leave Kitchanga but was willing to coexist there with FARDC, which it still regards as its ally.
Where has this left the army integration process?
In 2012, the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) reported that there were at least 31 armed groups in eastern DRC. The only large militia to integrate into the army since 2009 was the Hutu Nyatura, a group of around 1,000 fighters, now known as the Tango Four regiment. MONUSCO has a list of 12 groups in North Kivu that have been in integration talks.
MONUSCO lists nine of the armed groups in North Kivu as pro-FARDC and only four as pro-M23. But the list considers APCLS a pro-FARDC group, so it may need updating. Even so, the APCLS's hostility to the Tutsi means an alliance with the M23 is unlikely.
The M23 is believed to include some 3,000 fighters, while the Congolese army may have deployed some 20,000 against them. The other armed groups in North Kivu cumulatively have several thousand fighters.
Without significant armed support, the M23 will have difficulty advancing far from the Rwandan border. The proposed deployment of drones [ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/01/20131941818393957.html ] to monitor the border will put them under further pressure.
The M23 also has serious internal divisions. Two M23 factions, one led by Bosco Ntaganda and the other by Sultani Makenga, were fighting at the end of last month, allowing FARDC and allies to move into the M23 zone before withdrawing again on March 3.
The armed groups that MONUSCO lists as pro-M23 are generally smaller than the pro-FARDC groups, so the odds seemed to be stacked against the movement. By June, it could also be facing a possible reinforcement of MONUSCO - which has some 17,000 peacekeepers - by a South African Development Community-led neutral international force of up to 4,000 soldiers with a more robust mandate.
Where next for integration and pacification?
Spokesmen for armed groups like the APCLS, FDDH and Movement of Action for Change (MAC) have told IRIN that the reason they have not yet joined the army is because it has been infiltrated by the M23. There is widespread suspicion that Tutsi officers within FARDC are M23 sympathizers, and militia members will be reluctant to join the army if they think the senior ranks are dominated by a hostile community.
Meanwhile, government negotiations with the M23 have been ongoing since December. The government is trying to avoid reintegrating senior M23 officers; it has offered to reintegrate all ranks up to major and to treat colonels and above on a case-by-case basis, offering some of them "retirement packages". MONUSCO supports this position.
If a deal is reached with the M23, the army might try to deal with the region's other armed groups by force, with the help of MONUSCO. A military source said the SADC-led troops would probably conduct some operations against the FDLR, some of whose core leadership was involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
In a letter published on 12 February, 19 mostly international NGOs called for "non-military solutions to [the] conflict. based on the failure so far of military action to fully address the presence of non-state armed groups and the negative impact of such action on the civilian population".
But militia commanders' ambitions may not be limited to integration in the army. For instance, the territory of APCLS's Janvier's is rich in high-grade cassiterite, which has been largely unexploited.
Researcher Maundu suggests that a key to peace could be establishing which people are the real stakeholders in the mines, and then encouraging the mines' exploitation by demobilized militias.
nl/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97602

The poverty of the DRC's gold miners

IGA-BARRIER, 29 January 2013 (IRIN) - There is no refuge from the blistering heat at this artisanal gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Any trees that might have provided shade have been consumed by the mine, which covers an area the size of five or six football fields.

About a thousand people - men, women and some children - swarm across the open-cast mine near Iga-Barrière, about 25km east of Bunia, the administrative town of the Ituri Region.

The scene has all the trappings of a 19th century gold rush, apart from the hum of diesel generators powering pumps to drain water from the open shafts, while hawkers sell drinking water in translucent plastic bags.

Mtsajme, 21, has worked as an artisanal gold miner for more than half his life. "I have grown up in the job," he told IRIN. "I started as a child when I left school at eight. It is all that I have known."

When his stint at this mine finishes, Mtsajme will move to another. "There are too many [gold mines] to count [in Ituri]. One is born and one dies every day," he said.

Since the discovery of gold in 1903 along the banks of the Agola River, gold mining has been part of the territory's economic lifeblood. It is more common to see people carrying mining tools - plastic basins and long-handled spades - than agricultural implements. Local NGOs put the numbers of artisanal gold miners in Ituri between 130,000 and 150,000.

Nzembo Josue, 26, has just had his "best week" since starting as a gold miner six years ago. He made US$100, or the equivalent of two grams of gold.

A way of life

"Gold mining is the main activity of the majority of people in this area, people are not used to farming. There are so many hills here. When one gold mine is finished, we move onto another hill somewhere," Josue told IRIN.

Women, some with babies strapped to their backs, form human chains to pass plastic basins of mud from men excavating the shafts. They all work 13 hour days, six days a week. Some earn as little as US$0.21 a day.

It can take up to three weeks to dig, by hand, an 8m-deep shaft to where the gold-bearing sands lie at Iga-Barrière. Narrower shafts requiring less work carry greater risks.

Josue says that if cracks appear on a shaft's wall, it must be dug wider to make it stable. "I have worked on gold mines where the shafts have collapsed and people have been killed."

A stake at the artisanal gold mine costs about $250, or five grams of gold, and is paid to the Société des Mines d'Or de Kilo Moto (SOKIMO), a public company, which was previously a parastatal.

SOKIMO is a relic from Belgium, the former colonial power. Created in 1926, the company enjoyed boom years during the 1960s and 1970s, employing about 6,000 people and providing housing, clinics and schools for its employees. However, its nationalization in 1966 by then-Zaire's President Mobuto Sese-Seko, who used the company to support his lavish lifestyle, eventually took a toll.

By the late 1980s, the company's only source of revenue was the taxing of artisanal and small-scale miners. Makuza Boniface, SOKIMO director at Iga-Barrière, told IRIN the company imposes a 30 percent tax on all gold produced at the site by the artisanal miners.

After 15 years of gold mining, Lobho Faustin, 30, cannot afford his own claim. He is part of a group of eight diggers, earning a wage to support his three children.

"It's a job to live and survive on. How much money you make depends on how lucky you are. Sometimes I get $50 in a week and sometimes nothing. You can work for weeks and not get paid. I work for someone else. But it all depends. If we find gold then we get paid. There is nothing else to do," he said.

Gold smuggling

The work of the artisanal gold miners in Ituri is not reflected in official production figures, and in recent years gold production has declined as the gold price has soared.

Eric Yanba Kitene, of Bunia's Centre for Evaluation d'Expertise et de Certification (CEEC), a government organization that provides technical assistance and determines gold purity, told IRIN that in the last six months of 2009, 83kg was officially produced in Ituri. In 2010, 115kg was produced. In 2011, this dropped to 58kg, and production up until November 2012 was 16kg.

Meanwhile, gold is being smuggled across the borders by gold dealers exploiting a tax loophole, Kitene said, to maximise profits.

In 2012, DRC reduced its gold tax for traders from 3.5 percent to 2 percent. Neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda have gold tax rates of between 0.5 percent and 1 percent, Kitene said.

The percentage differential may appear small, but it was enough, Kitene said, to ensure that "maybe 5 to 10 tons of gold is smuggled annually," across international borders, mainly to Rwanda and Uganda.

The solution to prevent gold smuggling would be to introduce "uniform regional gold tax rates and allow gold traders to legally export gold," he said.

Toto Bosingaka, the chief of the Service d'Assistance et d'Encadrement d'Artisanal (SAESSCAM), told IRIN gold traders have to be Congolese and pay an annual fee to government of $150. In Bunia, he said, there were about 30 to 35 registered gold traders, and about 800 in Ituri overall, excluding an unknown number of unlicensed dealers.


SAESSCAM was established in 2002 and tasked with providing assistance and training to the country' artisanal mining sector, but it has been woefully underfunded by government.

Bosingaka, who is responsible for four of Ituri's five territories - Djugu, Irumu, Mahagi and Aru, but not Mambasa - said, "We have a problem of transport and equipment. We have no vehicle, no car, no motorbike and no bicycle."

They have a mandate to ensure adherence to the Mining Code for artisanal miners, and have 10 agents for the four territories, but Bosingaka said the organization was "not really in touch with miners. We work with the gold traders."

Artisanal miners face an array of occupational hazards, including: mercury inhalation while extracting gold from ore; tunnel and open-shaft mine collapses; women experiencing spontaneous abortions due to heavy labour; and the complete absence of water and sanitation facilities.

"Health and safety is set down in the Mining Code, but most miners don't seem to care. It is very difficult to prosecute people as most are not educated and many were in militias during the war," Bosingaka said.

Threat of conflict

As elsewhere in the eastern DRC, Ituri encountered a succession of international and local conflicts, and a variety of militias and foreign national armies imposed their own taxation system on the artisanal gold miners. During the Second Congo War, for example, a conflict between the agriculturalist Lendu and pastoralist Hema emerged and lasted until 2007.

Although Ituri has returned to relative peace, gaining access to Iga-Barrière requires passing through numerous roadblocks staffed by security forces and government officials, who impose random "road taxes" on vehicles and pedestrians alike.

A November 2012 report, Conflict Gold to Criminal Gold, published by Southern Africa Resource Watch, said [ http://www.osisa.org/sites/default/files/congo_gold_webenglish.pdf ] that for artisanal miners, the peace dividend has not provided any respite from a culture of backhander payments.

"And while the exploitation of artisanal and small-scale miners continues, the identity of those responsible has now changed. They are no longer warlords and militia leaders but government administrators, members of the government's military and security organizations, and many regional traders," the report said.

Louis Bedidj Fuarwingo, coordinator of the artisanal miner organization the Association Exploit dans Mineur Artisnal pur le pacification et reconstruction Ituri (AEMAPRI), told IRIN, "Sometimes authorities harass miners and make them pay for small things to let them work. They can make people very angry and demand as much as $750.

"They ask for non-existent certificates, like 'scientific training' and 'expertise in mining'. They just create such lists to pick money from the miners. Police come to the mining camp and go to the mine boss and then all the miners have to contribute."

Ndele Tanzi, coordinator for the Bunia-based NGO Honesty and Peace told IRIN gold mining was a major threat to peace and stability. "The Ituri war was cast as an ethnic war, but if you look carefully it was about resources."

Gold is not the only mineral that the territory possesses. It also has, but has yet to commercially exploit, coltan, cobalt, wolframite and cassiterite among other minerals; a similar collection of valuable ores have encouraged and sustained conflict in DRC's Kivu provinces.

"Problems always exist on the mines," Tanzi said, "and not all weapons were taken back after the war, and many of the miners used to be members of militias. There is anger [on the mines]. "
go/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97356

Analysis: Small steps to land reform in eastern DRC

KINSATI, 29 January 2013 (IRIN) - Shukuru Rudahunga, in North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), keeps a wary eye on the steep slope above her as she weeds her patch of sorghum; she knows the risks are deadly.
Landslides have killed several people in nearby Kinsati, 40km from the city of Goma.
"If it's been raining and I see the earth breaking up, I stop working and get off the hillside," she told IRIN.
Erosion also washes away seeds, plants and soil fertility. Villagers know that to protect against soil loss, they should fallow the steeper slopes after just a few seasons.
But "we don't do it because there isn't enough land", Shukuru said.
The over-cultivation has also resulted in plummeting yields. Teacher Gabriel Hanyurwa remembers that, in the 1980s, farmers harvested 20 sacks of beans per hectare on land that now yields only six to eight sacks.
The land shortage results in part from population growth and in part from the expansion of cattle ranches.
"Since the ranchers brought their cattle here, we haven't had enough fields," Hanyurwa said.
"The ranchers prefer to put their cattle in the same places that we want to cultivate," another villager, Therese Tusali, said.
In a 2010 paper, 'Land, Power and Identity: Roots of violent conflict in Eastern DRC' [ http://www.internationalalert.org/resources/publications/land-power-and-identity ], author Chris Huggins noted that recent decades have seen "massive alienation of land held under custom" in the Kivus in favour of cattle ranchers.
Residents in Kinsati and elsewhere have had little say in this process.
Driving conflict
Land disputes are key drivers of conflict in eastern DRC, and they hinder development across the country. Some researchers [ http://www.africacanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Land_Citizenship_and_Conflict_in_the_Kivus_1.pdf ] argue that agrarian conflict, rooted in issues of land rights and citizenship, is the principal cause of the Kivu region's wars.
Population density, colonization and large-scale migration from Rwanda have all made access to land a critical issue in North and South Kivu. A corrupt judiciary and a flawed land law compound the problem.
In his 2007 book, From Genocide to Continental War, Gerard Prunier describes the extent of "land grabbing" during the presidency of Mobutu Sese Seko as "incredible", citing the attempt by one businessman in 1980 to take control of 230,000 hectares; the average land holding was less than one hectare.
Land grabs, particularly from displaced communities, have continued amid the wars of the past two decades, and the prospect of an eventual land commission that might investigate these transfers has been a "sustaining factor in conflict", Huggins has argued [ http://www.academia.edu/835635/Land_Conflict_and_Livelihoods_in_the_Great_Lakes_Region_Testing_Policies_to_the_Limit ].
Mediation initiatives
Through their work resettling displaced communities, aid agencies have become involved in mediating land disputes. UN Habitat runs the largest of these programmes. In 2012, its three mediation centres in the region identified 1,690 land conflicts and resolved 641 of them.
A conference in Belgium in September 2012 reviewed donors' interventions in eastern DRC's land problems; most of the spending had been on mediation. Koen Vlassenroot, who convened the meeting, says it was agreed that "mediation only seems to have an impact on conflicts between individual farmers; once larger players such as big landowners or army commanders are involved it's very, very difficult".

Conference participants were also concerned that mediation projects had "an acute lack of coherence, coordination", and sustainability.

Vlassenroot noted that there are two other main interventions to help resolve land issues: assisting the registration of land claims - which has had "limited results" and involves "all sorts of problems" - and locally driven efforts by farmers' organizations to work on a land reform process.
A report by International Alert [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/201209EndingDeadlockEasternDRC-EN.pdf.pdf ] highlights local efforts by the Forum of the Friends of the Earth (FAT) and the Federation of Congolese Agricultural Producers' Organizations (FOPAC), whose success in lobbying for the integration of key issues in the new agricultural code offers "a grounded approach to peace-building". These interventions have had much less support from donors.

Lobbying by FAT and FOPAC led to the inclusion in the agricultural code of a provision for the mediation of land disputes, as well provisions for identifying and reallocating unused concessions and greater representation of "peasants", or agricultural workers, in local decision-making. However, the government has yet to agree on implementation measures for the new law.
Peasants take on land law
These organizations are currently advocating reform of the land law, which fails to define customary land rights. Chiefs were legally stripped of their traditional land allocation powers in 1975, but many continue to exercise them.

FAT and FOPAC have held consultations with farmers' organizations in several provinces, including a forum in Goma, North Kivu Province, in October 2012. At the forum, many recommendations were put forward for improving the land law, such as ending land registry officials' immunity from prosecution for "mistakes", publicizing details of unjust land transfers and revealing the ownership of unused land concessions.

But none of these politically sensitive recommendations figured in the FOPAC newsletter, which recorded only that participants had called for customary chiefs to respect their predecessors' land allocations, for taxes on title deeds to be reduced and for tenancy documents issued by chiefs to have legal status. No vote appeared to have been taken on these or the other recommendations.

Simplexe Malembe, coordinator of FAT, told IRIN that if the government is to give legal status to land allocations by chiefs, it should see that each chief is accompanied by an advisory committee representative of the community. "That principle is already in the constitution," he said, "and we are trying to implement it through the agricultural law. But the government and the land registry don't like it because it takes away a good part of their revenue."

Participants at the forum agreed that the peasant associations need to strengthen their representation at the local level and their communications with smallholders.

The International Alert report recommends "bottom-up dialogue" to find local solutions and promote peace-building. Malembe agrees: "In the peasant movement, the dialogue needs to be from the base to the summit as well as from the summit to the base."
Jean-Baptiste Musbayimana, who broadcasts for FOPAC, told IRIN he would like to include more phone-in programmes in his broadcasts, a "bottom-up" format popularized by the UN's Radio Okapi in DRC, so that rural people can share their views on the problems in their communities; currently, the only two-way communication broadcast by FOPAC on the radio is about agricultural prices.

Government action

The good news, says Vlassenroot, is that the government appears willing to address land issues nationwide. At a workshop in Kinshasa in July, the government and UN Habitat worked out a "road map" for reform of the land law and land governance.

The deputy cabinet director at the land affairs ministry, Albert Paka, spoke to IRIN last month about the reform process. He agrees the government needs to hasten reform by taking the first step on the road map: appointing a steering committee to coordinate work on the process.
But determining who rightfully owns land, and even who is permitted to own land, will be a major hurdle. The new agricultural code, for example, limits foreigners' share of DRC farmland investments to 49 percent; Paka confirmed that the government intends to revise this clause. Revision of the clause will likely be a precondition for new foreign investments in DRC agriculture.

Paka said DRC might go the way of other countries and buy up customary land, hinting that such land could be sold to foreign investors. Further research will be required before any decisions can be made, he said.

Consulting with the chiefs and understanding local customs will also be critical, he told IRIN.  "In some parts of the country, land belongs to the chiefs, whereas in other parts it belongs to the community, and they are merely arbiters of land rights."
Huggins's research suggests chiefs' ownership claims tend to be strongest in the most densely populated areas, where land shortages are most acute. Government land purchases in these areas for resale to foreign investors could therefore be highly controversial.

"Recognition of customary chiefs will be the cornerstone of land governance," Paka stressed.
Asked if there would be safeguards against unjust decisions by traditional chiefs, Paka said that if the chiefs were to be recognized as land custodians they would be part of the administration, and would be guided by its technical experts, whose capacity needs to be reinforced. He declined to speculate on how land administration might change if government at the chiefdom-level is democratized.
Paka indicated that government intervention will be necessary to help DRC reach its agricultural potential. Even though land shortages are a concern, he pointed out that a recent study showed 73 percent of agricultural land around Kinshasa is unused.
The National Confederation of Agricultural Producers in the Congo told IRIN that most of the land around Kinshasa is unused because it has been bought up by speculators in anticipation of biofuel investments.
 nl/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97357

Rainforest riches a curse for civilians in northeast DRC

BUNIA, 23 January 2013 (IRIN) - For the past 10 months, a little-known conflict in a marginalized corner of northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has left a trail of killing, abduction, rape and forced displacement, with few signs of an imminent resolution.

The epicentre of the conflict is a vast forest reserve covering some 13,700sqkm in Orientale Province. Home to and named after a rare giraffid mammal, the Okapi Forest Reserve (RFO), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has long been a source of tension because of its rich wildlife, timber and mineral resources.

The man most frequently associated with the recent violence is Paul Sadala, better known as Morgan. He is variously portrayed as the head of a gang of poachers, the leader of a militia group known as Mai-Mai Simba, a serial abuser of human rights, and a Robin Hood-type champion of local inhabitants who benefit little from the reserve's riches and who are rarely consulted about its management.

The national army, FARDC, has engaged Morgan and his men on several occasions since March 2012 - sometimes with the support of troops and air assets of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). But FARDC troops themselves have also been accused of looting and abusing the rights of civilians.

One humanitarian worker based in Orientale Province told IRIN that FARDC soldiers had arrested and abused women who had escaped abduction by Morgan's men.

The latest clashes took place when Morgan and his men overran the town of Mambasa for a few hours on 5 January, before being chased out by FARDC and MONUSCO troops. A week later, FARDC announced that it had also dislodged Morgan's men from locations in the mining regions of Pangoy and Elota in Mambasa Territory.

"Horrific" abuse

Over the past 10 months, around 32,000 people have fled their homes during attacks by Morgan's group or its clashes with FARDC. In many cases, the displacement was temporary.

During this period, some 3,000 women were abducted by Morgan's group and used as sex slaves, according to Abdalah Pene Mbaka, a local member of parliament.

In mid- November, 15 people arrived for treatment at the Mambasa health centre, recalled Rachidi Salimini, who manages a local radio station. "They had horrific injuries: raped women with burning wood inserted into their sexual organs, men with their ears cut off, men with their stomachs burned," Salimini said.

One woman abducted by the militia and rescued during a FARDC action in August spoke to IRIN in late 2012 about her ordeal: "We were lined up by the dozen and raped one by one. We found ourselves in the same lines with our daughters. One woman was stabbed in the thigh as she was resisting; others were stabbed in the vagina."

Many women who were raped had no timely access to post-exposure prophylaxis, which minimizes the risk of HIV infection, according to another humanitarian worker.

Other security incidents involving Morgan's group, reported by Radio Okapi [ http://radiookapi.net ], which is run by MONUSCO and the Fondation Hirondelle, include:

March 2012 - A hundred families fled their homes in Babwasende Territory, fearing attacks by a group of poachers led by Morgan, whom the army had driven out of a nearby forest.

May 2012 - Thirty women were raped in the village of Molende, south of Bunia, the main town in Orientale Province. A week earlier, 26 people were killed and 5,000 fled from several villages amid clashes between the army and Morgan's men.

24 June 2012 - Militiamen killed 12 people and looted administrative buildings in the village of Epulu, in the Okapi reserve. Twenty-eight people were abducted during the attack. The dead included two rangers working with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN). According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the attack was carried out by "poachers in retaliation against enforcement by the ICCN of laws protecting elephants, okapis and other species, and prohibiting illegal mining and other activities destructive of the ecological integrity of the RFO," IUCN added that some of the FARDC troops responding to the incident "were involved in looting and ransacking of facilities."
[ http://www.okapiconservation.org/uncategorized/iucn-resolution-for-the-protection-of-the-okapi-wildlife-reserve-and-communities-of-the-ituri-forest-in-the-dr-congo ]

13 August 2012 - At least 60 people died in a landslide in the area of Pangyoi, about 360km south of Bunia, while working in an artisanal gold and coltan mine under the control of Morgan.

7 November 2012 - In an attack attributed to Morgan's group, residents of Leleis and Muzaimbwa villages in Mambasa Territory were burned alive, women were raped and some victims had their ears cut off.

Root causes

"We had been captured by Morgan in Epulu," said one of those abducted, who was among 16 released in early July.

"In my family, he took my little girl, aged 13 years, my wives and I. We travelled for six days. On the seventh day, we were freed. But they kept 11 women, among them one of my wives. They raped my daughter," he said, requesting not to be identified by name.

According to Capt Vicky Kabosongo, the military prosecutor in Irumu Territory, Morgan faces charges of committing international crimes, including rape, massacre and looting. Although Morgan himself remains at large, 14 of his men have been detained at a military court in Bunia.

"Morgan lives in the forest, actually the jungle. He behaves like a king; he does whatever he wants, when he wants, without people knowing," said Jean Bosco Lalo, who coordinates civil society groups in Bunia.

Assessment of, and response to, the humanitarian situation in affected areas has been hampered by access, security and funding constraints.

"For sure there is no means of finding out the exact humanitarian situation in several villages in the forest," David Larue, the area coordinator of the NGO Solidarités, told IRIN in late 2012.

"One cannot get there by car. Furthermore, there is a risk with the missions. They [the militia] do not distinguish between the NGOs, the UN and MONUSCO," he said.

"We need to adopt a multi-sectoral approach and go a little bit deeper into the root causes and increase the involvement of the government to achieve a long term solution," said Francesca Fraccaroli, who heads the Bunia branch of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"The presence of the state in many areas is mostly non-existent. They are already structurally vulnerable, especially with regard to water and sanitation. So unless humanitarian assistance moves ahead in parallel with community resilience and recovery and an increase in the presence of the state, we will just have a temporary solution," she told IRIN on 18 January.

For Dismas Kitenge, a prominent human rights activist in DRC, the absence of the state is just one of the factors contributing to the violence in Mambasa Territory.

Another key driver "is the complicity of the authorities and security services in the exploitation of natural resources and anarchic circulation of weapons of war", he said during a discussion of the crisis broadcast by Radio Okapi in November [ http://radiookapi.net/emissions-2/dialogue-entre-congolais/2012/11/08/ce-soir-les-hommes-de-morgan-operent-de-nouvelles-violences-contre-les-habitants-de-mambasa/ ].

"This creates frustration and creates revolts. There is also a denial of indigenous people's rights to manage their own natural resources and a lack of transparency by the government and those who exploit the mines and forests. The local population doesn't understand anything, because they see people and companies turn up and don't know what they are doing, so they feel abandoned," he said.

"What's true about Morgan, although I do not condone the rise of his militia, is that he is the messenger for the grievances for people who see him as a real leader. People believe that the environment, the flora and fauna, get lots of attention and the people get none," he said.
rp/pc/am/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97314

Uncertainty for Angolans stripped of refugee status in DRC

KINSHASA, 22 January 2013 (IRIN) - Some 40,000 former Angolan refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are living in limbo, unwilling to go home but lacking legal status in DRC.

In June 2012, it was determined that the circumstances - created by a civil war - that led to refugee status being granted to tens of thousands of Angolans were no longer in place. Under the terms of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, this means that there is no longer a prima facie case for international protection. In short, the refugee status of these Angolans was revoked.
Individuals are still able to make a fresh application for refugee status based on their specific protection concerns.

Recognizing that local integration is one of the recognized "durable solutions" for refugees - the others being voluntary repatriation and third-country resettlement - the DRC government agreed to grant permanent residency permits to all the Angolans who did not wish to return to Angola.

But the government did not manage to distribute the required 40,000 permits by the planned deadline of the end of 2012, so many of the Angolans now lack legal identity documents.

"With such large numbers of Angolan refugees still dispersed across DR Congo provinces, it will take some time for all former refugees to be issued with resident permits," Stefano Severe, UNHCR's regional coordinator, told IRIN in Kinshasa.

"So far we have assisted the DR Congo government in funding over 6,500 permits, which have been printed and will be distributed during this January... Local authorities are well aware that this is still ongoing, and the National Refugee Commission is represented in all provinces," he said.


Many of the former refugees are from Angola's oil- and mineral-rich northern exclave of Cabinda, which has experienced a long-running conflict that pits the government against secessionists.

"We welcomed the end of our refugee status with sadness. I'm worried to live at the moment without any status, not knowing who will protect me and my family. We were told that we could receive asylum-seekers' status by the host country's authorities. So far, we've got nothing," said one former refugee, who preferred anonymity.

"Today I can be arrested and be labelled as one of the gangsters in Kinshasa known as 'Kuluna' and won't have anyone to defend me."

Some 23,000 Angolans returned home under a repatriation programme UNHCR carried out in 2012 - the fourth since the Angolan civil war ended in 2002 - before the June revocation of their refugee status. Another 22,000 say they are willing to go home. Most were repatriated to the Angolan mainland.

"The last repatriation was based upon agreements between Angola, the UNHCR and the host countries when it was established that Angola had regained the stability [required] and its economy was prospering, especially as the majority of its refugees had returned to their home country," said Severe.

Still fearful

Refugees from Cabinda say they continue to live in fear, and accuse Angolan security forces of entering DRC and other neighbouring countries to kidnap those believed to be linked to the province's rebel groups, some of which have been fighting for independence from Angola for decades.

"I continue to live with fear because if you have a Cabindan name, it means you are considered by Angolan authorities as a rebel. Recently a friend of mine was kidnapped when he went to trade near the DRC-Angola border," said Alfred Gomez, a 48-year-old refugee and former school teacher originally from Cabinda, now living in Kinshasa.

"In October 2011, we went into hiding for two weeks when we received information from our homeland that Angolan security agents had been deployed to western Congo to kidnap people of Cabindan origin," he said. "We looked for safety from Congolese friends until we established that they [security agents] had returned [to Angola]."

Efforts to reach Angolan authorities were unsuccessful.

Cabindan refugees are reluctant to return home, either because they support the secessionist movement or because they fear they will be pressured to pick a side once they return.

"Some are not activists, but they are former fighters of the FLEC [Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda, the main Cabindan secessionist group]," Jose Vase, a Cabindan journalist based in Kinshasa, told IRIN.

"Others are regular citizens who cannot go back home. This is because when they do so, they will be obliged by Angolan local authorities to make statements against rebel groups, showing also the goods things the government is doing for returnees... When they do it, they are considered as enemies [of Cabindan separatists]."
pc/kr/am/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97311