IRIN Congo English 2012
Reactions to ICC acquittal of militia leader
19 December 2012 (IRIN) - In its second-ever verdict, the
International Criminal Court (ICC), on 18 December, acquitted former
militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo [Chui] of war crimes and crimes
against humanity relating to a 2003 massacre in Democratic Republic
of Congo's (DRC) northeastern Ituri District.
the immediate release of Ngudjolo, ICC judges said the prosecution -
which has 30 days to appeal the ruling - had failed to establish
beyond reasonable doubt that he had been in command of fighters from
the Lendu community who attacked the village of Bogoro on 24 February
Before delivering the verdict, presiding judge Bruno
Cotte said that "declaring an accused person not guilty does not
mean the Chamber declares him innocent".
judge stressed that this decision "does not in any way deny the
suffering of the population on that day". IRIN has collected
reactions from Bunia, the main town in Ituri, where a 1999-2005
conflict between the Lendu and Hema communities caused tens of
thousands of deaths and massive displacement:
Gaby, bartender: "We are satisfied because most
thought that the court is for Africans and particularly for the
Congolese. [But] justice is not fair. [Hema militia leader] Thomas
Lubanga was convicted in March of recruiting child soldiers
[http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95073]. We thought
Ngudjolo would also be convicted. We are surprised he was acquitted."
Chantale, maid: "I think this decision is unfair because
he destroyed our region. He should remain in prison. His name was
mentioned a lot in the massacres of 2002 and 2003."
resident: "There is no evidence against him, so he's right. This
judgment is valid." Richard, taxi driver: "For me, it is
the ICC that has all the power - to arrest, convict, set free. If
Ngudjolo is being released, I applaud that."
storekeeper: "Nobody has seen the killings in Bogoro. The
government arrested him on the basis of hearsay. Luckily, God acted
and freed him. We are thankful for that and expect Ngudjolo to return
so that we can build the country together."
technician: "Many people who are at the Hague trial talk about
what happened in Ituri, yet they have not experienced, and do not
know, the truth. It's understandable that they lack evidence to
Bossa Me Mitterrand, human rights
activist with the NGO Justice Plus: "We recommend the prosecutor
file an appeal. We ask the new prosecutor [Fatou Bensouda, who
replaced Luis Moreno-Ocampo earlier in 2012] to extend the
investigations because we believe that Thomas Lubanga, Germain
Katanga [another Lendu leader, still on trial at the ICC] and others
are only small fry and there are big fish that are still at large.
There are people in neighboring countries that have trained, funded
and equipped these rebels, but until now nobody has been prosecuted
for this. The prosecutor should not restrict himself to those who
carried out their orders."
Human Rights Watch:
Mitterrand's view is echoed by a statement Human Rights Watch (HRW)
released after the acquittal. [
] The ICC "should re-energize efforts to prosecute others for
atrocities in the DRC," it said. "The acquittal of Ngudjolo
leaves the victims of Bogoro and other massacres by his forces
without justice for their suffering," said Géraldine
Mattioli-Zeltner, HRW international justice advocacy director.
"The ICC prosecutor needs to strengthen its investigations of
those responsible for grave crimes in Ituri, including high-ranking
officials in DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda who supported the armed groups
fighting there," she added.
rp/cb/am/rz [END] This
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97079
Seeking civilian and military solutions in the DRC
18 December 2012 (IRIN) - Even as they continue to work toward a
negotiated solution to the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), the leaders of the International Conference on the Great
Lakes Region (ICGLR) are planning to deploy a 4,000-strong "neutral
force" to the region to improve its security. Yet regional
analysts and stakeholders are at odds over the force's composition
Conflict in the region has escalated since April,
when rebels known as M23 [
] mutinied from DRC's national army (FARDC). An estimated half a
million people have since been displaced in North Kivu Province,
according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
The ICGLR [ https://icglr.org/index.php
] peace talks, which kicked off on 9 December, were scheduled to end
on 18 December, but have been extended to 31 December due to the
limited progress made. At the fifth extraordinary summit in Uganda's
capital, Kampala, on 24 November, ICGLR leaders called on the DRC
government to negotiate with M23. They also adopted the final concept
of the operation and deployment of a Neutral International Force to
combat "negative forces" in the region.
dual process. We see the ongoing discussions as the best opportunity
to end the current situation in eastern DRC. But basing on the past
history, where peace agreements have been signed and not honoured,
the member states are not taking any chances," Stephen Singo
Mwachofi, ICGLR peace and security programme officer, told
Analysts are sceptical about the ability of the talks to
bring lasting peace. "The Congolese government avoided those
talks for six months and was forced to have them because of the fall
of Goma [to M23 in November]. Given the circumstances and the fact
that the Congolese government was cornered and had no alternative,
these talks will not lead to a genuine peace agreement," Thierry
Vircoulon, Central Africa project director for the think tank
International Crisis Group (ICG) [ http://www.icg.org/
], told IRIN via email.
"Like in 2009 [when DRC reached a
negotiated settlement with CNDP [
], M23's predecessor], if the outcome of those talks is a new peace
deal with an armed group, it will not be signed in good faith by both
parties, and it will pose a serious problem of impunity and
will the force look like?
to Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, spokesperson of the Uganda-mediated peace
talks, the neutral force will target M23, the Democratic Forces for
the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and Mai Mai militias, as well as the
Ugandan armed groups the Allied Democratic Force (ADF) and Lord's
Resistance Army. It will be based in Goma, the provincial capital of
"All the stages, concepts of operation and
agreements on the neutral force are done," he said.
Mugume, permanent secretary in Uganda's Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
told IRIN that the African Union (AU) had approved the force, and the
ICGLR was engaged in discussions with the UN Security Council for UN
Despite urgent calls for ICGLR member states and
other African countries to contribute the required 4,000 troops, only
Tanzania - under the ICGLR, which is to lead the mission - and
Zimbabwe - under the Southern African Development Community [
http://www.sadc.int/ ] - have
offered to provide them.
"The mission can succeed,
depending on troops and logistics. We urge the member states and
African countries to contribute troops. If the countries fail to
raise the necessary numbers, the mission will fail," said
At the Kampala summit, DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and
Uganda were excluded from contributing troops for the force. DRC and
Uganda were accused by a UN Group of Experts report of supporting
M23, charges both deny.
"The decision on who should or
should not deploy came out of consensus. Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi,
for being neighbours and for having 'perceived interests', it was
agreed they should not deploy," Ankunda, said.
countries that were previously involved in what was called 'the first
African world war' in the late 1990s - Chad, Zimbabwe, Angola,
Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Namibia - should not be once again in
DRC," said the ICG's Vircoulon. "This would bring bad
[back?] the past back when two African camps were fighting each other
in the DRC... Being party and judge of the conflict is a
contradiction in itself."
force will require US$100 million, but has so far only received $20
million from the DRC government; South Africa has pledged logistical
"We need material support in terms of equipment,
helicopters, experts and support for follow-up mechanisms if the
agreement is signed," said ICGLR's Mwachofi. "We call [on
the] international community to facilitate dialogue and support the
"The action taken and statements issued by
the international community must weigh whether it complements the
ICGLR process instead of inflaming on what is going on," he
added. "Now that we have the dialogue, which is ongoing, they
should issue statements that encourage and support the
"Ideally, it ought to be funded by the AU
and regional organizations. However, history shows that African
governments are never prepared to put money into such things. It then
boils down to the so-called international community putting up the
money, as they have done in Somalia," Frederick Golooba-Mutebi,
a political scientist and senior research fellow at the Makerere
Institute of Social Research, told IRIN. "It would be good if
they [the international community] put up the money and then pulled
back and refrained from interfering and trying to direct, control or
manipulate the process."
Regional analysts warn that,
unless care is put into the force's timing, mandate and operations,
it could backfire and worsen the crisis.
"There are risks
related to an offensive posture. The best way to mitigate those risks
is to have very disciplined force, good coordination and have
soldiers able to communicate with the population. The terms of the
mission must be clear for everybody, the timing and the rules of
engagement too," said Vircoulon.
Izama, a political affairs analyst at the US-based Open Society
Foundation [ http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/
], cautioned that the political process must not be abandoned. "A
regional force must come out of a political agenda for the east of
Congo, not simply out of a response to the security situation there.
Unless political imperatives are relied upon to design an intelligent
use of external force in the east, it will backfire. This has been
the problem behind the episodic outbreaks of violence in that area,
where force has been traded by local militias, regional armies and
the international UN-mandated deployments," he said.
intervention is costly in blood and treasure, more volatile and
therefore less sustainable, and attracts negative gains in relations
with Congo and its neighbours and the international community,"
he added. "DRC's stability should remain an issue for its
domestic political actors and that of its immediate neighbours. Other
countries can act as interested observers and underwrite a negotiated
settlement that arises out of the principled engagement of the most
entry of a neutral force will also have implications for the UN
Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) [
], which has been criticized for failing to prevent M23's capture of
Goma and for perceived failures in protecting civilians.
[neutral] force will have to demonstrate that it can do better than
MONUSCO as a deterrent for the armed groups," said ICG's
Ankunda said the neutral force would be keen to
work with MONUSCO and FARDC on coordination, support and
"We call for the change of MONUSCO's
mandate from peacekeeping to enforcement. We call for the amendment
of chapter seven of the UN charter so that MONUSCO can support the
neutral force to fight and eliminate the negative forces,"
ICGLR's Mwachofi told IRIN.
"It would be good to
demarcate clearly what its [MONUSCO's] role and mandate are as
opposed to those of the neutral force," said Makerere's
UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping
Operations Hervé Ladsous told journalists on 7 December that the UN
Security Council had "reacted with considerable interest"
to proposed responses to the conflict - including the idea of a
neutral force - and would review the ICGLR proposal in terms of how
it can help advance the MONUSCO's peacekeeping mandate. He added that
the UN had responded to a request from Uganda for technical help with
the ongoing peace talks in Kampala.
The UN is embarking on a
"strategic review" of its engagement in DRC, including
Analyst Izama stressed that without
political reform in DRC, peace would remain a pipe dream. "Legitimate
local administrations which carry a local mandate are the best hope
for peace," he said. "The first thing is to [draw up] a
roadmap to local elections that clearly states its goal: the
legitimization of local leaders with supervision from Kinshasa and
with support from regional and international actors. The second is to
guarantee a demilitarized process with severe sanctions for spoilers
- this is where a regional force with international support can come
in," he added.
so/kr/rz [END] This report online:
Surge in sexual violence in North Kivu
6 December 2012 (IRIN) - Sexual violence is on the rise as armed
groups continue to move across the eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo's North Kivu Province, officials say.
mid-November, the provincial capital, Goma, has been the scene of
fighting that saw rebel group M23 [
] take control of the city; following negotiations with neighbouring
countries, M23 relinquished control of the city on 1 December, and
the Congolese national army, FARDC, is back in charge.
after FARDC troops arrived in Minova, 54 km southwest of Goma, in
late November, local women began to show up at local hospitals with
injuries sustained from rape.
UNICEF reported on 4 December
that the Minova Hospital had recorded 72 cases of rape [
] since the latest wave of violence started. The organization has
provided the hospital with four post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) kits
(equivalent to a total of 200 doses), used to prevent HIV infection
following exposure to the virus.
UN human rights investigators
in Goma have been unable to confirm allegations of sexual violence
due to insecurity, according to a UN source not authorized to speak
to the media. NGOs have also struggled with access.
are more than 10 [FARDC] battalions here and they are raping the
women," said Nestor Bulumbe, who has worked as a medical
professional there for 17 years.
Bulumbe's Kalere clinic
alone has attended to 26 women, some of whom were gang-raped. His
wife said that she has attended the funeral of an 80-year old woman
who was raped by three men and died as a result.
they [the soldiers] raped them in the fields and by night they
entered their houses. There is no discipline; smoking hemp, drinking,
behaving very badly," he said of the soldiers, adding of
the many armed groups that had come through the town in the past 17
years, the FARDC "are the worst".
in the year, rights group Human Rights Watch [
] accused M23 of committing a number of war crimes, including
According to a 4 December report [
] by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs, reports of serious protection incidents in the region have
continued, including lootings, rapes, summary executions and
recruitment of children: "On the night of 1-2 December,
violent looting, including rape, by armed men occurred in
Mugunga III IDP camp [west of Goma], highlighting the extremely
worrying humanitarian and protection situation in North Kivu."
report notes that one NGO treated 12 survivors of rapes that occurred
Yawo Douvon, the country director of the
international NGO CARE in the DRC, said: "Reports from our field
staff and partners show a rising number of cases especially in those
areas that have experienced armed clashes. Many of these cases of
rape and violence cannot be treated because of the deteriorating
In Goma, funding and supplies have
not been reaching the hospitals.
"The situation is
complex and confusing... the operating environment is currently not
safe for humanitarian aid workers," said Douvon on 29 November,
two days before the M23 officially pulled out of the capital as urged
by recent peace talks.
According to UN figures, at
least 140,000 people have been newly displaced by recent violence in
and around Goma; this number is in addition to the estimated 841,000
people who were already displaced before.
In a 21
November statement [
], the UN's under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and
emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, expressed concern at the
plight of civilians fleeing the violence in and around Goma and noted
that, "Insecurity is preventing the delivery of the most basic
humanitarian assistance that people need and many of the communities
hosting them are already overstretched."
This report online:
Humanitarian Barbara Shenstone on the cost of the Goma
30 November 2012 (IRIN) - The UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
estimates that 140,000 people have been forced to flee battles taking
place in and around the eastern city of Goma since November 15.
crisis has been escalating: Rebel group M23 took control of Goma on
20 November [
], and surrounding communities are finding themselves caught between
government and armed forces [
The upsurge in fighting has added to what OCHA
describes as the country's already monumental humanitarian needs. In
the past few days, donors have stepped up their response to aid
agencies' appeal for the DRC 2012 humanitarian action plan.
spoke to Barbara Shenstone, head of OCHA's DRC office, about the
needs and challenges ahead.
Q: The DRC appeal has been
underfunded. Would you describe this as a neglected crisis?
Today we are about 60 percent funded in the appeal. The humanitarian
community asked for US$791 million this year. This is a huge country
- an ocean of need - and it is seen somewhat as a lost or forgotten
emergency. It doesn't have the same weight as other violent
conflagrations, such as Syria or Afghanistan, or the same strategic
interest for many countries.
That being said, the needs
are there. This country has some of the worst indicators in terms of
child welfare, malnutrition, conflict-related violence and food
security. It has terrible diseases: Ebola, cholera, etc.
now, in the east, this isn't a typical humanitarian crisis where
something terrible happens like an earthquake or a war [that quickly]
is over and you rebuild. This is a chronic crisis. We have a flare-up
of the crisis around Goma, with the movements of the rebel group the
M23 and their conflict with the Congolese army, and all the other
armed groups are moving around and taking advantage. It's about
politics, control of natural resources, and the place or influence
that certain minority groups should have in the state. It's a complex
emergency, and that's hard to make a case for in a world of sound
bites. This place is far away and difficult to talk about, but it's
Q: How has the situation worsened since the
attack on Goma?
A: Since the attack on Goma, around
140,000 people have suddenly been displaced. Many of them had already
fled a crisis previously and were in some makeshift arrangement with
host families or in a makeshift camp. These communities are in
distress, trying to find a place where they might be moderately safe.
North Kivu already had 800,000 people displaced. These
140,000 include some of those 800,000 and new populations. Their
living conditions will deteriorate very quickly if they don't have
latrines, water, food and emergency health care.
closure of the Goma airport is an immediate challenge. What would it
take to open it again?
A: Most of the aid in terms of
food and medical supplies actually comes by road, via Rwanda, and
that border is still open. But the airport is important for some
vital medical supplies and, of course, for commercial flights too.
For a city of one million people not to have an airport in this day
and age is pretty serious.
The M23 are in position
around the airport, and the MONUSCO [the UN Stabilization Mission in
the DRC] troops are in the airport. OCHA has had formal discussions
with the M23 to ask them to let the airport open. M23 has expressed
its willingness to open it, and is discussing modalities with the UN
[forces]. I think it's been slightly complicated by the arrangement
that was reached in Kampala, where the possibility of a small
international force being stationed there was proposed. That seems to
have stalled the opening. We ask all the parties to try to open the
airport as soon as possible.
Q: What has it been like
to deal with M23?
A: We have to deal with the M23. We
asked them to let NGOs have access to populations in distress, not to
harass humanitarian workers or the population, and to let people move
towards aid and safety when they need to.
M23 has been
quite straightforward in talking to us. That doesn't mean any armed
group in this part of the world are angels or fully in control of
itself. There are particular concerns when an area changes hands and
there is void of authority. Those are very high-risk times, when
there is a high risk of people settling scores and targeting
Q: Aid workers came under attack at several
locations after the fall of Goma, when protests against MONUSCO took
place. Are they still being targeted?
A: There was some
violence in Kisangani - and there was complex violence in Bunia -
related to disappointment and fury over the fall of Goma.
International staff were identified and chased out of their houses.
Private houses were looted and damaged, and cars were wrecked. In
Bunia, it seems this may have been related to other local political
events. In other places, violence against expatriates seems to have
been quite limited.
But humanitarians in eastern Congo
are often in danger. In North Kivu in the last six months, there have
been 162 incidents recorded where NGOs were attacked on the road or
had their goods stolen.
Q. Has there been an upsurge of this
in the last two weeks?
A. No. The real immediate danger NGOs
face now is being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time - the
same danger the population faces.
Q: The UN system is
pursuing a threefold strategy in North Kivu that includes support for
internally displaced persons to go home voluntarily. Will the UN also
seek to boost development aid to help these people become self
A: The strategy now is to reorient
money that's in the system. People are unlikely to go back to
Kayarucinya, for instance, so that funding can be moved to where the
needs are. That's OK for the short term, but in the medium and long
term there is definitely concern. There has been damage to schools
and clinics; there are people who have lost everything they own or
have had crops stolen. Projects that are underway will likely use up
their resources more quickly than anticipated. There have been
discussions with donors, and some have already been very generous. I
believe the United Kingdom is going to provide extra aid, and
possibly the Americans, the Dutch and the EU.
Q: It must
be difficult to carry on development programmes right now.
At the moment it's impossible to work on a lot of the development
programmes. You can't build roads in Masisi or Rutshuru now. You
can't get the materials in, and you can't go there as it wouldn't be
Q: A few years ago after the rebel leader Laurent
Nkunda had taken control of much of Rutshuru territory, he ordered
displaced people to go home. Do you see M23 doing the same
A: It's true that the M23 generally doesn't think
that camps are a good idea. But as the humanitarian community, we
would discourage them from any attempt to forcibly move people. It's
not right. You could be forcing people into danger - many of the
displaced have fled violence by other armed groups and inter-ethnic
Q: How do you see the prospects for peace in
these peoples' home areas over the next few months?
The situation could be very volatile. If the M23 withdraws to a
certain area, they will still control that area and will still have
alliances. Other groups may see that making a rebellion pays off. It
very much depends on whatever agreement is reached. There is a
possibility of heightened tensions between communities.
country has such deep and intractable problems that, to bring hope,
those problems have to be addressed. Otherwise agreements will be
superficial and the situation will remain volatile.
Does that mean there has to be an inclusive dialogue with all the
communities and possibly the other armed actors across North
A: It's not my place to speculate about what the
political solutions are. But clearly there are a lot of interests and
a lot of weapons, and short-term truces are not going to fix this.
Truces are welcome, but to bring a peace to eastern Congo that allows
people to have hopes and make plans we need something much more
nl/rz [END] This report online:
Growing humanitarian needs in Goma
28 November 2012 (IRIN) - When clashes broke out on 22 November
between the M23 rebels and government-allied Mai Mai militias in the
town of Sake, near the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) border
with Rwanda, 6,000 people fled down a dead-end road to Nzulo Village
on the edge of Lake Kivu. By the following day, they were once again
living in a war; M23 soldiers had arrived and were forcing the young
men to help them build their camp on a nearby hilltop.
humanitarian crisis is gathering pace as thousands flee either
fighting, the prospect of fighting, or the prospect of angry troops
retreating every day.
In North Kivu's provincial capital,
Goma, Oxfam's humanitarian coordinator Tariq Riebl describes
conditions as "grim". According to an Oxfam assessment,
people are living with very little shelter, food or water: "There
are reports that the prices of staple foods have risen in recent
days, and although food may be available in the markets many people
are unable to afford it."
After the rebels took control
of Goma on 20 November, clean water was the primary concern - many
people were drinking from the lake, as power to the city's water pump
was cut during the fight. Suspected cholera cases are being treated
and NGOs including the International Committee of the Red Cross and
Solidarités International are providing water purification
Following negotiations with regional leaders under
the auspices of the International Conference of the Great Lakes
], M23 said it would pull out of Goma, Sake and Masisi [
] a territory in North Kivu.
needs, limited resources
to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),
humanitarian organizations are trying to assist some 140,000 people
in 12 sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in and around
The European Union has funded equipment to restore
Goma's power lines, but organizations are unable to fly in aid and
staff because the airport is closed. Banks also remain closed. NGOs
and agencies are restricted by insecurity, and many humanitarian
programmes are on hold.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) [
], which was temporarily forced to suspend operations when fighting
broke out in Goma, has since resumed food distributions, providing
some 81,000 people with rations in recent days. But WFP says it faces
a funding shortfall of US$23 million for the next six months of its
emergency operations in the DRC.
The latest fighting is
reportedly taking place on the Rwandan border, between Rwandan troops
and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a
Rwandan Hutu rebel group. There are new large-scale displacements
reported every day, yet the crisis remains chronically underfunded,
with just 56 percent of the UN's $791 million 2012 humanitarian
appeal for DRC funded so far.
Merlin, a UK-headquartered
international NGO, established its first rapid response health clinic
in Nzulo a little over 24 hours after they heard about the impromptu
camp. "There are so many needs right now," Arthur Sarazin,
Merlin's country director, told IRIN. The primary conditions they are
treating include diarrhoea and fever, and they have had two suspected
Alise Riziki, 23, sat with her two children
under a rainbow-coloured umbrella, the only shelter she had. "When
the gunfire came, I left [Sake] because I didn't want to die. We were
afraid because they're saying they're going to kill us," she
But she found little respite at Nzulo. "Columns of
M23 soldiers walked into the village last night. They said last
night, 'If you don't go back, you'll be killed'. The soldiers want us
to go back to Sake."
One M23 commander named Jean Pierre
confirmed that he believed there were Mai Mai militia elements among
the IDPs. "It's not easy to know if they're here - but they
are," he said.
Two days after M23 arrived, the government
army, FARDC, set up on another nearby hill. People once again fled,
with gunfire being heard at night in the hills to the west, around
Sake. Their only choice was to go to rebel held-Goma, which is
already bursting at the seams with IDPs.
are intimidating. They have guns. You can't speak back to that,"
said Patrick Bahati, 15. He was one of 60,000 already displaced
people living at the Kanyaruchinya camp, to the north of Goma, once
again on the move after finding themselves on the front lines of the
Patrick says his father was forcibly recruited by M23 on
the morning of 19 November, a day before the rebel army walked into
Goma. "They came in big numbers. They entered the house, found
my dad, and took him by force," he told IRIN.
wasn't home when the rebels arrived. Nearly a week later, he still
does not know what happened to her. His father has not returned.
NGO, World Vision [
] says its local partners "have seen armed people passing guns
and ammunition to civilians this morning, including children
Originally from the North Kivu territory of
Rutshuru, where much of the fighting over the last six months has
played out, this is the second time Patrick and his 81-year-old
grandmother have fled.
They were among the 4,700 people who
flooded into the Mugunga III camp, west of Goma, over the weekend.
The head of Mugunga III estimates that there are now 9,000 people
"I just want to go back to school,"
Patrick said. "The schools have closed, but even when they open,
I won't be able to go to school because I have to find food." He
says he fears walking the streets of Goma, lest he be forcefully
recruited to the rebels' ranks.
Civilians in Goma report that
M23 looted the central bank on 27 November. FARDC soldiers have also
been accused of looting homes and businesses and raping women as they
retreat from areas now held by M23.
"The movements of
people have not stabilized," said a UN source in Goma who
preferred anonymity. "The problem is that everything can change
very rapidly... Things are happening in all places - not just Goma
but also Masisi, which is difficult to access, and [it is difficult]
also to have an idea of how many people are fleeing."
[END] This report online:
Civilian population in Masisi at risk
27 November 2012 (IRIN) - As Masisi, a lush territory in eastern
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), finds itself surrounded by
military elements and mounting conflict, humanitarian agencies grow
increasingly concerned about its civilian population.
eastern Congo's latest rebel group, emerged in Masisi District in
April when officers of the National Congress for the Defence of the
People (CNDP) defected from government forces and amassed troops in
the hills. Now the group has taken Goma, the capita of North Kivu
Masisi is a transit corridor for everything from minerals
to arms, and it is a former stronghold of CNDP. Currently under
government control, it is also home to the Alliance of Patriots for a
Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), an armed group now allied with
FARDC, the national army.
Northwest of Masisi town is the
unpredictable Raia Mutomboki, an anti-Rwandaphone Mai Mai, or rebel,
group now allied with M23. To the northeast is Mai Mai Cheka, which
is known for beheadings and is said to be engaging with M23. To the
south, in Minova, is FARDC, which is also known for rights
In short, the population of Masisi is in trouble.
a terrible road, huge insecurity, tons of militia, hundreds of
existing camps - already it's a catastrophe," said Tariq Riebl,
humanitarian coordinator for the NGO Oxfam.
Five camps for
internally displaced people northeast of Masisi's Mushaki Village
have emptied out so far - at least one due to pillaging by Raia
Mutomboki - leaving 50,000 people pre-emptively on the move.
of those who fled Masisi have arrived at Mugunga I and Lac Vert camps
just outside Goma.
"Insecurity is hampering aid efforts,
with ongoing fighting and attacks preventing aid workers from
reaching some areas for prolonged periods of time," said a 26
November Oxfam statement [
14 November, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) issued a public
statement [ http://www.jrs.net/news_detail?TN=NEWS-20121114045720
] calling for MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force in DRC, and the army
to urgently intervene to stop "Congo's forgotten conflict"
in Masisi. The organization documented at least 18 tit-for-tat
killings and the burning of displacement camps and villages, some
despite "the presence of a MONUSCO base less than a kilometre
In putting down the M23 rebellion in Rutshuru -
another North Kivu territory - that has been gathering pace since
May, the government army left areas of Masisi District unprotected
and rebel groups moved in. "This has caused an unjustifiable
lack of protection for the population," said a JRS staff member
jh/kr/rz [END] This report online:
No power, little safe water in Goma
22 November 2012 (IRIN) - Thirty-one bodies have been collected from
streets in and around the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
city of Goma since rebels took it over on 20 November. Ten were
government troops (FARDC), the rest, civilians, according to an
The guns may be silent and a sense of calm
restored to the city, but its population of around a million -
swollen by tens of thousands of newly displaced civilians - now faces
In the fighting between government troops and
the M23 rebels now in control of Goma, a main electricity line was
cut, leaving large areas of the city without power or piped
"We have more than one million inhabitants and
additional IDPs here without water. The only point where they can
collect water is the lake," said Arthur Sarazin, the head of NGO
Merlin's North Kivu operations.
"And the lake [Kivu]
water is not safe to drink," Sarazin added, as a group of young
people stripped bare and washed themselves behind him. The water
contains cholera bacteria and other waterborne diseases. With little
access to sanitation, he says there is an extremely high risk of
outbreaks of communicable disease.
Sarazin said he expected
the water supply to resume soon.
"Our priority now is
preparing for the returning [displaced civilians]", he said.
Oxfam estimates there are 120,000 people on the move in the Goma
area, including 60,000 who fled Kanyaruchinya camp for displaced
people, 15km north of Goma, ahead of M23's advance.
the risks, lake water has become a commodity. "We can't drink
the rainwater because of the volcano," said a young man as he
drew water from Lake Kivu to fill one of eight 20-litre jerrycans
strapped to his bicycle.
Rainwater during volcanic activity
has been found to contain harmful contaminants and heavy metals, and
Goma lies approximately 15km away from the continuously smoking
"I can sell one can for 500
Congolese francs [about US$0.50] in town," he said.
Congolese Red Cross has set up water purification stations on the
edge of the lake. Zephy Baluza, 24, walks to the Red Cross service to
get water chlorinated for drinking. He bemoans the presence of M23.
"The schools aren't open, there will be no jobs now, shops are
shut. Since yesterday, I've eaten only bread."
government facilities in the area, the community support office were
Baluza worked in nearby Keshero closed during the rebel advance,
leaving him out of a job.
Water - as well as schools - is one
of the issues that M23 spokesman Lt Vianney Kazarama raised in a
speech to several thousand civilians and policemen at a rally held at
Goma's stadium on 21 November.
at the UN
international humanitarian workers, including all "non-essential"
UN staff, have been evacuated from the city.
tensions between the local population and international aid workers
have escalated in both North and South Kivu
cross with MONUSCO," said the head of one NGO operating still in
North Kivu, referring to the UN mission in DRC. While MONUSCO,
alongside FARDC engaged M23 during its advance on Goma, it did not
once the rebels entered the city.
Speaking to UN Radio in New
York, UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé
Ladsous pointed out that one of the pillars of MONUSCU's mandate was
to "support. not replace" FARDC's counter-insurgency
"For a series of reasons, FARDC disappeared
from the scene [in Goma]. So from the moment we were alone in the
presence of M23, it's clear that the mandate wasn't to take on M23
White 4x4 vehicles of the kind used by UN
agencies and NGOs, have been stoned in Goma by angry mobs, according
to one NGO worker. Another said her agency had responded by painting
their vehicles purple.
"The United Nations never did
anything to defend us. They were useless, and now their job is done,"
said Nicholas, 19, who lives in Goma. It is a sentiment backed up by
a group of policemen.
"We have joined M23 - they are the
ones keeping the peace," one said. But not all were so
supportive of what many are calling their "new Government".
There has been rioting and attacks on cars in towns across
the region, including Bukvau, Bunia, Butembo and Walikale. This has
further impeded humanitarian assessments and response.
is so poorly resourced to deal with an influx of people like this,"
said Oxfam spokeswoman Chritina Corbett.
jh/am/rz [END] This
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96858
Paths to peace in the Kivus
21 November 2012 (IRIN) - Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan counterparts,
Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, held crisis talks in Uganda a day
after rebels captured the eastern DRC town of Goma, amid fears the
situation could escalate into a much wider conflict.
has consistently denied charges - leveled by DRC and a UN panel of
experts - that Rwanda provides military backing to the M23 rebels who
captured the city, which lies on the Rwandan border and has not been
in rebel hands since 2004. Uganda has also denied supporting the
of a new regional war
summit followed a UN Security Council demand [
] that M23 immediately withdraw from Goma and refrain from further
advances. On 21 November, the group announced plans to march to
Resolution 2076 also condemned M23's human rights
abuses, including summary executions, gender-based violence and
large-scale recruitment of child soldiers. The resolution also
imposed targeted sanctions on the group's leadership.
to an official summary, during the Security Council meeting in New
York, DRC representative Seraphin Ngwej accused Rwanda of "presenting
a serious threat to international peace and security in the
sub-region, through the threat or the use of force against the
territorial integrity of a state."
Nduhungirehe then told the Council his country had been "subjected
to rocket attacks from the DRC, resulting in fatalities."
20 November, the International Crisis Group (ICG) declared: "Regional
and international actors must now prevent this turning into a new
"Long-term solutions will require
that the UN Security Council, African Union and International
Conference on the Great Lakes Region ensure that peace agreements and
stabilization plans no longer remain empty promises. To achieve this,
coordinated and unequivocal pressure on the Congolese government and
the M23 rebel movement, as well as the latter's external supporters,
is required from international donors and regional actors," ICG
rapid capture of Goma on 20 November came soon after Kabila dismissed
the idea of negotiating with M23, saying DRC would only talk to
But calls for broad talks are mounting.
condemnation and sanctions used to target the M23 leaders is
unproductive and prioritizes the military option to continue. Now the
rebels have captured Goma and are willing to negotiate; the
government should honour this," Angelo Izama, analyst and a
fellow at the Open Society Institute, told IRIN.
In a 20
November report [
], the Enough Project's associate director for research Aaron Hall
concurred, writing: "Sanctioning the leadership of M23 alone is
not enough. The US should support the United Nations to quickly
appoint an envoy to work with the African Union that would create a
peace process to include all those actors that perpetually fan the
flames of conflict in the region.
"Until the systemic
drivers of violence and regional intervention in eastern Congo are
addressed, this scenario will just repeat itself on a constant loop,"
Ugandan lawyer and opposition MP Norbert Mao said,
"The solution to the conflict is a national broad dialogue in
DRC involving all the key stakeholders, whether armed or not. The M23
are fighting because Kabila reneged on an agreement he signed in
March 2009." [
"The African Union, which has been quiet, should play a
role in ending the DRC conflict. Any process mediated by Uganda or
Rwanda will always lack credibility because of suspicion over their
past roles in the country," Nicholas Opiyo, a constitutional and
human rights lawyer in Kampala, told IRIN.
Rwanda are not clear on what they are doing in DRC," he
"If they are not involved in the war, as a matter
of urgency, Rwanda and Uganda should take concrete measures to
condemn and isolate M23. They should offer their unconditional
support to the DRC government either militarily or by way of talking
in an effort to end the conflict," he continued.
problem of leadership
The Kampala summit took place alongside
a meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region,
whose proposal to deploy a "neutral force" in eastern DRC
to "eradicate" M23 and a Rwandan rebel group has made
little progress for lack of funds or offers of troops.
early November, Rift Valley Institute analyst Jason Stearns,
summarizing his Usalama project report, wrote [
] that "various policy options should be considered - none of
them easy or straight-forward - including decentralization,
cross-border economic projects, land reform, and the complete
overhaul of the stabilization program for the Kivus".
the streets of Goma, a man in his 50s, who asked not to be named,
repeatedly told IRIN the situation was "not good."
family and I are sick of war. We've seen the armies of the
[government and different rebel groups]; now this. We can't continue
in this way. We are given no choice. It's a problem of leadership",
so/js/am/rz [END] This report online:
Fall of Goma puts 200,000 children at risk
20 November 2012 (IRIN) - The arrival of M23 rebels in the eastern
Congolese city of Goma on 20 November, has triggered widespread
concern over the humanitarian ramifications in a region already beset
by armed conflict, widespread displacement and attacks on
] around the city led to the cancellation of a humanitarian
assessment mission in North Kivu Province - of which Goma is
the capital - scheduled for 19 November.
Vianney Kazarama broadcast a message to the city telling residents to
carry on with their normal activities, saying M23 [
] was there for their security. He provided his own phone number and
that of two intelligence officers for citizens to call if they had
Kazarama also called on government soldiers and
police to assemble at a stadium on 21 November for an identification
Goma resident, Jean Baptiste Musabyimana, told IRIN
that M23 appeared to be in control of Goma. "We can see the M23
patrolling the main road that runs through our neighborhood," he
Another resident, Florentin Baruti, told IRIN that in
the Bwirere district, where fighting took place on 20 November,
most people were still indoors but that some young men were in the
streets to see what was happening.
"It's a relief that
the fighting ended quite quickly," said Baruti, "but we're
worried about the possibility of a counter attack by the FARDC
One of the main concerns of
humanitarian agencies in the region relates to the 60,000 residents
of the Kanyarucinya camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) to
the north of Goma shortly before M23 reached the outskirts of the
town. The camp is one of five dotted around Goma, which have a
combined population of around 95,000.
"One problem is
that many displaced families were split up on Monday [19 November] as
they tried to get away from the fighting," said Tarik Riebl,
Oxfam's coordinator in Goma. "When we talk to people they say
they don't know where some of their family members are."
added: "For the moment food is one of the main needs, and
another is non-food items, such as water containers and other
household items, and shelter. There needs to be a distribution of
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian
Refugee Council (NRC) warned that displaced children now "face
an increased risk of rape, abuse and recruitment."
we are seeing now is that fighting between the rebel group and the
army is displacing the displaced again, stretching the coping
abilities of an already exhausted community," Sebastian Albuja,
the head of IDMC's Africa department, said in a
"Internally displaced children and
specifically boys in North Kivu are at particular risk of being
recruited by a variety of armed groups," said Olivia Kalis,
Policy and Advocacy Advisor for the NRC country office.
are locking up or hiding their children fearing attack and forced
recruitment with girls and boys will be taken by armed actors,"
Another NGO, World Vision [
], expressed similar concerns, putting the number of at-risk children
in Goma alone at 200,000.
"Spontaneous camps for
displaced families have been forming around Goma as communities flee
to safety. Through its partners, World Vision is receiving reports
that in the confusion, children are getting separated from parents -
and the implications of this are devastating," the agency
"We know from the recent practices of the groups
involved in this latest fighting that unaccompanied children in this
part of DRC are in immediate and real danger of forcible recruitment
into armed groups," said World Vision's Dominic Keyzer, from the
Rwandan border town of Gisenye.
Keyzer added that the violence
had impeded humanitarian response and that World Vision has had to
suspend some life-saving programmes in eastern Democratic Republic of
International Crisis Group (ICG) said that the government's
"capitulation to the M23 could send shockwaves throughout the
Kivus and relaunch open warfare between the DRC and Rwanda" -
which has been accused of backing the rebel movement, a charge it
The ICG also warned that the fall of Goma might lead
to the settling of scores "or even targeted extrajudicial
executions against authorities and civil society activists who have
taken a stance against the M23 since the beginning of the
The neighbouring province of South Kivu "is
also affected by the deteriorating security situation which threatens
thousands of civilians and has led to the suspension or reduction of
humanitarian activities in the area", according to the UN Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Kivu has been severely affected by repeated clashes between various
armed groups and between armed groups and the Congolese army since
mid-October. Several villages have been attacked over the last few
weeks, triggering the flight of more than 30,000 people, while more
than 300 houses have been destroyed or burned in these attacks. The
current violence, primarily in the Kalehe and Shabunda territories,
has reportedly killed more than 160 people in the past 10 days and
led to serious human rights violations. Inter-communal tensions have
compounded the situation," OCHA said.
There are more than
1.6 million IDPs in the two Kivu provinces.
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96833
DRC's M23 rebellion under pressure
16 November 2012 (IRIN) - Heavy fighting broke out on 15 November in
the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo between M23 rebels [
] and government forces (FARDC), breaking a virtual truce that had
lasted on the frontlines between these forces for nearly three
M23 (The Mouvement Du 23 Mars) began in April
2012 as an army mutiny by several hundred soldiers who accused the
government of breaching the terms of a March 2009 peace deal [
] under which the rebel group they then belonged to, the National
Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) [
] morphed into a political party while CNDP fighters joined the
A spokesman for the FARDC in North Kivu, Col
Olivier Hamuli, said the M23 attacked FARDC positions east of
Kibumba, about 30km north of Goma, from 8am on 15 November, but were
repulsed and fighting had ceased by the evening. Local media and UN
observers who visited Kibumba after the fighting were shown the dead
bodies of a dozen combatants identified by FARDC as M23 members, some
of whom the army said had Rwandan identity documents.
has persistently denied accusations, repeated in two UN panel of
experts' reports on DRC, that it has been supporting the M23 rebels
(whose armed elements in October adopted the name Congolese
M23 accused the government of
breaking the ceasefire. M23 spokesman Vianney Kazarama told IRIN that
its forces had been attacked at 5am on 15 November near the Ugandan
border north of Jomba, and subsequently on three other fronts.
FARDC says at least 44 M23 fighters died in the fighting.
this the end of the truce?
hostilities seem likely in the near future. About a week before the
latest clashes a military source told IRIN an offensive involving
some 3,000 FARDC troops was expected in mid-November, and the
governor of North Kivu Province, Julien Paluku, on 16 November gave
members of M23 an ultimatum to surrender or be crushed.
ceasefire had held along the main front line to the north of Goma
since August, but there had been reports of M23 fighting alongside
other armed groups in attacks on army bases in Masisi Territory, west
of Rutshuru, every few days since 12 October.
says these attacks were mounted by "presumed M23 elements",
suggesting they were guerrilla raids and the attackers were difficult
M23 has not taken control of any large
population centres in these operations, which were probably intended
to put pressure on the government rather than to take territory.
Jason Stearns, director of the Rift Valley Institute's
Usalama Project, in an October report on the M23 [
] commented that with only an estimated 1,500-2,500 fighters, the
movement lacked the manpower to expand its territory.
is currently confined to Rutshuru, where it seized a strip of
territory about 90km north to south along the Ugandan and Rwandan
borders during battles with FARDC in June and July.
FARDC decisively defeat M23?
paper the government forces number 105,000, plus tanks and aircraft,
while M23's small force is entirely infantry. Until the latest
fighting the rebels had won most of their major battles against
FARDC, but external support for those victories seems to have been
The UN group of experts has concluded that Rwanda
has backed M23 with recruits, arms and ammunition and direct support
from Rwandan army units when it has come under pressure. The group
has also accused Uganda of providing support, including military
reinforcements in late July. Both governments vehemently deny the
External support for M23 could
dwindle given mounting international condemnation of the movement.
On 13 November, the US government "designated"
the group's leader, Sultani Makenga, freezing any assets he has in US
jurisdictions and barring US citizens from doing business with him [
Probably in response to the UN group of experts report,
Uganda on 13 November closed a border crossing near Bunagana, where
M23 has its headquarters. The International Crisis Group (ICG) Congo
analyst Thierry Vircoulon said the move would hurt M23 financially as
it had been taxing traffic at the crossing, but would not of itself
prevent continued military support from Rwanda.
has reported that there is reluctance among UN Security Council
members to condemn Rwandan and Ugandan officials over alleged support
to the M23.
In its September report on the DRC, ICG says
a military solution to M23 is "unrealistic", while Stearns
comments that "the Congolese army cannot defeat the M23 with
military might alone."
Even with international
pressure, Stearns says, it will be difficult to ensure that the
support allegedly provided to M23 by neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda
has been cut.
much support is there for M23 in DRC?
has held no elections, and has so far met with almost unanimous
condemnation from the DRC's political spectrum.
to Stearns, it has a narrower support base than its predecessor
movement the CNDP (which won only a single national assembly seat
after its transformation into a political party). Stearns's research
finds that the great majority of M23 officers are from the Tutsi
ethnic group (as were most CNDP officers), and that it has failed to
attract Hutu elites who were important allies to the CNDP in its
early stages. He stresses that the M23 cannot be identified with the
wider Congolese Tutsi community either.
Hutus are the
great majority of the population in Rutshuru and the largest ethnic
group in Masisi, while Tutsis are a small minority in both
territories although more numerous there than elsewhere in the DRC.
Like the CNDP before it, M23 says it is fighting to
defend North Kivu's Kinyarwanda speaking population (Hutu and Tutsi).
Kinyarwanda speakers have come under attack several times in recent
years: in 1993, when they were targeted by communities who saw
themselves as more "indigenous"; and in 1994-1996 when the
arrival of Hutu refugees in the wake of the Rwandan genocide led tens
of thousands of Congolese Tutsis to flee into exile. Hundreds of
Tutsi civilians across the country were killed at the outbreak of
wars in 1996 and 1998.
In the past decade, however, the
Tutsi have succeeded in protecting and expanding their land holdings
in North Kivu. These ranches are not reported to be under attack by
neighbouring communities, although many Tutsi civilians fled Masisi
at the start of the M23 rebellion.
Tutsi farms are mainly
surrounded by Hutu smallholders, many of whom resent the extension of
ranches as this has denied them access to farmland. But these
smallholders are also under pressure from surrounding ethnic groups
and to that extent have a common interest with their fellow
Kinyarwanda-speaking Tutsi neighbours.
importance of a Hutu/Tutsi alliance to the M23 was underscored by the
North Kivu governor on 16 November when he claimed that Hutus made up
85 percent of the M23's rank-and-file and gave them an ultimatum to
abandon the rebel movement.
Many of those foot soldiers
may have been press-ganged into the rebellion, according to research
by Human Rights Watch.
Stearns notes that M23 has
succeeded in persuading recognized elites from the ethnic Nande
community, the largest ethnic group in North Kivu, (although not from
other communities) to join the movement.
M23 has also,
according to Stearns, forged alliances with nine armed groups in
eastern DRC, including factions of the Raia Mutomboki (Angry
Citizens) coalition [
]. Most of these groups have only a few hundred fighters but they
have managed to inflict some defeats on an army preoccupied with
An investigation by the UN Joint Human Rights
Office in the DRC found that the Raia Mutomboki and their allies the
Mai Mai Kifuafua "arbitrarily executed" at least 246
civilians in Masisi between April and September 2012.
14 November, the Jesuit Refugee Service called for "increased
attention to be urgently provided by the international community, one
which answers the pleas for security and humanitarian aid and pushes
Congolese political, civil and military authorities to guarantee the
protection of these populations [in Masisi]. Otherwise free reign
will continue to be given to militias responsible for the killing of
innocent children, women and men."
ICG's Vircoulon and
Stearns comment that M23 has bought its alliances with money and they
may not last.
The FARDC in September announced a plan to
integrate several armed groups into its forces but so far only the
Nyatura, an ethnic Hutu militia, have joined in large numbers
Despite the evidence of war crimes
committed by M23, and by its leaders when they were in the CNDP [
] several (non-Tutsi) residents of Goma told IRIN they thought M23
treats the general population no worse than the army does and that
they shared the group's espoused aim of decentralizing government, as
stipulated in the DRC constitution.
In the Kivu
provinces, there is a suspicion among several people IRIN interviewed
that the M23 also has tacit support from many senior army officers.
About a quarter of the army's top ranks in the Kivus were made up of
former CNDP officers. According to Stearns, about half of these have
joined M23. Some of the others may be sympathizers.
could the rebellion be brought to an end?
UN Security Council has threatened sanctions against those backing
M23 with arms, and Rwanda has already seen some cuts to overseas aid
as a result of its alleged support for the group. The DRC government
is lobbying for such pressure to be ramped up. Stearns argues,
however, that even with increased pressure, a negotiated settlement
will have to include a partial reintegration of the M23 into the
Stearns and the ICG agree that the regional
proposal for a "neutral force" [
] of 4,000 men to guard the Rwandan/DRC border is a distraction from
the main issue and is unlikely to be funded. They also call for
longer-term governance reforms to underpin a peace settlement.
Local agreements between communities, particularly on
land issues, could help assuage Tutsi concerns about their rights -
concerns the M23 has used to justify its rebellion [
A Congolese Tutsi ex-politician and landowner
Emmanuel Kamanzi recently ceded 25 hectares of one of his cattle
ranches to a community in Masisi Territory in a deal brokered by UN
Habitat which the North Kivu Federation of Agricultural Producers has
recommended as a model for settling other land conflicts. Kamanzi
told IRIN he envisaged more such deals, and greater collaboration
between agriculturalists and cattle ranchers, who could help the
agriculturalists market their products.
nl/am/cb [END] This
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96804
Doubts mount over Ugandan mediation
19 October 2012 (IRIN) - Uganda's mediation to end the fighting in
northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between government
troops and M23 "mutineers", which has caused large-scale
population displacement, has come into question.
eighth summit in Kampala in August 2012, International Conference of
the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) heads of state and government mandated
Uganda as its current chair to facilitate dialogue between M23
fighters (former DRC national army soldiers who mutinied in April)
and the DRC government. It has since established contact with M23 and
dialogue has been ongoing, according to a Ugandan government
However, analysts are skeptical and doubt Uganda's
impartiality and credibility in facilitating the talks, given its
alleged support and arming of M23 in its six-month fight against
government troops in DRC's North Kivu Province. Uganda denies giving
any support to M23.
"It's within the context of ICGLR for
Uganda to facilitate the dialogue. But there is confusion. You can't
facilitate talks on the one hand, and on the other you are being
accused of arming and supporting rebels," Philip Apuuli Kasaija,
an associate professor of political science at Makerere University,
"There are several damming and alarming
accusations about Uganda in the leaked UN Security Council's Group of
Experts report. This raises doubts about Uganda's moral authority to
mediate. We need this conflict to end. The people in eastern DRC have
suffered for so long," he said.
has not seen the leaked UN report.
Uganda be engaged in finding a lasting solution to the DRC problem -
the answer is yes. But can Uganda be the facilitator? I don't think
so. Not when its impartiality is being questioned," Stephen
Oola, a transitional justice and governance analyst at Makerere
University's Refugee Law Project, told IRIN.
needs to engage and support a robust peace process for regional
stability. There can be no peace in DRC without Uganda's goodwill and
engagement. Just like there can't be sustainable peace in Uganda
until Congo is stable and under effective governance and rule of
law," he said.
think Uganda, and indeed all the regional governments within the
Great Lakes region must realize that our stability is intricately
linked. The instability and insecurity in DRC has a direct spillover
effect in Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Angola and Central African
Republic," he said.
"Uganda's credibility to mediate
in the conflict is questionable. Uganda is seen as an interested
party. Uganda has been in the past accused of looting minerals and
now for supporting M23. So it can't be in position to facilitate the
dialogue," said an official in the Ministry of Internal Affairs
who preferred anonymity.
"We can't accept the promotion
of violence. We are tired of war in the Great Lakes region. It has
caused the loss of lives, poverty and delayed development. We need
the end of conflict in the region," John Baptist Odama, a member
of the Acholi Religious Peace Initiative in northern Uganda, told
"I supposed the ICGLR countries did it in good
faith. If they did not, they will have to account for their action.
The ball is in the hands of Uganda to prove its worth," he
"Uganda still has troops pursuing the Lord's
Resistance Army in DRC. Its credibility and objectivity will always
be doubted by the government of DRC and other players," Nicholas
Opiyo, a constitutional and human rights lawyer in Kampala, told
Henry Okello Oryem, minister of state in charge of international
affairs, dismissed the allegations.
"The allegations in
[a] UN leaked report are rubbish. We can't be derailed from this
process. We have the moral authority to chair the talks between the
DRC and M23 leaders," Okello Oryem told IRIN.
are some people who have malicious intentions to malign us. Uganda
remains fully committed to spearhead the regional efforts to ensure
security and stability in eastern DRC is achieved," he
The fighting between government troops and "mutineers"
has forced thousands of refugees to stream into Uganda [
] and Rwanda. [
The ICGLR meeting agreed to form a 4,000 strong neutral
international force to hunt down armed groups in eastern DRC.
Tanzania has agreed to contribute one battalion.
International Crisis Group (ICG) in its October report [
] called for a UN-negotiated settlement between the Congolese
authorities and M23.
attempts to solve the problem of DRC can't be external. The external
measure is just bandaging the wound. DRC is a weak state. Attempts
should be made to strengthen DRC to have functional institutions. It
should be helped to build a credible and capable army to defend its
territory," said Kampala lawyer Opiyo.
"I think the
continent now has institutions and systems for conflict resolution
like the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development
who should take up the mantle and commit to a peaceful resolution of
conflicts. Military approaches have been tried and are ongoing but
with no end in sight. As a conflict analyst, I can attest that
peaceful solutions pay a better peace dividend," Makerere
University's Oola told IRIN.
Uganda has a high stake in the
stability of all its neighbouring states, because regional conflict
affects Uganda, just as conflict within Uganda affects its
"So long as certain groups within the Congo
feel excluded, marginalized, exploited and oppressed, there can be no
peace and stability in the DRC. Until, this internal cohesion is
achieved, outside actors and multinationals interested in exploiting
their resources will keep on fuelling the mess, and conflicts will
continue," said Oola.
This report online:
Tough bargaining with armed groups
18 October 2012 (IRIN) - A recent incident in the town of Kalembe, in
the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) North Kivu Province,
highlighted the fluid ambiguity of the national army's troubled
relationship with local militia groups in eastern Congo as it
attempts to integrate them into its ranks.
Three hours before
it was attacked by the army on 6 October, the militia appealed to the
government, via the media, for access to more ammunition.
the national army, had warned the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and
Sovereign Congo (APCLS) militia that it would attack if they did not
open the road leading west. APCLS spokesman John Weza told IRIN that
morning they would resist and were fighting to overthrow the
But in case the high command was ready to do a
deal, as it often had in the past, he added: "From day to day,
there are clashes and our depots are run down. If the army really
wants to ally with the APCLS, it must guarantee us logistics. If the
government is serious about an alliance, how come the army is
blocking the munitions we were sent from Goma [the capital of North
The militia soon had its answer as heavy
weapons fire started to rain on its positions. After a two-and-a-half
hour battle, a commando battalion had captured Kalembe, and the APCLS
had retreated into the forest, leaving behind several dead and
wounded. The commandos had one dead and two injured; at least one
civilian was also killed.
On the face of it, this was a
success for the army, but the authorities have tried to play down the
incident and initially even denied that it had happened. The
government has been trying to integrate several armed groups into the
army; last month it announced that the APCLS and two other groups,
the Nyatura and the Congo Defence Forces (FDC), had agreed to
integrate their fighters.
That announcement now looks
premature. Army spokesman Lt Col Olivier Hamuli says the process is
underway, but so far the number of militia fighters assembled at army
camps has been disappointing, and further bartering of 'logistics'
for combatants may be required to fill quotas.
has been some progress with the integration of the Nyatura, an ethnic
Hutu militia. The commander of the DRC's land forces, Gen Amisi
'Tango Fort' inspected a group of the Nyatura at an army camp in
Mushaki, in North Kivu's Masisi territory, on 15 October.
military press attaché said 800 of this group were at Mushaki, but
only about 200 could be seen on parade, and most of them appeared
unarmed. At a briefing with officers, the general said he would
return and check the numbers next week; if there were 300 combatants,
they could be sent for deployment. "You must all be here,"
he said, "and if you have left your arms in the forest you must
bring them here."
Nyatura leaders thanked the general for
his support but complained that so far the combatants had not been
issued tents and their rations were meagre. A self-styled Nyatura
lieutenant told IRIN that most of the militia were ex-soldiers who
deserted because of lack of pay and miserable living
Local sources say 60 of the APCLS fighters who
assembled at an army camp in the town of Nyabiondo in September are
still there despite the fighting at Kalembe, so there might yet be an
integration of this group. There are no confirmed reports that the
FDC has started to integrate, but a North Kivu civil society group
says 200 members of another militia have assembled at the city of
May, the M23 rebellion [
] by a group of army mutineers has allowed a number of armed groups
to expand and take back territory from the government.
to the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), there are now
more than 30 armed groups in the eastern provinces. Most of these
probably number a few hundred or less, but some might play an
important role in the confrontation between the army and the
The conflict currently looks like a stand-off, despite a
seemingly huge imbalance of forces. The think tank International
Crisis Group (ICG) estimates that the army recently had 7,000 troops
deployed against the M23, which numbered only around 1,000. Both
sides have been reinforced, with Human Rights Watch and other
observers alleging that units of the Rwandan army have supported the
M23 during major engagements.
The largest armed group in the
region is probably the Rwandan rebel Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which the ICG estimates could have up to
Congo analyst Jason Stearns estimates that the
APCLS has less than 2,000 fighters, while local sources suggest that
the FDC, the Nyatura, and Mai Mai Cheka - which was founded by one of
M23's former colleagues in an allegedly Rwandan-backed rebel movement
- could each number up to 1,000. The Raia Mutomboki [
], an apparently leaderless anti-Rwandophone alliance, might be able
to mobilize a few thousand for attacks on Rwandophone
to ICG's Thierry Vircoulon, there is competition between the army and
the M23 for alliances with armed groups. The government has alleged
that the M23 is in alliance with Mai Mai Cheka, as well as Raia
Mutomboki and other Mai Mai - or rebel - groups in North Kivu.
dilemma for the DRC's high command is whether to bid for armed
groups' support by offering their commanders access to munitions and
senior ranks in the army, thereby risking future trouble, or to
refuse these demands and risk losing their support against the
Several waves of armed groups have been integrated since
2004, but a self-styled intelligence officer in the Nyatura, Sadiki
Murenge, told IRIN that Mai Mai leaders have always kept back some of
their combatants, who continue harassing civilians and fighting each
other or the army, often for control of mines.
The UN Refugee
Agency's Christophe Beau, coordinator of the North Kivu Protection
Cluster, a humanitarian network focusing on threats to civilians,
said he had reservations about the army trying to integrate yet more
armed groups, many of which have a reputation for human rights
The clash at Kalembe suggests that, so far, the high
command is cautiously seeking armed group support, with an eye to the
It has also given instructions not to recruit
foreign armed groups or underage combatants. At his briefing at
Mushaki on Monday, Gen Amisi said he had been asked by provincial
deputies to stress that no children or FDLR members should be
integrated with the army.
Analyst Stearns suggests that the
way to pacify the area is to organize a political dialogue among all
the armed actors, with MONUSCO taking on the role of mediator, an
approach that has never been tried. The ICG's Vircoulon, however,
argues that the Kivu crisis does not need a new strategy, but
requires donors to exert concerted pressure on Kinshasa and Kigali to
respect their existing commitments
- notably, in Kinshasa's case, a commitment to unify the army command
and pay its soldiers their full salaries.
MONUSCO source said a round table with the armed actors might not
lead to a wholesale integration or demobilization, as some of the
armed group leaders would be reluctant to trade their control of gold
mines for generals' ranks in the Congolese army.
success, with help from MONUSCO, at taking control of the larger
mines in the Kivus in recent years suggests that if the M23 can be
dismantled and a unified army command achieved, those mines might
again be brought under government control.
It may also be
possible to arrest and indict some armed group leaders, as happened
in Ituri District, but armed groups can find other leaders and are
likely to retain an influence at many mines. A 2012 study of
demobilization programmes in the country [
] found that ex-militia members, many working as miners, still
control activity in Ituri's gold mines, but without open conflict.
Since generals and army officers have stakes in artisanal mines
across the DRC, in peaceful areas as well as conflict zones,
continued interests in mining by militia leaders may not be
incompatible with their integration into the army.
The key to
reconciling those interests with peace and security may be to reach
an agreement with armed actors and other community leaders on the
exploitation of mineral and other land resources. A study by Nest,
Grignon and Kisangani - The Democratic Republic of Congo: Economic
Dimensions of War and Peace, 2006 - found that successive political
dialogues in the DRC failed to resolve underlying conflicts because
they never really addressed rival parties' economic interests,
notably in natural resources.
Continuing efforts to contain Ebola
17 October 2012 (IRIN) - An Ebola outbreak that has killed several
people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) appears to be
slowing down, but health workers say there is a need for continued
vigilance in order to contain the virus.
confirmed case was admitted in the MSF [Médecins Sans
Frontières]/Ministry of Health Ebola ward on October 10, after two
weeks with no confirmed cases," Olimpia de la Rosa, MSF medical
emergency coordinator, told IRIN in an email. "The decrease in
the number of admissions in our facility makes us think that we are
on the way to contain the outbreak, but containment efforts must
continue until no cases are confirmed for at least 21
According to the UN World Health Organization's
(WHO) 8 October update [
], the disease had claimed 24 lives by 7 October, while 31 cases had
been confirmed and 18 were suspected. The outbreak, first reported [
] on 17 August, is in Isiro and Viadana health zones in the country's
north-eastern Orientale Province.
The Ministry of Health is
working with a task force that includes, among others, MSF, the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the UN Children's Fund
(UNICEF) and WHO. Its activities involve surveillance, health worker
training, community education and the implementation of biosafety
measures. MSF has also set up a centre for supportive treatment of
Ebola, which causes fever and bleeding from
orifices, can cause death within days. There is no cure or vaccine
for it, so efforts are concentrated on stopping its spread. The
current strain in DRC has been identified as Ebola-Bundibugyo - named
for a Ugandan district that borders the DRC. The fatality rate [
] rate for this strain is estimated at about 40 percent.
to MSF's de la Rosa, there is "a need to reinforce health staff
knowledge about the ways of transmission of the disease and about the
ways to protect patients and themselves from contagion".
is new to the area, and few local health workers had been trained to
deal with it when the outbreak began. Several health workers have
succumbed to the outbreak. Maintaining empathy for severely ill
patients while ensuring health workers remain disease-free is a
"For the health staff providing care in the
treatment centre, it is a big challenge to make compatible biosafety
measures and establish[ing] an empathic patient-care giver
relationship. Gloves, goggles, masks, gowns. pose a barrier to
transmission but also to human contact and communication," she
"Physical contact through the protection material,
words [of support] and provision of good medical care in the most
friendly facility that biosafety allows can help to overcome this
challenge and ensure the providing of quality medical treatment and
to WHO [ http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en
], "Ebola is introduced into the human population through close
contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of
infected animals." Fruit bats are considered to be the natural
host of the virus.
Preventing future outbreaks will remain
difficult as long as the response is reactionary, de la Rosa noted.
"It is very difficult to prevent an Ebola outbreak from
appearing because we still ignore [the virus] in non-epidemic
periods, making impossible to stop the appearance of the first
cases," she said. "We can just detect outbreaks when some
patients become infected, usually when they die of unknown
Meanwhile, neighbouring Uganda, which
experienced a fatal Ebola outbreak [
] in the western district of Kibaale in July, was declared Ebola-free
by the country's Ministry of Health on 4 October.
kr/rz [END] This
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96572
Call to implement peace agreements in North Kivu
5 October 2012 (IRIN) - Experts have called on donors and the
international community to exert pressure on governments of the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to stop the escalation
of violence in the DRC's North Kivu region by demonstrating the
political will to implement peace agreements with rebel groups and
"What is needed in North Kivu is not a new
political agreement that none of the parties will respect and will
only address the crisis management but a real engagement from all the
parties to resolve the conflict. Donors have to put pressure on both
Rwanda and DRC to resolve this conflict and respect their engagement,
non-interference and security sector reform," Marc-André
Lagrange, Central Africa senior analyst with the International Crisis
Group (ICG), told IRIN.
In a briefing [
] released Thursday, the Brussels-based ICG called for, among other
things, a UN-negotiated settlement between the Congolese authorities
and rebel group M23.
"If international donors and African
mediators persist in managing the crisis rather than solving it, it
will be impossible to avoid the repetitive cycle of rebellions in the
Kivus and the risk of large-scale violence will remain," the ICG
M23, comprised of former DRC national army (FARDC) soldiers who
mutinied in April, are fighting government troops in North and South
Kivu. A report by UN experts accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel
group, accusations Rwandese authorities have denied.
M23 is the result of the failure to implement the previous peace
agreements by all parties, and failure from both Rwanda and DRC to
respect the engagement taken in the International Conference on Great
Lakes Region peace and security pact and the 2009 peace agreement.
MONUSCO [the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC] and
international donors, by their passivity, also bear a responsibility
in the actual crisis," said ICG's Lagrange.
implement a March 2009 peace agreement between Congolese authorities
and the rebel group National Congress for the Defense of the People
(CNDP) has helped perpetuate violence in the area, the ICG
Meanwhile, there are concerns that the killing of at
least 10 people by unknown assailants this week in Goma, the capital
of North Kivu Province, could lead to more violence.
are living in tension, and they don't know what will happen. The M23
are now saying they want to get into Goma to rescue people from the
military. There might be more violence," Aloys Tegera, a
researcher at the Pole Institute, told IRIN.
In a September
statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused M23 rebels of committing
war crimes [
] in eastern DRC.
"The M23 rebels are committing a
horrific trail of new atrocities in eastern Congo," Anneke Van
Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at HRW, said in the statement.
"M23 commanders should be held accountable for these crimes, and
the Rwandan officials supporting these abusive commanders could face
justice for aiding and abetting the crimes."
said that, while it is not clear who is responsible for the killings,
a military personnel had disclosed that the Congolese army could have
been responsible, and that some 5,000 armed military personnel have
deserted duty and disappeared into the civilian population.
workers told IRIN that the current security situation, while
troubling, hasn't yet impacted their work.
situation has become a concern in Goma recently, but not to the
extent that it is actually affecting humanitarian work in the region.
Currently, the main impact of the increase in security incidents in
Goma has been that humanitarians are exercising more caution when
they move around at night," Ann-France White, from the response
and coordination unit of the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)in DRC, told IRIN by email.
Congolese government has sent a large contingent of troops to the
area to quell the threat posed by M23. Tegera told IRIN the increase
in troop numbers could be worsening the situation.
presence of the military is not helping much, and it is only adding
to insecurity because they are harassing people," Tegera
In one of the attacks, a grenade was thrown at the
residence of the vice governor of North Kivu Province, but no
casualties were reported. A week earlier, grenades were hurled into a
restaurant, wounding several people.
A woman and two men were
shot dead near the University of Goma; another man was killed in
Ndosho, also in Goma, while three more people were killed in North
Mabanga, Karishimbi and Keshero neighborhoods.
are attacking even government officials, how can ordinary citizens be
safe?" Tegera asked.
This report online:
Army commander seeks solution to Masisi crisis
26 September 2012 (IRIN) - Authorities in the Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC) say they are trying to arrange for the assembly and
disarmament of rival ethnic militias implicated in the massacres of
hundreds of people in Masisi territory in the eastern province of
Congolese army spokesman Lt-Col Olivier
Hamuli told IRIN that following a visit to Masisi in September, the
commander of the DRC's land forces, Gen Amisi Tango Fort, called on
the militias to 'regroup' and disarm. Regrouping refers to the
assembly of combatants in specific locations where they can be
monitored prior to disarmament.
Since May, the UN
has documented more than 45 attacks by militias or armed groups on
some 30 villages and towns in the Ufamandu area of Masisi.
of the attacks have been carried out by the Raïa Mutomboki and
others by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR),
at times in coalition with the armed group Nyatura," the UN
stated on August 29 [
]. "This has resulted in serious human rights violations
including civilian massacres."
The FDLR is a
Rwandan rebel group, while the Raïa Mutomboki, which means 'angry
citizens', is a multi-tribal Congolese alliance, and the Nyatura is a
Congolese Hutu group.
"Proclaiming to protect
local populations against the predominantly Hutu FDLR, the Raïa
Mutomboki are targeting civilians of Hutu ethnicity whom they
consider to be foreigners and allies of the FDLR. In turn, the FDLR
retaliate against civilian populations they believe to be associated
with Raïa Mutomboki," an August statement by the UN Human
Rights Office said. [
Community leaders in Masisi welcomed Amisi's visit to
the territory, which seems to have raised hopes that the Nyatura, and
perhaps the Raïa Mutomboki, could be integrated in the armed forces.
"It's good to see the army is doing something.
We've heard, although it's not confirmed, that the Nyatura group has
already been integrated into the army," said Innocent Kibindi,
an administrator in the Rubaya area in southern Masisi.
FARDC's Hamuli told IRIN that the militias were not eligible for
recruitment by the national army, which is intended only for
civilians, aged 18 to 25, who had attended school for at least six
years, did not have a criminal record and had not already taken up
arms. The message for the armed groups, he stressed, was to regroup
and lay down their arms.
added that "there will not be a classic integration of armed
groups as in the past when PARECO ['Patriotes résistants congolais']
and the CNDP ['Congrès national pour la défense du people'] joined
the army. That integration programme closed last year".
statement could, however, leave room for army deserters who have
joined militias returning to the ranks. Sadiki Murenge, a self-styled
'lieutenant-colonel' of the Nyatura, told IRIN that his militia
consisted of soldiers who had deserted their units to defend their
families from the Raïa Mutomboki, adding that Nyatura fighters had
been integrated in September, but Raïa Mutomboki had either not been
invited to join the army or had refused to do so.
than integrating with the Congolese army, some armed groups might
ally with it, as they often have in the past. Analysts say since a
mutiny broke out in the army in April, giving rise to M23 [
], Kinshasa has been in need of allies and could turn to the
"There have been several informal
agreements in the past between the Congolese army and the Raïa
Mutomboki against the FDLR in Shabunda Territory [in South Kivu
Province] and perhaps also in Walikale [North Kivu]. This is often
the case between the Congolese army and militia groups," central
Africa analyst Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group
Commenting on the rumours of integration
initiatives, Christophe Beau, coordinator of the North Kivu
protection cluster, a grouping of humanitarian agencies concerned
with civilian protection, said that peace initiatives should always
be welcomed, but cautioned that if there were further integrations of
armed groups, these should not preclude prosecution of those guilty
of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Rubaya denied claims that the Nyatura had been involved in civilian
massacres, and said they were just protecting their
at the UN peacekeeping mission to the Congo, MONUSCO, told IRIN that
the violence in southern Masisi had subsided since August. However,
Kibindi in Rubaya said security incidents were still occurring
and that the area remains unsafe for people to return.
protection cluster wrote to MONUSCO in August asking for peacekeepers
to be redeployed to two locations in southern Masisi - Remeka and
Katoyi - from which they withdrew in July after attacks by the Raïa
Mutomboki. Witnesses to those attacks told IRIN there had been fewer
than 50 peacekeepers at Katoyi when the settlement was attacked by
several militiamen, who forced a whole battalion of the Congolese
army to abandon the site.
nl/kr/rz [END] This report
Children bear brunt of conflict in the east
25 September 2012 (IRIN) - Children in the Kivu provinces of eastern
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are not only getting caught in the
crossfire of the area's ongoing violence, but also facing health
risks, threats of forced recruitment by local and foreign militias,
and interrupted educations, say officials.
swept up in the mass population movements that are currently ongoing
in eastern DRC, with entire families fleeing multiple conflicts. Our
hospitals have operated on children with bullet wounds who have been
caught in the crossfire. Some children present late with
life-threatening malaria, malnutrition or respiratory tract
infections," Jan-Peter Stellema, operations manager at Médecins
sans Frontières (MSF), told IRIN.
"Many [of the
displaced] are hiding in the malarial forests of the interior for
days or weeks at a time, cut off from medical care and difficult to
reach. Others are living with Congolese host families, often
strangers who share their food and living quarters with those on the
run," Stellema said.
The insecurity has disrupted MSF's
healthcare provision, with some of the organization's mobile clinics
being suspended, added Stellema. "Some of our national staff
feel unsafe and have also fled, leaving us functioning with skeleton
teams in some project locations."
Children are also under
threat of forced recruitment [
] by insurgent groups in North Kivu, including M23 [
] - a group of former DRC national army (FARDC) soldiers who mutinied
in April - and both foreign and Congolese militias including the Mai
Mai groups and the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du
In a 19 September statement [
], a coalition of NGOs in the DRC said, "Children are not only
directly exposed to the real risk of recruitment and re-recruitment;
their vulnerability is also aggravated by the reduced activity of
child protection organizations that are affected by the security
The statement noted that the redeployment of
the FARDC to contain M23 has "given free rein" to
self-defence militias and armed groups that use children.
insecurity in South Kivu
in South Kivu Province has been disrupted by the destruction of
dozens of classrooms, class sizes overwhelmed by displaced children
and the fact that some schools have become temporary dormitories for
IDPs, according to an OCHA report [
In the Hauts Plateaux area in Kalehe, in northern South
Kivu, conflict between armed groups who are burning and pillaging
houses is common, adds OCHA [
]. In late August, at least 500 households fled the area of Kitopo
following fighting between the FDLR and the Raïya Mutomboki militia
"Civilians are facing an unprecedented, high level of
armed violence due to the renewed activism of armed groups in the
province," said Florent Mehaule, the acting head of the OCHA
office in South Kivu Province.
"This volatile security
situation leads to shrinking humanitarian space, preventing
humanitarian workers [from] assisting more than 150,000 people in
In South Kivu alone, more than 374,000 people were
displaced between January and August, creating growing needs for food
assistance, non-food items, water and sanitation, said
Commenting on the situation in eastern DRC, MSF's
Stellema said, "Despite the conflict, life goes on in the region
and the regular health needs remain - there are still pregnant women
who require antenatal care, or assistance with a complicated
delivery, children who are susceptible to measles and need
vaccinating... But many of the most vulnerable in the region are now
unable to access the assistance they need."
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96390
Thousands of displaced out of reach
24 September 2012 (IRIN) - Weather conditions and continued
insecurity are hampering aid agencies' efforts to reach hundreds of
thousands of people displaced by armed conflict in eastern Democratic
Republic of Congo.
onset of the rainy season has made many roads impassable, cutting off
large populations from assistance. UN World Food Programme (WFP)
officer Laura Parker told IRIN that a convoy of trucks that WFP sent
to Walikale territory in North Kivu province in early September took
11 days to cover 250km.
WFP has faced a series of
setbacks in its attempts to help the internally displaced people
(IDPs) in Walikale.
"We got the alert in February
that there were 86,000 newly displaced in the territory needing
assistance," said Parker. "We had already started to
mobilize our trucks at that time, but due to security and weather
conditions we were not able to get trucks out there till July, and
the recent rains are a severe hindrance."
agency is now considering other transportation options for Walikale.
Parker said air transport might be a possibility, though it would be
expensive. The convoy of trucks will be driven to Kisangani, about
600km further west, and might be used to supply Walikale from there.
agencies are also concerned about 129,000 newly identified displaced
people who have fled massacres in Masisi territory in the past few
months. WFP is planning operations to assist this group in the very
near future, said Parker. Most are at 'spontaneous sites' in Masisi,
rather than at officially recognized camps. Some of these sites can
be reached by lorry from the provincial capital, Goma.
people visited by IRIN in Rubaya, about 50km from Goma, on September
15 said they have had had no outside help since arriving there on
July 23. Many in the crowd looked undernourished and in poor health.
"We live like birds," said Charles Matito, a spokesman for
the IDPs. "It's people here in Rubaya who give us something, a
few potatoes now and then."
A camp of
stick-and-grass huts was being erected in a field next to the main
settlement. Some of the shelters were covered with plastic sheets,
which Matito said the IDPs had brought from another camp at Katoyi.
Many of the Rubaya IDPs had been at the Katoyi camp until it was
attacked and emptied by the Raiya Mutomboki militia [
] in July.
Some of the displaced were sleeping in
classrooms or a church at night but lacked shelter from the rain
during the day. Devote Nyiranziza, who is at least six months
pregnant, said she was worried about giving birth in these
About 7km further west from Rubaya is
another spontaneous site at Kibabi. A spokesman for the IDPs there,
Innocent Bahati, said on September 15 they had nothing to eat and no
shelter. Aid agencies had visited, distributed vouchers for relief
supplies and built eight latrines, but there has been no other
assistance, he said.
IRIN has since learned that the
NGO CARE has done a food distribution for 3,900 households at Rubaya,
Kibabi and another settlement Kinigi.
to its latest figures, WFP is giving food aid to 265,000 IDPs in
North Kivu, out of a total displaced population of about 680,000. The
food has been concentrated on the 31 camps in the province that are
officially recognized by the government and the UN Refugee Agency
Most of these are in Rutshuru and Masisi,
densely populated areas with a history of frequent displacements.
Only two are in Walikale.
Agencies find it much easier
to assist people at official camps, but many of the recently
displaced have gathered at spontaneous sites.
are many reasons for this," said Parker. "It might be
proximity to their village of origin, or ethnic composition at the
site or at organized camps. It's a big challenge to assist those
people because they don't go through official registration processes,
so it's very difficult to get accurate numbers on them."
Christophe Beau, head of the North Kivu Protection Cluster, a
humanitarian network, suggested many IDPs head for areas they know
because they lack information about security conditions in official
camps, several of which have been attacked in recent months.
important that IDPs know, as soon as possible, where they can go to
find security, and that the authorities know where the security
conditions can be offered," he said.
WFP is now
working on ways to reach the spontaneous sites. Road conditions
rather than security are the biggest issue, a staff member indicated.
The agency's own workers have not been targeted by armed groups in
recent months, except when a team was detained for a few hours by the
Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo Libre et Souverain (APCLS), an
armed group that controls part of western Masisi.
This report online:
Brief: CAR refugees face urgent needs in DRC
5 September 2012 (IRIN) - More than 1,700 people who fled attacks in
the Central African Republic (CAR) have streamed into neighbouring
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are in urgent need of
humanitarian assistance, aid agencies say.
population, estimated at 1,727 people, are fleeing atrocities being
committed by armed elements who invaded their home villages
since June 2012, forcing them to cross the Ubangi River and seek
refuge in the DRC," according to the International Federation of
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). [
The refugees, from the eastern CAR villages of Gbasiki and
Gbazamba, are now living in the northern DRC villages of Pendu and
Guele "in precarious conditions and [they] require urgent
assistance," the Federation said.
They have little access
to potable water or food, according to the UN's Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
both food and non-food items. The refugees are 5 times more numerous
than the local population," Yvon Edoumou, public information
officer for OCHA in DRC, told IRIN.
"Pregnant mothers are
giving birth in unhealthy conditions," he said, adding that the
refugees' only source of water was the Ubangi River, which is also a
source of waterborne disease.
Bushmeat blamed for Ebola outbreak
23 August 2012 (IRIN) - Health officials in the Democratic Republic
of Congo's north-eastern Orientale Province are urging the population
to desist from activities that could put them at risk of contracting
the Ebola virus, including contact with infected individuals and the
consumption of bushmeat.
At least 10 people in the province
had died from suspected Ebola by 20 August, according to the UN World
Health Organization (WHO) [
], which first reported the outbreak on 17 August. Local sources say
the first symptoms were spotted about a month ago.
the deaths - which included three health workers - occurred in the
district of Isiro, and one occurred in Dungu District. WHO reports a
total of 15 cases so far, 13 probable and two confirmed.
death case we got in Dungu was a hunter. Once in the bush he saw a
dead antelope and did not care to ask why it had died. He immediately
took [the carcass] and went to eat it... He fell sick and passed
away," said the DRC's Health Minister Kabange Numbi.
Bushmeat - the meat of wild animals,
including hoofed animals, primates and rodents - is often the main
source of animal protein available to people in parts of the DRC. It
is also a livelihood source for people in the Congo basin, according
to a 2011 paper [
] by the Center for International Forestry Research.
to WHO [ http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en
], "Ebola is introduced into the human population through close
contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of
infected animals." Fruit bats are considered to be the natural
host of the virus.
"Ebola virus is an animal disease,
and when people are having contact with animals in bushes, as people
some in parts of our country rely on bush meat for their
livelihood... and don't care to avoid eating meat they've got from
dead animals that they often find in bushes [they risk contracting
the disease]," said Mondoge Vitale, head of disease control at
WHO's Kinshasa office.
The strain of Ebola in the Congo has
been identified as Ebola-Bundibugyo - named for a Ugandan district
that borders the DRC. The western district of Kibaale [
] in neighbouring Uganda was recently hit by an outbreak of another
strain, Ebola-Sudan, which killed at least 16 people.
is no vaccine for the highly infectious disease, which causes fever
and bleeding from orifices and can cause death within days. The
fatality rate for the Bundibugyo strain is estimated at about 40
percent. [ http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/16/12/10-0627_article.htm
Jacques Gumbaluka, chief of the Haut-Uele health zone in
Isiro, said that about one month ago a number of children under age
five presented at health centres with anaemia. Then adults began to
be admitted with unexplained bleeding and fever. "You have to
know that the blood flows in vessels, but when the blood is flowing
out of vessels it is a big problem, it becomes a drama," he
measures have been put in place to contain the outbreak. The health
ministry has established national- and district-level taskforces and
is working with partners, including the NGO Médecins sans Frontières
(MSF), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and WHO.
measures include the sensitization of the communities, protection of
health workers - in the zone where the outbreak has been declared
they have been given protection equipment... We have beefed up the
screening at Kisangani Port [a commercial hub in Orientale Province]
to watch the outbreak across the Congo River toward the capital,
Kinshasa," said Numbi. "[We are also] reinforcing screening
at Kisangani Airport for passengers coming and going out it to other
Orientale Province borders the
Central African Republic, South Sudan and Uganda. South Sudan is
already on high alert [
] following the outbreak in neighbouring Uganda.
deployed experts to set up isolation facilities and surveillance
systems in affected areas, but officials say their work is being
hampered by a lack of information. "As long as the surveillance
system is not properly enforced, we are not sure whether we may have
missed some cases who have not been in contact with health
facilities," said Olympia de la Rosa, a health adviser in MSF's
The DRC has experienced several fatal Ebola
outbreaks in the past. In 1976, at least 280 people died from the
Ebola-Zaire strain, which killed another 250 people in 1995 and 187
in 2007, according to the CDC. [
pc/kr/rz [END] This report online:
More help needed to control livestock disease outbreak
22 August 2012 (IRIN) - The Ministry of Agriculture in the Democratic
Republic of Congo has called for more support to control an epidemic
of peste des petits ruminants (PPR), a contagious viral disease that
has already killed [
] tens of thousands of goats and sheep.
Prosper Kabambi, head
of the animal health department at the ministry, told IRIN that there
needs to be more control of animal movements; he said goats and sheep
were still transiting through Kikwit, the capital of Bandundu
Province, where the outbreak is centred, without being checked for
"The mayor of Kikwit ordered a ban on
uncontrolled entry and exit, but it's hard to say this is strictly
applied," he said. "People give a bit of money to the
police and their animals are allowed to pass."
a regional hub; it is on the main road from the capital, Kinshasa, to
the northern province of Equateur and the western Kasai provinces.
In June, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) said [ http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/150317/icode/
] this PPR outbreak was "the worst livestock epidemic in the
country in more than 10 years", and warned that, left unchecked,
it could cross over into southern African countries that have never
Kabambi said that a plan for mass vaccination
of goats is now being urgently revised. FAO has agreed to fund free
vaccinations for a half a million goats at a cost of US$500,000. The
mass vaccination was to have started on 11 August but has been
postponed while more up-to-date information is collected on the
extent of the outbreak.
"The initial idea was to
vaccinate goats in a sanitary cordon around the contaminated area,
but the disease has now spread to so many places that we are planning
to target certain areas instead of a cordon."
epidemic was declared in May, but the virulence of the outbreak was
already evident in 2011. "People have been talking about the
disease since December, but for months the government did nothing,"
said Didier Mboma, a journalist based in Kikwit.
figures suggest that 24,000 goats had died of the disease in the
territory of Masi-Manimba - one of nine territories in Bandundu
Province - in the six months leading up to February. Since then, the
death toll among goats has been revised upwards to more than 100,000.
Sheep, which are not numerous in Bandundu, have also been dying.
The government has said that a million goats are at risk, but
that figure could be an underestimate. "We thought there were
only 560,000 goats in Masi-Manimba, but our latest information
suggests there were more than a million," said Kabambi. "Farmers
tend to underreport their animals to avoid tax."
past month, some Congolese sources, including Roger Penekoko, a
provincial official, and Leopold Mulumba, head of the veterinary
laboratory in Kinshasa, have said the disease is stabilizing in
Masi-Manimba. Kabambi said this meant the disease had peaked in the
territory, but it would continue to kill goats, particularly
newborns, which have no immunity.
Masi-Manimba is one of 191
territories in the DRC; Xavier Farhey, a spokesman for FAO, said a
number of other territories had higher goat populations than
FAO's representative in DRC, Ndiaga Gueye, has
said the $500,000 for a vaccination campaign is just an initial
response to the outbreak and much more funding will be needed to
control the disease.
Vaccinations will cost about $0.50 for
the vaccine plus the cost of the cold chain - the refrigeration
system required to keep vaccines potent - transport and personnel.
Persuading owners to group their flocks together for vaccination will
be key to reducing the cost of the campaign.
In July, the
Kinshasa veterinary laboratory began producing viral vaccines for the
first time in more than two decades, and will be able to produce them
at lower cost than imported vaccines, Mulumba said.
said the laboratory had not been given the reagent to produce a
vaccine against PPR, so for the time being it will concentrate on
producing vaccines against Newcastle disease, which affects poultry,
is not transmissible to humans, but its economic consequences could
"In this country, we say goats are the poor
man's cows," said Lemba Mabela, head of animal husbandry at the
Ministry of Agriculture. "Every financial problem the poor have
is settled with goats."
A recent emergency mission by
the Crisis Management Centre - Animal Health, jointly operated by FAO
and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), reported that
current PPR outbreaks are particularly lethal, with an 86 percent
mortality rate in goats.
The government and FAO have
discussed the possibility of slaughtering goats as a control measure.
Asked if the government was going to organize a slaughter, the
agriculture minister Jean Chrysostome Vahamwiti told IRIN, "We
haven't decided explicitly because that would require compensating
the owners, and parliament has just reduced the government's budget."
Kabambi said a slaughter might still be the best option: "A
recent outbreak in Morocco was quelled after the army surrounded the
contaminated area and all the goats inside it were killed. But the
contaminated area was probably smaller than what we have here."
Animals that have died of the disease are still safe for
human consumption, according to Kabambi and Mulumba. Kabambi said
that if there were more cold storage facilities in Bandundu, or if
trucks with freezer units could be made available, so that the meat
could be preserved, the cost of compensating farmers for a slaughter
would be lower. Goat meat can also be smoked or cured using
traditional methods, but this sharply reduces its value.
was first confirmed in DRC in 2008, though it had long been
suspected. Outbreaks have also occurred in Kenya, Morocco, Tanzania
and Uganda in the past five years.
nl/kr/rz [END] This report
Violence hampers aid work in Ituri
21 August 2012 (IRIN) - Inter-ethnic tensions have again turned
violent in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri region,
compromising the delivery of humanitarian aid to more than 100,000
people, according to officials there.
Some 13 civilians have
been killed in recent weeks, according to civil society sources.
estimated 60,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Ituri
between 1998 and 2003 as ethnically aligned armed groups vied for
control of power and resources, notably gold deposits. [
According to a 27 July memo by a coalition of civil society
organizations, the decomposed bodies of five members of the Hema
community were found in Kapuru, a settlement on the shore of Lake
Albert in an area under the control of the Front de la resistance
patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) armed group, about 100km south of Bunia,
Ituri's main city.
"The rebels captured six of them as
they were heading to Uganda to visit a sick relative, demanding
money," recounted the brother of one of the victims.
rebels said, 'You have refused to join our group, we're going to kill
you,' and they opened fire. One of them escaped after the rebels cut
off his hand with a machete," he added.
for the Hema-sud community, Aliegera Kwonke, said, "We in the
Hema community feel targeted. The FRPI don't allow us to go about our
business, our roads are blocked, our crops looted. Our people are
massacred under the noses of the army. We don't feel safe."
few days after the bodies were found, a member of the Ngity community
disappeared in the same area, prompting demonstrations in the
lakeside villages of Nyamavi and Soni by Ngity youths brandishing
machetes and other weapons.
On 2 August, the population of
Ndimo, 160km southwest of Bunia, barricaded the road leading to North
Kivu Province and displayed the corpses of five people killed by
"We call on our Ituri brothers
to consider the lives of others, not to swallow the bait of the
enemies of peace," said Ignace Bingi, the chairman of the Ituri
Community of Religious Faiths.
According to the UN Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 11 humanitarian
projects in southern Ituri dealing with shelter, water, sanitation,
civilian protection and food security had been
"Humanitarians are afraid to use the roads
because every day something happens. Even medical supplies have to be
hidden for fear of looting or being taken by one armed group or
another," said Francesca Fraccaroli, the head of OCHA's office
in Orientale province.
In July, two of Ituri's territories -
Mambasa and Irumu - were found to be in a state of "acute food
security and livelihood crisis" after data about household food
consumption, livelihoods, nutrition and mortality had been
April, the UN stabilization mission in DRC, MONUSCO, had offered to
help the national army (FARDC) neutralize the FRPI, but the
government came out in favour of talks with the group, said Bill
Tchagbele , MONUSCO spokesman in Ituri.
Informal talks took
place in May, but an agreement reached the following month for the
group's fighters to be confined to their bases broke down on 9 July
following clashes between government forces and the FRPI in Koga,
about 100km south of Bunia on the shores of Lake Albert.
as if people have been taken hostage. The situation has become more
complicated because of the war in eastern DRC [
]. FARDC elements here deployed to the Kivus and the rebels moved in
to fill the gap," said Tchagbele.
MONUSCO, which has
4,000 troops in northeast DRC, recently set up temporary bases in
locations to the South of Bunia-Kasenyi, Kabona and Kagaba - where
rebels and militia groups operate.
"We can't put a
soldier behind every civilian to protect them," conceded
According to FARDC operational chief of staff
General Dieudonné Amuli, FRPI leader Cobra Matata has again agreed
to group his fighters in three sites. These have been identified as
Gety, Kagaba and Aveba - 50, 75 and 90km south of Bunia respectively.
But as of August 20, no actual disarmament had begun.
groups have generally blamed the army for the failure of previous
"How can we trust negotiations and dialogue
when the FRPI and COGAI [Coalition of Ituri Armed Groups*] are
subject to provocation, attack and false accusations?" said
COGAI spokesman Jean Eneko when IRIN contacted him by phone.
denied any involvement in the recent killings.
manipulation by people in Bunia under the orders from Kinshasa, which
sets back negotiations and leads us to make threats, such as the one
to march on Bunia," he added.
commissioner Freddy Bosomba said, "There will be no war. We have
buried too many people. Do we need to keep killing? No, we will stand
up to them."
"There are certain people here in Ituri
who have relations with the M23 rebels. There are infiltrators, they
want to start a war. But the people must denounce them," Bosomba
said, addressing an emergency meeting of Ituri community leaders on 8
In July, FARDC arrested a FARDC colonel on suspicion
of recruiting for M23 in Bunia.
The man who led the mutiny
that evolved into M23, Bosco Ntaganda, used to be the deputy head of
an Ituri rebel group opposed to the FRPI, the Union of Congolese
In July 2012, UPC leader Thomas Lubanga was
convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to 14 years
imprisonment for recruiting children. Ntaganda faces similar charges
before the court but remains at large.
FRPI founding leader,
Germain Katanga, is currently on trial at the ICC.
this year FRPI's Matata forged an alliance with three other armed
groups in Ituri: the Front populaire pour le développement durable
de l'Ituri (led by d'Eneko Kila), the Force armée pour la révolution
("Kabuli") and the Forces armées d'Intégration de l'Ituri
(Charité Semire). Collectively, these groups want a government
amnesty and for Ituri to be elevated from a district to a
full-fledged province of DRC.
rp/am/rz [END] This report
Children, young men flee M23 recruitment
16 August 2012 (IRIN) - Thousands of children and young men are
fleeing rebel-held areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo's
eastern North Kivu Province to escape forced recruitment by the
insurgents, NGOs say.
"One day, five rebels of M23
stormed our town [Rugari, north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu].
They went to the chief asking him to show them all houses where they
can find young men. The chief resisted, they tied him up and went on
searching into houses until they arrested 36 children and [took] them
away to train as fighters," said Barthelemy Schilogolo, head of
local the NGO, Paix et Justice pour la Reconciliation, told IRIN.
M23 - a group of former DRC national army (FARDC) soldiers
who mutinied [
] in April - is fighting government troops in North and South Kivu;
the conflict has caused the displacement of close to half a million
people [ http://www.unhcr.org/501286b69.html
]. A number of other local militias - known as Mai Mai - are involved
in the conflict and have also been accused of human rights abuses.
According to Schilogolo, M23 fighters are under pressure to
increase recruitment. "Every two days, commanders of M23 come
from Bunagana [an M23-held town on the DRC-Uganda border] to Rugari
for regular patrols to control how their fighters are keeping
positions. I've witnessed areas where a front commander is forcefully
picked up when he failed to show how many recruits he recruited,"
The NGO World Vision recently highlighted the issue
], reporting that nearly 200 children had been forced to join the
fighting. The group says the majority of refugees - an estimated
57,000, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs - fleeing into neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda
are children, with some reporting that they were fleeing recruitment
into armed groups.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights has also documented [
] over 100 civilians forcibly recruited by M23 over the past four
months, most of whom were young men aged 24 and under.
Sebisimbo was forcefully recruited alongside 15 other youths -
including children as young as 12 - by M23 in July in his home area
of Rutshuru, the main town in the area controlled by M23.
took us to Bunanga, gave us arms and military uniforms without any
training apart from a few exercises to show us how to shoot a gun,"
he told IRIN.
A week into his capture, he fled during a
fierce, day-long battle between M23 and FARDC forces; now back at
home, he says the conflict continues to make his life difficult. "We
are existing but feeling like we are not, because if the rebels
recruit you by force and send you to the front line you may die. If
not, it is not easy to endure the heavy gunshots that traumatize you.
It is like you are dead," he said.
According to a
] by the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), at least 26
children are documented as having been forcibly recruited by M23
since April 2012, although reports indicate that the actual number is
significantly higher; overall, the mission reports that more than 150
children have been recruited by armed groups in eastern DRC since the
beginning of 2012. Individuals interviewed described how they were
forced to carry looted goods, supplies and ammunition over long
distances. Upon arrival at their destinations, they were handed
uniforms and weapons and underwent military training in camps.
added that there were also reports of the execution of civilians who
"Whilst forced recruitment by
various armed groups has long characterized conflict in the DRC,
numbers have increased substantially since the upsurge of recent
hostilities in the east, and in particular the actions of the M23 in
Rutshuru territory, North-Kivu Province," Special Representative
of the Secretary-General and Head of MONUSCO Roger Meece said in the
statement. "Using children and youth in armed conflict will
create generations trained in violence, tearing apart the fabric of
pc/kr/rz [END] This report online:
AFRICA/Democratic Rep. of Congo:
"It's been a long journey and a painful one"
1 August 2012 (IRIN) - Marie*, her husband and their three children,
refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are about to
relocate from South Africa, where they have lived for the past
decade, to Australia where they have been accepted into that
country's refugee resettlement programme.
Globally, there are
only about 80,000 resettlement places available each year in 26
countries, meaning that the vast majority of refugees will either
remain in camps for long periods, eventually integrate into their
host countries or return home.
Marie talked to IRIN about why
she and her family have been unable to either return home to DRC or
settle in South Africa.
"I grew up with my auntie who
married a Rwandese. He was like my father and their kids were my
sisters, but they looked Rwandese and it was a time in Congo when
there was trouble between Rwandese and Congolese.
uncle ran away and my husband and I were taking care of those kids so
we were also attacked. We saw people being killed with burning tyres
around their necks just because they were Rwandese. This was in
Kinshasa but it was happening everywhere.
scattered, but my direction was to save those kids, to get them to
family members in Goma. There are many Rwandese in Goma so I thought
it would be safer for them, but [the Rwandese there] were informed
about their brothers being killed in Kinshasa so they wanted revenge
on everyone who came from there. They attacked me in every way you
can think about. They put us in prison; their plan was to kill us
"I managed to escape when the volcano (Mount
Nyiragongo) was erupting. I went to Tanzania and then Zambia where I
gave birth to my daughter. Then I arrived in South Africa in
"I didn't know where my husband was, there was no
way for us to communicate. Then we met at [the Department of] Home
Affairs in Johannesburg. We were both going for extension to our
asylum permits. So we reunited.
"But then one day I
discovered my son was bleeding from the mouth. I took him to the
hospital and they said they couldn't help. They knew he had
haemophilia, but they chased us away and threatened to call the
"We stayed nine months without treatment [for
him]. We weren't working and we didn't speak English at that time,
but I kept taking him back to the hospital. Then JRS [Jesuit Refugee
Services] started advocating for us.
hospital agreed [to treat my son], but when we were there, the nurses
still let us know we were foreigners and then when my third baby was
born with the same problem, they again said they didn't have
"By 2007, JRS had been helping us all along,
we were burdening them. They forwarded our case to UNHCR. The first
time I came there, I talked to a social worker for five hours and she
said she'd try to resettle us.
"The first country that
came up was the US. They came here to interview us and everything
went smoothly but when they discovered the children had haemophilia,
we could see their attitude change. After waiting for nearly two
years, we were rejected.
"After the US, it was Canada,
but after they heard about the kids, they started looking for
mistakes in our story, and then they rejected us. That was another
one and a half years. I'm a university graduate but I thought I was
doing something wrong in the interviews.
forwarded our case to Australia. It was a year plus some months ago
that we had the interview. They looked into the medical issue and
said the treatment was expensive, but they talked to UNHCR to try to
find a solution. Then we got a call a couple of weeks ago that we're
leaving on 30 July. We're going to Brisbane, we just heard today. We
don't have any information about it.
"We don't have
anything here in South Africa, so there's nothing to prepare. We're
not accepted here, nothing was working for us. Sometimes there's an
emergency with the boys. Everywhere you go, you're watching your
phone in case the teacher calls and I have to get to the school.
Every time they're bleeding, they have to give them medication
intravenously that costs R2,300 [US$280] and sometimes they don't
have the medication at all.
"I'm so excited to be leaving
this country, but it's been a long journey and a painful one."
her real name
ks/cb [END] This report online:
Concerns over cholera mount amid clashes
25 July 2012 (IRIN) - Conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), where M23 rebels [
] and other armed groups are fighting government forces, is
dangerously undermining efforts to combat a cholera outbreak.
has been "a sharp increase in the number of cholera cases in the
armed conflict area of North Kivu" Province, the World Health
Organization (WHO) said in a statement. [
Between 11 June and 1 July some 368 new cases were reported
in the province, WHO said, naming the most affected areas as
Birambizo, Goma, Karisimbi, Kiroshe, Mutwanga, Mweso and
According to the International Medical Corps (IMC),
] there have been some 15,000 new cases of cholera in eastern DRC
over recent months.
"There is concern that the security
situation may increase difficulty in accessing the healthcare
facilities and could increase the number of severe and fatal cases.
The current armed conflict in North Kivu also poses a risk of
international spread of the disease to neighbouring countries such as
Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda," WHO warned, adding
that cholera is endemic to North Kivu and five other provinces in
"Insufficient access to safe water supply
remains the main cause of the epidemic," the statement
World Vision, some of whose staff were among 60 aid
workers who evacuated the North Kivu town of Walikale after clashes
there between government forces and the Raia Mutomboki armed group, [
] said fighting in the town "forced the suspension of efforts to
combat a deadly cholera outbreak".
As a result of the
evacuation, which World Vision said could last several weeks,
"projects to counter cholera have been temporarily halted,
including the rehabilitation of water points, hygiene training, water
purification, and latrine construction."
of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) who asked not to be named said of
the fighting, which began on 17 July: "People were trying to run
to the bush/forest during the fighting itself but some were caught up
in it. It was three days of on-and-off, open fighting in the
A few days later Walikale was said to be calm
but very tense. "People don't know what will happen,", said
the MSF source.
The evacuation meant MSF had to suspend its
activities in Walikale, where the medical charity was treating more
than 1,000 people per week for malaria in a programme that started
only the previous month.
Many of those benefiting from the
programme had sought refuge in the dense forest around the town
having fled previous bouts of fighting, MSF said. [
"Any further displacement caused by this violence will
only exacerbate their vulnerability to this deadly disease,"
said Andrew Mews, MSF's head of mission in Goma, the provincial
IMC's departure from Walikale has led to the
suspension there of its primary health care services, clinical
management of the rape cases that are a frequent characteristic of
the conflict in eastern DRC, as well as interventions designed to
prevent malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses.
local source told IRIN that the fighting is now happening in so many
different places in North Kivu that people are struggling to find
safe refuge - they feel relentlessly pursued by the sense that
fighting might be about to start.
A resident of Rutshuru, a
town that was briefly held by M23 rebels when they took it without
force earlier in the month, said the sense of confusion is being
compounded by the fact that it is increasingly hard to distinguish
FARDC from M23 because they are in the same uniform.
groups such as children and the elderly are of growing concern to
humanitarians unable to gain access to them. Many are becoming
separated from families, which adds to their vulnerability.
International, an NGO working to raise awareness of their
invisibility in emergencies, is one of the organizations forced to
cease operations in Walikale. A representative of the charity said
they had noticed an increase in violence against old people as
thieves see them as easy targets. HelpAge has recorded incidents
including the theft of food rations and the beating of one elderly
The latest situation report from the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) [
] describes a deteriorating security situation that has led to more
than 220,000 displaced within North Kivu, and 54,000 others having
crossed into Rwanda and Uganda to escape the violence.
report also cites numerous protection incidents including sexual
violence, child soldier recruitment, and community violence.
This report online:
Livestock disease hits small farmers in west
19 July 2012 (IRIN) - Thousands of goat farmers in parts of Bandundu
Province in western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are counting
their losses after an outbreak of the deadly livestock disease peste
des petits ruminants (PPR).
"[Livestock] farmers have
become miserable with many unable to sustain their livelihoods after
the death of their goats and sheep," Romain Badalalabuna,
chairman of the livestock farmers' association in the worst-hit area,
Masimanimba Territory, told IRIN.
Badalalabuna, who is also
the chief veterinarian there, had a flock of 38 goats, but 30 have
PPR symptoms include lassitude, fever, discharges from
the eyes and nose, sores in the mouth, laboured breathing and
The disease was first reported in 2012 in the
Bandundu district of Kwango before spreading to Masimanimba where it
has killed an estimated 24,000 sheep and goats, according to Anne
Mbusu, Masimanimba Territory's administrator. It has also spread to
neighbouring Bas-Congo, Equateur and Kasai provinces.
current outbreak is particularly lethal, with an 86 percent mortality
rate in goats, according to a statement [
] by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which said DRC
is believed to have been infected since 2008 when the provinces of
Bas-Congo and Kinshasa reported PPR outbreaks.
home to 560,000 goats and sheep before the current outbreak.
local authorities have been trying to raise awareness of the disease.
"We went to radio stations to sensitize farmers that it was in
their interest to slaughter animals that have caught the disease to
protect those farmers that haven't been affected yet," said
PPR is not spread from livestock to humans.
over 80,000 goats and 40 sheep have died in Bandundu, according to
Roger Penekoko, a provincial official in charge of agriculture,
livestock and fisheries.
The deaths have affected household
incomes and could affect nutrition too.
"My goats were
like a bank account for me. I could sell a goat to pay school fees,
or hospital fees whenever a member of my family fell sick,"
Dephin Mferre, a goat farmer, told IRIN.
Of Mferre's initial
flock of 21 goats, 20 have died since April, meaning that he is now
unable to prepare his five children for the next school year.
and goats are generally kept by poor farmers - those least able to
absorb the loss of one of their few assets, says FAO.
Government compensation for affected farmers has
been ruled out. "Bandundu Province has a small budget of
US$250,000. We don't have a budget for emergencies like this
disease," said Penekoko, noting that the disease had stabilized
in Masimanimba and other parts of Bandundu Province but that the
vaccination of healthy animals was yet to start.
PPR, which is
caused by a virus, is vaccine preventable.
FAO said the
outbreak was a threat to DRC food security and could spread to
southern African countries which have never had it. The government
estimates that one million goats and 600,000 sheep are at risk of
contracting PPR - a quarter of goats and two-thirds of sheep in the
In response to the current outbreak, farmers have
been moving their animals away from infected villages to where, so
far, there have been no outbreaks, said FAO representative in the DRC
According to FAO, PPR, like rinderpest, can be
eradicated "should there be the political will".
vaccines exist to protect small ruminants from PPR, and these can be
a key weapon in combating it," said Juan Lubroth, FAO's chief
FAO will provide funds for vaccinating at
least 500,000 sheep and goats in areas that are not yet affected as
well as other control measures such as limiting animal movements,
awareness-raising and increasing surveillance. pc/aw/cb[END]
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95906
Top officials warn against witch-hunts, hate speech
13 July 2012 (IRIN) - Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) have assured leaders of the Tutsi community they are working to
protect Tutsis across the country amid rising resentment sparked by a
mutiny led mainly by Tutsi soldiers in the east.
Security and Internal Affairs Charles Muyej said he had given
instructions to this effect to governors across the vast country.
"I think we have to realize that we are one people with
many components. This diversity is an asset for our country. We
insist that this is not the time to discriminate because of what is
happening in the east. We must remain united," he said.
minister was speaking on 12 July after receiving a delegation of
Tutsi leaders led by Azarias Ruberwa, a former vice-president and
also, until a 2003 peace deal ended years of conflict, the leader of
a rebellion based in the east.
community's message is one of peace," Ruberwa told reporters
after the meeting. "No one should be harassed or threatened
because of their physical appearance. We want our fellow countrymen
to understand that members of the Tutsi community want to see the
fighting in North Kivu
end as soon as possible," he said.
On 11 July some
senior members of the ruling Parti populaire pour la reconstruction
du Congo (PPRD) threatened to hunt down Tutsis and "send them
back to Rwanda".
The following day, Information Minister
Lambert Mende suspended the head of the national broadcasting company
(RTNC) for not halting the live broadcast of the political rally
where these threats were made.
"That the message
was broadcast on state TV without being interrupted makes the station
responsible for creating potential insecurity for certain ethnic
groups.. We have learnt that certain malicious elements, manipulated
by those behind the attacks in our country, who are in Rwanda, wanted
to give the impression [that Tutsis are being targeted.]
dubious messages risk giving the impression that the government is
behind such actions, which is not the case. This is why the
government took firm action against the RTNC director," said
DRC has accused Rwanda, where Tutsis are seen to dominate the
government, of backing the M23 rebel group
many Tutsis have lived in DRC all their lives and consider themselves
André Kimbuta Yango the governor of
Kinshasa and Kinshasa chairman of the PPRD, also issued a message of
"Kinshasa residents, I don't want to hear
that you are hunting down our brothers from the Tutsi community
living in the capital. Soldiers from their community within our army
are also dying like any other soldiers from other communities,"
The officials' remarks follow incidents in the North
Kivu capital, Goma, which lies on the Rwandan border and where street
children and motorcycle taxi drivers recently went on the rampage,
attacking those perceived to be Rwandans or Tutsis.
would catch anyone who looks like a Rwandan and beat him and take
them to the Rwandan border," said a witness to such events,
Junior Kambale. UN envoy to DRC Roger Meece also spoke out against
such hostile actions.
"People who take up arms for their
so-called claims [of Tutsi persecution] have already committed
serious crimes, which is contributing to extend the cycle of
violence," he said.
"Civilians are the ones
suffering and keep paying the price of the situation. It is very
important to reach an understanding, to get together for regular
talks in order to reduce tension, as more tension between communities
will worsen the problem," he told reporters. pc/am/cb[END]
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95864
Crisis in North Kivu
10 July 2012 (IRIN) - Some 220,000 people have been freshly displaced
in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since a group of former
rebels integrated into the national army (FARDC) mutinied and began
capturing towns and territory in North Kivu Province, often in the
face of minimal resistance.
With the total number of
internally displaced persons (IDPs) in eastern DRC topping two
million for the first time since 2009 and amid fears that the rebels
are closing in on the regional capital, Goma, humanitarian needs are
growing dramatically, especially for shelter, water and sanitation,
health, food and non-food items.
There are significant
regional dimensions: around 20,000 people, including 600 FARDC
soldiers, have sought refuge in Rwanda and Uganda - where officials
said they were overwhelmed by the influx [
]- while Kigali stands accused of backing the mutineers, a charge it
behind the current fighting?
many decades, the interwoven issues of citizenship (who is a real
Congolese?) land rights and ethnicity, coupled with the absence of
effective state authority and the presence of rich mineral deposits,
have driven instability and armed conflict in the eastern DRC, whose
Tutsi inhabitants have been particularly caught up in the tension
between "indigenous" and "settler" populations.
Much of the fighting during the 1996-1997 and 1998-2003 Congo wars
took place in the east.
After Tutsi rebels (RPF) overthrew the
Hutu government in Rwanda during the 1994 state-sponsored genocide,
hundreds of thousands of Hutus, including many who carried out the
killings in Rwanda, crossed the border into eastern DRC. Some of
these militia formed the core of the Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group which exists to this day, and
which twice led Kigali to send troops into DRC to back Congolese
Tutsi armed groups.
The roots of the Tutsi-led M23, [
] the name used by today's mutineers, are intertwined with this back
story. Its leader, Bosco Ntaganda, fought with the RPF during the
1994 fall of Kigali, and served as deputy leader, then leader of the
National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a group
established in 2006 with the professed intent of protecting North
Kivu's Tutsis from the FDLR. (Like the CNDP boss he ousted, Laurent
Nkunda, Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court, ICC,
on war crimes charges. Kinshasa has declined to act on the ICC's
arrest warrant, saying Ntaganda was key to restoring stability in
In April 2012, Ntaganda and some of his followers
defected from the ranks of the FARDC, accusing the government of
failing to live up to the terms of a deal [
] that led to the CNDP's transformation into a political party and
the integration of its forces into the army and police. This deal was
struck on 23 March 2009, hence the name M23. The group cited
administrative reforms and the return of Tutsi refugees from Rwanda
as the unfulfilled terms of the 2009 accord.
progress has M23 made since April?
May, the defectors announced that they were operating under the new
leadership of Col Sultani Makenga. M23 took advantage of a ceasefire
by the FARDC to move from the former CNDP stronghold of Masisi
District east to Runyoni, a strategic peak in the Virunga national
park, where the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC meet. The rebels
made initial gains in May before being pushed back by FARDC, but as
allegations emerged that Rwanda may be supporting the rebels in June,
they displayed a new show of strength.
On 6 July, M23 took
control of Bunagana, the strategic mining town in Rutshuru District
on the Ugandan border. They then advanced to take four more towns in
the district, according to rebel leader Col Makenga. "We will
withdraw and leave them to MONUSCO [UN Stabilization Mission in DRC]
and national police," he told AFP. Notably, the rebels said they
would not hand the towns back to FARDC. "We are not there to
take the towns but to get our voices heard," he added.
has overall security in North Kivu been affected?
FARDC committed resources to fighting M23, the security situation in
other parts of the Kivu provinces degenerated rapidly. Elements of
the various militia collectively known as Mai Mai increased their
military activities, including, in North Kivu's Masisi territory, Mai
Mai Kifuafua, which has formed an alliance with Raia Mutomboki,
another Mai Mai group. Police blamed this coalition for the massacre
of more than 200 people in a dozen attacks over a few days in
] Witnesses said the attackers announced they wanted to kill anyone
who spoke Kinyarwanda, the language spoken in Rwanda.
north, the head of another Mai Mai group with alleged ties to M23,
Gen Kakule Sikula Lafontaine, led an assault on an army base in North
Kivu's Lubero Territory in early June.
In Walikale territory
to the west, as FARDC soldiers were redeployed elsewhere, FDLR moved
in. Some towns have seen peaceful transfers of power from FARDC to
other armed groups. In Pinga, for example, FARDC was replaced by the
Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), a Mai
Mai group based in Masisi that purports to protect the Hunde ethnic
group against the threat purportedly posed by Kinyarwanda speakers.
FARDC's eventual return to such settlements is likely to provoke
is Rwanda's role in M23?
at all, according to the government in Kigali. However, at the
beginning of June, Human Rights Watch released a report [
] alleging that Rwanda had recruited, trained and armed members of
M23. Later that month, an addendum to a report by the UN Group of
Experts on the DRC [
] went further, saying Rwanda had assisted directly in the creation
of the movement by transporting soldiers and equipment through
Rwanda. It also stated that the Rwandan national army made incursions
into DRC to reinforce M23, and violated arms embargos and travel
restrictions by supporting UN-sanctioned individuals, including
Ntaganda. The addendum said M23 fighters included demobilized and
repatriated FDLR members as well as Congolese refugees living in
The document named Rwandan Defence Minister James
Kaberebe as having been "in constant contact with M23". It
levelled similar charges against Chief of Defence Staff Lt Charles
Kayonga, and Kagame's military adviser, Gen Jacques Nziza.
document also presented evidence of Rwanda's alleged support of at
least six other groups in the region. It said Rwanda had widened its
activities in eastern DRC from supporting armed groups in a bid to
assassinate FDLR leaders, to backing various army mutinies, in South
as well as North Kivu, in the wake of elections held in
Rwandan President Kagame called the allegations
"fictitious", while Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo
said in a statement that Rwanda intends to provide evidence that the
Group of Experts' claims are false, and that DRC should take
responsibility for failing to contain the mutiny. "It is
demonstrably against Rwanda's interests to do anything that would
risk destabilizing the region. We have worked vigorously with our
Congolese counterparts to try and head off the rebellion," she
is the humanitarian impact of the rebellion?
offers a good example of "conflict fatigue". Humanitarian
agencies, most based in Goma, are being stretched to their limits. [
The UN estimates that 220,000 people have been displaced in eastern
DRC since December because of clashes and massacres of civilians. The
UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is currently supporting 90,000 IDPs in 31
camps. In early July, UN peacekeepers abandoned their position at
Bunagana, on the Ugandan border, following a new wave of fighting,
which saw one Indian peacekeeper killed as the rebels took control of
Civilian protection and humanitarian access are
problematic because of conflict in both North and South Kivu,
according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA). [
] Aid agencies lack the capacity to meet the basic needs of IDPs.
On the frontlines in the fighting between M23 and FARDC,
civilians are stranded; others are perpetually on the move. The
government is reluctant to endorse new IDP camps, the number of which
has reduced by over a third since 2009. Many of the displaced are
living in poor conditions in makeshift camps using existing public
infrastructure. In Masisi Territory Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
reported a sharp rise in trauma wounds caused by machetes, spears and
bullets, and said such cases accounted for 25 percent of all surgical
admissions in Masisi hospital in the month of May, up from just 2
percent in April.
Meanwhile, across the country a cholera
outbreak [ http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95384
] has so far affected eight of the DRC's 11 provinces. Rwanguba
general hospital near Rutshuru in North Kivu, has admitted more than
530 cases since the end of May.
key members of the international community, including the United
States have begun to formally express their concerns in writing to
Despite claims that M23 is advancing on the North Kivu
provincial capital Goma, the rebel army is still said to be 40km
north of the city and recent statements suggest that having
demonstrated their strength, they want to negotiate with the
government rather than proceed with the military campaign. Witnesses
say the news of rebel gains has panicked residents and thrown the
city into turmoil. Congolese motorbike taxi drivers, described as
"anti-Tutsi mobs" according to sources based in Goma, took
to the streets alongside groups of youth on 9 July to protest against
Rwandan students have reportedly evacuated
Goma, fearing reprisals for their national links to the rebel
In a statement, MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in
DRC, expressed concern about the rebel advances, and also reported
unconfirmed allegations human rights violations in M23-controlled
areas, and an attack on the prison at Rutshuru, which led to the
release of detainees.
MONUSCO is also deploying attack
helicopters. "In close coordination with the FARDC, [MONUSCO's]
armed helicopters have been used for civilian protection purposes,
with the aim of impeding the M23 advance. In addition, the Mission is
redeploying its assets to ensure it is present in key forward bases
in the area," said a UN press release. jh/am/cb[END]
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95836
North Kivu displaced need more help
25 June 2012 (IRIN) - Humanitarians are struggling to meet the basic
needs of over 200,000 people recently displaced by clashes in North
Kivu Province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Access has
been limited by the mountainous and volcanic terrain coupled with
widespread, shifting insecurity.
Humanitarian agencies on the
ground report urgent requirements in health care, food, water and
sanitation, nutrition, shelter and non-food items. Most of the
internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living in host families,
while some have moved into schools, health centres and churches. In
both cases, they are draining the already limited resources of their
While many Congolese are willing to take in IDPs, towns
such as Rwanguba in North Kivu (on the road to Bunagana on the
Ugandan border) are full to capacity. The displaced line the road by
day, smoke rising from piles of volcanic rock, with clothes laid out
to dry as they try to go about their household chores while
perpetually on the move. By night, they find whatever shelter they
"All humanitarian partners in North Kivu are fully
deploying their resources but the capacity is not sufficient at the
moment to cover all the needs identified. That's why we called for
more funding in order to be able to complete the actual response and
sustain it as long as the crisis lasts," said Yvon Edoumou,
spokesman for the UN Office for the Cooperation of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) in Goma.
According to OCHA, just 35 percent of
a US$718 million appeal for humanitarian assistance to DRC has been
Defections from the national army (FARDC) in mid-April
left security vacuums across the region that were filled by militia
groups. The situation further deteriorated when FARDC redeployed
troops in the region to help quell the rebellion. Fighting in the
North Kivu town of Masisi, the stronghold of indicted war criminal
Gen Bosco Ntaganda and the now militarily defunct rebel-group CNDP,
displaced a major wave of people in mid-April. [
A second wave took place in May, when fighting spread to
Rutshuru District where M23 rebels [
] have established their base; local militia are also accused of
killing scores of Kinyarwanda-speaking (the official language of
Rwanda) civilians [
] in the region, and there have been retaliatory attacks by the
pro-Hutu militia group, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of
Insecurity in North Kivu has taken the number
of internally displaced to 218,000 over the past two months,
according to humanitarian agencies. [
suffering among the most vulnerable members of society is the prime
concern for NGOs. "But for that we need to be able to access
them. While most of the areas of displacement are reachable, some
still remain difficult to access due to insecurity and bad roads,"
said OCHA's Edoumou."We need to ensure that the displaced are in
safety and that assistance can be delivered without putting their
lives at risk or the lives of aid workers."
The needs of
IDPs and the challenges facing humanitarians in responding to them
are exacerbated by the unpredictable and widespread nature of the
"In Rutshuru, people have not moved very far
from their places of origin where fighting is ongoing and this places
them in greater vulnerability if the military front moves closer. In
Walikale, some IDPs are located in remote areas, some of them only
reachable by air, the road infrastructure being so bad. In Masisi
Territory, the Mweso area is partially under armed groups' control
and due to insecurity it's difficult to deliver aid without having it
looted afterwards," Edoumou added.
The UN special envoy
on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallström, has based her
concerns for the current deteriorating situation on a similar state
of affairs in 2010, when at least 387 women, men and children were
the targets of sexual violence [
] by the same rebels in the same area. "The situation is again
causing immense suffering for civilians who are experiencing
displacement, human rights violations, and loss of property,"
she said in a statement [
aged represent a particularly vulnerable and often neglected
demographic; on the frontline between government forces and M23
rebels south of Bunagana, an elderly couple who do not know their age
live with the daily exchange of heavy gunfire above their heads. They
say they have not seen anyone apart from the elderly bed-bound woman
they are caring for since fighting began and people fled two weeks
"ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross]
recognizes the unaccompanied under-fives, but there is no category
for old people," said Gaetan Duhamel, director of HelpAge
International in DRC. "WHO [UN World Health Organization]
doesn't carry medicines for older people in an emergency
According to a 2012 HelpAge study, less than
1 percent [
] of humanitarian aid targets older people and those with
disabilities. "[Older people] are the last category in an
emergency and a neglected area of intervention," Duhamel
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is currently helping
around 90,000 IDPs living in 31 camps (under joint UNHCR and
government management) in North Kivu. For those living in spontaneous
settlements, a committee called the Rapid Response to Movement of
Population led by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), has been put in
place to help them.
"We're facing difficulties as it's
quite impossible sometimes to have access to the people in the war
zone. We need a humanitarian corridor to assist and protect people,"
said Simplice Kpandji, spokesman for UNHCR in Goma.
This report online:
Understanding armed group M23
22 June 2012 (IRIN) - To the layman the emergence of the eastern
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) armed group M23 might be seen as
of little significance - just another band of gunmen controlling a
few square kilometres of turf in a country the size of western
"This [M23] is a new configuration and a serious
development. More than 200,000 people have been displaced since April
[because of M23]," Rupert Colville, a Geneva-based spokesperson
for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, told IRIN.
late March 2012 Gen Bosco Ntaganda, a senior officer in the DRC
national army (FARDC), led a mutiny of 300-600 soldiers following
discontent over unpaid wages and poor living conditions.
(known locally as the "terminator") was indicted by the
International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2006 for war crimes. On 3 May
2012 Col Sultani Makenga began an apparently separate revolt. Both
men were formerly part of Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the
Defence of the People (CNDP), a former DRC militia backed by
neighbouring Rwanda, before it was integrated into the FARDC as part
of the 23 March 2009 peace agreement.
Makenga has reportedly
denied that the two revolts were coordinated or connected. However,
analysts suggest the mutinies may have been sparked by indications
that DRC President Joseph Kabila was about to honour his obligations
to the ICC and arrest Ntaganda. The UN Security Council has condemned
Colville said M23, which takes its name from
the date of the 2009 peace agreement, has a senior command with
"substantial allegations" of atrocities against it. He said
that was why UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay took
"the unusual step of naming names. She is flagging the dangers
a UN radio podcast entitled UN human rights chief fears more rapes,
killings in Congo by M23, [
] Colville said M23 "is really a reassembling - at least at the
leadership level - of very well-known human rights abusers in the
Congo over the past decade. quite a collection of notorious killers."
The track record of M23 commanders included the use of child
soldiers (recently 20 child soldiers had been rescued by FARDC troops
from M23 senior commander Col Innocent Zimurinda's unit), and
Colville feared the worst human rights abuses by M23 were just
"around the corner".
A January 2012 report by the
UN Secretary-General on the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO)
said: "The majority of acts of sexual violence in eastern DRC
are committed by armed groups, notably FDLR [Democratic Forces for
the Liberation of Rwanda - established by perpetrators of the 1994
Rwandan genocide], as well as by elements integrated into FARDC,
including from CNDP and other former Congolese armed groups."
Thierry Vircoulon, International Crisis Group project
director for Central Africa, told IRIN: "Everyone is worried
about M23 because of its leaders and their involvement in killings in
the past - and that there is no access to these areas [controlled by
M23] at the moment."
Among those named by Pillay are:
Makenga, a former CNDP commander and linked to the 2008 Kiwandja
massacre of 67 civilians; Col Baudouin Ngaruye, believed to be
involved in the 2009 Shalio massacre of 139 civilians while a (FARDC)
commander and previously of the CNDP; Col Innocent Zimurinda -
alleged to have "command responsibility for the Kiwandja and
Shalio massacres"; and Col Innocent Kaina alleged to have been
involved in a string of human rights abuses in Ituri and Orientale
provinces in 2004 when a member - along with Ntaganda - of Thomas
Lubanga Dyilo's Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) / Forces
Patriotique pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC).
the first person convicted of a war crime by the ICC for
"conscripting and enlisting" child soldiers.
March 2009 peace accord ushered in a few years of relative stability
for North and South Kivu provinces and saw thousands of CNDP
combatants integrated into the FARDC. Most of M23's commanders were
members of CNDP, which was sponsored by neighbouring Rwanda to fight
a proxy war in the DRC against the FDLR.
refused to allow his soldiers to participate in MONUC's (predecessor
of MONUSCO) Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programme
and as a compromise permitted the integration of his troops into the
FARDC, with the proviso that there would be no retraining or
relocation outside the Kivu provinces. Nkunda is now in Rwanda.
chain of command
analyst who declined to be named said the integration of the CNDP
militia into FARDC resulted in a parallel chain of command and their
demand to remain in the Kivu provinces can be seen as fulfilling
their perceived role as "protectors of the Banyamulenge" -
Rwandan Tutsi migrants who arrived in the DRC around the 1880s and
are recognized as Congolese citizens.
with the CNDP's integration in 2009 is the way to read the crisis
now," Vircoulon said. "The [CNDP] military hierarchy was
never broken down - and we're going back to the situation of a few
years ago and the story is repeating itself."
pedigree of CNDP has seen Human Rights Watch claim in a 4 June 2012
report entitled Rwanda Should Stop Aiding War Crimes Suspect, [
] that the new armed group is cut from the same cloth as the CNDP and
that Rwanda was actively assisting M23 as it did CNDP. This has been
consistently denied by the Rwandan government of President Paul
A report by the UN Group of Experts for the DRC is
scheduled for imminent release, although a section dealing with
allegations of Rwandan involvement with M23 is likely to be delayed
after a veto by a Security Council member on its publication.
security sector reform
2012 report compiled by a host of international and Congolese NGOs
entitled Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform, [
] sees eastern DRC's cycles of violence as a consequence of "a
lack of political will" by the DRC government for security
sector reform (SSR) and "poor coordination" of SSR by the
country's international partners.
The report said that
between 2006 and 2010 official DRC development aid for conflict,
peace and security was US$530 million, or about 6 percent of total
aid, excluding debt relief. "Spending directly on security
system management and reform is even lower - $84.79 million over the
same period, just over 1 percent."
The DRC grapples with
a host of armed groups - from Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army
and community self-defence militias known as Mai-Mai to the Allied
Democratic Forces led by Ugandan Muslim rebel leader Jamil Mukulu -
and some analysts have referred to FARDC "as another armed
group" owing to their ill-discipline and documented human rights
A 2011 report by the Group for Research and
Information on Peace and Security (GRIP) entitled Small Arms in
Eastern Congo, A Survey on the Perception of Insecurity [
] found FARDC was the second greatest threat to insecurity, after
The report by local and international NGOs
(Taking a Stand on SSR) said the "dominant" view that
effective SSR was too dangerous to contemplate had to be weighed up
against maintaining the status quo, and that "the most
significant risk of renewed conflict comes from within the Congolese
security services itself, particularly the FARDC."
would no doubt bring short-term pain, but the long-term risk of
inaction is far greater. The human, political and financial cost of
the DRC again collapsing back into war is difficult to fathom,"
the report said.
go/cb [END] This report online:
Scores killed as Mai-Mai target Kinyarwanda speakers
12 June 2012 (IRIN) - More than 100 people have been killed and
thousands displaced in ethnically motivated massacres in northeastern
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since mid-May, according to
Bigembe Turikonkinko, the sector chief
of Katoyi in North Kivu's Masisi territory, has recorded the details
of 120 people, primarily women and children, who were killed in 12
village massacres carried out between 17 and 22 May in Katoyi and its
The police commissioner in Katoyi, Capt Lofimbo
Raheli, says the attacks were carried out by a coalition of two
Mai-Mai groups: the Raia Mutomboki, until this year only operational
in South Kivu, and the Mai-Mai Kifuafua. According to Raheli, this
Mai-Mai alliance is believed to be operating as a collective of
smaller groups targeting speakers of Kinyarwanda, the language of
Mai-Mai Kifuafua was founded by ethnic Tembos in the
early 1990s to fight Rwandan pro-Hutu militia group Democratic Forces
for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and claims to have supported the
Congolese army, FARDC, in operations against FDLR for years. Raia
Mutomboki, meaning "angry citizens", was loosely formed in
South Kivu less than five years ago but revived and took up arms
against the FDLR in 2011 when government forces left empty positions
in Shabunda, South Kivu.
Fighting between the Raia Mutomboki
and FDLR ensued, with at least 50 reported killed, according to DRC
analyst and blogger Jason Stearns. The attacks spread northwest and,
in alliance with Mai-Mai Kifuafua, Raia Mutomboki moved into Masisi
and Walikale - also in North Kivu Province - where they carried out
the first reported attacks in May this year. Since then some 1,500
families have fled to Katoyi, according to village officials, where
their newly constructed bamboo huts dot the steep green hillsides.
are concerned that these latest attacks suggest the Raia Mutomboki
has moved from targeting the families of FDLR fighters to directing
attacks against any Rwandaphone communities in eastern DRC.
Borama, 26, describes without emotion the attacks that killed his
mother, pregnant sister and two nephews, along with 20 other fellow
residents in Marembo village on 14 and 15 May. "Before the
attacks we heard rumours of the Raia Mutomboki. On the [first] day of
the attack, we saw it was people speaking Swahili wearing clothes
made from raffia, nearly naked," he said.
not say how many men there were, but other witnesses report groups of
10-40. Borama said they attacked with machetes, spears and axes, as
well as some Kalashnikovs; he said they shouted out their intention
to kill anyone who speaks Kinyarwanda.
The attackers killed
Borama's mother by stabbing her in the chest; they killed his sister
with a bullet in the back of her neck as she fled, and his nephews
with machetes, their intestines left spilling out. He spent a week
hiding in the forest, only returning when the sound of gunshots
stopped; he buried 10 corpses, already rotting, including those of
his mother, sister and nephews.
situation is the worst it's been for several years. Progress made is
being lost as previously stable areas are becoming increasingly
insecure," said Samuel Dixon, policy adviser for the NGO Oxfam.
FARDC has maintained a fragile stability in the region since
2009, but in April, a string of defections led by indicted
war-criminal Gen Bosco Ntaganda, left power vacuums that have been
filled by militia. The army is now overstretched in dealing with
these new threats as well as the mutiny playing out close to the
Thousands of Congolese refugees have been
streaming across the border to Rwanda and Uganda [
] as a result of fighting between FARDC and mutineers.
the village of Remeka in Masisi, FARDC has deployed a battalion in
response to pleas from locals to secure their safety. The thousands
of displaced persons in Remeka, many living with host-families, fled
retaliatory attacks by the FDLR that security experts say left
hundreds dead. MONUSCO has deployed a platoon of 36 Uruguayan
peacekeepers at a temporary base on a hilltop overlooking Katoyi,
from where they carry out daily patrols.
On the afternoon of
2 June, police commissioner Raheli arrived at the peacekeeper's base
with news of another massacre. He said Raia Mutomboki had attacked at
the village of Kahunda - a few kilometres from Katoyi - at 1pm that
afternoon. The next day, sector chief Turikonkinko confirmed that
Raia Mutomboki were now closer to the village than ever before. "Our
security has been breached," he said. According to Raheli, nine
people were left dead in Kahunda.
Turikonkinko says he has
received a communiqué from Raia Mutomboki that details their
intention to kill all remaining Kinyarwanda speakers in the area.
On the morning of 3 June, many of the temporary bamboo houses
inhabited by displaced people stood empty. Camp officials said it was
because people had heard of the 2 June attacks and fled once more,
fearing the Raia Mutomboki would move on Katoyi; by 4 June those who
fled had returned, but the atmosphere remains tense.
for lasting solutions
has operational procedures in place should the village of Katoyi come
under attack. Four heavy machine guns will take hilltop positions
surrounding the wire-fenced base; the troops will be outside, with
civilians held in the enclosed area little bigger than a football
Bernard Harerimana, director of the primary school in
Katoyi, seems weary of the 120 displaced persons living in his school
but is nonetheless concerned for their welfare; he says he fears the
roofs leak at night, leaving many shivering cold and wet. Harerimana
says they began arriving in mid-May. By day, they vacate the
classrooms, but by night he allows them to sleep under blackboards
and among the desks. His pupils have nowhere to sit, he says, as the
displaced are using the benches for firewood, and the school is
becoming unclean with human waste.
Oxfam's Dixon says the
Congolese government and UN do have plans to stabilize eastern Congo,
but that the current wave of insecurity shows they are not working;
he called for a serious political commitment to a long-term solution
involving local, regional and international actors, and including
real progress on army reform.
"Without a lasting
solution to eastern Congo's problems, crises such as this will
continue to plague DRC and ordinary people will continue to face the
everyday risk of violence such as massacre, rape, extortion, forced
labour and looting. It is unacceptable that violence in Congo goes
unstopped and under-reported. While world leaders rightly condemn
Syrian massacres, the human tragedies happening in Congo are hidden
at best, ignored at worst," he said. jh/kr/cb[END]
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95626
funding key as UN agency assists civilians fleeing violence in DR
June 2012 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today
stressed the need for sufficient resources as it strives to meet the
needs of a growing number of people displaced by violence in eastern
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
the conflict escalating in the past few weeks, WFP has been providing
lifesaving assistance to Congolese who were forced to leave
everything behind,” said WFP’s Regional Director for East and
Central Africa, Stanlake Samkange.
continued violence will lead to more people requiring help and it
will be critical to ensure that WFP has sufficient resources to
address the needs of the newly displaced,” he added.
WFP is currently providing assistance to a total of 532,000 Congolese
refugees and IDPs in Africa’s Great Lakes region. Its operations in
DRC, Uganda and Rwanda currently have a combined funding shortfall of
some $46 million over the next six months.
week alone, the agency provided monthly food rations to close to
20,000 newly displaced people and host families in Beni in the
province of North Kivu, amid concerns about the effect of violence on
civilians in the country’s eastern region.
of thousands of people have fled their homes, many seeking refuge
near the city of Goma or elsewhere in eastern DRC, WFP stated in a
news release. Thousands more have made the trek across the Rwandan
and Ugandan borders in search of security.
North and South Kivu provinces, WFP is providing emergency food
assistance to more than 244,000 displaced people. It plans to provide
food to 4,000 new internally displaced persons in Rutshuru, North
Kivu, in the coming days and carry out an assessment of the needs of
some 80,000 people who have arrived in the same area. Another 8,000
people are scheduled to receive food assistance in Minova, South
Kivu, next week.
Uganda, more than 21,000 Congolese who have crossed the border since
the beginning of the year have received assistance at the Nyakabande
reception centre in Kisoro and elsewhere in the country.
close to 11,000 people have crossed the border into Rwanda since
April, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR). The refugees are temporarily housed at the Nkamira
transit centre, where they receive food from WFP.
cholera outbreak worsens
8 June (IRIN) - A growing cholera outbreak in the Democratic Republic
of Congo has claimed nearly 400 lives and affected more than 19,100
people since January, according to the UN Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
"The total number of
cholera cases in 2012 is around 90 percent of cases reported last
year. Since January 2011, 983 people have died from the outbreak
affecting eight of 11 provinces of the country," Yvon Edoumou,
OCHA spokesman, told a news conference.
Since the outbreak
started, more than 40,795 cases have been reported. Edoumou said the
growing epidemic had put a strain on ongoing humanitarian
interventions funded mainly by a US$9.1 million grant by the UN
Central Emergency Response Fund, which provides rapid response grants
for humanitarian emergencies.
Experts have blamed the
continued spread [
] of cholera in the DRC on poor hygiene, lack of awareness about
transmission mechanisms, limited access to protected and monitored
water sources and a general lack of sanitation infrastructure.
This report on line:
IDPs weigh options as fighting rages in North Kivu
4 June 2012 (IRIN) - Since fighting began in April between government
soldiers and a large group of defectors from the regular army, North
Kivu province in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) has become a spaghetti junction of human migration patterns;
tens of thousands of people have been displaced.
of people might appear haphazard to the outside observer. Some walk
east, others west.
For some, it is their third time to be
displaced by conflict and many report negative experiences in camps.
"You wait a whole day for one bowl of porridge, and there is
violence," said Jeremiah*, who is currently sheltering in a
remote hospital on a hill in Rutshuru District which overlooks an
anti-aircraft gun position. International NGOs have no presence here
now - only the local Red Cross, which supports the
Jeremiah's nine-year-old daughter was apprehended
and raped while she and her grandmother were fleeing their village.
He says the news killed him and that he is tired of war. But he says
he will not cross the Ugandan border (less than 20km away) even if it
does guarantee his family's safety. "They make you go very far
from your home", he said.
Maria Domitilla Nyabayazana* is
the only resident in Kabanda, a village now on the front line in the
conflict on the edge of Virunga National Park. Suffering from a leg
injury, Maria was abandoned when other residents fled two weeks ago.
"I have heard bombs since this morning - everybody has left,"
she said. Maria still carries out her daily chores, and eats the
vegetables and fruits growing by her house.
100,000 people have been uprooted from their homes by the recent wave
of violence in. North Kivu, prompting renewed calls for better
measures to protect civilians and more aid for distressed families,"
said a 31 May press release from the UN humanitarian coordinator in
"Since the beginning of April, thousands of
families in North Kivu have had to flee for their lives, in the wake
of violence borne out of desertions from the national army as well as
ongoing military operations to bring under control illegal armed
groups. It is estimated that some 74,000 people are now displaced in
the Masisi, Lubero and Rutshuru territories, and several thousand
more have found refuge in and around the provincial capital Goma,"
The army defectors or "mutineers"[
] had previously been integrated into the army as part of peace
On 4 June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Rwanda
] of supporting the mutinous troops, who are led by Gen Bosco
Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court for war
HRW said Rwandan military officials had allowed
Ntaganda to enter Rwanda and supplied him with new recruits, weapons,
and ammunition. Rwanda has denied any involvement in the mutiny.
villages become front lines, the most determined close their doors
and hope for the best. "Yesterday, we listened to the armoury of
the government," said August Basiha, 20, outside his home in
Rangira, as UN surveillance helicopters circled overhead.
village was never taken in the past. We are staying", he said,
shortly after a convoy of trucks carrying special forces from
Kinshasa and heavy artillery had passed.
the best option?
others, however, Uganda is the best option: There is a relatively
good road to the border, and trading opportunities in the busy border
town. But some Congolese refugees say Uganda's immigration officials
are refusing them entry on the basis that "night commuting"
is not allowed.
On one night in May, 7,000 people collected at
the Bunagana border crossing, according to the UN Refugee Agency
(UNHCR). In response, Ugandan officials encouraged people to
register. Those who did were transported to the increasingly
over-stretched Nyakabande transit centre, 20km from the border and
yet further from their crops and livestock.
At the border
itself, UNHCR does not provide any assistance, nor register people,
said Simplice Kpandji, a UNHCR public information officer in Goma:
"The refugees are registered in the transit centre and
assistance is also given to them there. For security reasons, we
encourage them to move to the transit centre."
Bunagana, a Congolese town straddling the Ugandan border, the school
is a temporary camp for many hundred internally displaced persons
(IDPs). Jean-Claude* has a stall selling potatoes and miniature tubes
of toothpaste. He says residents feel safe, and there are buildings
for shelter and water. "But no one has any money and we're not
getting any food - there is only so long that I can stay here,"
rapid response, led by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), is allowing
aid workers to intervene and distribute essentials, but the
government has made it clear that it does not want new official
camps, and attempts by some NGOs to feed these people have been
frustrated by bureaucracy.
Meanwhile, the government's food
distribution efforts appear to be ineffective. One international aid
worker said the DRC minister of humanitarian affairs arrived in
Rutshuru town (28km from Bunagana) and left a pile of food, but did
not stop to ensure it went to those in need. The source, who asked
not to be identified, said that even policemen took a share of the
"We are facing difficulties as it's quite
impossible sometimes to have access to the people in the war zone. We
need a humanitarian corridor to assist and protect people", said
Kpandji. UN agencies and international NGOs have been forced to pull
staff out of a number of locations in the last two months.
have been changed at interviewees' request jh/cb [END]
"Banana Aids" threatens social fabric on Idjwi
, 21 May 2012 (IRIN) - More than half of mountainous South Kivu in
the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is infected by banana
xanthomonas wilt (BXW), often referred to by farmers as "Banana
AIDS". The incurable disease is wiping out bananas and plantains
grown at high altitudes and spreads easily. IRIN looked at the
disease and how people are being affected on the island of Idjwi
(population 230,000) in Lake Kivu.
increasing: in the last half of 2011, the Idjwi Centre for Rural
Promotion (CPR) recorded 48 new cases of malnourished children in the
north of the island against 21 in the first half the same year,"
said Euphraim Kivayaga, the director of CPR, a local development
organization which has been active on the island for over 20 years.
The socio-economic consequences of the epidemic are strongly
felt as the inhabitants live almost exclusively from farming, and
population pressure is a growing source of poverty.
all of social life which deconstructs: we are seeing an increase in
theft and conflict in communities, and instances of mob justice are
increasing and are particularly violent. Illiteracy and migration
away from rural areas is growing... People are helpless. In addition,
false rumours are circulating and we need to combat them," said
Banana plantations play a central role in local
communities in eastern DRC. Besides being a staple food, bananas are
used for their juice and to make beer - the juice may be given to
children as a substitute for milk, while beer is a drink that plays a
crucial social role, especially at weddings.
Julie Van Damme,
a researcher at the Earth and Life Institute of the Catholic
University of Louvain (UCL), also emphasizes "the economic role
of bananas which serve as farmers' `bank accounts' for unexpected or
major expenses (such as payment of school fees) and their role in
agriculture: bananas aid soil fertility and help prevent soil
began in Ethiopia on Ensete crops (related to bananas), where it had
a relatively minor effect. It was during its spread to Uganda that
farmers realized the epidemic nature of the bacterium. Present in
North Kivu since 2001, the bacterium has spread to both Kivus today.
In 2011, it was reported in five provinces of nearby Burundi [
Banana plantations occupy 30 percent of the cultivated area
in South Kivu and generate nearly 60 percent of household income.
Four territories of South Kivu Province saw their banana production
decline 20-100 percent, resulting in some places in a loss of 35 tons
per hectare per year, a US$1,600 per hectare per year loss for the
The rapid spread of BXW has devastating consequences
for all farmers. The symptoms of BXW are dry banana leaves, early
ripening of bananas, a yellowish fluid in the trunk of banana trees,
and a hardening and darkening of bananas making them inedible. "Even
the animals are refusing this food," said one farmer in Idjwi
"there is no magic bullet solution, it is possible to control
the spread of disease by strict but practicable techniques,"
said Grant Bulangashane, an assistant at the Catholic University of
Bukavu and a PhD student at UCL.
"Farmers must get used
to disinfecting their tools - by using a chemical disinfectant or
exposing them to fire - as they move from an infected plant to a
healthy plant. Farmers must also, using a stick, remove the male bud
of the diseased plant, which attracts insects and becomes, due to
foraging animals, a vector of disease. They must also cut the plant
and bury or dispose of waste bananas and ensure that animals do not
spread the disease as they move from infected plants to healthy
To combat this latest threat, some farmers have
had the idea of placing hot ashes on infected banana plants, to
Uganda, the government has set up a Task Force to develop a plan to
fight the disease. W.K. Tushemereirwe, in a collective work edited by
an international network promoting bananas and plantains, believed
"Uganda was losing $360 million each year because of the
disease." The plan has had an impact and DRC is seeking to
follow suit, despite the lack of resources, and red tape.
a provincial order is under review at the office of governor of South
Kivu and is about to be signed. "To stop the spread, everyone
should apply the same rules. If your neighbour does not respect them,
your work is useless," said an angry farmer who lost a
significant portion of his crop. Indeed, political action is
important to ensure that healthy seeds and agricultural equipment are
controlled and distributed to enforce basic practices.
is a key step. CPR is using its meagre resources to broadcast about
the disease on its community radio station. After awareness-raising
and "the phase without bananas" which should last 6-8
months - extremely difficult for a farmer who has a substantial
portion of his crop infected - we must consider planting
Consortium for Improving Agriculture-Based Livelihoods in Central
Africa [ www.cialca.org
] , in partnership with the provincial inspectors and Louvain
Development, has set up a system of "macro-propagation" of
healthy plants. It should strive to produce a variety bananas
appreciated by the people and supplied by a source that has not been
in contact with the disease.
including the UCL, hold the complete collection of varieties of
bananas," said Julie Van Damme. "The Phytolab in Burundi
can also provide `healthy vitroplants'. But all this has a
Faced with this alarming situation, extensive
action is vital: In Idjwi the population is desperate and the
humanitarian challenge daunting. cm/cb [END]
This report online:
North Kivu in turmoil again
(WESTERN RWANDA), 16 May 2012 (IRIN) - In the last few weeks fighting
between government troops and "mutineers" has ended three
years of relative peace in North Kivu Province, eastern Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), and thousands of refugees have been
streaming across the border to Rwanda.
According to the UN
Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the clashes have displaced 40,600 people
since April. For many of them this is the third time they have been
forced to flee their homes since the mid-1990s.
[war] is something they have seen and that they know," Richard
Ndaula, the UNHCR team leader at western Rwanda's Nkamira transit
camp, told IRIN. The camp has received at least 8,000 refugees since
27 April. [
are the "mutineers"?
Ntaganda was second in charge of the Tutsi rebel group Congrès
national pour la défense du people (CNDP) until 2009, when he
brokered a deal to integrate its troops into the national army and
take over the North Kivu command. After integration, CNDP soldiers
operated a parallel leadership structure, taking orders only from
However, in early April, the former CNDP soldiers
began to defect, citing unpaid salaries and poor living conditions,
and said the government had failed to uphold the terms of the 2009
peace accord. Commentators said the "mutineers" were
protecting Ntaganda from arrest, but they denied this, calling
themselves M23 in reference to the 23 March 2009 accord.
already indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), stands
accused in the past week of continuing to recruit children as young
as 12 into the ranks of his armed group.
On 15 May ICC
Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he wanted to add charges of
murder, ethnic persecution, rape and sexual slavery to the 2006
charge against Ntaganda of recruiting children.
Thomas Lubanga's successor in another militia, the Union des
patriotes congolais. The ICC on 14 March found Lubanga guilty
of conscripting child soldiers in the northeastern DRC region of
Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher for Human
Rights Watch (HRW) in Goma (eastern DRC), said: "There is
evidence to suggest extensive recruitment of children and young men
by the mutineers. Bosco Ntaganda is once again committing the very
crimes against children for which the International Criminal Court
has been demanding his arrest."
took Jean-Pierre Iransi, a 20-year-old student from Burungu in
Masisi, North Kivu, five days to reach Rwanda, a journey which
normally takes one day. Iransi said he was detained 12 times by both
government soldiers and rebels. At one point rebels forced him to
carry equipment; when he refused, he said they threatened to kill
him. "Many civilians were taken to become soldiers. Up to this
moment we don't know where they are," he said.
HRW in a
16 May statement
] based on interviews with witnesses and victims, said:
"Ntaganda's troops - an estimated 300-600 soldiers who followed
him in his mutiny - forcibly recruited at least 149 boys and young
men around Kilolirwe, Kingi, Kabati, and other locations on the road
to Kitchanga, in Masisi, North Kivu Province, between 19 April and 4
May. Those forcibly recruited were between 12 and 20 years old and
were largely from the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups." It said the
actual level of recruitment during this period may have been
In an excerpt from the HRW statement, a
woman said that in mid-April Ntaganda had personally come to her
village and said: "Since you [villagers] have been with the
government, you've got nothing. Why not join me?" The woman
said: "[Ntaganda] asked us to give our children, our students,
to him to fight. He came to our village himself, like [detained rebel
leader Laurent] Nkunda used to do. But we refused and said our
children should go to school."
Later, Ntaganda's fighters
took children by force from schools, their homes and farms, or from
the roadside as they tried to flee on foot or on motorbike taxis,
said HRW. "A number of those forcibly recruited were given quick
military training, but the majority were immediately forced to porter
weapons and ammunition to frontline positions. Many were put in
military uniforms or partial uniforms."
According to Omar
Katova, a spokesperson for a number of North Kivu civil society
groups, the Congolese government should end the "new war"
in North Kivu by disbanding armed groups and arresting "mutineer"
defectors, amid increasing concern that other rebel groups, including
the pro-Hutu Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda
(FDLR), could take advantage of a security vacuum.
On 7 May
FDLR attacked some government positions and abducted five women in
neighbouring South Kivu Province.
At present, Ntaganda's
location remains unknown, although according to the HRW statement, he
could be in the Virunga National Park with a small group of fighters.
His M23 "mutineers", reportedly numbering 500-800 [
], have in large part left Masisi. After gathering at the border
junction between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, they attempted a
takeover of Bunagana town, along the DRC-Uganda border in early
The absence of Ntaganda's CNDP troops in their Masisi
stronghold, which is currently under the control of the Congolese
army, is emerging as a threat to the remaining Tutsi population, with
many of those who have fled to Rwanda speaking of ethnic
"They [Congolese soldiers] beat us when they
find us. They tell me I'm Rwandan. Every time, they say this is not
your country. But I was born in Congo, I grew up in Congo," said
Meanwhile, Congolese refugees arriving in Rwanda
from their homes in Masisi, say they saw friends and family beaten
and arrested on the way. Arsene Harnyurwa made it to Rwanda from
Rubai but said soldiers took everything he had, down to his baby's
milk. "The rebels and the government are the same. The people
who made it here are the lucky ones," he said.
with their feet
On 7 May Liz Ahua, deputy director of UNHCR's
Africa Bureau, warned [ http://www.unhcr.org/4fa7e3126.html
] that "a new site will have to be found if more refugees
continue to arrive on a daily basis."
Rwanda is already
hosting some 55,000 Congolese refugees in three crowded camps.
neighboring Uganda, the challenge is different with an estimated
30,000-40,000 so-called Congolese "night commuters" at the
Bunagana border point. They are refusing to seek asylum in Uganda,
waiting for the situation back home to stabilize. The Ugandan
government is encouraging them to seek refuge and get UNHCR
As to when they will return home, HRW's Van
Woudenberg said: "People will decide with their
This report online:
Congolese refugees flee fighting into Rwanda
4 May 2012 (IRIN) - Renewed heavy fighting in eastern Democratic
Republic of Congo's (DRC) North Kivu Province has pushed some 3,000
Congolese refugees into northern Rwanda where they are in need of
humanitarian assistance, says a senior UN official.
situation is worsening since humanitarian volunteers are now
overwhelmed by the influx of Congolese refugees who are arriving in
Rwanda," Neimah Warsame, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
representative in Rwanda, told reporters on 3 May.
to Warsame, the refugee influx into the Nkamira transit camp, in the
northwest, has prompted a multi-agency relief effort.
press release, the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and
Refugee Affairs said that local administrative leaders, in
collaboration with humanitarian volunteers, are screening the
refugees arriving at Nkamira.
The refugees are fleeing
fighting between the DRC army and troops loyal to the former Congrès
national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) militia leader Gen. Bosco
In a 3 May statement, the UN
Security Council [http://reliefweb.int/node/494261] expressed serious
concern over the recent attacks by armed groups in eastern DRC -
in particular former elements of the CNDP under the leadership of
Ntaganda - against the Congolese armed forces, and called for an
immediate end to the rebellion.
The Council also expressed
concern over the worsening security and humanitarian situation in the
area, especially the increasing number of displaced persons and
the outflow of refugees into neighbouring countries. It called "for
all crimes, including crimes against women and children, to be
expeditiously investigated and the need for all perpetrators of those
crimes, in particular Ntaganda, to be brought to justice."
has been indicted by the UN International Criminal Court for war
crimes in the northeastern Ituri region by the Union des patriotes
congolais (UPC) militia whose former leader, Thomas Lubanga, was on
14 March found guilty
of conscripting child soldiers by the Court. Ntaganda was Lubanga's
successor at the UPC.
At present, Rwanda is hosting some 53,
000 Congolese refugees and asylum seekers in camps in the Gihembe,
Kiziba and Nyabiheke areas in the north and western regions.
of those Congolese refugees have fled previous fighting in their
country since 1996," said Warsame.
Poor sanitation systems hinder fight against cholera
30 April 2012 (IRIN) - More than 7,500 cholera cases have been
identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the
beginning of the year as an epidemic that began in June 2011
continues to affect parts if the capital, Kinshasa, as well as four
In total, more than 30,000 cholera cases
have been identified around the country since the epidemic started,
while 230 people have succumbed to the disease since the beginning of
the year, and more than 700 since June 2011. In addition to Kinshasa,
the provinces of Orientale, North Kivu, Equateur and Bas Congo are
currently experiencing outbreaks.
According to Nona
Zicherman, chief of emergency operations in DRC for the UN Children's
Fund (UNICEF), the epidemic has continued largely because of "poor
hygiene, lack of awareness of the population about transmission
mechanisms, very limited access to protected and monitored water
sources and lack of sanitation infrastructure."
is one of Africa's most over-crowded cities, with a population of
about 10 million. Poor drainage means stagnant, polluted water floods
the city's streets when it rains, while huge piles of rubbish line
many of its streets.
According to the International Water
] - a network of 10,000 global water professionals - 38 percent of
Kinshasa residents have no access to piped water. The city has no
proper sewerage system and no major facilities for the treatment of
waste water and sludge.
"When cholera finds a situation
of high population, poor sanitation and hygiene, it stays," said
Dr Benoit Kebela Ilunga, the Ministry of Health's head of disease
control. "The water infrastructure we have has not been improved
since colonial times, yet the population has increased significantly;
the supply is insufficient for today."
Kebela, while cholera in Kinshasa is unlikely to last long if
properly controlled, in the east it has become endemic over the past
"Studies show that the water around the Great
Lakes such as Albert, Kivu and Tanganykia, and in cities such as
Kalemie, Goma, Bukavu, Uvira and Bunia has become an environment for
the multiplication of cholera," he said. "Coverage of
potable water in endemic areas is less than 15 percent in endemic
areas, so people use the lakes for most of their water supply."
The Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the World Health
Organization have constructed and equipped cholera treatment centres
[CTCs] in the most affected health zones in Kinshasa.
treatment is available in these health zones, the challenge is that
cholera continues to spread to some new health zones, and as new
cases are notified a need for the establishment of new CTCs,
including delivery of equipment and training of personnel, in these
neighbouring health zones will be necessary," said UNICEF's
Crucially, Zicherman said, it would be necessary
to address the causes of cholera in order to curb the epidemic and
prevent its resurgence.
"All factors that contribute to
the spread of the disease need to be addressed: access to clean
water, sanitation facilities, hygiene awareness," she said.
"The activities that can help reduce the spread of the
epidemic start with epidemiological investigation to identify the
most common pathways of contamination of the environment and
transmission between people: places, areas, habits, rituals, beliefs,
She noted that emergency and medium- and
long-term interventions to limit the spread of cholera needed to be
"Immediate response includes disinfection of
contaminated environments [such as] households, vehicles, and boats
that transported cholera cases; appropriate management and disposal
of dead bodies; and increasing access to safe water through
chlorination and monitoring of water sources, distribution of soap,
clean water receptacles, and other important hygiene items," she
"For the longer-term impact, behavioural change
activities - awareness campaigns, communication, hygiene promotion,
education programs - [and] construction or rehabilitation of water
supply and sanitation facilities."
Concern over welfare of IDPs in Katanga
24 April 2012 (IRIN) - Aid agencies are unable to access thousands of
people displaced from the town of Mitwaba, in the southeastern
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) province of Katanga as a result of
recent fighting between rebels and government forces.
11 April, thousands of people have been forced to move from Mitwaba
to Kasungeshi 45km away because of an attack by Mayi Mayi rebels led
by Gédéon Kyungu on the armed forces of the DRC," Medard
Lobota, information officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the DRC, said at a recent press
"Distribution of food and other
humanitarian assistance has been postponed as a result of insecurity
in the area," he told IRIN. Local sources told IRIN the
latest attack is estimated to have displaced 18,000 people. However,
the region has been volatile for several months.
OCHA, the Mayi-Mayi group attacked soldiers of the Congolese army
(FARDC) in Katanga's Shamwana village on 29 February, displacing an
estimated 26,000 people in the Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto territories.
In December 2011, more than 16,000 people were displaced in
the Mitwaba, Pweto, Manono and Malemba Nkulu territories as a result
of fighting between FARDC and the rebels.
The UN World
Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN
Refugee Agency (UNHCR) appealed for US$4 million on 27 March to
respond to the humanitarian needs of those displaced by the violence
"The priorities are food, non-food
items and emergency shelter, the protection of civilians, protection
of children against abuse, access to health services, water and
sanitation, treatment of acute malnutrition in young children and the
return of displaced children to school," said the appeal.
agencies noted that women and children constituted 86 percent of the
internally displaced persons (IDPs), with 25 percent of children
under the age of five. Many IDPs were living with, and depending on,
already impoverished families within host communities.
recent study by Médecins Sans Frontières demonstrates that this
situation is gradually getting worse among the internally displaced
in Mitwaba, mainly due to malnutrition, malaria and anaemia,"
the agencies noted, adding that no vaccinations had been performed in
Mitwaba since December 2011 as a result of insecurity, while poor
sanitation in the IDP sites was raising the risk of epidemics.
This report online:
Thorny issue of reparations for Lubanga's victims
10 April 2012 (IRIN) - Motorcycles, school fees, counselling, cash:
Thomas Lubanga's `kadogo' (child soldiers) know what reparations they
want from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Less clear is what
a cash-strapped tribunal can offer damaged children taken from their
families and forced to fight in a brutal ethnic conflict in
northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
expect something that will really help them to heal, to help them to
recover from the loss of their childhood, their education," said
Bukeni Waruzi, an expert on child soldiers and the programme manager
for Africa and the Middle East at NGO Witness.
child is recruited, the minute he gets in the camp, he is not the
same as before. It doesn't take 10 years for a child to become a
child soldier, it takes two days maximum, and the mind is changed.
How do you repair that?"
Lubanga was convicted in March
on three charges of recruiting and using child soldiers in the
military wing of his Union of Congolese Patriots in 2002 and 2003.
His ICC trial heard that children as young as nine served as fighters
It was the ICC's first-ever verdict, and the
court is now heading into unfamiliar legal territory as judges must
now decide on reparations for Lubanga's victims.
international criminal tribunal has ever awarded reparations, but
under ICC rules, those who have suffered injury or harm from a crime
for which someone is convicted could receive restitution,
compensation or rehabilitation.
"The [judges] will
decide on Lubanga's sentence, this is first step," said Paolina
Massidda, principal counsel of the ICC's Office of the Public Counsel
for Victims, which provides support to victims including legal
representation. Under the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute,
court-recognized victims are given lawyers and allowed to participate
throughout a trial, including questioning witnesses.
is possible then for the court to start reparations proceedings, but
there is no clear established procedure which is the reason why the
judges are asking participants [in the case] to provide observations,
among other things, on whether reparations should be awarded
collectively or on an individual basis, to whom and how harm could be
Walleyn, who along with a Congolese lawyer represents 19 victims,
doubts collective reparations would work for his clients - ex-child
soldiers and their families.
"Child soldiers are not a
community," he said. "It is not like a village that has
been victimized. They are very often in conflict with their own
families. I cannot see my clients as a group. They are really
"If today you asked my clients how they wish
to have reparations, the answers would be quite different from one to
another. One will say I would like to start my studies again. Another
would say I would like to have a motorcycle so I can... run a
taxi business. A lot of them say `give me money'."
experts warn that cash payouts are unlikely, and many will get
nothing unless they can prove to the court that they were harmed by
Lubanga's crimes. Waruzi worries this will be disappointing to the
former child soldiers who are largely uneducated and untrained. Many
suffer from drug addiction or diseases including HIV. Others have
been victims of sexual violence.
"The victims think that
what they want will be provided," he said."A child thinks,
'I have been a victim. I shall get reparations because I won the
case. Will they give me money? Will they give me a car? Will they buy
me a house? How much will I receive?' I think that's what's in the
mind of the child soldiers."
He wants reparations that
match the scale and scope of the crimes.
"The ICC was
initially thinking of symbolic reparations," Waruzi said. "They
were saying something like building a statue in the village that will
really honour the victims. But reparations cannot be symbolic,
because the crimes were not symbolic. It is now for the ICC to take
full responsibility, to actually manage the expectations."
trial since January 2009 and in custody since 2005, Lubanga was
declared indigent and given a legal aid lawyer. This will be
reassessed by judges in the coming weeks. If he cannot pay for
reparations himself, the court may turn to its Trust Fund for Victims
] which supports reparations from the voluntary contributions it
receives from ICC members and others.
In 2011 the fund's total
annual income was 3.2 million euros. It has ring-fenced 1.2 million
euros for court-ordered reparations.
his resources are "modest" and the number of ICC cases
expanding fast, the executive director of the fund's secretariat
prefers to talk about meeting rather than managing expectations. But
Pieter de Baan admits the fund has been keeping a deliberately low
profile on reparations until the judges decide how the process will
"Our plan is that once we have more information
coming from the chambers on which direction they would like to go we
will tailor the messages we will be sending out to communities,"
said de Baan.
"The current message is that the Trust
Fund is not a fund for all victims of all crimes in all places but is
very much limited by the legal framework of the Rome Statute. It also
doesn't take away any of the responsibilities that the national
government may have, to look after victimized communities. That will
be part of the message as well."
are only one part of the Fund's work.
Operating under its General Assistance rather than
Reparations mandate [
] it has been on the ground in eastern DRC and northern Uganda since
2008 offering vocational training, trauma counselling, reconciliation
workshops and reconstructive surgery to over 80,000 victims. This
close contact has convinced de Baan that the best reparations are
those that help people to get on with their lives.
might like to have some sort of reparation that would acknowledge
their victimhood and their dignity as human beings that allows them
to rebuild their lives in a way that is meaningful and sustainable,"
agree, however, that reparations are a legal and social minefield.
The potential problems - and solutions - are already filling pages of
legal submissions to the judges.
In its filing to the court,
the ICC's registry warns that because Lubanga recruited children from
his own Hema community which was in conflict with the Lendu people
"should reparations be awarded in the case, the majority of
victims will be from one side of an ethnic conflict in which both
sides suffered harm."
The registry also cautions against
"ill advised reparation orders [which] may worsen the situation
of former child soldiers by increasing the children's stigmatization
within their own community." It also questions how eligible
victims will be found as some have moved on from their
Carla Ferstman, director of Redress, a human rights
group working with war crimes victims, urges the judges to consider
the many existing rulings on reparations . They come from truth
commissions and regional courts, including the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights.
"It's not like the ICC will have to
start from scratch," said Ferstman. "We hope that the court
isn't going to try and reinvent the wheel but that it is going to
look at all of these different kinds of processes. There is a lot of
experience out there."
She says it is essential that the
ICC gets this right. "Ensuring there is some manner of
reparations is part of this vital rebalancing of the criminal justice
process to involve victims not only as observers and witnesses -
[something] that makes it clear that what happened to them matters.
It is like a humanization of criminal justice."
so many potential pitfalls, there are fears that the reparations
process could drag on as long as the trial. Walleyn says the former
child soldiers he represents have become disillusioned after years of
"They have fewer expectations than six years
ago," said Walleyn. "However, they are still hoping to see
something, because that was what was promised by the system of the
This report online:
LRA nurtures the next generation of child soldiers
26 March 2012 (IRIN) - The dilemma for Atati Faustin, 13, from
Faradje in Haut-Uélé District, northeastern Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), is that although he misses his younger brother -
abducted into the ranks of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) two years
ago - he is also afraid of being reunited with him.
"I want my brother back," he told IRIN, "but
if I see him I would run. I am scared of him. I feel like he has
Displaced with about 1,300 people from the nearby
village of Kimbinzi in 2008 following repeated LRA attacks, and
relocated to Ngubu, a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) on
the outskirts of Faradje, he has not yet encountered him, but others
in the community have - dishevelled, with dreadlocks, and carrying an
AK47 assault rifle and a panga.
Kimbinzi is about 7km from
the camp and occasionally some villagers return under a military
escort provided by Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) to till the
fields, as crops planted on land provided for them close to the River
Dungu are routinely destroyed by hippos. Only young men return
(during daylight hours) to Kimbinzi in a phenomenon described by
relief workers as "pendulum movement" - women and children
stay in the relative safety of Ngubu.
Joseph Kony's LRA is
thought to have kidnapped more than 30,000 children from the Central
African Republic, DRC, South Sudan and Uganda in a 25-year
transnational conflict. Captured boys are forced into child
soldiering and girls are used as sex slaves or babysitters
Ugandan aid worker George Omoma has tracked
the carnage left in the LRA's wake across three countries, where
children are not so much collateral damage, as the focus of LRA
"Kony tells his people that it is not you
[adults] that will overthrow the [Ugandan] government, it is the
children. He wants to create a new generation of the LRA," Omoma
Omoma is in Dungu helping to establish a
rehabilitation centre for child victims of the LRA by the Catholic
Church and NGOs Sponsoring Children and the San- Diego-based
Invisible Children. When operations start later this year, the
facility will be able to provide accommodation, counselling, training
and education to hundreds of former child soldiers and abductees.
Joyce Neu of the Carter Center had a three-hour meeting with
Kony and his senior command on 24 February 2000 in Nsitu, Sudan, and
although he "did not admit to having abductees in the LRA... Sam
Ottoa [now known as Sam Kolo] let slip references to `the children'
three times, each time he quickly corrected it with 'our brothers',"
she told IRIN.
Kolo, an LRA political officer, headed
negotiations with Betty Bigombe in 2004, but became a Kony
assassination target. He escaped with Bigombe in a helicopter the UN
provided her with to conduct another round of negotiations. He now
lives in Gulu, Uganda.
A February 2004 report by the Refugee
Law Project, Behind the Violence: Causes, Consequences and the Search
for Solutions to the War in Northern Uganda, [
] provides the rationale for Kony using children as "a vital
resource" for his war. LRA activity in Uganda ended in 2006.
by the LRA
in other conflicts where child soldiers have been used "they are
easily malleable to whatever purpose Kony wants, and are very quick
to obey his orders" and "forcing children to kill their
friends or family members in front of other abductees instills fear
into them and discourages them from escaping," the report said.
"The LRA views nine to 12-year-olds as the most desirable
Josephine Inopayngba, 27, a
counsellor in Dungu for former child soldiers and LRA abductees, told
IRIN the fear instilled by LRA methods haunt their victims long-after
they have escaped or been released by the armed group.
said an escapee from the LRA made pregnant by rape "told me she
wanted to kill her child at birth. I told her the child is innocent.
She said kids kill their parents and she was afraid the child would
grow up and kill her."
Inopayngba said in her experience
in the past two years as a counsellor, three families had refused to
accept their children back after they had become child soldiers:
"They cannot understand it is the fault of the LRA, not the
The initiation of child soldiers, she said,
involves practices like executing other abductees. "They will
ask them [porters] if they want to take a rest and if they say `yes'
they will allow one of the children to kill them."
Minanbu, 15, was kidnapped by the LRA from South Sudan 14 months ago,
escaped nine months later and has spent the past five months living
with a host family in Dungu while his relatives are traced. Both of
his parents are dead. He was used as a porter and a servant for an
"I was beaten often by the commander with
the flat side of a panga, for any mistakes. Like if the fire was not
good," he said. Two of the group of eight LRA fighters he
travelled with were child soldiers aged about 13 and they were "good
to me. Sometimes the commander would order them to punish me and they
would beat me. But after that we would play like friends,"
Joseph Angoyo, chief of Aba's hospital, about
20km south of the South Sudan border, told IRIN under the supervision
of an official from the DRC intelligence service, "the longer
the captivity, the worse the condition".
Angoyo said the
hospital treats about 10 former abductees a month and many are
suffering from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), mainly syphilis
he said. The youngest victim he had treated for an STD was a
Ongwen has risen through the ranks to become the LRA's most senior
commander in the DRC and is the armed group's most notorious example
of a kidnapped boy forced into child soldiering and who is now wanted
for crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International
Sam Otto Ladere has appeared on the radar
with a similar personnel history to Ongwen. He commands a group of 17
fighters falling under the command of Vincent Okumu Binany in the
Matthew Brubacher, political affairs officer working
with the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC's (MONUSCO's)
Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and
Resettlement (DDRRR) unit, and an LRA specialist based in the eastern
DRC city of Goma, told IRIN Ladere was abducted at a young age from a
village west of Gulu.
"Ladere is one of the up and
coming commanders. He is very trusted. This was evidenced by his
being placed as chief of intelligence after Maj-Gen Acellam Ceasar
was suspended following the execution of Lt-Gen Vincent Otti on 2
October 2007, even though Ladere was only a captain," he said.
DDRRR is working on a radio message on their FM network to try and
lure him out of the bush.
Omoma said former abductees and
child soldiers had told him of Ladere's brutality.
taken many wives. At the Juba peace talks in 2006 it was estimated he
had about 80 wives and it is unknown how many children the rebel
leader has fathered.
"I don't know how many Kony kids
are active in the LRA, probably quite a few. There are a few bush
kids now that were born and bred in the LRA. They are pretty wild
when they come out as they have never known civilization,"
This report online:
Landmines hurting farmers' livelihoods
26 March 2012 (IRIN) - Landmines planted about a decade ago in parts
of Kabalo territory in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC)
southeastern Katanga Province are adversely affecting farming
livelihoods, and an important World Food Programme (WFP) project.
"In our area, there are villages where we get much
harvest but the road leading to those villages [has] landmines,"
a food trader from Kabalo said.
Lorries often get blown up by
the landmines, Birindwa Murhula, a leader of one of the local food
traders' associations, told IRIN.
Kabalo, formerly the
breadbasket of mineral-rich Katanga Province, was affected by DRC's
1998-2003 civil wars. The Mpaye area, for example, served as a
demarcation zone separating belligerents when Zimbabwean-backed DRC
army troops clashed with the rebel Rassemblement Congolais Pour la
Democratie, which was backed by the Rwandan Army.
still affected by landmines, making the transportation of food from
local villages to trading centres and beyond a challenge.
the past, the NGO Danish Church Aid (DCA [
]) helped to demine Kabalo but stopped work in the first half of 2012
due to a lack of funding.
Katanga Province is among
those affected by landmines and other explosive remnants of war in
the DRC, according to the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre. Other
affected provinces include Eastern Kasai, Equateur, Maniema, North
Kivu, Orientale, South Kivu and Western Kasai.
"relative stability has resulted in a significant increase in
the mobility of [the] population and a considerable increase in
activities such as: preparation of land for agriculture, irrigation
ditches, movement of livestock, timber cutting, village to village
trade and large-scale movement of IDPs [internally displaced persons]
and refugees returning to their homes, all of these activities are
greatly increasing the risk and exposure of the local population to
landmines and UXO [unexploded ordnance]," warned a 2011 Mine
Action report. [
presence of the landmines could also erode gains the food traders are
attributing to the WFP Purchase for Progress Programme (P4P) [
] which is helping to link them with small farmers in the
"Traders who have resumed working thanks to P4P
micro-credit cannot go to the villages that always harvest good
maize," explained Murhula.
Thanks to P4P, traders
can access micro-credit loans of up to US$2,000 which they use to buy
maize or rice from farmers, who are also P4P beneficiaries, to sell
to towns such as Bukavu, Kalemie, Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi and Uvira in
neighbouring provinces. Some 12,000 farmers and 120 traders in Kabalo
are P4P beneficiaries.
A market for farmers' produce has
meant that they now have access to improved incomes, though this has
not led to improved nutrition among the P4P implementing villages, in
a country where half the population has nutrient deficiency. [
The poor transport system, price fixing and delays in
buying produce from farmers are further challenges. "If I buy
maize 90km [away], I cannot offer the same price like when I buy at
Kabalo business centre," said a trader.
P4P is helping
to connect small rural farmers in developing countries to markets,
leveraging WFP's position as a major staple food buyer. WFP has an
annual US$1.25 billion procurement budget and already has an
institutional platform in some of the poorest countries.
neighbouring Uganda, at least 25,000 farmers are participating in the
P4P programme selling their produce to WFP and gaining access to
credit. Based on the quality, quantity and location of the farmer's
produce in the warehouse, the farmers can obtain a warehouse receipt
which serves as security for micro-credit access.
to a WFP brief, the programme aims to buy some 500,000 tons of food
in 21 developing countries where the scheme is being piloted between
2008 and 2013.
This report online:
Cracking open the LRA to better eliminate it
21 March 2012 (IRIN) - After seven years held captive by the Lord's
Resistance Army (LRA), 16-year-old Apiyo Tabisa's release five months
ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) along with a dozen or
so others was as sudden as her abduction from Uganda.
Binany - deputy to senior LRA commander and International Criminal
Court (ICC) war crimes indictee Dominic Ongwen - "gave us no
reason. He left us by the side of the road and just told us to go to
the soldiers [Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC)]," she told IRIN.
She spent seven years wandering the frontier lands of the
DRC, South Sudan and Uganda as a porter and cook and witnessed "too
many [killings] to remember. There were just too many," said
Tabisa, who is awaiting repatriation from Dungu (northeastern DRC)
once her relatives have been traced.
"Some were shot or
beaten with pieces of wood. I don't know why. If you make a mistake
they kill you. If you have witchcraft, they kill you. There does not
have to be a reason," Tabisa said. "Seeing the killings and
the beatings - that was always the worst. If you say something [to
object to the killings] they kill you."
Brubacher, political affairs officer working with the UN
Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO)'s Disarmament,
Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR)
unit, and an LRA specialist based in the eastern DRC city of Goma,
told IRIN: "We still don't know why they were released [by
Binany]," but answering such questions is key to developing
strategies to dismantling the armed group.
has Joseph Kony's LRA, which has raped, abducted and pillaged for the
past 25 years survived so long?
>From the early 1990s, the
LRA conducted raids into northern Uganda from bases in eastern
Equatoria in southern Sudan (now the independent state of South
Sudan), where President Omar al-Bashir co-opted and supplied the
group to fight the then-rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, which
in turn enjoyed support from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
>From 2005, the LRA began moving into areas of the DRC
close to the border with Sudan. More recently, the LRA has also been
active in the Central African Republic.
frontier lands with scarce infrastructure, weak government and
isolated communities enabled the LRA to forage for food, and kidnap -
boys for child soldiers and girls as sex slaves.
At the core
of the LRA's ability to survive and outwit their numerically superior
opponents was "maintaining secrecy in the LRA", said a
World Bank June 2011 report entitled Diagnostic Study of the LRA [
] authored by Philip Lancaster, Guillaume Lacaille and Ledio Cakaj.
"Kony appears to understand that one cannot defeat the
enemy one does not know, and consequently masks the LRA behind a
curtain of mystery. The rituals performed in the LRA, some military
in nature, others religious, are in part designed to maintain the
secrecy and mystery of the LRA - much like a secret society or a
cult," the report said.
LRA's few hundred core fighters are dispersed across a region about
half the size of France spanning three fragile countries. Modern
methods of communication, such as satellite phones (there is little
to no coverage for mobile phones in much of the region) are eschewed
as they can be tracked by satellite and reconnaissance aircraft.
Runners are used to carry messages, with this task often entrusted to
the senior ranks.
Onen Unita - an officer serving under
senior LRA commander Okot Odhiambo who, like Kony, is wanted for war
crimes by the ICC - was used as a runner to convey decisions to other
commanders in the DRC taken at a meeting in CAR in June 2011.
Lt-Col Golam Faruque, chief coordinator of MONUSCO's Joint
Intelligence Operating Cell based in Dungu, which collates
information about the armed group, told IRIN: "We know about the
meeting, but we don't know anything of what decisions were taken,"
but added that in the second half of 2011 the number of violent
incidents in the DRC attributed to the LRA decreased substantially.
He also noted that armed groups have high and low periods of
Ian Rowe, DDRRR head of Orientale Province based in
Dungu and working to eliminate the group, tries to gather
intelligence based on snippets of information.
counterparts in eastern DRC where mobile phone communication with
potential defectors is a vital tool in convincing the officer class
of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) to
] no such avenue exists with the LRA.
Instead, there is a
reliance on leaflet distribution guaranteeing amnesty, except for
those indicted by the ICC, and a network of FM radios conveying a
similar message to LRA combatants in a variety of languages,
including Acholi and Lingala, in the three affected countries.
said the fliers are either air-dropped by MONUSCO, or distributed by
FARDC in the DRC and by the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) in
CAR and South Sudan, "and put on trees or along waterways, as
historically the LRA follow waterways".
has produced 30,000 flyers for distribution, showing photographs of
recent escapees in the past few years, which those still "remaining
in the bush" were likely to recognize, Rowe said.
just had a Kony wife surrender in Djema. She saw the wife of Odhiambo
on one of our leaflets disseminated by the UPDF in eastern CAR. That
convinced her to leave, despite Kony telling her that the woman had
been killed shortly after the picture was taken," Brubacher
"Our inability to communicate, deal or negotiate
with the LRA directly and effectively. means that for the most part,
we have very little idea as to the extent our messages are getting
through," Rowe said
It was difficult to put a precise
number on the penetration of the messaging by DDRRR, but he said some
estimates of 75 percent were probably an "overestimation of the
number of escapees we're receiving in Dungu who state having seen or
heard our messaging."
September 2011, another LRA commander, Ocan Bunia, died, reportedly
of malaria, in the DRC, and a number of captives were released. At
their debriefing there were indications that fighters in the group
had also wanted to defect, but had no way of safely doing so.
Ugandan LRA defectors are met with hostility by affected
communities and MONUSCO's DDRRR programme has embarked on an
awareness-raising programme to try and convince people to hand them
over to the authorities rather than mete out their own form of
justice, which acts as another barrier to the LRA's disarmament and
demobilization, Brubacher said, and has led to bizarre acts by LRA
"The last LRA commandant who surrendered
jumped onto the road naked in front of a Caritas motorcycle. When the
motorcycle driver agreed to help him surrender, the LRA fighter went
back into the forest and got his gun and uniform. That is how hard it
is to surrender," he said.
The incident with Bunia acted
as a catalyst to develop the concept of assembly points, which are at
least 10-15km from the closest communities. Two sites have been
identified northeast of Dungu, one north of Faradje, one in Garamba
National Park, and one south of Bangadi.
Rowe said 30,000
fliers detailing the locations, funded by the San Diego-based NGO
Invisible Children, would be distributed to make these sites known,
and it was expected the concept would be rolled out regionally.
MONUSCO has agreed to send patrols to these sites twice a
week to check-up on any LRA defectors. "It is the best we can do
for these people [defectors]. Although they might have to hang around
for a few days before being picked-up."
report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95109
Congolese refugees hail Lubanga verdict
19 March 2012 (IRIN) - Congolese refugees in Oruchinga camp,
southwestern Uganda, have welcomed the International Criminal Court's
(ICC) guilty verdict [
] against former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel leader
Thomas Lubanga. Some of the refugees are survivors of attacks by
On March 14, Lubanga was convicted of the
war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15
and using them to take part in hostilities.
Lubanga did were bad. He took away the riches of the Congolese people
by force. I am happy he has been found guilty for his atrocities and
crimes," said Mark Bolikango, 18, who fled to Uganda from Goma
in eastern DRC. "What I don't know is whether my mother and
sister have HIV/AIDS; [Lubanga's] soldiers raped them in front of
Francis Tumba Pandemoya who fled Bunia, the
main town in the northeastern region of Ituri where Lubanga's forces
were active, said: "It's a wonderful decision by the ICC.
Lubanga recruited Congolese children to become soldiers and ordered
them to commit several atrocities and war crimes. Lubanga was a
killer. His militia killed the Congolese and raped women. I want him
to be jailed for 25 years. Others will learn from it."
to Peter Iyolo, formerly from Bunia's Wacha area, too many Congolese
are in Uganda as refugees because of Lubanga's atrocities. "We
fled our country because of war," he said.
As of 1
February, some 89,949 Congolese refugees were living in Uganda,
according to the UN Refugee Agency. But the number is steadily rising
with dozens of refugees arriving in Uganda [
] every day from parts of eastern DRC.
refugees said they were optimistic Lubanga's conviction will deter
other militia leaders and are calling on the ICC to cast its net
wider. "It's a warning to the remaining criminals who are still
continuing to recruit children and killing our people. If you are a
criminal, one day you will be arrested, prosecuted and convicted,"
said Salome Keza, a refugee.
A nursing mother at the
refugee camp said: "I am tired of people laughing at us as
refugees. I believe after Lubanga's conviction, the guns will go
silent. We need to return; it's not easy to live as a refugee."
"Was he [Lubanga] the only one who committed atrocities
in Congo? All perpetrators of violence and atrocities in Congo must
be arrested and held accountable. Massacres and mayhem are still
continuing," said Furaha Kavira, who hails from North Kivu.
Joseph Akonkwa, who fled his village near Bukavu in South
Kivu Province, was more skeptical. "Laurent Nkunda [a former
leader of another DRC rebel group, now thought to be under house
arrest in Rwanda] committed serious atrocities in Congo. He killed,
and looted minerals. Why hasn't he been taken to the ICC? Is it
because Lubanga killed UN troops?" he asked, referring to his
alleged role in the 2005 killing of nine Bangladeshi blue helmets in
"Recruiting children into the army by Lubanga
versus killing and the looting of our resources that Nkunda did -
which one is good?" he asked.
Nkunda was arrested [
] on 22 January 2009 as he tried to escape a joint Congolese-Rwandan
military offensive. He claimed to be protecting minority Tutsis in
the east from the Forces démocratique pour la libération de Rwanda
(FDLR), which included the Hutu militia blamed for the 1994 Rwandan
Lubanga's trial was the first to be decided by the
ICC; refugees and analysts [
] are calling for more arrests and convictions.
This report online: