The Complex Web of Violence Gets Messier in Congo

Congolese residents flee fighting in Eastern Congo amid fears that Rwanda is backing the mutineers (AFP/File, Junior D.Kannah)

Congolese residents flee fighting in Eastern Congo amid fears that Rwanda is backing the mutineers (AFP/File, Junior D.Kannah)

The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly the provinces of North and South Kivu, has long had the reputation of being one of the most violent and chaotic places on the continent. Furthermore, recent splurges of mass violence mark a definite deterioration in the already critical humanitarian situation, especially with regards to troubled relations with Rwanda.

A leaked internal UN report seen by the BBC and Global Post on Monday accused neighbouring Rwanda of supplying weapons and soldiers to rebels linked to General Bosco Ntaganda in eastern DR Congo. UN officials interviewed 11 rebel deserters, all of whom claimed to be Rwandan citizens. They said they were recruited and trained in Rwanda earlier this year before being transported across the border to join a rebellion, dubbed March 23 Movement or M23, kick-started by Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. After training, some of the recruits said they were told they would be fighting the Congolese government while others were told they would be defending Congolese Tutsis against persecution.

“All those who have been arrested after the last fighting are telling the same story,” Lambert Mende, Congo’s communications minister said, adding that an inquiry was under way and Congo government itself was not accusing Rwanda of supporting the rebels. Rwanda is denying it, and we don’t have any reason to doubt what they’re saying at this time,” he said.

In turn, Rwanda has rejected the claims made by the recent UN report. The Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, called the report as “categorically false and dangerous rumours.” She criticized the international community for “neglecting real issues of stability by limiting itself to symptoms instead of the root cause of suffering in our region.”

Mushikiwabo slammed the UN force in DRC (MONUSCO) stating that “the billion-dollar-a-year operation makes up one quarter of the UN’s entire peacekeeping budget, and yet it has been a failure from day one. Instead of pursuing its mandate to eradicate the FDLR menace and help stabilize the region, MONUSCO has become a destabilizing influence, primarily concerned with keeping hold of its bloated budgets and justifying its ongoing existence.”

Rumors of Rwandan support for the new rebel movement have surfaced for weeks, but the UN debrief of deserters offers the first evidence that will likely ratchet up already tense relations between Kinshasa and Kigali.

The two Great Lakes neighbors have a troubled history and now again it’s going to get even more messy. Rwanda in the past has accused Congo of harboring Rwandan Hutu fighters who fled across the border after carrying out the 1994 genocide. But Rwanda in turn has backed a succession of rebellions in eastern Congo over more than a decade of violence that has claimed the lives of over 7 million Congolese.

In 2008, U.N. investigators accused Rwanda of arming the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), led by renegade Congolese Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda and later Bosco Ntaganda, which after 2009 peace deal integrated the rebel troops into the Congolese army and made Bosco an army general. This brief period seemed to usher in a new era of cooperation between the two countries, but after international pressure to arrest Bosco spiked a few months ago, not only has violence exponentially started again but neighbor tensions between Rwanda and Congo have created more complexities to the already thorny causes and effects of conflict in Congo. It is extremely exasperating seeing the cycle of violence repeat itself while the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the DRC has now reached more than two million as of March 31, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Realizing the Gravity of the Situation in the Congo

A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo reacts to camera as she arrives at the Nyakabande refugee transit camp in Kisoro town 521km (312 miles) southwest of Uganda capital Kampala (REUTERS/James Akena)

A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo reacts to camera as she arrives at the Nyakabande refugee transit camp in Kisoro town 521km (312 miles) southwest of Uganda capital Kampala (REUTERS/James Akena)

 “There were so many of them. They came at 1:30 p.m. We were almost done with the school day. [The fighters] asked us to exit the room and then they took us behind the school building. They tied my hands with a rope. All of us were tied up. Then they marched us to the hill…. They told us we would fight for Bosco [Ntaganda]…. They informed us that we would liberate our country by giving our support to Bosco Ntaganda. We must support him so that our Congo would not be taken by others.” A 17-year-old student at Mapendano secondary school told Human Rights Watch.

A new Human Rights Watch report says Bosco Ntaganda’s troops, an estimated 300 to 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 April 19 and May 4. At least 48 were children under age 18. Human Rights Watch Senior Africa Researcher Anneke Van Woudenberg says much of the forced recruitment has targeted schools.

In mid-April, Ntaganda and fighters under his command told those living in towns and villages under their control that children and young men were needed for their forces. One woman from Birambizo told Human Rights Watch that Ntaganda personally came to her village and said, “Since you [villagers] have been with the government, you’ve gotten 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.”

Now that the situation is exponentially getting out of control, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided to expand its charges on Bosco and also pursue the arrest of Sylvestre Mudacumura, military commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia.  ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Monday he wanted to add charges of crimes against humanity for murder, ethnic persecution, rape and sexual slavery. He also sought war crimes charges for “intentional attacks” against civilians that led to murder, rape, sexual slavery and pillaging. And for Mudacumura, military commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia, the prosecutor is seeking five counts of crimes against humanity — murder, inhumane acts, rape and torture — and nine war crimes charges. This is hopeful and encouraging news, but why did it take the ICC this long?

Both of these very dangerous men have killed millions over the past 20 years and they were charged with much less than what they commited, like Thomas Lubnaga. Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that an examination of the evidence collected during the Lubanga trial has led the Office of the Prosecutor to request an expansion of the arrest warrant against Ntaganda for murder, persecution based on ethnic grounds, rape, sexual slavery, attacking civilians and pillaging. Ntaganda was a close associate of Lubanga, who in March became the first person to be convicted by the ICC.

“The followers of Ntaganda and Mudacumura have to understand that it is time for them to demobilize and stop their crimes, even help in arresting the leaders,” the ICC prosecutor, whose term of office comes to an end next month, said.

Is Khartoum’s “New Strategy” the “final solution” for the Darfur problem?

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I had mixed feelings after seeing the following Facebook post from Ambassador Susan Rice. “Back from #Sudan. Situation very worrying. Parties have lots of work ahead. US will continue to do all we can to support peace and justice.”

I think many of us have known, and for quite a long time now, that the situation in Sudan is “very worrying”.  If ever there was a time to stay engaged, following the many ever-changing developments, the time is now.

If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to check out the recent piece by Eric Reeves:  Accommodating Genocide: The International Response to Khartoum’s “New Strategy for Darfur”.  With so much uncertainty surrounding the upcoming referendum in Sudan, we have decided to hold an event in November that will allow us to hear directly from members of the local Sudanese community.  For now, please save the evening of Saturday, November 13th on your calendars and we will send full details soon.

Lastly, please note the International Criminal Court Alliance Annual Meeting from 4-7p this coming Thursday, October 14th .  The program entitled, “Will the New Changes to the ICC Treaty Make it Easier for the U.S. to Join?” (see details below) will include Gillian Sorensen, formerly United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations, now Senior Advisor/National Advocate at the United Nations Foundation as keynote speaker.   A panel discussion with Cesare P.R. Romano (Professor of Law and W. Joseph Ford Fellow at Loyola Law School), David Kaye (the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Program at UCLA Law School and Director of its International Justice Clinic), and Gillian Sorensen, will be moderated by Edwin “Rip” Smith (Professor of Law at USC Law Center), and much more.

Thank you.

Barbara English
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
ocfordarfur.org | blog | facebook

PS: Our next OCFD meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday October 12th at 6:30p. Hope you can join us!

oct 2010 flyer

OC For Darfur meeting is on Tuesday, August 31 at 6:30p

Hi everyone,

Omar Bashir snubs ICC arrest warrant, visits Kenya

Omar Bashir snubs ICC arrest warrant, visits Kenya

Just yesterday, Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir visited Kenya to celebrate the country’s new constitution. This was yet another chance to arrest and bring him to justice. Did the United States, Brazil and other major European governments know about this? How will they respond to this clear snub of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Security Council?

The next OC For Darfur meeting this Tuesday, August 31st at 6:30p. We will meet at Patty’s office in Newport Beach. Here is the address:

Patty’s office @ 6:30p
2424 SE Bristol Street, Suite 300
Newport Beach, CA 92660


We will discuss:

  • Update on what’s going on in Sudan, Congo and Burma.
  • Planning for the screening of The Greatest Silence in September.
  • Potential event featuring the Sudanese from San Diego in November.
  • The United States and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

If you’d like to know more about us and our various activities, please join us at the meeting. We would love to have you participate.

Barbara & Anshul
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
ocfordarfur.org | calendar | blog | facebook

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo


“Why is this happening? Why use sex in order to humiliate and defeat someone? To threaten someone so they flee their village? Why use sex? This is the monstrosity of the century.”
- Dr. Denis Mukwege, Panzi Hospital

Sunday, September 19 2010
6:30p refreshments
7:00p screening & discussion

Mesa Verde United Methodist Church

1701 W. Baker St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Cost:
Free

Since 1998 a brutal war has been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over 5 million people have died. Tens of thousands of women and girls who have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated and tortured by soldiers from both foreign militias and the Congolese army. Why doesn’t the world know about these women? Why do they suffer in silence?

Visit http://livingubuntu.org/events for more information.
Please help us in planning for the event and RSVP on the website.

* * *

OC For Darfur meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday July 20th at 6:30p

Hi everyone,

Obama: Bashir should go to the Hague

Obama: Bashir should go to the Hague

We had a lovely get-together at Barbara’s and Betsy’s house this past Saturday to celebrate the 10th Birthday of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is quite amazing what this young institution has accomplished in such a short amount of time (see the accomplishments).

Watching The Reckoning brought up many questions. Is the ICC achieving it’s mission of bringing to justice the worst offenders of crimes in the world? Who is responsible for apprehending Bashir now that the court has issued a warrant for his arrest? Even though 111 nations are members of the court, why hasn’t Russia, China and the United States joined? Should the US join?

The next OC For Darfur planning meeting is this Tuesday, July 20th at 6:30p.
We will meet at Patty’s office in Newport Beach. Here is the address:

Patty’s office @ 6:30p
2424 SE Bristol Street, Suite 300
Newport Beach, CA 92660

We will discuss:

  • Update on what’s going on in Sudan, Congo and Burma.
  • Wrap-up from our Birthday Celebration for the ICC.
  • Planning for our meeting with Congressman Ed Royce’s office this week.
  • What should we do for Genocide Prevention Month next April?
  • The United States and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

If you’d like to know more about us and our various activities, please join us at the meeting. We would love to have you participate.

Barbara & Anshul
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
ocfordarfur.org | blog | facebook

::: RECENT NEWS :::

U.S. special envoy unhappy about ICC genocide ruling against Sudanese president [read]
Jeffrey Gettleman: Somalia the “most dangerous place in the world.” [more]
Nicholas Kristof: The Security Council Sits on its Hands [more]-
Sudan expels two senior aid officials from Darfur [more]
Congress passes conflict minerals legislation [more]
Elections in Burma (Myanmar) won’t be fair, but they will be significant [more]

Guess who has a birthday coming up?

Hi everyone,

When the Holocaust happened 70 years ago, the world came together to hold the perpetrators of genocide accountable, tried them at the famous Nuremberg trials and said “Never again…”. Sadly, it happened again, in Cambodia (1975), Bosnia (1992), Rwanda (1994), Sudan (2003 and continuing). At the same time, massive human rights violations continue in places like the Congo and Burma where leaders continue to perpetrate horrendous crimes against their own citizens. In an increasingly global and interconnected world, we need strong institutions like the International Criminal Court (ICC) who hold such leaders accountable for their actions. Its mission is to bring to justice persons who have been “accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”.

“The ICC is a court of last resort. It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility. In addition, the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes.”

Next Saturday, July 17th, it’ll be exactly 10 years since the formation of this unprecedented institution. We hope you will join us as we celebrate the 10th birthday of the ICC at Barbara’s house. All details are below.

Warmly,

Barbara & Anshul
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
ocfordarfur.org | calendar | blog | facebook

10th Birthday Celebration of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

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Saturday, July 17th 6:00p Dinner 7:30p screening of The Reckoning

Barbara and Betsy’s house in Aliso Viejo

Suggested contribution of $25

This is a mini-fundraiser for Living Ubuntu. And a chance to know the volunteer team behind all our events. The dinner will be home-made, vegetarian and undeniably delectable :)

Seating is extremely limited at the house. We can accommodate no more than 20 people. If you’re planning to attend, please RSVP.

For more information, please call us at (949) 891-2005.

* * *

OC For Darfur meeting is this Tuesday, July 6th

Hi everyone,

Understanding Burma: An Evening With Tim Aye Hardy

See pictures from Understanding Burma: An Evening With Tim Aye Hardy

It was quite surprising to see so many people attend Understanding Burma: An Evening With Tim Hardy last Thursday. At best we were expecting 50-70 people given that it was a mid-week event and right before the holiday weekend. Instead, we had over a 100 people attend and raised $427.05!! Thank you everyone for your generous support. This money will be split evenly between Tim’s organization, Burma Global Action Network and us.

The next OC For Darfur planning meeting is this Tuesday, July 6th at 6:30p.
We will meet at Patty’s office in Newport Beach. Here is the address:

Patty’s office @ 6:30p
2424 SE Bristol Street, Suite 300
Newport Beach, CA 92660

We will discuss:

  • Update on what’s going on in Sudan, Congo and Burma.
  • Wrap up for An Evening With Tim Aye Hardy.
  • Celebrating the 10th birthday of the ICC at Barbara’s house on July 17th.
  • The United States and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

If you’d like to know more about our various activities, please do join us at the meeting.

Anshul Mittal
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
ocfordarfur.org | calendar | blog | facebook

PS: All our projects are volunteer driven and organized with minimal overhead cost. However, we always need help in covering postage, printing and other misc. costs. If you’d like to help, please consider making a donation. Thank you :)

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