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D. R. of Congo: Trouble in the Kivus

This month's round-up from the Democratic Republic of Congo will focus on bloggers in North and South Kivu. Bordering Rwanda and Burundi, these two provinces represent the troubled epicenter of Central Africa’s picturesque Great Lakes region.

For many months now, tension has been inexorably rising, as a dissident general named Laurent Nkunda has refused to integrate his forces into the national army and prepared for war instead. He has positioned himself as the protector of a Tutsi minority threatened by the continued presence of a large group of Rwandan Hutu rebels (the FDLR/Interahamwe, many of whom were implicated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda). Until now, the Congolese army has lacked the resolve and the capacity to take on either group militarily. But clashes have begun, leading to emergency talks between Rwanda and the D R Congo.

On 3 September, Stood in the Congo reported that Nkunda was destroying local power and communication facilities (possibly his people have an independent radio network):

Last night General Nkunda's men destroyed all communication antennas for radios and mobile phones in the Rutshuru and Bunagana area. They also destroyed the hydro-electric station at Rutshuru, taking out the electricity. The towns of Kiwanja and Rutshuru are now cut off from the outside world.

Unfortunately, the rebels have also attacked a rangers’ patrol post in Virunga National Park, taking control of the area, which straddles the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

All three armed groups have long indulged in a variety of criminal pursuits at the expense of the local population, ranging from rape and pillage to trafficking minerals and contraband, including cannabis: (Debout Congolais [Fr] reveals how the FDLR encourages cannabis cultivation by pillaging all the other crops, and both rebels and national army soldiers are involved in trading cannabis for cash or livestock.)

As Cedric Kalonji [Fr]asks :

Plus de dix ans depuis que le Congo a plongé dans une sanglante guerre. Les innocentes victimes se comptent par millions. La plupart de ceux qui ont fait cette guerre jouissent aujourd’hui d’une totale impunité et ont même été récompensés… Où va le Congo mon pays ? Toutes ces tueries s’arrêteront-elles un jour ?

It's than ten years since the Congo was plunged into a bloody war. The innocent victims numbered in the millions. Most of those who fought enjoy today a total impunity and have even been rewarded… Where is the Congo, my country, going? Will all these killings stop one day?

In July, South Kivu mourned the assassination of Serge Maheshe, a reporter for UN-backed Radio Okapi. Now, to make matters worse, a military court in Bukavu has convicted two of his friends of the murder. The author of Kivu Express [Fr] worked with one of them and is plainly convinced of his innocence:

Je ne pourrai jamais croire à sa culpabilité dans cette affaire… La version des faits présentée en cour semble tellement improbable et sans preuves réelles que tout le procès apparaît comme une véritable mascarade. Il semble qu’on veuille trouver rapidement des coupables pour ne pas pointer du doigt les vrais responsables de ce drame.

I could never believe he is guilty… The version of the facts presented in court appeared so unlikely and unsubstantiated that the whole process seemed to be a masquerade. It looks as though they wanted a guilty verdict as quickly as possible so as to avoid pointing the finger at those really responsible.

The troubles of the Kivus seem not to be over for the time being. After a slow build-up, events could unfold rapidly now, with an immediate and long-term impact on politics and livelihoods across the Great Lakes region.

9 comments

  • PS Stood in the Congo adds that following Nkunda’s destruction of mobile phone masts, Celtel sent its customers the following apology:

    ‘Cher Abonné. Nous connaissons des perturbations sur le reséau aux Nord et Sud Kivu. Veuillez accepter nos excuses pour les désagréments causés.’

    (Dear subscriber. We’re experiencing problems with the network in North and South Kivu. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused.)

  • Following Cedric’s message, I commented on his, blog, then proceeded to write my rant as a post on my blog, where I have been derelict in my blogging for about a year now. I wrote because I am both optimistic and terrified, when I consider what lies ahead for Congo.

    Optimistic because there seems to be a sense of “normalization” across the country – people are fighting over salaries more than ethnicity, teachers’ unions are staging strikes and stopping school from starting, leaders are still making bogus deals and taking bribes… normalization! I am also perversely optimistic because it seems to be – now more than ever – in the interest of those that can make or break our economy (Mining giants) to help stabilize the situation, and effect social change. So there is some small room and opportunity for greatness here.

    But I am EXTREMELY worried because that general – and potentially false – sense of “normalization” seems to be covering-up a storm of horrible proportions. There is still a mutual lack of understanding between the East and the West, in terms of their respective history, their influence on power, and their position in our conflicts with our neighbors. And as far as the neighbors are concerned, they never truly abandoned their ambitions in the Congo; they were simply coerced – among others, by the US – into putting them on hold, pending negotiations for the reestablishment of the Great Lakes Community, in which they would have more power and influence than they ever had before. That does not sit well with most Congolese people, and the combination of both external threats and internal frustrations could prove quite explosive and deadly. Moreover, with the heavy involvement of Western companies in shady mining deals, the West may be involuntarily dragged into this much further than they are comfortable, and that would simply be fatal to Congo and the region.

    As I said on my blog, I really hope I am wrong, and this is just me over-analyzing.

  • Je suis au curent de la situation dans les Kivus. Mon première visite était en 1997 et mon dernier départ était le 2 Décembre 2006. Pendant la période que j’ai travaillé la bas j’ai ressemblé les citroyans concerner et établi les CCMVs (Centres de Conseils pour Mieux vivre) a Goma, Bagira et Kongolo. Nous avons donné surtout des appuis pour les déplacer de volcan de 2002 et aussi pour la réinsertion des enfants soldats a Kongolo. J’étais avec les membres de la CCMV pour défier les Mai Mai pour donner les enfants aussi. Les centres ont fonctionné avec les contributions des membres et aussi les appuis des donateurs. Apres ils ont continué avec le fonds générer sur l’intérêt. J’étais mise a la porte en Novembre par une organisation humanitaire en Novembre 2006. Une raison que J’étais mise a la porte par la dernière organisation a Bukavu, parce que j’ai voulu rester pendant et après les élections pour calmer le population et établir les CCMV.

    Je suis retourner au Sri Lanka et trouver que la guerre ici et laisser en place pour que les organisations humanitaires et développement ont besoin de Nourrir leurs travailler et aussi agrandir leurs organisations. Ils trouvent que si en met les CCMV ici dans chaque village et la population devient forte, nous n’allons pas avoir besoin d’eux.

    Il faudra dresser une liste des gens et les organisations qui gagnent leur pain a cause de la guerre et vous auront les réponses pourquoi en a besoin de laisser l’insécurité et les déplacer et les pauvres en place. Pourquoi en ne doit pas donner les appuis pour que le population s’organise et devinent fort ?
    Je suis en train de chercher de l’argent pour mettre en place les CCMVs ici au Sri Lanka. Une fois que j’ai commence le processus je vais venir a Bukavu pour démarrer le processus pour travailler avec la population et mettre en place les CCMVs pour enlever la guerre pour toujours dans les Kivus : Prier voir Notre Website http://tidycentre.com/web/english/index.htm

    Pourquoi je dois fini la guerre dans les Kivus : c’est parce que j’ai deux enfants et ma fiancée qui est a Goma a ce moment.

    Et voir les articles que j’ai mit en place pour éduquer la population au Sri Lanka sur les raisons des guerres : http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=4589&PHPSESSID=32982fda499b5bbd8fe62dc17dc40aa9

    http://www.aidworkers.net/?q=blog/1194

    http://apps.trocaire.org/justworld/sunimala/weblog/288.html
    J’ai besoin de prendre contacte avec les individus qui sont HONNET, NEUTRE et concerner sur le situation la bas pour commencer la processus et écrit aux bailleurs qu’ils doivent donner les fonds aux organisations (Gérer par les HONNETTES) locales pour renforcer leurs capacités et mettre en place les systèmes pour éviter le recommencement des violences et l’arrêt d’exploitation des ressources naturelles.

    Prier me contacter si vous avez les noms des gens dans les Kivus qui veules travailler avec nous pour établi des réseaux des CCMVs. Et donner les services suivants aux population :

    – Dialogue with neglected and fragmented communities in remote, conflict or post conflict areas to gather all citizens.
    – Also invite the militants in the area to dialogue a proposal that will benefit everyone
    – Have a meeting and establish CCC (Concerned Citizens Committees) with Honest, Neutral and guide them (If necessary- normally not needed) to democratically elect office bearers.
    – Establish sub-committees for the different unmet needs including one to set up a conflict resolution unit and early warning system to prevent future conflict. (Some militants in the area could be invited to be members of this sub-committee and take responsibility)
    – Have a program to carry out psychosocial and trauma counseling to recover the imbalanced (Human beings need their Emotional, Spiritual, Mental and Physical aspects in life to be in balance in order to function efficiently and in an un-biased manner)
    – Establish a center for better living (ACBL) where the following services will be provided
    – Identification of Natural Talents (Thought Patterns, Will/Drive and Skills)
    – Refining thoughts/will to be sociable and non-violent and polishing skills to be marketable by sensitizing them to realize that “Everyone needs everyone else to enable their enterprises and businesses to thrive” (As everyone in the community has a role to play in enhancing income-everyone is either a client or a supplier/transporter of raw materials or goods) (When we start valuing each other’s contributions to assuring livelihood security, HRV is eradicated)
    – Orienting those that are unemployed and militants and child soldiers to professions aligned to their talents and polishing them through entrepreneurs and elders.
    – Sensitize and advice on the importance of maintaining democratic governance, transparent accounting and record keeping at a high level, to prevent conflict of interest an corruption.
    – Provide BDS services if necessary.
    – Advice on starting village level savings and investment and SEAD (Small Economic Activities Development groups)
    While the groups are saving and investing, provide guidelines to prepare proposals for accessing grants matched to their savings to increase their working capital. (Either from a bank a MFI or donors) – Lessons learned demonstrates that matching grants can be given in 12 weeks and the communities are able to manage themselves in 24 weeks

    Merci.
    Sunimal Alles
    54 Anura Mawatha,
    Dehiwala,
    Sri Lanka.
    00-94-722826620 et 00-94-112763539

  • […] the political side, Fred reports that Laurent Nkunda in eastern Congo is still standing strong against integrating his […]

  • Another major problem in the Kivus that is receiving too little international attention is the organised sexual violence as a weapon of war. Here are some excerpts from a recent article on the topic:

    In the more fragile parts of Congo, militia groups have preyed on the civilian population for years.

    John Holmes, who coordinates U.N. emergency relief operations, said 4,500 cases of sexual violence have been reported in just one eastern province since January, though the actual number is surely much higher.

    “Violence and rape at the hands of these armed groups has become all too common,” said Holmes, who spent four days in eastern Congo. “The intensity and frequency is worse than anywhere else in the world.”

    Holmes spoke at length about the stories he heard from women who had been raped by members of various armed groups, including the Congolese army. The degree of the brutality and humiliation involved — women being gang-raped in front of crowds including their husbands, for instance — were particularly disturbing, Holmes said.

    “It’s the scale and brutality of it,” he said, grasping for words. “It’s the use of it as a weapon of terror. It’s the way it’s done publicly, for maximum humiliation. It’s hard to understand.”

    There is no doubt this heinous mass-crime must be stopped. There can be no lasting peace in the Kivus if we don’t address this issue as well.

    There is an EU-Africa Summit coming up in December which is the ideal opportunity to increase public awareness about this heinous crime and pressure policy makers finally to do something to stop it. We’re trying to collect as many signatures as possible before that, demanding that the fight against sexual violence as a weapon of war become a TOP legislative and funding priority for the EU.

    Please visit http://www.ircuk.org now to sign our petition, and spread the word to your readers.

    Thank you very much.

    Rick

  • Madame Nicole Tumba ASINA

    Nous sommes responsables d’une ONGD aux cotes des démuniess en RDC et nous nous forcons par un modeste programme de réaliser nos objectifs à caractère humanitaire

  • Madame Nicole Tumba ASINA

    en la circonstance nous recherchons des bailleurs de fonds crédibles avec qui nous pouvons travailler en collaboration ou partenariat en faveur des congolais victimes des maladies transmissibles , crise criante dans la pauvreté,victime de l’écologie , sans logis , sans emplois et autres situations à lire sur notre fiche des objectifs que nous aurons à vous transmettre après votre réponse sur unotre adresse email…

  • […] than a year after his colleague at the Radio Okapi Serge Maheshe was murdered, Cédric Kalonji [Fr] says that one of the alleged perpetrators fled the prison in […]

  • The problems in the Kivu can only be solved if those who live there join together and established strong citizens committees, developed programs to transcend them from poverty to riches, and advocated for their needs rather than wait for NGOs and other actors to come around and offer them partial solutions.

    I am now in Uganda and have submitted a proposal to work with concerned citizens who established CCMVs/ACBL (Advisory Centers for better Living) and concerned citizens in North and South Kivu: The submission is titled: “The way the Chronic and Intergenerational transmission (IGT) poverty Cycle can be broken by concerned citizens” It can be viewed and voted for at the link: http://www.changemakers.net/en-us/node/17143

    I have also placed another proposal titled: “The way TIDY (Talents Identification and Development for everYone) Centres plan to create employment for everybody”. It can be read and voted for at: http://www.changemakers.net/en-us/node/17657

    Sunimal Alles
    P.O. Box 7868, Kampala, Uganda.
    Mobile: +256773834506

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