Friday November 30, 2012

UK withholds aid to Rwanda in light of Congo DRC allegations

Justine Greening stops release of £21m in budget support to Kigali after Democratic Republic of Congo conflict escalates

Liz Ford
guardian.co.uk, Friday 30 November 2012 06.56 EST

The UK is withholding aid to Rwanda in light of accusations of Rwandan support for M23 rebels in Congo DRC. Photograph: Jerome Delay/AP

The British government will withhold aid to Rwanda following allegations that the country has been financing rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In a defining moment for UK aid policy to Rwanda, the international development secretary, Justine Greening, announced on Friday that £21m of budget support – money that goes directly to the Kigali government – due to be handed over next month will not now be released.

In July, Britain withheld £16m in aid after an interim UN report alleged Rwanda's involvement in neighbouring DRC, but the money was controversially restored by Greening's predecessor Andrew Mitchell in September on his last day at DfID.

Greening's decision is perhaps no surprise. Last week, she and the foreign secretary, William Hague, said a subsequent report by the UN expert group (pdf) into the fighting in the DRC provided "credible and compelling" evidence of Rwandan support for the M23 rebels who are fighting government troops. The violence has led to the displacement of almost half a million people in eastern Congo, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis.

Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, denies the allegations.

The EU, US, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have already suspended aid to Rwanda.

Greening said on Friday that the evidence DfID had gathered "constitutes a breach of the partnership principles set out in the memorandum of understanding [between Britain and Rwanda], and as a result I have decided not to release the next payment of budget support to Rwanda".

She added: "We are committed to finding lasting solutions to the conflict in this region and will work with the governments of Rwanda and DRC to secure a peaceful resolution to the situation in eastern DRC."

The UK international development select committee backed Greening's decision, but in a report published on Friday it said DfID should consider the alternative channels to deliver its aid and the wider implications for its programmes if unrest in the region continues. The committee also questioned how Mitchell could have concluded in September that Rwanda's support for the M23 rebels had ended.

Britain is Rwanda's largest bilateral donor, and planned to increase its aid from around £75m in 2012-13 to £90m by 2015. The UK has praised the east African state for making progress on poverty alleviation and meeting the millennium development goals.

Human Rights Watch's UK director, David Mepham, said withholding aid to Rwanda sent an "unequivocal message" to Kigali to stop supporting the "abusive M23 rebels in eastern Congo". A HRW report in September said the Rwandan army had deployed troops in eastern Congo to support M23's military operations.

Mepham added: "The UK is also rightly calling on Rwanda to respect basic human rights … For years, these principles have been breached by Rwanda without triggering any response from the UK government. We hope today's statement marks the beginning of a new era in which the UK government will uphold its principles on human rights and require its development partners to do the same."

The head of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, this month urged donors to unfreeze aid to Rwanda to avoid causing long-term damage in the country. East African Business Week reported Kaberuka saying the consequences of withholding aid could be costly and take a long time to repair.

Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo expressed disappointment at the UK government's decision: "False, politically-motivated allegations against Rwanda serve the purposes of those who would rather ignore their responsibilities and not face up to the complex governance and security challenges that have afflicted the DRC over many decades. Blaming Rwanda might suit short term political ends but ultimately it hinders understanding of the conflict and puts an effective and lasting solution further out of reach.

"Leveraging aid and development funds to punish or reward the perceived conduct of recipients, or to placate domestic critics, is contrary to the partnership philosophy that has helped make the collaboration between Rwanda and the UK among the most successful of its kind. This action harms Rwanda and does nothing to help the DRC."

DfID will provide a further £18m of support for immediate humanitarian needs in DRC, it announced on Friday. Aid agencies have warned that thousands of people are seeking shelter in camps for internally displaced persons that are already beyond capacity, raising concerns of a cholera outbreak.

The DRC country director of Mercy Corps, Mark Dwyer, said: "Thousands of displaced people are in and around Goma now, searching for a safe place for their families. Many have moved from one camp to another and back again across the last week, fleeing the fighting.

"Preventing cholera is our absolute No 1 priority. In some areas right now there are over 200 people for every one latrine, and 700 people sharing a single hand-washing station. The combination of poor sanitation like this and a shortage of clean water makes water-borne disease a very real threat. Our engineers and staff are working around the clock to help bring water to more than 400,000 people here who need it, as well as building many more latrines and washing facilities, and training those living in camps on the importance of basic sanitation practices like hand-washing."
DR Congo: North Kivu poised for war
William Church - 18 May, 2007
Regional Director, Great Lakes Conflict Early Alert Report
Brig. General Vainqueur Mayala, commander of the Ituri military region in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been assigned the post of military commander of the 8th Military Region (North Kivu). This change signals a movement in the Kinshasa government that could either bring North Kivu to rebellion or the final disarmament of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who are associated with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

General Mayala brings significant experience to North Kivu as a military commander. In Ituri, his forces utilized credible force, with the very active support of the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC), against three, long-entrenched militias of Ituri: FNI, MRC, and FRPI.
During 2005-2006, Ituri was the scene of some of the most intense combat in the DRC, and this brought Peter Karim (FNI), Mathieu Ngujolo (MRC), and currently Cobra Matata (FRPI) to the negotiation table. Therefore, on the positive side, General Mayala sends a message that he knows how to use force and he also knows how to provoke voluntary disarmament. However, on the political side, there may be another message being delivered.

The 54-year-old general, who was loyal to the Kabila government during the 1998-2003 war, replaces General Ngyzo Stiyalo, who was a RCD-Goma commander during the war and fought against the Kabila regime. This may be significant considering the current statements by ex-General Laurent Nkunda, also a RCD commander during the war, that the mixing process has failed and his troops may be used in another way.

In essence, President Kabila has placed a proven military commander in North Kivu who is loyal to Kinshasa in the event of a rebellion by Nkunda. This sets the stage for a potential showdown with either the forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda or the FDLR or both.

The mixing process has allowed Nkunda the opportunity to establish his troops in strategic locations in North Kivu. They currently hold positions in Rutshuru, which is a strategic access point on the east side of Virunga National Park, and on the Masisi to Goma route. In addition, the number of forces loyal to Nkunda has dramatically grown during the mixing process and could now number between 3,500 to 4,500 soldiers.

Beyond the loss of civilian life, the most significant danger will be political and will surface in the perceived role of the FDLR if Kinshasa moves towards a military conflict with Nkunda’s forces. Prior to 2006, the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC), in many cases, openly cohabitated with the FDLR, and prior to 2005, there was perceived support of the FDLR by the Kinshasa government.

If the FDLR, traditional enemies of Nkunda’s forces, are openly utilized and allied with the FARDC against Nkunda’s forces, this could potentially undo the current cooperation agreement between Rwanda and the DRC.

CEAR discounts the possibility that this scenario will immediately drag the region back into regional warfare. However, any activity that derails the disarmament of the FDLR and weakens regional security cooperation agreements could not only hinder regional security but also regional economic integration like the restart of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) for Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC. The real danger will be a loss of regional confidence that has been steadily developed over the last three years.
RWANDA-DRC: Kagame seeks co-operation on rebels
IRIN 08 may. 07
KIGALI, 7 May 2007 (IRIN) - Authorities in Kigali are keen to work with their counterparts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to solve the insurgency crisis that has persisted since 1994 rather than attempt to disarm the rebels themselves, even as the DRC army pursues a military operation to oust the Rwandan rebels.

The rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym, FDLR, comprises the remnants of the former Rwandan army and ethnic Hutu militias blamed for the 1994 genocide. It has been active mostly in the North Kivu region of the DRC, where fighting with the DRC army in the first week of May left more than 40 rebels dead, according to the army.

"We are now discussing this problem with the Congolese authorities," said Rwandan President Paul Kagame last week when asked to comment on FDLR cross-border attacks in western Rwanda in March. "I plan to talk about that situation with my Congolese counterpart, [President] Joseph Kabila. I will soon get in contact with him and I hope that we can put an end to this situation of insurrection against Rwanda, which always comes from the DR Congo.

"I hope it will be an opportunity where we will find a lasting solution," he added.
Kagame, who had in the past threatened to send troops into the DRC to deal with the threat to national security posed by the rebels, said an incursion into the DRC was currently not necessary.

"This is not the only way we have to handle this problem of genocidal militias," said Kagame. "At the moment we seek other peaceful ways to solve the problem definitively. I know that the current Congolese authorities seek the possibility of making it possible to collaborate with us to find solutions to neutralise negative forces operating in this part of eastern DR Congo.

"The essential thing we have to consider is that all security conditions are guaranteed for Rwandan and Congolese people. We appreciate now the way the Congolese government wants to handle this situation. For the Rwandan government, it is a priority, because we must reassure ourselves that there is safety in the whole country and neighbouring countries," the Rwandan leader said.
DR Congo court frees Bemba ally
BBC News 02 may. 07
A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has freed a lawyer linked to opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba after four months in custody.

The major who headed the court said there was not enough evidence against Marie-Therese Nlandu and nine others.

She was charged in relation to violence in November last year, when the Supreme Court was set on fire.

She maintained that she was already in custody when the attack occurred during a protest by Mr Bemba's supporters.

Mrs Nlandu has reportedly been very ill during her time in prison, and has been repeatedly denied adequate medical treatment, according to campaign group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Her family is working towards bringing her back to the UK, where she lives, as soon as possible.

Mrs Nlandu's husband, Professor Noel Mbala, said:

"Although I am saddened that Marie-Therese had to endure all of this alone and away from me and the children, I am very thankful to God and to all of those who helped us.

"This case demonstrates the good side of globalisation - people can now act internationally on something in a remote part of the world."

Human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have campaigned for her release.

Mrs Nlandu was a candidate in her own right in last year's presidential elections but was eliminated in the first round.

She then worked in Mr Bemba's team for the run-off, in which he was defeated by President Joseph Kabila.

Mr Bemba has now left DR Congo for Portugal, after being accused of treason following gun-battles in Kinshasa last month.
DRC 'mixed' army brigade fires at UN helicopter
AFP 26 apr. 07
KINSHASA, April 25, 2007 (AFP) - Elements of a 'mixed' army brigade of soldiers and former rebels fired at a United Nations helicopter in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN said on Wednesday.

On April 19, a reconnaissance patrol from the UN mission in DRC (Monuc) was hit by small-calibre fire while flying over territory occupied by men loyal to former rebel general Laurent Nkunda, spokesman Major Gabriel De Brosses said.

"The Monuc pilots were restrained and, with great self-possession, did not fire back as they are allowed to" under their rules of engagement, he told a news conference.

"Nevertheless, Monuc highlights the fact that all direct threats to its personnel may prompt an immediate response, (that is) appropriate and proportionate," he said.

The targeted patrol over the Tebero region, in the volatile eastern province of Nord-Kivu, included two combat helicopters and one for reconnaissance.

"The given reasons (for the attack) were because the soldiers felt there was a threat. This explanation is unfounded," De Brosses said.

He added that Monuc's commander, General Babacar Gaye, had written to his army counterpart calling for "the highest discipline" regarding UN patrols.

The creation of mixed brigades began in Nord-Kivu in January, bringing together army troops and former rebels loyal to tutsi general Nkunda as part of a national reconciliation strategy following DRC's five-year civil war.

Clashes between the army and Nkunda's forces late last year killed more than 170 people and displaced about 100,000 in the region.

Rwandan hutu rebels in Nord-Kivu are opposed to the mixed brigades and clashes occur frequently. On April 13, seven soldiers of Alpha brigade were killed in an ambush blamed on the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda.
DR Congo government reopens access to opposition HQ
AFP 23 apr. 07
KINSHASA, April 21, 2007 (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo government has ended its occupation of opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba's party headquarters put in place after deadly clashes last month.

The headquarters for the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), led by former vice president and ex-rebel chief Bemba, had been ransacked by the military after clashes on March 22 and 23. Radio and television stations owned by Bemba were also looted.

MLC party official, Thomas Luhaka, said the government lifted the ban on access to the headquarters following a meeting late Friday between himself, a security ministry official and the head of the lower house of parliament.

Several journalists were allowed into the headquarters, as well as radio and television stations belonging to Bemba, on Saturday and saw the damage and apparent looting.

"While we condemn the looting, the reopening of our headquarters also means we are moving in the direction of tensions being eased," said Romain Nimi, a senator for the opposition party. "But we will have to be compensated to be able to function."

MLC lawmakers walked out of parliament earlier this month over security concerns. They are currently in negotiations to return to the legislature, which are proceeding in a good atmosphere, according to Luhaka.

The clashes between the Congolese army and Bemba's guard resulted in between 200 and 500 deaths, according to diplomatic sources. Fighting broke out after Bemba, an arch-rival of President Joseph Kabila, refused to have his guard integrated into the regular army.

Bemba, also a failed presidential candidate, had been holed up in the South African embassy since the clashes until leaving for Portugal last week, officially for medical treatment.

The DRC's state prosecutor is seeking to have Bemba's immunity lifted so he can face charges related to last month's clashes.
Bemba's party concerned about security
Reuters - 16 apr. 07
Kinshasa - Congo's main opposition party, whose leader left the country this week after fighting in the capital, has suspended participation in the lower house of parliament, citing security concerns.

have complained of harassment and intimidation by security forces since government troops routed his soldiers on March 22-23.

The former rebel chief went to Portugal on Wednesday for medical treatment and the public prosecutor has asked the Senate upper house to lift the immunity he enjoys as a member so he can face charges over the violence, in which hundreds were killed.

"We, the elected representatives of the opposition, consider the current climate of permanent insecurity does not permit us to work in the serenity that the mandate of a member of parliament requires," MLC National Executive Secretary Thomas Luhaka said in a statement seen by Reuters on Saturday.

"This is why... we feel obliged to suspend, effective now and until further notice, our participation in the work of this (National) Assembly, until proper security conditions are established." An MLC spokesman said the statement had been read to a joint session of parliament late on Friday.

Luhaka said the decision followed the looting by a dozen members of the Republican Guard of the home of an MLC parliamentarian on Thursday night which he said was part of a "targeted and programmed operation" against MLC members.

Congo's UN peacekeeping mission last week denounced acts of aggression and intimidation against opposition figures.

Bemba lost a run-off vote to President Joseph Kabila in 2006 in the nation's first free elections in over 40 years, meant to crown a years-long peace process after a 1998-2003 war.

March's fighting started when Bemba's bodyguards, numbering several hundred fighters, defied a government order to disarm under a plan to cut his security detail to 12 policemen.

On Tuesday, public prosecutor Tshimanga Mukeba requested permission from the head of the country's new Senate to prosecute Bemba as the 'intellectual author' of the violence in the capital, which is believed to have left up to 600 dead.

The charges against him include threatening internal state security, murder, armed robbery and destruction of property.

An MLC spokesperson said the party's suspension of National Assembly activities did not affect senators, who are expected to vote on whether to lift Bemba's immunity once the Supreme Court approves bylaws for the Senate, which could take another week.

The provisional Senate head agreed on Monday for Bemba, who had been holed up in the South African embassy in Kinshasa since last month, to go abroad on the condition he returns in 60 days.

Bemba won more than 40 percent of the vote in an October run-off vote, but his Union of the Nation coalition, which includes the MLC, took only 18 of 108 Senate seats and around 100 seats in the 500-member lower house. - Reuters
Two DRC soldiers get death sentence for journalist murder - AFP 16 apr. 07
KINSHASA, April 14, 2007 (AFP) - Two Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers were sentenced to death by a military court here Friday for the murder of a Congolese journalist and his wife.

Franck Kangundu, a journalist with La Reference Plus daily, and his wife Helene Paka were killed on November 3, 2005 outside their home in Limete, a working class eastern suburb of Kinshasa, by armed men.

Second Lieutenant Joel Muganda and Staff Sergeant Papy Munongo were sentenced to death for murder, theft of arms and extortion. The death penalty has not been applied since 2003 in the DRC.

The trial had dragged on since July 12 last year.

A third soldier, 2nd Lieutenant Didier Awatimbine, was given a life sentence for murder and extortion while a civilian, Serge Obeze Kabungu, got five years for handling property stolen from the Kangundu couple.

Muganda's nephew was acquitted for lack of evidence.

The Congolese state, judged to be responsible for its soldiers, was ordered to pay nearly three million dollars to the families of the victims and the Congo National Press Union.

The local Journalists in Danger media rights group on Thursday said that lawyers had "deplored the light manner in which the police and the military court have handled the case" and the fact that despite numerous requests several people had not been allowed to testify.
Greenpeace spotlights rainforest damage in DRC
AFP - 12 apr. 07
PARIS, April 11, 2007 (AFP) - The environmental group Greenpeace called for urgent action on Wednesday to prevent illegal logging in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, accusing international companies there of "causing social chaos and wreaking environmental havoc."

In a report which accused the World Bank of failing to stem the problem of illegal logging, Greenpeace said over 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of rainforest had been granted to the logging industry since a moratorium was agreed by the country's government in May 2002.

The group's report, "Carving up the Congo," also accused international logging companies of deception and intimidation to get timber.

In exchange for timber worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, logging companies are giving communities gifts such as bags of salt and crates of beer worth less than 100 dollars and promising to build schools and hospitals.

"These promises are rarely fulfilled and there are reports that intimidation tactics are used against people who try to protest," Greenpeace said.

"In a context of corruption and poor governance in the DRC, the World Bank's attempts to reform the forestry sector are currently failing to control the expansion of logging," it added.

Of the 60 million people in the DRC about 40 million depend upon the rainforests to provide essential food, medicine and other non-timber products along with energy and building materials.

And the forest is criticial for the survival of wildlife including gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos, the report said.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has acknowledged that over the last three years not a single penny paid in taxes by logging companies has reached local communities to provide essential services like schools and hospitals.

"This leaves these people not only without the forest that provided their food, shelter and medicine, but without the benefits they had been promised, Greenpeace said.

The environmental group also said that it feared a review of logging authorisations, initiated by the World Bank, would end up validating illegal permits granted to some companies.

"Greenpeace has investigated the actions of most of the major logging companies whose contracts have been submitted to the legal review.

"Our findings expose serious lapses of governance, a massive lack of institutional capacity to control the forestry sector, widespread illegalities and social conflicts, as well as clashes with established conservation initiatives," it said.

Greenpeace said that, according to a review of the 156 contracts, 107 were signed after the May 2002 moratorium.

And nearly half of the 156 titles are in intact forest landscapes which are critical for carbon storage and very significant for wildlife protection.

Because comprehensive maps are not publicly available, the location of 13 contracts covering 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) -- an area the size of Kuwait -- cannot be determined, it said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the second-largest primal tropical forest in the world with 86 million hectares (212 million acres) of which 60 million
(148 million) are potentially exploitable for logging.
Congo's president gives ex-warlord permission to travel to Portugal - SAPA - 02 apr. 07
Congo's president has given ex-warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba permission to seek medical care in Portugal, but Congo's court and other authorities have not yet signed off on the travel plan, Bemba's spokesman said. The former rebel leader, who used to command an army of thousands and who came second in last year's presidential election, sought refuge in the South African embassy 17 days ago after a confrontation between his militia and security forces spiraled into violent bloodshed that killed dozens.

Congo's chief prosecutor issued a warrant for his arrest, charging him with high treason following the clashes which began outside the ex-rebel's home. Bemba, holed up inside the embassy, began making preparations to fly to Lisbon to seek treatment for a fractured leg and initially the government appeared reluctant to let him go. Bemba's spokesman Moise Musangana said President Joseph Kabila had signed off on the medical visit, but that more approvals were needed. A government spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. "Everything is ready for the departure of Mr. Bemba. But there are still three unresolved issues: Although the president has given his OK, the same has not yet been forthcoming from the prime minister or the chief prosecutor," Musangana said in a telephone interview.

A third requirement is that an agreement needs to be finalized with Portugal, ensuring Bemba's safety in return for his agreeing not to undertake political activities while in Lisbon. Lusa, the Portuguese news agency, reported that Bemba owns a house in Lisbon's Algarve Quinta Do Lago complex.

An official at Portugal's foreign ministry, who asked not to be named because no authorization had been given to speak to the press, confirmed that Bemba had surgery for a broken leg in Lisbon earlier this year and was due for a checkup this month. The official said the ex-rebel has a Schengen visa - which allows travel among the 15 European countries in the Schengen zone - but denied news reports that Bemba has a Portuguese passport. 2 April 2007 - SAPA

U.S. cracks down on Congo arms dealers
UPI 30 mar. 07
WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department Friday named seven companies and three individuals who have directly contributed to the conflict in Congo.

Treasury said the companies and people helped supply arms directly or supported the militias operating in the country, and said their assets in the United States have been frozen as a result. The department also banned any U.S. company or citizen from doing business with the entities on the list.

Specifically, three companies have been found to be owned or acting on behalf of international arms dealer Viktor Bout: Compagnie Aerienne des Grands Lacs, Great Lakes Business Company, and Cargo Freight International.

Meanwhile, two companies -- Butembo Airlines and Congocom Trading House -- were found to be owned or controlled by Kambale Kisoni, a Congolese gold trader who has violated the international arms embargo imposed on warring parties in the Congo conflict. Another Congolese gold dealer, Dieudonne Ozia Mazio, is being designated for his role in similar activity.

In addition, Uganda's two largest gold exporting firms, Uganda Commercial Impex and Machanga Ltd., were designated for purchasing gold from designated Congolese gold dealers such as Kisoni and Ozia Mazio, as well as for providing direct financial support to the militias.

The third individual to be named was Straton Musoni, who is the first vice president of the Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Rwanda, which is largely made up of Hutu extremists who led the Rwandan genocide. The group is now impeding the disarmament and repatriation of combatants in Congo.
Bemba-Owned Media Ransacked, Broadcasts Suspended, Staff Go Into Hiding
Reporters sans Frontières (Paris) 
March 30, 2007
Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about the fate of some 10 journalists and technicians working for three TV and radio stations owned by Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba - Canal Kin Télévision (CKTV), Canal Congo Television (CCTV) and Radio Liberté Kinshasa (Ralik) - who had to go into hiding after the three stations were forced to close on 21 March 2007.

"Whatever the grievances against Bemba, it is up to Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga to ensure that his government and the army respect the rule of law," the press freedom organisation said. "It would incomprehensible if the new prime minister were to allow the security forces a free rein in such a sensitive matter as the closure of privately-owned news media and were to be unconcerned about the safety of journalists."

The broadcast signals of the Bemba-owned stations were cut on 21 March after Bemba, a former vice-president who was beaten by Joseph Kabila in last year's presidential election, claimed in a Lingala-language interview that the army high command embezzled 500 million Congolese francs (approx. US$900,000) from the military payroll each month.

Deadly clashes took place on the streets of Kinshasa during the next two days between government troops and members of Bemba's own military force. Bemba has been refusing to allow his troops to join the regular army on the grounds that he does not have sufficient guarantees for his safety.

The studios of CKTV and CCTV were attacked and ransacked in the course of these clashes. So far, no eyewitness account has emerged, but it seems probable that the attack was the work of troops as virtually no civilians were on the streets during the fighting.

During a meeting with the leadership of the Reporters Without Borders partner organisation, Journalist in Danger (JED), Information Minister Toussaint Tshilombo Send claimed that the Bemba-owned stations' broadcasts were cut by the company that manages TV signals in Kinshasa because of unpaid debts. When contacted by JED, a representative of this company confirmed that CCTV was behind with payments, but said there was "never any question of turning off its signal."

Many of the Bemba-owned media's employees have been in hiding since 21 March. Solange Kwale, a journalist with the Antenne A television station, Basile Olongo of Radio Lisanga Télévision (RLTV) and Abou Zanga of CCTV have been receiving death threats and have had to take special safety measures.

Bemba says DRC rebel troops rejoining the army
AFP - 29 mar. 07
KINSHASA, March 28, 2007 (AFP) - Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba on Wednesday said that members of his personal militia were beginning to join the regular army on his orders.

His refusal to reintegrate his troops led to bloody clashes in the capital Kinshasa last week in which 163 people died, and prompted the government to issue a warrant for his arrest on charges of treason.

In a statement signed by his spokesman, Moise Musangana, the former vice-president confirmed "the integration by the general staff of the FARDC (DRC army) of his bodyguards deployed in the towns of Gbadolite and Gemena".

The statement also acknowledged the discovery of a huge quantity of weapons by government troops in a drinks factory in Gbadolite, in the northwestern province of Equateur, Bemba's home province.

Lieutenant Colonel Didier Rancher, military spokesman for the United Nations mission in DRC, said 677 weapons and hundreds of crates of ammunition were found in an arsenal near a base of Bemba loyalists.

The militia there remained quiet during last week's fighting, and the ministry of defence said on Tuesday that they had begun to rejoin the army.

Many of Bemba's guard have begun showing up at military camps in the Equateur region, while 140 reported to UN headquarters in Kinshasa. About 200 have been arrested and sent to prison, DRC and UN sources said.

In the statement, Bemba said he had asked the UN representative in the DRC, William Lacy Swing, to "take all necessary arrangements to ensure the integration" of his troops in Gbadolite and Gemena.

A UN source welcomed the announcement, saying: "We have been calling for years for the integration of FARDC and former rebels, who should have given up their arsenal a long time ago."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he added: "This kind of announcement should have been made before the violence and not after."

Bemba also said the weapons found in the two villages were put under supervision by the UN in 2003 and were controlled by an army unit in 2004.

Among the weapons found were mortars of up to 120 millimetre calibre, anti-aircraft guns and other artillery, rocket-launchers, machineguns and dozens of assault rifles, he said.

In eastern districts of Kinshasa, government troops continued their search for the remnants of Bemba's militia, police said, setting up roadblocks in the Kingabwa quarter.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources said Bemba, who sought shelter in the South African embassy during last week's clashes, could be flown to Portugal for treatment on a leg injury sustained when he fell down stairs in December.

President Joseph Kabila left for Tanzania on Wednesday for a special summit of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community, where the crisis in his country was high on the agenda.

About 2,000 government troops overcame 700 fighters loyal to Bemba, also a former rebel leader and failed presidential candidate, in last week's fighting.

On Friday, Kabila's government issued an arrest warrant against him on charges of treason and maintaining a militia.

In theory Bemba enjoys parliamentary immunity by virtue of his seat in the senate. That immunity can only be lifted by parliament.

South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad has said Bemba could stay at the embassy as long as he liked, but his supporters have told AFP they would like to see him safely out of the country, at least for the moment.

Bemba himself told the French daily Le Monde on Monday that he was prepared to go into exile if his security could not be guaranteed by Kinshasa.

The UN mission in DRC on Wednesday called for dialogue between the government and opposition.

It said security should now be maintained by police and not the military, and disciplinary measures should be taken against soldiers found to have participated in looting or other crimes.
DR Congo President Kabila leaves for regional summit
AFP - 28 mar. 07
KINSHASA, March 28, 2007 (AFP) - The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, left for Tanzania on Wednesday to take part in a two-day regional summit examining the crises in his country and in Zimbabwe.

Kabila, who had not been expected to attend the summit, left for the meeting accompanied by his minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi.

The 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit, hosted by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, comes amid a growing global outcry over turmoil in Zimbabwe that threatens to spill over to its neighbours.

It also takes place after deadly clashes last week in DRC, between the military and militia loyal to former vice-president and ex-rebel chief Jean Pierre Bemba, that claimed between 200-500 lives.
Congo Criticized for Attack on Ex-Rebels
AP - 28 mar. 07
KINSHASA, Congo -- Congo's government acted prematurely in using force to quell violence in the capital, European ambassadors said, calling last week's bloodshed a threat to the country's nascent democracy.

At least 150 people died in the clashes between government troops and forces loyal to ex-warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, according to hospital figures cited by aid organizations.

German Ambassador Karl-Albrecht Wokalek said there were "clear indications from hospitals and morgues that the number is between 200 and 600." He did not clarify whether that figure included injured as well as dead.

Soldiers attacked Bemba's compound in what he says was an attempt to assassinate him. He has taken cover in the South African Embassy, along with his wife and five children. President Joseph Kabila accuses Bemba of trying to take over part of the capital and has issued a warrant for his arrest.

"The recourse to force was premature," said British Ambassador Andrew Sparkes, one of several EU envoys at a news conference Tuesday. He called the government's crackdown "totally disproportionate."

During the fighting, mortar rounds set fire to buildings, landing nearly 3 miles away in Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Republic of Congo. The Spanish Embassy was shelled and an oil field on the outskirts of the capital was set ablaze.

Sparkes said the fighting set back the country's efforts to transition to a democracy after decades of dictatorship and war that killed up to 4 million people and drew in armies from a half-dozen African nations.

Late last year Kabila beat Bemba in a runoff to become the country's first democratically elected leader since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Bemba, who was recently elected senator in the new government, initially refused to accept defeat, and his militia battled security forces in street clashes that left dozens dead. He later agreed to disband his forces, but has repeatedly missed deadlines to do so.

In a telephone interview from inside the embassy, Bemba denied he was plotting an insurrection.

"Do you believe that someone who wants to organize an insurrection will keep his children and wife in town? It's nonsense. When the fighting started I was with my wife in my house and my children were at school."

Bemba once commanded 20,000 fighters. Now he says he has just 350, 200 of which have surrendered to U.N. forces in the aftermath of last week's fighting. The government estimates he has 1,200 fighters.

Congo's history of instability has prevented mineral-rich country from profiting from its vast reserves of diamonds, gold and other resources. The nation the size of Texas has few roads, and little electricity outside major cities.
Kabila warns DR Congo's ex-rebel
BBC News 27 mar. 07
The Democratic Republic of Congo president has defended the army's role in last week's violence, which led to at least 150 deaths in Kinshasa.

"Order had to be restored at any cost," said President Joseph Kabila.

He also dismissed calls for talks with opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, saying: "You do not guarantee security through negotiation."

The violence threatened to derail the peace process which ended DR Congo's war and led to elections last year.

Mr Kabila defeated Mr Bemba, a former rebel leader, in a second round run-off.

But Mr Bemba refused to have his armed bodyguards integrated into the national army before last week's deadline.

'Judicial procedure'

Mr Bemba had tried to put himself above the law, Mr Kabila said in his first comments since the clashes.

"Could a militia group in Paris seize the Champs Elysees and then have a reconciliation the next day? If not, why should it be so in Congo," he said.

The army regained control of the capital, Kinshasa but Mr Bemba sought refuge in the South African embassy.

As a senator, he enjoys immunity from prosecution but the government says it will seek to have this stripped.

The "judicial procedure" would be followed, Mr Kabila said.

Mr Bemba denied plotting military action to overthrow the president and accused the army of trying to kill him.

On Monday, he told the French Le Monde newspaper that he feared "a new dictatorship" in DR Congo if the opposition continued to be targeted.

But Mr Kabila denied trying to turn the country back into a one-party state, as it was under Mobutu Sese Seko.

As a former vice-president in the transitional government, Mr Bemba is entitled to 15 policemen for his protection.

Under another agreement signed ahead of the election, the winner of the presidential poll is committed to guarantee the loser's security.

Last year's election - the first free poll in four decades - passed off peacefully, raising hopes of an end to years of conflict and mismanagement.

President Joseph Kabila won 58% of the vote compared to Mr Bemba's 42% in an election run-off last October.
More than 100 dead in 2 days of clashes in Congo
AP - 26 mar. 07
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) -- More than 100 people died in two days of fighting in Congo's capital, an aid group working with hospitals and morgues said Sunday.

There were 79 bodies in Kinshasa's main morgue by late Saturday night, along with 20 at the city's Kitambo Hospital, six at Ngaliema clinic and two at St. Joseph hospital, said Guy-Marin Kamandji, a spokesman for Catholic charity Caritas.

He said his group was mostly seeing gunshot wounds and people hit by flying fragments.

"Yesterday even as we were at the morgue, more bodies were coming in," he added.

The government's provisional toll stood at least 60 dead and 74 injured, according to a statement by Communications Minister Toussaint Tshilombo Send that was broadcast on U.N.-backed radio. Tshilombo said a final tally would be released after an inquiry.

It was unclear what sparked the fighting that broke out Thursday between army forces and fighters loyal to failed presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba. Shooting that morning gave way to mortar fire in the afternoon and people streamed out of the capital.

Mortar rounds set fire to buildings and thick black smoke poured out of a damaged oil refinery. Mortar rounds landed as far as 2.5 miles away in Brazzaville, the capital of neighboring Republic of Congo.

Security forces regained control of the capital late Friday and calm returned to Kinshasa Saturday, though bodies still lay in the street Saturday afternoon, waiting to be collected by Red Cross ambulances. An Associated Press photographer counted 10 bodies.

Bemba, a former warlord who is thought to command a militia numbering in the thousands, did not appear to have left the South African embassy where he sought refuge as the fighting escalated near his home Thursday. Calls to the embassy Sunday were not returned.

About 200 soldiers loyal to Bemba had turned themselves in as demanded by Congo's government, said Jean-Willy Mutombo, a spokesman for the army Chief of Staff. The U.N. had previously reported 109 turning themselves in, with 44 more apprehended as they tried to cross the Congo River into Republic of Congo, said police spokesman Col. Jean Aive Allakooua.

Bemba finished second in last year's presidential election, Congo's first free vote since 1960. The former rebel leader initially refused to accept defeat to President Joseph Kabila and his personal army took to the streets in violent clashes that left a dozen dead.

He went on to be elected senator and initially agreed to disband his militia, only to repeatedly miss deadlines to do so, most recently last week.

Mineral-rich Congo has been ravaged by years of dictatorship and civil war that have kept the people of the sprawling Central African country from profiting from its vast reserves of diamonds, gold and other resources. The nation the size of Western Europe has few roads and little electricity outside major cities.
Army chief says order restored in Kinshasa
 Xinhua - Saturday, March 24, 07

Order has been restored in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), after two days of fighting between security forces and fighters loyal to former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, the army said Friday.

In the address on state-run RTNC television, the chief of the army Lt Gen. Sungilanga Kisempia urged members of the militia to turn themselves in at the headquarters of the UN mission in Congo (MONUC).

The intensity of gunfire had significantly decreased Friday but could still be heard in the downtown area around the UN headquarters, local media reported.

Bemba surrendered himself at MONUC's headquarters Friday after leaving the South African Embassy where he had sought refuge after his supporters first clashed with government troops Thursday, a source told Xinhua.

Around 80 of Bemba's bodyguards also surrendered individually, according to the source.

In a statement released Friday, MONUC deplored the deaths of at least 60 people in the clashes, saying it "deeply regrets the fact that force was used in order to resolve a situation that could and should have been settled through dialogue."

It called for a peaceful security situation in Kinshasa, while vowing to take "any necessary measures" to protect the civilian population.

The fighting began Thursday when troops loyal to Bemba, who lost an election to President Joseph Kabila last year, defied a government order to disarm.

Bemba, a senator who holds immunity from prosecution, has accused the government of trying to kill him to cripple his opposition coalition.
Situation remains tense in Kinshasa
MONUC - 23 mar. 07
The situation remains tense in Kinshasa this Friday March 23 2007, after heavy fighting between the guards of ex vice president Jean Pierre Bemba and the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), which has raged in the capital’s central Gombe district since yesterday morning.

As sporadic gunfire continues in isolated pockets, MONUC head Mr. William Swing continues to mediate with both sides for a definitive ceasefire and a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Despite the tense situation, some of Mr. Bemba’s guards have already surrendered, with 94 elements giving themselves up to MONUC forces.

MONUC remains preoccupied with securing Gombe district, the scene of the heaviest fighting, and has 25 armoured personnel carriers assisting in the evacuation of MONUC personnel, as well as Congolese and expatriate civilians.

Yesterday, MONUC evacuated an estimated 635 people from potentially dangerous situations, mainly in the Gombe area.

Although no exact figures are yet available on the death toll and number of casualties, estimates suggest there are over 10 dead with many wounded, following 24 hours of fighting.

Among the dead and wounded are members of Mr. Bemba’s guards, as well as FARDC soldiers, Congolese Police and civilians.

Government spokesperson Toussaint Tshilombo, in a declaration on Radio Okapi this morming, said that the Kabila government ‘deplored the actions of senator Bemba.’

In conformance with articles 188 (part 2) and article 190 of the constitution, Mr. Bemba has betrayed the Republic. He will be brought before justice, as will all of his accomplices, he said.

The government went on to say that all Mr. Bemba’s elements should now surrender themselves at FARDC camps, where they will be given the chance to register and serve the nation.

All those who do not surrender in the coming hours will be considered as militants and will be subjected to the rigours of the law, Mr. Tshilombo said.
Bemba militia clash with troops in Congo capital
Reuters - 22 mar. 07
KINSHASA, March 22 (Reuters) - Gunfire and explosions rocked the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, on Thursday as armed followers of a former rebel leader clashed with government troops, witnesses said.

The shooting broke out after the personal militia of defeated presidential contender Jean-Pierre Bemba defied a government order last week to disband following landmark elections in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006.

A Reuters witness reported steady fire from small weapons, heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenades (RPG) in the neighbourhood around the Supreme Court in Kinshasa's administrative district, close to one of Bemba's residences.

The clashes were the first in the sprawling, riverside capital, a stronghold of Bemba's support, since the elections last year.

The head of the 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo had been due to meet with Kabila on Thursday to try to defuse the crisis. William Swing had met Bemba and Congolese Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga on Wednesday.
Situation in DR Congo 'worrying,' army reform needed: EU -  AFP - 21 mar. 07
KINSHASA, March 20, 2007 (AFP) - The security situation in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is worrying and reform of the country's army is needed, a high-level European Union official said here Tuesday.

"The European Union's priority is to support the consolidation of peace and democracy in DRC. And to that end the priority is the reform of the security sector, of the police, of the army," said Roeland Van de Geer, the EU's special representative for the African Great Lakes region.

After five years of civil war (1998-2003) and an ensuing rocky political transition that ended with general elections last year, the situation in DRC remains "extremely difficult and worrying," Van de Geer told a press conference at the end of a three-day visit to Kinshasa.

Asked about renewed tensions in Kinshasa, where soldiers have been deployed outside the home of former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, prompting fears that they will clash with his security guards, Van de Geer said "dialogue" was needed to avoid violence.

"One has the impression that on the side of the government and on the side of the opposition there is a will to pursue dialogue, even though there at the
moment is no direct dialogue," he said.

The situation has been tense since last Thursday when all soldiers still serving two former rebel leaders, both of whom have served as transitional regime vice presidents, were ordered back to barracks.

Bemba and Azarias Ruberwa, whose rebel movements battled Kinshasa until 2003, opposed the move, arguing that a guard of 12 police officers assigned to them
by a presidential decree was insufficient.

World Bank pledges 1.5 bln dollars to DR. Congo
Xinhua 09 mar 07
The World Bank (WB) will finance 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in the next three years to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in support of the government's program after the electoral process.

After a meeting with the DRC President Joseph Kabila, WB President Paul Wolfowitz who arrived in the country's capital of Kinshasa on Thursday said he is satisfied with efforts being undertaken by Kabila to bring about stability in the country and to improve the living conditions of the population.

He reaffirmed the WB's determination to accompany the DRC in achieving the government's program, especially in the fields of infrastructures, electricity, water and good governance.

On his part, the DRC Central Bank (BCC) Governor Jean-Claude Masangu said the WB is going to assist his country in mobilizing funds from other donor institutions in order to raise a total of 14 billion dollars needed to implement the government's program.

The WB is currently financing the rehabilitation of the DRC's infrastructures, as well as the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process (DDRP) of ex-combatants involved in the armed conflicts between 1998 and 2003.
WB chief, EU commissioner of aid expected in Kinshasa
Xinhua - 08 mar. 07
KINSHASA, Mar 7, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, are expected to arrive in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on Thursday for a two-day visit, local media reported on Wednesday.

According to Jean-Michel Happy, World Bank's representative in the DRC, Wolfowitz's visit comes at a time when the country has just concluded major political changes and the president will during the visit assess the difficulties the DRC is facing.

"As the bank has decided to give a new impetus to changes being undertaken in the DRC, the joint WB-EU delegation will visit the country's interior in order to understand the hardships confronting the population," Happy said.

The European Union (EU) special envoy Carlo de Filippi said the partners were concerned by the living conditions of people in the DRC.

The EU was the main financier of the electoral process and is a major donor of humanitarian assistance to the country.

On its part, the WB is financing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process (DDRP) of ex-combatants of the civil and regional wars from 1998 to 2003.

The DRC organized successful elections last year and put in place democratically elected institutions for the first time in more than forty years.

North Kivu : Maï Maï surrender in another step toward disarmament
MISNA - 02 mar. 07
Some 260 Maï-maï combatants surrendered to the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) based in Kamandi, along the banks of Lake Edward, in Lubero territory, in the north-eastern province of North Kivu.

 After arriving at the military base on Saturday, they were transported by the United Nations Mission in DR-Congo (MONUC) to the Rumangabo assembly camp for eventual integration into the regular armed forces, as reported today by Radio Okapi of the UN mission.

The group included 25 minors, of which eight under the age of 15, who will be handed over to the MONUC division for the protection of minors. The combatants were in possession of around thirty firearms and numerous sidearms, including some spears.

Other fifty Maï-maï surrendered last week, including some twenty that had participated in the recent clashes with soldiers of the new joint Brigade of the FARDC. The Maï-maï militia (“maï” means water in the local Bantu language) was initially formed as a resistance movement to the Rwandan and Ugandan invaders during the Congolese conflict of 1998-2003, but the groups never participated in the peace accords, opting to work for warlords or live off banditry. In the past months some however decided to join the reunified regular armed forces.
New Congo government will strive for good governance, justice
Kinshasa_(dpa) _ The Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) first democratic government in forty years will hold good governance and justice as its highest principles, Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga said Thursday.

"A judiciary which is not only independent, but also purges corruption will help us instil a sense of ethics in this society, starting with its leaders," Gizenga said while presenting his programme for government to members of the national assembly in the central African country's capital Kinshasa.

"As the proverb goes it is by the head the fish starts dying," he added.

The DRC has produced a coalition government after several parties backed incumbent President Joseph Kabila in a second round run-off last year and were thus rewarded with ministerial posts. Kabila appointed third-place finisher Gizenga prime minister on December 31.

Consolidating peace in a country the size of Western Europe, re-establishing state authority, reducing poverty, and instilling values into society are the government's main objectives, Gizenga said.

Privatizing state-run companies controlling water, electricity, transport, housing, public works and insurance will help attract investment from abroad, Gizenga said.
"My government is depending a lot on direct private investment and public-private partnerships to set Congo's development into motion. Because of that it will put an end to useless monopolies," the prime minister said.

Gizenga hopes to make the DRC more competitive and reduce its 80 per cent unemployment rate. dpa bc pmc
Mutombo's aid for hospital lifts Congo
By BETH DUFF-BROWN Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

KINSHASA, Congo — Two hospitals, named for two mothers. One is mired in the past; the other represents beaten-down Congo's hopes for a better future.

The 2,000-bed Mama Yemo, named after the mother of Mobutu Sese Seko, the late strongman, was once the pride of Central Africa. Now the public facility is in such bad shape that patients must bring their own medicine and are barred from going home until they pay their bills.

Across town stands brand-new Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, partly financed by Dikembe Mutombo, a child of Kinshasa who became a Houston Rockets basketball star.

It too is named for a mother _ Mutombo's. She died in 1997, as rebels were ousting Mobutu and this city of 8 million people had erupted in violence that prevented her from getting to a hospital. Biamba Marie Mutombo was 64.

"To do something of this caliber in the name of your beloved mom, it will mean a lot _ not just to me but to the people of Congo," Mutombo recently told The Associated Press by telephone.

The inauguration had been set for Saturday, with Mutombo in attendance, a vivid symbol of the hopes engendered by war-torn Congo's first multiparty election in four decades. But the player postponed his visit after violence took 31 lives in the capital, and the ceremony has been delayed indefinitely.

"My mom played a big role, giving us all the tools to make us great human beings," Mutombo, a center with the Houston team, said of himself and his nine brothers and sisters. "She did what moms are supposed to do: raise a child with a good understanding of life."

At Mama Yemo, renamed Kinshasa General Hospital after Mobutu was ousted in 1997, the mood is downbeat.

Masosila Honorine, 28, is locked inside the hospital gate because she still owes $40 on her bill for fibroid surgery. Her husband died three months ago, leaving her penniless. She sleeps on a rattan mat with her two girls, 12 and 5. Charities feed them.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," said Honorine, her chalky lips dry from dehydration. "From now on, everything is in the hands of God."

Some 4 million Congolese have died of the violence, hunger and disease engendered by a civil war that raged from 1996 to 2002. The hospital, built by Congo's Belgian colonizers in 1926, was once a renowned tropical disease center. But after independence in 1960, it became better known for horror stories.

Dr. Mbwebwe Kabamba, chief of emergency surgery, has worked at the hospital 23 years. He earns $70 a month, and performs operations in upscale private clinics to feed his six children.

"It's hell here; everyone is just looking for a way out," he said as he reviewed an X-ray of a broken limb, which cost the patient $10, payable in advance.

Straddling the equator, hot, humid Congo is ripe for disease. Life expectancy is 51 years and one in five children dies before age 5. This is a land of Ebola outbreaks, rabies, polio, sleeping sickness and cholera. Malaria and AIDS are endemic.

Public Health Minister Emile Bongeli insists Congo is making strides. He would not allow a foreign journalist to take photographs at Mama Yemo, saying staff are tired of outsiders harping on their ramshackle facilities.

"We don't want to paint a negative picture of our country," he said. "We can't lie; we have serious problems, but we're taking care of our problems. Help yourself and God will help you."

Bongeli said the government intends to renovate the pediatric wing of Mama Yemo and notes that private hospitals, including one built by the Chinese, now dot the city.

Kabamba countered that most Congolese can't afford them.

He praised the basketball star for his personal efforts to open Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, but said 300 beds won't be much help.

"It gives a message of peace and social progress, but this is not the solution," Kabamba said. "It's a nice act, but it doesn't have public impact."

Mutombo says he put $15 million of his own money in the $29 million teaching hospital, and hopes his foundation will raise enough to build pediatric and physical therapy wards. Copper coils were imported to suck static out of the surgery floors; local mahogany rails line the walls.

Dr. Joyce Hightower, a physician from California, is overseeing the hiring of medical staff and believes the first 60 beds will be open by October.

Patients will pay on a sliding scale, she said. A charity is setting up a program to allow the poorest to do odd jobs in exchange for medical treatment.

"This hospital is right in a community where 90 percent of the people are not working," she said. "But if you give people something for free, they don't know the value of it."

Dikembe Mutombo Foundation

DRC candidates work on ground rules for second round of voting
KINSHASA, Aug 30, 2006 (AFP) - Opposing camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo discussed on Wednesday in a UN-brokered meeting ground rules for the second round of presidential elections in the wake of recent violence, the United Nations said.

Representatives from President Joseph Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba met at the offices of the United Nations mission in DRC, known as MONUC, in their first meeting since clashes had killed 23 in Kinshasa on August 20-22.

The meeting was supervised by William Swing, special representative of the UN secretary general in the DRC.

"We have a lot of work to do," a MONUC official told AFP before the meeting, saying all areas would be covered, which included the function of the media, the billeting of troops, and security guarantees.

A separate meeting was due to take place on Wednesday afternoon to look into the clashes, which came hours after provisional results from a first round of voting gave Kabila 44.8 percent of votes ahead of Bemba with 20 percent.

A run-off vote has been set for October 29.

Although Kabila and Bemba were yet to come together face to face, the meetings were a sign of thawing relations between the two sides and were being held in a "constructive atmosphere," Swing told reporters.

Meanwhile Antoine Gizenga, who came third in the first round, held separate meetings with both Bemba and Kabila on Wednesday, a spokesman from his PALU party said.

Regarding the UN's enquiry into ammunition shipments earlier this month in Kinshasa, MONUC on Wednesday asked the head of the DRC army to reveal the whereabouts of its ammunition depots and the quantities held, deputy spokesman Jean-Tobie Okala said.

According to several Western military sources, at least part of the delivery had been destined for the presidential guard, and there have also been deliveries of weapons to Bemba's faction.

"Last weekend we observed movements of canoes containing men and boxes on the (Congo) river" which separates the DRC from neighbouring Congo, a Western military officer told AFP.

According to several other sources, including diplomatic and police sources, cases of ammunition arrived at the beginning of the week at private land belonging to Bemba's family near Ndolo military airport in east-central Kinshasa.

Also on Wednesday, the Independent Electoral Commission said it was lacking 46 million dollars (36 million euros) in election funding.

"But we have had a commitment for 10 million dollars from various countries including Belgium and Switzerland," CEI official Dieudonne Mirimo said.

"We think that by (October) the 29th, we will have the deficit covered."

The original budget for the DRC's historic elections, the first multiparty poll in more than 40 years in a country the size of western Europe devastated by war, was around 450 million dollars.


  Exit Strategies Out Of Goma: A Five-Point Agenda

By: Eurasia Review
November 30, 2012

By Theogene Rudasingwa

The international community (read, Western powers) have put pressure on Kagame to have his creation and proxy, M23, withdraw from Goma. President Kabila is being pressured to talk to M23, to listen to their grievances.

As we have argued, the problems of eastern DRC are partly a Congolese problem of internal weaknesses and, in this latest war, largely due to Rwanda’s internal political and human rights crisis. If the international community is asking Kabila to talk to a Rwanda-created and Rwanda-backed organization (mainly of Tutsi), wouldn’t it be logical that Kagame would be pressured to listen to the legitimate grievances of Rwandans (Hutu and Tutsi) in both the peaceful and armed opposition? Kagame has totally closed the political space in Rwanda, imprisoned, killed or forced into exile opposition political leaders, journalists and human rights activists.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

In Rwanda, an exclusively Tutsi clique of military officers run the show on behalf of President Kagame and his family. These are the same officers (James Kabarebe, Charles Kayonga, and the notorious Jack Nziza) that the UN Group of experts report has cited as being at the heart of the M23 rebellion.

They are the same officers whom Kagame used to shoot down the plane in which the President of Rwanda and Burundi were killed on April 6, 1994. They are the same officers that Kagame used to assassinate President Laurent Kabila of DRC in 2001. They are the same officers that are at the heart of the horrendous crimes committed against Hutu in Rwanda and DRC, which were described in the UN Mapping Report of 2010 and other previous reports.

We have entered a period of high risk and escalation in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. Within Rwanda we are probably 2 to 3 years to a major event, which could escalate into a full civil war. The political space has become completely closed, with moderate voices dead, in jail or in exile. The regime has become ever more illegitimate, intransigent, and aggressive. Power is vested in the hands of President Kagame and his wife, and a few Tutsi military officers who run both the formal and informal government.

President Kagame and his top three military officers (James Kabarebe, Charles Kayonga and Jack Nziza) have ceaselessly turned to DRC, the latest venture being the M23, itself with high potential to escalate into a full civil war that could easily turn regional and ugly. Many people in Rwanda, DRC, Great Lakes region, Africa and the International Community are asking about the endgame in the current crisis in DRC.

Although the current problem in the eastern DRC has a Congolese component, the M23 saga is Rwanda’s (and secondarily, Uganda’s) creation. You cannot solve, once and for all, the M23 problem without dealing with Rwanda’s own political crisis, and re-evaluating the west’s unquestioning support to President Kagame and President Museveni.

Short of new and innovative ways in the thinking process, policy, and action to underpin diplomatic, political and aid-related initiatives, withdrawal from Goma will be a temporary and futile measure, as we shall then wait for the resurgence of another round of violent conflict.

The international community, notably the US and the UK, may consider the following five measures to facilitate a sustainable movement out of the current DRC crisis:

1. Immediately initiate a contact group to spearhead a two-track peace process (DRC and Rwanda). The contact group should include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania. The US and UK are key because, until now, that is what President Kagame cares for. The two western powers have also protected Kagame from calls for accountability with regard to his endless and costly DRC ventures, human rights, and lack of political freedoms in Rwanda etc. Belgium and France were engaged with previous regimes in Rwanda, and may have a few lessons they have learnt with regard to Rwanda. Tanzania has the institutional memory since it facilitated the Arusha peace process. South Africa is an important regional player. Uganda should be included simply because it could be a spoiler if left out.

2. The contact group should be brutally candid towards Kabila, Museveni and especially Kagame. Yesterday, as I listened to African Union Chairman Zuma and US Secretary of State Clinton, I was saddened and disheartened by the fact that neither could summon the courage to call a spade a spade, name Rwanda as a culprit and put Kagame to shame. As a young doctor, I was taught that the pathway to healing necessitates telling the patient what the diagnosis is , and empowering him/her to take the lead in a healing process. Ms. Zuma and Ms.Clinton highlight an ailment that afflicts the international system: when convenient, be silent or conceal the the truth. And Kagame loves that! The contact group collectively has substantive leverage to bring to the table. The members of the contact group understand the current power dynamics in Rwanda. They appreciate the consequences of maintaining the status quo and inaction in Rwanda, DRC, the Great Lakes region, and to international peace and security. Yes, the United States and UK may be focused on their security interests in Somalia and Sudan, and prone to blackmail from Kagame and Museveni. But failure to act fairly in the Great Lakes region risks creating more enemies in Africa. This would be counter-productive and dangerous.

3. The contact group should directly engage Rwandans, Congolese and Ugandans struggling for freedom and justice. A timid international community that won’t care for African people, and will only look at a country’s interests through the eyes of Kagame, Kabila and Museveni is a recipe for cyclical conflict and disaster. The thousands of civil and political groups that are calling for change in these countries are imperfect, but still they are indispensable stakeholders. In the case of Rwanda, President Kagame must unconditionally talk to the opposition whether armed or not. You make peace with enemies and opponents. The international community must support efforts that promote genuine dialogue, unity, reconciliation and healing within Rwanda and DRC, and in the various Diasporas. It is no good value for money when billions are spent in development projects when many in Rwanda and DRC feel they are marginalized.

4. Africans and the rest of the international community must make sure that those who have committed horrendous human rights abuses, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are held accountable. Specifically, the United States and United Kingdom governments should stop protecting President Kagame and his officers who have committed serious crimes in Rwanda and the DRC. Those in the World Bank, IMF, DFID , USAID, and the aid industry who tell Rwandans that Kagame is fine because he is efficient in using aid are playing a bad influence since development without rights is both sham and unsustainable.

5. The African Union and the United Nations, since they have condemned themselves to be ineffectual observers in the DRC and Rwanda tragedies, should at least jointly and urgently convene a conference to consider a “Marshal Plan” for the Great Lakes Region to motivate the tens of millions of unemployed youth and women who are both victims and tools of state and non-state actors. The United Nations and the African Union should avail resources for participants from civil society and the political opposition to attend. Since the international community is asking President Kabila to listen to the grievance of M23, when will the African Union and the United Nations listen to the grievance of the African people?

Sooner than later the costly, redundant and scandal-prone UN peacekeepers in DRC will be asked to abandon what has become an embarrassing operation. The Congolese people will, as usual, and like the Rwandans and Somalis now and in the past, continue to struggle to survive. The challenge to resist Rwanda’s (and Uganda’s) attempts to promote secession and plunder of DRC is primarily a Congolese one. All Rwandans, DRC’s neighbors, Africans and the international community should, however, have an interest in preventive measures before it is too late. A window of opportunity does exist, but it is closing fast. We must act innovatively, and together, now.

The views expressed are the author’s own.
  Morocco, DR Congo plan joint commission meeting Tuesday - Angola Press Agency 07 may. 07
  Rabat, Morocco, 05/06 - The first session of the Moroccan-Congolese joint cooperation commission is expected to convene 8-9 May in Rabat to assess actions taken in the various sectors of bilateral co- operation, a foreign ministry communiqué announced here Friday.

Congolese minister in charge of Cooperation, Humanitarian Action and Solidarity, Charles Zacharie Bowao and the Moroccan minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Mohamed Benaissa will co-chair the meeting, which will also identify opportunities for the reinforcement and diversification of their joint co-operation.

Morocco and DR Congo agreed during the official visit by King Mohammed VI to Kinshasa in February 2006 to set up a bilateral cooperation joint commission to enhance their relations in several fields.

The landmark visit was the first ever by a Moroccan monarch to the vast central African nation.
  UNESCO calls for end to poaching of endangered species in DR. Congo Xinhua 26 apr. 07
  PARIS, Apr 25, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The United Nations' Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director General Koichiro Matsuura, has called for urgent measures to end poaching and killing of endangered species in world heritage sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a statement
issued by the organization on Wednesday.

In this regard, Matsuura has written to the DRC President Joseph Kabila, and to the United Nations' Under-Secretary General in charge of peacekeeping mission in the DRC, Jean-Marie Guehenno, asking them to take appropriate measures.

This initiative comes amid reports that several hundred hippopotamus and two mountain gorillas have been killed in the past few months in the Virunga National Park, which was registered in the world heritage list in 1979, and in the list of endangered heritages in 1994.

While recognizing the quality of conservation work undertaken by the Congolese institute for the conservation of nature, Matsuura noted that an urgent systematic action is necessary to prevent irreversible loss of exceptional universal value which led to the registration of these sites in the DRC in the world heritage list.

In his letters, the UNESCO director general is asking for the expansion of the United Nations' mission in the DRC (MONUC) in order for it to cover the protection of world heritage sites in that country, as well as in other protected zones.

The DRC's world heritage sites have an exceptional importance in the preservation of biodiversity, as they constitute the natural habitat for several rare and remarkable species of the world, among them the bonobo pygmy chimpanzee, considered as the human being's closest living cousin, the mountain gorilla and the very rare okapi species.
  DRCongo receives two multi-million aid deals
AFP 24 apr. 07
KINSHASA, April 23, 2007 (AFP) - Britain and the World Bank announced aid grants Monday worth more than 436 million dollars to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But Britain's development minister warned that London would be following developments in the country closely.

The World Bank said it was paying 296.7 million dollars (219 million euros) towards restoring the country's main hydroelectric dams and getting the national electricity grid back in service.

The grant will be paid out over a three-year period.

Britain's international development minister Hilary Benn announced a grant of 140 million dollars this year towards various projects designed to improve conditions for the general population.

"That will support health and education and water and sanitation and roads, supporting good governance and security sector reform," said Benn.

"But in my discussions with President Kabila and Prime Minister Gizenga, I made clear that we will judge progress in the DRC by events," he added.

"Only with peace and democratic progress will the international community really be able to help development in the DRC."
  DRC, MONUC to monitor Ugandan rebel movement
AFP 23 apr. 07
  KAMPALA, April 21, 2007 (AFP) - The gathering at a camp in southern Sudan ahead of peace talks of Ugandan rebels from the border regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda will be monitored by the DRC army and UN peacekeepers, officials said Saturday.

Ugandan army chief General Aronda Nyakairima, his DRC counterpart Kisempia Sungilanga Lombe and Babacar Gaye from the UN's MONUC mission agreed to this
arrangement at a meeting in Kampala.

The DRC army with MONUC support will monitor and verify "the movement of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to designated area of Ri-Kwangba," camp in southern Sudan, according to a joint statement.

MONUC and the DRC army will "report any movement to the contrary," it added.

The Ugandan government and the LRA early this month renewed a ceasefire and agreed to resume peace talks to end a brutal, two-decade insurgency in northern Uganda.

The LRA fighters will gather at Ri-Kwangba camp in southern Sudan ahead of the resumption of peace talks on April 26 in the region's capital Juba.

The Kampala meeting, facilitated by MONUC was reviewing the situation along the DRC-Uganda border and discuss "the presence of negative forces in the DRC that constitute a threat to Uganda and DRC".

The Ugandan rebellion has raged since 1988, when the LRA leader Joseph Kony took over leadership of a two-year-old regional rebellion among northern Uganda's ethnic Acholi minority.
  DRCongo rules out joint Great Lakes military offensive
AFP 20 apr. 07
  KINSHASA, April 19, 2007 (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo Thursday ruled out joint military excursions with neighbouring nations in its territory to target rebels operating in the strife-torn Great Lakes region.

"The military chiefs of the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have adopted a common military strategy in Bujumbura to track down the armed groups operating in the east of the country," Foreign Minister Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi told reporters.

"But it is politically unacceptable that foreign forces can operate on Congolese soil," he said.

Africa's Great Lakes region has been wracked by violence since the early 1990s, with the civil war that began in Burundi in 1993, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the regional war that raged in the DRC between 1998 and 2003.
  DRC used 'disproportionate' force against protestors: HRW - AFP 16 apr. 07
  KINSHASA, April 14, 2007 (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) army used "disproportionate" force when clamping down on post-electoral violence in the Bas Congo province in January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday.

In its preliminary findings into the fighting, the campaign group condemned the army for opening fire on unarmed protestors from the Bunda dia Kongo (BDK) religious movement, although it also accused the BDK of violence.

The clashes followed allegations by BDK that the first-round election of Bas Congo's governor -- a candidate close to victorious presidential candidate Joseph Kabila -- was rigged.

The United Nations mission in the DRC (Monuc) estimates that about 120 people died in the fighting, although the interior ministry counted 87 deaths.

In its report, which was based on a three-week mission to the region and will be followed by a full study within weeks, HRW put the toll at 116.

It said 104 of these were killed by the army or police, and 12, including ten members of the security forces, were killed by the BDK.

"On February 1 and the days that followed, the Congolese army used disproportionate and inadequate force against the demonstrators," HRW spokeswoman Anneke Van Woudenberg told a parliamentary committee on Thursday.

The report said: "The soldiers attacked a BDK cult area, a 'zikua', in Muanda with automatic weapons and explosives, killing 23 people including four women and two children, none of whom were taking part in the protest."

It continued: "Soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons on BDK demonstrators while they prayed on the esplanade running from the town of Kalamu to Boma, killing 24 of them."

HRW also condemned the BDK, saying that although the majority of the protests against the alleged corruption were peaceful, in several cases "the BDK demonstrators, armed with clubs, took part in violent and illegal acts".

"These demonstrators killed ten police officers and police, as well as two civilians, broke into and pillaged government buildings and set up barricades," it said.

The report also criticised DRC government officials who it said "didn't consult Monuc... which had the ability to maintain the peace and help the civil police" and which "could have stopped the violence".

The government, which has suspended three police officers following the clashes, in February denounced BDK as a paramilitary movement. But the HRW report "did not find any convincing proof to support these allegations".

In its conclusion, HRW said the parliamentary committee set up in February to investigate the clashes must demand the government to ensure that all those responsible for the violence are brought to justice.

It also called for a "meaningful dialogue" to be opened up with the BDK.
  DRCongo's Bemba arrives in Portugal
AFP - 11 apr. 07
  Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, blamed for bloody election-related violence, arrived in Portugal Wednesday for medical treatment, police said.

The former rebel leader and vice president, who was accompanied by his wife and five children when he left Kinshasa, landed at Faro, 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of Lisbon.

He went on to a villa in Quinta do Lago, some 10 kilometers from the airport, which was heavily guarded by Portuguese police.

Bemba, 44, who lost in presidential elections to incumbent Joseph Kabila last December, had been holed up at the South African embassy in Kinshasa since violent clashes between his supporters and government troops on March 22-23.

The clashes, which killed more than 200 people according to diplomats, were sparked by plans to remove many of Bemba's guards and integrate them into the army.

The government later issued an arrest warrant against the former rebel leader on charges of treason and maintaining a militia.

In theory however, Bemba enjoys parliamentary immunity because of his seat in the senate. That immunity can only be lifted by parliament.

Negotiations for Bemba to leave the country had been underway for a couple of weeks, and the official reason for his departure was to seek medical treatment for a leg injury sustained when he fell downstairs in December.

Given 60 days leave by the senate, he has promised not to engage in any political activity while in Portugal.

UN peacekeepers transported Bemba and his family from the South African embassy to the airport.
  Belgium to send army evaluation personnel to DR Congo
Xinhua 02 apr. 07
  BRUSSELS, Mar 31, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Belgium will send 44 troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to evaluate the performance of the country's new national army, the Belgian media reported on Saturday.

The Belgian personnel will carry out the evaluation in cooperation with the United Nations (UN) as well as other African and European countries, Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut was quoted as saying on Friday.

Belgium has helped train the Congolese national army, which comprises former government troops and former rebels.

Upon getting the evaluation results, the European Union (EU) will decide whether it is to make further investment in the training of the Congolese Army.

The 16,000-strong UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC, the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, mainly consists of troops from African and Asian countries.

The UN force is trying to maintain calm as the Central African nation tries to establish a working government following last year's election, its first free election since independence from Belgium in 1960.
  Bemba to go to Portugal but this not exile - diplomat
Fri 30 Mar 2007
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Congolese former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, whose men battled government soldiers in Kinshasa a week ago, is expected to travel to Portugal this weekend but is not being granted exile there, the Portuguese ambassador said on Friday.

"There's no exile. He will leave this weekend in principle if all aspects of the agreements (for Bemba's departure) are in place ... he'll be there as a tourist," Ambassador Alfredo Duarte Costa told Reuters.

Costa added that Bemba, who has been accused of treason by the government and has been sheltering in the South African embassy in Kinshasa since Thursday last week, would go to Portugal for medical treatment. Aides have said he needs follow-up treatment for a leg fractured in December.

There have been intense diplomatic negotiations about the future of the former presidential contender, whose fighters clashed with government troops in the Congolese capital at the end of last week after refusing an order to disarm.

The clashes continued for two days before Bemba's forces were routed and the government issued a warrant for his arrest.

European ambassadors have said up to 600 people were killed in the fighting, the worst in Kinshasa since a presidential election last year aimed at restoring peace to the mineral-rich central African state after a 1998-2003 war.

President Joseph Kabila won Congo's first democratic poll in more than four decades.

  Congo's Bemba 'to go to Portugal'
BBC - 29 mar. 07
  The Democratic Republic of Congo's wanted opposition leader plans to go to Portugal for medical treatment, a South African diplomat says.

Jean-Pierre Bemba took refuge at the South African embassy in the capital, Kinshasa, after clashes between his militia and the army last week.

The fighting threatened to derail the peace process that led to recent polls.

A BBC correspondent says there is speculation the trip may be used as a diplomatic maneuver to ease tension.

President Joseph Kabila defeated Mr Bemba, a former rebel leader, in a second round run-off vote last October.

Mr Bemba denied plotting military action to overthrow the president and accused the army of trying to kill him.

The violence started when his armed bodyguards refused to be integrated into the national army before last week's deadline.

Up to 600 people may have died in the clashes, according to EU diplomats in Kinshasa.

South Africa's UN ambassador said Mr Bemba was "not a refugee" in the South Africa diplomatic compound in Kinshasa.

"Mr Bemba is planning to leave on Saturday to go to Portugal where he has been receiving medical treatment for a broken leg," Dumisani Kumalo told the BBC.

As a senator, Mr Bemba, who has been charged with treason, enjoys immunity from prosecution. The government says it will seek to have this stripped.

The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in Kinshasa says Mr Bemba spent several weeks in Portugal after the election seeking medical treatment for his leg.

Mr Kabila has said that no-one can be above the law.

But the trip looks like a diplomatic way to get round the issue of Congolese justice, our correspondent says.

Observers doubt that Mr Bemba would return to DR Congo to face trial if he got permission to go to Portugal for treatment.

A meeting of the southern African leaders in Tanzania is expected to discuss the violence.

Earlier, the United States condemned it says it represented "a set-back in the progress the Congolese people expect and deserve after last year's historic election."

  Country Has No Military Plans Against DR Congo - Foreign Minister - Angola Press Agency - 28 mar. 07
  Angola has not invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo neither has it military plans of jumping the border into the neighbouring country's territory and has given enough proofs of a honest friendship to DRC.

This was assured Tuesday in Luanda by Angolan Foreign minister, João Bernardo de Miranda, while addressing a session of the National Assembly (parliament).

The minister was citing passages of a verbal message from Angolan head of State to his DRC counterpart, Joseph Kabila, following recent allegations of invasion of the neighbouring nation's territory by Angolan troops at the common border's mark 21 in Lunda-Norte province.

According to João Miranda, the police forces nearest to the common border are deployed 40 kilometres within the national (Angolan) territory, and have never approached the limit with DRC.

The minister explained that the uproar followed a misinterpretation on the part of the DRC traditional authorities of the movement of Angolan troops into a zone of the national territory where Congolese citizens have been living for years, mistakenly thinking that they are in their country.

He further explained that as part of the efforts of protection of the national territory, on January 29, a tota of 21 elements of the Angolan police forces were deployed at Sacainga village, where they hoisted th national flag, which created panic within the Congolese population resident in the area.

"It was as a result of this that the population resident there and the neighbourhood, settled inside Angola, took it as an invasion by the Angolan troops," added the Foreign minister.

"The Congolese authorities unfortunately believed the oral tradition and took for granted the information released by the traditional authorities that where they live is a locality of Congo," he deplored.

The minister considered as "incendiary and to certain extend unfriendly" some statements aired by certain Congolese politicians, taking for granted the uproar of the traditional authorities about an invasion by Angola.

João Miranda assured that following these developments, the Angolan Government will on due time decide on the destiny for the Congolese border populations settled in the national territory as, he added, many of those localities are used as "corridors for illegal immigration at the border with Lunda-Norte and entry routes for diamond diggers."

After the misunderstanding sparked, Angolan head of State, José Eduardo dos Santos, sent to DRC capital, Kinshasa, a high ranking delegation headed by Foreign minister, to transmit the Government's engagement in the respect for the common border and amicable bilateral relationship.

The matter took an alarming twist and only come to a solution on March 13, with the sending of a high ranking delegation that comprised the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior, chief of Staff of Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) and the National Police and Border Guard commanders, including the chief of the Military Intelligence Services.

In the joint final communique, Angolan and Congolese parties underlined that "in the light of the findings on the ground, there has been no alterations to the common border" and expressed their engagement in the "inviolability of the borders inherited from colonisation."

The common border between Angola and DRC, designed in 1922, has a total extension of 2.511 kilometres and contains 112 marks. It was on mark 21, between the Angolan province of Lunda-Norte and the Congolese of Bandundo, where the misunderstanding occurred.
  U.S. condemns violence in Congo
Xinhua 27 mar. 07
  WASHINGTON, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The United States condemned on Monday the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and called on all parties to respect the peace process.

"The United States condemns the recent violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This violence represents a setback in the process the Congolese people expect and deserve after last year's historic elections," the State Department said in a statement.

"We call on all responsible leaders to respect the peaceful democratic process which all legitimate government is based," the statement said.

At least 12 people have been killed and 47 wounded in the recent fighting between the government security forces and a former warlord's militia in the country.
  Congo clashes leave democracy fears, over 100 dead
Reuters - 26 mar. 07
  KINSHASA, March 25 (Reuters) - More than 100 people were killed in two days of heavy fighting in Congo's capital Kinshasa, hospital officials said on Sunday, as diplomats expressed fears for the country's fledgling democracy.

Government forces restored order to Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling riverside capital late on Friday after routing fighters loyal to defeated presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba, who fled to safety in the South African embassy.

Hospital morgues were overflowing with dead bodies and doctors struggled to cope with a stream of wounded arriving for treatment after heavy machine gun fire and mortar explosions rocked the central African state's capital for two days.

"We have more than 90 (bodies). They were coming in all night," said an official at the morgue of the main Mama Yemo Hospital, as soldiers dragged in two more corpses. "Many of them are unidentified. We are in the process of sorting through."

Around 20 names, including soldiers and civilians, were posted outside the morgue of the another hospital in Kinshasa.

It was the first violence in the capital since a presidential run-off in October which Bemba lost to President Joseph Kabila. The polls were supposed to turn the page on a 1998-2003 war which killed nearly 4 million people, mainly from hunger and disease, but have left a legacy of bitterness after Bemba alleged fraud.

Doctors at the Mama Yemo hospital said international agencies had yet to provide the medical supplies they needed.

"Just now a guy came in with a bullet in his neck," doctor Mbwebwe Kabamba told Reuters by telephone. "We are running out of everything. We've had a lot of promises, but so far we haven't received these materials."

Along Kinshasa's main boulevard, which saw some of the worst fighting, UN peacekeepers began marking off unexploded munitions to prevent further injuries.


Analysts and diplomats expressed concern. Bordering nine other nations, Congo is seen as a potential democratic lynchpin for war-ravaged central Africa.

Congo's general prosecutor issued an arrest warrant on Friday accusing Bemba, the leader of the parliamentary opposition after he was elected as senator earlier this year, of high treason for starting this week's violence.

South African officials said Bemba's presence in the embassy was temporary and he had not asked for asylum.

"If Bemba is forced to leave, or they persist with some show trial, it's a strong signal that Kabila doesn't really have a commitment to democracy or political opposition," one western diplomat said, adding the violence could have been avoided.

Bemba is overwhelmingly popular in Kinshasa and the country's lingala-speaking west. The president draws most of his support from the distant, Swahili-speaking east.

Many members of Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo are in hiding.

"The opposition was already weak even when Bemba was there to keep them together," said Jason Stearns, a senior central Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group. "It could fall apart. There's no one really to replace Bemba."
  Order Restored in Kinshasa, Head of Congo's Army Says
By Eddy Isango - Associated Press
Saturday, March 24, 2007
  KINSHASA, Congo, March 23 -- The head of Congo's army said in a nationally televised address Friday that security forces had regained control of the capital after two days of intense fighting against the militia of a former warlord who lost last year's presidential runoff.

Lt. Gen. Sungilanga Kisempia said that order had been restored in Kinshasa and that Jean-Pierre Bemba's militia had fled, according to the broadcast on state-run RTNC television. He urged members of the militia to turn themselves in at the headquarters of the United Nations mission in Congo, saying that if they don't, "we will pursue them to the very end."

Bemba, who sought refuge inside the South African Embassy, accused the government of starting the violence. He said that he had asked his men to stand down but that he no longer commands them. "I am not in control," he told the BBC.

Congo's chief prosecutor has issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of high treason.

"He has caused serious infractions by organizing a militia and by ordering looting. . . . His actions amount to high treason, and we will pursue him wherever he is," Tsaimanga Mukenda said, adding that he would ask parliament to strip Bemba of his immunity as a newly elected senator.

Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the capital late Friday, but the intensity had decreased markedly from earlier in the day, when mortar rounds sent buildings up in flames, including a nearby oil refinery.

Hospital officials said at least 12 people were killed and as many as 47 wounded in two days of fighting between security forces and Bemba's personal militia, believed to number in the thousands.

An Italian citizen was among the wounded, the Italian Foreign Ministry said. The ministry gave no details about the man, but the Italian news agency ANSA said he was struck by a bullet.

Bemba came in second in last year's presidential election, the country's first in more than 40 years. After losing the runoff, he promised to disband his militia but has repeatedly missed deadlines to do so, most recently last week.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo welcomed the return of order to the capital but said it regretted the use of force to resolve the situation.

More than 90 members of Bemba's militia had turned themselves in at the U.N. base in the capital, according to an official with the mission who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. The army had seized two of Bemba's three residences in the capital, according to the governor of Kinshasa, Andre Kimbuta.

The street fighting erupted Thursday near Bemba's home and appeared to ease Thursday night, only to resume Friday.

During the height of the fighting, mortar rounds landed as far as 2 1/2 miles away in Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Republic of Congo, damaging the home of the defense minister, said government spokesman Alain Akouala. In Kinshasa, the Spanish Embassy was hit, and thick black smoke poured out of a damaged oil refinery.

Embassies had begun making plans to evacuate foreign nationals after the Zimbabwean Embassy was looted. The European Union called on factions in Kinshasa to settle their differences through dialogue and to ensure that civilians were not caught up in the violence.

This week's fighting is the first in the capital since Congo installed Joseph Kabila as president on Dec. 6, making him the nation's first freely elected president since 1960.

  Congo Issues Arrest Warrant for Bemba
AP - 23 mar. 07
  KINSHASA, March 23, 2007 - Congo's chief prosecutor issued an arrest warrant Friday for a former warlord and senator who took refuge inside a foreign embassy while his personal army and government troops fought in the capital.

Prosecutor Tsaimanga Mukenda said that neither Jean-Pierre Bemba's immunity as a senator nor the fact that he had sought refuge in the South African Embassy would stop him from seeking his arrest on charges of high treason.

``He has caused serious infractions by organizing a militia and by ordering looting ... his actions amount to high treason and we will pursue him wherever he is,'' Mukenda said, adding he would ask parliament to strip Bemba of immunity.

Bemba, whose personal army began clashing with security forces Thursday, arrived at the South African Embassy Thursday night with his wife, said the embassy's charge d'affaires, Kenneth Pedro. ``This is a temporary measure, until a cease-fire is declared. He has not sought asylum,'' Pedro said.

Gunfire rang out and thick black smoke rose from an oil refinery in the capital. Radio Okapi, a United Nations-backed radio station, reported that the state-run refinery had been hit during the clashes, possibly by a mortar shell. Numerous restaurants were looted overnight, as well as the Embassy of Zimbabwe, said government spokesman Toussaint Tshilombo.

The army has seized control of two of Bemba's three residences in the capital, the governor of Kinshasa, Andre Kimbuta, said. He said the military was slowly gaining control over the city and that some of Bemba's fighters had fled.

Mortar shells landed as far as two miles away in Brazzaville, the capital of Republic of Congo, which sits across the Congo River from Kinshasa. Shells damaged the defense minister's home there, a government spokesman said.

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said Friday that his country would send an envoy to the Congo to try to help negotiate a cease-fire.

Pahad told journalists in Pretoria that the South African government was ``deeply concerned'' about the heavy fighting. Pahad said it could open a ``Pandora's box'' if the fighting was allowed to continue, saying it would encourage others to also use violence to achieve what they think they did not get through the peace process.

The European Union called on the factions in Kinshasa to settle their differences through dialogue - and to ensure civilians were not caught up in the violence.

``The international community, and the European Union in particular, will not allow democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a major success for the entire African continent, to be compromised,'' EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana added in the statement issued in Brussels.

This week's fighting is the first in the capital since Congo installed Joseph Kabila as president on Dec. 6, making him the nation's first freely elected president since 1960.

Bemba, who came in second in the presidential run-off, initially rejected the election results and his militia took to the streets, clashing with Kabila's security forces. At least two dozen civilians were killed. Bemba gave up his challenge after the Supreme Court rejected his claims and was recently elected to the Senate, but he has so far refused to disband his personal army, which is thought to number in the thousands.
  105 Guatemalan soldiers embark for Congo as part of UN peacekeeping effort - AP - 22 mar. 07
  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - A unit of 105 Guatemalan special forces soldiers left Wednesday to serve as United Nations peacekeepers in the Congo.

The unit, which will serve for seven months, is the fourth contingent of Guatemalans to form part of the U.N. force in the African country.

Backed by 18,000 U.N. peacekeepers, Congo's government, based in the capital, Kinshasa, has struggled for years to improve security in the east. The region was once divided into various rebel fiefdoms, but united with the rest of the country after a 2002 power-sharing deal ended the country's 1998-2002 war.

In January 2006, eight Guatemalan soldiers were killed in the Congo when they were ambushed by anti-government guerrillas.
  DR. Congo to investigate issue of border dispute with Angola
Xinhua - 20 mar. 07
  KINSHASA, Mar 20, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)'s National Assembly has created an inquiry commission to investigate the occupation of 13 villages by Angolan soldiers in Kahemba region of Bandundu Province.

"The commission's mission is to establish the facts on the ground, assess the consequences arising from the displacement of populations, and to make concrete proposals and recommendations to the relevant government authorities," a member of the commission told Xinhua on Monday.

The commission has 15 members, of whom nine are from the ruling party and six are from the opposition party.

There are also experts from religious groups, from the ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and National Defense, from UN mission in the DRC and from the DRC Geographical Institute (IGC) .

"The commission has been accorded 10 days to carry out its investigations and come up with reliable facts," according to the source.

The DRC has been accusing Angola of occupying villages in western Bandundu Province.

A high-level Angolan delegation arrived last Tuesday in Kinshasa to work with the DRC authorities in seeking ways to solve the confusion that is reigning around the district of Kahemba.
  United States Air force Medical Team Works With Congolese Counterparts to Treat Congolese Civilians
March 9, 2007
  KINSHASA - One thousand civilian patients, mainly children, benefited from medical care during the visit March 5-9 to Kinshasa of four U.S. Air Force medical officers. The American personnel worked with Congolese military counterparts to deliver this care. The Americans are from military units stationed in Europe, and include two pediatricians, one public health specialist and a medical technician. With their Congolese counterparts at Camp Kokolo, the American doctors also exchanged information on:

Disaster responses;
Basic field deployment medicine, triage, transporting patients;
Pre-deployment preparation;
Infectious disease surveillance, field sanitation and hygiene; and
Clinical pediatrics.
An important component of programs such as this one is to demonstrate the role of the military in service to the civilian population.
  Congo arrests atomic research chief
  KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's top nuclear research official has been arrested, the government said on Wednesday, after a Kinshasa newspaper reported uranium had gone missing from an atomic institute in the city.

"We have been informed that he has been arrested," said Godefoid Mayobo, minister in the Prime Minister's office and government spokesman.

"We are waiting for the results of the inquiry. We are not aware of the details." He did not say why Professor Fortunat Lumu, Commissioner General for Atomic Energy, was arrested.

Kinshasa's Le Phare newspaper reported on Wednesday two senior officials had been detained after the disappearance of around 100 bars of uranium from the city's Regional Centre for Atomic Energy.

The centre houses a small, inactive research reactor on a university campus.

Last year diplomatic and intelligence sources told Reuters that countries suspected of seeking nuclear arms might have exploited lax security in Congo to obtain uranium.

Congo's Shinkolobwe mine provided high-quality uranium for the Manhattan Project, the secret U.S. programme that produced the two atomic weapons dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War Two.

When Congo was granted independence in 1960, Belgium sealed the Shinkolobwe mine by filling its shafts with concrete. At the time the mine was shut, Congo supplied 60 percent of the world's uranium, according to the security website Globalsecurity.org.

A new government has just taken over in Congo after an election last year intended to end years of violence in which an estimated 4 million people have been killed.

  Statement by Sean McCormack, State Department Spokesman - Installation of Congolese Government
  We welcome the installation of the new government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the result of last year’s successful democratic elections. This event marks the culmination of Congo’s long Transition process, and the beginning of a new era for the Congo. We congratulate the Congolese people on their historic achievement, and we look forward to working closely with the new government. We renew our commitment to support Congolese efforts to carry forward this historic transformation through political, economic, and social development in conditions of peace and security throughout the country.


  Belgium shelves plans for honorary doctorate for Congo's President Kabila
The Associated PressPublished: February 28, 2007
BRUSSELS, Belgium: Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt suspended plans to grant Congo's President Joseph Kabila an honorary doctorate from the Royal Military School, reversing a promise by his defense minister after a dispute within the coalition government, officials said Wednesday.

The affair has made headlines in Belgium, highlighting the country's complex relationship with its former colony in central Africa.

Defense Minister Andre Flahaut called the honorary doctorate "a good idea, a good signal for the Congolese after the democratization process and the elections." Verhofstadt thought the move was premature.

Congo has been ruled as a dictatorship for most of the time since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960. But a peace deal signed by Kabila's government allowed the country to hold elections last year for the first time in four decades. Kabila was chosen as president in November in a run-off election.

Flahaut had told Kabila about the academic honor during a visit to Kinshasa last week, but had failed to inform key members of his own government. After days of internal bickering, the government withdrew the offer.

"Considering the commotion that the announcement of an honorary doctorate" has caused, the government said in a statement, the decision is referred back to the Royal Military School.

At the school, several professors had openly criticized the move as premature.

It was the second time in as many months that the issue of Congo opened a rift within the Belgian coalition between Verhofstadt's Liberals and Flahaut's Socialists.

The governing parties also argued over whether King Albert II should visit Kinshasa before the Belgian parliamentary elections in June, but decided against it.

Flahaut said the honorary degree had been considered important for the Congolese authorities.

"It is only part of our Congo policy. It is a detail, but a detail which is very important for Kabila," Flahaut told VRT television.
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  Pakistan's more Troops leave for Congo
KARACHI: The last batch of 153 Pakistani troops Thursday departed for Congo to serve under the UN aegis.

These soldiers will join formidable Pakistani contingent already in place, in Congo.

Pakistani troops have earned a repute of being highly dedicated and professional peace keepers through their commitment to the global peace, sheer professionalism and relief and reconstruction activities.

The presence of Pakistani contingent has ensured the peaceful elections in the troubled eastern Congo besides normalizing the tense and volatile satiation in the region.

It may be mentioned here that Pakistan is the single largest contributor of troops for the UN peace missions.

Democratic republic of the Congo - république démocratique du congo 
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