Archive for January 2, 2010

YouTube – “Northern Uganda: A History of Suffering” pt. 1.

By Didier Munsala

KINSHASA, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Congo hailed on Tuesday the U.N. decision to extend the mandate of its peacekeeping forces in the country by five months instead of a year as a step towards a full withdrawal.

The shortened extension will allow the United Nations to work with Kinshasa on a revised mandate for the forces, known as MONUC, that will focus on training the Congolese army to replace them ahead of withdrawal, a spokesman said.

“It conforms with the wishes clearly expressed by President Joseph Kabila to see the United Nations submit to our country a progressive schedule for withdrawing MONUC forces by June 30, 2010, at the latest,” Information Minister Lambert Mende said.

MONUC, which has grown into the biggest U.N. force in the world with approximately 20,000 uniformed personnel, has been in the mineral-rich central African nation since a 1998-2003 civil war in which millions of people are believed to have died.

Despite continued reports of murders and rapes by armed groups funded by illegal mineral exports in the country’s remote eastern provinces, Congo’s government wants an exit strategy for MONUC forces ahead of the 50th anniversary of its independence from former colonial master Belgium at the end of June.

The U.N. resolution, approved unanimously by the 15-member Security Council Dec. 23, asked U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit a “strategic review of the situation” by April 1 to enable the body to decide the future of the force.

Human rights groups have accused MONUC of lending too much support to units of the Congolese army known to have committed abuses, and the United Nations last month suspended support for a brigade accused of killing more the 60 civilians.

U.N. Security Council diplomats have said that while Congo has made progress, MONUC is necessary to maintain peace and build up the army.

While Congo’s perennial violence in the rebel-infused eastern Kivu provinces remains the biggest concern, the country is also struggling to put down a flare-up in violence in the northern Equateur province.

That conflict, which erupted in October reportedly over tribal fishing access, has killed more than 187 civilians along with at least 28 anti-riot police and 10 Congolese soldiers, Mende said.

The army is receiving logistical support from MONUC to put down the insurrection, he said. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis)

Congo welcomes extension of UN peacekeeper mandate | News by Country | Reuters.

“will the exiting of MONUC be a good thing though? With violence still ongoing and areas still very unstable, to me its a lil “strange”.” Rebecca Fowler

Somali pirates have seized an Indonesian chemical tanker with 24 crew members in the Gulf of Aden, maritime watchdog bodies reported.

The Singapore-flagged Pramoni was captured while en route to India – the third vessel since August to be taken in the region patrolled by foreign navies – said Andrew Mwangura of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program.

It marked the first attack by Somali pirates this year.

Among the crew of the 20,000 deadweight-tonne Pramoni heading toward Kandla are 17 Indonesians, five Chinese nationals, a Nigerian and a Vietnamese, said Mr Mwangura, adding that the sailors were safe.

The European Union’s Atalante force confirmed the news, saying: “The ship’s master reported on VHF that the ship was hijacked and all the crew are well. The ship is presently heading south towards Somalia.”

On Monday, pirates seized the St James Park, a UK-flagged chemical tanker with a crew of 26 from nine different countries, while Yemeni authorities said the same day that a Yemeni freighter with 15 crew members had also been taken.

Since the end of the summer monsoon season allowed pirate attacks to resume three months ago, Somali pirates had abandoned the Gulf of Aden for the wide open seas of the Indian Ocean, venturing as far as the Seychelles and beyond.

The latest capture brings to at least 12 ships and around 270 seamen currently held by Somalia pirates.

Somali pirates seize Indonesian chemical tanker – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Lira: about 1,300 civilians have died in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 10 Months following Human Rights abuses allegedly committed by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army, according to latest periodic reports by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

One report on southern Sudan reveals attacks on civilians in Western and Central Equatoria States, between December 15 2008 and March 10 2009.

The report on the DRC states that at least 1,200 civilians were killed, including women who were raped before execution. According to the report, more than 100 people were wounded by gunshots and stabbing and about 1,400 people were abducted and some executed or are missing.

Sexual slavery”During their captivity, abductees were subjected to forced labour in fields, forced to carry looted goods or personal effects or recruited into the LRA. Women were forced to marry LRA members, subjected to sexual slavery, or both,” the report released last week said.

It adds: “Thousands of homes, dozens of shops and businesses, as well as public buildings, including at least 30 schools, health centres, hospitals, churches, markets, and traditional seats of chiefdoms, were looted, set on fire and over 200,000 people were also displaced.”

Describing harrowing experience from victims, the report called on the international community to co-operate with the ICC in investigating, arresting, and transferring all LRA leaders accused of international crimes.

The report also accused the DRC army, FARDC, of human rights violation of the displaced persons instead of protecting them.

“Soldiers of the Congolese armed forces, supposed to protect civilians, also committed human rights violations, including executions, rape, arbitrary arrests and detentions and illegal, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and extortion,” the report said.

The report stated that attacks, systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out since mid-September 2008 against Congolese civilians may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Sudan report on the other hand based on 27 confirmed attacks, reveals that at least 81 civilians were killed in attacks and many others injured.

“The evidence presented in this report suggests that LRA actions may amount to crimes against humanity,” the report says. The reports recommended that the United Nation Mission in Sudan should exercise its protection of civilians since its mandated to prevent further loss of life.

“The international community, including governments, should cooperate with the ICC to search for, arrest and surrender the LRA leaders accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community should support meaningful peace efforts between governments in the region and the LRA,” the report recommends.

Issues in report

Women were forced to marry LRA members, subjected to sexual slavery or both.

Thirty schools, health centres, hospitals, churches, markets, and traditional seats of chiefdoms, were looted, set on fire. Over 200,000 people were displaced.

The report describes the report as systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out since mid-September 2008 against Congolese civilians may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

DRC army accused of violating rights displaced persons instead of protecting them.

As reported: allAfrica.com: Uganda: LRA Kill 1,300 in Sudan, DRC.