Archive for the ‘DR Congo’ Category

What a coincidence that “outbreak” was screened on Aussie main stream tv last night…

The Extinction Protocol

January 17, 2013BANGLADESHEcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that focuses on local conservation and global health issues, released new research on Ebola virus in fruit bats in the peer reviewed journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, a monthly publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found Ebola virus antibodies circulating in ~4% of the 276 bats scientists screened in Bangladesh. These results suggest that Rousettus fruit bats are a reservoir for Ebola, or a new Ebola-like virus in South Asia. The study extends the range of this lethal disease further than previously suspected to now include mainland Asia. “Research on Filoviruses in Asia is a new frontier of critical importance to human health, and this study has been vital to better understand the wildlife reservoirs and potential transmission routes for Ebola virus in Bangladesh and the region,” said Dr. Kevin Olival, lead author and…

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The “War On Terror” Spreads to Africa: U.S. Sending Troops to 35 African Nations

The U.S. is sending troops to 35 African nations under the guise of fighting Al Qaeda and related terrorists.

Democracy Now notes:

U.S. Army teams will be deploying to as many as 35 African countries early next year for training programs and other operations as part of an increased Pentagon role in Africa. The move would see small teams of U.S. troops dispatched to countries with groups allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, such as Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. The teams are from a U.S. brigade that has the capability to use drones for military operations in Africa if granted permission. The deployment could also potentially lay the groundwork for future U.S. military intervention in Africa.

NPR reports:

[A special American brigade] will be able to take part in nearly 100 separate training and military exercises next year, in nearly three dozen African countries

Glenn Ford writes:

The 2nd Brigade is scheduled to hold more than 100 military exercises in 35 countries, most of which have no al-Qaida presence. So, although there is no doubt that the U.S. will be deeply involved in the impending military operation in Mali, the 2nd Brigade’s deployment is a much larger assignment, aimed at making all of Africa a theater of U.S. military operations. The situation in Mali is simply a convenient, after-the-fact rationale for a long-planned expansion of the U.S. military footprint in Africa.

Timothy Alexander Guzman argues:

AFRICOM’s [the U.S. military’s Africa command] goal is to eliminate China and other countries influence in the region.  Africa’s natural resources is another important element to consider because it includes oil, diamonds, copper, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, bauxite, silver, petroleum, certain woods and tropical fruits.

In a must-watch interview, Dan Collins of the China Money Report agrees that the purpose of the deployment is to challenge China’s rising prominence in Africa:

Read the full report via Global Research

World

Jeanette Bindu’s network in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has just informed her of a mass rape in Minova — more than 100 women within just four days. Thousands of government troops have fled the provincial capital of Goma in the face of an advance by the M23 rebels, and on Nov. 22 the government soldiers arrived on the small town of Minova, 54 km to the west. The rapes started immediately. Bindu, who runs a network of 36 women monitoring rape across the region, wants to know more. So taking a TIME reporter with her, she jumps in her car, navigates the 54 km of barely paved roads and checkpoints manned by drunken militiamen to reach Minova. “Every time, it’s the women that these conflicts affect the most,” she says.

U.N. Special Representative Margot Wallstrom has called Congo the “rape capital of the world,” and a 2011 study in the

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World

In the war-torn, mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo, rebels belonging to an armed group known as the M23 have launched a devastating offensive against the government of President Joseph Kabila, capturing the main provincial capital of Goma in the country’s east, according to reports. Though denied by the Rwandan government, many believe the M23 is armed and backed by Rwanda, as regional governments jostle for influence and control over a part of the world blessed with teeming natural wealth but afflicted by decades of war and human-rights abuses.

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By Dr. Mercola

african child Poor African Countries Get Vaccines but No Food or Clean Water

As one of the world’s most well-known and respected voices, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has a unique opportunity to call attention to important social issues and make a huge impact worldwide.

Unfortunately Gates, through his foundation, has been partnering with not only biotech giant Monsanto to hoist genetically modified seeds on third-world countries, but also with Big Pharma, to whom he pledged $10 billion to provide vaccinations to children around the world.

This is billed as a humanitarian effort to save lives, but what children in developing countries need is healthy food, clean water and better sanitation.

These are the keys to preventing the spread of infectious disease, and they are being wholly ignored by the likes of Bill Gates and other vaccine proponents – at the children’s expense!

The Aftermath of a Bill Gates Vaccine Campaign …

An American family, the Gianelloni’s, visited a village in Uganda shortly after a Bill Gates vaccine campaign swept through and discovered what Bill Gates’ money does for hungry, sick children – essentially nothing.

The family found that the children were starving, living on one meager meal a day. Their only water source was the same stagnant stream that they bathed in. They had no sewage or sanitation. But, thanks to Gates, they were now vaccinated against measles and polio. Never mind that the most pressing epidemics in the area were actually Yellow Fever, malaria, HIV/AIDs and diarrhea …

Worse yet, one little girl who had received a measles vaccine two weeks earlier was now suffering with the measles as a result! After this blogger left, thanks to her and the mission group that arrived with her, the village had a water tank and clean water system, a cow, and a year’s worth of rice and beans. You can probably understand why the blogger made this comment about Gates’ “philanthropy”:

“I don’t care who you are or what side of the vaccine philosophy you fall under, there is no logic in the world that can explain that going into a remote village and giving children who only eat one meal a day and have never had clean drinking water, a vaccine. 

Seriously? Think about it. Can you imagine walking up to this precious little girl and saying ”I know you are starving, but here is a measles vaccine instead. I promise this will make you much healthier than food or water”. It’s a scary day when simple logic no longer exists.

Food & Water, nope. Vaccines, yep. And innocent children suffer the consequences. It’s absurd.

Food, Water, Sanitation is What’s Needed to Help Prevent Disease

The most vulnerable of the world’s children are those in the poorest countries where death and disease are often a result of malnutrition and lack of adequate sanitation and clean drinking water. In many third-world countries, children are often battling some sort of infection 200 days out of the year. Vaccines can be devastating to these already immunosuppressed children, as well as to adults, because vaccines often weaken and confuse the immune system, which ultimately increases the recipient’s susceptibility to the very infectious diseases vaccines are designed to prevent.

Nonetheless, emerging vaccine markets like third-world countries will soon outgrow developed markets by hundreds of billions of dollars. Emerging markets are areas of the world that are beginning to show promise as a profitable venture for many products, including vaccines. And emerging markets – primarily in developing countries in Southeast and Central Asia, and Africa – have been on vaccine makers’ radar for quite some time.

One reason that vaccine makers are interested in these parts of the world is that that’s where most of the world’s deaths from major infectious diseases occur. The only problem has been that, until recently, making vaccines for undeveloped countries with no money to pay for them was not exactly a profitable goal for vaccine makers.

Concerned that developed countries would have little or no resources for addressing serious infectious diseases if vaccine makers continued their pull-out, the World Health Organization and the G8 – the top developed countries in the world – responded with a plan for enticing vaccine companies to stay in the business. That plan was called Advance Market Commitments (AMCs).

AMCs Guarantee Drug Company Profits

Under AMCs, developed countries make legal, binding agreements to purchase vaccines that are needed in low-income countries. The purchase guarantees a bottom line for the manufacturers. In return, the manufacturers promise to sell those vaccines at reduced prices in the countries where they are most needed.

The idea is simple: “rich” nations sign legally binding commitments to purchase and/or finance an AMC vaccine once it’s ready for market. In return for the guaranteed market and income, drug companies promise to sell the new vaccine to “poor” countries at vastly reduced prices.

To speed up the process, the World Health Organization “prequalifies” AMC vaccines in an approval process that slices years off the time it normally takes a vaccine to make it to market.

Unfortunately, legally binding, advance market commitments to purchase vaccines that are mostly needed in third-world countries could backfire on developed countries that don’t need – or want – certain vaccines.

For instance, HPV (human papillomavirus) statistics show that HPV causes 4,000 deaths from cervical cancer per year in the United States, compared to 274,000 worldwide, 88 percent of which are in developing countries. So why were the HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix — which have known safety issues — introduced in the U.S. and Europe, first, instead of going straight to where they’re needed most, if not to help sell huge quantities of the vaccine at premium prices, in anticipation of it becoming an AMC?

Even Gates and a Leading Vaccine Maker Admit Clean Water is Key

Malaria is another one of the top neglected diseases that world health leaders want to address with AMCs, but the ability to resist diseases like malaria requires a strong immune system, and for that, you require good nutrition, clean drinking water, and sanitation. If we want to help people in other countries to lower their malaria rates, and rates of other infectious diseases (like infection-associated diarrhea, which is one of the most common, and most preventable causes of death among children in the developing world) it would be wise to focus on these basics first.

Infectious organisms are more likely to penetrate the bodies of malnourished children due to inadequate vitamin C, which causes their skin to break down more easily and facilitates the entry of bacteria and other pathogens. The same is true for vitamin A deficiency, another common third-world problem, which results in increased susceptibility to infection and which could be rectified in individuals for pennies a day. Also, the living conditions of third-world children are often so poor that they are exposed to inordinately large numbers of pathogens, from which they have little defense.

In order to eradicate infectious disease from a nation, you also have to first address compromised immune systems. If you hit immune suppressed children with a potent, adjuvant-loaded vaccine, you’re far more likely to create new disease, not eradicate it.

With all of the billions being poured into vaccines to “save” the children, how many water purification systems could have been built? How many sanitation facilities? How many rations of meat and fresh produce?

Even Bill Gates himself has admitted that vaccines alone don’t eradicate disease. In a Wall Street Journal article about the resurgence of polio in African countries, Gates said that’s why he is revamping his disease fight to incorporate health, hygiene, and clean drinking water programs into vaccination programs.1 Polio spreads, after all, largely through feces-contaminated water, so ignoring that major risk factor while trying to eradicate the disease is ignorant, to put it nicely.

What’s really interesting is that at least one major vaccine maker has also echoed these sentiments, as evidenced on the front page of GlaxoSmithKline’s presentation to shareholders in June 2010:2

“With the exception of clean drinking water, vaccines are the most cost-effective public health measure,” GSK said.

What if, just what if, the same amount of money that has been spent on vaccines over the past decade had been spent on sanitation facilities, toilets, healthy food and clean water instead?

What You Can Do to Make a Difference

Increasing numbers of vaccines are being introduced not only in third-world countries but also in the developed world, and it’s simply not wise to blindly depend on the information coming directly from the vaccine makers’ PR departments, or from federal health officials, agencies or foundations that are mired in conflicts of interest with industry …

No matter what vaccination choices you make for yourself or your family, it is a basic human right to be fully informed about all the risks of medical interventions and pharmaceutical products, like vaccines, and have the freedom to refuse if you conclude the benefits do not outweigh the risks for you or your child.

Unfortunately, the business partnership between government health agencies and vaccine manufacturers is too close and is getting out of hand. There is a lot of discrimination against Americans, who want to be free to exercise their human right to informed consent when it comes to making voluntary decisions about which vaccines they and their children use.

We cannot allow that to continue.

While it seems “old-fashioned,” the only truly effective actions you can take to protect the right to informed consent to vaccination and expand your rights under the law to make voluntary vaccine choices, is to get personally involved with your state legislators and the leaders in your community.

THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY.

Mass vaccination policies are made at the federal level but vaccine laws are made at the state level, and it is at the state level where your action to protect your vaccine choice rights will have the greatest impact.

Signing up to be a user of NVIC’s free online Advocacy Portal at www.NVICAdvocacy.org gives you access to practical, useful information to help you become an effective vaccine choice advocate in your own community. You will get real-time Action Alerts about what you can do if there are threats to vaccine exemptions in your state. With the click of a mouse or one touch on a Smartphone screen you will be put in touch with YOUR elected representatives so you can let them know how you feel and what you want them to do. Plus, when national vaccine issues come up, you will have all the information you need to make sure your voice is heard. So please, as your first step, sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal.

Right now, in California, the personal belief exemption is under attack by Pharma-funded medical trade organizations and public health officials trying to get a bill (AB 2109) passed that would require parents to get a medical doctor’s signature to file an exemption for personal religious and conscientious beliefs. Watch NVIC’s 90-second public service message and learn more about what you can do if you are a California resident.

Internet Resources

To learn more about vaccines, I encourage you to visit the following web pages on the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) website at www.NVIC.org:

  • NVIC Memorial for Vaccine Victims: View descriptions and photos of children and adults, who have suffered vaccine reactions, injuries and deaths. If you or your child experiences an adverse vaccine event, please consider posting and sharing your story here.
  • If You Vaccinate, Ask 8 Questions: Learn how to recognize vaccine reaction symptoms and prevent vaccine injuries.
  • Vaccine Freedom Wall: View or post descriptions of harassment by doctors or state officials for making independent vaccine choices.
  • Vaccine Ingredient Calculator (VIC): Find out just how much aluminum, mercury and other ingredients are in the vaccines your doctor is recommending for you or your child.
  • Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) on MedAlerts. Search the government’s VAERS database to find out what kinds of vaccine reactions, injuries and deaths have been reported by patients and heath care workers giving vaccines.

Find a Doctor Who Will Listen to Your Concerns

Last but not least, if your pediatrician or doctor refuses to provide medical care to you or your child unless you agree to get vaccines you don’t want, I strongly encourage you to have the courage to find another doctor. Harassment, intimidation, and refusal of medical care is becoming the modus operandi of the medical establishment in an effort to punish those patients and parents, who become truly educated about health and vaccination and want to make vaccine choices instead of being forced to follow risky one-size-fits-all vaccine policies.

If you are treated with disrespect or are harassed in any way by a doctor (or government official), do not engage in an unproductive argument. You may want to contact an attorney, your elected state representatives or local media, if you or your child are threatened.

That said, there is hope.

At least 15 percent of young doctors recently polled admit that they’re starting to adopt a more individualized approach to vaccinations in direct response to the vaccine safety concerns of parents. It is good news that there is a growing number of smart young doctors, who prefer to work as partners with parents in making personalized vaccine decisions for children, including delaying vaccinations or giving children fewer vaccines on the same day or continuing to provide medical care for those families, who decline use of one or more vaccines.

So take the time to locate and connect with a doctor who treats you with compassion and respect and is willing to work with you to do what is right for your child, and isn’t just competing for government incentives designed to increase vaccination rates at any cost.

Read the entire article here: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/06/healthy-foods-not-vaccines.aspx

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UN must stop failing civilians under threat from the LRA | Oxfam International.

New York – Tens of thousands of people will remain without life-saving aid unless the UN mission in Congo steps up its presence in areas brutalized by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), Oxfam warned today. Insecurity has continually put humanitarian plans on hold and forced an estimated 43% of people displaced by LRA violence in the remote Bas-Uélé territory to survive without any assistance at all.

The call comes as the UN Security Council meets to discuss its peacekeeping force’s operations in a country terrorized by multiple rebel groups.

In recent weeks LRA attacks have caused hundreds of families to flee their homes in the Haut-Uélé territory of north-eastern the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), adding to the almost 260,000 people already displaced in Haut- and Bas-Uélé and vulnerable to disease, exploitation and destitution.

Marcel Stoessel, head of Oxfam in DRC, said:

MONUSCO is failing tens of thousands of people in urgent need of protection and assistance. The LRA has killed and abducted more people than any other armed group in Congo, yet the resources the UN allocates to protecting civilians in the affected areas remain wholly inadequate. The UN Security Council should insist on immediate redeployment of peacekeepers, transport equipment and senior civilian protection personnel to the area. Needs are great across eastern Congo, but the exceptional levels of violence from the LRA mean MONUSCO need to start giving the problem priority in their allocation of resources.

“Once they are there, they must move fast to listen to communities and respond effectively to protect them as well as working to improve security so that humanitarian assistance can get through.

Protecting civilians is the primary responsibility of the Congolese government, but further attacks in recent weeks demonstrate that national efforts are currently inadequate to keep people safe. While strengthening the Congolese security services is clearly the long-term solution, in the immediate MONUSCO must step up.”

The UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) is the largest in the world with more than 18,000 troops across the country. However, fewer than 1,000 peacekeepers are estimated to be deployed in the LRA-affected areas, despite extreme and unremitting attacks on civilians there in the last two years.

Since September 2008, the LRA has killed more than 2,000 people, abducted more than 2,500 and displaced over 400,000 others in DRC, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Stoessel said:

“Communities interviewed by Oxfam in July of this year felt the UN mission was doing more to protect its own bases than it was to keep the population safe. The mission has shown in other parts of Congo that it can do far better than this.

“Oxfam is working with people living in fear and in dire need of help. To reach more of those affected we need the UN to fulfil its responsibilities and help secure the most volatile areas.”

Earlier this month, Oxfam called for urgent action by the UN and international community to address the threat the LRA poses to civilians and to regional peace and stability, arguing that it has been allowed to slide off the international agenda, and that the UN must provide a forum for regular discussion and coordination of non-military responses.

Stoessel said:

“The Security Council should be seeking regular briefings and reports on the LRA’s activities and on what is being done to address the threat to civilians. It should use its influence to ensure non-military responses are not neglected, for instance by reviving the role of Special Envoy to the affected areas.”

For Further Information see the Full Post here as reported by Oxfam International – All information contained in this Blog entry is Copyrighted to Oxfam.

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency said Friday it was alarmed at reports of a dramatic rise in the frequency and brutality of attacks by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) from Uganda against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Between March 20 and May 6 this year, there were at least 10 LRA raids on villages in southern CAR’s Haut-Mbomou province. Thirty-six people were killed, houses were burned and 10,000 people were uprooted, including 411 who fled across the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The newly displaced are concentrated in the towns of Bangassou, Rafai, Zemio and Mboki.

In the eastern DRC, the latest large-scale LRA attack is reported to have occurred between February 22-26 at Kpanga in Bas-Uele district of Orientale province. The LRA is reported to have killed up to 100 people, including children. This is an area that has repeatedly suffered from LRA violence.

In Sudan, LRA attacks have centred on the Central and Western Equatoria regions, bordering Uganda, DRC and the Central African Republic. Since August 2009, the LRA has carried out renewed incursions, which have forced the relocation of refugees and the displacement of the local population as well as seriously disrupting the movement of humanitarian assistance.

On April 6, the rebel group raided the Ezo Napere refugee settlement in Western Equatoria, killing a male refugee and injuring another. The attack was repulsed by the South Sudan police force.

Roving bands of LRA fighters often prey on villages in remote areas. As a result, some of the group’s atrocities remain unknown for long periods.

The epicentre of LRA atrocities is in the two districts of Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele in Orientale province, where, since December 2008, it has killed more than 1,800 people, abducted some 2,500 and displaced 280,000 people. It has also forced nearly 20,000 Congolese to seek refuge in Sudan and the CAR.

In Sudan, the LRA is said to have caused the deaths of some 2,500 people and forcibly displaced another 87,800, mostly in Central and Western Equatoria.

The LRA sprung up in Uganda in 1986, established its first base in Sudan in 1993 and spread to the DRC in 2005, before moving further north into the Central African Republic in 2009.

In the CAR, the UN Taskforce on IDPs [internally displaced people], of which UNHCR is a member, is making arrangements to deliver aid to the newly displaced in Haute-Mbomou province as quickly as possible. An assessment mission will travel to Zemio this weekend to asses the needs of the internally displaced and refugees.

By Yusuf Hassan in Nairobi, Kenya

via UNHCR – Thousands flee, many killed as Lord’s Resistance Army steps up attacks.

* Rights group wants phone network and radio stations

* Says U.N. member countries should send in elite military

* U.N. says has not got enough troops, asked to withdraw

By Katrina Manson

KINSHASA, March 28 (Reuters) – The United Nations must boost peacekeeping forces in areas of Africa where Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels operate to stop massacres such as one that killed more than 300 people in December, a rights group said.

The Ugandan rebel group has killed and abducted people on a regular basis for the last 23 years, from Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch noted in a report.

It said the United Nations has fewer than 1,000 peacekeepers in this vast and and often impenetrable areas where the rebels mount their attacks.

The U.N. says the LRA killed more than 1,200 people in a 10-month period throughout 2008 and 2009, while the rights group puts the death toll in a massacre previously unreported in the remote northeast last December at 321.

“The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim,” Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher at HRW, said.

HRW also wants the Congolese government to work with mobile phone companies to bring network coverage to the area.

One witness cycled 60 km (40 miles) to find a telephone to inform the U.N. of the massacre, and villages that were subsequently attacked knew nothing of nearby attacks.

via Troops, cash needed to fight Uganda rebels-group | News by Country | Reuters.

(Kampala) – The rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children, during a previously unreported four-day rampage in the Makombo area of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

“The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim.”

The 67-page report, “Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in Northeastern Congo,” is the first detailed documentation of the Makombo massacre and other atrocities by the LRA in Congo in 2009 and early 2010. The report, based on a Human Rights Watch fact-finding mission to the massacre area in February, documents the brutal killings during the well-planned LRA attack from December 14 to 17 in the remote Makombo area of Haute Uele district.

LRA forces attacked at least 10 villages, capturing, killing, and abducting hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The vast majority of those killed were adult men, whom LRA combatants first tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or crushed their skulls with axes and heavy wooden sticks. The dead include at least 13 women and 23 children, the youngest a 3-year-old girl who was burned to death. LRA combatants tied some of the victims to trees before crushing their skulls with axes.

The LRA also killed those they abducted who walked too slowly or tried to escape. Family members and local authorities later found bodies all along the LRA’s 105-kilometer journey through the Makombo area and the small town of Tapili. Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that for days and weeks after the attack, this vast area was filled with the “stench of death.”

Children and adults who managed to escape provided similar accounts of the group’s extreme brutality. Many of the children captured by the LRA were forced to kill other children who had disobeyed the LRA’s rules. In numerous cases documented by Human Rights Watch, children were ordered to surround the victim in a circle and take turns beating the child on the head with a large wooden stick until the child died.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Congo (MONUC) has some 1,000 peacekeeping troops in the LRA-affected areas of northeastern Congo – far too few to protect the population adequately, given the area’s size. Yet instead of sending more troops, the peacekeeping force, under pressure from the Congolese government to withdraw from the country by July 2011, is considering removing some troops from the northeast by June in the first phase of its drawdown.

“The people of northeastern Congo are in desperate need of more protection, not less,” said Van Woudenberg. “The UN Security Council should stop any drawdown of MONUC peacekeeping troops from areas where the LRA threatens to kill and abduct civilians.”

In mid-April, the Security Council is due to visit Congo to discuss the peacekeeping force’s plans for withdrawal and the protection of civilians.

The Makombo massacre is part of a longstanding history of atrocities and abuse by the LRA in Uganda, southern Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Congo. Pushed out of northern Uganda in 2005, the LRA now operates in the remote border area between southern Sudan, Congo, and CAR. In July 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the senior leaders of the LRA for crimes they committed in northern Uganda, but those indicted remain at large.

The Human Rights Watch research indicated that the Makombo massacre was perpetrated by two LRA commanders – Lt. Col. Binansio Okumu (also known as Binany) and a commander known as Obol. They report to Gen. Dominic Ongwen, a senior LRA leader who is believed to command the LRA’s forces in Congo and who is among those sought by the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch urged investigations of these commanders’ alleged participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In December 2008, the governments of the region, led by the Ugandan armed forces, with intelligence and logistical support from the United States, began a military campaign known as Operation Lightning Thunder against the LRA in northeastern Congo. A surprise aerial strike on the main LRA camp failed to neutralize the LRA leadership, which escaped. In retaliation, the LRA attacked villages and towns in northern Congo and southern Sudan, killing more than 865 civilians during the Christmas 2008 holiday season and in the weeks thereafter.

On March 15, 2009, Operation Lightning Thunder officially ended, following pressure from the Congolese government, which found it politically difficult to support a continued Ugandan army presence on Congolese territory. But a covert joint military campaign continued, with the quiet approval of the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila. Both governments publicly maintain that the LRA is no longer a serious threat in Congo and that the bulk of the rebel group has either moved to Central African Republic or has been killed or dispersed.

These public declarations might have contributed to burying information about ongoing LRA attacks, leaving many victims feeling abandoned. An 80-year-old traditional chief, whose son was killed during the Makombo massacre, told Human Rights Watch: “We have been forgotten. It’s as if we don’t exist. The government says the LRA are no longer a problem, but I know that’s not true. I beg of you, please talk to others about what has happened to us.”

While the Makombo massacre is the most deadly documented attack by the LRA since the Christmas massacres of 2008, dozens of attacks against civilians have also been carried out in other areas in recent months – near the towns of Bangadi and Ngilima in Haut Uele district, in Ango territory in Bas Uele district, as well as in the Central African Republic.

In the December 2009 attacks near Bangadi and Ngilima, LRA combatants horribly mutilated six civilians, cutting off each victim’s lips and an ear with a razor. The LRA sent the victims back to their villages with a chilling warning to others that anyone who heard or spoke about the LRA would be similarly punished.

On March 11, 2010, the US Senate unanimously passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. If it becomes law, it will require President Barack Obama’s administration to develop a regional strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from attacks by the LRA, to work to apprehend the LRA’s leadership, and to support economic recovery for northern Uganda. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“The people of northeastern Congo and other LRA-affected areas have suffered for far too long,” said Van Woudenberg. “The US and other concerned governments should work with the UN and regional parties to develop and carry out a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians and apprehend abusive LRA leaders.”

As reported by Human Rights Watch

STATEMENT: Lord’s Resistance Army Finds Safe Haven in Darfur

KAMPALA, Uganda, JUBA, Sudan and WASHINGTON, March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Enough Project at the Center for American Progress today released the following statement:

The Enough Project confirms that a contingent of the deadly Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, has taken refuge in areas of south Darfur, Sudan, controlled by the Government of Sudan. The possibility of rekindled collaboration between LRA leader Joseph Kony and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – both wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, or ICC – should alarm policymakers and demands urgent international investigation and response.

The LRA originated in northern Uganda during the late 1980s. In addition to committing widespread atrocities in Uganda, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s the LRA served as a proxy for the Sudanese government in its war with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, in southern Sudan. In 2005, Kony publicly stated that the Bashir government supported the LRA as a proxy force to destabilize the south, a charge that Khartoum continues to deny despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

“The Khartoum regime’s principal tool of war during its 21-year reign has been support for marauding militias such as the Janjaweed, the Murahaliin, and the Lord’s Resistance Army,” said Enough Co-founder John Prendergast. “Facing no consequences for this destructive method of governing, it is unsurprising that the regime is again providing safe haven for the LRA. Absent a cost for this, we will likely see the LRA unleashed again later this year to destabilize the referendum in southern Sudan.”

With material support from Khartoum, the LRA quickly became one of the deadliest militias in Africa, known for gruesome mutilations of civilians and abduction of children to serve as fighters and sex slaves. Following failed peace talks from 2006 to 2008, the LRA morphed into a full blown regional insurgency with fighters in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, or CAR, and southern Sudan.

In late 2009, Enough received credible information that an LRA reconnaissance team was seeking to make contact with the Sudanese army at their base in Kafia Kingi, near south Darfur‘s border with CAR. In recent months, Ugandan forces have pursued the LRA into Congo, CAR, and southern Sudan, but are restricted from crossing Sudan‘s disputed north-south border.

Now, based on months of field research and interviews with government and United Nations officials in several countries, Enough can confirm that LRA units have reached south Darfur.

“This is a very disturbing development. The move by the Government of Sudan to provide the LRA with safe haven demands a firm, rapid, and well-coordinated response from the United States and its partners in the international community,” said John Norris, Enough’s Executive Director. “A failure to bring clear and consistent pressure on President Bashir and his allies for this latest outrage will only encourage the Sudanese government to commit further abuses, with a terrible cost for civilians on the ground.”

Also today, Enough released a strategy paper by field researcher Ledio Cakaj detailing the continuing threat posed by the LRA to civilians in northeastern Congo. The report, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: LRA Attacks and Congolese Army Abuses in Northeastern Congo,” argues that much greater efforts must be made to protect civilians from a resurgent LRA and the predatory Congolese army.

Read the report at: http://www.enoughproject.org/publications/lra-army-abuses-congo

Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.

SOURCE Center for American Progress

RELATED LINKS
http://www.enoughproject.org
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via STATEMENT: Lord’s Resistance Army Finds Safe Haven in Darfur — KAMPALA, Uganda, JUBA, Sudan and WASHINGTON, March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —.

Sheila Velez

6 January 2010

The defence in the trial of alleged Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo – the first war crimes trial to be conducted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) – is scheduled to begin on Thursday. Ahead of the resumption of the case, Sheila Velez sketches the background.

The silence of the public gallery is interrupted only by the slow rise of the blinds. We are about to watch history in the making. Behind bulletproof glass a courtroom appears – the heart of the International Criminal Court. On the right, the prosecution. On the left, the defence, their sombre robes contrasting starkly with the courtroom’s pale wood furnishings. In their midst – dapper, calm, attentive – sits the eye of this storm: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the first person ever to face trial at the ICC.

Who is this man, and what has he done to earn his dubious distinction? Now quietly jotting notes, now leaning over to consult with one of his lawyers, take away the setting and he could be a businessman as unremarkable as any you encounter on the streets of London, Brussels or New York every day of the week. Hardly a Radovan Karadzic or a Pol Pot. Hardly a Josef Mengele, whose experiments on children left the few survivors scarred for life.

When the Second World War ended, nobody expected that we would ever again allow destruction on such a scale. Five decades later, so inured had we become to wholesale slaughter that five million people could die in a new Great War, the Second Congo War, and their untold sufferings would remain just that.

Until now. Because in the course of this landmark trial, not just experts but children who became the victims of this war are taking the stand to speak to the charges that as president of the Union des Patriots Congolais (UPC), between September 2002 and August 2003 Thomas Lubanga recruited, trained and used hundreds of young children to pillage, rape and kill.

Lubanga is a member of the Hema ethnic group from Ituri, a district in the northeast corner of the Congo which has about the same land area and population size as the Republic of Ireland. Born in 1960, he secured a degree in psychology from the University of Kisangani. Married, with seven children, by the late 1990s there was no particular indication that this family man would ever become a feared warlord. In fact well into the Second Congo War he was still working as a trader, selling beans in the market of Bunia, Ituri’s capital.

However, the war would set him on a path to power and notoriety, not so much for any personal military feats as for his dedication to an inherently ethnic view of politics in which the Hema as a group must either eliminate all threats or be eliminated.

From the late 1990s Ituri had become a particular focal point for violence as different factions involved in the wider war battled for control of its mineral wealth. Decades of mistrust between Ituri’s ethnic groups, particularly between the Hema and Lendu, were manipulated for political ends with deadly consequences.

In June 2000, hundreds of Hema soldiers in the Rassemblement Congolais, the movement then in control of Ituri, went to Uganda for two months’ military training. When they returned, tradesman Lubanga became their spokesman. It didn’t matter to them that he had no previous political experience. He was educated, an intellectual, and he would speak on behalf of his ethnic group. The seeds of the UPC had been planted.

In January 2001, Lubanga joined the Rassemblement Congolais government as commissioner for youth and sports. Later becoming defence commissioner, he recruited even more Hema troops. Sidelined by the Rassemblement Congolais from involvement in an April 2002 peace deal designed to end the war in the Congo, Lubanga broke away, taking his Hema soldiers with him.

Turning on his old masters, in August 2002 his forces chased the Rassemblement Congolais out of Bunia, launching attacks on the Lendu and anyone they identified as “Jajambu” (outsiders). Almost total anarchy ensued as the UPC and rival ethnic militias not only fought each other but killed civilians from opposing ethnic groups with indiscriminate barbarity. And all sides were using child soldiers.

Now, as evidence is led in an ICC courtroom at The Hague in the Netherlands, figures in green military fatigues, clapping and singing, fill screens in the public gallery. In the midst of the figures is a slightly slimmer version of the man now in the dock. The frame freezes. The deputy prosecutor’s voice cuts in.

“Witness, do you know the person who is on the screen?” The girl in the witness stand – identified only as “Witness Ten” and who even now can barely be out of her teens – confirms: “It’s Thomas Lubanga.” She adds, “There was one song. When we sang it, some people cried, like me, because I knew I didn’t have a family anymore and that I was all alone. I couldn’t really express the sadness I felt, and I couldn’t really say that I was afraid.”

By  September 2002, Thomas Lubanga had been appointed president of the UPC.  From then on he would brook no opposition. He would be not merely the president but the “Rais” – a king-like leader invested with permanent and sacred authority by his community; the protector of the Hema, in an existential war demanding the participation and contribution of every Hema man, woman and child.

Children were enticed, abducted, even given up by their parents for military training, the parents acting to protect themselves and their ethnic group. Many of the children were aged 10 to 15, some allegedly as young as five.

But why? What does a war machine gain from being fed with children?

Militias around the world in recent years have made a cynical calculation: that children can be exploited without payment; that they are loyal, obedient and unlikely to mutiny; that they show less fear in battle, are less capable of assessing risks and consequences than adults. And if they are girls, they are likely also to be useful as domestic servants and sex slaves.

“I used to be a virgin before I entered the UPC, but they took away my virginity. I saw the blood that completely destroyed my life,” Witness Ten tells the court. Murmured conversation in the public gallery falls silent. “I cry every day, for I have no mother or father. I’m alone and it’s hurting… When I think about it, I feel like killing myself.”

Elisabeth Schauer, a doctor in clinical psychology, and head of an NGO working on rehabilitation after trauma, addresses the court.

“Any experience where the perpetrator is physically close with a knife, with a gun, raping you, assaulting you; such experiences are more likely to cause us to develop psychiatric disorders,” she says. “Traumatic or emotionally important memories for us are burned into memory, right? Trauma doesn’t subside. Trauma doesn’t go away. You can be traumatised at age 11 and die with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when you’re 70 years old.”

If the UPC was using child soldiers, it was doing nothing new. Hundreds of thousands of children are in service in armed conflicts around the world. Whatever its outcome for Thomas Lubanga, the message this trial sends is new: Use children as soldiers, even in a war as lawless as that in the Congo, and one day you may forfeit your liberty.  So for anyone who values children, the future of our world, this trial matters.

Sheila Velez is a freelance journalist and author of the “Lubanga Chronicles” which document the ICC trial.

via allAfrica.com: Congo-Kinshasa: Lubanga Trial Highlights Plight of Child Soldiers.

KINSHASA, Jan 3 (Reuters) – More than 150 people were killed last week in fighting between government troops and armed groups in the Equateur province of Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. mission in the central African country said on Sunday. U.N.-backed Radio Okapi said 157 insurgents and one soldier from the Congolese army, known as the FARDC, were killed in and around the town of Inyele between Dec. 31 and Jan 1.

Inyele is 65 km (40 miles) from Dongo, in the northwest of the country, where ethnic violence erupted in late October.

That conflict began as a dispute over fishing rights between the Enyele and Monzaya communities. Since then, a number of groups have posted statements on the Internet saying they were launching a rebellion from Equateur against President Joseph Kabila’s government in Kinshasa.

“Information received from peacekeepers indicate fierce fighting between FARDC and armed elements,” Lt Col Jean-Paul Dietrich, military spokesman for U.N. force MONUC told Reuters.

“It was reported that 157 armed elements were killed. FARDC reportedly suffered several casualties,” he said, adding the Congolese army had taken control of Inyele.

Last week, the United Nations said it had extended the mandate of its peacekeeping forces in the country for only five months instead of a full year.

The shortened extension will allow the United Nations to work with Kinshasa on a revised mandate for the forces that will focus on training the Congolese army ahead of withdrawal.

read the full report via More than 150 killed in Congo attacks this week-UN | News by Country | Reuters.

Following the eruption of a volcano in the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country is using its aviation force to help to keep a close eye on lava flow.

Mount Nyamulagira, which sits some 40 kilometres northwest of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, erupted on Saturday, and while it has not affected any people, the lava has spewed into a non-populated area of the Virunga National Park.

The UN mission known as MONUC has put its Indian aviation force and helicopters at the disposal of local authorities, scientists with the Volcanic Observatory of Goma and the National Institute for the Conservation of Nature ICCN to help monitor volcanic activity.MONUC said that for now, the population of Goma and its surrounding areas seem to be safe from any lava flow, but that the mission stands ready to provide additional support to officials, who have assured people that the nearby volcano of Nyiragongo will be unaffected by the eruption of Nyamulagira.

The ICCN has expressed concern over the threat posed by the volcanic eruption on Virunga National Park’s ecosystems and wildlife, including the possible migration or death of animals in the site

via allAfrica.com: Congo-Kinshasa: UN Helping to Monitor Volcanic Eruption in East.

22 October 2009: UN-supported military operations and FDLR reprisals lead to violations, abuses and displacement

The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions has described military operations against the rebel FDLR militia as “catastrophic” from a human rights perspective. Since Operation Kimia II started March in North and South Kivu Provinces, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, thousands have been raped, hundreds of villages burnt to the ground, and at least 1,000 civilians killed. There are currently an estimated 980,000 IDPs in North Kivu Province alone. In October, over 80 Congolese and international NGOs denounced the humanitarian cost of operations against the FDLR and its reprisals against the population.

Meanwhile, the UN reported that in South Kivu Province, over 5,000 cases of rape against women had been reported in the first six months of 2009, 90 per cent of them allegedly committed by armed militias or by the Congolese army. Attacks against humanitarian workers have also increased in recent weeks in North Kivu, hampering access to IDPs and other vulnerable people. Between January and October, over 100 attacks were recorded in the province, involving murders, abductions, and thefts of assets. Fewer than ten per cent of attacks on humanitarians reported in 2008 have been formally investigated by police.

via: IDMC | Internally Displaced persons (IDPs) in the DR Congo.

Lava from a volcano in a sparsely populated area of the Democratic Republic of Congo is threatening rare chimpanzees, wildlife officials say.

Mount Nyamulagira, 25km (16 miles) from the eastern city of Goma, erupted at dawn on Saturday, sending lava into the surrounding Virunga National Park.

About 40 endangered chimpanzees and other animals live in the area.

But the country’s famous critically endangered mountain gorillas are said to be safe as they live further east.

Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga’s director, said that park staff were working with the civilian and military authorities to assess the risk and take appropriate action.

Rangers were deployed to the area to monitor the flow of lava and were due to report back hourly, he added.

A government official, Feller Lutahichirwa, said observers were monitoring the situation with help from UN helicopters, the Associated Press reports.

‘Mountain on fire’

While few people live in the area immediately affected, officials said their primary concern was to protect human settlements.

map

Innocent Mburanumwe, warden for Virunga’s southern sector, said that lava was flowing towards an area to the south of the volcano, where “many people” live.

“I was woken at 0345 [0145 GMT] by a loud bang, which I first thought was the sound of war,” he added.

“I thought there was fighting again near our park station,” he said, referring to the conflicts which have wracked eastern DR Congo.

“Then I saw the mountain was on fire with sparks flying.”

Mount Nyamulagira (also spelled Nyamuragira), which stands at 3,058m (10,033ft), is one of the most active volcanoes in Africa, according to officials in Virunga.

It has registered more than 35 eruptions since 1882, with the most recent before this weekend being in 2006.

Virunga, a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1979, is home to 200 of the world’s 720 remaining mountain gorillas but they live on the flanks of the Mikeno volcano further east from Nyamulagira.

Previous eruptions of the volcano have threatened the city of Goma, which has a population of at least 200,000 as well as tens of thousands of refugees.

As reported on: BBC News – DR Congo volcano eruption threatens rare chimpanzees.

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