Posts Tagged ‘DR Congo’

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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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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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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.

For two decades in northern Uganda, a cult-like rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) waged war against the government and local Acholi people, launching horrific attacks on villages, towns and camps for the internally displaced.

At the height of the conflict, the United Nations called northern Uganda one of the world’s most neglected humanitarian crises. Some 2 million people – about 90 percent of Acholiland – were uprooted from their homes and tens of thousands were killed or mutilated.

The LRA kidnapped thousands of children for use as fighters, porters and “wives”. Many were forced to perform terrible atrocities – including killing their families and other children. The rebels were also notorious for slicing off people’s lips, ears and noses or padlocking people’s lips shut.

A Sudanese-brokered ceasefire in August 2006 brought relative peace to northern Uganda. But rebel leader Joseph Kony has repeatedly refused to sign a final peace deal, demanding guarantees that he will not be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which wants to try him for war crimes.

Kony’s rebels have camped out in remote regions of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic since the peace process started.

During the worst of the conflict in northern Uganda many people fled their homes to live in camps. Others were herded into the camps by the Ugandan army during counter-insurgency operations. The makeshift settlements lacked food and clean water and were vulnerable to rebel attacks.

At one time, almost 1,000 people were dying every week from disease, poor living conditions and violence, according to a 2005 survey of internally displaced in Acholiland by Uganda’s health ministry, New York-based aid agency International Rescue Committee and several U.N. agencies.

Improved security since peace talks has allowed about half of the displaced to return to their villages while about a quarter have moved to transit sites near their homes, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre says. But many people, including the elderly, disabled and orphaned, are still stuck in the camps. Despite relative peace, the problems in the north continue to undermine the country’s gains since the bloodshed and economic chaos of the Idi Amin and Milton Obote years.

Northerners ruled Uganda from independence in 1962 until Yoweri Museveni, a rebel leader from the southwest, seized power in 1986. Some critics accused him of prolonging the conflict to subdue political opposition in the north – an allegation he denies.

WHO ARE THE LRA?


Patrick Odong, 13, whose jaw was smashed by a bullet in 2002 as troops battled rebels in his village.<br> REUTERS/Patrick Olum
Patrick Odong, 13, whose jaw was smashed by a bullet in 2002 as troops battled rebels in his village.
REUTERS/Patrick Olum

Museveni’s seizure of power prompted a number of popular uprisings in the north. The LRA emerged in 1992, comprising northern rebel groups and former Obote troops. At its helm was Kony, a former altar boy and self-proclaimed prophet.

Kony, an Acholi himself, turned resentment towards Museveni into an apocalyptic spiritual crusade that has sustained one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts. Analysts say that aside from rabid opposition to Museveni, the rebels have showed no clear political goals during their insurgency.

Kony has said he is fighting to defend the Biblical Ten Commandments, although his group has also articulated a range of northern grievances, from the looting of cattle by Museveni’s troops to demands for a greater share of political power. A report by World Vision International says Kony’s spiritualism blends elements of Christianity, Islam and traditional Acholi beliefs to psychologically enslave abducted children and instil fear in local villagers.

In 1994, Sudan began backing the LRA with weapons and training and let it set up camps on Sudanese soil. Sudan was getting back at Uganda for supporting its own southern rebels during its 20-year civil war. It also used the LRA as a proxy to fight against the rebels. Sudan’s civil war came to an end in 2005 with a fragile peace deal. Khartoum says it has ended all support to the LRA. In 2002, Museveni launched a military campaign, “Iron Fist”, aimed at wiping out the LRA for good. Kony’s rebels responded by abducting more children and attacking more civilians. Some 10,000 children were seized in about a year. The number of displaced people shot up.

It was then that the phenomenon of “night commuting” emerged. Every evening tens of thousands of children trudged into towns like Gulu to sleep on the streets, rather than risk being kidnapped from their beds by the rebels. No one knows how many children have been abducted overall but the figure is widely believed to exceed 20,000. In October 2005, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Kony and other top LRA leaders, accusing them of multiple war crimes. Sudan agreed to let Ugandan troops pursue the rebels into its territory.

Within months, the LRA leaders sought refuge in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, rekindling historic tension between Kampala and Kinshasa. Operating from camps in Garamba National Park, in northeastern DRC, the LRA has attacked Congolese villages and towns, killed civilians and abducted children. Rebels have also attacked civilians across the border in Sudan.

HOPES FOR PEACE


A Uganda soldier sits on an amoured vehicle while escorting a U.N. convoy from Lira to Pader district, 2005.<br> REUTERS/ Joseph Akena
A Uganda soldier sits on an amoured vehicle while escorting a U.N. convoy from Lira to Pader district, 2005.
REUTERS/ Joseph Akena

South Sudan’s vice president, Riek Machar, himself a former rebel in Sudan’s north-south war, began mediating between the LRA and Museveni after meeting Kony in the bush near the Congolese border in May 2006. The LRA declared a unilateral ceasefire in early August and by the end of the month there was a truce in place.

Rebels agreed to gather in two assembly points in southern Sudan while negotiations continued. However, most rebels drifted away from the assembly points and both sides accused each other of breaking their word. A key obstacle in the negotiations is the fact the ICC global war crimes court wants senior rebels handed over for trial. The LRA has vowed never to sign a final peace deal unless Kampala persuades the ICC to drop the case – something analysts say is unlikely.

Talks between the rebels and the government have frequently stalled since 2006. In January 2008, it was confirmed that the LRA’s deputy commander Vincent Otti was dead following rumours he had been killed in late 2007. Numerous LRA deserters have said Kony shot his number two after accusing him of spying for the government. The news raised fears of a wobble in the peace process because Otti, regarded as the brains behind the group in contrast to the volatile Kony, had been a prime mover behind the LRA joining peace talks.

A possible breakthrough came in February 2008, when the Ugandan government and LRA signed a deal stipulating that Kampala would set up special war crimes courts to handle the gravest crimes, while traditional justice known as mato oput would be used for others.

This homegrown solution has the support of the Acholis, who have borne the brunt of the conflict. But Kony has repeatedly failed to show up to sign a final peace deal. With patience wearing thin, Uganda, DRC and southern Sudan began a major offensive against LRA camps in Garamba in December 2008. A U.S. official said Washington had provided equipment and helped plan the operation.

Semi-autonomous southern Sudan said its troops wouldn’t cross into Congo, but it would block any fleeing LRA rebels. The LRA responded by looting local villages, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands. Ugandan troops withdrew in March 2009, and the LRA continue to terrorise parts of Central African Republic, DRC and southern Sudan.

GUNS AND DROUGHT PLAGUE KARAMOJA


A Karamojong warrior at an army disarmament operation, 2007. <br>REUTERS/Euan Denholm
A Karamojong warrior at an army disarmament operation, 2007.
REUTERS/Euan Denholm

Karamoja, a semi-arid region in Uganda’s northeast along the border with Kenya, has been affected by banditry and inter-clan warfare for decades. But the drought-prone area has experienced escalating levels of violence in recent years due to an influx of arms and competition over resources. The Karamojong people are a semi-nomadic pastoral tribe who depend on cattle for their livelihood.

Their way of life has been disrupted by disputes over shrinking water supplies and a flood of cheap semi-automatic weapons trafficked from conflicts in the Horn of Africa. The influx of guns has made frequent cattle raids more deadly. The government has attempted to tackle the widespread possession of small arms through a series of disarmament programmes.

In 2006, after persistent raids, revenge killings and warrior ambushes, it began using a more aggressive approach, in which the army has surrounded villages with tanks and helicopter gunships and forcibly searched for weapons. Dozens of civilians have been killed, and cases of torture reported during the forced disarmament campaign. Houses have been burned down and hundreds of civilians have fled the violence. Traditional nomadic movement patterns have also been disrupted. The number of reported incidents fell in 2008, says Human Rights Watch, but violations continue.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) says the government’s disarmament approach does not offer a sustainable solution to Karamoja’s insecurity because of the region’s economic and political marginalisation and limited ways to make a living. Karamoja is one of Uganda’s most impoverished regions, and lacks government services and institutions, including civilian policing. The neglect can be traced back to colonial times, when British administrators largely left Uganda’s northern tribes out of the process of modernisation.

Adding to the woes of poverty and violence, the population has been badly affected by successive years of drought. In May 2009 – during the hunger season – the entire population was experiencing food shortages, said the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. The region suffered a severe famine in the early 1980s, and still has the highest malnutrition rates in the country. Its livestock has been decimated by disease since 2007.

According to World Health Organisation figures, the region has very high child and maternal mortality rates compared with the national average. Rights groups are also concerned about forced evictions. In one case cited by the United Nations, a group of women and children were kicked out of their homes on the grounds that they were providing intelligence information to warriors.

Meanwhile, the government has tried to get hundreds of Karamojong who have migrated to the capital Kampala to return to the northeast. Aid agencies are worried that returns have not been voluntary in some cases, and that the government has failed to provide adequate support.

via Reuters AlertNet – Uganda violence.

* 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

By Milton Olupot

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has said he is ready to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC), if he committed crimes against humanity.

The President said this during the launch of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Communication Bureau in Kampala on Friday.

Parliament last week passed the ICC Bill, three years after it was tabled. The Bill makes a provision in Uganda’s law for the prosecution and punishment for international crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Asked by journalists whether he would surrender any of the government officials or himself to the court now that Uganda had passed the Bill, Museveni said he would be willing to stand trial.

“I would be very happy to be tried. If I committed crimes against humanity, I should be tried,” he replied.

Mengo has threatened to drag some government and security officials to the ICC for quelling the September riots, in which more than 20 people were killed.

The President, however, noted that the law in Uganda allows for private prosecution. He wondered why those who talk about the ICC have not brought any criminal charges against security officers.

“Certainly if any of our officers committed any crimes, we would have tried them here,” he said. “Since we came to power, we have executed 123 people for killing others. Those going to The Hague are wasting their time.”

Responding to the question that LRA leader Joseph Kony was in Darfur and being facilitated by the Sudanese government, Museveni said Ugandan troops pursuing the rebels in the Central African Republic had sent a brief that Kony and a small group of his fighters had disappeared near Darfur.

He, however, assured Ugandans that Kony and his fighters would never come back to Uganda.

“If the Sudanese want to accommodate him in Darfur, that is upon them. Darfur is 1,000 miles away from Uganda. Why should I worry about a man who is 1,000 miles away?”

Kony and his commanders were indicted by the ICC in 2005. The court wants them to face trial for crimes against humanity. In their 22-year war, the LRA killed, maimed, raped and abducted civilians in northern Uganda.

The Bill passed last week is intended to enforce the law in Uganda after the Rome Statute was adopted by the UN in 1998 and ratified by Uganda in 2002.

It will enable Uganda to co-operate with the ICC in the investigation and prosecution of people accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It further provides for the arrest and surrender to the ICC of persons alleged to have committed crimes against humanity, in addition to enabling the ICC conduct proceedings in Uganda.

A total of 110 countries have ratified the Rome Statute. The US and China have not done so.

via Welcome To The Sunday Vision online: Uganda’s leading weekly.

My Thoughts

“President Museveni needs to stand trial for his crimes against humanity.  It is well documented and the early NRA used child soldiers as well as  forced conscription of children into the NRA. Museveni is just another tyrant who has only fixed the area’s that he wanted fixed. He may have bought relative stability to the south but what about the north? for 24 yrs he allowed Kony and his LRA Rebels to pillage, rape and abduct the Acholi and Luo of Northern Uganda. Then the Ugandan military pushed them over the border into DRC, Sudan and CAR – now the LRA are committing the same crimes in those countries.  As he say’s “why should i worry about a person who is 1000 miles away” – he never worried even when kony was in the North of Uganda. He didn’t care as Kony was more prone to attack the civilians than the soliders. Its as if Museveni wanted to destroy the Acholi. There are also documented cases of Museveni’s NRA pillaging, Raping and Torturing civilians in the North as well. Stealing cattle and maiming/murdering those who stood in the way.

Museveni MUST be investigated by the ICC and must be tried for his part in the NRA take over of DR Obote’s government.

I really feel for the people of Uganda, Amin, Obote & Museveni are all tyrannts, who have manipulated their government and rulings to suit themselves. They want the power and money and therefore will use it against any who challenge them.

My only hope is that the 2011 elections in Uganda are a Free and Fair election and that someone else is elected president. Museveni believes that Roads are the key to the country’s future. Infastructure, Electricity, Access to clean water and health care and what the country needs in order to survive, with less poverty and illness.

Mr Museveni, Shame On YOU! ”

Rebecca Fowler – Freeuganda

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
http://www.americanprogress.org

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.

Who was Bok Abudema?

Abudema hails from Alero-Lamogi in Amuru district. He worked as a sugarcane cutter in Jinja during the Obote II regime.

When President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986, he joined the UPDA, a rebel group composed of soldiers of the former Okello regime which fought to overthrow the new Government.

He joined the LRA in 1988 after Kony was attacked by Museveni’s NRA at Bwobo railways station in Alero Sub-county, Gulu District. He was one of the few remaining LRA fighters who had joined the rebel group voluntarily.

Abudema was involved in many massacres in northern Uganda. In 1998, he took part in the killing of 11 LRA fighters who were accused of practicing witchcraft in Jebelein, the LRA camp in Southern Sudan.

In December 1999, after the passing of the Amnesty Act by the Ugandan Parliament, he executed the then number two, Otti Lagony, in their camp in Sudan on Kony’s orders.

In 2002, Abudema commanded a raid in Agoro Sub-county in Kitgum district in which several civilians and UPDF soldiers died and at least 100 people were abducted. The trading centre was looted and the military barracks burnt down.

In April 2002, he took part in a massacre of about 800 civilians at Katire village in Southern Sudan.

In 2003, he was among the senior LRA commanders who crossed into the Teso region in eastern Uganda and carried out horrific massacres and massive abductions.

On October 2, 2007, he took part in the execution of Kony’s deputy, Vincent Otti, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Abudema shouted the order ‘fire’ to the firing squad. Earlier, he had participated in arresting, torturing and humiliating Otti.

He was reportedly wounded during the December 14, 2008 air strikes on the LRA camps in eastern Congo under the joint offensive.

via Welcome To The Sunday Vision online: Uganda’s leading weekly.

Army in CAR to fight Kony
Sunday, 3rd January, 2010

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By Chris Ocowun

THE UPDF 4th Division commander, Brig. Charles Otema Awany, has camped at Obbo village in the Central African Republic to coordinate operations against the LRA remnants headed by Joseph Kony.

The regional army spokesman, Capt. Ronald Kakurungu, said Otema took over the command against the LRA rebels from Brig. Patrick Kankiriho.

“The hardcore LRA criminals are in the Central African Republic. The issue now is when to put the final nails on them since they are already defeated,” Kakurungu told journalists at his office on Monday.

He said the situation in the north was calm with more troops deployed in the DR Congo, the Central African Republic and at all the borders to pursue the LRA rebels and ensure that they do not return to Uganda.

“We have not lost focus in these operations and our mission is to ensure that the problem of LRA rebels does not spill over to the north again,” Kakurungu noted.

Kakurungu said the army had killed 305 rebels since it launched a joint military offensive, Operation Lightning Thunder, on December 14, 2008, under the command of Kankiriho.

He said the UPDF jointly attacked the LRA hideouts with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and the Congolese army in an operation backed by the air force, paratroopers and infantry.

The forces withdrew from Congo early last year when the time granted by the Congolese government for the operations elapsed. However, the army maintained intelligence units to help the SPLA and Congolese army clear LRA remnants, Kakurungu added.

He also explained that the army with the Police have been conducting a national de-mining programme in the north.

“There was a big concern by the IDPs about the mines in return areas. Most of these areas were battlefields and, not yet safe for settlement,”

Kakurungu stated that the UPDF and the Police recovered ammunition in the return areas in Gulu, Amuru, Pader and Kitgum.

Some of the weapons recovered included 23 land mines, 277 grenades and 154 rocket- propelled grenades.

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New Vision Online : Army in CAR to fight Kony.

Yesterday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released two new reports that detail Joseph Kony’s campaigns of violence against civilians in northeastern DR Congo and South Sudan over the past year. The reports are the first public accounting of recent LRA crimes from the UN.  Joseph Kony

Pillay described LRA brutality as “consistent, deliberate and egregious,” and the report includes gruesome witness accounts such as that of one man who “reported discovering the mutilated body of a fellow villager. The villager’s leg had been chopped off, his jaws had been dislocated and his teeth had been pulled out.”

In her press briefing about the reports, Pillay called for regional governments and international leaders to enforce outstanding International Criminal Court warrants for the arrest of Kony and other senior LRA commanders, and for UN peacekeepers to act more boldly to protect civilians from the widespread violence.

Even though the reports conclude that LRA violence constitutes one of the deadliest situations of violence in the world – the rebel group murdered at least 1,300 civilians over the past year – few international leaders have called for aggressive international action to execute the warrants. LRA violence is taking place in incredibly remote areas of the Congo, Sudan, and Central African Republic, and international attention to the region has been focused much more on separate situations of violence in eastern Congo and Sudan.

The UN reports come amdist  growing fears that the LRA intends to repeat the “Christmas Massacres” of 2008, in which hundreds of Congolese civilians celebrating the holiday were brutally killed. UN peacekeepers in the Congo are deploying additional troops and are said to be on “high alert” to address this immediate threat.

As reported: United Nations rights chief: “Arrest Joseph Kony” | Resolve Uganda.

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.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (also Lord’s Resistance Movement or Lakwena Part Two) is a sectarian Christian militant group based in northern Uganda.

The group was formed in 1987 and is engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa‘s longest-running conflicts. It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the “spokesperson” of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit, which the Acholi believe can represent itself in many manifestations.[3] The group adheres to a syncretistic[4] blend of Christianity, Mysticism,[5] traditional religion,[6] and witchcraft,[7] and claims to be establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and Acholi tradition.[3][8][9][10] The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in hostilities.[11] The LRA operates mainly in northern Uganda, but also in parts of Sudan and DR Congo.[12][13]

The LRA is currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by the United States.[14]

See more on : Lord’s Resistance Army – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) , led by Joseph Kony, operated in the north from bases in southern Sudan. The LRA committed numerous abuses and atrocities, including the abduction, rape, maiming, and killing of civilians, including children. In addition to destabilising northern Uganda from bases in Sudan, the LRA congregated in the Bunia area in eastern Congo. They linked up with the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR) and other rebel groups battling with forces from the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD)

Some accused the Sudan of supporting the LRA and Uganda of allegedly supporting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the rebel movement that fought against the Sudanese government. Although both governments denied the accusations, they severed diplomatic relations with eachother on April 22, 1995. However, relations between the two countries improved. In 1999, Sudan and Uganda signed an agreement under which Sudan said it would stop aiding the LRA and Uganda would stop aiding the SPLA.

The LRA continued to kill, torture, maim, rape, and abduct large numbers of civilians, virtually enslaving numerous children. Although its levels of activity diminished somewhat compared with 1997, the area that the LRA targeted grew. The LRA sought to overthrow the Ugandan Government and inflicted brutal violence on the population in northern Uganda. LRA forces also targeted local government officials and employees. The LRA also targeted international humanitarian convoys and local NGO workers.

The LRA has abducted large numbers of civilians for training as guerrillas; most victims were children and young adults. The LRA abducted young girls as sex and labor slaves. Other children, mainly girls, were reported to have been sold, traded, or given as gifts by the LRA to arms dealers in Sudan. While some later escaped or were rescued, the whereabouts of many children remain unknown.

In particular, the LRA abducted numerous children and, at clandestine bases, terrorized them into virtual slavery as guards, concubines, and soldiers. In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children were forced to participate in the killing of other children who had attempted to escape. Amnesty International reported that without child abductions, the LRA would have few combatants. More than 6,000 children were abducted during 1998, although many of those abducted later escaped or were released. Most human rights NGOs place the number of abducted children still held captive by the LRA at around 3,000, although estimates vary substantially.

Civil strife in the north has led to the violation of the rights of many members of the Acholi tribe, which is largely resident in the northern districts of Gulu and Kitgum. Both government forces and the LRA rebels–who themselves largely are Acholi–committed violations. LRA fighters in particular were implicated in the killing, maiming, and kidnaping of Alcholi tribe members, although the number and severity of their attacks decreased somewhat compared with 1997.

The LRA rebels say they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments. They are notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become rebel fighters or concubines. More than one-half-million people in Uganda’s Gulu and Kitgum districts have been displaced by the fighting and are living in temporary camps, protected by the army.

Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

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

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.

Orientale Province

Since late 2008, the civilian population of Haut and Bas-Uélé has been caught up in a dramatic cycle of violence linked to attacks perpetrated by the Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and the Ugandan and Congolese offensive against the LRA. As the situation deteriorates, civilians also find themselves facing increasing banditry.

One year after violence erupted in Haut-Uélé district, in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), attacks and clashes have now expanded to new areas, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee. MSF is working in five locations of Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé to bring free health care, emergency aid, and psychological support to the displaced and resident populations.

Haut-Uélé

From June to September, MSF conducted 2,800 outpatient consultations in the two health centres it supports in Namboli and Lipay, in the Dungu area. Most patients were treated for malaria, diarrhoea, and respiratory infections.

In Dungu hospital, MSF medical teams performed 452 surgeries, cared for 100 severely malnourished children, and for another 220 children with a variety of other health problems.

Since August, MSF has also worked in reproductive health and supports the hospital’s maternity department, where sexually transmitted infections are common.

Teams provided psychological support for 88 patients who had suffered as a result of the violence.

Doruma, a town on the border with Sudan, is at the heart of a very insecure area. The population of Doruma and the 12,000 people who have fled there are at risk of hunger – it is too dangerous for them to go to their fields and tend their crops.

MSF supports three health centres where 2,500 outpatient consultations have been carried out this year. MSF also supports the hospital in Doruma, where 94 patients were hospitalised in September. In October, MSF began providing mental health support and treatment for sleeping sickness, in addition to supporting the surgical and maternity wards.

Niangara is the main town at the crossroads leading to the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. Around 11,000 displaced people have arrived in the town, fleeing violence. MSF is supporting the main referral hospital in Niangara and the nearby Wawé health centre.

Since the start of MSF activities there seven months ago, medical teams have carried out up to 1,000consultations per week at the general hospital and the Wawé health centre.

Each month, around 100 new patients are admitted to Niangara hospital. MSF is mainly treating malaria, respiratory infections, sexually transmitted infections and stress-related diseases.

MSF teams put a psychosocial programme in place to help the local population cope with the trauma and stress of continuous violence and displacement. Between June and early November, 80 patients received treatment.

Following attacks in December 2008, MSF started to provide medical and psychological care in Faradje. Teams cared for more than 100 children, both boys and girls, who had been abducted by armed men and then escaped or were released. They were given a place to sleep, a space to play, and individual support from an MSF psychologist. This programme has been handed over to another organisation.

MSF continues to support Faradje hospital, where some 11,000 patients have received consultations and 900 were treated in the maternity, paediatric, surgical or internal medicine departments. The main diseases treated here are malaria, intestinal parasites and skin infections.

MSF Activities | Condition: Critical.

Civilians attacked, bombed, and cut off from aid in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), along with stagnant funding for treating HIV/AIDS and ongoing neglect of other diseases, were among the worst emergencies in 2009.

Continuing crises in north and south Sudan, along with the failure of the international community to finally combat childhood malnutrition were also included on this year’s list. The list is drawn from MSF’s operational activities in close to 70 countries, where the organization’s medical teams witnessed some of the worst humanitarian conditions.

via MSF’s Top Ten Humanitarian Crises of 2009.

Kampala — ANOTHER LRA rebel commander has surrendered in eastern Congo, the Ugandan army has said.

‘Captain’ Ocen turned himself in to the Congolese army in Paika two days before Christmas, according to Capt. Peter Mugisa, the UPDF spokesman for West Nile region.

Ocen was one of the LRA officers under the command of Okello Kalalang who committed horrendous atrocities in northern Uganda and eastern Congo.

“Kalalang was one of Kony’s most notorious commanders who burnt down houses after killing and abducting hundreds of Congolese,” said Mugisa.

The LRA carried out reprisal attacks after the armies of Congo, Southern Sudan and Uganda launched a joint military offensive on the rebel bases in Garamba National Park.

The offensive, dubbed ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’, was launched after LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign the final peace agreement after two years of protracted talks in Juba, Sudan.

Mugisa said Ocen surrendered with a gun and 30 rounds of ammunition, as well as four fighters under his command. They were transferred to the battalion headquarters in Duru.

This brings to 56 the number of fighters who have defected since the joint operation started a year ago.

According to figures released by the UPDF on Monday, another 305 rebels were killed, 41 captured and 513 abductees rescued since December 2008.

Mugisa noted that the continued surrender of LRA fighters signals the end of the insurgency.

“This trend implies that the UPDF have dealt the LRA bandits a decisive blow through comprehensive combat engagement,” he said.

“The remaining LRA fugitives no longer deserve to be called rebels. They are bandits because they are scattered in four countries with no clear central command structure.”

Ocen is expected to be flown to Entebbe or Gulu army headquarters.

Samuel Obali, who surrendered in November, said they were also forced to surrender because of the constant pursuit by the UPDF forces in the CAR, DR-Congo and Southern Sudan.

“We had no food, water, medicine and lacked communication with the central command. We had to organise ourselves and surrender to the Congolese Armed Forces in order to survive.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Monday released a damning report, saying at least 1,200 people were killed, 1,400 abducted, and 230,000 displaced in eastern Congo during 10 months of LRA rampage.

“These attacks and systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out by the LRA may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the report said.

A second report, issued the same day, described a similar pattern of LRA attacks in neighbouring Southern Sudan.

It documented 30 LRA attacks between December 2008 and March 2009 in Western and Central Equatoria states in which at least 81 civilians were killed, 74 abducted and 11 villages pillaged.

As reported: allAfrica.com: Uganda: Notorious LRA Rebel Surrenders.