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Congo (Kinshasa): Still No Peace in the East

AfricaFocus Bulletin
May 2, 2008 (080502)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"On January 23, 2008, after weeks of talks, the Congolese government signed a peace agreement in Goma, North Kivu, with 22 armed groups committing all parties to an immediate ceasefire and disengagement of forces from frontline positions. Yet since the signing, scores of civilians have been killed, hundreds of women and girls raped, and many more children recruited into armed service ..." - report from 63 Congolese and international NGOs

In January, a major step towards peace in eastern Congo was taken at the Conference on Peace, Security and Development in the Kivus, held in Goma from 6 to 25 January with some 1,250 delegates, including representatives of Congolese armed groups, local communities, local authorities, political parties and civil society. The work of the conference was conducted in two seminars, one for North Kivu and one for South Kivu. The participants adopted a wide range of recommendations and commitments to resolve the main problems facing the populations of the Kivus, including agreements to a ceasefire and demobilization of militia groups, as well as providing for return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Implementation of the agreement, however, remains problematic.

This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains (1) a press release from this group of NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, Oxfamm CRONGD (North Kivu), Centre Olame (South Kivu), Enough, Global Witness, and International Rescue Committee, (2) a report on a recent statement by Alan Doss, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Democratic Republic of Congo, and a report from IRIN on the continuing threat of land mines in the Congo..

Articles on other recent developments in the Congo include

  • an Inter Press Service report on the indictment of militia leader Bosco Ntaganda for a consistent pattern of war crimes. (
  • a Washington Post article on road reconstruction in the Congo, highlighting as an example new opportunities for the village of Kilongo, only 30 miles from the city of Lubumbashi, but until recently almost cut off by the lack of a passable road (
  • Human Rights Watch calls for transparency in investigation of charges against UN peacekeepers. (

The latest report of the UN Secretary-General on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (April 2, 2008) is available at:

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and related links, see

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

DR Congo: End the Horrific Suffering in Eastern Congo

63 Leading NGOs Press for Urgent Implementation of Goma Peace Agreement

(London, April 23, 2008) - The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the armed groups, and international parties to the Goma peace agreement should urgently implement the accord and end the horrific suffering of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children facing brutal violence and deadly diseases in eastern Congo, 63 international and Congolese human rights and aid groups said in a joint statement today.

The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are urging the United Nations and the international players that helped negotiate the Goma agreement to appoint a high level independent special advisor on human rights for eastern Congo to focus attention and ensure action on protecting civilians at risk, specifically women and girls threatened by sexual violence. It also urged the international players such as the African Union, European Union, and the United States to support the appointment politically and financially.

"Hundreds of thousands of victims clung to the hope that the peace deal would end their suffering. Sadly, no meaningful progress has been made on human rights commitments," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch. "We urge for the immediate appointment of a special advisor on human rights to help the parties honor their human rights commitments and to provide a voice for the victims who suffer in silence."

On January 23, 2008, after weeks of talks, the Congolese government signed a peace agreement in Goma, North Kivu, with 22 armed groups committing all parties to an immediate ceasefire and disengagement of forces from frontline positions. Yet since the signing, scores of civilians have been killed, hundreds of women and girls raped, and many more children recruited into armed service, adding to the extraordinarily high number of civilians who have already endured such crimes over the past decade.

An estimated 1.1 million people are displaced in North and South Kivu provinces, of which 550,000 fled from the fighting since 2007. Malnutrition, cholera, malaria and other preventable diseases are taking their lives at an alarming rate.

"This is a humanitarian catastrophe on an enormous scale. It demands urgent and concrete action by all parties to the agreement as well as by the international community," said Colin Thomas-Jensen, Policy Advisor of ENOUGH, a project to end genocide and crimes against humanity. "Getting the parties to sign an agreement was an important first step, but now we must move to the next step of helping people return home in safety and security."

Humanitarian agencies still face difficulties accessing civilians at risk and human rights defenders who have raised concerns about the abuses face threats and harassment. Armed groups, as well as the Congolese military, continue to illegally exploit natural resources and use the profits to fuel the conflict.

Special envoys from the African Union, the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region played a vital role in negotiating the Goma agreement. They agreed to continue to play an active role in monitoring and implementing its terms.

Under the terms of the peace accord, the parties agreed to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, including ending all acts of violence against civilians, halting the recruitment of child soldiers, assuring the release of political prisoners, and allowing access for humanitarian agencies.

Last week, Human Rights Watch made detailed recommendations on ways to appoint the special advisor on human rights for Eastern Congo to Abb‚ Apollinaire Malu Malu, the independent national-coordinator appointed by the Congolese government to lead its peace efforts, and the international community representatives. The organization urged Abb‚ Malu Malu to bring about this appointment, emphasizing that since human rights concerns were central to the conflict, failure to respond to such issues could cause the peace process to collapse.

The recommendations included that the special advisor be appointed either by the signatories to the Goma agreement, by the Secretary General of the United Nations, or by the international sponsors of the agreement.

Juliette Prodhan, Head of Oxfam in DRC said, "Without the appointment of a special advisor on human rights it will be far harder to hold parties to account for violating the peace agreement. For the sake of the Congolese people and the whole Great Lakes region, this investment in human rights is needed to help avoid a return to conflict that has already claimed too many lives."

For further information please contact:

For Human Rights Watch: Anneke Van Woudenberg in London on +44 (0)20 7713 2786 or +44 (0)7711 664960 (English, French)

For Oxfam: Rebecca Wynn in Oxford on +44 (0) 1865 472530 or + 44 (0) 7769 887139 (English)

For CRONGD (North Kivu): Kubuya Muhangi in Goma on +243 (0)99 861 0651 (French, Swahili)

For Centre Olame (South Kivu): Mathilde Muhindo, in Bukavu on +243 998755223 (French, Swahili)

For Enough: Colin Thomas-Jensen in Washington DC on + 1 202 682 6136 (English)

For Global Witness: Carina Tertsakian in London on +44 (0)207 561 6372 (English, French)

For International Rescue Committee: Lydia Gomersall in London on +44 20 7692 2741 or +44 7779 855 021 (English, French)

The group of international and Congolese human rights and aid organizations includes

International NGOs:
ActionAid International, the American Bar Association, Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI), CAFOD, ENOUGH, Front Line, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, International Alert, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam International, Light of Africa Network, Medicos en Catastrofe (MEC), Mercy Corps, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Population Services International/Association de Santé Familiale (PSI/ASF), Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), Refugees International, Save the Children UK, Saving Lives through Alternate Options (SLAO), World Vision (Eastern DRC).

Congolese NGOs:
Action Contre l'Impunité pour les Droits Humains (ACIDH), Action Pour la Promotion et la Protection de l’Enfant et de la Femme (APPEF), Action Sociale pour la Paix et le Développement (ASPD), Association africaine de défense des droits de l’homme (ASADHO/SUD KIVU), Association des Filles et Mamans Victimes de Violence (AFMV), Association pour la Promotion de la femme et de l’enfant pour le développement durable (APROFED), Association des Volontaires du Congo (ASVOCO), Association des femmes Pour la Conservation de la Nature et le Développement Durable (AFECOD/CRAF), Campagne Pour la Paix, Change Agent Peace Program (CAPP), Centre d’Ecoute Hermone (CEH), Centre de Recherche sur l’Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (CREDDHO), Centre National d'appui au développement et à la participation populaire (CENADEP Kinshasa), Centre Olame, Children’s Voice – North Kivu, Coalition Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez RDC, Commission Provinciale de Lutte Contre les Violences sexuelles au Sud Kivu (CPLVS), Comité des Observateurs des Droits de l'Homme (CODHO), Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo Kinshasa (COJESKI Nord-Kivu), Commission Episcopale Justice et Paix, Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement (CRONGD-NK), Fondation Point de Vue des Jeunes Africains Pour le Développement (FPJAD), Group d'Etudes et d'Actions Pour un Développement Bien Défini (GEAD), Groupe Justice et Libération, HEAL Africa, Héritiers de la Justice, Ligue Congolaise pour la défense des droits de la femme et de la famille (LICODEFF/ Kinshasa), Mamans Organisées pour le Développement (MAODE), Plateforme des Femmes du Nord Kivu pour un Développement Endogène (PEFND), Promotion de la Démocratie et Protection des Droits Humains (PDH), Promotion et Action des Femmes pour le Développement (PAFED), Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines (PAIF), Réseau Femme et Développement (REFED/Nord Kivu), Réseau des Associations de lutte contre les violences en général (RALCOVIG), Réseau Provincial des ONGs de Droits de l'Homme au Nord-Kivu (REPRODOC Nord-Kivu), Regard Rural Sans Frontière (R2SF/Sud-Kivu), Réseau d’Initiatives Locales pour le Développement Durable (REID), Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Ecosystèmes Forestiers (CREF), Solidarité féminine pour la paix et le développement intégral (SOFEPADI), Solidarité Pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), Synergie des Femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles, Villages Cobaye (VICO).

Press conference by Secretary-General's Special Representative for Democratic Republic of Congo

United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI)

15 Apr 2008

There had been progress towards stabilization of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, but the region remained the focus of security efforts by the United Nations Mission there, Alan Doss, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for the Central African country said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

'Through eastern DRC, we have given that priority as directed by the Security Council, so now 92 per cent of our MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) forces are deployed in eastern DRC,' said Mr. Doss, who had just given his first briefing to the Security Council since taking up his post three months ago.

He said an important part of the MONUC effort in the east, particularly in the provinces of North and South Kivu, was following up on the Nairobi and Goma agreements signed respectively last November and January this year between the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda on one hand and armed groups on the other. Among the successes in the area was Ituri District, which had been rife with conflict three and four years ago and was now relatively stable, though there were still armed groups present.

The presence of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) from neighbouring Uganda was particularly worrisome as no one knew their intentions, he said. Other major groups operating in the Kivu provinces included the Rwandan Interhamwe and Forces Democratiques de Liberation de Rwanda (FDLR), which were still causing much of the security problem. MONUC was speaking with the Rwandan and Congolese Governments in an effort to get the groups to disarm, demobilize and repatriate voluntarily, and a meeting with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was related to that effort.

He said another major focus of MONUC was helping staunch the 'epidemic of sexual violence', which was particularly bad in South Kivu. It had resulted from the collapse of society and the justice system as well as the presence of armed groups. Unfortunately, the Congolese National Armed Forces were also responsible for some of those crimes, which were detailed in a monthly MONUC human rights report. 'This is a problem of immense dimensions.' 'It's not a problem that's going to be resolved easily or quickly.' However, some progress had been made and MONUC was actively working on it as part of its protection mandate. The Mission was also engaged in democracy and governance efforts, providing considerable support to preparations for local elections set for May next year, which required the registration of millions of returnees and young people that had never participated in national elections.

Finally, he said that MONUC was looking towards an eventual drawdown of the peacekeeping mission in favour of peacebuilding efforts. Most of the country was at peace but facing massive humanitarian challenges such as disease and high infant-mortality rates, as well as a lack of basic infrastructure, which would be the focus of the next phase of work.

Asked what was being done in the area of transportation infrastructure, Mr. Doss acknowledged that it was a huge challenge and a key element in the country's stabilization plan. MONUC was not a development organization, but was helping to develop some projects, such as road improvement, that could use large numbers of unskilled labourers, including ex-combatants. China had also offered assistance for road and railroad rehabilitation.

Asked whether Chinese investment in the country's mineral sector was problematic, he replied that it depended on whether or not they were in the national interest. Clearly the country needed private-sector investment for development, but all activities had to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

As for whether the popular MONUC network, Radio Okapi, would be silenced when the United Nations left, the Special Representative said the Mission planned to be in the country for a good while, but it was talking to its partners in the non-governmental organization community about the possibility of continuing. The station was valuable for the country as it was the most independent and operated nationally.

To a question about the kind of efforts being made to disarm FDLR, he replied that economic, political and military pressure was being put on the group, in coordination with the Congolese National Army, as part of the voluntary repatriation programme, though the Army was not always adequate to the task and posed humanitarian concerns. MONUC had a primarily protective mandate from the Security Council and could not take military actions. It was more an effort to encourage armed groups to move out while avoiding the collateral damage that would result from armed operations.

Asked if MONUC had enough personnel to carry out its protection task, Mr. Doss noted that, while it was true that the Mission had the largest current peacekeeping force, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was vast. The Kivus alone were the size of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands combined. Bas Congo, the smallest province, which had security problems that had recently drawn forces away from the east, was the size of Belgium. 'Clearly, there are limits to what we can do.'

DRC: Hidden Killers on the Loose

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

16 Apr 2008

[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]

KINSHASA, 16 April 2008 (IRIN) - The full extent of the threat posed by landmines and other unexploded ordnance in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unknown but the deadly weapons are a daily concern for tens of thousands of displaced people in the east.

"Mines and UXOs [unexploded ordnance] are strewn all over the countryside," Francesca Fontanini, external relations officer for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in DRC, said. "They are among the most pernicious consequences of the armed conflict."

The mines and UXOs, according to the agency, could affect the return and reintegration of an estimated 800,000 people displaced by years of fighting in North Kivu.

They are also a danger to those who may return home to areas with unmapped minefields. Children are particularly vulnerable because some of the weapons look like toys.

"In Dongo, five children who had just [been] repatriated died after a grenade exploded as they were playing with it," Philippe Sondizi Dombale, head of Humanitas Ubangi, a local NGO in Molegbe, northern DRC, told IRIN in the capital Kinshasa.

"Another boy died in Gbadolite after a landmine he had been using for several days as a hammer - out of ignorance - blew up in his face."

More than 892 people have been killed and 1,118 injured by these deadly weapons since 2001, say activists.

The DRC government ratified the global anti-personnel mine ban treaty in 2002, but activists say very little has been done to implement it. And no comprehensive impact surveys have been conducted because of the volatile security situation across the country in addition to logistical difficulties.

"Up to now little has been done ... a choice has to be made [between] the mines continuing to cause casualties and the most urgent thing - to try to stop it," Harouna Ouedraogo, programme director of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC), said.

The government says work is ongoing to address the plight of victims. "Legislation regarding the rights of victims to assistance is being drawn up," interior minister Denis Kalume said during the International Mine Action Day celebrations on 4 April in Kinshasa.

"A focal point will be created for coordination and we will work closely with our international partners so that national competency in this area can be achieved," he added.

The government, he emphasised, was committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Ottawa (Mine Ban) treaty.

Clean-up programmes

According to Mine Advisory Group (MAG) country director Marc Angibeaud, de-mining efforts through international NGOs such as MAG, Handicap International and DanChurchAid, have cleared the countryside of thousands of anti-personnel mines and UXO, especially in Equateur, Maniema, Katanga and South Kivu provinces.

Work has also been done by the commercial de-mining company, Mechem.

From June 2007 to January 2008, more than 28,000 sqkm of land was cleared; over 3,500 weapons, 5,000 UXO and 35,000 items of ammunition destroyed, and mine education sessions conducted for over 10,000 people. De-miners have also been trained.

"Clearance activities have not only prevented accidents from explosions but also freed land for agriculture and rendered safe many roads and a water source crucial to the villagers' daily activities," MAG noted in a 31 January statement.

"The destruction of the ammunition also means it will not be available for trafficking - a significant problem in the Great Lakes region - thus contributing to regional peace-building."

Another NGO, Synergie pour la Lutte Anti Mines (SYLAM), is teaching internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in North Kivu how to spot half-buried or fully exposed explosive devices and what to do.

SYLAM has recorded 111 deaths and 127 injuries caused by these weapons in North Kivu since 2003 - though none yet inside IDP camps. Together with the UNMACC and other NGOs, it has identified 51 polluted sites.

Ouedraogo, however, said the achievements so far were merely the tip of the iceberg. As long as much of the country remained inaccessible and the people remained poor and ignorant, the problem would prevail. There were reports, for example, of some people using the explosives for fishing.

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), both rebel and government forces used anti-personnel mines during the DRC's numerous conflicts. There have been no reports of use of anti-personnel mines by government forces, however, since the DRC signed the landmine treaty.

Since May 2006, an increasing number of small arms and ammunition, UXO and mines have been handed over to authorities. From 2003 to May 2006, some 2,244 mines were destroyed.

But the problem remains huge. Surveys by DanChurchAid covering 153,000 sqkm in Katanga, South Kivu and Maniema, for example, found 171 mined and 583 UXO-contaminated areas.

De-mining is an expensive business and in DRC, where infrastructure is lacking, it becomes even more difficult.

The UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) says work has been slowed down by several key challenges - survey and mapping sites, provision of adequate assistance to victims, awareness-raising and the creation of mine legislation. As a result, landmines and UXOs continue to hamper economic development, and maim and kill hundreds in the vast country every year.

"Millions in the DRC continue to live with the daily fear of being killed or disabled," Ross Mountain, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC, said on 4 April. "Much has been done, but a lot of challenges remain."

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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