Category Archives: Noteworthy

Where is the world?

“They are killing our mammas. Now they are killing our children. What have we done to deserve this? Where is the world?”

–Pastor in Bukavu

source: The Guardian, 12.6.2010

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Shooting to kill

“As I understand it, they do not wound, they kill, that’s why we don’t received many injured people.”

–Mattia Novella, MSF field coordinator, on LRA attacks in remote eastern Congo

source: the Guardian, 2 May 2010

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Extortion racket

“We are their meat, their animals. We have nothing to say.”

–miner from Shabunda, subjected to extortion at FDLR roadblocks during his 340-km trek from Shabunda to Bukavu on foot, Bukavu, 28 July 2008.

source: Global Witness Media Library, Briefing Document 21.07.2009

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MONUC officer’s cell phone idea: better late than never

There may be reason to hope that women in DRC who are vulnerable to sexual violence attacks can receive the help that they need, if MONUC officer Stephen Tremblay, a Canadian who has ascended to the force’s high ranks, can implement his idea. According to Geoffrey York’s comprehensive 26 March Globe and Mail article about “Congo’s war without end”, Tremblay had an ICT brainwave:  distribute cheap cellphones to remote villages, allowing residents to call the peacekeepers if they see approaching rebels. “Then we can immediately send a patrol and we can prevent the village from being looted,” he says.

The idea is cheap, feasible, and, excuse me, completely obvious. MONUC has had a mandate “to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence; and to contribute to the improvement of the security conditions” since its inception in 1999. However, as I have explored in this previous blog post, the UN, in face of calls to action from even its own members, has not devised a direct strategy for protecting women and girls.

Instead, it has supported military interventions like Kimia II (see this post), whose catastrophic humanitarian consequences point to only one reasonable conclusion: perhaps something new must be formulated.

Like giving women cell phones.

It would be like having thousands of permanently embedded journalists, on the alert, 24 hours a day. Imagine the real-time information that would come in. Imagine a map like the one the Ushahidi project is building by crowd-sourcing crisis information.

Coltan–a key mineral needed for the production of cell phone components–is also a component behind the human rights atrocities in the DRC.  Read more in the UN Panel of Experts 2002 report that provides much evidence linking illegal exploitation of resources to the conflict.

The irony is not missed here. And with MONUC’s budget at $1.3 billion, that is a lot of cell phones.

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Congolese groups call for abusive Congo army commander to be removed

From: Human Rights Watch, 1 March 2010

FARDC (Congolese army) colonel Innocent Zimurinda, a senior army officer based in North Kivu, was named responsible by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions for the massacre of Rwandan Hutu refugees in North Kivu in April, 2009. Now, fifty Congolese human rights and civil society organizations, along with Human Rights Watch, have lodged a formal complaint against Colonel Zimurin to General Amuli Bahigwa, the officer in command of Congolese army operations in eastern Congo. The complaint draws attention to the alleged abuses in North Kivu from 2007 to the present for which he is believed to be responsible, either directly or under his command.

The complaint urgently requests 1) the launch of credible and impartial investigations into the alleged abuses, and taking of all appropriate action; 2) immediate suspension of Colonel Zimurinda from operational command pending the outcome of these investigations.

The alleged abuses include:

  • summary killings in Buramba, North Kivu (March 2007)
  • killing of civilians and mass execution of prisoners, Rubare, Katwiguru and Kiseguru (Feb-Aug 2007)
  • Kiwanja massacre, Rutshuru, North Kivu (Nov 2008)
  • Shalio massacre, Walikale, North Kivu (Apr 2009)
  • Maintenance and recruitment of child soldiers within troops under Zimurinda’s command (2009)
  • Rape and summary executions, Masisi (2009-2010)
  • Abusive forced labour (2009-2010)
  • Forced evictions and arbitrary arrests (2009)
  • Illegal taxation (2009-2010)

On July 5, 2009, the Congolese government announced that there would be “zero tolerance” for human rights abuses committed by FARDC military personnel and said that those responsible would be held to account. This policy gave us hope that FARDC soldiers would end their abuses against civilians. But for this policy to have real meaning it must be applied to commanding officers such as Colonel Zimurinda who continue to be responsible for serious abuses.

Letter to General Amuli Bahigwa, 1 March 2010

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2009 Human Rights Report in DRC released by the US Department of State

On 11 March, the US Department of State released its 2009 Human Rights Report on the DRC, as part of its country reports on Human Rights practices.

The report summarizes evidence collected by various organizations to show that mass rape is still very much a weapon of war used by all armed groups, including  “security” forces such as the FARDC, the country’s army.

  • UN Population Fund (UNFPA): reported 2,075 cases of sexual violence in North Kivu, 834 in South Kivu, and 885 cases in Orientale (Jan-June, 2009)
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW):  the total number of sexual violence cases registered at health centers in North and South Kivu exceeded 7,500 by Sept. 2009, which was nearly double the total for the same period in 2008. HRW also reported in August 2009 that, in nine conflict zones it had visited since January, rape cases had doubled or tripled compared with 2008. In over half of the cases HRW recorded, the victims were gang-raped by two or more assailants. The youngest victim was 2 years old, and 65 percent of the cases in North Kivu were perpetrated by FARDC soldiers.
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC):  registered approximately 1,200 cases of rape in South Kivu during 2009 and found that up to 80 percent of survivors identified their assailants as members of either the FARDC or armed groups
  • International Cooperation (COOPI): observed between February and July, a 300 percent increase in the number of survivors of sexual violence it assisted in Maniema and Katanga, which the NGO attributed to a “spill-over effect” caused by Kimia II in neighboring conflict-affected provinces (North and South Kivu)

Organization of the report:

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life; b. Disappearance; c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention; e. Denial of Fair Public Trial; f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence; g. Use of Excessive Force and Other Abuses in Internal Conflicts

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press; b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association; c. Freedom of Religion; d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Section 7 Worker Rights

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Justice, justice, justice

“The solution is justice, justice, justice,” said Esteban Sacco, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) in North Kivu. “There has to be a system that brings to justice those who commit the crime of rape.”

source: IRIN Africa,  12 March 2010

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