Tag Archives: Congo Women

Deadly Silence: Rwanda’s Never Again Is Once Again?

The following article from a Rwandan genocide Survivor was originally published in the Huffington Post. The international community continues to remain quiet while the region and especially Rwanda continues its downward spiral. This time, the international community cannot claim ignorance.

———————-

People often say, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” As a Rwandan Genocide survivor, I would not be alive if not for good people who stood up, advocated for, and protected me, facilitating my ultimate survival amidst the deafening silence of the international community. I was nine-years-old when I found myself caught in a maelstrom of violence that threatened to destroy everything I knew and held dear. And in many ways, all of those things, including family, friends, neighbors, home, and communities were destroyed.

I remember having a group of men wrap me in a blanket and smuggling me to a safe house in a different neighborhood. Petrified, I watched as these men accosted and negotiated with my would-be killers on a daily basis to save my life. I watched in horror and helplessness as my mother and brother were taken from my sister, young cousin and I to be killed. My mother and brother were told they had reached the end of their lives, and were then given tools to dig their own graves. Through the intervention of old friends, strangers, and new allies, my mother and brother’s lives were spared, and our family was reunited.

I cannot imagine how my life would have been different had these individuals not intervened. They placed themselves and their families in danger by advocating for us. In our darkest moments I witnessed the zenith of human compassion. I saw the beauty and potential of the human spirit when good people unite for a good cause. Farmers, street kids, courageous women with children raised their voices against a group of evil doers. Through their acts of solidarity, lives were spared. My faith in humanity was reassured even in the midst of so much violence, death, and destruction. Sadly though, the international community remained silent about what was taking place in my country.

As I watch today the increasingly disturbing downward spiral in my country of birth, I am once again reminded of the international community’s complicity and silence in the destruction of an entire nation. In recent times, when the first woman ever to run for president in my country was attacked by a mob, there was silence. While local newspapers were shut down, their writers exiled, and others incarcerated, I witnessed nothing but shrugs from the international community. When Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported on the growing repression and jailing of an increasing number of people based on vague laws applied to political opponents of the ruling regime, I saw nothing but rationalization from the international community.

Recently, Peter Erlinder, an American lawyer and professor who is representing a hopeful presidential candidate, was jailed in Rwanda. His arrest and subsequent charges were based on his work as a defense lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. He stands accused of genocide ideology and negationism, the same crimes of which his client is also accused. As a genocide survivor, I take genocide crimes very seriously and strongly believe that each and every perpetrator of these crimes should be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I also believe that each accused deserves and must be accorded a fair trial. The right to a fair trial and due process is a highly valued universal principle. Therefore I am perplexed by the silence around the professor’s arrest, and the length of time it took the international community to intervene.

Due to Rwanda’s economic progress, some of which is unfortunately derived from Congolese minerals and “supply side economics,” human rights abuses are mere inconveniences to those strictly focused on economic growth. While Rwanda has become one of the most praised and progressive economies in Africa, the international community has watched it ravage neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo with impunity. An estimated six million Congolese lives have been claimed, and tragically, half of those deaths are children under the age of five.

The Rwandan Genocide was catastrophic. I know… I was there. And I survived. However, it should not be used as a pretext for repressing freedom of others and destroying innocent lives. Although the international community still remains silent in the face of all these grotesque abuses and human rights violations within and outside of Rwanda, the potential positive impact the international community could have on the situation should not be underestimated.

I witnessed first hand the power of good people who cared for a frightened 9 year old girl and her family. Everyday people opened their mouths and raised their voices. My family, especially my mother and brother, was spared because of ordinary people’s courageous acts of generosity. I am eternally grateful to have lived to share my story. With all that is taking place in Rwanda today, especially the present-day eerie similarities to the pre-1994 genocide period, will the international community intervene now? One can only imagine the millions of lives that could be saved.

Alice Gatebuke is a Rwandan Genocide and war survivor, Cornell University graduate, and a human rights activist. She can be reached at gatebuke.alice@gmail.com.

A Great Loss to the World

Floribert Chebeya Bahizire of the Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless) was a great human rights activist based in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Abused, Jailed, and tortured by the subsequent governments over the last two decades but he persevered. To say that he will be missed in a major understatement. He was one of the people in the world that lived to ensure the well being of his fellow human beings.

Chebeya was found dead on June 2 in Kinshasa (DR Congo), in his car after he had been summoned for a meeting with Police Chief General John Numbi. Activists who saw Chebeya in the morgue say that he had blood in his face and was bruised.  General Numbi, well known for his human rights abuses, murder and for his association with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Rwandan General James Kabarebe was suspended from his duties with the Congolese police. It is unclear whether there will be an independent investigation into this, but the involvement of Numbi in his death would not be surprising given the general’s past and the multiple threats received by Chebeye from police and authorities over the years.

The Joseph Kabila clique in power cannot be trusted to carry out an impartial investigations as they are close to General Numbi. The government in Kinshasa will require enourmous amount of pressure to come close to carrying out a meaningful investigation. Surprisingly, there have been no demonstrations in Kinshasa demanding such investigation. Are Congolese people that terrified in Kinshasa. If this was in Eastern Congo where militias, and foreign governments troops and their proxy rebels continue to abuse the population, kill and rape women on a daily basis, it would be understandable. However, the lack of action from the masses in Kinshasa is surprising.

The human rights activist community and the world community at large has lost an excellent advocate at a young age of 47. In the activist community, there is hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. However, Chebeye cannot be replaced by any procedure. This crime was indeed a crime against the world.

Uganda’s Legalized Genocide

Although many governments around the world can be bold and in many cases delusional, the Ugandan government is taking audacity to a whole new level. The lawmakers in the East African country are drafting a law that according to Wikipedia:

If enacted, broaden the criminalisation of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, are HIV-positive, or engage in same sex acts with people under 18 years of age. The bill also includes provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited for punishment back to Uganda, and includes penalties for individuals, companies, media organizations, or non-governmental organisations that support LGBT rights.

This law also has provisions that will produce a prison sentence for anyone found to have know about homosexual acts without reporting it. It will punish relatives and friends who are “accomplices” of homosexual activity.

While it is true that homosexuality is extremely unpopular in Uganda like the rest of the continent of Africa, lack of popularity has never been a reason for being subjected to the death penalty. If laws were made based on what is and what is not popular, the world would totally succumb to the elite, the crooks and the bully. There would be no room for cooler heads. You are wondering what does this have to do with genocide? Let us take a look at the definition of genocide:

Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The intent of this law can achieve any and everyone of the above except for D and E. Briefly, to be a genocide, one needs not have all of the above elements. In an inexplicable move, the Ugandan government is making strides to legalize of all things, genocide!

There is an estimated 500000 homosexuals in Uganda. Although much smaller than the number of people killed in the Congo genocide since the invasion of DR Congo by Uganda and Rwanda, it is still a large number. Even one homosexual killed for simply being homosexual is a crime of hate. When such crime is expanded to a whole group of people, it becomes genocide. While it is true that Ugandan governments have committed acts of genocide within Uganda, it has never been legalized. For much of president Museveni’s presidency, the Karamojong have been massacred and exterminated by government forces. However, this was done under cover of war and security.

President Museveni again with his student president Paul Kagame of Rwanda invaded Congo and committed genocide of at least five million (5 000 000) Congolese people and turned Congo into rape capital. Among the dead were over three million (3 000 000) children! In summary, president Museveni is accustomed to literally getting away with murder. He has gotten away with murder of thousands of Ugandans and millions of Congolese. It seems that it is now time to take it to the next level and legalize mass killings.

With Museveni’s history, political opponents will be accused of being homosexuals. This will make it legally easy to detain and kill homosexuals as well as political opponents. Therefore, such law should not be enacted. Thankfully, many people around the world have stood up and shown the folly of this law and will continue to protest its existence and application. This could also lead to raising the profile of the conflict in Congo and expose president Museveni along with his student Paul Kagame for who they really are, mass murderers.

Haiti Earthquake Aftermath: The UN Continues to Demonstrate Unbilievable Incompetence

By Eric Brown

As millions of people were trapped under the rubble in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, most of the world learned that there were 9000 UN peacekeepers stationed in that country since the mid 90’s. What these UN, so called peacekeepers, were doing in Haiti is beyond any logical person’s understanding. With all of the turmoil that Haiti experienced over the last two decades, you would think that these UN “peacekeepers” were of any use.  They have been no where to be seen as Haiti went from one issue to another.  However, it was predictable given the current situation with the largest UN “peacekeeping” mission in Congo. A mission of 17000 troops stood by while Rwandan and Ugandan troops, several rebel groups from Rwanda and Congo, killed and raped civilians claiming up to 6 million lives.  Another UN “peacekeeping” mission also bailed out on Rwandans in 1994. As the UN troops either withdrew from Rwanda or stood by during the genocide, over a million Rwandans were massacred. General Romeo Dallaire, the leader of the mission in Rwanda, claimed to have sent a fax requesting more troops. This fax never existed, much like the security threats claimed by the UN in Haiti on Friday January 15, 2010.  But what does Congo and Rwanda have to do with Haiti?

Friday night, the UN, as if it couldn’t out perform its incompetence of previous missions, called out all medical personnel from the makeshift hospital tent housing some of the suffering-yet-still-alive injured Haitians due to “security concerns”. Weren’t there any UN “peacekeeping” troops available to monitor peace while these doctors cater to their patients? Perhaps it’s my bad English that lead me to think that “peacekeeping” actually meant keeping the peace and providing security. This was a dishonor to the medical profession urged by paranoid UN decision makers.

As Anderson Cooper of CNN said, many Haitians were going to experience “STUPID” death all because the UN decided to abandon them in their suffering; just as they have done in Congo, Rwanda, Darfur and elsewhere.  It is beyond understanding how medical ethics allows doctors and nurses to leave people on life support unattended and leave with no apparent reason. Granted there were pockets of disturbance in Port-Au-Prince, BUT these medical professionals were in no danger. Even if there was concern, there are thousands of troops that could have ensured their security. As a matter of fact, Doctor Sanjay Gupta of CNN stayed behind to attend to as many patients as he could. In the end, the UN made a decision to leave the suffering to their death.

While many of us are working tirelessly to help out with the crisis in Haiti, with communities getting together to pitch in, individual donations hitting record numbers, Haitians showing extraordinary courage to save lives as well as several international rescuers getting in the mix; the UN is busy pulling medical staff from victims. What an insult!! At this point the best course is for the rest of the caring world to continue to donate time and money to the cause and not get tired as the reconstruction will take a while. However, it is extremely frustrating to see the UN’s mixed up priorities in the midst of death and suffering to citizens of the world they are supposed to care about.

The UN’s behavior and modus operandi is a total disgrace to say the least. This is more so in poor countries than anywhere else. How many people must die under the UN’s watch? Is there a need for these UN peacekeepers at all? Knowing their record in Rwanda, Congo, Darfur, and now Haiti; I believe there is no need for these troops anywhere.  However, UN so called peacekeeping missions and other various missions around the world is surely a way for those involved to line up their pockets. The UN’s behavior in Haiti and elsewhere is a case of major cowardice that has no place in times of crisis. As a citizen of a country that contributes funds to the UN, I am calling on the US government to withdraw our tax money from such an institution. It is an disgrace to use our tax money to contribute to a worthless organization. As things are, I believe the UN has outlived its usefulness and should be disbanded.

Conflict Minerals: A Cover For US Allies and Western Mining Interests?

Below is article from the Huffington Post that provides a concise recommendation on the Congo conflict. Although it is a short article, it has all of the points that MUST be considered if the Congo conflict is to be resolved.

________________________________

As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of Black people in the heart of Africa, myriad Western based “prescriptions” are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic and historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions. The conflict mineral approach or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe are no exception to this symptomatic approach which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo’s challenges than to resolve them.

The conflict mineral approach has an obsessive focus on the FDLR and other rebel groups while scant attention is paid to Uganda (which has an International Court of Justice ruling against it for looting and crimes against humanity in the Congo) and Rwanda (whose role in the perpetuation of the conflict and looting of Congo is well documented by UN reports and international arrest warrants for its top officials). Rwanda is the main transit point for illicit minerals coming from the Congo irrespective of the rebel group (FDLR, CNDP or others) transporting the minerals. According to Dow Jones, Rwanda’s mining sector output grew 20% in 2008 from the year earlier due to increased export volumes of tungsten, cassiterite and coltan, the country’s three leading minerals with which Rwanda is not well endowed. In fact, should Rwanda continue to pilfer Congo’s minerals, its annual mineral export revenues are expected to reach $200 million by 2010. Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen says it best when he notes “having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.” As long as the West continues to give the Kagame regime carte blanche, the conflict and instability will endure.

According to Global Witness’s 2009 report, Faced With A Gun What Can you Do, Congolese government statistics and reports by the Group of Experts and NGOs, Rwanda is one of the main conduits for illicit minerals leaving the Congo. It is amazing that the conflict mineral approach shout loudly about making sure that the trade in minerals does not benefit armed groups but the biggest armed beneficiary of Congo’s minerals is the Rwandan regime headed by Paul Kagame. Nonetheless, the conflict mineral approach is remarkably silent about Rwanda’s complicity in the fueling of the conflict in the Congo and the fleecing of Congo’s riches.

Advocates of the conflict mineral approach would be far more credible if they had ever called for any kind of pressure whatsoever on mining companies that are directly involved in either fueling the conflict or exploiting the Congolese people. The United Nations, The Congolese Parliament, Carter Center, Southern Africa Resource Watch and several other NGOs have documented corporations that have pilfered Congo’s wealth and contributed to the perpetuation of the conflict. Some of these companies include but are not limited to: Traxys, OM Group, Blattner Elwyn Group, Freeport McMoran, Eagle Wings/Trinitech, Lundin, Kemet, Banro, AngloGold Ashanti, Anvil Mining, and First Quantum.

The conflict mineral approach, like the Blood Diamond campaign from which it draws its inspiration, is silent on the question of resource sovereignty which has been a central question in the geo-strategic battle for Congo’s mineral wealth. It was over this question of resource sovereignty that the West assassinated Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba and stifled the democratic aspirations of the Congolese people for over three decades by installing and backing the dictator Joseph Mobutu. In addition, the United States also backed the 1996 and 1998 invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda instead of supporting the non-violent, pro-democracy forces inside the Congo. Unfortunately and to the chagrin of the Congolese people, some of the strongest advocates of the conflict mineral approach are former Clinton administration officials who supported the invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda. This may in part explains the militaristic underbelly of the conflict mineral approach, which has as its so-called second step a comprehensive counterinsurgency.

The focus on the east of Congo falls in line with the long-held obsession by some advocates in Washington who incessantly push for the balkanization of the Congo. Their focus on “Eastern Congo” is inadequate and does not fully take into account the nature and scope of the dynamics in the entire country. Political decisions in Kinshasa, the capital in the West, have a direct impact on the events that unfold in the East of Congo and are central to any durable solutions.

The central claim of the conflict mineral approach is to bring an end to the conflict; however, the conflict can plausibly be brought to an end much quicker through diplomatic and political means. The so-called blood mineral route is not the quickest way to end the conflict. We have already seen how quickly world pressure can work with the sidelining of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and the demobilization and/or rearranging of his CNDP rebel group in January 2009, as a result of global pressure placed on the CNDP’s sponsor Paul Kagame of Rwanda. More pressure needs to be placed on leaders such as Kagame and Museveni who have been at the root of the conflict since 1996. The FDLR can readily be pressured as well, especially with most of their political leadership residing in the West, however this should be done within a political framework, which brings all the players to the table as opposed to the current militaristic, dichotomous, good-guy bad-guy approach where the West sees Kagame and Museveni as the “good-guys” and everyone else as bad. The picture is far grayer than Black and White.

A robust political approach by the global community would entail the following prescriptions:

  1. Join Sweden and Netherlands in pressuring Rwanda to be a partner for peace and a stabilizing presence in the region. The United States and Great Britain in particular should apply more pressure on their allies Rwanda and Uganda to the point of withholding aid if necessary.
  2. Hold to account companies and individuals through sanctions trafficking in minerals whether with rebel groups or neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda and Uganda. Canada has chimed in as well but has been deadly silent on the exploitative practices of its mining companies in the Congo. Canada must do more to hold its mining companies accountable as is called for in Bill C-300.
  3. Encourage world leaders to be more engaged diplomatically and place a higher priority on what is the deadliest conflict in the World since World War Two.
  4. Reject the militarization of the Great Lakes region represented by AFRICOM, which has already resulted in the suffering of civilian population; the strengthening of authoritarian figures such as Uganda’s Museveni (in power since 1986) and Rwanda’s Kagame (won the 2003 “elections” with 95 percent of the vote); and the restriction of political space in their countries.
  5. Demand of the Obama administration to be engaged differently from its current military-laden approach and to take the lead in pursuing an aggressive diplomatic path with an emphasis on pursuing a regional political framework that can lead to lasting peace and stability.

To learn more about the current crisis in the Congo, visit www.conflictminerals.org.


Kambale Musavuli
is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. Bodia Macharia is the President of Friends of the Congo/ Canada.

Peace in Congo Requires More Than Just Pictures of Kabila and Kagame Together

From MJPC by Amede Kyubwa

As President Obama himself likes to quote, the insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Sadly that is exactly what has been happening in Congo for more than 10 years….

It is impossible not to recognize that the growing rapprochement between the Congo and Rwanda, is a signal that the Congo is likely to achieve some form of stability under the Obama Admnistration.  It seems President Obama is very firm in the expectations of wanting to see both President Kagame and Kabila working together for the sake of peace in the Great Lakes. While it’s too early to say for sure whether this will bring the kind of stability needed to end the violence and impunity, often described by many human rights organizations as terribly systematic and endless, in Eastern Congo, it is clear that none of these two heads of state can afford to defy the United States at this time.

On one side, without implying any causal, president Kabila knows what happened to all previous presidents of Congo who attempted to resist the demands of Washington. They all failed and lost their lives in tragic circumstances. Kabila must be intelligent enough not to repeat this. He has to do what his father failed to do when it comes to dealing with the USA. Do what they ask you to do and seek to tactically negociate later!!!. He is also a young man who probably understands quite well how much president Kagame was able benefit in the past when the congolese authorities used some fatal tactics of resisting to the prescriptions from Washington

On the other side, Kagame knows that it would be his end if the USA is not behind him. He has been mostly untouchable in the region because of the unyielding support he enjoys from the most powerful country on earth,(USA) which are believed to have supported the rebellion that led him to power via Uganda in the 1990s. He does not enjoy this kind of wide support in the Europe where even some countries have tried to arrest members of his cabinet for allegedly being behind the shooting down of late Habyarimana’s plane. For the moment, he has been safe because he has the USA on his side. By all accounts, President Kagame can’t afford the luxury of shooting himself in the foot by opposing the prescriptions of the Obama Admnistration. In similar way, this would benefit President Kabila as this could make President Kagame look like enemy of peace in the Great Lakes.

While the current events in Congo must be applauded by all, any peace effort between Rwanda and Congo which excludes finding alternative solutions to the problems of FDLR would not be a lasting one. The need for changes in the strategies on how to effectively force the FDLR to return to Rwanda is imperative simply because the current strategies of machine guns have failed to make this happen for more than a decade now.

In watching the celebrations on the streets in North Kivu when Kagame arrived in Goma over the weekend to meet with Kabila would make one ask if the Congolese have misdiagnosed the security problem in their country. The challenging relationships between the two presidents have never been the cause of the problem. Why? The answer is quite simple; because the two capitals have worked together in past and failed to force FDLR to leave Congo with their machine-guns.  One should even be reminded that Rwanda occupied that part of the Congo for more than year, reportedly for the same reasons and failed to do this with machine-guns. Maybe this time the Obama Administration will encourage Kagame to find alternative solutions on how to force the FDLR to return to Rwanda without relying on the use of machine guns.

As  President Obama himself likes to quote, the insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Sadly that is exactly what has been happening in Congo for more than 10 years with regards to the FDLR.  The consequences of doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results have been very disastrous and catastrophic for the Congolese people. In the last decade more than 5 million have died in Congo mostly women and children and almost half a million women and children have been raped and tortured because of the same approach of doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.  Machine guns have been the biggest failure in Congo and whole region at large.

Whatever happens in Congo after the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, let’s hope that this time the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results will not be repeated again in Congo with the Obama Administration.

Amédé KYUBWA, MA, MPA, is the Executive Director of MJPC, a nonprofit organization that promotes peace and justice in the DRC through actions aimed at fighting against impunity, sexual violence and other serious violations of human rights in DRC. The MJPC also advocates peaceful resolution of conflicts (non-violent approach to conflict)

MJPC Applauds Convictions of FARDC officers for crimes against humanity in North Kivu

Sacramento, CA – August 3 – Makuba Sekombo, Director of Community Affairs of  MJPC, released the following statement regarding the convictions of FARDC officers for crimes against humanity in North Kivu.

 “MJPC applauds decision by the Military courts to hold accountable soldiers who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity to end impunity widely believed to be contributing factor of the continued sexual violence against girls and women in the east DR Congo. While the military court’s decision is significant, it is important not to lose sight of fact that the Congolese criminal justice system simply remains in a dysfunctional state. The 3 convictions in North Kivu represent only a fraction of thousands uninvestigated and unprosecuted cases of sexual violence against women by men in military uniform in the same area.

 MJPC also reiterates its call on the Government of Congo and MONUC to act decisively to enforce the outstanding ICC arrest warrant against Bosco Ntaganda accused of orchestrating serious terrible abuses against Congolese civilians. He  has been given a leadership role in the Congolese army despite an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) since April 2008. He is co-accused in the trial of Thomas Lubanga. The congolese government must ensure that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in DRC must be brought to justice”

 Click here to sign petition calling on the Congolese Government and MONUC to act decisively to enforce the outstanding ICC arrest warrant against Bosco Ntaganda accused of orchestrating serious terrible abuses against Congolese civilians: http://www.gopetition.com.au/online/24459.html