Tag Archives: DR Congo

Rwanda complains to U.N. about new Congo brigade

15 Jul

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS | Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:02am EDT

(Reuters) – Rwanda is accusing the United Nations’ new intervention brigade in eastern Congo of discussing collaboration with Hutu rebels linked to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, thereby jeopardizing regional peace efforts.

In a letter to U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo in her role as this month’s president of the U.N. Security Council that was released on Monday, Rwandan U.N. Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana said MONUSCO intervention brigade commanders have met with FDLR rebels, the remnants of Hutu killers who carried out the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

U.N. peacekeeping troops have been in mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than a decade. The world body’s MONUSCO force there is currently 17,000 strong, the largest force of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the world.

The complex conflict has dragged on, killing millions of people through violence, famine and disease since the 1990s. That has led the United Nations to create a new “intervention brigade” – part of the MONUSCO force but assigned the task of not merely peacekeeping but taking active steps to neutralize rebel groups.

The force, comprised of troops from South Africa and Tanzania as well as soldiers from Malawi due in Congo later this month or in August, has already begun patrolling and is approaching full strength.

“Rwanda has credible, reliable and detailed information that various forms of tactical and strategic collaboration with the FDLR were discussed during those meetings,” Gasana said in the letter.

“Their actions, implicating senior United Nations commanders picking sides among the very armed groups whose military activities they are meant to deter, are of serious concern,” he wrote.

Gasana also supported an allegation contained in the latest report by the U.N. Group of Experts that units of the Congolese army (FARDC) have been cooperating with the FDLR.

‘GRATUITOUS ACCUSATIONS’

The Congolese government disputed Gasana’s claims.

“These are allegations which are not backed up by any proof,” Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told a news conference in Kinshasa. “Rwanda is making gratuitous accusations to justify the attacks they are carrying out at the moment.”

Mende said Rwanda is supporting the M23 rebels who clashed with the Congolese army at Mutaho on Sunday. Fighting continued on Monday.

Gasana said FARDC-FDLR collaboration often occurs with the knowledge – or even support – of MONUSCO intervention brigade contingents.

“We have reliable information that indicates several instances of FDLR units or commanders being integrated in FARDC commando units near the border with Rwanda,” the Rwandan envoy said. “In some instances, certain Force Intervention Brigade commanders are aware and supportive of such instances.”

The Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions for Congo, also said in its interim report that M23 rebels in Congo continue to recruit fighters in neighboring Rwanda with the aid of sympathetic Rwandan military officers. Rwanda has denied the group’s allegations, accusing it of bias.

Gasana said that “there are increased patterns of large quantities of weapons and ammunition being delivered to FDLR by FARDC officers, which have taken place with the knowledge and support of (MONUSCO) Force Intervention Brigade commanders.”

“The above-mentioned activities and patterns are developments that my government takes seriously, as they constitute a serious threat to the security of my country but also put into question the credibility of MONUSCO and its peacekeeping operations,” he said.

Gasana added that “any hidden agenda driven by political and/or economic interests” would undermine the push for peace in the region.

The U.N. peacekeeping department declined to comment.

Separately, the head of U.N. peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, told Reuters on Sunday in an interview in Paris that MONUSCO will soon have unarmed surveillance drones to monitor developments on the ground in eastern Congo.

(Additional reporting by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya in Kinshasa; Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: Reuters Africa

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Why Blair and Buffett are wrong about giving international aid to Rwanda

13 Apr

Friday 12 April 2013

By criticising the UN expert report, the former British prime minister is hampering the peace process in the eastern Congo

Tony Blair with Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president in 2011. Photograph: Steve Terill/AFP/Getty Images

When a UN Group of Experts report found that Rwanda was supporting rebels fighting a deadly conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a number of countries including the US and Britain cut or suspended foreign aid in protest.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame steadfastly denied supporting the Congo militias that have been wreaking havoc along the Rwanda-Congo border, but the evidence was strong enough to convince even some of Kagame’s biggest supporters that the western powers needed to send a message of disapproval.

That didn’t include Howard Buffett, Warren Buffett‘s son, or Tony Blair. Buffett and Blair argued against the move, contending that reducing aidto Rwanda would just cause more harm than good to the unstable Great Lakes region of central Africa.

“Cutting aid does nothing to address the underlying issues driving conflict in the region, it only ensures that the Rwandan people will suffer — and risks further destabilizing an already troubled region,” Blair and Buffett wrote in a recent Foreign Policy article

This was followed by a report from the Howard G Buffett Foundationechoing the same points. The report went further by questioning the reliability of the UN experts – the group that originally reported evidence that the Rwandan government was supporting rebels in the eastern DRC.

It’s worth noting that the Buffett Foundation report was written by unknown authors and using unnamed sources. It attacks the UN experts and then makes the case that pointing fingers is counterproductive. Says the report; “Our Foundation is not interested in apportioning blame for what we view is a fundamental failure in the GoE process in 2012….”

“We will let the report – and the information on our website – speak for itself,” replied the foundation’s chief of staff, Ann Kelly when asked about the unnamed contributors.

Lake Partners Strategy Consultants and the Crumpton Group LLC are listed as organisations that worked on the report, but they too were unwilling to talk about the report or how they reached their conclusions.

So, I spoke to regional experts about the report both on and off the record and a consensus emerged. The Buffett Foundation report is simply inaccurate, they said. Despite its imperfections, the UN expert report provides sufficient evidence to prove Rwanda’s connection to the armed rebels in the DRC. Since the US and British governments have long been big supporters of Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, it’s reasonable to conclude it would have taken convincing evidence to prompt a suspension of foreign aid.

Many east Africa experts say Rwanda continues to destabilise the region and sap resources for reform. The actions by the international community and the ongoing UN peace talks and framework provide an opportunity to engage in meaningful change for the DRC, many say. Ensuring its success means preventing rebellion and holding all supporters accountable, these experts told me.

Meddling in the DRC

Accusations have been leveled at Rwanda in the past for its meddling in the region. Former Rwandan ambassador to Washington, Theogene Rudasingwa, explained to Newsweek in a January article how the Rwandan government extracted money out of the DRC:

“After the first Congo war, money began coming in through military channels and never entered the coffers of the Rwandan state,” says Rudasingwa, Kagame’s former lieutenant. “It is RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s party) money, and Kagame is the only one who knows how much money it is—or how it is spent. In meetings it was often said, ‘For Rwanda to be strong, Congo must be weak, and the Congolese must be divided.'”

In 2012, the anonymous group of UN experts found evidence that the M23 rebels benefited from coordination with and support from the Rwandan military. Further, the report cited that the level of support went all the way up to the Rwandan defence minister. The UK reacted promptly by withholding £16 million in aid promised to Rwanda. International development secretary Justine Greening announced the suspension of £21m in planned budget support for Rwanda at the end of November.

Military aid totaling $200,000 was withheld by the United States when the information first emerged in July, but sanctions stopped there. Human Rights groups joined members of Congress in December imploring the Obama Administration to put pressure on Rwanda. Germany held back €21 million in planned aid and the EU suspended €70 million in planned budgetary support.

“This is not a matter of aid stopping because of advocacy efforts, explained Aaron Hall, associate director of Research for the Enough Project. “Aid stopped because there was credible information from state intelligence reports that showed these connections are real and that Rwanda was in violation of the UN Arms Embargo on Congo and implicated in destabilising a neighboring state.”

A reliance on aid likely affords Rwanda the opportunity to spend money on arming and supporting the M23 rebellion, said academic Laura Seay in a blog post responding to Blair and Buffett’s FP article.

Blair and Buffett also ignore the fact that having so much aid support frees up other resources for the Rwandan government to use in its military adventures in the Congo. Were Rwanda not wasting money on supporting the M23, Kigali would be able to fund many of the excellent development initiatives that were previously funded with aid dollars.

Other nations reacted to the report by withholding or delaying portions of aid to Rwanda. For a country that relies on foreign aid to account for over 40% of its budget, the cuts were a significant action by the international community. According to experts that I spoke with, the disruption in aid flows to Rwanda are working to the extent that Rwanda is no longer supporting the M23 rebels and is participating in the regional peace framework.

The aid cuts are having a direct economic impact. The Rwandan finance ministry revised its GDP growth expectation down from 7.8% to 6.3%, reported the Economist.

Too Much Finger Pointing?

The Buffett Foundation report makes it clear that it does not have interest in assigning blame.

“Our Foundation is not interested in apportioning blame for what we view is a fundamental failure in the GoE process in 2012; we will leave the point-counterpoint on questions of fact to others,” says the only bold section in the report’s introduction.

It calls for the cooperation between regional, state and international actors in order to resolve the many problems that exist in the DRC. Kagame has taken a similar tactic when asked about the issue of Rwanda’s involvement in the M23 rebellion.

“The blame game doesn’t help anyone,” said Kagame to Christiane Amanpour when she confronted him about Rwanda’s involvement. “It’s not just an issue of M23 or one other problem. It’s a number of problems that are together that we need to sort out.”

Former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs Jendayi Frazer made the same case to Al Jazeera saying, “I think the key issue here is to look forward and see how to resolve this. The pointing of fingers has never helped to resolve the crisis in the Great Lakes region.”

According to the Buffett Foundation report, the UN experts place too much attention on the role of Rwanda and not enough on the systemic problems in the region. Hall refuted this, saying that the mandate of the UN experts is to track illegal arms trafficking and trade to rebel groups.

Jason Stearns, director of the Rift Valley Institute’s Usalama Project, agreed with Hall, adding: “The (report) does place most weight on the M23, but I think that is fair, given that this rebellion was the largest source of instability in the region in 2012. But the GoE does spill a lot of ink discussing criminal networks within the Congolese army, as well as support to other armed groups.”

Stearns added that there are questions to be raised about the lack of collaboration with the UN peacekeeping mission and the governments of Uganda and Rwanda. However, the Buffett Foundation does nothing to carry out a “serious” evaluation of the UN report. There is room for improvement in the report, he says, but the broad conclusions are basically sound.

The Buffett report also points to the breakdown of the relationship between the UN experts and the governments of Rwanda and Uganda. “It is not significant who was first to withdraw cooperation,” it says. “The failure in process undermines the credibility of the findings, limiting potential policy prescriptions that could reduce violence in the Great Lakes region.”

Stearns refuted this, saying that the breakdown of the relationship may have been tied to the fact that the experts uncovered information that Rwanda and Uganda did not like. Journalist David Aronson took a stronger tone in accusing Rwanda for the breakdown in its relationship with the group:

“[T]here’s zero doubt about who broke off the relationship between the GoE and the Rwandan government. The Rwandans did,” wrote Aronson in his blog.

The Way Forward

The attempt to discredit the experts’ report and shift the conversation away from Rwanda’s involvement in the DRC has worked to some extent. Donors are responding by channeling aid through non-government actors. Greening announced at the start of March that £16 million in UK aid money will make its way to humanitarian groups working in Rwanda rather than the government. Germany also reversed course and unblocked the $26 million it suspended in 2012.

Critics of the Buffett Foundation report agree that the causes of instability in the DRC are multifaceted and require a host of solutions. “The Congolese government has certainly played a very negative role in the conflict, often arming armed groups and failing to crack down on criminal networks within its own security forces,” explained Stearns.

That means that any lasting peace deal will require engagement from a diverse sets of interests with the Congolese government. “It appears as if the government in the first line is not interested in reforms. The non-existence of any meaningful security sector reform approaches tells the tale,” said Christoph Vogel, Mercator Fellow on international affairs.

“I have not witnessed any peace effort in DRC so far, that has tried to – either by carrots or sticks – seriously embrace political elites that have been engaging in incitement, funding, or protection of illegal and armed activity in the DRC.”

Congolese experts argue that the continued rebellions make it difficult for such reforms. “[I]gnoring Rwanda’s role in the Kivus as a source of conflict will make the situation worse, not better. And continuing to fund a government that spends its own resources on rebels who rape women and conscript child soldiers is unconscionable for most taxpayers in donor states,” said Seay.

A UN led regional framework was signed in Addis Ababa by 11 African countries, including the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, in February. Despite the challenges, there is a feeling of optimism in response to the UN framework. With neighbouring countries participating and the global community engaged, it appears that now is the time to take permanent steps towards peace.

“There is a unique opportunity given the engagement locally, regionally and internationally to change the security situation in the DR Congo through the UN framework,” says Hall.

Source: The Guardian

DR Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda in ICC custody

22 Mar

22 March 2013

Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda has left Rwanda and is on the way to The Hague in the custody of the International Criminal Court.

Bosco Ntaganda, who handed himself in to the US embassy in Kigali, addresses a news conference in January 2009. Photograph: STR/Reuters

Gen Ntaganda, a key figure in the conflict in eastern DR Congo, surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali on Monday.

The ICC has charged him with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which Gen Ntaganda denies.

A date for his first appearance before judges is expected to be set soon.

Gen Ntaganda is the first suspect to surrender himself voluntarily to the ICC’s custody.

“This is a good day for victims in the DRC and for international justice,” said ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

“Today those who have long suffered at the hands of Bosco Ntaganda can look forward to the future and the prospect of justice secured.”

Known as “The Terminator”, Gen Ntaganda has fought for a number of rebel groups as well as the Congolese army.

Most recently, he was believed to be one of the leaders of the M23 rebel movement, which has been fighting government troops in the east.

He is accused of seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Ituri, DR Congo, between 2002-2003. The charges include enlisting child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery.

The DR Congo government has said that Gen Ntaganda, who comes from the Tutsi ethnic group, crossed into Rwanda on Saturday after he and some of his followers were defeated by a rival faction of the M23 group.

Eastern DR Congo has long suffered from high levels of violence linked to ethnic rivalries and competition for the control of mineral resources.

Source: BBC

Bosco Ntaganda: Kagame promises to help transfer to ICC

21 Mar

21 March 2013

Bosco Ntaganda has been wanted by the ICC since 2006

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has given his backing for the speedy transfer of Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Known as “The Terminator”, he surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali on Monday.

Rwanda would help facilitate his transfer to The Hague “as fast as possible”, Mr Kagame said.

Gen Ntaganda has been a key figure in the conflict in eastern DR Congo.

The ICC has charged him with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, accusing him of using child soldiers, keeping women as sex slaves and participating in the murder of at least 800 people in 2002 and 2003.

Gen Ntaganda denies the charges.

Transfer ‘within days’

He has fought for various rebel groups as well as the Congolese army in a country riven by ethnic divisions and a battle for control of its mineral resources.

Most recently, he was believed to be one of the leaders of the M23 rebel movement, which is fighting government troops in the east.

He has also fought for the army of Rwanda, which denies UN accusations that it backs the M23.

“We will work to make what the US embassy needs in relation to Bosco Ntaganda’s case happen as fast as possible,” Mr Kagame said in a statement.

His comments came a day after US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnny Carson, said it was important that Gen Ntaganda’s movement from the embassy to the airport was “in no way inhibited”.

Mr Carson said he hoped that ICC officials, who were en route to Rwanda, would be allowed into the country.

Neither Rwanda nor the US recognise the ICC.

On Wednesday, the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said she expected Gen Ntaganda to be handed over in “a couple of days”.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gen Ntaganda seven years ago.

The DR Congo government said Gen Ntaganda, who comes from the Tutsi ethnic group, crossed into Rwanda on Saturday after he and some of his followers were defeated by a rival faction of the M23 group.

Rwanda denies helping Gen Ntaganda to flee DR Congo, or arranging his surrender to the US embassy, which is near the defence ministry in Kigali.

Rwanda’s government is also dominated by Tutsis and Gen Ntaganda fought with the former rebels who are now in power in Kigali.

Source: BBC

Rwanda refuses visas for two U.N. Congo sanctions experts

19 Mar

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS | Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:21pm GMT

(Reuters) – Rwanda has refused to issue entry visas to two members of a U.N. expert panel that accused Kigali last year of arming rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, describing them as biased, Rwandan and other diplomats said on Tuesday.

Several U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, disputed the allegations of bias.

The U.N. Security Council’s Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on Congo, said in a report last year that Rwanda’s defence minister was commanding the M23 revolt in Congo and that Rwanda was arming the rebels and supporting them with troops. It also accused Uganda of supporting M23.

Rwanda’s government was furious about the experts’ report, as was the Ugandan government, and denied the allegations. U.N. officials and Security Council diplomats, however, said the Rwandan denials were not credible.

A Rwandan diplomat confirmed the refusal to issue entry visas to Bernard Leloup of Belgium and Marie Plamadiala of Moldova. Several council diplomats dismissed the Rwandan allegations of bias, saying they suspected Kigali may be getting revenge over the group’s revelations about M23’s Rwandan links.

“We told the DRC (Congo) sanctions committee … that no visa will issued to both of them,” Rwanda’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Olivier Nduhungirehe, told Reuters. He was referring to the Security Council’s Congo sanctions committee.

Several diplomats said the other four members of the expert group are currently in the Rwandan capital Kigali for discussions with the government regarding the panel’s continued investigation of Rwanda’s role in supporting M23.

Britain, France and the United States are among the countries that have urged Kigali to cooperate with all six members of the expert panel, council diplomats said, adding that they hoped Rwanda would relent.

Last year’s report by the Group of Experts caused significant grief for Rwanda. The United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain and the European Union reacted to the experts’ accusations by suspending some aid to Rwanda, which relies on donors for about 40 percent of its budget.

ACCUSATIONS OF BIAS

The Rwandan U.N. mission prepared a memo complaining about Leloup and Plamadiala. In that memo, obtained by Reuters from a diplomatic source, Rwanda accused Leloup of “a clear pattern of a deeply-seated bias against the GoR (government of Rwanda).”

The memo said Plamadiala has “no demonstrated expertise” suitable to being a member of the expert panel and “demonstrates inappropriate professional boundaries not befitting a U.N. expert.”

Despite Rwanda’s complaints, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reappointed Leloup and Plamadiala to the expert group.

The U.N. press office did not have an immediate response to the question of whether the Rwandan memo complaining about the two experts had been received by Ban’s office.

Plamadiala declined to comment in an email to Reuters. Leloup did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Last year, Rwanda accused the Group of Experts’ coordinator, Steve Hege of the United States, of bias and leaking information to the media. Several council diplomats told Reuters those allegations about Hege were unfounded. The experts’ new coordinator is Emilie Serralta of France.

Recently the M23 rebellion started to implode, U.N. diplomats and officials say. Hundreds of Congolese M23 rebels loyal to warlord Bosco Ntaganda fled into neighbouring Rwanda or surrendered to U.N. peacekeepers over the weekend after being routed by a rival faction.

Ntaganda, the fugitive Rwandan-born former Congolese general, walked into the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda on Monday and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court, where he faces war crimes charges racked up during the rebellion.

African leaders signed a U.N.-mediated regional accord late last month aimed at ending two decades of conflict in eastern Congo and paving the way for the possible creation of a U.N. intervention force to combat armed groups.

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: Reuters

Will Bosco Ntaganda’s surrender bring peace to DR Congo?

19 Mar

19 March 2013

By Farouk Chothia, BBC Africa

On the retreat in the battlefield, wanted war crimes suspect and Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda has raised the white flag, fleeing to Rwanda and handing himself into the US embassy in Kigali.

Known as “the Terminator”, over the last two decades Gen Ntaganda has fought for several rebel groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as well as serving as a general in the Congolese army – and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It is unclear why he has chosen to surrender to the ICC – or why he chose Washington’s embassy in Rwanda – neither the US nor Rwanda recognise the tribunal, unlike many other states in Africa and Europe.

But they will now have to co-operate with the ICC so that he can be transferred to The Hague to stand trial – or risk a diplomatic outcry at a time when the United Nations is spearheading new efforts to end the conflict in a country two-thirds the size of western Europe.

Despite denials by Rwanda’s government, DR Congo has repeatedly accused it of backing Gen Ntaganda.

“The fact that he showed up in Kigali raises a lot of questions. He could have also showed up in Uganda [another neighbour of DR Congo], but he decided to do that in Kigali,” Thierry Vircoulon, of the think-tank International Crisis Group, told the BBC.

“Was it because it was the only way out or because he also wanted to embarrass his former sponsor?”

‘Shot at’

Born in Rwanda and raised in DR Congo, Gen Ntaganda and President Paul Kagame’s government in Kigali were once staunch allies, bound together by ethnic ties – both come from the minority Tutsi ethnic group which feels threatened since the genocide that saw hard-line Hutu militias kill some 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994.

Gen Ntaganda fought for Mr Kagame against Rwanda’s Hutu-led government in the early 1990s.

After Mr Kagame took power in 1994, Bosco Ntaganda served as a bulwark in eastern DR Congo against the Hutu militias that took refuge there after being driven out of Rwanda at the end of the genocide.

Gen Ntaganda also fought the Congolese government, accusing it of oppressing DR Congo’s own Tutsi population living in the east, near the border with Rwanda.

He fled to the US embassy after his M23 rebel movement, which was formed last year after an army mutiny, split last month.

The M23 rebel movement has been hit by fighting between rival factions

There was heavy fighting between rival factions in eastern DR Congo, which reportedly left Gen Ntaganda on the back foot.

It is not clear what caused the split, but forces loyal to Gen Ntaganda and ousted M23 political head Jean-Marie Runiga appeared to lose ground to troops allied with the movement’s military chief Sultani Makenga.

An ally of Col Makenga, Col Innocent “India Queen” Kahina, told Associated Press news agency that he saw Gen Ntaganda in the battlefield last week.

“We shot at him, but he got away,” Col Kahina is quoted as saying.

“Apparently, he thought an almost sure prison sentence was better than his other options,” DR Congo analyst Jason Stearns writes on his blog.

Mr Vircoulon says Rwanda will be worried about Gen Ntaganda appearing in the dock at The Hague.

“He will have a lot of things to say at the ICC and his testimony may potentially be very damaging and could have huge consequences for Kigali.”

For New York-based pressure group Human Rights Watch (HRW), should Gen Ntaganda stand trial, it would help end the culture of impunity in DR Congo.

“Ntaganda’s appearance in the dock at a fair and credible trial of the ICC would send a strong message to other abusers that they too may face justice one day,” HRW Africa researcher Ida Sawyer said.

The DR Congo conflict has been a major focus of the ICC since its formation more than a decade ago, with two cases finalised so far – the acquittal of militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui in December 2012 and the sentencing some six months earlier of his rival, Thomas Lubanga, to 14 years in jail for recruiting children into his rebel army in 2002 and 2003.

Gen Ntaganda was once allied with Lubanga, serving as his chief of staff in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) rebel group.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gen Ntaganda in 2006, accusing him of committing atrocities, along with Lubanga, in 2002 and 2003 – charges that are unrelated to the latest conflict involving the M23.

With more charges added against Gen Ntaganda in 2012, he now faces 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

‘Meat on bones’

While Lubanga was captured by the DR Congo government in 2006 and put on trial, Gen Ntaganda evaded arrest and was integrated into the Congolese army.

But fighters loyal to him defected from the army last year after DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila hinted that the Congolese authorities would put the general on trial.

His appearance at the US embassy suggests the Rwandan government forced him to hand himself in, says Mr Stearns.

“Or he was so afraid of what would happen if they arrested him (or Makenga got a hold of him) that he made a run for the embassy?” he asks.

Despite the ICC’s efforts to punish rebel leaders and various peace initiatives spearheaded by foreign governments – and 19,000 UN troops on the ground, violence has continued in eastern DR Congo – a largely lawless area hit by ethnic conflict and a battle over its mineral resources.

Currently, Uganda is mediating between the government and the M23 to end the conflict that has left hundreds of thousands homeless since last year, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed former Irish president Mary Robinson as his special envoy to the region.

Her appointment on Monday followed the signing of an agreement last month by 11 African leaders – including Mr Kagame, Mr Kabila and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni – to help end the conflict in eastern DR Congo and possibly set up a special African Union intervention brigade.

“I plan to work closely with the leaders of the region to ensure that the presence of combatants in their territories is addressed by their respective governments, in the context of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework [signed by the leaders],” Ms Robinson said.

“In this respect, I call on states of the region to work with the International Criminal Court,” she added.

Some analysts believe that with diplomatic pressure on Rwanda growing, it could not give refuge to Gen Ntaganda, leaving him with no option but to surrender in the face of the setbacks his forces suffered in the latest fighting.

Mr Stearns doubts that the conflict will end anytime soon, saying the agreement reached by African leaders was “very vague”.

“Robinson will have to put meat on its bones. However, if Kabila manages to strike a deal with Makenga’s M23, then logic of the framework [agreement] could easily fray,” he writes.

“Kabila thought it was necessary to sign up to a relatively intrusive deal in order to bring an end to the M23 threat.”

With the M23 splitting and Gen Ntaganda surrendering, DR Congo’s government may be feeling more buoyant, but there is no room for complacency in international efforts to achieve peace – there are enough battle-hardened men in the region to fill the vacuum left by Gen Ntaganda.

Source: BBC Africa

 

U.N. chief suggests Congo rebels had outside help to take Goma

22 Feb

UNITED NATIONS | Tue Feb 19, 2013

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waves during a visit to the Heal Africa hospital in Goma, eastern Congo, February 28, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Finbarr O’Reilly

(Reuters) – The command, equipment quality and fighting ability of rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo when they captured the frontier city of Goma in November suggests they had external support, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.

While Ban did not say from where the external support came to help the M23 rebels take Goma on November 20, U.N. experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of aiding the revolt in the resource-rich region. Both governments strongly deny any involvement.

In a three-month report on the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, Ban said the M23 rebels had shown uncharacteristic capacities during the offensive to take Goma. The rebels eventually withdrew from the city 11 days later.

“The subsequent speed, efficiency and success of the M23’s renewed offensive were rendered possible by a sudden increase in the group’s combatants, coordinated multi-pronged attacks, and attacks with coordination between infantry and fire support,” Ban said in the February 15 report released on Tuesday.

M23 began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honor a 2009 peace deal. That deal ended a previous rebellion and led to the rebels’ integration into the army. They have since deserted the army.

“MONUSCO’s observations of the command and control ability of the attacking force, the effective coordination of its fire support, the quality of its equipment and its general fighting ability, particularly during night time, all suggested the existence of external support, direct and indirect,” Ban said.

At the time of the advance on Goma, U.N. officials said they were surprised by the increased strength of the rebels but appeared reluctant to officially blame it on outside support.

Despite Rwanda’s strong denials, the U.N. Security Council’s Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on the Congo, said in a report late last year that Rwanda’s defense minister was commanding the M23 revolt and Kigali was arming the rebels and sending troops.

Some countries criticized MONUSCO for failing to stop the fall of Goma. But the world body defended its actions, saying the peacekeepers could only have taken on the rebels in support of the Congolese army, who had fled the city.

In the wake of the blow to MONUSCO’s image, Ban is due to recommend to the U.N. Security Council shortly that it approve the creation of an enforcement brigade within MONUSCO to take on the armed groups in eastern Congo, according to U.N. officials.

Peace enforcement missions allow the use of lethal force in serious combat situations, while peacekeeping operations are intended to support and monitor an already existing ceasefire, diplomats and U.N. officials say.

An uneasy truce is now in place between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels, and Uganda is currently hosting talks between the two parties. But progress towards a negotiated settlement to the crisis has been slow.

Separately a delayed U.N.-mediated regional peace deal aimed at ending two decades of conflict in the east of Congo is due to be signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on February 24, the United Nations said on Saturday.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: Reuters

Matonge: Congo-Rwanda dispute hits heart of Europe

30 Jan

30 January 2013

By Dan Damon, BBC World Service, Brussels

There was violence in Brussels following the re-election of Joseph Kabila as Congolese president in 2011

Tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are being played out among the diaspora communities – and perhaps nowhere more so than in one district of the Belgian capital.

African grocers, dozens of hairdressers, and music and video stores line the streets of Matonge in Brussels.

There is a Matonge in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa too. When Belgium was the colonial power, the Congolese who came to Brussels created a marketplace a little bit like home – although Matonge in Kinshasa is a lot livelier, and the weather is better.

They come to Matonge to shop. But in recent months, they have come to argue, too, about DR Congo’s war – and sometimes to fight.

Congolese here blame Rwanda for perpetuating the war in eastern DR Congo by arming and supporting rebel militias, plundering the country’s mineral wealth.

Each Tuesday, supporters of the Congolese and Rwandan opposition gather outside the Rwandan embassy to call for an end to Rwanda’s interference in DR Congo.

Protestors outside Rwanda embassy in Brussels

But occasionally the protests spread to the streets of Brussels, and Rwandans in Matonge have been targeted.

Rwandan Grace Nyawumuntu’s brother Jules paid the price.

After a demonstration by Congolese opposition supporters outside the Rwandan embassy in Brussels, a gang of Congolese accosted him.

“They asked him: ‘Are you Rwandan?'” They chased him through the metro station and beat him,” she says. “He was taken to hospital. His jaw was broken.”

Trying to ‘make peace’

Mostly, the protests and demonstrations remain peaceful. But Ms Nyawumuntu says when things get worse in DR Congo, as during the occupation of the eastern city of Goma by M23 rebels at the end of last year, the Rwandan community in Brussels fears for its safety.

A recent UN report blamed Rwanda for arming M23. Many Congolese in Brussels go further, calling Congolese President Joseph Kabila puppet of the Rwandan government. The mood among Matonge’s Congolese is angry.

Rwandan journalist Ruhumuza Mbonyumutwa was roughed up at one Brussels demonstration a few months ago. “I only go into Matonge to get my hair cut now,” he told me. “I don’t stay there long, it could be dangerous.”

Henry Muke Dishuishe, who leads a Congolese opposition political group in Belgium called the High Council for Liberation, acknowledges some young Belgian Congolese are turning to violence.

“I’m trying to do my best to make peace,” he says. “But it’s hard sometimes – some Congolese they go to Rwandese shops, they want to break it, and make fights in cafes.

“They make violence so the international community takes notice, because they’ve written many letters, informed many people, and nobody moves. So they say the only recourse they have is violence here in Europe.”

Like many Congolese here, Mr Dishuishe is convinced Europeans are abetting Rwanda’s illegal mining in DR Congo, including for coltan, a mineral vital to the electronics industry.

“We have an obligation derived from this colonial past – and a particular responsibility because many of the companies operating in DRC are European companies,” says Ana Gomes, a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament with the Socialist Party.

“I’m afraid – I sense the tension is escalating and could turn even nastier than it is already.”

But she says many turn a blind eye. “There’s like a fatigue about the DRC, in spite of the fact that it is one of the most martyrized countries where the people – and in particular the women – are suffering.”

Troubled past

Modern Belgium is uncomfortable with its colonial history – and has reason to be.

Anthropologist and curator Bambi Ceuppens
Anthropologist Bambi Ceuppens says the history of the Congolese people was ignored by Belgian colonialists

The brutality of Belgian King Leopold II, who negotiated personal ownership of Congo and began to plunder its vast resources in the 19th Century, is well documented.

A campaign by journalists and early human rights activists led to the creation of Belgian Congo in the 20th Century. Maybe the brutality and forced labour was reduced, but the plundering and patronising attitude to Africans continued until Patrice Lumumba’s National Congolese Movement brought independence in 1960.

Even then, Belgium couldn’t leave Congo alone – there is evidence of Belgian involvement in Lumumba’s assassination when he became the first independent prime minister.

The Royal Museum of Central Africa just outside Brussels symbolises many of the, now unacceptable, attitudes to Belgian colonialism.

In the museum’s marbled portico, golden statues celebrate the “civilising mission” – childlike Africans clutching imploringly and gratefully to the legs of a heroic Belgian nurse, or soldier, or statesman.

Anthropologist and curator Bambi Ceuppens, herself half-Congolese and half-Flemish, says the way the museum ignored the history of Congolese people – merely treating them like the animals and plants as exhibits to be stared at – led to the plundering of culture too.

She says there are many masks and idols that have obvious spiritual and ritual significance. “But we have lost their stories,” she says. “They were brought here just because they looked nice.”

Living together

But some Belgians, mostly from the younger generation, believe their nation has unbreakable links to Africa and a responsibility to help mediate the bloody legacy that still grips DR Congo.

A street scene of Matonge district in Kinshasa, DRC
The original Matonge – in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa

At a quaint, velvet-draped and packed theatre in the Matonge district of Brussels, Belgian producer Raffi Aghekian is introducing his new movie, Kinshasa Mboka Te – Kinshasa Wicked Land – to a mostly white crowd.

It is an offbeat profile of the DR Congo capital, through the lives and sometimes excesses of Kinshasa’s people.

“There’s a Matonge in Brussels and some of the movie was filmed in Matonge, Kinshasa,” Mr Aghekian says. He’s concerned that a part of Brussels that should be celebrating Belgium’s diversity and history is becoming a place of division and fear.

“I want to bring the two Matonges together,” he says.

Another big anti-Rwandan demonstration is planned for 16 February. The news from DR Congo is still bad, with rebel groups, including M23, still in control of many mining areas and tens of thousands still displaced from their homes. Tension in the Brussels Matonge is rising again.

Dan Damon presents World Update on the BBC World Service. Listen back to the programme from Brussels via iPlayer. Additional reporting by Megha Mohan.

 

Source: BBC

Rwanda’s President Kagame: ‘We have a problem’

28 Jan

January 28th, 2013

 

By Samuel Burke, Claire Calzonetti & Juliet Fuisz, CNN

Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, has been a darling of the West ever since he led his country out of the terrible 1994 genocide that left up to one million people dead.

After the genocide, Kagame brought economic and social progress to Rwanda by effectively using the foreign aid flowing in from the international community. These funds make up nearly half of the country’s budget.

But now, the country’s economic lifeline is in jeopardy since the United Nations accused Rwanda of backing rebels in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.N. says the country has helped to create and militarily support the “M23” rebel group that wants to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Joseph Kabila.

The White House says that President Obama called Kagame to emphasize “the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the DRC.” Kagame denies backing the M23 rebels.

“It’s a big ‘no’ on the issue of saying that I am accepting this kind of responsibility,” Kagame told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview Friday. “The solution is for us to come together as two countries, as a region and be forward looking and find solutions. Rwanda is very active in this and we want a positive solution out of that.”

Despite Kagame’s denial, some of its major donors are already withholding money and financing for projects. As a result, the country’s finance minister has lowered the projected economic growth for 2013.

“I think we already have a problem,” Kagame said – acknowledging the situation in DRC is costing his country, regardless of whether or not the accusations are true.

“It has led to a problem where there is this discomfort we found ourselves in, that affects the progress of my country and also, of course, creates other problems within the region,” he said.

In addition to these accusations, Kagame finds himself increasingly criticized for a growing authoritarian streak at home.

However, Kagame does not appear worried about his legacy being tarnished – pointing to many of his achievements: “We have registered economic growth 8% year in, year out for almost last ten years. We have seen women empowered like nowhere else,” he said. “I don’t know what is being talked about.”

Will Kagame step down in 2017?

Africa has been plagued by leaders who refuse to hand over the reins of power.

The Rwandan constitution says Kagame must step down in 2017. By that time he will have served as president for 17 years.

“Don’t worry about that,” Kagame told Amanpour when asked if he would hand over power by that time. “We have the constitution in place. We have always tried to do our best to satisfy the needs of our people and expectations of our people.”

Amanpour asked if that meant “yes,” he would step down.

He replied, “No. It is a broad answer to say you don’t need to worry about anything.”

Source: amanpour.blogs.cnn.com

Rwanda opposes use of drones by the UN in eastern Congo

9 Jan

09/01/2013

Surveillance drones generated new interest when M23 rebels (pictured) took over parts of eastern Congo. Reuters: Goran Tomasevic

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Rwanda on Tuesday opposed the use of surveillance drones in eastern Congo as proposed by the United Nations until there is a full assessment of their use, saying it did not want Africa to become a laboratory for foreign intelligence devices.

Envoys said U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council during a closed-door session that the U.N mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo plans to deploy three unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, in the country’s conflict-torn eastern provinces.

The United Nations has wanted surveillance drones for eastern Congo since 2008. Alan Doss, the former head of the U.N. peacekeeping force there at the time asked the Security Council for helicopters, drones and other items to improve real-time intelligence gathering.

The request was never met, but the idea generated new interest last year after M23 rebels began taking over large swathes of eastern Congo.

Rwanda, which has denied allegations by U.N. experts that it has been supporting M23, made clear it considered Ladsous’ call for deploying drones premature.

“It is not wise to use a device on which we don’t have enough information,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s deputy U.N. ambassador, told Reuters. “Africa shall not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas.”

The spokesman for the French U.N. mission, Brieuc Pont, said in a statement on France’s Twitter feed: “MONUSCO needs additional, modern assets, including drones, to be better informed and more reactive.”

Council diplomats said the United States, Britain and other council members were also supportive of the idea of using drones in eastern Congo.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to submit a report to the Security Council in the coming weeks recommending ways of improving the U.N. force in Congo, known as MONUSCO.

The U.N. force in Congo suffered a severe blow to its image in November after it failed to intervene when well-equipped M23 rebels seized control of the eastern Congolese city of Goma. The rebels withdrew after 11 days.

Congolese troops, aided by U.N. peacekeepers, have been battling M23 – who U.N. experts and Congolese officials say are backed by both Rwanda and Uganda – for nearly a year in the mineral-rich east of the country.

Diplomats said the Rwandan delegation informed the Security Council behind closed doors on Tuesday that MONUSCO would be a “belligerent” if it deployed drones in eastern Congo now.

Nduhungirehe explained this position, saying it was vital to know before deploying drones what the implications would be for individual countries’ sovereignty. He said Rwanda had no problem with helicopters, night-vision equipment or other high-tech gadgetry for the U.N. peacekeeping force.

Other diplomats, including some from Europe, have also expressed reservations. They said there were unanswered questions about who would receive the information from the drones and how widely it would be disseminated. They expressed discomfort at the idea of the United Nations becoming an active gatherer of intelligence.

Russia and China are among the nations on the council that have concerns about the deployment of drones in eastern Congo, diplomats told Reuters.

Western diplomats from countries that support the deployment of drones say Rwanda’s opposition is the first manifestation of the difficulties they expect to face over Congo while Rwanda is on the Security Council for the next two years.

(Editing by Christopher Wilson and Stacey Joyce)

Source: Reuters