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IOM Rwanda Expects to Resettle 1,500 Congolese Refugees in 2014

Posted by African Press International on December 9, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The International Organization for Migration (IOM) expects to resettle an estimated 1,500 Congolese refugees to the United States from Rwanda in 2014.

Nyiramahoro Tuyisenge is one of the approximately 600 Congolese refugees who have finished undergoing IOM’s pre-departure health assessment in preparation for their resettlement to the United States.

It has been 17 years since threats from the militia in her village in the Democratic Republic of Congo sent her running into neighbouring Rwanda. The situation in her rural village has never stabilized and life at the camp has been tough, especially for her three children.

“It is so hard to make appropriate food for babies in the camp. The tents get really cold when it rains and my children often get sick. I’m so worried about them,” said Nyiramahoro as she held her new born baby.

“I’m very happy to go to the United States. I expect that I will have access to quality food, education and health.” Nyiramahoro said, full of hope and excitement for the new life ahead.

Every year, IOM facilitates movements for thousands of refugees who have been accepted for third country resettlement. The resettlement programme offers a durable solution for refugees who are unable to return to their country of origin for fear of continued persecution and do not have the option to stay in their country of asylum.

The US government funds IOM to conduct these health assessments and to organize the transportation of refugees to the United States.

 

SOURCE

International Office of Migration (IOM)

 

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Kampala Talks and the Situation in the Great Lakes Region

Posted by African Press International on November 9, 2013

WASHINGTON, November 7, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Special Briefing

Russell D. Feingold, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Via Teleconference

Washington, DC

November 6, 2013

MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. We’re pleased today to have Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Russ Feingold, who will brief us on the Kampala talks and the situation in the Great Lakes region. Just a reminder that this is an on-the-record briefing. Special Envoy Feingold will open with a few introductory remarks, and after that point we’ll be ready for your questions and answers. With that, Special Envoy Feingold, if you’ll start us off.

MR. FEINGOLD: Good morning, everybody, and thank you for your interest and your participation. I’ll just make a few comments and then, of course, will be happy to answer any questions.

I started this position in July, but I’ve been trying to follow events in this region throughout my career in the Senate, where I was either a member or chairman or ranking member of the Africa subcommittee in the Senate. So when Secretary Kerry contacted me and asked me to take this position, I already realized that this was one of the most serious crises in the world, as you – many of you already know. Some five to six million people have died in the course of 20 years of this conflict. There is unspeakable violence, sexual violence against women and children, children being conscripted into the military, and there continues to be something like dozens of – as many as 40 to 45, perhaps – armed illegal groups in eastern Congo.

So it’s one of the greatest crises in the world, but it’s easy for people to confuse what’s really happening in terms of the attempt to try to turn this around. There are really two different processes that are in place and they are unconnected to each other formally, but are related to each other. One is the framework agreement, which is the agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa by 11 nations from the region, including the critical ones – DRC – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. But these agreements were signed also under the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations. And that is where the significant international involvement in trying to resolve this problem under the Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation really started in its most recent phase last – and that’s just this past February. So that’s one part of the process, and in my view, and I think the view of the international community and the envoys, that’s the most important avenue for trying to resolve the fundamental problems. So that’s one of the processes.

The other one, though, is what you’ve been hearing about in the last few days that has a significant relationship to this, and that’s the so-called Kampala talks. Before the framework, last year in December, after the M23 rebel group had taken over Goma and had further roiled the situation in eastern Congo, independently of the United Nations, President Museveni, the President of Uganda, tried to broker talks between the M23 and President Kabila and Democratic Republic of Congo. These, sponsored by the so-called ICGLR, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, are what are known as the Kampala talks being held in Kampala, Uganda.

These have sort of sputtered over the last few months. They were only supposed to take a couple weeks, and contemplated that the result would be the elimination of this one group, the M23, that that would somehow be negotiated. This really sputtered until late July, late August, when fighting broke out and the group of special envoys that had been appointed to take on this issue – Mary Robinson of the UN, myself, a representative of the European Union, a representative of the African Union, and Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General – when all of us decided that it was urgent to stop the fighting, to go to Kampala and try to re-stimulate the process. So we made a first trip there and there were negotiations going on at the time that we observed and tried to support. They were going to take care of getting rid of the M23 and making arrangements for that within 14 days in September, but that didn’t happen.

And so we went back for another round just two, three weeks ago. And I was personally involved in five different evenings of negotiations that greatly narrowed the difference between the Democratic Republic of Congo and then – and the M23. Much of the question was resolved at that point, but there didn’t seem the will on the part of the M23 to actually sign. That led to a final round of negotiations this past weekend that also went late in the night in Kampala, and the result of that is what you’ve been reading about, that after all these negotiations, it was agreed that a first step to resolve the M23 issue was the M23 would announce that it is disbanding, that it is renouncing its rebellion. They have made that statement. The second is that the Democratic Republic of the Congo would say they would stop military action against the M23. Those two steps have essentially happened.

The third step, though, has to occur yet, and that is the actual signing of an agreement or engagement that has been worked out in great detail. It’s not like this has to be negotiated; it’s already negotiated. It’s ready to be signed. And I and the other special envoys are standing by, ready to return to Kampala for that sort of a ceremony or meeting as early as tomorrow or early next week. Again, though, this would only resolve one aspect of the issue, the very serious problem of the M23. It does not deal with the root cause – all the other root causes of the problem, does not deal with the so-called FDLR and the ADF and other armed groups and all the issues about what the Democratic Republic of the Congo has to do in order to reform itself. That is part of the broader framework. But we believe this signing would not only solve this one problem; it would lead and give momentum to the broader effort where, we hope, through a broader mediated dialogue, the actual countries involved would be at the table. Not the M23, per se, or that kind of a group, but the people and the entities at the table would be Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, and perhaps other countries from the region.

So I hope I didn’t get too deep into the weeds with that, but the distinction between the Kampala talks and the framework is important for understanding exactly what’s going on here.

Okay. Happy to take questions.

MODERATOR: Hi, Cynthia. If you could just again read the instructions to our callers for how they would ask a question, and then we’ll stand by for a moment for those first ones to come in.

OPERATOR: Certainly, and once again, for any questions or comments, press * and then 1. That’s * and then 1 for your questions or comments. And one moment, please, while we order the queue.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Cynthia. I think we can start with our first question in queue, Michele Kelemen from NPR.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Thanks for doing this. I’m wondering if you can – can you hear me?

MR. FEINGOLD: Yes, I can.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay, sorry. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the role of this more assertive UN force in Congo and how much that is working and whether or not that can be translated to other conflicts as you look across the continent.

MR. FEINGOLD: That’s a very important question and important part of this.

First of all, the effort of the intervention brigade, which is a part of the MONUSCO UN operation force, is one of a series of major signs that the international community is giving unprecedented – I like to call it sustained attention to this problem. So it should be looked at not only in terms of strengthening the abilities and the capacity and the mandate of MONUSCO, but also it is combined with this framework under the auspices of the United Nations, the special envoys being appointed, the fact that the World Bank pledged over $1 billion if this process can be successful.

All of this occurred, and then in addition to that, this intervention brigade was given the ability to take offensive action to disarm and demobilize these armed groups, and as I indicated, the estimates vary, but there are certainly dozens of these groups. Most people believe this is an exceptional approach, some would say unprecedented, but in any event, it’s a very strong approach that stands in great contrast to, frankly, often criticized role of the UN forces in this region in the past which did not have this capacity.

So how does it work? Well, the IB, and in fact, the MONUSCO itself stand in support of the efforts of the federal army of the Congo. So this does not lead – they do not lead and take the – make the decisions unilaterally to decide who to go after or when, but they do provide coordination. Sometimes it’s more in the form of a backup such as making sure that civilians are protected. In some cases, it’s direct action. This occurred both at the end of July – excuse me, at the end of August – and also just recently, where in some cases, the FARDC was in the lead, in some cases it was in cooperation, and sometimes this intervention brigade or MONUSCO itself, with the intervention brigade as a part of it, do this.

So it’s a creative mechanism. I think your question really goes to the central issue, as not only is this very important for the confidence of the Congolese military and going after these illegal groups, but this may have long-term consequences for what people believe could happen if United Nations peacekeeping forces were given a stronger capacity to deal with violence and threats to civilians. This has exciting potential and the initial signs are that this is a very successful operation under the leadership of Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, and General dos Santos Cruz, who is a commander who had good, strong experience in Haiti. And I met with him and seeing that they are – these two are an exceptionally strong combination for this effort which certainly will be pointed to, whether for good or bad, as to whether this kind of an operation can work. The initial signs are that it is successful, so far is a good concept, and is working well, at least in this context.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Just a reminder to our callers, to ask a question, you dial *1. Again, *1 to ask a question. Cynthia, I believe our next caller is Deb Riechmann from AP, if you can open her line. Thank you.

OPERATOR: And Deb, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, I have several questions. Do you have any information about the whereabouts of some of the M23 leaders who are wanted for serious abuses? Any information on that that you could offer? And is there any details about how they will go – they will now go about disarming the rebels? And how can you ensure that the M23 won’t disappear across the border, regroup, and reemerge?

MR. FEINGOLD: I do not at this point have specific information about where some of the top leaders of M23 might be at this point. What I have seen is press speculation. I expect to get some more information in the near future, but that is something that is not clear at all.

In terms of how the process will work – disbanding the M23 and demobilizing them, disarming them – the agreement that is yet to be signed has very specific provisions that provide for the sequencing of how the group will be disarmed; where, for example, they would be in a cantonment zone, which is important because they need to be protected from other armed groups. To disarm them and not provide them protection would be obviously unreasonable and not something they would sign on to. So there is a very carefully worked out sequence of steps.

It also raises the question of groups of those who cannot get amnesty. You were sort of referring to some of those individuals. There is also an important step that has to be taken, which is the passing of a national amnesty law by the Congolese Government. That amnesty law will not provide amnesty for war crimes or crimes against humanity for people who have committed those crimes. It will only – if this agreement goes through the way I hope it will and believe it will – it will only provide amnesty for the – sort of the rank-and-file members of M23 for purposes of having been part of a rebellion. In other words, they’re forgiven for having started or been involved in a rebellion as long as they pledge individually to not rebel again. And if they do rebel again or participate in rebellion, they lose their amnesty, but no amnesty for the type of people who have committed crimes against humanity and international crime.

So that’s a major distinction between this and the 2009 agreement, actually the March 23 – M23 agreement in 2009 that did give that kind of amnesty to people who committed major crimes. In fact, they allowed them to come back into the Congolese military. That is not happening in this case if this agreement goes through the way I believe it will go through, and certainly, the international community and the United States would not support such an agreement. I also believe that the Congolese Government would never sign such an agreement this time.

So there has to be accountability. There’s no impunity in this this time.

QUESTION: So there will be some accountability for crimes committed, then?

MR. FEINGOLD: There has to be. And in fact, the United States –

QUESTION: But not rank-and-file guys. How do they determine who is held – which ones are held accountable? Does it depend on what they –

MR. FEINGOLD: They have a very good sense –

QUESTION: — or – depending on what the crime was, or depending on who they were?

MR. FEINGOLD: Yeah. Sure. Well, of course, it’s based on evidence that they committed war crimes –

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. FEINGOLD: — whether it be crimes of rape or crimes of conscripting child soldiers or any of the sort of acts – there’s plenty of information out there, and the ability to indict individuals, some of whom have already been indicted by Congolese justice system. There’s plenty of information to identify, and we have a very good sense of the people who would be subject to that kind of a process.

So, yes, there has to be accountability. The accountability would be most likely through the Congolese justice system, and that is going to need some help. One of the ideas that is out there that the United States believes is a good idea, and the international community, is a piece of legislation that is currently pending before the Congolese parliament for what’s called mixed courts. Mixed courts provide – it’s a model that’s been used, I believe, in other places, where a court is composed of some Congolese judges but also international judges with experience in these sorts of things, probably from other African countries, so to sort of upgrade and improve the quality of the process so there can be appropriate indictments and prosecution and punishment. This will be one of our very top priorities, for the special envoys and for the Congolese Government, so that this has a very different face than what happened with – on the previous two occasions, where this – an agreement was made but it essentially just set up a system where this would happen again. The goal here is to make sure this can’t happen again.

QUESTION: Okay.

MODERATOR: Cynthia, I believe our next caller in line is Arshad Mohammed from Reuters. Can you please open Arshad’s line?

OPERATOR: And Arshad, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing the call. Two things: Can you explain to us how you hope the Kampala Declaration, once it is signed, may help pave the way to addressing some of the root causes of the conflict in eastern Congo, and notably, how it might over time help address questions such as the return of Tutsi refugees from Rwanda? And secondly – and guarantees of land for Tutsi pastoralists in eastern Congo.

MR. FEINGOLD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And then, secondly, do you anticipate any change in the U.S. position on defense assistance to Rwanda in the light of the current situation on the ground?

MR. FEINGOLD: Your question goes right to the heart of this matter and what I started the conversation about, the distinction between the Kampala talks and the broader talks – hopefully, mediated talks – that need to happen under the framework agreement. The Kampala talks preceded and were not directly related to the framework, but it was our judgment as special envoys that it would be extremely important to resolve the M23 issue to get on to those root causes. In other words, if it was still actively, with its military capacity at the time, causing war in eastern Congo, it would be extremely hard to get the parties to sit down and talk about the broader context. So that’s why we put so much focus on trying to get what we hope is the resolution, conclusion of the talks, and the disbandment of the M23. But it is only a series of talks that have to do with M23 and its rebellion. It does not go to the root cause of the problem.

So how do we get to the next step? The next step is to get the parties in the region, hopefully with the help of the African Union and others, to agree on actual talks and an agenda for talks – mediated talks, I would hope – under African leadership, where the items on that agenda are not just the M23 but are things exactly what you just described. How can refugees be returned? And that’s just not a problem of how do you – where do you return them to. The question is, have you resolved and given protection for ethnic tensions, Rwandaphone populations that live in eastern Congo, land tenure issues, and others? In so doing, you have to be careful to not get into matters that are purely or largely matters within the context of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There needs to be some sensitivity to those issues that are properly within the sphere of that government and our work with them, and then some issues are international and some are regional. The framework agreement contemplates that because it has benchmarks, separate benchmarks, for international, regional, and national progress in these areas.

My belief is the only way you get those benchmarks enforced and integrated with each other is by having actual talks where countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo are represented at the table, and probably other countries in the region who have an interest in this matter, because as the summit in Pretoria that I just returned from illustrates, the entire continent, particularly the SADC region and the ICGLR region, are extremely concerned about this instability in Congo and see it as threatening the entire continent, not just the specific Great Lakes region.

The other – only other point I would make is that, in the somewhat narrower context of being able to deal with other armed groups in the area, the successful disbandment of the M23 clearly opens the door for the absolute necessity to go after groups like the FDLR, which, of course, is associated with the Rwandan genocide in the past, and the ADF, which is a group that has been antagonistic to the Ugandan Government over the years and is largely operating in eastern Congo, as well as other groups. So Kampala is a jumping off point to get more serious about those other armed groups, but also fundamentally to have a series of negotiations that actually get at some of the issues that have led to this extremely complicated situation in eastern Congo.

QUESTION: How – as I understand it, there are no such additional negotiations scheduled. How quickly do you think that may happen, and what are the impediments to that happening once the M23 issue is substantially resolved, if it is?

MR. FEINGOLD: It will require the political will of the countries in the region. These countries have all signed the framework agreement in which they pledged no support for these armed groups, in which they agreed that issues about reform within the Democratic Republic of Congo and issues about the return of refugees and all – and as well as positive opportunities in terms of economic development. There’s already this piece of paper that talks about that and benchmarks. But in the end, there’s no requirement in any of that, that this be a face-to-face process where there’s a mediator who actually encourages them to come to serious agreements that can be enforced and watched over time. That is something that all of us have been working on. I have discussed this myself with President Kagame, President Kabila, Mrs. Zuma, the head of the African Union, and there’s a healthy conversation going on about whether such talks could occur, what they would look like, who might be involved in those talks.

But in the end, if the African leaders do not want such talks, they won’t happen. There’s nothing in the framework itself that mandates that that particular process occurs. It’s my belief as a special envoy that, without that, this is not likely to be a successful effort at getting at the root causes. They’re too complex to simply do by sort of a shuttle diplomacy approach.

QUESTION: Lastly, can you comment on the U.S. posture on military assistance to Rwanda?

MR. FEINGOLD: Yes. The United States has chosen this year to be firm with regard to our concern that there is a credible body of reporting that Rwanda has given support to the M23, at least in the past. Rwanda is a friend and an ally, and we have a lot of admiration for what they’ve accomplished; but any such support for the M23, of course, is inconsistent with our views, with international law, and in particular, Rwanda’s own position as a signatory to the framework.

So we have been candid with our friend. We have, in some cases, put sanctions because of a concern – concerns about, for example, the support – the recruitment or assistance in terms of children soldiers for the M23 and involvement of Rwanda in that. If it turns out that Rwanda is no longer involved in such activities, if it turns out that their role here has been a positive one and there is much that they have done during this process to be positive, with President Kagame issuing a statement that he wanted these talks concluded – if that bears out that there is a different approach here than the one we have believed is happening, then we would certainly review whether it’s appropriate to continue these sanctions. They are based specifically on certain actions that we believe occurred, and if those actions cease, there would certainly be a serious review of whether it’s appropriate to continue.

QUESTION: And do you believe that they have ceased?

MR. FEINGOLD: We don’t know for sure. This is just like the questions about where some of these individuals might be. That is still up in the air. And I think it’s going to be a fact-based investigation with the sincere hope that we find out that that support has terminated, and certainly with an open mind in that regard.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for a couple more questions here. Next in line we have Nicolas Revise from AFP. Cynthia, can you open up his line?

OPERATOR: And Nicolas, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Thank you for doing that. A follow-up on Arshad’s question: Is it correct to say that the surrender of M23 is partly due to huge U.S. pressures put on Rwanda to cut off ties with M23 rebellion, and especially thanks to very recent phone call between the Secretary Kerry and President Kagame? Thank you.

MR. FEINGOLD: I would say, first of all, that the United States has taken a much more involved role in this entire region, that that has included efforts to try to bring the Kampala talks to a successful conclusion. And a part of that has been Secretary Kerry’s willingness to call not once but more than once to suggest to all the leaders in the region that this process must conclude.

In addition, the United States has shown tremendous interest in this by allowing me to work full-time as the first full-blown special envoy, and I have traveled to the region now three times since early September to work with the other special envoys. This is a level of engagement that is probably unprecedented for the United States. So it clearly – the decision by President Obama and Secretary Kerry to make this one of their leading priorities in Africa, and frankly, one of the leading priorities in their national policy, is really significant. And when Secretary Kerry – in addition to his phone call, when Secretary Kerry had an opportunity to chair the United Nations Security Council for the first time in his tenure as Secretary of State, he could have chosen a lot of topics to discuss, to make the topic. He chose this.

And that was an important moment to signal the very intense American involvement in this, which is continuing on a daily basis. So I am proud to be part of that effort. The leadership shown by this Administration and the engagement, I think is being noticed. In fairness, it is combined, of course, with the rest of the international community. The fact that the United Nations chose Mary Robinson, a distinguished former president of Ireland, to be an envoy, to have the full-time envoy from the European Union, an envoy from the African Union, and Mr. Kobler’s involvement.

These are levels of diplomatic sustained attention combined with the United States efforts that are unprecedented. And what’s really striking is that we are there all the time. It is not as if we have a meeting in New York or we go to Africa every once in a while. The leaders, and particularly the people at the Kampala talks, noticed that we were around even at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning on occasion to observe the proceedings. I believe all of that, including, of course, Secretary Kerry’s phone calls, were helpful in making it clear that we would not go away until this was resolved.

MODERATOR: I believe we have time for that one last question, and the last question here is from Dana Hughes from ABC. Cynthia, can you open up Dana’s line?

OPERATOR: Dana, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you again for doing this. Just a couple of follow-up questions. One, I was interested in what you were talking about with the accountability and the international sort of justice with Congolese judges and international judges as well. Can you talk a little bit about getting to the heart of the problem of the security sector reform and what role the United States is playing in that? Are – is the United States providing trainers? Are there still military trainers on the ground?

MR. FEINGOLD: Well, first of all, the accountability issue and justice issues is one of the three aspects of security sector reform. Number one, of course, is the military. Number two is police. And number three is the justice system. So I’ve already talked about the way in which perhaps mixed courts legislation could assist in that part of the process.

But there needs to be a greater reform of the military itself. Now, some steps have been taken, and I think the success of the Congolese military is an indication in its recent actions that those steps are helping. For example, they put in new, more effective commanders, they have better logistical actions.

On the other hand, there’s much more that has to be done to modernize the military. In fact, the soldiers are not even paid in an effective way. There needs to be a much better system for making sure that this is a professional army where people are paid, and aren’t encouraged to sort of get their payment by abusing local citizens, which is something that has happened in the past. We have to make sure that this army is one that would no longer take advantage of a military situation to take reprisals against citizens, or take advantage of people in a community just because they happen to be in an area that they’ve successfully taken over during a military operation.

The United States is prepared to assist, through the United Nations and through our own programs, with a wide range of reform measures involving the military. That’s one of the things I’m working with various donor communities about how we might help with something like that. An example might be sort of the online, cell phone type of bank account that’s available. Mobile banking is a way to pay a soldier, rather than having a bag of money go to a commander and being sent that way.

These are innovative ways that we can help with the process, and I think that those kinds of things to modernize the military might be among the things we can do in the near term. True reform of a military like that is going to take many years – five to 10 years. And we need some signs of confidence building to build on the other things that the Congolese military has done to make it clear to people that this military is reforming itself. And so I think those kinds of modernization things would be high on the list. We’re not looking here to provide bricks and mortar for the Congolese military. We’re looking more to modernizing it.

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you very much. I want to thank Special Envoy Feingold for his time today in doing this call, and to all of you for your participation.

SOURCE

US Department of State

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The fighting has caused massive displacement -International pressure needed to repair the situation

Posted by African Press International on September 15, 2013

Hoping for a lull in fighting as talks proceed (file photo)

KAMPALA,  – After months of delay, peace talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and M23 rebels are back on, at the urging of regional leaders. But analysts remain sceptical that a truce can be achieved after more than a year and a half of intermittent fighting in eastern DRC’s North Kivu Province.

On 10 September, the two delegations met for the first time since April, with Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga mediating. The talks had first kicked off in December 2012, under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), but have broken down a number of times since then.

“We are very optimistic we shall be able to deliver something in the two weeks,” Kiyonga told IRIN. “There is renewed commitment by the two sides. For some time, the government side was not here [Kampala]. But now everybody has come.”

M23 – the March 23 Movement – came into existence in April 2012, when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the national army (FARDC), mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

An estimated 900,000 people are currently displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Humanitarians continue to flag the issue of civilian protection as FARDC and M23 engage in intermittent battles in and around the provincial capital Goma, where the fighting has displaced more than 100,000.

International pressure

The resumption of the talks follows a directive by a 5 September ICGLR Heads of State and Government summit, which set a three-day deadline for talks to resume and conclude within a fortnight.

But analysts say it is pressure from international leaders, rather than a genuine commitment to a negotiated solution, that has led to revived talks.

While on a joint visit to DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, a delegation of senior African Union, European Union (EU), UN and US officials, led by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Mary Robinson, called for the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region. The framework aims for, among other things, improving security and consolidating the state’s authority in eastern DRC. The agreement was signed on 24 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by 11 African countries.

The officials also urged all parties to “bring the Kampala Dialogue to a positive and swift conclusion”, encourage the reduction of tensions in eastern DRC, and “identify and support confidence-building measures between DRC and Rwanda”.

“The Congolese government is coming back to the negotiations table but seems forced to do so. During the opening of the national consultations[held in Kinshasa on 10 September], President Kabila made it clear that if the talks fail, the fighting will resume,” Thierry Vircoulon, an analyst with the South Africa based think-tank International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN.

“I think concerted pressure by a variety of envoys from the US, the EU, Belgium and the UN has made an impact, particularly through pressure on Rwanda [which is accused of supporting the M23 rebels, a claim vehemently denied by the Rwandan government]. Whether this will amount to anything, however, remains to be seen,” Jason Stearns, director of the Rift Valley Institute’s (RVI) Usalama Project, which conducts research on armed groups in eastern DRC, told IRIN.

“The initial statements by the M23 and the Congolese government do not look promising. If the talks are to succeed, both sides will have to bridge a deep divide on various issues, particularly whether the top leadership of the M23 can be integrated into the army and whether they will be redeployed across the country,” he added.

Tough positions

Kiyonga told a media briefing on 10 September that the two parties had reached a draft peace deal, with 60 percent of its clauses agreed upon. According to Rene Abandi, head of M23’s delegation, some of the key sticking points include: the reintegration of top M23 leadership into FARDC; disarmament and demobilization of the rebels; and the elimination of the DRC-based, Hutu-dominated Rwandan rebel group Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR).

Abandi said he hoped this time “we shall be able to handle all the issues”, sentiments echoed by Francois Mwamba, spokesman for the DRC government’s delegation.

“One of the key outcomes of this round of talks will be how the ICGLR and the parties themselves deal with the issue of amnesty and impunity for the leadership of the M23. A divide has already become apparent with both the UN and US envoys making statements that amnesty must not be an option for M23 senior leadership, while the current chair of the ICGLR, President Museveni, has publicly stated that amnesty must be on the table,” Aaron Hall, field researcher for anti-genocide group The Enough Project, told IRIN.

The fighting has caused massive displacement (file photo)

“There must be accountability for the most responsible perpetrators of the most serious crimes. Previous amnesty deals for leaders of rebel movements in eastern Congo – whether it be military reintegration, house arrest, or third country resettlement – have not only failed, but continued to perpetuate conflict in eastern Congo,” he added. “History in the region clearly demonstrates that there can be no peace without justice.”

According to a recent blog post by Stearns, despite the resumption of talks, the parties effectively remained deadlocked, with M23 saying “they would only put down their weapons if the FDLR are neutralized and Congolese refugees are allowed to return to the Congo, two goals that will take years to fully achieve”.

“On the other side of the table, the Congolese government has issued arrest warrants for Colonel Makenga, Kayna and Kazarama – the number one and two of the M23, as well as their spokesperson, respectively,” he added. “It is difficult to see the Kinshasa delegation, or international observers for that matter, accepting an amnesty for these top officials, which would mean that the M23 would have to accept excluding its top leadership.”

Uganda’s Kiyonga urged all parties – including the recently deployed UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) – to desist from further violence while the talks were underway. The latest violence broke out in July; by early September, however, the rebels had retreated from Goma following an offensive by the UN FIB.

“It’s unfortunate that we keep getting renewed fighting in the field. You can’t keep talking yet there is fighting… Any shelling or shooting should stop,” he said. “The UN is expected to respect the dialogue. I hope they will understand, [and] there will be no fighting as we talk.”

Humanitarian organizations working in the region are keenly awaiting the results of the talks but are unsure whether they will make a difference on the ground. “The key issue is that the M23 and the situation in Rutshuru area is not the only problem in eastern DRC. There are many other armed groups that are causing unrest, and many say that there is an increase in banditism,” said Chantal Daniels, Central Africa policy and advocacy officer for the NGO Christian Aid. “In general, I’m afraid that Kampala will not change things significantly on the ground. Even if an agreement is reached between the DRC and the M23, it is questionable if and how this is implemented, what the conditions from both sides are, and what that will do with the further dynamics with regard to armed groups on the ground.”

She added: “Last week SRSG [Special Representative of the UN Secretary General] of MONUSCO [the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC] Martin Kobler mentioned that ‘islands of peace’ will be created. I am very curious to see [what] this will look like, also with regard to humanitarian access during operations, and to what extent these ‘islands’ can be sustainable.”

Doubts about Uganda, ICGLR

There has been some criticism of the ICGLR’s handling of the talks and doubt about its ability to deliver a peaceful conclusion to the conflict.

“The ICGLR has proven useful in its role as a convener. However, a fundamental flaw of the Kampala talks to this point has been lack of transparency, accountability and inclusivity,” said Hall. “In order to make gains towards peace, stability and development in eastern Congo, a broader, more inclusive process is necessary that focuses on regional drivers of instability and brings to the table key actors that have been absent from the current talks – particularly the government of Rwanda.”

Also in question is Uganda’s neutrality, particularly following the DRC government’s August expulsion of Uganda’s Brigadier Geoffrey Muheesi, coordinator of the regional Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), set up by the ICGLR to address DRC-Rwanda border security issues. It is thought Muheesi was expelled for being too friendly to the rebels and to Rwanda.

“The talks are under the auspices of Uganda, which is not seen as neutral by Kinshasa, as demonstrated by the fact that the Ugandan general running the joint verification mechanism was recently expelled by the DRC. There is a clear lack of trust with the Ugandan facilitation,” said ICG’s Vircoulon.

Despite the challenges, analysts say there is reason to hope that the talks, if handled correctly, could reach a positive conclusion. “Given the pressure and timelines put on both sides by the ICGLR, UN Special Envoy and other international partners, this iteration of talks presents the greatest chance thus far for agreement to be reached,” said Hall, who noted that the success of the current round of talks would largely depend on both parties demonstrating “empathy and pragmatism”.

He continued: “For example, M23 cannot expect blanket amnesty and the full eradication of the FDLR in a two-week period, nor can the government of Congo expect temporary military gains made with support from the FIB and UN to be long-term solutions to dealing with the grievances of the M23.”

so/kr/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

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NGO denounces the suspension of antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatments

Posted by African Press International on September 3, 2013

lead photo

BRAZZAVILLE,  – A human rights NGO based in the Congolese capital Brazzzaville has denounced the suspension of antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatments for thousan ds of HIV/AIDS patients in Congo.

“As we speak, Congo is totally lacking ARVs. We’ve been to enquire at the Outpatient Treatment Centre [which supports patients]: It has no Atripla, Efavirenz or Nevirapine,” Pan African Association Thomas Sankara (APTS) chairman Germain Cephas Ewangui told IRIN.

“The situation could cause a rise in the number of deaths, the development of resistance [to ARVs administered later] and the recurrence and development of opportunistic infections. The situation is serious: we are facing very serious violations of human rights and particularly the right to life,” said Ewangui.

“It is indeed a form of irresponsibility that we equate to an organized crime, requiring not only administrative sanctions, but also… prosecution because the situation is serious, intolerable and unacceptable,” Ewangui added.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population, some 16,310 patients in Congo were receiving ARVs, while 38,500 are waiting to get them.

The ministry acknowledged that ARV treatment had stopped. “There was a malfunction. There was a break in the supply and distribution chain, but the situation is being corrected,” said Executive Secretary of the National Council for the Fight against AIDS (CNLS) Marie-Francke Puruehnce.

“The situation should not lead to declarations and denunciations,” said Puruehnce.

A consultant from the Ministry of Health, who requested anonymity, told IRIN: “Such failures sometimes happen once or twice a year. But they do not last long.”

Officially Congo spends 2-5 billion CFA francs (US$4-10 million) a year on providing free treatment to HIV/AIDS patients.

According to the ministry, HIV prevalence fell from 4.2 percent in 2003 to 3.2 percent in 2011. The prevalence of pregnant women with HIV/AIDS fell from 3.4 percent in 2009 to 2.8 percent in 2012.

Congo, where per capita income in 2011 was estimated at $4,600, committed in 2001 to allocate 15 percent of the state budget to health, but it is currently earmarking only about 9 percent, according to the World Bank.

Interruption of ARV therapy risks patients developing resistance to the drugs and can hasten progress to AIDS and death.

lmm/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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M23 fighting the DRC is one of the 30 armed groups in the country’s east.

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2013

M23, currently fighting the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and UN forces near the North Kivu cap ital of Goma, is just one of more than 30 armed groups in the country’s east, all of which – through casualties or desertions – need to constantly replenish their ranks. Any previous affiliations to militias is not a barrier for recruitment.

After a year spent serving in the DRC-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Céléstin Kabeya*, a 19-year-old former combatant, fears returning home. He says he will only be forcibly recruited – again – into one of the three militias at large in the area.

Kabeya told IRIN that he had been forced to join the FDLR in 2012 after a patrol passed through his family farm in the North Kivu territory of Rutshuru.

“They first asked me to help them carry water, and then asked for directions. I showed them the way, and then they told me not to go back. They did not give me any military training. They just gave me a sub-machine gun,” he explained.

He said he was one of seven Congolese in the FDLR unit of about 50 combatants – the majority exiled Rwandans – four of whom were child soldiers. Without a salary, they survived by “looting only.”

“I worry about going home. I am afraid to go back, as there are three [armed] groups there. I will just be recruited by force again. I am thinking about maybe trying to find a relative in Goma to live with,” Kabeya said. The groups operating in his home area are the FDLR, Forces de Défense Congolaise (FDC) and Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS).

Caught in a cycle

Joining a succession of different militias, or being “recycled” into other armed groups, is not uncommon in North and South Kivu provinces.

Rufin Kapiamba*, a 21-year-old former combatant, said he voluntarily joined the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC/Sheka) to seek revenge against the FDLR, after witnessing its members decapitate his uncle near the North Kivu town of Pinga. He became part of a 52-strong detachment, of which a third were children.

He said Sheka Ntaberi, the group’s leader, first enlisted in the FDLR and then created his own militia. At first the two armed groups co-existed in an area replete with mineral wealth, but the alliance broke down over control of the natural resources.

“When we captured FDLR [combatants], we would kill them by cutting their heads off. I was afraid to do that. The kids shot them with a gun”

“When we captured FDLR [combatants], we would kill them by cutting their heads off. I was afraid to do that. The kids shot them with a gun. They were not ready to cut their heads off,” Kapiamba said.

He tried and failed to desert four times. “My two friends were killed [in an escape attempt],” he said, tugging open his loose-fitting shirt to reveal the scar from a bullet wound just below his collarbone.

Kapiamba ended up being captured by the APCLS during skirmishes over the control of a gold mine. Because of his first-hand knowledge of NDC/Sheka, he was absorbed into the militia as an intelligence officer – probably saving his life. After a month, he escaped, fleeing more than 30km to Kitchanga, where he handed himself over to the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO).

He is now being demobilized at MONUSCO’s Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, Repatriation and Resettlement (DDRRR) transit centre in Goma.

Yet Kapiamba’s options for civilian life are limited. He wants to complete the last two years of secondary school and says he will live with his sister in Goma, yet all he possesses are the civilian clothes he is wearing.

During his time with the armed groups, Kapiamba was paid US$15 to $20 every few months. His duties included manning checkpoints, imposing “taxes” on people travelling to markets – demanding either 200 Congolese francs ($0.21) or foodstuffs – which was funnelled to the armed groups’ leadership. He will be fortunate to have any income as a civilian.

Demobilization and integration

For nearly a decade, large-scale disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes were operated in DRC, starting in 2002 with the UN Community Disarmament and Resettlement (CDR) programme in the Ituri region. Such programmes assisted former combatants in their transition to civilian life by providing cash or in-kind payments, such as bicycles or skills training. Tens of thousands or more passed through the national DDR programme.

Another strategy involved integrating former rebels into the security services. The National Commission for DDR was established in 2003, and the following year, after 10 armed groups signed a peace agreement, “it was estimated 330,000 combatants were eligible,” for the transition programme to civilian livelihoods according to an April report by the Small Arms Survey (SAS).

The programme was expanded to 22 more armed groups after the signing of another round of peace agreements in 2008. But “despite the increased number of armed groups eligible for DDR, fewer combatants participated in the government-led DDR programmes than anticipated,” said the SAS report. “This is because the DRC government opted to directly integrate these 22 armed groups (or roughly 20,000 combatants) into the national army and police.”

The national DDR programme ended in September 2011.

“Imperative that a new DDR programme is conceived and implemented… and offer alternative opportunities to rejoin civilian life”

Both processes, DDR and integration into FARDC, have had mixed results, according to analysts. But with the recent implementation of an aggressive UN mandate to “neutralize” all armed groups in the Kivus, there could soon be thousands of combatants exiting rebel ranks – either through defeat or defection – without any real alternatives for livelihoods.

Federico Borello, of the US Senate subcommittee on African Relations, said at a briefing in April that it was “imperative that a new DDR programme is conceived and implemented… and offer alternative opportunities to rejoin civilian life, such as road construction projects or other work opportunities.”

Those opting for integration into the FARDC “should be trained and then deployed into army units throughout the country; they should not remain in units operating in their former area of operation as an armed group,” he said.

In the past such proposals to remove armed group’s from their areas of operation had met fierce resistance, as they deprived former militias from continuing their rent seeking operations, even if they are formally members of the FARDC.

Such an integration initiative, Borello said, should also ensure “those responsible for serious [human rights] abuses are not integrated into the army but instead arrested and brought to justice.”

Integration losing lustre

The integration strategy has been viewed as far from favourable, but even so, the Mai-Mai group Yakutumba is on the cusp of being integrated into the FARDC, according a recent report by the Rift Valley Institute (RVI).

“The one-sided focus on the military integration of rebel groups has failed,” the report said, and it does not address “the issue of impunity for rebel leaders suspected of having committed serious crimes.” 

A Goma-based analyst, who declined to be named, said the experience of integrating the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), an allegedly Rwandan-back armed group, had tainted the government’s view of integration.

A 23 March 2009 peace accord signed with CNDP resulted in the group’s integration into the FARDC, but in 2012, former CNDP members said the government had reneged on the deal by failing to provide them agreed-upon military ranks and not paying salaries. The dispute paved the way for the emergence of the M23 militia, named for the 2009 peace deal.

“The DRC [government] does not want integration of armed groups into the army. The international community is pushing for it, but the Congolese don’t want it,” the analyst told IRIN.

The Goma analyst said the aim of integration was to dismantle an armed group’s command structure, but Kinshasa’s haste was greeted with suspicion by the former CNDP military hierarchy. “It would have been best to be gradual. Do it subtly. Send a few [CNDP officers] abroad for training, redeploy some to [the capital] Kinshasa. Do something like that.”

In fact, integration in DRC has seen entire armed groups housed within a single FARDC unit. In such cases, the issuing of FARDC uniforms to former rebels becomes, essentially, camouflage for the lack of government authority.

Instability for security

For Rwanda, the alleged sponsors of M23, having a proxy force a “phone call away” allows them to destabilize the region, the Goma analyst said, which it does “every time the situation improves [in the Kivus].”

Stability in the Kivus was seen as a greater threat to Rwanda’s security than instability, as the latter allowed Rwanda to exert influence in the region, the analyst said.

“The FARDC control the area, but if they [armed groups] come again, I will run as a civilian”

The Kivus’ cycle of violence has left countless young people vulnerable to militia recruitment – both voluntary and involuntary – and to subsequent revolving-door membership in a series of other armed groups.

One 22-year-old former combatant, who declined to be identified, said he joined an armed group voluntarily after witnessing the rape of his sister and mother by CNDP-aligned Mai-Mai combatants. He went on to spend four years serving in armed groups ¬- first the FDLR and then Nyatura, an ethnic Hutu militia. He now has a plan to escape being “recycled” into yet another armed group.

“I am going back to Nyamilima [in North Kivu] to help my mother on the farm,” he told IRIN. “The FARDC control the area, but if they [armed groups] come again, I will run as a civilian.”

 

Source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equation altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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“Difficult to live” – Goma`s displaced

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2013

BULENGO,  – If the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu capital of Goma were a hotel, there would be a sign hanging on the door with the words “sorry – no vacancies.”
From the 1994 exodus from neighbouring Rwanda, in the wake of the genocide, to interstate wars and decades of insecurity caused by a multitude of armed groups, the city has become the end of the line for those fleeing the country’s conflicts.

The latest influx of internally displaced people (IDPs), fleeing conflict with the allegedly Rwandan-backed armed group M23, is pushing the city to its breaking point.

“Goma is full,” Flora Camain, the Goma-based spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told IRIN. “There’s no room left.”

More to come

In response to continued displacements from across North Kivu, about 30 temporary “spontaneous sites” have been established in the province, using venues ranging from churches and schools to marginal land.

NGOs are providing basic services, such as water and sanitation and primary healthcare, to the burgeoning IDP population. IDPs are also staying with host families in the city.

According to the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), “Over one million civilians live in the relatively small area of Goma and Sake and along the road that connects them, where amongst others the Mugunga IDP camps, temporary home to 70,000 people displaced by the conflict, are situated.”

Of the more than two million IDPs in the country, about one million are displaced from South and North Kivu provinces. Spontaneous sites have been established in the North Kivu towns of Goma, Masisi, Rutshuru and Walikale. And the robust mandate afforded to a UN intervention force meant to “neutralize” the more than 30 armed groups in the Kivu provinces is expected to see even more displacements.

IOM, other humanitarian actors and local authorities are currently identifying any available land to accommodate new influxes of IDPs, while at the same time preparing for the eventual return of the displaced should there be an improvement in the region’s security conditions.

Although the displaced plight is high on the agenda of donors, IDPs in spontaneous sites – due to their sheer number and extreme need – often have access to only “minimum assistance,” Camain said.

“Difficult to live”

IOM estimates the population of IDPs living in spontaneous sites in North Kivu is about 231,000 people. One such site is Bulengo, on the outskirts of Goma, where about 58,000 people live.

Aziza Kasidika, 19 and three months pregnant, fled there from North Kivu’s Masisi during fighting between DRC’s national army (FARDC) and armed groups in January 2013. She has since lost contact with her family.

Her home is a crudely constructed “bâche”, about 2m long and just more than half as high. Branches provide a framework for thatch, with a patchwork of plastic bags to try to keep the weather out. A piece of cloth is used for a door, and the bed is a thin mattress of grass on top of volcanic rock.

“I sleep very bad because I sleep on the rock. The bad shelter is a problem, and it’s very difficult to live. I get sick,” she told IRIN. “There should be food distribution twice a month, but it’s only usually once a month. I get rice, maize, beans and oil, and there is never enough salt.”

The absence of adequate shelter is a common complaint in Bulengo, as are the security risks associated with foraging for fuel – needed for both cooking and warmth – beyond the site’s perimeter.

“I don’t know how long I will be here. It’s difficult to see the future. Our only future is the next food hand-out… I will return to Masisi when there is peace – but not that regular peace of two weeks and then war again. I live in Bulengo, and I will stay in Bulengo,” Kasidika said.

Illness, uncertainty

Maria Sankia, 60, fled to Bulengo from Walikale in November 2012, after fighting between the armed groups the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Raïa Mutomboki – Swahili for “angry citizens”. She came with two of her neighbour’s young children, and cites the same concerns as Kasidika: food distribution, security and poor shelter.

“Children don’t have schooling. There are no toys; there is nothing for the children to do. So many children go to the lake, but they don’t know how to swim. Five or six children have drowned [in Lake Kivu] that I know about since I came here,” she told IRIN.

“This is maybe the fourth time I have run away. But this time was definitely the worst”

Goma-based Christian Reynders, of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has established primary healthcare clinics at spontaneous sites, told IRIN that the medical caseload included diarrhoea and malnutrition, but that the predominant issue was respiratory tract infections, a direct consequence of the IDPs’ inadequate shelter.

At MSF’s Majengo clinic, situated in a Goma school where IDPs have taken refuge, Barikurie Kosi, 35, told IRIN, “This is maybe the fourth time I have run away [from Kibati, after M23 entered her village]. But this time was definitely the worst. There was no chance to take anything.”

She fled her home in May and arrived in Goma after a six day walk. She managed to bring her youngest three children, aged two, three and six, but her three teenage children, 13, 15 and 17, “ran in other directions. I don’t know where they are.”

“I don’t know when I will go back,” she said. “I am staying at the clinic.”

go/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2013

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equa tion altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Small-scale traders face constant harassment from security forces and corrupt government officials

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Goma, the capital of the Congolese eastern province of North Kivu, continues to face serious challenges

GOMA, – Three years ago when Jean*, 41, applied for a license to open a hardware shop in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he had to pay a fee of US$1,500 to the General Tax Directorate, and the whole process took a year.

“Every time I went to the [tax] office, they denied I ever paid the money, yet I had an official receipt from the General Tax Directorate. I had to pay a bribe to get the license,” he told IRIN.

Since opening, Jean has had to contend with different people claiming to be government officials coming regularly to his shop asking him to pay additional taxes.

“Here nothing works because all the time, people come to you saying they are from the General Tax Directorate but they have no identification at all. You just have to pay them. The tax they ask for is never uniform and depends on the mood of the person who comes to collect it,” he added.

Jean’s experience highlights the incapacity, or virtual absence, of state institutions and endemic corruption in this part of DRC.

Another example: The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that two thirds of children in North and South Kivu provinces do not have a birth certificate, though you have to have one (in theory at least) to be enrolled in school in the DRC.

But it is not just the lack of an effective state bureaucracy that worries some observers – many health and education services in eastern DRC are funded or controlled by aid agencies.

A March 2013 paper by Koen Vlassenroot and Karen Büscher of the Conflict Research Group argues that in Goma and elsewhere in eastern DRC, power, authority and state sovereignty have been transferred to aid organizations.

“Due to a lack of means, capacity, motivation, vision, corruption and mismanagement, state services have been constantly hollowed out and have increasingly been replaced by new coalitions of local and international development actors.”

One effect “of the humanitarian sector’s presence and interventions is the encouragement of state withdrawal from public services and a transfer of power and legitimacy to the advantage of international actors. This sector has largely taken over education and health care, and even the rehabilitation of road infrastructure,” they said.

For instance, in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs 40 health centres, nine health posts, and four referral clinics and supports 11 government-owned health clinics.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed for nearly US$6 million to fund educational activities in North and South Kivu in 2012; and $9 million for education and 2.8 million for nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene services for the whole of DRC in 2013.

According to Büscher and Vlassenroot, international aid agencies have replaced the state in key sectors. They say development “is understood locally as a responsibility of the humanitarian sector” – meaning that citizens see development, or the lack of it, as the effort or failure of aid organizations operating in the area.

“Governance by substitution”

Marc-Andre Lagrange, Central Africa senior analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN: “The Congolese administration based in Kinshasa has chosen governance by substitution in managing the affairs of the country’s eastern region” in which the government appears to have handed over the responsibility of providing services to aid organizations.

Small-scale traders face constant harassment from security forces and corrupt government officials

This, Lagrange argues, is not “something new in DRC as it was the Mobutu regime that introduced that practice of weakening the state apparatus and handing over social services to humanitarian and charitable organizations. Education and health care have long since been taken over by the Catholic Church in most of the country. Organizations such as MSF were present in DRC long before 1994 [and have provided health care since].”

Problems are many

Pacifique Borauzima Buluhukiro, a programme officer in Goma with International Alert, told IRIN: “The roads are in disrepair; electricity is irregular in town and absent in rural areas. Schools and health facilities are in poor condition and are in inaccessible areas [even] for humanitarian organizations.”

Armed groups continue to control large swathes of the region. A result of these conflicts has been the internal displacement of an estimated 2.7 million people, the third largest internal displacement in the world.

“The government doesn’t provide anything”

Those who live in camps around Goma, uprooted from their homes by armed rebel groups, say they do not receive any assistance from the government.

Nadia, a 27-year-old mother of three from Ruthshuru, told IRIN from Mugunga 3, a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the outskirts of Goma: “We have no food, water or even [security] and the government doesn’t even visit to see how we live. Only NGOs at times come here to help.”

Lack of access to clean water has made cholera and waterborne diseases endemic. The absence of government investment in the health sector has meant the few clinics, operated mostly by aid agencies, are overstretched and unable to cope.

“At times people come and we just look at them because we don’t have any way of helping them. We have no drugs. At times some organizations offer to help but it is too little and it runs out quickly. The government doesn’t provide anything,” a nurse at a government-owned health facility, told IRIN.

Corruption

A Congolese human rights activist who preferred anonymity told IRIN that even though taxes are levied through the General Tax Directorate, the revenue ends up in the pockets of government officials.

“Corruption in DRC is endemic. The country has an undemocratic, authoritarian and untransparent governance system that supports patronage networks based on the exchange of favours and murky resource transfers”

“Corruption in DRC is endemic. The country has an undemocratic, authoritarian and untransparent governance system that supports patronage networks based on the exchange of favours and murky resource transfers,” Marta Martinelli, a programme officer at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), said in a recent report.

A senior civil servant in the North Kivu governor’s office told IRIN political leaders are focused more on retaining political power than providing services.

“The resources available are used to extend political patronage. In the eastern part, the conflict is a good excuse for government officials to say `when there is peace, we will come to help’,” he said.

Francois Rumuzi, a 24-year-old trader in Goma, told IRIN that seeing the poorly paid local police, who do little to protect residents from criminals, is the closest he gets to feeling the government’s presence.

“When you listen to the radio, you hear government officials talk about this or that, but the government doesn’t help people here. Even the police here say they can’t protect us because the government doesn’t pay them,” he said.

Fidel Bafilemaba, a Goma-based researcher with the Enough Project, said the absence of an effective state presence has made eastern DRC the “nerve centre” of what he called DRC’s “non-state status”. He said conflict had exposed “the government’s failure in security, health and education sector reforms”. He said the situation had led many to declare the DRC “a failed state”.

Traditional chiefs

Analysts have accused the government of leaving governance and development to traditional leaders in rural areas, something they say has failed because local chiefs have no constitutionally defined roles.

In a July 2013 analysis entitled Understanding Conflict in Eastern Congo (I): The Ruzizi Plain, ICG said; “The government remains ineffective in rural areas, leaving customary chiefs, whose role is recognised by the constitution but not fully defined, virtually in charge. They use their key position between the state and communities to benefit from any state and international investments and to protect their own interests. This fuels conflict, with intercommunal rivalries playing out in state institutions and among local and national politicians.”

To solve this problem, ICG said the Congolese authorities should “disseminate the laws on customary powers to the population and customary authorities, and train customary chiefs so they can assume their functions in accordance with the law.”

In its 2012 report Ending the Deadlock: Towards a new vision of peace in eastern DRC International Alert argues that for the state to have more legitimacy there needs to be better access to, and management of, land in rural areas; a more rational division and management of political power; better management of returning refugees and IDPs; and recognition of the importance of security.

According to OSISA’s Martinelli, DRC has serious flaws in its democratic system, a weak justice sector, deeply entrenched corruption and a “neglected or non-existent infrastructure, which prevents the effective delivery of public services”.

*not a real name

ko/am/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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The Congolese army continue to commit atrocities, including against civilians

Posted by African Press International on August 12, 2013

Analysts have called for ambitious reforms to instill discipline within the Congolese army

KAMPALA,  – Stamping out human rights abuses by the army in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) entails more than classroom training sessions, according to analysts, who recommend a wide range of ambitious reforms.

These include better discipline, an efficient payroll system, the development of security policies, the prosecution of offenders, and better education and training to reform and professionalize the army, also known as FARDC.

Soldiers, including those of 391 Commando Battalion, which was trained by the US army, have been accused of many abuses, most recently the desecration of corpses of M23 rebels, mistreatment of M23 detainees, mass rape, the killing of civilians, sexual violence, torture and the burning of villages, according to the UN and rights groups.

The causes of the violations are many, Timo Mueller, Goma-based field researcher for the Enough Project, told IRIN.

“Throughout the years, tens of thousands of former rebels from a wide range of ethnic groups have been reintegrated into the army without any vetting or human rights training… In eastern Congo, elements of the armed forces often engage in abuses similar to those of militias, exposing the population to grave risks. The frequency, nature and scale of the human rights violations are worrisome and mandate renewed attention and structural reform initiatives…

“With little to no payment, often frustrated by a lack of adequate equipment, housing and general ill-management, and in an environment where the threshold for violence has dropped dramatically, soldiers often use their own weapon to make ends meet,” he said, adding that the absence of any real military justice, civilian oversight or accountability, meant that abuses often went unpunished.

“You can train troops as much as you can with the most efficient team. In the end, if you don’t pay them on a regular basis and provide them with social benefits, it will be very hard to keep a solid discipline among your ranks,” Marc-Andre Lagrange, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN.

“Despite the introduction of banking system payment, FARDC soldiers still do not get all of their salaries and do not benefit from any social benefits,” he added.

“Moreover, lack of command and control have been noticed many times on the field during conflicts, leaving the troops with little discipline and very little cohesion.”

UN report details atrocities

In a May report the UN Joint Human Rights Office accused members of 391 Commando Battalion (which in 2010 received US Africa Command training on respect for human rights, the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, and the relationship between civilian and military authorities in a democratic society) of engaging in atrocities, including the mass rape of women and young girls in November 2012 in Minova, eastern DRC, as they fled Goma for M23-held areas.

The Congolese army continue to commit atrocities, including against civilians

The abuses by the soldiers were committed “in a systematic manner and with extreme violence”, according to the report. At least 102 women and 33 girls, reportedly as young as six, were victims of rape or other acts of sexual violence perpetrated by government soldiers.

The soldiers were also responsible for the arbitrary execution of at least two people and the widespread looting of villages. The report contained details of victims, and eyewitness accounts of mass rape, killings, arbitrary executions and other gross violations of human rights.

The US State Department said it suspended logistical support and contact with the 391 Commando Battalion from 8 March, following UN reports about the Minova abuses.

Will Stevens, a spokesperson of the Bureau of African Affairs in the US Department of State, told IRIN via email that the USA condemned these crimes and called for a “full and credible investigation”. He said the USA could not provide security assistance to military units “credibly accused of human rights violations until the allegations are resolved”.

He said the suspension of 12 senior FARDC army officers was a positive step towards ensuring that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable.

“Holding perpetrators to account is essential to ending the cycle of impunity and we urge President Kabila and all Congolese authorities to actively and robustly enforce his zero tolerance policy for human rights violations by the DRC armed forces.”

The US military is to continue providing training to its DRC counterparts.

“The events executed and planned so far this year include training in medical readiness, military justice, logistics, civil-military operations, rule-of-law, ethics, and others,” Maj. Fred Harrel, a press officer with US Africa Command told IRIN.

“This training, requested by the host nation, is designed to be sustainable and build the professionalism of the Armed Forces of the DRC,” he added.

Reforms needed

“Security sector reform is a long and daunting challenge but one that must be taken to address a root cause of the prevailing insecurity,” Enough Project’s Mueller, told IRIN.

“Units of the army have undergone numerous but patchy and uncoordinated human rights trainings. An army-wide, gender mainstreamed education campaign on human rights, humanitarian law and military justice must be embedded into a wider security sector reform,” he said.

He said that ensuring discipline within FARDC required “a multidimensional and holistic institutional overhaul, spanning the military, police and judiciary as well as other agencies”.

Meanwhile, donors should harmonize their efforts and mobilize greater resources, he said.

“Over the years, the government and international donors have initiated several reform packages but they have largely failed because of lack of political will, donor coordination and funds,” said Mueller.

so/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Right abuses by DRC army and others

Posted by African Press International on July 31, 2013

GOMA,  – As fighting continues in North Kivu Province between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and the rebel group M23, both sides have been accused of committing human rights abuses against each other and civilians, some of which amount to war crimes, according to rights groups. 

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC had committed war crimes; a second major report by HRW, released 22 July, finds M23’s war crimes have continued.

Summarizing the report’s findings, lead author Ida Sawyer told IRIN: “What we’ve documented is that war crimes committed by M23 fighters have continued since March, and those crimes include summary executions of at least 44 people, and rapes of at least 61 women and girls, and forced recruitment of scores of young men and boys.”

Meanwhile, HRW, a report of the UN Secretary-General and other sources allege the Congolese army has also committed abuses, ranging from the desecration of corpses to mass rape and the killing of civilians.

The M23 rebellion began in April 2012, with the DRC army and M23 clashing intermittently since then. The most recent spate of violence began on 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital. M23 currently controls the areas of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo.

The group came into existence when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

M23 response

In a September 2012 report on M23, HRW accused the group of deliberately killing at least 15 civilians since June and of executing 33 of its own combatants.

In its latest report, the group alleges that 15 civilians were killed by M23 over two days in April, and a further six were killed in June in reprisals for alleged collaboration with Congolese militias.

It says other civilians killed by the movement included a man who refused to hand his sons over to the rebels, a motorcycle driver who refused to give them money, and recruits caught trying to escape. It also reports that M23 tortured prisoners of war, including two who were killed.

HRW did not include any comments or reactions from M23 in its latest report.

Sawyer said her organization had arranged to interview M23 leader Sultani Makenga about its findings, but fighting broke out on the day of the interview. Makenga cancelled and was subsequently unavailable for a phone interview, Sawyer said.

Speaking to IRIN, M23 spokesman Kabasha Amani said: “When Human Rights Watch says people have disappeared in the territory we control, why doesn’t it give the names of those people?”

He dismissed the findings as rumours, describing the DRC as “a country of rumours”.

A lawyer working with M23, John Muhire, said that since the NGO has not given names of victims or the precise location of the supposed crimes, “they don’t mention anything which really can be a proof that the crime has been committed”.

Muhire accused a Congolese NGO that carried out field work for HRW of being biased against M23, adding that the rebel group had asked for a “neutral” investigation supervised by the UN.

HRW and other sources report that M23 has threatened to kill people who speak out against the movement; the organization does not name victims or precise locations of crimes to protect sources from possible harm.

The report has also been criticized by Rwanda – accused by Human Rights Watch of supporting M23, a charge Rwanda has denied – for wrongly stating that Rwandan soldiers had served with the peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. HRW published a correction but stood by its findings.

“We are very confident with our findings,” Sawyer told IRIN. “What we’ve included in our report is only the information that we have confirmed with several credible witnesses. We rely on information from eyewitnesses who were present during the events – victims and witnesses to abuses. We do very in-depth interviews with all the people we speak to, to document this, and we don’t include information that we think may be biased.”

As an example of information not included, Sawyer cited a claim by the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) that M23 had executed 26 farmers in two localities between June 16 and 19, allegations for which the NGO could not find sufficient evidence.

Right abuses by DRC army and others

M23 was the main focus of the report, which deals exclusively with abuses within the zone that M23 tried to control and with evidence of Rwandan support for the group.

But M23 is not the only armed group operating within this zone, and the report includes a brief mention of abuses – three people killed and four raped – by another armed group, the Popular Movement for Self-Defence (Mouvement populaire d’autodéfense or MPA) in the same area since March.

“The corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”

It also notes that, according to the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Congolese army personnel have recently supplied ammunition to the Rwandan rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which HRW says has long been committing “horrific abuses” against civilians in eastern DRC.

Additionally, a press release accompanying the HRW report referred to Congolese army soldiers treating “the corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”, an incident seen in widely circulated photos. The press release also refers to allegations the army harshly treated M23 combatants captured in recent fighting.

On 17 July, the army arrested a lieutenant in connection with the desecration of the M23 fighters’ corpses.

Col Olivier Hamuli, a DRC army spokesman, said the army condemned such behaviour, and added that the incident should be seen in context, as the actions of men suffering from “combat stress”.

The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO includes further references to abuses by Congolese army units in recent months. It highlights a mass rape, allegedly of more than 200 women, by Congolese troops at Minova, in South Kivu, in November 2012, and the killing of at least 27 civilians and the wounding of 89 others in clashes between the army and an armed group at Kitchanga, in North Kivu, in late February and early March.

UN and local sources told IRIN that most of the deaths at Kitchanga were attributable to the army’s use of heavy weapons in a town centre. The army unit involved was led by a colonel who had fought alongside M23 leaders in a previous rebellion and was alleged to be still in alliance with them.

A recent bombing raid by Congolese army aircraft against an M23 military camp at Rumangabo also caused several civilian casualties, according to M23. The UN noted that M23 caused several civilian casualties in Goma when its shells landed in a displaced people’s camp and other locations in the city suburbs in May and again this month.

Reporting “uneven”

Sources within MONUSCO commented that reporting of human rights abuses in DRC is uneven, tending to focus on more accessible areas and on groups – like M23 – which are considered to be a regional threat to peace.

Alleged abuses by other armed groups and by some units of the Congolese army may be under-reported compared to those attributed to M23. Complaints in December and January by a civil society organization in Tongo, North Kivu, alleging that an army unit there had been responsible for 93 rapes and eight murders over a six-month period have still not elicited an official response; MONUSCO could give no details of its investigation into these allegations.

Nevertheless, the Congolese army has suspended 12 senior officers and arrested 11 suspects in connection with the mass rapes at Minova. Nationally, the proportion of alleged rights abuses by the army that lead to prosecution has been increasing in the past few years.

Figures from MONUSCO show between July 2010 and July 2011, there were 224 convictions of DRC military personnel or police for serious human rights abuses (about half involving sexual violence), a big increase over previous years.

M23, which recently claimed to have appointed criminal investigators in its territory and to be carrying out trials, has yet to announce the results of any investigations of alleged abuses by its personnel. In reality, says MONUSCO, M23 has no real capacity to hold trials as there are no magistrates in its zone.

Civilians told IRIN that, in some cases, people accused of crimes by the rebels had already been put on trial. Some of them had been imprisoned, one civilian said, speaking just out of earshot of an M23 combatant.

“And some of them were killed,” he added quietly.

Another civilian said: “Those who are arrested and can pay a fine can be freed. As for those who can’t pay a fine, they can be put on forced labour or killed.”

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

nl/kr/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Human Rights abuses on the rise As fighting continues in North Kivu Province

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2013

The rebels are accused of summary executions, rape and forcible recruitment (file photo)

GOMA,  – As fighting continues in North Kivu Province between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and the rebel group M23, both sides have been accused of committing human rights abuses against each other and civilians, some of which amount to war crimes, according to rights groups.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC had committed war crimes; a second major report by HRW, released 22 July, finds M23’s war crimes have continued.

Summarizing the report’s findings, lead author Ida Sawyer told IRIN: “What we’ve documented is that war crimes committed by M23 fighters have continued since March, and those crimes include summary executions of at least 44 people, and rapes of at least 61 women and girls, and forced recruitment of scores of young men and boys.”

Meanwhile, HRW, a report of the UN Secretary-General and other sources allege the Congolese army has also committed abuses, ranging from the desecration of corpses to mass rape and the killing of civilians.

The M23 rebellion began in April 2012, with the DRC army and M23 clashing intermittently since then. The most recent spate of violence began on 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital. M23 currently controls the areas of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo.

The group came into existence when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

M23 response

In a September 2012 report on M23, HRW accused the group of deliberately killing at least 15 civilians since June and of executing 33 of its own combatants.

In its latest report, the group alleges that 15 civilians were killed by M23 over two days in April, and a further six were killed in June in reprisals for alleged collaboration with Congolese militias.

It says other civilians killed by the movement included a man who refused to hand his sons over to the rebels, a motorcycle driver who refused to give them money, and recruits caught trying to escape. It also reports that M23 tortured prisoners of war, including two who were killed.

HRW did not include any comments or reactions from M23 in its latest report.

Sawyer said her organization had arranged to interview M23 leader Sultani Makenga about its findings, but fighting broke out on the day of the interview. Makenga cancelled and was subsequently unavailable for a phone interview, Sawyer said.

Speaking to IRIN, M23 spokesman Kabasha Amani said: “When Human Rights Watch says people have disappeared in the territory we control, why doesn’t it give the names of those people?”

He dismissed the findings as rumours, describing the DRC as “a country of rumours”.

A lawyer working with M23, John Muhire, said that since the NGO has not given names of victims or the precise location of the supposed crimes, “they don’t mention anything which really can be a proof that the crime has been committed”.

Muhire accused a Congolese NGO that carried out field work for HRW of being biased against M23, adding that the rebel group had asked for a “neutral” investigation supervised by the UN.

HRW and other sources report that M23 has threatened to kill people who speak out against the movement; the organization does not name victims or precise locations of crimes to protect sources from possible harm.

The report has also been criticized by Rwanda – accused by Human Rights Watch of supporting M23, a charge Rwanda has denied – for wrongly stating that Rwandan soldiers had served with the peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. HRW published a correction but stood by its findings.

“We are very confident with our findings,” Sawyer told IRIN. “What we’ve included in our report is only the information that we have confirmed with several credible witnesses. We rely on information from eyewitnesses who were present during the events – victims and witnesses to abuses. We do very in-depth interviews with all the people we speak to, to document this, and we don’t include information that we think may be biased.”

As an example of information not included, Sawyer cited a claim by the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) that M23 had executed 26 farmers in two localities between June 16 and 19, allegations for which the NGO could not find sufficient evidence.

Right abuses by DRC army and others

M23 was the main focus of the report, which deals exclusively with abuses within the zone that M23 tried to control and with evidence of Rwandan support for the group.

But M23 is not the only armed group operating within this zone, and the report includes a brief mention of abuses – three people killed and four raped – by another armed group, the Popular Movement for Self-Defence (Mouvement populaire d’autodéfense or MPA) in the same area since March.

“The corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”

It also notes that, according to the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Congolese army personnel have recently supplied ammunition to the Rwandan rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which HRW says has long been committing “horrific abuses” against civilians in eastern DRC.

Additionally, a press release accompanying the HRW report referred to Congolese army soldiers treating “the corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”, an incident seen in widely circulated photos. The press release also refers to allegations the army harshly treated M23 combatants captured in recent fighting.

On 17 July, the army arrested a lieutenant in connection with the desecration of the M23 fighters’ corpses.

Col Olivier Hamuli, a DRC army spokesman, said the army condemned such behaviour, and added that the incident should be seen in context, as the actions of men suffering from “combat stress”.

The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO includes further references to abuses by Congolese army units in recent months. It highlights a mass rape, allegedly of more than 200 women, by Congolese troops at Minova, in South Kivu, in November 2012, and the killing of at least 27 civilians and the wounding of 89 others in clashes between the army and an armed group at Kitchanga, in North Kivu, in late February and early March.

UN and local sources told IRIN that most of the deaths at Kitchanga were attributable to the army’s use of heavy weapons in a town centre. The army unit involved was led by a colonel who had fought alongside M23 leaders in a previous rebellion and was alleged to be still in alliance with them.

A recent bombing raid by Congolese army aircraft against an M23 military camp at Rumangabo also caused several civilian casualties, according to M23. The UN noted that M23 caused several civilian casualties in Goma when its shells landed in a displaced people’s camp and other locations in the city suburbs in May and again this month.

Reporting “uneven”

Sources within MONUSCO commented that reporting of human rights abuses in DRC is uneven, tending to focus on more accessible areas and on groups – like M23 – which are considered to be a regional threat to peace.

Alleged abuses by other armed groups and by some units of the Congolese army may be under-reported compared to those attributed to M23. Complaints in December and January by a civil society organization in Tongo, North Kivu, alleging that an army unit there had been responsible for 93 rapes and eight murders over a six-month period have still not elicited an official response; MONUSCO could give no details of its investigation into these allegations.

Nevertheless, the Congolese army has suspended 12 senior officers and arrested 11 suspects in connection with the mass rapes at Minova. Nationally, the proportion of alleged rights abuses by the army that lead to prosecution has been increasing in the past few years.

Figures from MONUSCO show between July 2010 and July 2011, there were 224 convictions of DRC military personnel or police for serious human rights abuses (about half involving sexual violence), a big increase over previous years.

M23, which recently claimed to have appointed criminal investigators in its territory and to be carrying out trials, has yet to announce the results of any investigations of alleged abuses by its personnel. In reality, says MONUSCO, M23 has no real capacity to hold trials as there are no magistrates in its zone.

Civilians told IRIN that, in some cases, people accused of crimes by the rebels had already been put on trial. Some of them had been imprisoned, one civilian said, speaking just out of earshot of an M23 combatant.

“And some of them were killed,” he added quietly.

Another civilian said: “Those who are arrested and can pay a fine can be freed. As for those who can’t pay a fine, they can be put on forced labour or killed.”

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

nl/kr/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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North Kivu sees fresh clashes: What’s happening with the Kampala talks?

Posted by African Press International on July 21, 2013

Talks have stalled as fighting continues (file photo)

KAMPALA/GOMA,  – Fresh fighting between the rebel M23 and the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the eastern province of North Kivu could spell the end of efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict, analysts say.

In what have been described as some of the deadliest clashes since the rebellion began in April 2012, FARDC (the DRC army) and M23 have been fighting since 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital.

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Humanitarians continue to flag the issue of civilian protection in and around Goma, where fighting over the past year has displaced more than 100,000.

IRIN has put together a briefing on recent developments in the talks and the conflict.

What’s happening with the Kampala talks?

A new round of peace talks between the two sides in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, has stalled, with Raymond Tshibanda, the DRC foreign minister and head of the government delegation, and Apollinaire Malu Malu, his deputy, absent from the venue.

The talks, which kicked off in December 2012 under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), first broke down in April: M23 representatives walked out following a decision by the UN to deploy an intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups in eastern DRC.

“The two sides are still extremely far apart in their negotiating positions and a compromise is difficult to envision without hefty intervention by diplomats. So fighting is almost inevitable, even if only to improve negotiating positions,” Jason Stearns, director of the Rift Valley Institute‘s (RVI),Usalama Project, which conducts research on armed groups in eastern DRC.

“The Kampala talks are moribund. I can’t envision a deal acceptable to the M23 that foreign diplomats and the Congolese government could sign off on; the M23 would have to disband and reintegrate into the national army, which its leaders will find difficult to stomach, as they don’t trust the government.”

Each side accuses the other of not being sufficiently committed to reaching a diplomatic settlement to the conflict.

“It depends on whether M23 is ready to accept on what has been decided in Addis Ababa and [with] UN for them to disarm. If they accept, we are ready to finalize the Kampala process,” DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende Omalanga told IRIN by phone.

On 24 February, 11 African countries signed a Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region, aimed at, among other things, improving security and consolidating the state’s authority in eastern DRC.

What are the accusations being traded?

But Omalanga accused Rwanda of continued influence over M23, a charge both the Rwandan government and M23 strenuously deny.

“Kinshasa is not interested in the talks, but a military option. We have been here seeking for a bilateral ceasefire. But government has since refused and prepared for the ongoing war,” Rene Abandi, the head of M23’s delegation, told IRIN. “It’s playing double standards… trying both methods – peace talks and military solution.”

“It may sound like a paradox but, for peace negotiations to start, the balance of power on the ground must be changed. The two parties [M23 and the DRC army] will only negotiate if they lose on the battlefield.”

Abandi added that until the head of the government delegation or his deputy arrived, M23 would not negotiate, and called on the ICGLR, the African Union and the UN to put pressure on Kinshasa to actively participate in the talks.

“Long before the resumption of fighting, the Kampala peace talks have had a bleak future. Over the course of the last seven months, the warring parties have employed deliberate delaying tactics, militaristic bluster and traded fierce accusations of foul play as a means of furthering narrow political agendas,” Timo Mueller, Goma-based field researcher for the Enough Project, which fights genocide and crimes against humanity, told IRIN.

“As the fighting rekindled on Sunday [14 July], some analysts see a direct relationship between the deadlock in Kampala and the renewed fighting. But while the fighting is a near-death experience for the talks, both parties have an interest in keeping the talks alive so as to be seen as willing to seek political peace, albeit crippled they may be.”

He added: “The rhetoric and actions of the Congolese army reflect a consistent strategy to pursue only military confrontation with M23 on the battlefield and forego any existing political efforts. But while military actions undermine and contradict the talks, Congo has no interest in unilaterally withdrawing from an initiative strongly favoured by the international community.

“M23, will desperately hold onto the talks to present itself as a grievance-driven group eager to discuss political reforms with Kinshasa and because it is too weak militarily to advance its interests outside political avenues. The talks offer the only existing avenue for M23 to deliver agreement on amnesty for senior leadership and military reintegration into FARDC, something that the UN PSCF [the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework] or any other international process would be unlikely to yield. Both parties will remain at loggerheads for the foreseeable future, leaving scant hope for a genuine peace agreement.”

Could fighting spur talks?

According to Thierry Vircoulon, an analyst with the think tank International Crisis Group, “It may sound like a paradox but, for peace negotiations to start, the balance of power on the ground must be changed. The two parties will only negotiate if they lose on the battlefield. Kinshasa accepted to come to the Kampala talks only because it lost Goma last year and was dominated on the ground.”

But Usalama’s Stearns says neither side is keen to escalate the ongoing conflict. “The M23 is limited by its troop numbers, which are probably still under 2,000, with a large area to cover. For the Congolese army, they would probably want to wait until the UN Intervention Brigade is fully operational, which could take another month.”

3,000-strong intervention brigade mandated to “neutralize… and disarm” armed groups in eastern DRC is due to be fully operational at the end of July. The UN Stabilization Mission in DRC, MONUSCO, also intends to have unarmed surveillance drones in eastern DRC to monitor developments.

How much support is there for talks?

The problem in eastern DRC is primarily political, and “no amount of military power can solve it,” Lt-Col Paddy Ankunda, Uganda army spokesman and spokesman for the talks, told IRIN.

“The causes of the M23 rebellion and the wider conflict are a mesh of political, socioeconomic and security factors. A political, non-military solution is needed, including, amongst others, security sector reform, democratization, decentralization, human development, reform of the minerals sector and regional economic integration,” said the Enough Project’s Mueller. “The Kampala peace talks should best be subsumed by the UN PSCF. It will also be critical to get Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda together to start negotiations to deal with economic and security issues that have been driving the war.”

Fighting between FARDC and M23 has already displaced half a million people (file photo)

“[UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes] Mary Robinson must also ensure that the Congolese reform process and national Congolese dialogue are mediated by an impartial facilitator and have civil society directly at the table. If the process is not neutral and inclusive, the reforms will fail,” he added. “Another behind-the-door deal among elites will be just another recipe for failure, likely brewing new dissent and stoking a wholesale resurgence of violence.”

In eastern DRC, however, not everyone is keen on a peaceful solution to the crisis. Kabila has repeatedly done deals with rebels as a way of ending national and local conflicts, and has been criticized for this by oppositionists, civil society and national media. “Give war a chance” has been a popular refrain with many fierce critics of the regime.

Is there any unanimity on the ground?

“We think the government should crush the M23 rebellion,” Thomas d’Aquin Muiti, president of The Civil Society of North Kivu (an association of NGOs working for better governance in the province), told IRIN, although privately, some of his colleagues deplored his statements.

Kabila’s recent pursuit of the military option against the M23 certainly appears to have the support of many ordinary people in Goma. There were jubilant scenes on 15 July when it was learned that FARDC had retaken a hill overlooking Goma from which the rebels had threatened to target the airport. Crowds of men waving leafy branches did victory runs on the outskirts of the town, and rumours that MONUSCO was trying to block a further advance by the army prompted angry demonstrations outside a UN base.

A group of women who had been displaced by the fighting voiced strong support for FARDC when asked by IRIN what they thought of its offensive. “We will be very happy to see our village liberated and we hope the army will do it,” said 44-year-old Fouraha Kanamu to a loud chorus of approval from the other women.

But condemnation of M23 is not unanimous in Goma. Thousands gathered and cheered the rebels after they briefly occupied the city in November 2012 and organized a rally in a stadium. Many of these people were government employees who were hoping the M23 would pay them, but even before the rebel takeover some citizens were quietly expressing support for the movement.

“They can’t be any worse than those in power now,” was the kind of comment heard from some people, who would claim that the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) rebels – a Rwandan-backed movement that occupied eastern Congo during DRC’s second civil war (1998-2003) – had at least provided better policing and road maintenance in Goma.

The M23 makes much of the DRC government’s notorious corruption and incompetence, but has never held any elections, and judging by the electoral record of its predecessor movement, the CNDP (National Congress for the Defence of the People, which won just one seat in the 2011 national elections) would be unlikely to win many votes.

However, M23’s behaviour during the 10 days that it controlled Goma alienated many erstwhile sympathizers. “They plundered government offices, officials’ houses and even a hospital, so we saw they weren’t really interested in better governance,” said one civilian.

so/nl/kr/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Bridging the gap between relief and development

Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2013


Sustainable interventions

GOMA,  – Every year, for nearly two decades, the humanitarian community has responded to large-scale and complex crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This year, on the assumption that the crises are likely to continue, donors have agreed to fund longer-term and more flexible humanitarian projects in DRC.

For the first time, a common humanitarian fund (CHF) administered by the UN in Kinshasa will be financing projects of up to 24 months’ duration, instead of the current 12-month limit.

A review of the project proposals should be finalized in July; this year, the CHF hopes to receive US$70 million for multi-year funding (out of an $893 million humanitarian appeal for the country).

Multi-year funding is an innovation for the humanitarian system, said Gemma Cortes, interim head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) financing unit in Kinshasa.

“We’re initiating this in the Congo,” she told IRIN. “There’s been a big discussion about this for years here. Now, the great challenge will be to link all the projects to development projects.”

Advantages 

OCHA says these “transitional” projects “will address recurrent humanitarian needs that require sustainable interventions of a kind that help[s] build community resilience” and will “reduce the number of short-term emergency actions that respond more to symptoms than to causes”.

Other projects funded with the $70 million “will reinforce emergency response capability” and “help build national NGOs’ capacity”. OCHA also foresees better data collection and monitoring, and well as costs savings.

“It should help to save costs on, for example, transport, recruitment, training and assimilation [of knowledge],” Cortes says.

The CHF is also considering streamlining programmes. For example, it could fund two organizations to do the kind of work done previously by eight separate, shorter projects.

Cortes sees a trend in project proposals towards greater promotion of agriculture and livelihoods, as well more durable solutions to water and hygiene needs.

“Agriculture is one of the sectors where the envelope has increased the most. Agencies and NGOs can now go beyond emergency activities to reinforcing capacities, introducing different agricultural and food-processing techniques, doing market studies and training cooperatives. We have also received a lot of proposals for buying and distributing goats, sheep and rabbits.”

She estimates that around 15 percent of the multi-year funding might go to agricultural projects and 30 percent to livelihoods projects, although the final allocation has yet to be decided.

“It’s been very well received by aid workers, NGOs and by local communities. It was something lacking before. Each time we came and did the same thing, and they wanted something more lasting.”

Olivia Kalis, protection and advocacy manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Goma, eastern DRC, agrees but suggests there is still debate over what is “more lasting”.

“If we have short-term cycles only, people end up doing the same things, so it’s very good that the CHF is now offering 24-month cycles. But a lot more work needs to be done to understand what resilience means in this context,” Kalis said

Resilience

As the concept of resilience has been mainstreamed in aid agency circles, its definition has broadened.

Christophe Béné, a research fellow at the UK Institute of Development Studies (IDS), spoke at a recent IDS seminar about how the term has evolved. “Initially,” he said, “resilience was simply about the capacity for recovery and bouncing back. And now, with time passing, we have got more and more people saying resilience is about learning and adapting. Recently, now, we have got anticipating and preventing [crises].”

Incorporating all of these meanings, a recent definition from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said resilience is “the ability to avoid disasters and crises or to anticipate, absorb, adapt to and recover from risks… in a timely and efficient manner”.

The UN World Food Programme’s coordinator in eastern DRC, Wolfram Herfurth, says resilience basically means self-reliance, and he suggests a practical way to ensure vulnerable communities are self-reliant.

“Let’s not make this a rocket science. We have to provide simple, palatable livelihood options for people in camps. Since we know that about 85 percent of these displaced people are farmers, it’s logical – we’re looking at the closest solution – to provide farmers with tools and seeds so they can produce their own food and no longer need free handouts,” he said.

“That is the fundamental approach. But the biggest obstacle is that, where the displaced people are now, there’s mostly no free land available.”

To this end, Herfurth proposes that agreements be struck with landowners to allocate land, either long-term or temporarily, to the displaced, who would then be assisted with seeds, tools and food aid until their first harvest.

Several initiatives in North Kivu are aiming to help the displaced gain access to land, either their own (many displaced people return home to find their land occupied) or land where they have found refuge. The CHF has a brief to support these initiatives.

Still, land is a delicate issue; NRC and UN Habitat have the biggest land dispute mediation programmes in DRC, but there are strict limits to what they can achieve, says NRC’s Kalis.

“The scale [of mediation] is very small in comparison with the problem. A lot of these disputes are over just a few metres of land. Once the military are involved, our commissions [local committees set up by NRC] can’t deal with that – it’s too dangerous,” he said.

Large tracts of land in the Kivus are owned by senior army officers.

“We need to talk about political solutions [to the land problem],” says Kalis. “Donors need to push for these things.”

Settling 

Helping displaced people farm is not the only resilience-building activity aid workers are proposing.

IRIN also interviewed the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Oxfam, NRC and Catholic Relief Services and found a wide range of resilience activities proposed, notably information campaigns to help the displaced secure their rights and access aid, and the construction of more durable facilities to help them integrate with host communities.

UNICEF emphasized project proposals to build more durable classrooms and sanitation systems. NRC spoke of its work helping displaced children enrol in schools. Oxfam said it was planning to extend water systems and sanitation in host community areas.

Improving living conditions for IDPs

The emphasis on host communities is essential, aid workers say, because most aid has been focused on camps even though most displaced people live with host families and will often settle in those communities.

“Many of the displaced are highly unlikely to go home,” said Tariq Riebl, Oxfam’s coordinator in North Kivu. “If you look at the history of Goma, many camps have been transformed into neighbourhoods – we find it quite negative that the state is still bulldozing camps.”

“If we see a willingness by the state to give the displaced residency rights, we could start to provide schooling, health centres, etc. But the government is resisting this,” he said.

There is also a trend towards focusing on more urban areas. In peri-urban areas where the state does not own land, it may need to deal with landowners to ensure displaced people can find homes, Riebl said.

Focusing aid on more easily accessible areas rather than trying to reach remote villages is also pragmatic, he points out.

“The support costs of trying to run projects in an area like Walikale [one of North Kivu’s more remote territories] are enormous. No one is going to pay for all the land cruisers. Donors are looking for value for money.”

Security is also a serious concern for projects in rural areas. A worker with FAO told a recent journalists’ seminar in Goma that agricultural project workers could not do anything if there was not security.

More business surveys will be needed to help guide the displaced towards viable livelihoods, in either urban or rural areas, Herfurth told IRIN.

“We need more development experts,” he said. “Maybe the number of relief workers here should shrink and the number of economists and agricultural engineers should increase,” he said.

“But we also need to change the chemistry between the humanitarians and the DRC government to agree that – given there’s more stability and peace – we focus on more durable interventions.

“Certainly the humanitarians themselves cannot easily do this alone. They need decisions by the government and coordination at village and provincial level. Different political levels need to play together.”

nl/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Talking peace for DRC: M23 Kampala talks set to resume

Posted by African Press International on June 22, 2013

The M23 rebellion has displaced hundreds of thousands in North Kivu

KAMPALA,  – Delegates representing the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the rebel M23 are back in Kampala, Uganda, for a fresh round of peace talks, but analysts say that unless both sides are fully committed to the negotiations, a political solution to the crisis in the DRC’s North Kivu Province is unlikely.

The talks, which kicked off in December 2012 under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), broke down in April; M23 representatives walked out following a decision by the UN to deploy an intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups in eastern DRC. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations says the 3,069-strong force, comprising troops from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania, should be fully operational by mid-July. The force has been given a more forceful mandate than any previous military contingent with a UN peacekeeping mission.

“The representatives of both delegations are back here in Kampala. The talks will be resuming any time. We hope there will be commitment by both teams this time round,” Crispus Kiyonga, the chief mediator and Uganda‘s Minister of Defence, told IRIN. “We shall be working towards the signing of the peace agreement. But how soon it will be reached depends on the progress and commitment of both parties. The fact that both parties keep coming and going back shows some commitment.”

On a recent visit to DRC, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and his special envoy to the region, former Irish President Mary Robinson, urged both parties to remain committed to the Kampala-mediated talks.

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Humanitarians continue to flag the issue of civilian protection even as the DRC national army (FARDC) and M23 engage in intermittent battles in and around the provincial capital Goma, where fighting over the past year has displaced more than 100,000.

In May, four days of fighting between the government and the rebels saw thousands flee their homes for overcrowded camps on the outskirts of the city.

Commitment

Some regional analysts are suspicious of M23’s return to negotiations.

“The M23’s return to the negotiation table should be seen first and foremost as a PR [public relations] manoeuvre. The movement wants to show that it is seeking peace by all means,” said Michel Thill, Great Lakes Region programme manager at Rift Valley Institute (RVI). “Its demands, however, are well beyond what Kinshasa would agree to negotiate with what they consider terrorists – the M23 knows that.

“The tensions are mounting between the M23, the FARDC and the civil population in North Kivu, in the face of repetitive claims by UN senior officials and the Secretary-General himself that the international brigade will be deployed in mid-July,” he added. “The renewed fighting in late May just before Ban Ki-Moon’s visit to Goma proves this.”

Other analysts see it differently: “The return from M23 to the negotiation table is a sign from M23 and its external support they want to solve the crisis politically. M23 does not receive the same support as in November 2012 and is no longer in a position to take Goma or conduct an aggressive war,” said Marc-Andre Lagrange, DRC senior analyst for the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG). “Another question is how strong the M23 really is at the moment. There are rumours that Sultani Makenga [M23’s military leader] is seriously ill and weak… It remains to be seen if the movement stands up to the current pressure.”

Both the rebels and the government say a military solution is not feasible

M23 representatives deny that Makenga is unwell. They also accuse the DRC government of lacking the will to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis in North Kivu, and of preparing FARDC and its allies for further clashes in the region.

“We have to seize this opportunity of the international community’s commitment to end this rebellion through dialogue. The military option can’t end the conflict,” Rene Abandi, the head of M23’s Kampala delegation, told IRIN.

In a 13 June letter to Special Envoy Robinson, the rebels accused the government of refusing to negotiate at the Kampala peace talks and of preparing for further conflict in North Kivu, claims government officials have denied.

“Their allegations are baseless,” Jean Charles Okoto Lulakombe, DRC ambassador to Uganda, told IRIN. “Some members of the government delegation are already here, and some are coming. We are determined to end this conflict through dialogue. We believe it is only the talks that can end this conflict, not military [methods]. We can’t continue to allow our people to suffer and die because of this conflict.”

Beyond talks

But analysts agree that it will take more than peace talks – and even peace agreements – to solve the problems in eastern DRC.

“I think a return to Kampala without a genuine commitment from both sides to address the root causes of the conflict, reasons for continuity and failures of past talks is a waste of time and money. It’s simply a peace joke,” said Stephen Oola, a transitional justice and governance analyst at Uganda’s Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project.

“DRC needs more than just peace talks. There is need for a shift in how the state fulfils its obligation to citizens and how local resources are accessed and utilized locally, nationally and internationally,” he added.

“Anyone interested in returning peace to the DRC should focus on strengthening the Congolese government, not undermining it… There must be investment in ensuring that the government in Kinshasa is both legitimate and strong enough to have full control of its vast territory,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a Kampala-based legal and political analyst. “The internal governance framework of the DRC must be re-engineered to be both accommodative of the various interests in the DRC and meaningful to the majority – if not all – Congolese.”

“The solution for peace in the Kivus is not just political or only military. Economic cooperation has to be put in place between the countries of the Great Lakes,” said ICG’s Lagrange. “At the same time, minorities have to be protected and land issues solved. This can be achieved through politics.”

so/kr/rz source http://www.irinnews.og

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