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Old 11-15-2006, 09:00 AM   #46
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Originally posted by Ormus


They're accustomed to waiting for Westerners to fix everything for them.
Hmmm, I'm not really so sure. At least in my experience, the poorest, the sickest, and the most oppressed people lived so far outside the cities, they weren't even aware the Western world knows they exist. They certainly were NOT waiting around for handouts.
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:06 AM   #47
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Originally posted by Liesje
Hmmm, I'm not really so sure. At least in my experience, the poorest, the sickest, and the most oppressed people lived so far outside the cities, they weren't even aware the Western world knows they exist. They certainly were NOT waiting around for handouts.
For clarification, that line was meant to refer to these countries' respective governments and leadership, not the individual people.
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:14 AM   #48
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For clarification, that line was meant to refer to these countries' respective governments and leadership, not the individual people.
OK, fair enough.
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Old 11-15-2006, 06:45 PM   #49
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Some people just don't care as much because it's happening to women- that's harsh but I believe it is true. And it's happening to African women.

And there are no alleged WMD's in the Congo as far as I know
Yeah, but collapsed states are terrorist breeding grounds. Osama Bin Laden spent several years in Sudan and set up training camps and money laundering organizations there in the 90s. Unfortunately politicians (perhaps not individually but collectively as the government) are too shortsighted to see the self interest in even this, and too self interested to translate the inhumanity into action. Not that there are easy solutions, but it's disgusting that these things happen over and over again and nothing is done.
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Old 11-15-2006, 06:49 PM   #50
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The UN is only the sum of its parts.
Try, a hell of a lot less than the sum of its parts, given that some of its parts consistently undermine it.
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Old 11-16-2006, 01:35 PM   #51
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Scramble to avert war after disputed Congo vote

By Scott Baldauf
The Christian Science Monitor, Nov 16


KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – Two weeks after a crucial presidential runoff, Congo is perched between war and peace. With a final, but contested, count showing a nearly 20-point margin over his opponent, interim President Joseph Kabila is poised to be president in a capital city that largely voted against him. His opponent, millionaire businessman Jean-Pierre Bemba, has rejected the results of the Oct. 29 presidential runoff. And, in a country where church leaders are often more influential than politicians, the Catholic archbishop has called on his church members to reject the results due to "systematic fraud."

The only thing preventing a return to civil war now is the frantic series of negotiations between leaders of the UN mission in Congo (MONUC) and the parties of Mr. Kabila and Mr. Bemba.

Few countries have as much impact over the future stability of Africa as does the Democratic Republic of Congo. With a territory as large as Western Europe, located in the heart of the continent, with mineral wealth that potentially makes it the richest nation in Africa, and a collection of nine smaller neighbors with rebellions of their own, Congo is the key to security in the region. "Creating a stable Congo could have a positive ripple effect in the region," says Jason Stearns, an analyst on Central Africa for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "But the reverse is also true. A weak Congo can have a negative ripple effect, and destabilize the nations around it."

Right now diplomats in the capital say that one option for a political settlement to avert war is for Bemba to be president of the Senate, where he could remain influential and be the second most powerful under Kabila. But Bemba's camp has hardened its position in recent days. Top members of his newly formed coalition Tuesday released a signed document claiming that vote results were manipulated and not credible, and warning the international community not to impose its will.

International observers say voting was largely free and fair, and the election commission has rejected accusations that its count has been skewed by fraud.

But, in what observers say is a sign that Bemba is leaving the door open to accepting the results under certain conditions, he himself did not sign his camp's document. "It's not a question of our returning to war, no way," says Fidel Babala, deputy campaign chairman of Bemba's Union for the Nation. "But we are concerned that they [Kabila's people] don't have the capacity to govern the country with more than seven provinces out of 11 voting against them."

Others, however, aren't so sure. Cars are clogging one main road out of the city, and there are long lines for boats to cross the river to Brazzaville, the capital of neighboring Republic of Congo. Whole neighborhoods of people who can afford to are fleeing Kinshasa in anticipation of widespread violence.

There have already been examples of election-related violence. Gunfire erupted this past weekend in a skirmish between armed Bemba supporters and police. And, when results of the first round of voting were announced in August, Kabila and Bemba supporters battled on the streets of Kinshasa for three days, killing 23 people.

Preventing a slide back into civil war is the main mission of MONUC. With the largest peacekeeping force in the world at 17,000 troops, and an operating budget of $3 million a day, MONUC is a massive investment of UN resources and prestige. UN officials argue that Congo's mission is worth the cost. Of the nine surrounding countries, more than half - including Angola, Rwanda, Uganda, and Sudan - have had civil wars where Congo provided a base of support for their rebel enemies. But donor fatigue comes easily, particularly at a time when the UN is maintaining 18 peacekeeping missions worldwide. Underlining this point was the announcement this past weekend by the European Union to pull out its 1,800 peacekeepers at the end of the month, as planned.

After 100 years of colonial rule, and 40 years of dictatorship under US-supported President Mobutu Sese Seko, Congo has precious little experience in democratic rule to rely on. Instead, brutal war has marred its recent history. If negotiations fail, fighting is almost inevitable. All the political players are former military commanders of rebel movements.

Bemba in particular has been named on human rights charges by the neighboring Central African Republic. The moment he loses his current vice presidential seat in the interim government, he loses his immunity as well. The ongoing trial of Congolese rebel commander Thomas Lubanga, leader and founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots, on charges of using child soldiers, serves as an object lesson in what Bemba might face if he loses. "This is Africa, it's all or nothing," says one African observer, working for an African embassy in Kinshasa. "First place is the presidency. Second place is the grave."
The Monitor's cover photo to accompany this story, which depicts a middle-aged-looking female militant directing two teenaged-looking male militants in a gun battle with Kinshasa police, indirectly highlights something I neglected to mention earlier about the makeup of the Congolese militias--i.e., that around a fifth of them are female, according to ICC estimates. Unlike the woman in the photo, most of these female soldiers are girls and young women, and MONUC believes the majority of them are playing a dual role as sex slaves and soldiers. Both male and female child soldiers are frequently terrorized or tortured upon being abducted into the ranks so as to cement their "loyalty," with sexual coercion specifically being widely used against the females. Because this has the effect of ruining their "reputations" in the eyes of the surrounding mainstream culture, they often have no one to turn to should they attempt to leave their militia at a later time. While both male and female child soldiers are often run out of their home villages if they attempt to return, the girls often have a hard time resettling anywhere because of the stigma of having been a "prostitute." Any children they bear while in the militias are often killed or abandoned. This is a characteristic pattern of most all conflicts where female child soldiers have been widely used, including in situations like Colombia or Sri Lanka where sexual slavery, per se, was/is not thought to be widespread.

In any case, the overwhelming majority of the victims of this conflict are innocent villagers who have never been combatants for either side.
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Old 11-17-2006, 02:29 AM   #52
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Originally posted by yolland

The Monitor's cover photo to accompany this story, which depicts a middle-aged-looking female militant directing two teenaged-looking male militants in a gun battle with Kinshasa police, indirectly highlights something I neglected to mention earlier about the makeup of the Congolese militias--i.e., that around a fifth of them are female, according to ICC estimates. Unlike the woman in the photo, most of these female soldiers are girls and young women, and MONUC believes the majority of them are playing a dual role as sex slaves and soldiers. Both male and female child soldiers are frequently terrorized or tortured upon being abducted into the ranks so as to cement their "loyalty," with sexual coercion specifically being widely used against the females. Because this has the effect of ruining their "reputations" in the eyes of the surrounding mainstream culture, they often have no one to turn to should they attempt to leave their militia at a later time. While both male and female child soldiers are often run out of their home villages if they attempt to return, the girls often have a hard time resettling anywhere because of the stigma of having been a "prostitute." Any children they bear while in the militias are often killed or abandoned. This is a characteristic pattern of most all conflicts where female child soldiers have been widely used, including in situations like Colombia or Sri Lanka where sexual slavery, per se, was/is not thought to be widespread.

In any case, the overwhelming majority of the victims of this conflict are innocent villagers who have never been combatants for either side.
Thanks for the information Yolland.

I appreciate that you are teaching your students about these problems. Perhaps one day, one of them will grow up and solve this for us
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Old 03-28-2007, 01:45 PM   #53
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After Congo Vote, Neglect and Scandal Still Reign

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

KINDU, Congo — The highway out of town is a single dirt motorcycle track. The colonial-era railroad has finally broken down. The last of the mighty river barges lies rotting on shore with weeds shooting up through its ribs. And so Kindu, a once prosperous city here in Congo’s interior, is now so cut off that everything is flown in by plane: bottled water, panes of glass, cookies, cucumbers, even gasoline, at $12 a gallon.

This is Congo six months after a historic election, the most expensive in Africa and one that was billed—by the Congolese and the United Nations officials who paid half a billion dollars for it—as the end of a free fall. Decades of misrule have reduced the 60 million people of this mineral-rich country to among the poorest in the world. Ceaseless rebellions have destabilized an enormous chunk of central Africa and claimed an estimated four million lives.

Congo’s fledging government is now trying to stitch the nation back together, as if it ever existed meaningfully at all. But a recent 1,200-mile trip across the country—by plane, truck, motorbike, hiking boots and dugout canoe—shows the Congo-size obstacles that are not going away. Kinshasa, the unruly capital at the western edge of the country, looks as if a war has been fought in its streets. There has been some violence there, like the periodic clashes between the presidential guard and a militia loyal to Jean-Pierre Bemba, a tycoon, former warlord and unsuccessful candidate for president. But it is not tanks and bombs that have turned the streets into bone-jarring rubble and many elegant buildings into teetering shells. It is neglect and corruption, which persist despite the election.

In early March, when it came time to form the first truly democratic government in the country’s history, a political party connected to President Joseph Kabila submitted the name André Kasongo Ilunga for trade minister. The problem, government officials later acknowledged, was that there was no such man. Naturally, when the government appointed Mr. Ilunga to the cabinet, he did not show up. The president’s advisers soon discovered that the name had been submitted as a ruse to ensure that another politician got the post. “It was very embarrassing for all of us,” said Kikaya bin Karubi, a member of Parliament and a confidant of President Kabila. A few days later, Congo’s top nuclear official was charged with making an unauthorized deal with a British company to sell the country’s copious supply of uranium.

That all happened just a few days before Paul D. Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, arrived in Kinshasa to discuss a $1.4 billion aid program. He said fighting corruption was the “foundation of all the other things that need to be done in this country,” but he warned that “it took many years to bring the country to this point...It is not going to be fixed overnight." Mr. Kabila has vowed to do his best, and his advisers say he has a stronger hand after defeating Mr. Bemba in a runoff election with 58% of the vote. Before that, Mr. Kabila was president of a transitional government in which power was awkwardly divided among him and four vice presidents, two of them warlords. That system was partly to blame for the disappearance of millions of dollars meant for the disarmament of militias. In 2004, Western donors gave Congo more than $200 million to get 330,000 militiamen out of the killing business. The plan was to provide each militia member who voluntarily disarmed with $25 a month and job training. But last summer the money suddenly ran out, after helping only a fraction of the gunmen. “The money got stolen,” said Ahmed Shariff, the top official in Kindu for the United Nations, which has 17,000 peacekeeping troops in Congo. “It was used to build houses and buy cars.” The government has yet to revive the program, leaving tens of thousands of former militiamen angry, armed and in the bush.

Sabuni Bokota is one of them. He is a 5-foot-tall tomato farmer and former militia commander, with three wives and 15 children. They all live in a string of mud brick huts along the east bank of the Congo River in an isolated village called Lotangi, a day’s paddle from Kindu past 100-foot-tall stalks of bamboo and baseball-size spiders. During Congo’s recent wars, Mr. Sabuni commanded 2,000 militiamen called the Mai-Mai, who greased themselves with palm oil, hung ivory amulets around their necks and chewed antibiotic pills they thought would give them magical powers. The Mai-Mai were a surreal dimension to the chaos that exploded in Congo in the late 1990s after the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko, the longtime dictator of Congo, which he renamed Zaire. Troops from six neighboring countries poured across the borders to plunder minerals. In Lotangi, local people like Mr. Sabuni fought back. The Mai-Mai were supposed to be part of the national disarmament plan, but since they lived in far-off places, many heard about the $25 monthly salaries only over crackly radios and never saw a dime. Now they are getting impatient. Recently, Mr. Sabuni greased himself up again, threw on his amulets and led a contingent of Mai-Mai to Kindu to protest. “We’ve been waiting five years,” he said. “But they keep telling us it will take time.”

Time has not been especially kind to Lotangi. It used to be part of a network of sun-baked river towns connected by barges, railways and roads built during the Belgian colonial era to cart away as much gold, ivory, produce and timber as possible. The old palm oil plantations and banana warehouses are still there, but they are sinking into the riverbanks, more jungle-eaten evidence of Mobutu’s kingdom of rot. “We used to have electricity,” said Germain Musombo, 38, who lives here in Kindu, a city of 250,000 lighted by candles. “We used to have a movie theater. We used to have decent roads and a train that could take us to Lubumbashi in three days,” a distance of 600 miles. Now that ride takes an entire month.

Congo is spread across more than 900,000 square miles, but it has only 300 miles of paved roads. The lack of infrastructure keeps the people poor. Kindu’s farmers used to export bananas, wood, rice and peanuts. Now much of their land, among the most fertile in Africa, lies fallow because they cannot get crops to market.
“There’s only so much you can carry on your head,” said the acting governor, Katharina Aziza Sadiki.

Farther east, the antigovernment frustrations intensify. Kichanga, a little town about 1,000 miles from Kinshasa, lies clearly outside Mr. Kabila’s control. It is reachable by a 60-minute United Nations flight from Kindu to Bukavu, a two-hour speedboat ride from Bukavu to Goma and then a three-hour slog up a steep, muddy road. The last government checkpoint is in the market town of Sake. After that, boy soldiers in unmarked uniforms march along the roads with rocket-propelled grenades and knee-high rubber boots. Villagers pay taxes not to the Democratic Republic of Congo but to Laurent Nkunda, the local warlord. Mr. Nkunda is built like a letter opener—long, sharp and thin. He is a Tutsi nationalist, and with Hutu death squads still roaming the countryside, Mr. Nkunda sees himself as all that stands between Congolese Tutsis and genocide. “The Tutsis who were killed in Rwanda were my friends,” he said. “I cannot accept it here.”

Eastern Congo is probably the most beautiful part of the country, but also the most brutalized and the most confusing. Thousands of lives there have been lost to disease, starvation and a shifting mix of rebel groups. The trouble began in 1994, when Rwanda’s Hutu ethnic majority turned on the Tutsi minority and 800,000 people were killed. Ever since, Rwanda’s Hutu-Tutsi violence has continued to play out across the border in Congo, where both communities have lived for decades.

But something new is happening, which could help bring stability. The Kabila government, empowered by the elections and freed from having to gain the approval of four rival vice presidents for every decision, is striking deals with a number of warlords, including Mr. Nkunda. Sometimes Mr. Kabila has little choice. In November, Mr. Nkunda’s forces humiliated government soldiers and advanced to within 10 miles of Goma, one of the biggest cities in eastern Congo. They would have seized it if United Nations peacekeepers had not sent in helicopter gunships. “Our national army is a joke,” said Aloys Tegera, the manager of an aid organization in Goma. “It’s a serious problem. Everybody is celebrating this big moment of democratization, but we’re building on sand.”

In Kichanga, government troops have been placed in an uneasy chain of command under Mr. Nkunda’s officers, but it is hard to know whether warlords like Mr. Nkunda are part of the problem or the solution. The town of Sake was occupied first by Mr. Nkunda’s soldiers, who basically left it alone, and then by government troops, who summarily looted it, residents said. Yet Congolese officials continue to accuse Mr. Nkunda of war crimes
, including massacring prisoners of war, though many residents here seem to like him, for obvious reasons. “If you’re sick, he gives you money,” said Sesaga Nzabonimba, a farmer near Sake.

Mr. Nkunda said he would rather join the government than strike out on his own. And that may be one of Congo’s greatest mysteries—how after decades of brutal colonial rule, kleptomaniacal dictatorship, ethnic fighting and regional isolation, a faint pulse of nationalism still survives. “I am a Tutsi, but more than that, I am Congolese,” Mr. Nkunda said. “I truly hope that one day I’ll be part of the national army. They need the help.”

Hundreds Killed in Kinshasa

KINSHASA, Congo, March 27 (Reuters) — More than 200 people were killed last week in fighting between the army and a former rebel leader’s forces, European Union ambassadors said Tuesday.

Fighting erupted in Kinshasa on Thursday after troops loyal to Mr. Bemba refused an order to disarm. The clashes continued for two days before his forces were routed.
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Old 03-29-2007, 05:35 PM   #54
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For clarification, that line was meant to refer to these countries' respective governments and leadership, not the individual people.
That's what it boils down to...real leadership, or lack thereof.

Speaking of leadership, there's going to be an interesting meeting over the next few days to discuss the DRC--but it's also about Zimbabwe, which is also becoming an increasingly desperate place to live. Robert Mugabe, the country's president, has ruled (and dictated) Zimbabwe for 27 years, while 80% of its people are living in abject poverty. There was a brutal crackdown last week on the opposition forces there, and things seem to be spiraling out of control on a daily basis.

Zimbabwe's an important place to watch, because like the DRC, it's to come to a point where direct action is needed from neighbouring countries to stem the tide of corruption and violence.



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Southern Africa Critical of Mugabe Crackdown
By Delia Robertson
Johannesburg
29 March 2007

Southern Africa leaders are meeting the Tanzanian capital in special session called to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe and recent political events in the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, right, arrives at the extraordinary meeting of the Southern African Development Community in Dar es Salaam, 29 Mar 2007
The meeting in Dar Es Salaam is being held against the backdrop a renewed crackdown by the Zimbabwe government on members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Senior opposition officials were arrested and brutally beaten by police. Dozens of mid-level activists have been detained and beaten before being released.

President Robert Mugabe seemed confident as he arrived in Tanzania, but the meeting is unlikely to be a comfortable experience for the 83-year-old ruler.

The head of the Capetown-based Transitional Justice-in-Africa Program, Brian Raftopoulos, told VOA regional leaders are losing patience with the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe, and in recent weeks some have shifted from private censure to public criticism.

"On the other hand, there is clearly a realization in SADC that this is no longer a sufficient position for him to take and one needs to find a way beyond the rhetorical excesses of Mugabe," he said.

Speaking during a special debate on Zimbabwe in South Africa's parliament Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sue van der Merwe said that an absence of open political dialogue in Zimbabwe is sinking the country ever deeper into political crisis. Van der Merwe said her government disapproved of the actions of the security forces against Zimbabwean opposition leaders in recent weeks, and urged Harare to respect the human rights of Zimbabwean citizens.

The meeting of 11 regional leaders, including South African President Thabo Mbeki, is being chaired by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. The Southern Africa Development Community has asked Mr. Kikwete, along with heads of Namibia and Angola, to take the lead in dealing with the Zimbabwe crisis.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe police said they seized weapons and ammunition Wednesday in a raid at the MDC offices and the homes of some of the opposition party's leaders. Dozens of people were arrested in the raids, and police also confiscated computers. The raids followed a series of bombings, mostly at police stations around the country.

The secretary-general of the Morgan Tsvangerai faction of the MDC, Tendai Biti, denied his party is stockpiling weapons or engages in acts of terror, and he repudiated suggestions it is behind the bombings.
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Old 11-04-2008, 03:18 AM   #55
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Spillover from the Rwandan genocide is a more recent, and also very potent, contributor--not only has the presence of more than a million refugees (many of them militants) logistically complicated matters, but on top of that the Tutsi-Hutu divide driving that abysmal conflict has "transfered" itself to exisiting divides between Congolese groups like the Lendu and Hema, who identify with one side or another in the Rwandan conflict. More than half the militia fighters are child soldiers (18 and under). Graft and corruption associated with the coltan, gold and diamond mining industries in the area further fuels the fire by funding weapons procurement.
In Congo, a steep price for Laurent Nkunda's growing power

By Edmund Sanders
Los Angeles Times, November 4



KITCHANGA, DR CONGO -- The road to Gen. Laurent Nkunda's latest territorial conquest was lined with signs of the rebel leader's growing power, but also of the devastation his insurgency has wrought. Rebel fighters in stolen government jeeps patrolled past deserted army camps. A column of traumatized civilians, many of whom have been displaced three times in the last week, filed past decomposing bodies of government soldiers in the road.

In one village they captured from the government, Nkunda supporters threw a victory party. Beleaguered residents of Rutshuru dutifully showed up and had the good sense to cheer for the new sheriff in town. But many acted as though they were living under occupation rather than liberation.

From his headquarters here in the steep, remote hills of eastern Congo, the tall, wiry rebel leader can survey the fruits of a two-month military campaign, which last week brought his forces to the doorstep of the regional capital, Goma. Many fear the insurgency is reigniting decades-old ethnic tensions that culminated in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

Nkunda, dressed in military fatigues and grasping a trademark eagle-headed walking cane as he received a group of foreign journalists, seemed to relish his standing as the latest African rebel to bomb his way into the international spotlight. "The international community is now coming to us," Nkunda told the journalists, who traveled through the jungle to interview him Sunday in the village of Kitchanga. "Today we are strong because now the international community understands." A military man who occasionally preaches as a part-time pastor, Nkunda has nearly doubled his territory since August and restocked his arsenal with antiaircraft guns and armored carriers looted from army bases. Some fear that his military strength and strategic position, including about 5000 fighters, pose a threat to United Nations peacekeepers in the region. Goma is headquarters for a 17,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force, the largest in the world.

Congo's northeastern region, which in recent days saw thousands of panicked families flee displacement camps in fear for their safety, has been ravaged by unrest, disease and starvation for more than a decade, resulting in an estimated 5 million deaths. Rebels announced a unilateral cease-fire Wednesday.

Some diplomats and U.N. officials are urging Congolese President Joseph Kabila to hold direct talks with Nkunda, whom Kabila previously dismissed as a terrorist. Nkunda complained that the Kabila administration and the international community had ignored his demands for face-to-face peace talks, lumping his rebel movement with dozens of other militias that signed a January cease-fire agreement. At the time, Nkunda reluctantly signed, but in the aftermath of his military victories, Nkunda said the deal must be renegotiated. In addition to direct talks, Nkunda said he wanted more control over government funds in the North Kivu region and replacements for the governor and regional military commander. One aide hinted that Nkunda might like to be prime minister. But Nkunda's ascent has come at a high price in a region that was already one of Africa's worst humanitarian crises.

While Nkunda fights in the name of protecting ethnic minority Tutsis, nearly 200,000 people in the last two months have been driven from their homes in a region where aid officials say more than 1 million already had been displaced. Most of the latest victims are Hutus. More than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in Rwanda in 1994 during a three-month slaughter in which ordinary Hutus, armed by the government, turned against Tutsi neighbors, friends and even spouses. Over the last 50 years, many Rwandan Tutsis and Hutus have immigrated to the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire.

Nkunda's recent campaign, which is aimed at crushing Hutu militias that crossed the border after carrying out the genocide, is fueling a backlash against Tutsis. As Nkunda's forces moved toward Goma last week, hundreds of Tutsis fled the city and sought temporary refuge in the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi. "It's gotten so much worse," said one Tutsi government official in Goma. Over the last week, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, received three anonymous phone calls, one of which ended with a flurry of obscenities and a death threat. The official said some government operatives might even be laying the groundwork for a Rwanda-style genocide. A recent city questionnaire, used to issue special curfew-identification cards, included data about ethnicity. "I fear it's being planned," the official said.

North Kivu Gov. Julien Paluku Kahongya dismissed such fears as exaggeration and paranoia. "Tutsis want to make attention for themselves," the governor, who is neither Hutu nor Tutsi, said in an interview. "There is no possibility of genocide here."

But Hutus are also complaining about ethnic targeting -- by Nkunda's forces. Most of his incursions over the last two years have affected Hutu-dominated areas. Hutus make up about 40% of the North Kivu population (compared with the less than 4% who are Tutsis), yet they represent 99% of the displaced, according to Gimmy Habanabakiza, a Hutu leader and local administrator. "Tutsis in Rwanda are in power, and they don't want Hutus reorganizing in eastern Congo," he said.

In recent days, Nkunda's forces have been accused of burning tents, looting camps and restricting the movements of displaced people. "When they got here, we waited to see whether they would act like good guys, but then they started burning down the tents and bombing us, so we ran," said Cebiti Mayarni, 28, a Hutu and father of five children, who fled into Goma.

In Rutshuru and surrounding rebel-controlled areas, displaced people accused Nkunda's troops of pushing them out of camps and ordering them to return home. "Our first plan is to make them go home," Oscar Balinda, a rebel advisor in Rutshuru, said, referring to displaced residents. Then he corrected himself: "To help them go home."

In many ways, the last decade of conflict in eastern Congo is an echo of events in Rwanda. After then-Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko gave genocide suspects sanctuary in eastern Congo, Rwanda's post-genocide government backed rebels who overthrew Mobutu in 1997. A year later, Rwanda invaded eastern Congo. It again claimed it was striking against Hutu death squads known as Interahamwe, but many believe Rwanda wanted an excuse to illegally mine Congo's natural resources, including gold and coltan, used in cellphones. "If there had been no genocide in Rwanda, our problems would be much less," Habanabakiza said.

Nkunda said short-term human suffering, even of his own people, is unavoidable. "That's the cost of freedom," he said. The 41-year-old Nkunda got his military training while helping Rwandan rebel leader Paul Kagame overthrow the government. Today Kagame is the Rwandan president, but he denies supporting Nkunda.

Those who have watched Nkunda's rise say he can appear a megalomaniac, at times unsure whether he wants to be seen as a statesman or strongman. His popular support is also hard to gauge. His candidates performed poorly in the 2006 national election, though in recent days some government officials and lawmakers have defected to his side. There's no question he's attracted support from a variety of ethnic groups, including Hutus, by tapping into deep-seated public frustration over eastern Congo's worsening poverty and the perceived inaction by the government in Kinshasa.

But international diplomats have warned Nkunda that further military expansions will not be tolerated. From his newly strengthened vantage point, an emboldened Nkunda is making no promises, saying the direction of his war will depend on what he gets in future negotiations. "No talks," he shrugged, "no cease-fire."



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There's still some hope that regionally and internationally mediated negotiations between Kabila, Kagame and Nkunda could bring the situation back under control before full-scale war erupts yet again. The last couple weeks have definitely been a low point for UN peacekeeping troops stationed in DR Congo--they were powerless to stop Nkunda's advance to Goma, and based on reports were also unable to prevent atrocities (including the thread topic, gang rapes) by both Nkunda's and government troops against fleeing refugees. The last appointed director of the UN troops in DR Congo stepped down after only a few months, in disgust at how absurdly undermanned the mission is.

In case anyone's interested, a student recently emailed me a link to a 2007 documentary called Blood Coltan, readily available on YouTube and some other sites. I've only had time to watch about 10 minutes of it so far, but it looked like a good overview of the conflict in the Kivu region--its focus is on the military and political struggle over the lucrative coltan trade, which while not the main source of conflict is definitely an incentive to perpetuate it. Nkunda himself apparently appears about 25 minutes in, "proudly displaying his 'Rebels For Christ' lapel pin."
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Old 11-09-2008, 11:17 AM   #56
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Conflict in Congo, refugees on the move - The Big Picture - Boston.com
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Old 11-09-2008, 04:01 PM   #57
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It is so terribly horrible and sad. In my local paper there was a 6 year old girl carrying her infant brother on her back looking for her parents. Its amazing that at 6 she knew what to do with her brother. I pray for that continent all the time.
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