Wednesday, June 27, 2012

UN Says Rwandan Troops Arm and Train Rebels in Congo

Former AFRICOM head, Kip Ward with James Kaberebe, one of
 the Rwandan soldiers named in the UN  report  for providing
support to rebels in the Congo.

According to leaked reports to Reuters news agency "the (UN) experts have implicated several high-ranking Rwandan officials who are directly involved." The U.N. material has been “verified by five separate sources,” identifying Rwandan “officials supporting M23 as Defense Minister James Kaberebe; chief of defense staff Charles Kayonga; and General Jacques Nziza, a military adviser to Kagame.”  Kaberebe, according to this source, was "in constant contact with M23."

The Washington Post/Foreign Policy shared excerpts from the report:

Since the outset of its current mandate, the Group [of Experts] has gathered evidence of arms embargo and sanctions regime violations committed by the Rwandan Government. These violations consist of the provision of material and financial support to armed groups operation in the eastern DRC, including the recently established M23, in contravention of paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 1807. The arms embargo and sanctions regimes violations include the following:

*Direct assistance in the creation of M23 through the transport of weapons and soldiers through Rwandan territory;

*Recruitment of Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants as well as Congolese refugees for M23;

*Provision of weapons and ammunition to M23;

*Mobilization and lobbying of Congolese political and financial leaders for the benefit of M23;

*Direct Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23;

*Support to several other armed groups as well as FARDC mutinies in the eastern Congo;

*Violation of the assets freeze and travel ban through supporting sanctioned individuals.

Over the course of its investigation since late 2011, the Group has found substantial evidence attesting to support from Rwandan officials to armed groups operating in the eastern DRC. Initially the RDF [Rwandan Defense Forces] appeared to establish these alliances to facilitate a wave of targeted assassinations against key FDLR [The Demoratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the armed remnants of Rwanda's former genocidal government] officers, thus significantly weakening the rebel movement (see paragraphs 37 & 38 of interim report). However, these activities quickly extended to support for a series of post electoral mutinies within the FARDC [The Rwandan Armed Forces] and eventually included the direct facilitation, through the use of Rwandan territory, of the creation of the M23 rebellion. The latter is comprised of ex-CNDP officers integrated into the Congolese army (FARDC) in January 2009. Since M23 established itself in strategic positions along the Rwandan border in May 2012, the Group has gathered overwhelming evidence demonstrating that senior RDF officers, in their official capacities, have been backstopping the rebels through providing weapons, military supplies, and new recruits.

In turn, M23 continues to solidify alliance with many other armed groups and mutineer movements, including those previously benefiting from RDF support. This has created enormous security challenges, extending from Ituri district in the north to Fizi territory in the south, for the already overstretched Congolese Army(FARDC). Through such arms embargo violations, Rwandan officials have also been in contravention of the sanctions regime's travel ban and assets freeze measures, by including three designated individuals amongst their direct allies.

In an attempt to solve the crisis which this Rwandan support to armed groups had exacerbated, the governments of the DRC and Rwanda have held a series of high-level bilateral meetings since early April 2012. During these discussions, Rwandan officials have insisted on impunity for their armed group and mutineer allies, including ex-CNDP General Bosco Ntaganda, and the deployment of additional RDF units to the Kivus to conduct large-scale operations against the FDLR. The latter request has been repeatedly made despite the fact that: a) the RDF halted its unilateral initiatives to weaken the FDLR in late February; b) RDF Special Forces have already been deployed officially in Rutshuru territory for over a year; c) RDF operational units are periodically reinforcing the M23 on the battlefield against the Congolese army; d) M23 is directly and indirectly allied with several FDLR splinter groups; and e) the RDF is remobilizing previously repatriated FDLR to boost the ranks of M23.

* * *
Elevated Standards of Evidence:

In light of the serious nature of these findings, the group has adopted elevated methodological standards. Since early April 2012, the Group has interviewed over 80 deserters of FARDC mutinies and Congolese armed groups, including from M23. Amongst the latter, the Group has interviewed 31 Rwandan nationals. Furthermore, the group has also photographed weapons and military equipment found in arms caches and on the battlefield, as well as obtained official documents and intercepts of radio communication. The Group has also consulted dozens of senior Congolese military commanders and intelligence officials as well as political and community leaders with intricate knowledge of development between DRC and Rwanda. Moreover, the Group has communicated regularly with several active participants of the ex-CNDP mutiny, the M23 rebellion, and other armed groups. Finally, while the Group's standard methodology requires a minimum of three sources, assessed to be credible and independent of one another, it has raised this to five sources when naming specific individuals involved in these case of arms embargo and sanctions violations.

 * * *
Rwandan Support to M23:

Since the earliest stage of its inception, the Group documented a systematic pattern of military and political support provided to the M23 rebellion by Rwandan authorities. Upon taking control over the strategic position of Runyoni, along the Rwandan border with DRC, M23 officers opened two supply routes going from Runyoni to Kinigi or Njerima in Rwanda, which RDF officers used to deliver such support as troops, recruits, and weapons. The Group also found evidence that Rwandan officials mobilized ex-CNDP cadres and officers, North Kivu politicians, business leaders and youth in support of M23.

* * *
Direct Rwandan assistance in creation of M23 through Rwandan territory:

Colonel Sultani Makenga deserted the FARDC in order to create the M23 rebellion using Rwandan territory and benefiting directly from RDF facilitation (See paragraph 104 of interim report). On 4 May, Makenga crossed the boder from Goma into Gisenyi, Rwanda, and waited fro his soldiers to join him from Goma and Bukavu. Intelligence sources, M23 collaborators and local politicians confirmed for the Group that RDF Western Division commander, General Emmanuel Ruvusha, welcomed Makenga upon his arrival to Gisenyi. The same source indicated that Ruvusha subsequently held a series of coordination meetings with other RDF officers in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri over the following days with Makenga.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coalition Calls for U.S. Action to End Instability in the DRC

Africa Great Lakes Coalition Calls for U.S. Action to End Instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A United Nations Group of Experts report has documented the Rwandan government's support for rebel groups inside the Congo. Various media have reported that the United States Mission to the United Nations, headed by Ambassador Susan Rice had first attempted to block the report and after pressure has subsequently agreed to allow the publishing of the Group of Experts report. Reuters states that "the (UN) experts have implicated several high-ranking Rwandan officials who are directly involved." The U.N. material has been "verified by five separate sources," identifying Rwandan "officials supporting M23 as Defense Minister James Kaberebe; chief of defense staff Charles Kayonga; and General Jacques Nziza, a military adviser to Kagame." Kaberebe, according to this source, was "in constant contact with M23." In spite of the abundance of evidence demonstrating Rwanda's support of war criminals in the Congo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department refuses to hold Rwanda to account in spite of a U.S. Law that calls for withholding of aid to countries that destabilize the Congo.

Atrocities continue to mount in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where over 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the last three months as a result of attacks by rebel groups M23 and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). Support of the M23 militia is only the most recent example of Rwanda underwriting rebellions that continue to devastate Congolese communities; this is the latest of many documented instances of such support. Worth noting are previous rebellions of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) in 1996, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) in 1998 and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) in 2006. It is telling that former members of the RCD like renegade general Laurent Nkunda formed the CNDP and that, today, former members of the CNDP and RCD, including indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, are members of the M23 rebellion. These rebellions are not separate, internal rebellions as they are often reported, but are all related recurrences of foreign intervention by the Rwandan government.

According the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navy Pillay, "The leaders of the M23 figure among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the DRC, or in the world for that matter, and many of them have appalling track records including allegations of involvement in mass rape, and of responsibility for massacres and for the recruitment and use of children."

While President Obama has long recognized that the DRC has been destabilized by neighboring countries, his administration has yet to get tough on those fueling the cycles of violence. The need to hold the DRC's neighbors accountable was part of the only law he sponsored as a senator in 2006: PL109-456. Section 105 of that law gives power to the US Secretary of State to withhold aid from neighboring countries deemed to destabilize the Congo. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton co-sponsored this law.

This legislation has been on the books for 6 years, but has yet to be fully implemented. The recent flood of evidence pointing to Rwanda's military aggression in the Congo calls for an enforcement of this law. In the United Kingdom, more than 20 members of parliament have joined the call to suspend financial support to Rwanda in light of the content in the UN report implicating Rwanda in supporting rebels in the Congo. In accordance with its statutes, the US government should withhold any military, bilateral and multilateral budgetary aid until Rwanda permanently ceases its support of rebels in the DRC.

Given the Obama administration's mass atrocities prevention directive, current violence in the Kivu provinces of the DRC tests the US government's political will to fulfill its promises and enforce its laws. Will the administration recognize the atrocities in eastern DRC and use the law Obama wrote to hold destabilizing parties responsible? Historically, economic sanctions have proven effective in curtailing Rwandan aggressions across the border. In late 2008, Sweden and the Netherlands suspended aid to Rwanda after evidence surfaced showing Rwanda's support of the CNDP rebel group.

The CNDP rebellion, parent to the M23 rebellion currently led by the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted war criminal Bosco "The Terminator" Ntaganda, had been devastating eastern Congo, causing thousands of deaths and displacing over three hundred thousand people from their homes. As soon as aid was withdrawn, Rwanda arrested General Laurent Nkunda. With a law on the books requiring that the United States respond as Sweden and the Netherlands did, and as the second biggest donor to Rwanda providing nearly $200 million in aid annually, the US has the power to help stabilize the region or continue to underwrite those who are destabilizing it. In its position, the US has both tremendous leverage and responsibility to take action.

The international community failed Rwanda in 1994 when it did little to respond and help prevent genocide, and nearly a million Rwandans were slaughtered within three months. Aftershocks from that tragedy have been reverberating through the region ever since. Though Rwanda has stabilized significantly, it is still a time to respond to mass atrocity in the region, as more than six million civilians have perished in Congo since 1996, Rwanda's first documented invasion. The United States government must do its best to foster peace and reconciliation in the whole region, not just in Rwanda. This means not merely giving aid but doing due diligence; the best hope for a speedy end to the atrocities is for donor nations to begin withholding aid from governments who perpetrate instability in the region.

Please join the Great Lakes of Africa Coalition in urging the US government to take swift and decisive action in Congo. Call on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to help end the impunity in the Congo by enforcing Section 105 of Public Law 109-456.

Institute for Policy Studies, Foreign Policy in Focus
Africa Faith and Justice Network
Africa Action
African Great Lakes Action Network
Mobilization For Justice and Peace
Shalupe Foundation
Hope Congo
Congolese Development Center, Inc
Chicago Congo Coalition
Friends of the Congo

Saturday, June 16, 2012

FILIMBI - "My world, my village. Africa, my country. Congo my province!"

Today, June 16 2012, is the International Day of the African Child. It has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity (now called the African Union).

On that day in 1976, thousands of black school children took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa. In a march more than half a mile long, they protested the inferior quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down by security forces. In the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand were injured.

To honor the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Congolese youth are launching a platform called FILIMBI (whistle in swahili) that will teach the people of the Congo about their rights. Organizing across the country in four major provinces simultaneously, these young Congolese women and men will blow the whistle as a beginning of a new era in the lives of many on the ground.

In support of the Congolese youth, you can do the following:

1. Support the youth project

2. Organize an action today in solidarity with them

3. Share this information with your network

4. Sign up for Congo Week

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Help End Impunity in the DR Congo

End the Impunity in Eastern Congo: Hold US Ally to Account

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO ) recently revealed that the Rwandan government has a hand in the current instability in eastern Congo by giving support to the rebel groups National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and/or M23. This does not come as news to those who follow Congolese politics. Since 1996, the Rwandan government has acted as a major destabilizing force in the east of the Congo. Myriad studies and reports have documented how the Rwandan government has waged proxy wars through rebel groups, pilfering of Congo's resources and trading in hundreds of millions of dollars of conflict minerals.

The report by MONUSCO is not surprising, but the carte blanche that the Rwandan government enjoys, especially at the international level, continues to boggle the mind. It would appear that the more Rwanda destabilizes the Congo, the more military equipment, training, intelligence and financial aid the government gets from its donors in the West. Timothy Reid's prescient article in the Harvard Policy Journal entitled "Killing Them Softly: Has Foreign Aid to Rwanda and Uganda Contributed to the Humanitarian Tragedy in the Democratic Republic of Congo?" captures the scale of the impunity with which the Rwandan government has operated in Congo with the full backing of its donors.

A staunch ally of the United States and the United Kingdom, the Rwandan government has benefited tremendously from the diplomatic cover and protection that accompanies its relationship with such powerful nations - former New York Times reporter, Howard French explains. 

The United States has a law on its books that supporters of the Rwandan government both inside and outside the US government would wish to disappear. The Democratic Republic of The Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act (PL 109-456), sponsored by Barack Obama and Co-Sponsored by Hillary Clinton when they were both Senators, was signed into law in 2006 by President Bush.

Section 105 of Public Law 109-456 says "The Secretary of State is authorized to withhold assistance made available under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), other than humanitarian, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism assistance, for a foreign country if the Secretary determines that the government of the foreign country is taking actions to destabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

Following a United Nations group of experts report published in 2008documenting Rwanda's support for the CNDP and its leader at the time, Laurent Nkunda, Sweden and Netherlands did what the United States has not done to date; they held the Rwandan government to account by withholding financial aid.Subsequently, Rwanda demobilized the CNDP and placed Laurent Nkunda under house arrest only to replace him with Bosco Ntaganda as head of the CNDP. Now that Ntaganda has become toxic as a result of increasing demands that he should be brought to the International Criminal Court (ICC) where he is wanted for war crimes in the Congo, there is now an attempt to replace him with Sultani Makenga. Noted scholar of the region Rene LeMarchand stated in the Fall/Winter 2009, Brown Journal of World Affairs that Rwanda is a central actor who will determine whether the region is characterized by peace or war.

Allowing more to die and add to the millions of Congolese already lost to the war and instability of the last fifteen years is unconscionable. It is time that the international community and Rwanda's allies, especially the United States, hold the Rwandan government to account. A good start would be to implement Section 105 of PL 109-456.

Sign Petition
Sign this petition and let President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton know that you stand for peace in the Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Contact the U.S. State Department, The White House and members of Congress and request that they hold the Rwandan government accountable for its actions in the Congo.

Select Resources that document the Rwandan government's destabilizing role in the Congo

DR Congo: Rwanda Should Stop Aiding War Crimes Suspect
Human Rights Watch

Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering The Truth 
Documentary Film
Friends of the Congo

Kagame Admits that Rwandans Led Revolt in Congo
Washington Post, July 1997

Kagame's Hidden War in the Congo
New York Review of Books
Howard French

United Nations Mapping Exercise Report
Navanethem "Navi" Pillay,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR)

Sign up for Congo Week V, October 14 - 20, 2012

Follow FOTC on Facebook and Twitter to stay abreast of the latest developments!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Appeal Letter to the United States Government

Hello, my name is ___________. I am calling in regard to the escalating violent situation in the Congo. Since March of this year, tens of thousands of Congolese have been displaced and many more killed due to a rebel uprising in Eastern Congo. According to Human Rights Watch and The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo, U.S. ally Rwanda is supporting the forces destabilizing the Congo.

The United States has had a law on its books since 2006 called The Democratic Republic of The Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act (PL 109-456).

Section 105 of the law says "The Secretary of State is authorized to withhold assistance made available under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), other than humanitarian, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism assistance, for a foreign country if the Secretary determines that the government of the foreign country is taking actions to destabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

Can you call on the Secretary of State and President Obama to leverage this law to hold Rwanda accountable for its actions in the Congo? Sweden and Netherlands leveraged its aid to Rwanda in 2008 to hold the Rwanda government accountable, which resulted in the house arrest of the rebel leader it was supporting in the Congo. We would appreciate your help in getting the United States to do the same as Sweden and Netherlands in an effort to advance peace and stability in the Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Contact State Department
Secretary Hillary Clinton

Contact the White House

Contact US Senate

John Kerry (Democrat - Massachusetts)
(202) 224-2742

Barbara Boxer (Democrat - California)
(202) 224-3553

Robert Menendez (Democrat - New Jersey)
(202) 224-4744

Benjamin L. Cardin (Democrat - Maryland)
(202) 224-4524

Robert P. Casey Jr. (Democrat - Pennsylvania)
(202) 224-6324

Jim Webb (Democrat - Virginia)
(202) 224-4024

Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat - New Hampshire)
(202) 224-2841

Christopher Coons (Democrat - Delaware)
(202) 224-5042

Richard J. Durbin (Democrat - Illinois)
(202) 224-2152

Tom Udall (Democrat - New Mexico)
(202) 224-6621

Richard G. Lugar (Republican - Indiana)
(202) 224-4814

Bob Corker (Republican - Tennessee)
(202) 224-3344
James E. Risch (Republican - Idaho)
(202) 224-2752

Marco Rubio (Republican - Florida)
(202) 224-3041

James M. Inhofe (Republican - Oklahoma)
(202) 224-4721

Jim DeMint (Republican - South Carolina)
(202) 224-6121

Johnny Isakson (Republican - Georgia)
(202) 224-3643

John Barrasso (Republican - Wyoming)
(202) 224-6441

Mike Lee (Republican - Utah)
(202) 224-5444

Contact House of Representatives

Congressman Chris H. Smith - Republican
New Jersey's 4th Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-3765

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry - Republican
Nebraska's 1st Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-4806

Congressman Tom Marino - Republican
Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District
DC Office: 202-225-3731

Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle - Republican
New York's 25th Congressional District
DC Office: 202-225-3701

Congressman Robert Turner - Republican
New York's 9th Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-6616

Congresswoman Karen Bass -Democrat
California 33rd Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-7084

Congressman Russ Carnahan - Democrat
Missouri's 3rd Congressional District
DC office: 202-225-2671

Friday, June 01, 2012

DRC: Members of Parliament Tackle Controversial Monusco Report

The situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has mobilized the political class in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. Tomorrow Saturday, June 2, a demonstration against the war is planned in the capital, an  initiative led by some members of the opposition and civil society. Rwanda's actions in the Congo is denounced by all sides since a United Nations report that documents Rwanda's involvement with rebels in the east. A closed door debate has begun in the National Assembly. It will resume Monday.

Several members of Parliament do not like the fact that talks are taking place behind closed doors with the former minster of defense, Charles Mwando. Member of Parliament Clement Kanku says "The Congolese people must know what is happening in the East, and what Rwanda is doing." Clement Kanku has called for a demonstration on Saturday to protest against the resumption of the war: "It's been over thirteen years that Rwanda has occupied the eastern Congo, said the MP. And the example of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, and his involvement in Sierra Leone, should inform us today and should instruct Rwanda."

One of his colleagues in the political majority, Venant Tshipasa, MP from North Kivu, thinks the same, and is not at all confident in the dialogue taking place between Kinshasa and Kigali: "I do not believe in the sincerity of Rwanda. I believe our government deals with Rwanda with both hands on the table while Rwanda shows us peace with the left hand and with the right hand takes the Kalashnikov to make war against us."

Former member of Parliament from South Kivu, Enock Ruberangabo, a member of the Tutsi Banyamulege community, takes a more measured stance. For him, a frank dialogue with Rwanda is in order, "Kigali must speak with Kinshasa to find solutions. We who are a part of the communities along the border are tired of this exploitation."

The situation in the East has often been ignored in Kinshasa, but this time it is at the forefront of the political debate.

Click here to sign petition calling for accountability in the Great Lakes Region.

Translated by Friends of the Congo from La Redaction: