Thursday, August 30, 2012

Religious Leaders Collect 1 Million Signatures

Since the middle of July, religious leaders throughout the Congo have been organizing to collect signatures from Congolese citizens as a form of demonstration against Rwanda's aggression against the Congolese people through support of the rebel group M23.

The petition touch on several key themes:
1. No to the balkanization (break up) of the Congo.

2. A cessation of Rwandan aggression against the Congolese people.

3. No negotiations with the rebel group M23.

4. Calls for justice for the people of the Congo who have been victims of myriad war criminals.
Radio Okapi reported that the church leaders collected 1 million signatures.

The petitions have already been presented to the Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raymond Tshibanda. The petitions will next be presented to the United Nations. The key ask from the petition is for the United Nations and the international community to help bring an end to the ongoing conflict in the Congo.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Excerpts From SADC Communique, August 18, Maputo, Mozambique

13.1 On DRC,  Summit noted with great concern that  the security situation in the Eastern  part of  DRC has deteriorated in the last  three (3) months, causing displacement of people and loss of lives and property. Summit  also  noted that this is being perpetrated by rebel groups with assistance of Rwanda, and urged the latter to cease immediately its interference that constitutes a threat to peace and stability, not only of the DRC, but also of the SADC Region.4 This situation has called for renewed and urgent attention by the Summit which fielded an Assessment Mission to the DRC. Summit endorsed a Report of the Mission which recommended appropriate action to address the security situation in the Eastern part of DRC.  Summit further mandated the Chairperson of SADC to undertake a mission to Rwanda to engage the Government of Rwanda with the aim of urging Rwanda to stop military support to armed rebels in the DRC, the so-called M23. Summit  also urged  Member States and the international Community to provide humanitarian relief to the displaced people in the Eastern part of DRC.

13.2 Summit directed the SADC Secretariat to collaborate with the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region Secretariat in pursuit of peace and security in the Eastern DRC.

Click here to download entire communique!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Keris Dahlkamp Swims For Congo

Keris Dahlkamp began his 22 mile 14 hour swim for Congo across Lake Tahoe today at 1:00 AM. Keris is using his talent to raise awareness about the situation in the Congo and raise funds (click here to make a contribution) for the Congo Connect Youth Initiative.

Follow Keris' swimmer via @kambale on twitter. Below are a few updates:

In Clear vibrant starry night on Lake Tahoe, at exactly 1 am Pacific Time, Keris Dahlkamp started his 

The lake is so dark, the night is cold, Keris Dahlkamp's wife is also out on the motor boat. It will take him 16 hours to finish

It's 7:23. Just made call to Team Keris on boat. Keris is still swimming. Apparently, when the sun came out he was very happy. 

Keris Dahlkamp has been swimming for the past 6 hours in the dark on Lake Tahoe to raise awareness about situation in the Congo. 

Team Keris says he is doing well, got his rhythm, and is on track. He stopped for a moment to take his nutrients.
At 20.75 miles, Team Keris decided to pull Keris Dahlkamp out of Lake Tahoe. Keris got really sick.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Obama Administration Withholds Military Aid From Rwanda

The Obama Administration Withholds Military Aid From Rwanda

On Saturday, July 21, 2012 the United States officially announced that it was withholding $200,000 in military aid from the Rwandan government. Although a materially insignificant sum, the symbolism has serious implications for Rwanda's image and reputation in the global community.

In withholding aid from Rwanda, President Obama is following in the footsteps of the Bush administration who pressured Rwanda to withdraw its soldiers from the Congo in 2002. In addition, the Obama administration has taken a small step in implementing the Democratic Republic of Congo Relief Security and Democracy Promotion Act, PL 109-456 - a law that he sponsored as Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-sponsored. 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 counter terrorism 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."

Friends of the Congo maintains that Rwanda's repeated interventions in the Congo since 1996 has been the major obstacle to peace and stability in the region. Rwanda along with its ally Uganda have invaded the Congo twice (1996 & 1998); occupied the Congo 1997 - 2002; sponsored proxy rebel groups, mainly the Rally For Congolese Democracy (RCD), National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), and M23; fought a "six-day war" against Uganda on Congolese soil over diamonds in Kisangani in 2000 killing over 1,000 Congolese and injuring scores. Yet, Rwanda has escaped serious sanctions and have operated with impunity in the Congo primarily via its support of rebel groups with devastating consequences for Congolese civilians.

The withholding of aid by the United States government is significant because, it:
1. Sends a strong signal to Paul Kagame and the Rwandan government that they no longer have carte-blanche to destabilize the Congo.

2. Endorses the UN Group of Experts findings, which Rwanda vehemently denies.

3. Communicates a clear message to Rwanda that although its people are victims of a genocide it does not entitle the government to sponsor mayhem and atrocities in the Congo.

4. Clears the way for other donors to follow the US lead in withholding aid from Rwanda. The Netherlands is the first nation to follow in the footsteps of the United States by withholding aid from Rwanda.

5. Announces to the global community that it will no longer provide diplomatic cover for Rwanda's aggression against the Congo.

6. Sets in motion a process that will increasingly hold Rwanda to account for destabilizing the Congo. See Stephen Rapp's statements about the possibility of Paul Kagame facing prosecution at the international criminal court for arming groups responsible for atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

7. Says to Rwanda that good management of aid dollars does not give it license to flagrantly violate international law and destabilize a neighbor.

8. Establishes standards or parameters for accountability at the international level.

9. Hits Rwanda with the reality that it is not beyond reproach even if it has friends in high places (President Clinton, a staunch supporter of President Paul Kagame had just left Rwanda when the State Department announced the cutting of aid).

10. Injects a critical variable into the equation when Rwanda contemplates the implications for destabilizing the Congo in particular and the region in general.

The Congolese people are yearning for some measure of accountability, justice and an end to the impunity, not only locally but also regionally and internationally. The United States has the tools at its disposal to play a key constructive role in advancing peace and stability in the region. As the United States continue "to assess whether other steps should be taken," the government ought to be encouraged and pressured to do more until the political, military and economic stranglehold that Rwanda has on eastern Congo via its proxies is broken. Peace and stability in the region can be advanced significantly should Rwanda cease its support of rebel groups, initiate an inter-Rwandan dialogue and scale back its ambitions to control the Kivus for its economic benefit.

The US Government Statement on Withholding Aid From Rwanda

FOTC Petition Calling on the US To Enforce Public Law 109-456

Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth