Congo

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Why did Congolese soldiers kill a surrendered militia leader? | 

Congolese military (FARDC) members.
Congolese military (FARDC) members.
Radio Okapi

The death of a Congolese militia leader who surrendered to the military is raising serious questions.

A brutal militia leader known as Morgan surrendered to the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Saturday. He was joined by somewhere around 40 of his militia members.

He was killed during a firefight while being transported to be taken in by the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo. According to the government, Morgan and some of his men tried to escape from the soldiers providing escort.

“He caused a shootout which resulted in the deaths of two army soldiers and two of his own men. He tried to flee but suffered a serious injury,” said government spokesman Lambert Mende to Reuters on Monday.

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Conflict minerals advocates win and suffer setback in appeal decision | 

A Congolese tin miner sifts through ground rocks to separate out the cassiterite, in the town of Nyabibwe, eastern Congo, a once bustling outpost fueled by artisanal cassiterite mining.
A Congolese tin miner sifts through ground rocks to separate out the cassiterite, in the town of Nyabibwe, eastern Congo, a once bustling outpost fueled by artisanal cassiterite mining.
AP Photo/Marc Hofer

A US appeals court determined on Monday that a US Securities and Exchange Commission rule compelling public companies to disclose whether or not their products contain “conflict minerals” is a violation of their free speech rights.

The rule, Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, has been controversial from its inception. It’s intent is to track where minerals that appear in everyday electronics, such as cell phones, are fueling conflict and supporting armed groups. The corporations that extract the minerals say the new rules place an undue burden on their work and violate their rights.

The court partially agreed. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules were not entirely struck down by the ruling. It does represent a minor set-back for the advocates who have campaigned for transparency in the mining sector in conflict-affected countries. The real losers are the corporate lobby groups that brought forward the lawsuit.

“At the end of the day this is a huge loss for the National Association of Manufacturers,” said Laura Seay,  assistant professor of Government at Colby College, to Humanosphere. ”They still have to file through the SEC whether their supply chains were audited and free of conflict minerals. What has changed is that these companies do not have to disclose to their investors whether or not they are using conflict free minerals. ”

The Enough Project, a Washington DC-based advocacy group who took an active role in crafting and campaigning for 1502, called the ruling a ‘step backward for atrocity prevention.”

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Genocide anniversary reignites French-Rwandan political tensions | 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

“The genocide we remember today –  and the world’s failure to respond more quickly – reminds us that we always have a choice,” said US President Obama in a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, today.

“The horrific events of those 100 days – when friend turned against friend, and neighbor against neighbor – compel us to resist our worst instincts, just as the courage of those who risked their lives to save others reminds us of our obligations to our fellow man.”

Rwandan President Paul Kagame lit a flame at the ceremony that will burn for the next 100 days, in what was reportedly an emotional commemoration. It represents the period of time when an estimated 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed by Hutu soldiers.

Notably absent from the day’s events was France. France canceled its participation in today’s genocide commemorations in Rwanda after the nation’s leader accused the country of being directly involved in the genocide.

The Kagame-led government has remained critical of France for its role in the genocide. Accusations include helping the Hutu soldiers who carried out the atrocities in 1994 escape. There have been further allusions made regarding the fact that France helped to train the Rwandan military prior to the genocide.

“The Western powers would like the Rwanda is an ordinary country, as if nothing had happened, which have the advantage to forget their own responsibilities, but it is impossible. Take the case of France. Twenty years after, the only eligible reproach in his eyes is that of not having done enough to save lives during the genocide,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame in an interview with Jeune Afrique, conducted in French.

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South African nations off pace for MDGs on water and sanitation | 

Tanzania - Girl misses school to carry water home.
Girl misses school to carry water home. (Tanzania)
Tom Murphy

Only two countries in Southern Africa are likely to achieve improved access to safe water and improved sanitation, by the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The more than 100 million people without safe water and the 174 million without proper sanitation face serious health risks, due to the problem.

“Southern African governments must meet their past promises on water and sanitation and, together with donors, invest at the levels needed to put an end to the crisis that causes hundreds of thousands of children’s lives to be prematurely and needlessly extinguished,” said Robert Kampala, Water Aid’s Head of Region for Southern Africa.

Falling behind means that 40 million people who should have gained access to safe water by 2015 will not. Catching up will come at a price, says the UK-based NGO Water Aid in a new report. The region needs to see spending increase by $3.6 billion per year if it wants to fix the problem.

The massive problem comes with deadly consequences. More than half of all children in Madagascar are affected by diarrhoeal disease, which is more often than not the result of poor water and sanitation. Diarrhea alone kills 14,000 children under five years old each year, in the country. The effects extend to missed school and work, both of which make it harder for families to earn and living, thus slowing down progress for an entire nation.

The news is slightly better for safe water advances than it is for sanitation, in the region. Of the 12 countries in the region, 7 are nearing universal access for water. The rest are off track, says the report. At present, less than half of all people living in the DR Congo, Madagascar and Mozambique have access to clean water. Sanitation is far worse with only three countries on track.

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Restoring the shattered women of Congo | 

By Evelyn Iritani, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and senior editor at the radio production house Bending Borders. Iritani recently returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo to report on an initiative, partly supported by Seattle organizations and humanitarians, that empowers those most disproportionately and unfairly afflicted by the cycle of violence – women.

Women are especially at risk in the violence and instability that frequently erupts in DR Congo.
Women are especially at risk in the violence and instability that frequently erupts in DR Congo.
AP

Goma, DR Congo – The first thing Modestine Etoy does when the young mothers arrive at her door is listen.

It may take hours, or even days, before they are comfortable enough to share their secrets.  But eventually they spill out.

The women tell stories of rape, incest or some other horrible abuse, often committed by people they trusted, such as teachers or relatives. They talk of being chased from their homes and raped by men with AK-47s, who left them for dead before moving on to claim a new woman or piece of territory in the civil war that has long decimated the eastern regions of this impoverished Central African country.

Almost always, they end with some version of “Fini mama” – Mother, my life is over.

But Etoy knows otherwise.

Modestine Etoy
Modestine Etoy

The 31-year-old Congolese native is the program manager at the Humanitarian Organization for Lasting Development or HOLD, a non-profit organization in Goma that helps teenage mothers rebuild lives shattered by violence, an unwanted pregnancy or sometimes both, sadly intertwined.

Etoy starts by trying to convince their families, or the families of the fathers of their children, to accept the young women back into their homes.

This isn’t easy in the Congo, where illegitimacy is shameful and pregnant teenagers are often rejected by their families or sent away to have their babies in secret. Continue reading

Why Congo prefers Chinese investment over Western aid | 

The Chinese are gaining ground in Africa while Western powers, and corporations, struggle to catch up. Last week, China’s official news service reported on the success of a joint effort of the Chinese and Congolese governments: A new $8.7 million, 40-mile long electricity line linking two towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The line will also supply power to a new hydroelectric dam. But an even larger dam – the largest in the world, in fact – to be built by Chinese contractors could also be in the works. And the United States is considering whether to contribute its own humanitarian funds to the project.

Workers in a mine near Goma, eastern DR Congo. 2012
Workers in a mine near Goma, eastern DR Congo. 2012
AP

In today’s podcast, Nairobi-based reporter Jacob Kushner puts that news in context and explains why America should be open to collaborating with Chinese investments in the Congo. After reporting on Western mining operations in Haiti, Kushner visited similar Chinese mining operations in the Congo, but noticed that many Congolese respect and appreciate the presence of Chinese companies even as they extract the country’s resources without any “do-gooder” pretensions.

He published an e-book last fall called “China’s Congo Plan: What the Economic Superpower Sees in the World’s Poorest Nation.” Kushner joins us to explain what China’s influence in the Congo looks like on the ground, why many Congolese respect Chinese profit motives over Western humanitarian ones, and how China’s massive investments in Central Africa might hold up over the long term.

And I ask him an obvious but little-asked question: what should Western humanitarians learn from Chinese contractors? The answer might surprise you.

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Meet Congo-Brazzaville’s Best Dressed Men | 

A new ad campaign from the beer brand Guinness features the well-dressed Sapeurs of Congo-Brazzaville.  The men come from all walks of life, from policemen to artists.  They hold themselves to a high ethical standard and even higher fashion standards.

And they look pretty darn good.

A sapeur named Allureux decides to put on his maroon socks because they match with his elbow tie.
A sapeur named Allureux decides to put on his maroon socks because they match with his elbow tie.
Hector Mediavilla

Sapeur is derived from the group’s name, the Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People) aka SAPE. The style was adopted from the French, who colonized the the country in the 20th century. Men started to copy the well dressed Parisians who visited the country and from their own visits to France.

They group garnered some recent attention from NPR and the Wall Street Journal. Photographer Hector Mediavilla has been photographing Saupers for more than a decade. He described them to NPR:

“For some [sapeurs] it is an obsession,” says Mediavilla, who says the men he met work as electricians, in small shops or as marketing agents for fashion boutiques — hardly professions that support haute couture. “But they can also get [things] secondhand or buy from a friend, because not everyone is ready to spend such an amount of money on their clothes.”

But it’s not all about the conspicuous consumerism. Continue reading

NFL superstar campaigns for the DR Congo | 

Rodgers, JD Stier of the Enough Project, Chriqui and Mulumba
Rodgers, JD Stier of the Enough Project, Chriqui and Mulumba
Enough

Aaron Rodgers saved the season for the Green Bay Packers in a must-win game against the Bears. He will step on to the famed frozen tundra of Lambeau Field against rival San Francisco 49ers with the hope of extending the season a bit longer.

When the NFL season comes to an end, whether through a Super Bowl win or a playoff loss, one of the game’s best players will continue a different sort of drive. Rodgers wants people to know about the atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and what can be done to weaken the rebel groups in the country.

His participation garnered the attention of ThinkProgress, Politico and even ESPN.

It all started with a conversation with a famous actress involved in the campaign, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and a feeling of emptiness after winning the Super Bowl in 2011.
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