‘When a British oil company began prospecting in Africa’s oldest national park, drawing worldwide concern and inspiring an Oscar-nominated documentary last year, the company was adamant in denying any wrongdoing.
Though soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo may have engaged in a campaign of intimidation and coercion against residents who were opposed to drilling in the park, the company said it could not be held responsible for their actions.
“We can’t tell the army to go and kiss off,” Roger Cagle, the deputy chief executive director of the oil company, SOCO International, told The Telegraph newspaper. He said the soldiers had been assigned by the Congolese government to keep the company safe.
But according to documents obtained by Global Witness, an advocacy group, SOCO appears to have paid tens of thousands of dollars to an army officer who has been accused of leading a brutal campaign against those objecting to the company’s oil exploration in the Virunga National Park.’
- Church of England divests from Soco oil firm over Virunga operations
- Soco International Accused of Paying Bribes for Congo Oil Exploration
- ‘Soco paid Congo major’ accused of Virunga oil intimidation
- Democratic Republic of Congo wants to open up Virunga national park to oil exploration
- Virunga film-makers ask viewers to join campaign against oil company Soco
- Soco halts oil exploration in Africa’s Virunga national park
‘Afghanistan has the world’s highest number of children killed or wounded by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, followed by Colombia, according to a leading anti-landmine group.
In its annual Landmine Monitor report, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC) said the number of recorded casualties of mines and other explosive remnants of war has decreased to the lowest level since 1999, but child victims have risen.’
‘Contractors and agents working on behalf of a major London-based oil company paid bribes to officials and rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo in their bid to explore for oil in Africa’s oldest national park, according to anti-corruption activists.
Soco International has been conducting studies on whether it is feasible to drill for oil in Lake Edward in Virunga, the Unesco world heritage site made famous by Dian Fossey and the movie Gorillas in the Mist. In April, the park’s head, Emmanuel de Merode was shot and seriously injured by unknown assailants.’
- Soco International Says It Will Cancel Oil Exploration in Congo’s Virunga Park
- Soco denies paying for Congo DRC trip to UN to discuss Virunga oil drilling
- Soco International’s oil activity in world heritage park raises tricky questions for investors
- VIRUNGA: Interview with filmaker Orlando von Einsiedel
- Virunga – Official Trailer
‘Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe unleashed a storm of brutal, genocidal violence after losing the 2008 elections — and now we know that it was funded by western hedge-funds and banks, led by Och-Ziff Capital Management, the largest publicly traded fund, with assistance from Blackrock, GLG Partners, and Credit Suisse, who raised $100M for Mugabe’s weapons and torture-chambers in exchange for a sweetheart deal on the country’s platinum mines.
Daniel Och’s Och-Ziff manages $45.7B, including funds from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Och’s protege, Michael Cohen, led the charge to fund Mugabe’s pogrom; while an Israeli diamond trader called Dan Gertler helped broker a joint deal with OCH to invest in mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, another nation whose state is complicit in horrific terror-campaigns that include child soldiery and rape camps.’
‘The Western news media are in crisis and are turning their back on the world. We hardly ever notice. Where correspondents were once assigned to a place for years or months, reporters now handle 20 countries each. Bureaus are in hub cities, far from many of the countries they cover. And journalists are often lodged in expensive bungalows or five-star hotels. As the news has receded, so have our minds.
To the consumer, the news can seem authoritative. But the 24-hour news cycles we watch rarely give us the stories essential to understanding the major events of our time. The news machine, confused about its mandate, has faltered. Big stories are often missed. Huge swaths of the world are forgotten or shrouded in myth. The news both creates these myths and dispels them, in a pretense of providing us with truth.’
‘The International Criminal Court has sentenced ex-Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga to 12 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes. Katanga was found guilty in March, only the second person to be convicted by the Netherlands-based court.
He was behind the 2003 massacre of hundreds of villagers in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fighting escalated into an inter-ethnic conflict that is estimated to have killed 50,000 people.’
‘A record 33.3 million people around the world were internally displaced by conflict in their countries at the end of last year, 16 percent or 4.5 million up on 2012, an international report said on Wednesday. The report by the Norwegian Refugee Council said nearly two thirds of the global total were in just five countries – Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.
Syria, with at least 6,5 million driven from their homes in three years of fighting between government forces and insurgents and foreign fighters backing them, took over first place ahead of Colombia, suffering from decades of guerrilla wars. The Middle Eastern country accounted for 43 per cent – 3.5 million – of all the new internally displaced people (IDPs) around the globe in 2013, a total of 8.2 million, according to the report presented at a Geneva news briefing.’
‘WWF staff have been telephoned with death threats for opposing oil exploitation in Africa‘s oldest national park, which is home to one in four of the world’s estimated 800 remaining mountain gorillas. It follows the attempted assassination of the Virunga national park’s chief warden last month and the death of two Congolese park wardens in the last few months… Reports of intimidation are said to have increased in the weeks since the Virunga chief warden, the Belgian aristocrat Emmanuel de Merode, was shot in an ambush by three people while driving alone in a park vehicle in April… Tensions are rising in Virunga as UK-based oil company Soco International PLC starts six weeks of seismic tests in Lake Edward. If successful, this can be expected to lead to exploratory drilling, possibly starting next year.’
History is loaded with power-hungry dickweeds who rule over their countries’ fearful populations like the Predator in a laser tag match. Oftentimes these people are infamous not just for their cruelty, but also for their bafflingly insane and self-indulgent antics.
The International Criminal Court has found Congo militia leader Germain Katanga guilty of war crimes but acquitted him of sexual offences. He was found guilty of complicity in the 2003 massacre of villagers in the gold-rich Ituri province of north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He becomes just the second person to be convicted by the court since it was set up in The Hague in 2002. He would have been the first convicted of sexual crimes.
Katanga, who was transferred to The Hague by the Congolese authorities in 2007, had denied the charges. The fighting in Ituri, which broke out in 1999 and continued until 2003, started as a struggle for control of land and resources. But it escalated into an inter-ethnic conflict, exacerbated by the presence of Uganda troops, that killed an estimated 50,000 people.
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila has told residents of a town held by rebels for more than a year that he wants an end to 20 years of conflict in the region.
He has spent the past week driving from Kisangani in a 70-car convoy, which got bogged down in the region’s bad roads.
He has ended his 930km- (575 mile) journey in Rutshuru, which was held by the M23 rebels for more than a year.
During his trip, he warned the region’s other militias to disarm.
He told a crowd of thousands of people that he wanted an end to conflict in the area, reports the AFP news agency.
“The war which has just finished, should be the last war,” he said.
This is Mr Kabila’s first visit to the troubled North Kivu province since the 2011 election campaign.
The mineral-rich area has been wracked by conflict for the past two decades but the defeat of the M23 has raised some hopes of a more stable future.
In the dusty, remote town of Dungu, in north eastern DR Congo, Sister Angelique Namaika works tirelessly to bring smiles to the faces of hundreds of previously abducted, raped and mutilated women from across the region.
Operating from the Centre for Reintegration and Development since 2003, the Roman Catholic nun has focused on rehabilitating women who have suffered horrific abuse at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has been operating in the nearby forests for the past three decades. In the small centre, she focuses on education and empowerment.
Using the surrounding fields, Sister Angelique has sold produce to townsfolk to help finance her literacy, cooking and sewing lessons at the centre, in the hope of creating a generation of women able to move past the trauma of their experience at the hands of the LRA.
Around 2.5 million people have been displaced in the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and the DR Congo because of the relentless activities of the LRA.
In Dungu, 25,000 of the town’s 73,000 population have been displaced from nearby towns and villages.
Though Sister Angelique works with a few hundred women each day, in one of the world’s most under-reported areas, her work has not gone unnoticed.
On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) awarded Sister Angelique with the prestigious Nansen award for contributing to the well-being of refugees and displaced persons.
One of the stranger sights of the refugee crisis that followed the 1994 Rwandan genocide was of stretcher-bearers rushing the dying to medical tents, with men running alongside reciting Bible verses to the withering patients.
The bulk of the thousands of doctors and nurses struggling to save lives – as about 40,000 people died of cholera – were volunteers for the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The Bible readers were hired by the American televangelist and former religious right presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, and his aid organisation, Operation Blessing International.
But on Robertson’s US television station, the Christian Broadcasting Network, that reality was reversed, as he raised millions of dollars from loyal followers by claiming Operation Blessing was at the forefront of the international response to the biggest refugee crisis of the decade. It’s a claim he continues to make, even though an official investigation into Robertson’s operation in Virginia accused him of “fraudulent and deceptive” claims when he was running an almost non-existent aid operation.
“We brought the largest contingent of medicine into Goma in Zaire, at least the first and the largest,” Robertson said as recently as last year on his TV station.
Now a new documentary lays bare the extent of the misrepresentations of Operation Blessing’s activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, that it says continue to this day.
Mission Congo, by David Turner and Lara Zizic, opens at the Toronto film festival on Friday. It describes how claims about the scale of aid to Rwandan refugees were among a number of exaggerated or false assertions about the activities of Operation Blessing which pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in donations, much of it through Robertson’s televangelism. They include characterising a failed large-scale farming project as a huge success, and claims about providing schools and other infrastructure.
But some of the most damaging criticism of Robertson comes from former aid workers at Operation Blessing, who describe how mercy flights to save refugees were diverted hundreds of miles from the crisis to deliver equipment to a diamond mining concession run by the televangelist.
- Pat Robertson threatens documentary team over film that says his Africa charity is a fraud (Raw Story)
- Congo’s M23 rebels say they’re ready to disband, set conditions including return of refugees (AP)
- Congo’s Kabila opens national dialogue boycotted by opposition leader (Reuters)
- France arrests Congolese general for alleged 1999 massacre (Reuters)
- Africa’s deadliest war enters new phase in Congo (USA Today)
The Associated Press
More than 60,000 Congolese have fled to Uganda after a rebel attack on a town near the border in a continuing influx that is stretching humanitarian capacities, an aid group said Sunday.
The Uganda Red Cross has already registered 41,000 refugees and that 20,000 more are yet to go through that process, said spokeswoman Catherine Ntabadde.
‘‘Currently we are looking at about 65,000 people,’’ she said.
The refugees are entering Uganda though the frontier district of Bundibugyo and many have found temporary shelter on the campuses of three schools there, she said.
The refugee influx continues three days after a Ugandan-led rebel group attacked Kamango town and killed some people on Thursday, according to Ugandan military officials who are concerned the rebels are about to launch a major assault on Ugandan territory.