Category Archives: Congo

British oil giant accused of bribery in tussle over Africa’s oldest national park

Jim Armitage reports for The Independent:

‘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.’

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Hedge funds gave Robert Mugabe $100 million for genocide, got platinum mines in return

Cory Doctorow reports for Boing Boing:

‘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.’

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We’re Missing The Story: The Western Media’s Retreat From Foreign Reporting

Anjan Sundaram writes for The New York Times:

‘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.’

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5.4 Million Dead in Conflict Mineral Wars to Put an iPhone in Your Hands

Abby Martin reports on the disclosures of hundreds of multinational corporations being unable to definitively prove that their products aren’t made with ‘conflict minerals’.’ (Breaking the Set)

ICC gives Congo warlord Germain Katanga 12-year jail term

From BBC News:

‘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.’

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Report: Millions driven from homes by civic violence

Robert Evans reports for Reuters:

‘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.’

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WWF staff receive death threats for opposing Virunga oil exploitation

John Vidal reports for The Guardian:

Photograph: Brent Stirton/Getty ImagesWWF 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.’

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Rwanda’s Formula for Success: Murder Your Neighbors and Steal Their Wealth

Glen Ford writes for Black Agenda Report:

Kagame_australia1The New York Times touts Rwanda as a place of economic miracles, a country with almost no mineral resources that nevertheless plans to “leapfrog” straight to an information economy. What the Times fails to mention is that Rwanda’s relative prosperity is based on the extermination of its Congolese neighbors and the expropriation of their natural resources.

In the years since 1996, at least 6 million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a direct result of an invasion by two U.S. client states: Rwanda and Uganda. It is the greatest slaughter since World War II, yet only a small fraction of the American public is even aware that the genocide occurred. The public remains ignorant of the ongoing crime – in which the United States is fully complicit – because the U.S. corporate media have successfully covered up the murder of millions of Congolese. More than that, organs like the New York Times act as PR agents for the perpetrators of the genocide, especially Rwanda – as exemplified by a puff piece that appeared in the Timesthis week, titled “Rwanda Reaches for New Economic Model.”

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ICC Convicts Congo Warlord, What Are the Right Steps For Peace?: Interview with Leonce Ndikumana

7 Modern Dictators Way Crazier Than You Thought Possible

Ethan Lou wrote for Cracked in 2010:

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.

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DR Congo warlord Germain Katanga found guilty at ICC

From BBC News:

Germain Katanga in 2012 in court at The HagueThe 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.

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Intel: We will no longer use conflict minerals in our processors

From Positive News:

Cassiterite (the primary ore of Tin) rocks from the Rutongo Mine near Kigali, Rwanda. (c) RESOLVE

‘Conflict minerals’ will no longer be used in Intel processors, the technology company announced in January.  The move comes as US regulators prepare to implement new rules requiring about 6,000 manufacturers to disclose information about their use of minerals such as gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten, which are essential in the manufacture of consumer electronics such as mobile phones and laptops.

The metals are frequently sourced from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries, where many mines are operated by militia and rebel groups, sometimes with the collusion of corrupt government officials. Income from the mines helps to fund the continuing conflict in the region, which has been marked by widespread human rights abuses.

Speaking at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Intel’s new chief executive Brian Krzanich told the audience that they had been attempting to establish the sources of the metals used in their chips for years. Krzanich said it was an important issue for the company. “You begin to think about the impact of the supply chain and the potential issues you can be causing,” he said.

Intel’s move goes further than is required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which included a measure – due to be implemented this spring – requiring companies that make US regulatory filings to disclose, but not halt, their use of conflict minerals. The law is being disputed by several powerful trade associations, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers. These associations claim the act infringes on their constitutional rights.

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The White Supremacy of Genocide: Interview with Keith Harmon Snow

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila eyes end to war

mapFrom BBC News:

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.

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Congo’s Government Wants 15% Stake of New Mines in Revised Code

From Bloomberg:

The Democratic Republic of Congo plans to raise its free stake in new mining projects to 15 percent from 5 percent, said Chantal Bashizi, the vice president of the commission revising the mining code.

The government has been in a dispute with companies for more than a year about changing the 2002 regulations, particularly over a proposal to increase the state’s share in new mining projects to 35 percent, Bashizi told the iPad mining conference in the capital Kinshasa yesterday.

“It was among the clauses that angered operators,” she said. “In the current structure we’ve lowered it from 35 percent to 15 percent.”

Congo’s government is seeking to increase revenue from the recent expansion of its mining industry. Mining and oil account for 32 percent of the country’s economic output, according to the central bank. The present rules were written at the tail end of a series of wars that decimated metal production and led to the sale of majority stakes in some of Congo’s biggest mines to private companies.

Last year, the Central African nation was the world’s eighth-largest producer of copper and the biggest producer of cobalt. Glencore Xstrata Plc, based in Baar, Switzerland, Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX), and London-based Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) were the country’s biggest copper exporters.

Proposed changes to the code include tripling the royalty on copper and cobalt to 6 percent, and cutting the amount of time that contract stability is guaranteed to five years from 10 years, Bashizi said in a separate interview.

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Adelson and Wiesel laud Rwanda’s Kagame

Sister Angelique Namaika: How one person can change the world

From Al Jazeera:

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.

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Mission Congo: How Pat Robertson raised millions on the back of a non-existent aid project

CBN's Pat RobertsonFrom The Guardian:

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.

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60,000 Congolese flee to Uganda after rebel attack ~ AP

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.

FULL ARTICLE @ BOSTON.COM

The UN prepares to go to war for the first time, with a 3,000-strong task force sent to fight rebels in the Congo ~ Daily Mail

Brazilian General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz (centre) arrives in the eastern Congolese city of Goma on Tuesday this week. He will lead a UN force against rebel fightersby DANIEL MILLER
The Daily Mail

The UN is about to go to war for the first time in its history after the Security Council voted unanimously to intervene to fight rebels in the Congo.

Around 3,000 UN troops wearing the blue insignia, are being deployed to the central African nation which has been wracked by years of civil war and lawlessness.

The UN has led a 14-year-long peacekeeping in a bid to end the ethic conflict which was sparked by the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda when thousands of Hutus fled into the Congo to evade justice.

FULL ARTICLE @ THE DAILY MAIL

Paul Kagame: I asked America to kill Congo rebel leader with drone ~ Observer

by 
The Observer

Rwanda‘s president, Paul Kagame, has rejected accusations from Washington that he was supporting a rebel leader and accused war criminal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by challenging a senior US official to send a drone to kill the wanted man.

In an interview with the Observer Magazine, Kagame said that on a visit to Washington in March he came under pressure from the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Johnnie Carson, to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, leader of the M23 rebels, who was wanted by the international criminal court (ICC). The US administration was increasing pressure on Kagame following a UN report claiming to have uncovered evidence showing that the Rwandan military provided weapons and other support to Ntaganda, whose forces briefly seized control of the region’s main city, Goma.

“I told him: ‘Assistant secretary of state, you support [the UN peacekeeping force] in the Congo. Such a big force, so much money. Have you failed to use that force to arrest whoever you want to arrest in Congo? Now you are turning to me, you are turning to Rwanda?’” he said. “I said that, since you are used to sending drones and gunning people down, why don’t you send a drone and get rid of him and stop this nonsense? And he just laughed. I told him: ‘I’m serious’.”‘

FULL ARTICLE @ THE OBSERVER

US-trained Congolese battalion among units accused of rape ~ Stars & Stripes

by John Vandiver
Stars & Stripes

‘For U.S. diplomats and military officials who were involved in training a Congolese army unit, a troubling question loomed: Would the 391st Commando Battalion serve as protectors of the population or would they revert to acts of sexual violence once on the battlefield?

A United Nations report released this week indicates that their worst fears have been realized and that efforts at building up a Congolese unit of benevolent soldiers has failed. The report, issued Wednesday by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, accused members of the 391st Commando Battalion — which was trained by special forces troops assigned to U.S. Africa Command — and other Democratic Republic of Congo troops of engaging in a range of atrocities, including the mass rape of women and young girls in eastern Congo.’

The abuses by the soldiers were committed “in a systematic manner and with extreme violence,” according to the report. At least 102 women and 33 girls, reportedly as young as six, were victims of rape or other acts of sexual violence perpetrated by government soldiers, the report stated. The soldiers also were responsible for the arbitrary execution of at least two people and the widespread looting of villages, it said.’

FULL ARTICLE @ STARS AND STRIPES

Save the Children highlights war-zone child sex crimes ~ BBC

BBC News

Refugees flee fighting DR Congo, October 2008The charity Save the Children says the majority of victims of rape and other sexual violence in many of the world’s conflict zones are children.

Its report is based on data and testimonies from several countries including Colombia, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Save the Children says programmes to stop such violence and help children recover are chronically underfunded.

FULL ARTICLE @ BBC NEWS

Gold and poaching bring murder and misery to Congolese wildlife reserve ~ Guardian

by 

dr congo wildlife poaching[...] As ever with Congo, it is not just a simple tale of victims and villains. Sadala, who goes by the nom de guerre Morgan, and his “Mai Mai Morgan” gunmen are thought to have powerful supporters in the security forces who enable their lucrative illegal trade in ivory and smuggled gold. Some local people with an eye on the gold in the ground beneath their feet tacitly support Morgan, who improbably also likes to be called Chuck Norris.

“There is complicity between [Morgan] and certain elements within the army,” said Jefferson Abdallah Pene Mbaka, the MP for Mambasa. “With the support of certain army authorities [Mai Mai Morgan] have increased their poaching activities. The sale of ivory is organised by these figures in the army.” Many people in the region believe soldiers have orders not to arrest Morgan.

Morgan’s principal targets are those who operate and police the Unesco-recognised world heritage site known as the Okapi wildlife reserve, or by its French acronym, RFO. The laws of the reserve forbid the hunting of endangered species, especially elephants and okapi, and the exploitation of its gold reserves.

FULL ARTICLE @ THE GUARDIAN

MI6 ‘arranged Cold War killing’ of Congo prime minister ~ Guardian

by 

Patrice Lumumba Congo prime ministerCongo’s first democratically elected prime minister was abducted and killed in a cold war operation run by British intelligence, according to remarks said to have been made by the woman who was leading the MI6 station in the central African country at the time.

A Labour peer has claimed that Baroness Park of Monmouth admitted to him a few months before she died in March 2010 that she arranged Patrice Lumumba’s killing in 1961 because of fears he would ally the newly democratic country with the Soviet Union.

In a letter to the London Review of Books, Lord Lea said the admission was made while he was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park, who had been consul and first secretary from 1959 to 1961 in Leopoldville, as the capital of Belgian Congo was known before it was later renamed as Kinshasa following independence.

He wrote: “I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. ‘We did,’ she replied, ‘I organised it’.”

Park, who was known by some as the “Queen of Spies” after four decades as one of Britain’s top female intelligence agents, is believed to have been sent by MI6 to the Belgian Congo in 1959 under an official diplomatic guise as the Belgians were on the point of being ousted from the country.

“We went on to discuss her contention that Lumumba would have handed over the whole lot to the Russians: the high-value Katangese uranium deposits as well as the diamonds and other important minerals largely located in the secessionist eastern state of Katanga,” added Lea, who wrote his letter in response to a review of a book by Calder Walton about British intelligence activities during the twilight of the British empire.

Doubts about the claim have been raised by historians and former officials, including a former senior British intelligence official who knew Park and told the Times: “It doesn’t sound like the sort of remark Daphne Park would make. She was never indiscreet. Also MI6 never had a licence to kill.”

Mystery has continued to surround the death of Lumumba, who was shot on 17 January 1961, although Belgian troops were known to have been involved.

Park met Lumumba, the African leader who was to become the short-lived prime minister of an independent Congo. After his successor took power, she was arrested and beaten by his supporters.

She was able to get herself released and sought local UN intervention, securing the release of Britons and other foreigners, for which she was appointed OBE in 1960.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN

UN approves DR Congo ‘intervention brigade’ ~ Al Jazeera

The UN Security Council has unanimously approved the first-ever “offensive” UN peacekeeping brigade to battle rebels groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The force of more than 2,500 troops will operate under orders to “neutralise” and “disarm” armed groups in the resource-rich east of the huge country, according to the council’s resolution on Thursday.

The intervention brigade is unprecedented in UN peacekeeping because of its offensive mandate.

But the resolution states clearly that it would be established for one year “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent” to the principles of UN peacekeeping.

Surveillance drones will be used to monitor the DR Congo’s borders with neighbours accused of backing the rebels will be operating by July, according to UN officials.

The resolution, sponsored by France, the US and Togo, would give the brigade a mandate to operate “in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner” to ensure that armed groups cannot seriously threaten government authority or the security of civilians.

UN peacekeepers were unable to protect civilians from M23 rebels, whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces.

The resolution strongly condemns the continued presence of the M23 in the immediate vicinity of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, and its attempts to establish “an illegitimate parallel administration in North Kivu”.

It demands that the M23 and other armed groups, including those seeking the “liberation” of Rwanda and Uganda, immediately halt all violence and “permanently disband and lay down their arms”.

It also strongly condemns their continuing human rights abuses including summary executions, sexual and gender-based violence and large-scale recruitment and use of children.

FULL ARTICLE @ AL JAZEERA

Top Rwandan War Criminal Turns Himself In At U.S. Embassy ~ BBC

UN in DR Congo ‘army rape’ ultimatum ~ BBC

Army soldiers in eastern DR Congo - December 2012The UN peace force in the Democratic Republic of Congo has issued an ultimatum to two units within the army over allegations of mass rape.

Unless swift legal action was taken against the accused soldiers before the end of March, the UN said it would stop working with their brigades.

In December, it said it had evidence of at least 126 rapes carried out by soldiers fleeing a rebel offensive.

Armed groups in eastern DR Congo often use rape as a weapon of war.

The region’s mineral riches have been plundered by numerous groups and countries over the past two decades.

FULL ARTICLE @ BBC NEWS

UN mulls deployment of special force to Congo ~ Press TV

“The security situation remains fragile, and demands urgent actions,” Ban said as he briefed the council on Tuesday.

The UN chief stated that the special force “will have the ability to conduct, with or without the FARDC (the Congolese army), offensive operations against all armed groups that threaten the peace in eastern DRC.”

“This enforcement capacity, which was initially called for by the regional actors, seeks to address the imminent threats to stability and will provide the most appropriate response to the active conflict environment in which the MONUSCO (UN Organization Stabilization Mission) has been operating for several years,” he added.

Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.4 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

SOURCE: PRESS TV

Congo troops give key towns back to M23 rebels ~ Times Live

Congolese government troops gave control of two key eastern towns back to the M23 rebel group to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing peace process, a spokesman for the military said Sunday.

Kiwanja and Rutshuru had been M23 strongholds since the group had taken control of them in July 2012. But following a split within the rebellion last week, the armed group had left the towns to reinforce positions against the new splinter, and another rebel group moved in. The military then secured the towns on Friday.

“We couldn’t leave the population alone, and we had to secure the area to make sure there were no crimes committed,” said Col. Olivier Hamuli, the military spokesman. He said they’ve since given control back to M23.

“Our troops left Rutshuru and Kiwanja to avoid taking a step back regarding the evolution of the negotiations in Kampala,” he said, adding that they are now only one kilometer (mile) from Kiwanja.

Government forces cannot take back M23 territory as negotiations as mediations are ongoing, according to an agreement reached in November at the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Uganda.

“The M23 signed an agreement with the ICGLR and the Congolese government after we took Goma in November. The government troops had to leave our territory because Rutshuru and Kiwanja are in our territory,”said Col. Vianney Kazarama, the spokesman for one of the M23 factions led by Gen. Sultani Makenga.

M23 is a rebellion allegedly backed by Rwanda and Uganda. In November, after eight months of sporadic fighting against the national army, the rebels took the strategic city of Goma, but withdrew two weeks later under international pressure.

Since then, negotiations between the M23 and the government have been held in Kampala, but no serious outcome has yet been announced.

FULL ARTICLE @ TIMES LIVE