Congo

This Week in African Conflict… December 13th-20th, 2011.

Hello, hope all is well!

This week’s conflict reports will be a little thinner than usual, as I have been feeling a bit under the weather the last couple days and haven’t been reading as extensively as normal. Please be sure to add anything I have missed in the comments below or send via email to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Rebecca

  • The New Yorker published an article on the 10 biggest positive Africa stories of 2011, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and British Charity Oxfam warned that failed harvest and low food reserves in the Sahel, West Africa could result in a severe food crisis for millions in Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Mali in early 2012.
  • On Wednesday, a military court in Egypt sentenced a blogger who criticised the army to two years in prison for “insulting the military”, after he went on a hunger strike to protest an initial three-year sentence; while Egyptians turned out in large numbers for the second round of Parliamentary elections. Some five people were injured in a gunfight in the central province amid scattered reports of problems at voting sites. On Friday, demonstrators and soldiers clashed outside the cabinet’s offices following a weeks-long sit-in, resulting in the injuries of at least 50 people. On Monday, the UN human rights chief strongly condemned the “brutal suppression” of demonstrators by the military and security forces, after more than 11 were reportedly killed and more than 500 injured, including disturbing images of soldiers beating and dragging young women, on the weekend; while the ruling military council claimed to have uncovered a plot to burn down Parliament and defending the use of force against protesters. On Tuesday, hundreds of women took to the streets in Cairo to protest against the military rule and its brutal treatment of female protesters; while four people reportedly died as police and soldiers tried to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square.
  • The International Crisis Group released a new report on the situation in the Cote d’Ivoire, citing concerns over the fragility of the country, and the implications of the recent transfer of former President Gbagbo to The Hague for war crimes. On Wednesday, international justice experts urged the ICC and national authorities to follow up on pledges to investigate both sides of the election crisis. On Friday, the electoral commission announced that President Ouattara’s ruling coalition won 80% of the seats in the parliamentary elections, with a total turnout of 36%. On Sunday, deadly clashes between government forces and residents angry at the killing of a local man at a roadblock the day before in the west of the country killed at least six people.
  • Al-Shabaab have reportedly blocked two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoys carrying emergency food aid for drought victims in Somalia on Thursday, instead loading the food into their warehouses, amid fears that the ICRC would join a long list of international groups barred from operating inside the rebel-controlled areas of the country. On Sunday, a veteran Somali journalist, A/salan Sheik Hassan, was shot dead by gunmen dressed in government military uniforms in Mogadishu. On Tuesday, AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia received the first Djiboutian soldiers to join their mission, and are expecting nine hundred additional troops in upcoming weeks.
  • On Tuesday, a curfew was imposed upon two regions in Tunisia in the wake of violent clashes between residents in the two areas.  On Wednesday, the new President called upon a six-month political and social truce, with no sit-ins or strikes, to sort out the country’s economic problems, while appointing Hamadi Jebali as PM and vowing to resign “if things don’t get better in six months” in an unprecedented live interview in the Presidential palace. On Thursday, Tunisia reopened its two border crossings with Libya after a two-week closure over clashes between Libyan militias and Tunisian security forces. On Saturday, tens of thousands packed the provincial town square of Sidi Bouzid to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution in the place where it began. On Monday, the President called upon the country’s Jewish population to return, following calls from Israeli deputy PM Shalom’s calls for remaining Jews to emigrate to Israel.
  • On Tuesday, the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of their peacekeeping force in the contested Abyei region that is claimed by both South Sudan and Sudan to include assisting the two parties to abide by and implement their agreements of demilitarization of the area. The ICC prosecutor announced that a group of senior Sudanese officials indicted by the court, including the President continue to commit genocide in the west of the country on Thursday; while the UN predicted that around 2.7 million people in South Sudan would require food aid next year because of crop failures and violence. On Friday, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan welcomed an appeal by the country’s VP to refrain from violence in Jonglei state and immediately engage in talks on reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. On Monday, Amnesty International called upon the UN to provide a secure environment for those displaced by conflict in Abyei; the South Sudanese VP announced that rebel chief George Athor was killed in a clash with soldiers; Sudanese authorities took a leading member of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) into custody, following his return from a trip abroad; and a former Janhaweed leader called for military action to protect the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, accusing the holdout rebel groups of preparing a series of attacks in the region.
  • A Dutch journalist tells of the difficulty encountered trying to research the story of a young girl allegedly shot by the police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the elections. Around 1.4 million deaf persons in the country are angry over a ban on texting that they say threatens their lives because they can no longer receive warning about violence. On Wednesday, a group of journalists were arrested by security agents accused of resuming operations at their radio station without the authorization of the local administrator. On Thursday, the Supreme Court began hearing the suit for the annulment of the Presidential elections lodged by opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe based upon the numerous irregularities during the November 28th poll, rejecting all preliminary objections, a move that opposition lawyers are calling a “parody of justice”; while opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi’s party called upon mass protests amid growing crackdowns on demonstrations.   On Friday, the Supreme Court declared that incumbent Joseph Kabila was the winner of Presidential polls and rejected the calls for its annulment. On Sunday, opposition leader Tshisekedi urged the armed forces to obey him and offered a “great prize” to anyone who captured incumbent Joseph Kabila. On Monday, Amnesty International called upon the security forces in the country to halt politically motivated arrests. On Tuesday, Joseph Kabila was officially sworn in for his term as President, with Tshisekedi announcing he would hold his own swearing-in ceremony on Friday.
  • An agricultural official in Swaziland has warned that archaic agricultural practices and erratic rainfall in the recent planting period is expected to lead to an increase in food insecurity for most of the population in 2012. The official suspected that the majority of the population will be reliant upon food assistance in the upcoming year.
  • On Monday, the ICC referred Malawi to the UN Security Council for its alleged failure to arrest Sudanese President al-Bashir while he attended a conference in the country in October.  On Wednesday, the government threatened to withdraw itself from the Rome Statute (the treaty regulating the ICC). Malawi alleges it is being singled out, as other countries that Bashir has visited in the past have not been targeted.
  • A rights group and community leader in Kenya is alleging that members of the Samburu people were abused, beaten and raped by police after the land they lived on for decades was sold to two American-based wildlife charities. On Wednesday, a human rights official was asked by the government to resign for allegedly violating the constitution for calling President Kibaki’s rule an “unacceptable institutionalisation of ethnicity”. On Monday, an explosion, suspected to have been planted by Somali militants near the world’s largest refugee camp, killed at least one policeman and wounded two others. On Tuesday, hundreds of IDPs camped outside a district commissioner’s office, demanding resettlement before Christmas; while the Court of Appeal declined to issue a temporary suspension on the arrest warrant against Sudanese President al Bashir.
  • On Friday, MPs in Uganda fought against what they called a “dubious deal” to give away police barracks land in Kampala under the guise of providing decent accommodation for the police force. The opposition claims that the government wants to distribute the land to private developers without a proper bidding process, who will, in return, build new houses for police officers in another area outside the city.
  • Theoneste Bagosoro, seen as a key organizer of the genocide in Rwanda had his sentenced reduced from life to 35 years on Wednesday, while another convicted man, Anatole Nsengiyumva, had his sentenced reduced and will be released because of time served. On Friday, the Supreme Court of Kigali rejected a request to grant bail to opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, due to the severity of her, which includes charges of terrorism and genocide denial; while the ICC judges dismissed charges of involvement in the murder, rape and torture of Congolese villagers against Rwandan rebel Callixte Mbarushimana, citing lack of evidence. On Tuesday, former FDRL members undergoing demobilization and reintegration programs called upon their colleagues still harbouring thoughts of overthrowing the government to return home.
  • All foreign fishing boats operating in the waters of Morocco have been ordered to leave immediately following an EU decision to not extend a deal to pay for access to Moroccan fish stocks. The MEPs said that there was not enough evidence to show the deal would benefit those who live in the disputed Western Sahara region. On Monday, the Islamist group seen as the main opposing force to the monarchy suspended its involvement in the Arab Spring opposition protest movement.
  • On Wednesday, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of a panel of experts monitoring the compliance of sanctions imposed on Liberia in connection with the civil war for another 12 months. The Panel was appointed in 2007 to renew investigations as to whether Charles Taylor still had access to his assets in the country. On Monday, the spokesman for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) announced that the CDC party will disrupt the pending inauguration of newly re-elected President Johnson-Sirleaf and her VP if their party’s demands are not met.
  • The US Special Forces have set up a base in the Central African Republic (CAR) in their hunt for the Lord’s Resistance Army. The base has been set up in Obo and is expected to coordinate with local government forces and Ugandan soldiers.
  • Local elders in a city south of the capital of Libya were able to agree to a ceasefire to end local violence after at least four people were killed in clashes on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Gaddafi’s daughter asked the ICC prosecutor whether an investigation has been launched into the killing of her father and brother, which ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo then suggested might be considered a war crime. On Friday, the UN Security Council lifted its sanctions on the Libyan central bank, freeing more than $40 billion to help the government rebuild, while the US unblocked more than $30 billion in assets that it had frozen and the UK unblocked about $10 billion held in Britain. On Monday, the Defence Minister announced that it will take weeks to rid the streets of the militias that ousted Gaddafi, and months to form an army fit to take their place, causing a rift with others in the interim leadership who have repeatedly called upon militias to leave the capital by the end of the month; while Russia’s UN envoy demanded a thorough investigation into the civilians killed during NATO air strikes during its operations that led to the ousting of Gaddafi; and a Libyan military commander began legal action against the UK government for what he claims was its complicity in his illegal rendition and torture to Tripoli. On Tuesday, a three-member panel charged with probing human rights violation during the conflict announced it was encouraged by the government’s commitment and initial steps to address abuses that occurred.
  • According to officials, legislative elections in Guinea initially set for December 29th have been indefinitely postponed to meet opposition demands for a role in planning the polls to prevent fraud. The Independent National Electoral Commission has also suspended its activities for two weeks upon opposition demands.
  • The anti-corruption investigator in South Africa has resigned after only a month in the position after becoming entangled in a row involving ex-President Mbeki. The investigator accused Mr. Mbeki of initiating rape and corruption charges against President Zuma while he was in power. On Friday, President Zuma urged all South Africans to put their differences aside at Reconciliation Day celebrations.
  • ZANU PF hardliners in Zimbabwe are reportedly pushing for a cabinet reshuffle that would see the ouster of the current Finance Minister for allegedly sabotaging agrarian reforms, the economic indigenization drive and the constitutional review programme through his control of the public purse, amid rumours that ZANU PF wanted to get out of the coalition government and force an election without the full implementation of reforms.
  • On Friday, gunmen attacked a military-run secondary school in northern Nigeria, killing four people and injuring two others. On the weekend, three policemen and four Boko Haram members were killed in a bloody clash that also saw the arrest of 14 Boko Haram members in Kano state.  On Monday, four people, including a police officer were injured after a bomb exploded in an illegal armoury factory in Kaduna.

This week in conflict… November 27th- December 3rd, 2010

World

  • Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks released some 250,000 diplomatic cables from the US government this week, amid much controversy. The site then faced cyberattacks, attempts to shut it down, attempts to arrest its spokesman Julian Assange, and the blocking of its paypal financial account. Ecuador offered Julian Assange refuge within their borders.
  • Foreign Policy came out with its 2nd annual Top 100 Global Thinkers list. In my opinion, the list leaves much to be desired as I would like to see more peacemakers or revolutionary thinkers, instead of the heavy focus on bankers, corporate leaders and policy makers who have a knack for spreading and continuing cultural violence under a false guise of humanitarianism.
  • Wednesday, December 1st, was World AIDs day. Around 2.7 million new HIV infections still occur each year, and despite scaled-up treatment, there are still five new HIV infections for every two who gain access to treatment.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was in favor of adding more members to the UN Security Council this week, and that it was the prevailing view among UN members that the current format is in need of reformation. If only reformation meant removing the veto and the privilege of permanent membership in favor of a more balanced, equal system…
  • The two week long UN Climate Change conference is underway in Cancun, Mexico, and many are hoping that real change can be negotiated this time around, though most are still doubtful. Canada stepped up to win the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place Fossil of the day awards, which are given to those who have done the most to disrupt or undermine negotiations, on Tuesday.

Africa

  • Egypt’s November 28th parliamentary elections were marred by widespread allegations of fraud that eventually led to the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd opposition groups withdrawing. The electoral commission dismissed the fraud allegations. Turnout was said to be only around 15%, although other sites claimed as high as 35%. On Monday, protesters clashed with police and setting fire to cars, tires and schools and riots broke out in several cities.
  • Cote’s D’Ivoire’s elections were marked by violence and coup allegations. Please read my recent articles about the elections and the international response.
  • The UN issued a warning that armed groups in the eastern Congo, including the army, have formed criminal networks to exploit the country’s mineral wealth. The UN sought to extend its mandate of the Group of Experts in the country who are monitoring the arms embargo and sanctions. The UN Group of Experts have also released their latest report on the troubles in the DR Congo. The UN Security Council ordered sanctions and blacklisting of an army commander in the DRC on Wednesday, which amounted to a travel ban and freeze of their financial assets.
  • Kenya’s Prime Minister Odinga ordered the arrest of gay couples on Sunday on the grounds that their behaviour is “unnatural”. The PM asserted that a recent census showed that there were more women than men and that there were “no need” for same sex relationships. On Friday, two Kenyan police officers were killed in a gun and grenade attack in Nairobi by two men on a motorbike.
  • At least 1,500 south Sudanese civilians have fled the north-south border area fearing aerial attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces. The SPLA accused Khartoum of using newly-acquired Chinese planes to try and disrupt the upcoming referendum, which is to happen on December 8th. On Thursday, the south accused the northern-backed militias of killing 10 soldiers and 2 civilians in an ambush, which the north denied.
  • Two Islamist fighters are said to have died in a clash with the Algerian army on Sunday. Algerian troops are said to have surrounded the group and made an assault after residents alerted them to the presence of armed elements in the wooded region.
  • Guinea’s Supreme Court has declared Alpha Conde as President, finally confirming the results after a two-week wait. Rival candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo’s supporters had taken to the streets claiming the vote was tainted by fraud.
  • At least 40 people were killed in Mogadishu, Somalia in three consecutive days of fighting this week between al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam against the troops from the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union peacekeepers. The Bakara Market was heavily shelled in the fighting, killing and injuring many civilians. On Thursday, it was reported that another at least 35 people were killed in intense violence after two insurgent groups fought each other.
  • The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria has announced that they will be charging former US Vice-President Dick Cheney over the bribery scandal involving an engineering firm, KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Cheney was chief executive officer of Halliburton when the KBR firm had admitted to bribing Nigerian government officials over the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria.

Asia

Americas

  • Haiti voted on November 28th in an election that was denounced as a “massive fraud” by 12 out of 18 presidential candidates, although international observers considered the vote “valid” despite the irregularities. Protests and demonstrations flared across the capital, resulting in the death of at least 2 people. Results are to be made public starting December 5th, with the official tally announced December 20th. The UN and international support are rumoured to leave Haiti if the government fails to honour the elections results.
  • Brazilian security forces seized control of Rio’s most notorious slum on Sunday following a week of attacks by drug gangs in retaliation for the pacification campaign. The police say they confiscated 40 tons of marijuana, 50 assault rifles and 9 antiaircraft guns.
  • A 15-year-old student armed with a handgun held nearly two dozen students and a teacher hostage in a Wisconsin school on Tuesday. The standoff ended when the gunman shot himself, and there were no other reported injuries.
  • A new report released by Disability Rights International revealed tragic conditions in Mexican institutions for the mentally and physically disabled that included lobotomies performed without consent, children missing from orphanages, widespread filth and squalor and lack of medical care. The report has been called particularly galling because Mexico had championed human rights for the disabled and helped to write the international standards in response to earlier damaging reports. On Monday, Mexican soldiers found the bodies of 18 people buried on a ranch near the Texan border, and gunmen killed a female police chief.

Middle East

  • Bomb attacks killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran on Monday. Iranian President Ahmadinejad accused Israel and Western governments of the assassinations. A new round of nuclear talks on Iran are to begin on December 5th. 
  • Israel’s cabinet voted to build a facility to hold thousands of illegal immigrants who enter the country, mostly from Africa. The centre, which Israel stipulates is not a jail, would provide the basic needs for the migrants until they can be expelled from the country.
  • Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a statement this week labeling Houthi rebels in Yemen as “legitimate targets” and claiming that new attacks were being prepared against them. The statement vowed to kill Sunnis, destroy their homes and displace their families and are said to have increased Sunni-Shiite tensions in the northern areas.
  • In Iraq, on Sunday, a sticky bomb killed one person and wounded four in western Baghdad; three people were wounded in another sticky bomb attack in southern Baghdad; and US forces opened fire and killed an Iraqi engineer on a road after he allegedly failed to slow down at the US patrol. On Monday, police found the bullet-riddled bodies of a policeman and a member of a government backed militia north of Baghdad; police found the bullet-riddled body of a woman in Mosul; police found the body of a policeman shot in the head south of Baghdad; gunmen shot dead a taxi driver in Mussayab; gunmen shot dead a man near his home in Mosul; and militants bombed three electrical transmission towers in Anbar province, cutting power to numerous cities and towns for months. On Tuesday, a sticky bomb killed a driver in western Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded at least three civilians in central Baghdad. On Thursday, Iraqi soldiers killed three armed men and arrested another in Mosul; Iraqi soldiers killed an attacker who allegedly tried to throw a hand grenade at an army patrol in eastern Mosul; gunmen shot dead a civilian near his house in western Mosul; gunmen stormed a house and killed a teenage girl in western Mosul; a roadside bomb at an Iraqi police patrol wounded one policeman and two civilians in eastern Baghdad; gunmen shot dead a human rights ministry employee in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting Iraqi police patrol wounded two policemen in Baghdad; a roadside bomb exploded and wounded three civilians in central Baghdad and a sticky bomb wounded a driver in northern Baghdad.

Europe

  • On Sunday, Swiss voters approved a plan for automatic deportation of foreigners who commit serious crimes or benefit fraud. Anti-racism groups complained of racist posters showing white sheep kicking black sheep off a Swiss flag.
  • Moldova voted on November 28th in its general elections. The ruling pro-Europe alliance was reported as ahead of the opposition Communists, but it is still unclear whether the three-party Alliance for European Integration will gather enough mandates to allow it to elect a president and end a long-running political deadlock.
  • Two explosions in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi killed at least one person on Sunday. No cause or possible motive have yet been released.
  • Government security forces killed two suspected militants in Daghestan. The militants were described as ideologues of an underground terrorist group.
  • Russian President Medvedev warned on Tuesday that if the West and Russia cannot agree upon a joint European missile defense program, it will trigger a new arms race. The President also pledged his support for the NATO suggestions of an alliance missile shield that will be a topic of discussion at the upcoming NATO summit. However, on Wednesday, Vladmir Putin warned that Russia would be forced to deploy new nuclear weapons if the US does not agree to a partnership with Russia over the plans for a missile defense shield. On Wednesday, police in Moscow detained 10 HIV-positive protesters who were congregated outside the government buildings holding placards demanding medical care to mark World AIDs day. On Thursday it was reported that the prosecutor’s office in a central Russia city has asked the local Muslim leader to provide detailed information about the people who attend the local Islamic centre following a months-long court battle to build a mosque in the city.
  • Belarus has announced it will give up its stockpile of nuclear weapons materials by 2012. Belarus gave up its Soviet-era inherited nuclear weapons in 1994, but still retained highly enriched uranium stocks.
  • Immigrants in Greece have been subject to increasing violent attacks by suspected right-wing extremists in recent weeks. Experts say that this reflects a growing general trend of hate crimes against Muslims throughout Europe. On Thursday, police fired teargas at protesting university students demonstrating against increasing tuition fees and austerity reforms, injuring at least 3 demonstrators. A controversial bid to build a mosque in Athens have increased tensions as open-air services resulted in clashes between police and protesters from the extreme-right.
  • British students continued their demonstrations against proposed university tuition hikes amid hundreds of arrests.

This week in conflict… October 23rd-29th, 2010

World

  • Vincenc Fisas of the School for a Culture of Peace released his report on the progress of peace processes in the third quarter of 2010. Sudan, Chad, the Western Sahara, Myanmar talks with the NLD, China-Tibet talks, Israeli-Palestinian talks and Yemen were all listed as progressing poorly in their respective peace processes.
  • Negotiators are working on a treaty to share genetic resources between countries and companies, a step that could unlock billions of dollars for developing nations from drug, agri-resources and cosmetic firms. The access and benefit-sharing protocol aims to create a legal framework that would give nations much better control over their natural resources that can lead to potentially valuable discoveries.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2010 came out this week. The report increased this year to cover 134 countries, up from only 115 countries in 2006 and considers factors such as gender dimension in economic participation and opportunities, educational attainment, access to basic and higher education, and political empowerment.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced the launch of a training programme to help war-torn countries and those vulnerable to disputes over the use of natural resources prevent strife. UNEP research suggests that natural resource disputes account for some 40% of the world’s internal conflicts. Training will begin in four countries, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Peru and Guinea, next year.
  • Transparency International released its annual report on Tuesday on corruption and transparency. Somalia was listed as the most corrupt country in the world, followed by Afghanistan, Myanmar/Burma and Iraq. Nearly three quarters of the 178 countries fell below an index score of 5 on a scale where 0 is the most corrupt and 10 is the least.

Africa

  • French President Sarkozy announced on Saturday that it was a “scandal” that Africa has no permanent seat on the UN Security Council, considering they collectively have one billion inhabitants and make up 27% of the UN Membership. Sarkozy also supported places for India, South America, Japan and Germany in the UNSC.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community on Saturday to find sustainable ways of supporting the African Union’s peacekeeping initiatives. Ban called for the same level of support as similar UN missions, including reimbursement of staff, saying that their current limited resources are troubling the peacekeeping efforts in places like Sudan and Somalia.
  • Twelve people were killed in fierce fighting between a pro-government militia and an insurgent group in Mogadishu, Somalia on Saturday. A separate attack killed at least 5 people after al-Shabaab attacked the presidential palace, Villa Somalia. Al-Shabaab publicly executed two young girls aged 15-17 years old on Friday in front of a crowd of some hundred residents after accusing them of spying. Recent fighting near the Kenyan border is said to have displaced some 60,000 people.
  • Cote D’Ivoire has so far deployed less than a fifth of the 8,000 troops needed to secure this coming weekend’s election. While the run-up to the poll has been generally peaceful, clashes erupted between rival candidates’ supporters in some towns over the weekend. The UN has sent an extra 500 peacekeepers ahead of Sunday’s election, bringing their numbers up to 8,000 soldiers and 1,500 police.
  • The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group in Darfur announced on Sunday that it was ready to start discussions with international mediators in the peace process. JEM previously walked out of talks in Qatar in May claiming Sudan’s government had broken a ceasefire. A meeting on the Abyei referendum has been postponed indefinitely, after delegates from the National Congress Party and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement failed to agree on who can participate. It was announced on Wednesday that Southern Sudan has prepared to offer the north a financial package to soften the blow of secession if it agrees to allow southern annexation of the Abyei region. Several children under the age of 18 face the death penalty following their sentencing of special courts in Darfur in contradiction to international laws, which Sudan is party to.
  • The Nigerian rebel group Boko Haram attacked a police station on Sunday in Yobe, Nigeria. The rebels are said to have firebombed the police station, which led to a gun fight that killed at least one person. On Sunday morning, 3 soldiers and 13 civilians were killed in a clash between two neighbouring communities over ownership of portions of an oil palm plantation located at their border. Nigerian security forces intercepted 13 containers of arms and ammunition including rocket launchers, cartridges and hand grenades at the airport on Wednesday.The containers were suspected to have been shipped from Iran but were later determined to have originated in India. Six women and children were killed in Jos on Tuesday after attackers invaded a village.
  • Freedom of the press is in jeopardy in Egypt leading up the parliamentary elections, with a string of firings and resignations that removed most of the prominent government critics from their positions. At least four private TV channels were closed in the past week, two others were issued warnings for content violations and the opposition is claiming that Egyptian state TV has refused to air their ads and print shops are refusing to print their campaign literature.
  • The Presidential run-off elections in Guinea were delayed indefinitely, resulting in a weekend of looting and rioting. The election was postponed on Friday, just two days before the election, in the third delay to the run-off since September. Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Guinean security forces of using excessive force in clashes with demonstrators over the delayed elections which killed at least one person. On Wednesday it was announced that the run-off would be postponed until November 7th. Thousands of Guineans from the Peul ethnic group were forced to flee their homes in ethnic clashes following rumours that Peul businessmen tried to serve tainted water sachets at a political rally last Friday.
  • Around 50 rebels suspected to be from a Mai Mai militia group attacked a peacekeeping base in eastern Congo over the weekend, which resulted in the death of 8 assailants. The MONUSCO peacekeepers fired back on their attackers, following their rules of engagement in hostile environments. Angola deported nearly 200 Congolese citizens this week, prompting fears of a new wave of mass expulsions that saw tens of thousands displaced last year. The deported are said to come completely stripped, without clothing or even shoes, and several are injured. It was later reported that at least 30 of the deported women were kept as prisoners in a dungeon-like structure and gang-raped over several weeks at the border only to be left naked in the bush. Many men in the group were also brutalized, and at least three people were killed in the journey.
  • Human Rights Watch reported on Monday that Morocco routinely holds suspected militants in secret detention centres where they risk being coerced into making false confessions. The Moroccan government rejected the allegations.
  • Rwanda has charged the President’s main political opponent Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza with forming a terrorist organization with an aim of causing state insecurity. Ingabire has plead not guilty to all charges.
  • Two newspapers in Tanzania face being banned or deregistered for allegedly publishing material that could tarnish the government or country’s reputation. They have also been told them must stop publishing “negative articles” sent to the paper.

Asia

  • At least 10 alleged insurgents were killed after military helicopter gunships attacked the hideouts of Islamist militants in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday. On Sunday, military helicopter gunships attacked militant positions in the northwest, allegedly killing 13 insurgents and destroying four hideouts. On Monday, at least six people, all civilians, were killed in a bomb blast at a Sufi Muslim shrine in central Pakistan; two gunmen on a motorcycle killed a pro-Taliban politician outside his house in the southwest; and three labourers were killed in an attack by masked gunmen in Kohlu. On Tuesday, Islamist militants allegedly attacked a paramilitary checkpoint killing one soldier and at least five militants. On Wednesday, a pair of suspected US drone strikes killed at least 5 militants in northwest Pakistan; a roadside blast near a police van killed two policemen and one civilian in Quetta; and a bomb planted in a motorcycle wounded seven people in the north west. On Thursday, US missile strikes killed another seven suspected militants near the Afghan border; gunmen attacked a Japanese consular vehicle wounding two employees; a roadside blast killed on soldier and wounded five others in Kalaya; and militants cut the throats of three tribesmen and dumped their bodies on a roadside in Ghalanai.
  • Six Indian police were killed by a roadside bomb allegedly planted by Maoist rebels in the east of the country on Saturday. Officials claim the attack was aimed to disrupt the month-long polling process to elect a new government that began last Thursday.
  • Thousands of protesters were dispersed by Bangladeshi police using rubber bullets and teargas on Saturday, injuring some 50 people. Protesters are demonstrating against plans to acquire 1,000 acres of land for housing projects for the army.
  • Security forces in Myanmar/Burma have arrested five men accused of plotting to bomb public places, including an international airport on Wednesday. Investigators claim the insurgents had stockpiled explosives to plant bombs in three major cities in an attempt to derail next month’s election.
  • Two Kyrgyz politicians accused of planning mass disorder and attempting to overthrow the government in May of this year made their first court appearance on Monday. The two maintain that the charges are “absolutely groundless”. The leader of a nationalist party claimed on Monday that he was injured in an assassination attempt when some 50 men attacked his home in Bishkek. On Wednesday, a group of unknown assailants opened fire on a group of policemen, killing two and severely wounded another.
  • A Vietnamese blogger was arrested this week for allegedly defaming a senior Communist Party official and his family. Her arrest follows an increase in arrests in recent weeks of bloggers who criticize the government.
  • Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday that freedom of the press is under attack in Azerbaijan, as the government is using criminal laws and violent attacks to silence dissenting journalists. Dozens of journalists have been prosecuted on criminal and civil defamation and other criminal charges while police have carried out physical attacks to deliberately interfere with journalist’s efforts to investigate issues of public interest. Opposition candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections have accused authorities of preparing to fix the elections by barring candidates, censoring the media and limiting the right to campaign.
  • On Saturday, four suicide bombers dressed as police and women attacked the main UN compound in the western Herat province in Afghanistan; a Danish soldier was killed in a gunfight in the Helmand province; an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in the east; Afghan officials accused NATO troops of killing two schoolboys after a patrol came under fire by Taliban insurgents; and a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed one civilian. On Sunday, a NATO-ISAF soldier was killed in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan; Afghan and ISAF forces killed several insurgents in an air strike and rocket fire after a foot patrol came under attack; and several insurgents were reportedly killed by an air strike in Helmand province. On Monday, Afghan forces and NATO troops killed at least 15 alleged insurgents in a raid and air strike in Helmand province; a suicide bomber detonated explosives at an Afghan checkpoint in the southeast, killing three people; two civilians were killed when their motorcycle hit an anti-vehicle landmine in the road in Helmand province; a suicide bomber killed himself near a foreign troop convoy north of Kabul; Afghan and coalition forces killed a Taliban commander and two other alleged insurgents in an overnight right in the east; and Afghan and coalition forces killed two alleged insurgents in the west. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed four Afghan police in western Herat; NATO forces are said to have captured a Taliban leader in Logar; and ISAF said it killed more than five insurgents in an air strike in Helmand province. On Wednesday, a NATO service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and Afghan and foreign forces killed several insurgents during an overnight operation targeting a Taliban commander in Baghlan. On Thursday, an improvised bomb explosion killed a NATO service member in Kabul; more than 10 suspected insurgents were captured in three operations in Kabul; and an ISAF air strike is said to have killed one suspected insurgent in the east. On Friday, more than 20 insurgents were killed in an air attack by the NATO led ISAF in Kandahar; two insurgents were killed in a NATO air strike in the south; and several insurgents were killed in an overnight operation to capture a Taliban commander in the southeast. Also this week, an Afghan refugee woman who was trying to cross the border into Iran with her four children was shot dead by Iranian border guards. The US military has been securing a vast database of biometric information of Afghans living in the southern and eastern parts of the country. They are said to have information on over 800,000 people.
  • The US has made plans to build a $12.6 billion dollar super military base in Guam in an attempt to contain China’s military build-up. The Environmental Protection Agency fears that the influx of 19,000 Marines into a population of only 173,000 could trigger some serious water shortages, and that the dredging of the harbour to allow an aircraft carrier to berth would damage 71 acres of pristine coral reefs.
  • A fire destroyed the Islamic Resistance Party’s (IRP) cultural center, widely known as the “women’s mosque” in Tajikistan on Saturday. The IRP does not think the fire is accidental, as the center served as the only mosque in Tajikistan that allowed women to pray alongside men, following the ban of women from attending mosque prayers in 2004 by religious authorities in the region.
  • UN funding has been found to be used to run a brutal internment camp for the destitute in Cambodia, where detainees are held for months without trial, raped and beaten, sometimes to death. The so-called “social affairs centre”, that is officially described as offering education and healthcare to vulnerable people is said to actually be an illegal, clandestine prison for “undesirables”, such as drug users, sex workers and the homeless. Cambodia’s ministry of social affairs has previously denied all allegations of abuse, saying that the centre offers rehabilitation and vocational training.
  • South Korea sent its first shipment of rice aid to North Korea in more than two years on Monday and announced it would consider holding monthly talks with the North if it was committed to denuclearization. South Korean media also reported that the US and South Korean military had postponed their latest military drills in the Yellow Sea to avoid creating problems with China and North Korea ahead of the G20 summit. On Friday it was announced that North Korean troops had fired across the heavily armed border into South Korea, whose soldiers fired back.

Central and North Americas

  • A series of suspected computer problems is said to have taken 50 of America’s 450 nuclear intercontinental missiles (ICBMs) off-line for a short period. Reports say sabotage or a computer virus has been ruled out, and that the missiles could still have been launched in an emergency, despite the nearly hour long communications break. US officials arrested a Pakistani-American man for plotting a series of bomb attacks on Washington’s subway system on Wednesday. The man is suspected to have ties to al-Qaeda. Washington DC experienced more shooting of military buildings this week, as several shots were fired into the Marine Corps museum on Friday. Investigators believe that this recent shooting is linked to the two previous shootings, one at a Marine Corps recruiting station and another at the Pentagon.
  • Thirteen people were gunned down at a drug rehabilitation clinic in Tijuana on Sunday just days after another 14 people were killed at a party in Ciudad Juarez.  Also on Sunday, three bystanders were killed in the cross-fire between suspected drug hitmen and federal police in Saltillo. On Wednesday, a group of suspected drug hitmen shot and killed at least 13 people at a car wash in western Mexico. Seven other people were mowed down in the street, four factory workers were killed on a bus and nine police officers were killed in an ambush on Thursday.

South America

  • Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner died of a heart attack on Wednesday. Kirchner, who was succeeded by his wife as president in 2007, was expected to run in the 2011 Presidential elections. 
  • I am still looking for some suggestions of reliable news sources for South America that are available in English. If you have any suggestions, please write them in the comments below or email us at apeaceofconflict@gmail.com. Thanks!

Middle East

  • The start of the olive season in Israel/Palestine has been wrought with conflict, as Palestinians blame Israeli settlers of chopping down, burning or stealing their fruit and trees and attacking farmers who try to harvest. Damage was also said to have been done to some Israeli properties. On Monday, Israel’s hardlined Foreign Minister commissioned a report on how the country will prepare for a nuclear-armed Iran, as well as a plan on possible responses should the Palestinians unilaterally declare a state taking in all of the occupied West Bank. Violent clashes broke out between Palestinian-Israelis and Israeli police following a demonstration by a right-wing Jewish group in northern Israel. Police fired tear gas at a crowd of Palestinian-Israelis who had gathered to protest the march. A huge arms cache bound for Gaza was impounded On Friday in Egypt. The cache was said to contain more than 150 kg of TNT.
  • Bahrain’s parliamentary elections have resulted in the Shia opposition movement winning all the seats it contested, and emerging as the single largest group in a political system dominated by the Sunni minority monarchy. Al-Wifaq won 18 out of 40 seats in the chamber of deputies, while 13 were won by Sunni candidates loyal to the government, with another nine to be fought out next week in the second round.
  • Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified US files on the Iraq war, detailing instances of prisoner abuse and torture that was ignored by the US military. The files revealed a shocking scale of breach of international law by American soldiers, such as the shooting of men trying to surrender, the private security firm abuses and murders, and showing a significant raise in the official civilian death tolls, among other things. On Saturday, a sticky bomb attacked to a car wounded a driver in Baghdad; gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in southern Baghdad, wounding three people; and a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi checkpoint wounded six soldiers and one officer in Abu Ghraib. On Sunday, a former Iraqi intelligence officer died after Iraqi army soldiers raided his home southeast of Mosul; and a car bomb exploded inside a public hospital complex, killing two civilians and wounding 19 others in Mosul. On Monday, a gunmen in a speeding car shot an employee of the Electricity Ministry in Baghdad; and a sticky bomb attached to the car of a Defense Ministry employee wounded him and two bystanders in south Baghdad. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed six workers north of Baghdad; two roadside bomb attacks killed one civilian and wounded another civilian in eastern Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting a deputy minister wounded two bodyguards and two bystanders in central Baghdad; and one person was wounded in a sticky bomb attack on a car in Baghdad. On Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed the head of Jalawa’s criminal investigation unit and three of his bodyguards; a sticky bomb on a car wounded two off-duty policemen in Jalawla; a bomb attached to a truck killed the driver and wounded four others in Baghdad; another bomb in Baghdad killed two guards and wounded four bystanders; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three people in Abu Ghraib; and at least three people were wounded when a bomb exploded in Kirkuk. On Thursday, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol wounded three policemen in Mosul; a sticky bomb on a car in Basra wounded a South Oil Company employee; a sticky bomb on a car killed a police colonel in Baghdad; a sticky bomb on a car wounded a police brigadier general in Baghdad; another sticky bomb on a car wounded a Housing and Construction Ministry employee in Baghdad; a suicide bomber targeting a federal police base killed a policeman and wounded eight others in Mosul; and one civilian was killed and two others wounded in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad.
  • Security forces in Yemen announced on Saturday that they have foiled a planned attack on “vital installations” ahead of the 20th Gulf Football Cup in Aden. A man was arrested with 1,800g of dynamite along with 7 suspected accomplices. On Tuesday, 15 Yemenis suspected of belonging to al Qaeda allegedly turned themselves in to authorities after negotiations. On Wednesday, Shi’ite northern rebels are said to have killed one man and wounded three others in an ambush, and on Friday two rebels and one pro-government tribesman were killed in clashes between rebels and government aligned tribes.
  • Iran has sentenced an Iranian journalist who worked for a banned pro-opposition newspaper to one year in prison for writing anti-government articles. Masoud Bastani is just one of thousands who were arrested and jailed following the June 2009 elections.
  • The UN court investigating the 2005 killing of Lebanese statesman al-Hariri was allegedly attacked by a group of people on its way to a pre-arranged meeting. Tensions have escalated in the past few months. Hezbollah called on all Lebanese to boycott the international investigation on Thursday accusing investigators of sending information to Israel.

Europe

  • The Swedish police are investigating a racially motivated gunman following 18 shootings of citizens of ethnic-minority with no known ties to organized crime. Police have warned residents from ethnic-minority groups to take extra care when going out at night.
  • NATO will reduce its troops in Kosovo by half to 5,000 over the next few months. It was announced on Friday that security had improved in the area and that local institutions are increasingly capable of assuming responsibility for security.
  • A policeman was killed in Daghestan when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police base on Saturday. The attacker was unable to enter the base, as the entrance was blocked by a truck, so he blew himself up outside of it.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev voiced sharp criticism of Russia’s current leaders Medvedev and Putin, accusing them of eroding democracy in the country in an effort for personal power. The Russian military could return to Afghanistan for the first time since being forcibly expelled in 1989 as part of a joint NATO-Russian initiative, including the contribution of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, assistance training Afghan national security forces, increased cooperation on counter-narcotics and border security, and improved transit and supply routes for NATO forces. Russia successfully tested its Bulava nuclear missile on Friday, after seven previous failures, in hopes that the missile will make the cornerstone of its nuclear missile programme.
  • Police and residents clashed this week in Italy over a waste disposal crisis. Hundreds of tons of trash lie uncollected in the streets in Naples and surrounding areas, and daily demonstrations have resulted in violence.
  • Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has warned France to expect more of its nationals to be kidnapped because of it’s policy in Africa and the ban on the burka and the niqab. Bin Laden stated that “the reason why your security is being threatened..” is that “you intervene in the affairs of Muslims, in north and west Africa in particular”.

This week in conflict… October 9th-15th, 2010.

World

  • The UN pre-talks for the world climate summit in China ended in disappointment as negotiators from 177 countries fought over the main aspect of how to finance climate protection and the legal form of a future global climate agreement. The six days of negotiations were marred by open conflicts between the US and China, with the Chinese holding the US and other developed nations responsible for the apparent deadlock in negotiations. 
  • The top UN official fighting to end the recruitment of child soldiers appealed to governments to provide the necessary resources to ensure the reintegration of children into civil society once they have been freed. A new report released this week outlines some of the successes over the past year, and some of the major challenges facing children in war zones.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon outlined measures to strengthen the UN’s role in helping countries emerging from conflict to maintain peace and entrench stability in a report released on Thursday. He also spoke of the need to provide UN staff deployed in crisis situations with proper training to enable them to perform the full range of their responsibilities.
  • India, Germany, South Africa, Colombia and Portugal will all take their place on the UN Security Council for their term after being elected to two-year terms. The council is made up of 5 permanent veto-holding members — France, Russia, China, the UK and the US, as well as 10 non-permanent members. Brazil, Gabon, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Lebanon are all on the council until 2011. Canada abruptly withdrew from the contest allowing Portugal to take its place, after neither won the required votes (128 votes) for victory (Portugal with 113 votes and Canada with 78 votes).
  • NATO’s secretary-general has urged member states to endorse a proposed anti-missile system that would link alliance members into a common network, saying it was NATO’s responsibility to build “modern defenses against modern threats”. NATO defense and foreign ministers held a rare joint session in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a draft of a new “strategic concept” for the alliance, which is expected to focus on new threats including missiles from hostile states, terrorism and cyberattacks ahead of the Lisbon summit in November.
  • The UN is owed $4.1 billion by member nations with the US accounting for more than a quarter of that figure, officials announced on Thursday. Chile, Iran, Mexico, and Venezuela accounted for 9% of the arrears, and another 68 countries made up 3%  of the arrears. Only 13 countries out of 192 have paid their contributions.

Africa

  • French authorities have arrested a leader of the FDLR who is accused of carrying out mass rapes in the DR Congo. ICC chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said the arrest was a “crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes committed in the DRC. On Thursday, a senior UN official said the UN Security Council should consider sanctioning Lieutenant Colonel Serafim of the FDLR over the rapes of hundreds of villagers in the east in August as well. Those who were raped by rebels over the summer are said to now be facing the same abuse from Government troops.
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is reported to have ambushed a town in northern Central African Republic, abducting young girls, looting and setting shops on fire in what the UNHCR has described as intensified attacks since September. The group is said to have committed more than 240 deadly attacks this year, displacing thousands.
  • A new school to train soldiers of about a dozen African countries in peacekeeping operations has been launched in the Congo (Brazzaville) with financial support from France. The school is set to train hundreds of students a year.
  • The former deputy leader of Niger’s ruling military government was arrested on Wednesday, just days after his post as the junta’s number two leader was eliminated. It was not immediately clear why the leader was arrested.
  • Sudan’s president has accused the country’s southern autonomous leadership of breaching terms of a peace deal and warned that civil war could re-erupt if the two sides did not settle their disputes before the secession referendum. On Friday, a UN panel said that plans for the referendums are being hampered by delays, poor funding and negatively charged atmosphere of threats and accusations. The latest round of talks between the north and the south over the oil-producing Abyei region have failed to reach an agreement just 90 days before the referendum to decide its fate. South Sudan independence supporters clashed with riot police and northern pro-unity campaigners in Khartoum on Saturday, highlighting the risk that simmering tensions might boil over. The president in South Sudan has asked the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers and set up a buffer zone along the north-south border ahead of the independence vote to help keep the peace and on Wednesday, the UN Security Council announced that peacekeepers could create limited buffer zones in hotspots along the north-south border, but were not capable of patrolling the entire border. On Tuesday, the UN-supported disarmament drive in the far south began, as the first of some 2,600 people set to be disarmed were disarmed, registered and issued certificates. On Thursday it was announced that the vote on whether the district of Abyei should be part of the north or the south will be delayed, as feared. Local residents responded by saying that a delay is unacceptable and that they may hold their own vote without the government. On Thursday, a renegade army commander began reconciliation talks with the president of South Sudan, as part of a new push to end southern divisions.
  • Gunmen in northern Nigeria shot and killed an Islamic scholar on Saturday after he had been openly critical of a radical sect behind a series of recent killings. Recent killings of police officers, traditional leaders and politicians in the area have raised fears that a radical Islamic group Boko Haram, are staging a comeback. Late Monday night, a police station was destroyed in an attack blamed on the group, after attackers deployed home-made bombs. On Wednesday, Boko Haram gave the government five conditions to be implemented for peace to be restored to their region: that the government stop arresting, intimidating and detaining their members; release all their members that are currently in detention unconditionally; allow their fleeing members to return home unmolested; give back all their places of worship, and denounce all forms of injustice. On Friday, a militant group announced it planned to carry out another bomb attack in Abuja this month, giving seven days of notice of the attack.
  • A Ugandan court has dismissed treason charges against Kizza Besigye, an opposition leader, paving the way for him to run against the president in the 2011 election. The opposition leader had gone into exile after losing to President Museveni in the 2001 presidential polls.
  • Guinea’s presidential hopeful, Cellou Dallein Diallo is still opposed to taking part in a run-off election on October 24th, despite having agreed to share power with his opponent whoever wins. Last week, Diallo announced that he would not participate in the election unless the head of the electoral commission was removed. The two main political rivals agreed to share power regardless of who wins, by including the loser in government.
  • Ethiopia has signed a peace deal on Tuesday to end 20 years of war with a rebel faction in the Ogaden region, however, the deal remains unsure, as a spokesman for a rival wing of the rebel group called the deal “irrelevant”. Ethiopian authorities have said that the deal represents 80% of the fighters.
  • Heavy fighting in Somalia’s capital left more than 20 dead on Wednesday as soldiers clashed with al-Shabaab fighters. A mortar hit the main Bakara market killing 5 civilians, as the fighting escalated. The Somali President named a Somali-American to replace the Prime Minister who resigned last month on Thursday. The previous PM is said to have resigned after intense pressure from the president following a long-standing dispute. A Briton working for Save the Children in Somalia was kidnapped by masked Somali gunmen on Thursday, along with a Somali native who was later released. Witnesses say heavy fighting between government troops and al-Shabaab rocked the capital on Friday with civilian casualties.
  • Egypt’s telecommunications regulator has imposed new restrictions on mobile text messages just ahead of the legislative elections that prohibit companies from sending out text messages en masse without obtaining licenses. Opposition activists say the new regulation stifles their ability to mobilize voters, as they have come to rely increasingly on the internet and mobile phones to organize and mobilize their supporters to sidestep government harassment.
  • Rwanda’a leading opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was re-arrested on Thursday after allegations that investigations into a former rebel commander facing terrorism charges also implicate her. Ingabire had returned to Rwanda to contest the presidential elections this year, but was barred from standing, after being accused of crimes linked to genocide denial.
  • A top rebel leader in Cote D’Ivoire announced that the identity cards being issued to voters ahead of the October 31st election end once and for all the dispute which split the nation in two. The 2002-3 rebellion was largely driven by a row over citizenship rights.  The UN Security Council renewed its arms, financial and travel sanctions to the country for six months on Friday, as well as a ban on trade in rough diamonds.
  • Eleven miners at a coal mine in Zambia were shot after protesting over what they said were poor pay and conditions on Friday. Police are said to be investigating the Chinese owners of Collum Mine Ltd. but have yet to arrest anyone.
  • Seven presidential candidates are to take part in the October general elections in Tanzania. The current president warned candidates to run peaceful elections campaigns and avoid any action that could cause chaos.
  • The Zimbabwean Prime Minister and his deputy boycotted cabinet this week, in escalating political tensions in the shaky inclusive government. Sources say the PM is angry over the President’s unilateral decision to appoint new governors and other arbitrary appointments, triggering a constitutional crisis.

Asia

  • The wife of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been placed under house arrest in China following Liu’s win late last week, along with more than 30 other intellectuals. Censors blacked out any foreign broadcasts of the win, and police were mobilized to quell any sign of domestic support. China also canceled its meeting with the Norwegian fisheries minister, living up to its promise that the move to award the dissident Liu the Prize would harm relations between the countries. On Tuesday, the government canceled another meeting with Norwegian officials, claiming that the award was an affront to the Chinese people and a ploy to try and change the country’s political system. Also on Tuesday, a group of retired Communist Party officials and intellectuals issued an unusually blunt demand for total press freedom in China, stating that the current censorship and control violated China’s Constitution. More than 100 Chinese Christians seeking to attend an international evangelical conference in South Africa have been barred from leaving the country because their churches are not sanctioned by the government.
  • Police sealed off residential areas and reimposed the round-the-clock curfew in Kashmir again on Tuesday in an attempt to pre-empt the first anti-India rally since authorities announced concessions to end violent protests. The hardline separatist leader in Kashmir called on residents to defy the curfew and go into the streets.
  • Detained Myanmar/Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has announced that she will not vote in the upcoming elections, even though authorities have told her she is on the electoral roll. Suu Kyi’s party was dissolved because it declined to reregister for an election it considered unfair and undemocratic and she has said that her ability to vote is unlawful, as convicted people are prohibited from voting.
  • North Korea put on the largest military parade it has ever had on Sunday in front of Kim Jong-il and his successor son Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-il’s oldest son, Kim Jong-nam announced his opposition to the hereditary transfer of leadership to his younger brother on Tuesday. It is suspected Kim Jong-nam, who fell out of favor after an embarrassing attempt to enter Japan to visit Disneyland in 2001, will not likely return to the country. On Friday North Korea vowed to attack South Korea if it resumed its propaganda war along the border, which was recently resumed.
  • Militants set fire to at least 29 fuel tankers in Pakistan in the latest assault on NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, which were reopened by Pakistani authorities on Saturday. Another truck was ambushed on Friday, killing two people. On Sunday, two US drones fired four missiles into a house, killing seven militants. Militants are said to have blown up three school buildings late Saturday, with no reported casualties. Pakistani security forces began a fresh military operation in the northwestern part of the country on Tuesday to comb for militants believed to have fled from the nearby Swat region. On Thursday, Pakistani police arrested a group of Islamist militants who were allegedly plotting to kill the prime minister and other top government officials.
  • Fourteen suspected terrorists were captured during a special operation in a northern area of Tajikistan on Tuesday.  The Tajik government offered an amnesty to armed groups fighting government troops in the east on Tuesday if they declare a cease-fire. Two field commanders and 27 members of armed groups reportedly took the amnesty, agreeing to lay down their weapons and join forces with government troops to hunt down foreign militants on Friday.
  • Four Italian soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Saturday. The British PM announced on Monday that a British hostage who had been reported killed by captors, may have been accidentally killed by troops attempting to save her. On Tuesday, an unknown explosion of a grounded helicopter resulted in the death of at least one ISAF member, an air strike in a northern province killed two insurgents, an ISAF member died following an IED attack in the south, six Afghan civilians died in a rocket attack by insurgents, and two Afghan soldiers were killed in separate attacks. On Wednesday, seven NATO troops were killed in three separate attacks. On Thursday, at least 8 NATO troops were killed in five separate insurgent attacks. On Friday, NATO-led forces are said to have facilitated the passage of a senior Taliban commander to Kabul to hold talks with the Afghan government.
  • Five parties are said to have won seats in Kyrgyzstan’s new Parliament following last week’s election. The results would mean that the ruling nationalist party will be unable to govern on their own after winning just 8.69% of the votes. Twenty-nine parties contested the polls. On Tuesday, the United Kyrgyzstan party announced that it will hold nationwide protests to challenge the official results after it failed to clear the threshold to get into parliament. On Wednesday, an angry crowd attacked a defendant and three relatives of another defendant in trials related to the June violence in the south, following a series of similar attacks earlier in the week on other defendants.
  • Thousands of Thai anti-government activists gathered in Bangkok on Sunday to demand the release of protesters detained for their role in demonstrations and military clashes, breaking the state of emergency rules. Riot police surrounded the site, but there were no reports of violence amid the protests. On Thursday, four people were shot dead in the restive deep south in separate attacks. Police blamed the Malay Muslim rebels for the attacks.
  • Azerbaijan is said to be boosting its military defense spending next year by 90%. The country is in talks with neighbouring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabkh, which it lost to Armenian-backed forces in conflicts in 1991 and the President has claimed that his country should get the region back one day.

Central and North America

  • Suspected drug hitmen in Mexico have ambushed a group of traffic police patrolling a highway on Monday, killing eight officers. Thirteen more people were killed between Tuesday and Thursday in the border city of Tijuana, including several decapitated bodies found hanging upside down from bridges. More than 2,000 police have been killed since 2006, and more than 29,000 in drug violence in Mexico. 
  • Canada has lost the use of a United Arab Emirates military camp near Dubai from which it supported its troops in Afghanistan in an escalation of a dispute over landing rights. The decision has been tied with the failed efforts of UAE to convince Canadian authorities to allow its two major airlines to increase flights to Canada.
  • The Haitian UN peacekeeping mission voiced concern at reports that arms are being distributed in advance of next month’s elections. The MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission called on all candidates in the election to think of the country’s future and programmes that will restore hope to the people. Demonstrators have blocked the entrance to the UN military headquarters in Haiti, spraying anti-UN slogans on vehicles trying to enter on Friday, calling it an “occupation” and angry at the lack of security and assistance they offer to average Haitians. This violence comes the day after the UN announced it would keep its force in Haiti for at least another year.
  • An American Federal judge ordered a halt to the enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the US military. Critics worry that the order may not make it through a Congressional vote, as an earlier attempt was defeated in the Senate this year. In a separate case, a judge ruled that the government cannot coerce a detainee to provide information for intelligence purposes and then use the evidence in criminal proceedings, in the first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. The judge did not express an opinion on the constitutionality of government agents using coercive methods to gain intelligence. The US is also in the process of reviewing its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that lays out the fundamental rights and freedoms of the world’s indigenous populations.

South America

  • The Argentinian government has condemned a planned British military exercise in the Falkland Islands, calling the plan an “unacceptable provocation”. The Argentinian deputy foreign minister demanded that the exercises be canceled. 
  • An Ecuadorean court issued an order authorizing the jailing of 12 police officers for their role in the police uprising last week, that the President has called an attempted coup. The lawyer for the police officers said that his clients were being swept up in a “witch hunt”.
  • Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez has begun a tour of seven nations, including Russia, Iran and Libya to discuss issues ranging from nuclear power and tanks to olive oil. In the past three years Chavez has bought at least $5 billion in weapons, including fighter jets, anti-aircraft missile systems and tanks from Russia.
  • Peruvian police have arrested a top commander of the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla group in an operation that also killed two rebel fighter on Wednesday. Police raids in the coca growing regions are part of an effort by the government to stamp out the remnant bands of Shining Path fighters and eradicate crops of coca, the raw material for cocaine.

Middle East

  • It was reported this week that at least 10 Palestinian children have been shot and wounded by Israeli troops over the past three months while collecting rubble in or near the border. Israeli soldiers are routinely shooting at Gazans well beyond the unmarked boundary of the no-go area. The Israeli Prime Minister is said to have offered to renew a partial settlement construction freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state on Monday. The offer was met with swift rejection from senior Palestinian officials, calling the two issues unrelated. Palestinians, backed by Arab powers, have given the US one month to persuade Israel to halt the building of settlements or risk the complete collapse of peace talks. On Wednesday, Palestinian authorities requested a map from the US showing where Israel sees its final borders and making clear whether they include Palestinian land and homes. Israel issued the building tenders for 238 new housing units in East Jerusalem on Thursday, which many called choosing “settlements over peace”. Lawyers representing relatives of those who died in the Israeli raid of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May are urging the ICC to pursue those responsible, citing that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed.
  • Two apparently synchronized bombs exploded in southern Yemen on Monday, killing 2 people and wounding 12 others. The leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced the formation of a new army that would free the country of “crusaders and their apostate agents”. On Tuesday, police arrested 19 al-Qaeda members who were accused of Monday’s attacks. On Thursday, the governor of Abyan escaped an assassination attempt by suspected al-Qaeda mlitants, and the chief of police in an Abyan district was killed in an attack.
  • Iran has announced that it is ready to hold talks with six major powers over its nuclear programme in late October or early November. The US and its European allies fear Iran’s declared civilian nuclear energy programme is a cover to develop the capability of producing nuclear weapons.
  • Iranian President Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday to visit the southern region near the Israeli border in a trip said to emphasize Iranian support for Hezbollah’s fight with Israel. Both the US and Israel called his trip intentionally provocative.
  • Gunmen wearing Iraqi military uniforms broke into the homes of their own clan members on Monday and killed four people for informing on al Qaeda. Also on Monday, a senior police officer was wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad,  a group of gunmen opened fire on a currency exchange office in Baghdad which killed five people, and three gunmen stormed a policeman’s house and killed him in Falluja. On Tuesday, gunmen launched coordinated attacks on three Iraqi army security checkpoints in western Baghdad that killed one soldier, Iraqi forces killed a civilian by mistake in near Mosul as they chased smugglers near the border, and a roadside bomb wounded two Iraqi soldiers as it exploded during their patrol near Mosul. On Wednesday, four bombs exploded in western Baghdad, at least four policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb hit their patrol, a bomb attached to a government car wounded two of its passengers and gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an employee of a state-run oil company. New US military statistics have placed the death toll for Iraqi civilians and security forces at 77,000 from January 2004-October 31, 2008, well below the count by the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry figure of 85,694 for the same period.
  • Twenty-three Shia activists were charged in Bahrain on Wednesday with terrorism and conspiring against the government, who are among hundreds of Shia opposition figures and activists rounded up in recent months ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Shias are the majority in Bahrain, but have long complained of discrimination from the Sunni government.

Europe

  • A dramatic rise in violent attacks on small town mayors in Sardinia, Italy has been linked to soaring job losses due to factory closures and the sheep market slump. A social services office was bombed, a shotgun was fired at the home of a mayor, a car belonging to a council official was burned, and a horse of a mayor was shot dead with its ears and tongue cut off.
  • Riot police clashed with protesting Culture Ministry workers who barricaded the ancient Acropolis in Greece on Thursday. Workers complained that they were owed up to 24 months’ worth of back pay and faced dismissal when their contracts expire at the end of the month.
  • Clashes between far-right supporters and gay pride marchers rocked Belgrade, in Serbia on Sunday. Thousands of police officers sealed the streets and clashed with the rioters who were attempting to break through the security. Rioters also fired shots and hurled petrol bombs at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic party, along with the state TV building and other political parties’ headquarters. Serbia’s Appeals Court removed a war crimes conviction against a Bosnian official on Monday in a move that is said could ease ties between the two former Yugoslav states. Official relations worsened in 2007 after Serbia arrested Ilija Jurisic on charges that he ordered an attack on a column of the Yugoslav People’s Army that killed at least 50 soldiers. On Tuesday a soccer match between Serbia and Italy ended in clashes and the hospitalization of 16 people after Serbian fans threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch and at Italian fans.
  • One man was killed after a group of Muslims were attacked as they left a mosque in Abkhazia on Monday. The attackers opened fire from a passing car. This is the third attack against Muslims in Abkhazia in the last two months.
  • Russia’s main pro-Kremlin party are said to have won an overwhelming victory in local elections across the country on Sunday, but observers say the results are unsurprising as the vote was rigged. Claims of buying votes, ballot-stuffing, increased pressure on journalists and human rights activists from authorities during the campaign and the refusal of registration faced by independent candidates marred the results. On Tuesday, Russian authorities detained around 30 people for holding an unsanctioned rally to demand an end to naming mayors and regional governors instead of by elections.
  • Russia and Georgia have resumed internationally mediated talks in Geneva aimed at preventing another flare-up of violence following their brief 2008 war. The talks also include representatives from the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and is set to last one day.
  • Three members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and two soldiers in Turkey were killed in two days of fighting. The fighting comes despite a one-sided ceasefire declared by the PKK.
  • Moldova has become the latest country to ratify the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court on Tuesday. The treaty enters into force in January.

This week in conflict… September 17th-24th, 2010.

World

  • The 65th session of the annual UN General Assembly, which began on September 13th, discussed the crises of relevance of the UN worldwide. The highly touted Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were the subject of the opening are falling short in many areas. The UN is also increasingly sharing its space with other entities and losing its place as the center of global responses.
  • September 21st was the UN’s International Day of Peace, a day dedicated to peace or specifically the absence of war. First started in 1981, it was later declared as a day of global ceasefire in 2001. Sadly, this Day of Peace was fraught with violent conflict worldwide.
  • Nations with competing claims to the Arctic region are meeting in a forum in Moscow to help ensure the region does not become a battleground for resources. Several countries, including Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US have all laid claims to the Arctic.
  • African leaders called on the UN to grant the continent a permanent seat on the Security Council on Friday, declaring that the exclusion of Africa can no longer be justified.

Africa

  • Mauritanian soldiers clashed with suspected al-Qaeda in Mali killing at least 12 al-Qaeda members and at least two civilians. The fighting began on Saturday on the Mauritania-Mali border but moved into Malian territory.
  • Two radio stations in Somalia were ransacked and looted by members of Islamist militias, one that later began to use the station for its own propaganda broadcasting. A suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of the presidential palace in Mogadishu on Monday. The Prime Minister resigned this week after a months-long feud with the President. At least 10 people were killed and another 25 wounded by fighting between the Somali government and the rebel group Hizbul-islam. Another 20 were killed on Thursday in further clashes, along with one Ugandan peacekeeper. On Friday at least 30 were killed as African Union forces clashed with al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu. The UN will hold a crisis meeting on Somalia next Thursday.
  • The Congolese army (FARDC) is reportedly increasing its deployments in the east in another bid to purge the FDLR. Uganda is also in talks with the Congolese government to work together to annihilate the LRA rebels who threaten security in both countries. The UN and the Congolese government have launched a distribution of identity cards to refugees aimed at strengthening the rights of the vulnerable group.
  • An army general from Cote D’Ivoire was arrested by the FBI in New York last week attempting to buy 3.8 million dollars worth of weaponry. The government opposition accused the President’s party of preparing to stay in power in the upcoming election by force. The government began paying former rebels on Wednesday who disarmed ahead of the elections set for next month in an effort to reduce violence.
  • Police in Zimbabwe have reportedly arrested 83 members of a group who were taking part in a march outside parliament to accuse police of beating suspects and denounce violence during the country’s constitutional outreach programme.
  • Preparations for an independence referendum in Sudan have been delayed, escalating risks for renewed civil war. The referendum is to happen January 11th.
  • Outrage at the proposed Public Order Management Bill in Uganda, which would restrict gatherings involving more than five people unless they are sanctioned by the Inspector General of Police, led to civil society, the opposition and human rights defenders verbally attacking the government.
  • At least fourteen bodies, some with limbs bound or machete wounds, have been found floating on a river near the capital of Burundi this week. Locals suspect the civil war is resuming.
  • Nigeria’s ruling party has suspended its election primaries this week, signaling that the national elections scheduled for January are likely to be delayed. The electoral commission called for the polls to be moved to April, so that it has more time to correct flawed voter lists.

Asia

  • At least seven people were killed in an attack near a polling station in Afghanistan, and rocket attacks wer reported in Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad. The election was also marred by serious allegations of fraud and reportedly had a low turnout. Almost 3,000 formal complaints were received. The bodies of three Independent Elections Commission officials were found on Sunday, after disappearing in an earlier kidnapping. Eight Afghan children were killed while playing with an unexploded rocket on Sunday. The Taliban claimed that nine NATO soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash after insurgents shot the helicopter down. Several suicide bombers also attacked a NATO-run base on Friday in the southeast.
  • At least five soldiers were killed in an attack on a convoy in Tajikistan on Sunday. The attack was attributed to terrorists. Another 23 people were killed on Sunday after unidentified men opened fire on troops. Kyrgyzstan closed its border with Tajikistan after the attacks. The Tajik government forces mounted a counter-strike on the rebels responsible for the attacks on Wednesday. Another 3 militants were killed by Tajik troops on Friday on the third day of a counter-strike against rebel attacks.
  • The Kyrgyz National Security Service (UKK) interrupted the screening of an Australian documentary about a Chinese human rights activist and demanded it be stopped. The officers claimed to be implementing a written directive signed by the presidential office, though the president refused to comment.
  • Five Buddhists were killed in gun and arson attacks in Thailand on Sunday. The attacks were blamed on separatist rebels. Two more Buddhists were shot dead in a drive-by attack on Thursday. Anti-government protesters took to the streets again on Sunday in what was said to be the largest protest since the military cleared the streets on May 19. The unrest is said to be severely endangering the education system as schools have been targeted by separatist fighters who view the system as a symbol of government oppression.
  • Three people were killed on Saturday in Kashmir after security officers fired into a crowd who had defied the curfew to march in a funeral procession of a young boy. Indian MPs met detained Kashmiri separatists on Monday, despite a rebel boycott of government-sponsored talks in an attempt to end the uprising.
  • A US missile strike killed five militants in northwestern Pakistan on Monday. This is reportedly the fourteenth such US attack this month. Pakistanis took to the streets following the sentencing of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui by the US government for allegedly snatching a gun from an American soldier in an Afghani jail cell and opening fire. Police fired teargas and clashed with protesters.
  • Philippine troops killed a top Islamic militant on Sunday after a brief firefight. The militant is said to have helped plan and carry out the kidnapping of 3 Americans and 17 Filipinos in 2001.
  • More than a dozen gunmen on motorcycles attacked a police station in Indonesia on Wednesday, killing three police officers. The gunmen are believed to have links to a militant group from Aceh that had planned a previous coup attempt.
  • Two member of Kazakhstan’s Algha opposition party were detained by the police on Wednesday as they prepared to leave for a discussion on initiating a referendum on whether the President should resign.
  • Cambodia’s main opposition party leader was convicted in absentia on Thursday and sentenced to 10 years in jail after a comment about a border dispute. Critics claim this is further intimidation of governmental opponents.
  • India has banned bulk mobile text messages for three days starting on Thursday to prevent the spreading of rumours and religious extremism in advance of a potentially explosive court verdict between Muslims and Hindus. The high court ruled on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India.

Middle East

  • Two car bombs killed at least 31 people in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday morning.
  • The Israel Defense Forces have been accused of using the banned Ruger 10/22 rifle to disperse protests even though it has been prohibited. Israel expressed its anger at Russia on Monday for planning to sell anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria, concerned that the weapons could be used to transfer to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Does Israel have nuclear submarines? A new book offers by a former Israeli admiral offers a glimpse into the state which neither confirms nor denies having nuclear bombs. The Israeli government has said it will not accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty due to national security considerations, and suggested that the UN atomic watchdog is overstepping its mandate in demanding them to do so. Israel is seeking the release of an American jailed for life for spying for the Jewish state in return for an extension of the partial freeze on the expansions of settlements in the occupied territories and other concessions in the recent peace process with the Palestinians. An Israeli guard killed a Palestinian man on Wednesday during clashes in a contested East Jerusalem neighbourhood, after which, angry demonstrators began hurling rocks at police and were dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Israeli navy shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman on Friday because he was “heading towards Israel” and apparently “refused to obey” orders to turn back.
  • The UN panel of human rights experts charged with investigating the Israeli flotilla scandal of May of this year has accused Israel of war crimes through willful killing, unnecessary brutality and torture in its “clearly unlawful” and disproportionate assault of the ship. Israel dismissed the accusations as “politicized and extremist”, but since the report does not have any legal force it will merely be an embarrassment to the Israeli state.
  • Hamas warned of backlash after Palestinian security forces arrested hundreds of Hamas activists, including a senior Hamas figure. On Thursday Hamas claimed to have arrested “many” Palestinians in Gaza on suspicion of collaborating with Israel to kill senior members and bomb training sites and government offices.
  • An Iranian court has jailed a prominent human rights activist and journalist, convicting her of “waging war against God”. Supporters say the arrest is politically motivated. Two bloggers may face the death penalty for speaking out during the 2009 elections. The Iranian government has announced plans to create a new board that will approve the content of all books for publication, essentially amounting to legalized censorship. A bomb exploded at a military parade on Wednesday killing 10 spectators. The attack was blamed on Kurdish separatists.
  • Up to 12,000 civilians fled their homes in south Yemen due to heavy fighting between government forces and suspected al Qaeda militants. Three al Qaeda militants and two soldiers have died. Yemeni troops laid siege to the town of Hawta, shelling the town with tanks and artillery and firing on jihadists from helicopters.
  • Clashes broke out during protests on Tuesday in Egypt against the claimed plans for the president’s son to assume power. It is widely believed that Gamal Mubarak is now being groomed to succeed his father Hosni as Egypt’s next ruler. Dozens of armed Bedouins locked 15 police officers in a car and set it on fire at a police station in central Sinai.

North and Central America

  • Mexican soldiers deactivated a bomb at a mall in central Mexico on Saturday. Nobody was injured and authorities are not clear if the incident was tied to the country’s drug war. Authorities have ordered the total evacuation of the town of San Juan Copala in the Oaxaca province of Mexico this week, after paramilitaries allegedly said they would massacre all supporters of the autonomous municipality. The town has been under siege since February of this year. Mexican authorities say that seven people were killed in Acapulco during a shootout between rival drug gangs on Thursday. They also found the decapitated bodies of two men inside an abandoned car near Acapulco on Wednesday. Suspected drug hitmen also killed the mayor of a town in the North on Thursday, making this the fourth public official slain in little over a month.
  • An appeal court in the US has dismissed the case against Royal Dutch Shell, after the oil company was accused of helping Nigerian authorities to violently suppress protests against oil exploration in the 1990s. The court ruled that corporations could not be held liable in US courts for violations of international human rights law.
  • Al-Jazeera has accused NATO of trying to suppress its coverage of the war in Afghanistan following the arrest of two of its cameramen this week. The two journalists have been accused by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to be working with the insurgents to facilitate Taliban propaganda. They were released later in the week. The CIA is said to have trained and bankrolled nearly 3,000 Afghans for nearly 8 years to hunt al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Private contractor deaths have been said to outweigh military losses in Iraq and Afghanistan with more than 250 dead between January and June 2010, compared to 235 soldier deaths.
  • Iranian President Ahmadinejad has accused the US government of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks in an effort to prop up Israel at the UN General Assembly, prompting several delegates to walkout. Barack Obama responded by making an angry personal attack on Ahmadinejad, calling his words “hateful, offensive and inexcusable”. Ahmadinejad later defended his remarks and called upon the UN to set up a commission to study the attacks.
  • Nicaragua’s consul in New York was found dead with his throat slashed in his apartment on Thursday. Police have not released any further details of the investigation so far.

South America

  • Colombian troops killed at least 22 FARC guerrillas in a jungle raid on Sunday. They have also claimed to kill a top leader, Jorge Briceno Suarez, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). President Santos has vowed to keep his predecessor’s hard line on security in the region. Following these events, the FARC rebels said they wanted a chance for peace negotiations on Friday. On the more bizarre side of things, a parrot was “arrested” for allegedly tipping off members of a drug cartel during a police raid by yelling “run, run– you’re going to get caught” as it spotted uniformed officers.

Europe

  • French intelligence services are searching for a female would-be suicide bomber who they believe is planning an attack on the Paris transport system. This comes less than a week after the Eiffel Tower was evacuated following a bomb alert.
  • Twenty-one people were injured when a protest by grape growers in Kosovo turned violent. Some 500 farmers came with their tractors to protest the government’s inability to find buyers for their grapes.
  • A lawyer who managed the legal defense of a Bosnian Serb convicted of mass murder at the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia is now facing charges of bribing witnesses. He is accused of paying three witnesses 1,000 € each for  testimony in favour of Milan Lukic, who was jailed for life in 2009 for the killings of Muslims in Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.
  • The vice president of Abkhazia was wounded in a mortar attack on his house on Wednesday night.  The Abkhaz President claims the attack was a bid to destabilize the region.
  • One of Russia’s most vocal gay rights campaigners says he was kidnapped by people he believes to be members of Russian security services and held for two days. Nikolai Alekseyev has previously been publicly insulted, repeatedly arrested and pelted with everything from eggs to fists. On Tuesday, several gay-rights activists, including Alekseyev were arrested after an unauthorized protest. A Russian woman who claims to be a journalist appealed to the US government to help her and 2,000 others whose homes are set for demolition. She laments that her people have lost all their rights and returned to communism. The Russian army has also announced that they will drop their plans to supply Iran with S-300 missiles because they are subject to international sanctions, an arrangement agreed upon several years ago. Gunmen, suspected to be Islamist insurgents, shot 13 people across the North Caucasus this week including two police officers.
  • The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has extended its unilateral ceasefire in Turkey for another week. Turkey has officially refused to negotiate with the PKK, which it labels as a terrorist organization.
  • Concerns about press freedom in Ukraine were fueled this week again after a journalist says he was severely beaten up by police. This is the second such attack on a journalist in less than a week. Police deny all allegations.

Peaceful hope: The story of SHONA cooperative

Hope can make all the difference in a person’s life. One small light of hope can lead people to peace, even in the massive shadow of war. SHONA, which means “sew” in Swahili, started with a simple idea; to give dignity and hope to a handful of handicapped persons living in Goma, in the DR Congo who are normally expected to beg for their subsistence. 85% of these craftspeople have never attended school; not even for a day. 60% of them are refugees. Now, instead of being dependent and a burden on their families or charity, they are providing for their families. They are making on average $250 per month in a country where the average income for an able bodied person is only about $15 a month. They are educating themselves, taking courses in French, math and basic accounting, and are using this knowledge to budget their money for future healthcare and emergencies. They are bringing together different minds, from different tribes in peace.

SHONA is a grassroots cooperative. There is no outside funding or support. There are no overhead costs, because there are no paid staff, no offices and no middle men to pay for. Each craftsperson essentially operates their own business—and receives 100% of the profit from their own labour. It is about empowerment, sustainability and independence in a region where war has claimed many victims. The craftspeople of SHONA refuse to be victims. They will create their own futures with their own hands, and they will pass on their skills by teaching others as they can.

The story of Argentine, a young craftswoman at SHONA speaks volumes of how a little bit of hope can change a person and bring them inner peace. Argentine grew up unable to walk in the heart of war in Eastern Congo. When the fighting began, Argentine’s mother used to carry her on her back into the woods and hide her in a hole until the fighting subsided, sometimes for months at a time. Today, Argentine supports herself and helps to support her family with her own hands. She said of her time at SHONA, “before I never used to dream. Other people would dream of having a house, or land, but not me. I just hoped that someday something would be better. But now it is different. Now I dream.”

Their motto stands tall:

Each item we sew is our claim to a better world.

A world where we are seen

Not only for the challenges we face

But for the beauty we create.

Think Big

Buy Small

Support a Better World

What to do about blood minerals in the DR Congo.

I  may have spoken too hastily in the past regarding conflict resources in the DR Congo. My rage at the inherent abuse led me to think that boycotting and protesting companies was perhaps the best way to go. I realize now, that I was wrong. Starting with the last steps in the chain is the wrong approach to this problem.

Over the past six years, I have delved into this subject more than any other and have even gone so far as to ban all products for my personal use if I didn’t know EXACTLY where they came from and what effect they had. I still feel comfortable with this personal decision. I have become essentially a non-consumer (except for second hand goods) and I like it that way because I cannot fathom my personal choices causing pain in others and could not live with myself and my luxuries at that expense. As such, I’ve taken to growing almost all of my own food, having friends make me new clothes from reclaimed fabric or hitting the second hand shop and living a pretty austere life away from any new fangled gadgets. I have been mocked by other friends who suggest I now live in the stone age (not quite, I still have many older modern conveniences such as my laptop that I’ve had for the past 8 years– she runs just fine!). Frankly, that doesn’t bother me. I enjoy being connected to what I produce and what I consume. It makes me feel whole, but it’s definitely not a plausible life choice for everyone.

Over the past several months, it has become blatantly clear to me that boycotts will not improve the situation for those in the DR Congo, in fact, it will only make things worse for the people on the ground. Nor will creating a certification-scheme for “fair trade” products to help ban all blood minerals and metals. Lobbying governments or companies will create further awareness on the issue, perhaps bringing much needed funding for Congolese humanitarian projects, but it won’t make the lives of the people any better and it won’t stop conflict resources from flooding the market.

It’s hard for me to admit this, especially since I have so vehemently proposed such things in the past and now feel stupid for doing so. I ask myself, how did I not come to this conclusion earlier? The evidence was all there, I was reading it daily, but these conclusions made me feel helpless. Boycotting and calling the governments and companies to change made me more able to do something about the problem. Again, I feel helpless and feel like I am starting from scratch.

So what can people in North America do?

I still advocate that people should be aware of what they are purchasing. They should know that when they buy luxuries, they are affecting more than just their pocketbook. They should not over-consume, and skyrocket demand for mining and resource extraction that may cause environmental degradation, abuse or suffering. But what can they do directly about the problem?

In a country where corruption is king, and violence rampant– certification schemes are going to be corrupted. One only has to look to the Kimberley Process and the recent problems in Zimbabwe to realize that certifications schemes are not all they are cracked up to be. Until corruption and governance can be stabilized, a certification scheme is out of the question. So should we just ban all such resources from the areas of fighting in the DRC?

Criminalizing imports in an area where the majority of the population is reliant on revenues from mineral exports means that the local economy would experience rapid devaluation of their currency, suddenly making their basic needs completely unaffordable. It will also push illegal trade much further underground, making it much harder to track and people will still be subject to abuse for the sake of minerals. These minerals will still end up in our market, only they will have gotten there through much shadier means.

The new Bill C-300 on the table in Canada will open channels for victims of human rights abuses at the hands of Canadian corporations acting overseas and in theory allow them to have more access to justice. The bill would allow guilty companies to be sanctioned, their support withdrawn from Export Development Canada (EDC), as well as any investment by the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in their company shares. In practice, however, given the high risk nature and generally small size of extractive companies, they do not generally even receive EDC funding or CPP investment. Mining companies could feel the sanctions, but as the bill is a private member’s bill, it will not likely be receiving the financial resources it needs to adequately make this function-able in the first place. Not to mention that the average person living in the DRC would probably not even be aware of the existence of said bill to even begin to file a complaint. In its current form, the Bill is clearly problematic and will have little effect on the well-being of the affected population.

The American Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 is meant to push companies to report on any minerals used in their products coming from conflict areas and describe the steps they took to ensure the minerals procurement did not support arms groups. All information would be public for citizens so that they could make their purchasing choices accordingly. This will result in essentially boycotting minerals from the DRC since the cost to the companies will increase with their use and people will avoid buying from companies who use potentially conflict-laden materials. Boycotts, as mentioned above, will have devastating effects for the population. The Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009 also amounts to a boycott.

Ok. Ok. Enough with the bad stuff, what will work?

It’s not that simple. What the DRC needs more than anything is good governance and security. “Without a Congolese state capable of playing its role in controlling and running affairs, how can the minerals of Kivu be de-criminalized?”

Since MONUC, the UN peacekeeping troop in the DRC,  has recently decided to scale back its mandate and reduce its troops by 2,000 to change itself into MONUSCO, the possibility of good governance in the country looks bleak. The latest UN resolution calls on MONUSCO to “support” and act “upon explicit request” from the Congolese government (one of the major human rights abusers in the country, including within the mineral trade), a move that offers no explicit details on how MONUSCO is supposed to support them or deal with abusive officers or improve the behaviour of the forces. The resolution also limits the mandate of civilian protection to only areas where peacekeepers are stationed, clawing back existing assistance. The former head of MONUC has also just retired to be replaced with the surprise choice of Alan Doss, a man with no previous UN experience, potentially leaving the already troublesome command structure weakened.

What can we do about this? Well, the UN already has the largest peacekeeping force in its history in the country, but it would take thousands more troops to really provide some semblance of stability and that is just not likely to happen.

We can petition our governments to push for greater UN presence in the country, to increase their spending to aid these endeavors and increase their arms sanctions or actually enforce them. We can push the UN to increase its mandate so it can try to actually secure unstable territory. We can push them to be more engaged with the local populations and look at ways to more effectively communicate with them (such as hiring more translators or setting up remote radio communication systems). We can push the UN to work on good governance programs, ensure active functioning justice systems, continue its Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program and thoroughly train the police or in areas where there are no police, do the job of policing to ensure security. We can also push them to rethink their approach and adopt differing strategies that would allow them to better address the realities on the ground  (Séverine Autesserre has some good suggestions)  We can push the UN to hunt down and contain the rebel movements who are destabilizing the country. We can push the international community to actually listen to local solutions and help implement them. We can push our own governments to demand accountability for the billions of dollars they give to the Congolese government each year. We can push for any of our extraction companies in the DRC who are directly committing crimes in the country to be brought to justice and actually investigate all claims made by UN and other reports that implicate any companies in criminal actions within the country. We can push the media to actually show the severity of the conflict to help increase international aid and monitor the progress and to focus more on local solutions and initiatives to the problems. We can inform people of what is happening and encourage them to push their governments and the UN as well.

And we can hope that the world will listen and respond. With enough pressure, anything is possible.

** Update: I received a thoughtful email from Laura at Texas in Africa with some great suggestions who agrees with the idea that “getting a functioning security sector, police who can and will do their jobs, collecting taxes so that salaries can be paid, and getting the judiciary working again” are a top priority.

She stated, “I’ve found that the best thing for me to do in terms of formulating a response is to support organizations that I think are doing a good job, and to encourage others to do the same.  If you’re concerned about women who are victims of rape in the region, Heal Africa, Panzi Hospital, and Women for Women all do a wonderful job of helping them to return to health and rebuild their lives.  The IRC, Doctors without Borders, and Oxfam also do good work, especially in the education and health sectors.  Supporting  NGO work doesn’t solve the bigger issues, but it does help me to feel like I’m making a small difference, even as I work to figure out these issues and educate others about them.”

She also suggested reading over Resource Consulting Services Ltd. ‘s work for ideas on how to legalize and formalize the mineral trade in the DRC. Thanks Laura for your helpful suggestions!

 

Blood-free tin.

The ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi) is making an effort to try and eradicate conflict metals from the tin industry. The extraction of raw materials in many parts of the world funds extreme acts of violence; war crimes, crimes against humanity, mass murder, rape, torture, enslavement, the recruitment of child soldiers, mass abuse and displacement of people.  The complexity of manufacturing modern products means that each item has most likely traveled around the globe making many stops along the way.  This makes it harder for companies to know exactly what happened at each stop and the effect their product has had on human beings along the way.

ITRI is a non-profit organization that represents tin miners and smelters, created to promote a positive image of the tin industry and ensure its best interests are represented. The ITSCi was designed to investigate the performance of the tin industry and ensure a higher standard of care that would trace the tin from the mine to the smelter, much like the Kimberly Process does for diamonds.

July 2009 saw the implementation of ITSCi Phase 1, a comprehensive due diligence plan for tin extracted in the DR Congo. Phase 2 which just began to begin to track and provide more precise sourcing locations for tin mined in eastern DRC. Pilot mines sites in North and South Kivu have been chosen to integrate into the trading scheme, with expectations of expansion after the first six months across 4 provinces of the DRC (North and South Kivu, Maniema, and Katanga). It’s a start, but nearly not enough to ensure the eradication of conflict tin in the marketplace.

This pilot supply chain project is being eyed by both the Tantalum and Niobuim Information Center (TIC) who eventually intend to include coltan in the study. Hopefully other extractive industries will soon follow and begin take their own initiatives to stop funding violence. The vagueness within the corporate policies and laws and lack of investigation and enforcement capabilities to regulate the laws, leave the extractive industries seemingly decades away from evoking true change in practices. Long-term secure funding and precise laws is necessary to ensure this project goes from pilot to change in real practice. Currently several major corporations are contributing the $600K necessary to run the ITSCi pilot. Considering the profit made from products using tin in the past year, this $600K is merely a drop in the bucket. More money is immediately needed from these companies to hire enough investigators, regulators and enforcers to stop funding violence.

You can help stop the violence. Speak out. The next time you buy a product, think about where it has come from. Write, phone, email and ask the company if they have a truly ethical purchasing policy that includes safeguards against incorporating conflict resources into their product line. Ask your government to enact laws that would enforce its companies to maintain higher human rights standards, even when operating overseas. The market creates the demand, so let’s demand that they provide us with a truly ethical choice.

Bookmark      and Share

HP is trying.

It’s been almost two years that I have been pushing different computer companies to better track their supply chains in an effort to stop the flow of money into conflict zones. My pleas have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

While I can’t entirely endorse any of the companies’ efforts, since I feel they still fall short of being fully responsible, I feel that Hewlett Packard (HP) is at least trying to change and is the closest to actually doing so. My general feeling on these companies is that they should have full control over their supply line, know whether any stops along the way are human rights abusing and stop the abuse if it is found if they truly want to consider themselves an “ethical” company. If they find abuse, they can choose to ask that supplier to stop the abuse or they have the choice to switch to another supplier. Either way, they have control over this aspect. If the supplier won’t let them in to inspect for abuse, then switch supplier. Simple. It’s fairly black and white with me when it comes to this. We, as consumers, don’t have this choice to the same extent. We don’t know who supplies which company without thorough research, and have a difficult time trying to ascertain the truth from the companies even with thorough research. They say, buyer beware, but when we see “ethical” policies on their website, we assume that it’s the truth. Sadly, in most cases I have found, it is not anywhere near the truth.

Hewlett Packard has started auditing its supply chain and making as much information on those audits available as possible. They have listed the majority of their suppliers in an effort to be more transparent. They have made voluntary promises to investigate their supply chain more closely. They claim to unconditionally support human rights on their web site. They have donated money and equipment to the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative in an effort to track the tin for their products in the DR Congo. They have also voluntarily joined on to the GeSI Supply Chain Initiative. These efforts haven’t gone completely unnoticed. HP was named #1 Best Corporate Citizen by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. It has been written up repeatedly as an “ethical” company.

The reality though, is still kind of sad. The ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative received only $600,000 for the first six months of its supply chain project. Seems like a lot of money, right? While, before you start applauding these companies for this donation, you must realize that HP, Analog Devices, Apple, Cabot Supermetals, Dell, EMC, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, Motorola Foundation, Nokia, Philips, RIM, Sony, Talison, Telefonica, S.A. Western Digital and Xerox collaboratively donated this money and that within that list sit several companies who are making millions upon millions each year on these tainted supplies while already claiming corporate social responsibility.  The $600K donation works out to less than $40K per company for this initiative. Consider that a company like HP spends approximately $235 million per month on research and development of new products, you think they could invest a little more in ensuring human rights are respected in the making of their supposedly “ethical” product line. And before you commend them on reaching the top of Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s “Best Corporate Citizens”, realize that the Coca Cola Co. (accused of massive worldwide crimes, see also here) also tops the list for responsibility.

What it appears like to me is companies using bottom line donations to promote their image, while ignoring a larger problem in an effort to maximize their own profits. Profits should not come before people. You want to be ethical in your product line? Here’s a plan for you. Spend the money, send out auditors to each of your suppliers and their suppliers and their suppliers. Keep them there for (at least) the next year and have them report on each and every violation against human rights. If these violations start to add up, move to another supplier who can agree to your terms. I’m sure there are many other suppliers waiting in the wings wishing on contracts with a massive corporation that would be willing to take some more responsible measures to secure that contract. This is a simplification, obviously it would be slightly more complicated, but there is as far as I can see no real reason they can’t take full responsibility except for monetary and competition reasons, and frankly, that’s just not good enough. War crimes and crimes against humanity are happening for these products, and that’s not ok.

It makes no sense me to that these companies claim they are unable to control their own product line. They have the control. They just don’t want to lose profits because they do not see the competitive advantage in paying more for human rights protection. A few moments in the media of shining glory after some piddly donation has a similar effect as an actual effort. So why put the effort and money in?

Please HP, live up to your ethical promises. Keep the effort coming, and keep transparent. I want to respect you.

Bookmark   and Share

The DR Congo, MONUC and Joseph Kabila.

MONUC, the UN’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will sadly soon be coming near an end, even though the country is arguably home to one of the most deadly and violent humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen. In December 2oo9, the UN extended their mission to run until May 2010 and have spent this time discussing plans for withdrawal. Recent talks suggest the troops will most likely stay past Congolese president Joseph Kabila’s hopeful June 30, 2010 deadline until the least devastating exit strategy can be fully devised. This will probably delay a full withdrawal until at least 2011.  The UN troop’s effectiveness and the necessity of their continuation in the country has been hotly debated. Congolese President Joseph Kabila calls for their immediate departure. Human Rights Watch has accused MONUC of complicity in massive abuses against the local population. Locals protest the UN headquarters, tell rumors of lizard-eating UN troops, and the abandonment of many bastard children parented by MONUC workers should they pull out of the country. Yet there is an obvious necessity for some stability as the local population is in desperate need of protection from wide-spread violence and an incredibly corrupt government system.

President Kabila has been asking the troops to leave now for years, claiming things are getting better and that the government can manage on their own, however the poor human rights record in the DRC would suggest otherwise. The atrocities happening in the DRC rival any crisis and brutality our planet has ever seen, yet seems hidden in the media behind violence in Afghanistan, Iraq or the Sudan. The DRC has been wracked with war for more than a decade, pushed to the brink after colonial independence, decades of poor despotic governance, enormous global theft of resources, and the violent militias fueled by ethnic hatreds spilling into the country following the Rwandan genocide. It is still enraged in severe violence with as many as 45,000 people dying each month from war or war related causes.  The violence has not diminished over these last few years. In fact, if anything, it seems to be increasing. According to OSCHA (the UN office for the coordination of Humanitarian affairs), violent incidents against aid workers increased 26% in the first six months of 2009 compared to 2008. They also report that security incidents in Goma were up 44% and up 63% in North Kivu over the past year. People are still dying at alarming rates, with mass violent atrocities regular, daily occurrences. One would be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t been personally affected by violence in the country. Yet, it seems to drop from our view here in North America so easily.

The UN mission in the Congo is the largest and most expensive in history with now more than 20,000 personnel on the ground. 150 UN personnel have lost their lives since the mission’s inception in 1999.   These troops have been accused of atrocities ranging from rape and murder, to assisting local militias and rebel groups in their massacres and have faced protests at the UN doorstep in extreme anger and frustration by local populations who feel they are not being fully protected. We cannot forget that despite all this negativity these troops have also been credited with protecting thousands of local Congolese on a daily basis who would surely die if not for their presence and assistance; they have also had their hands essentially tied by vague mandate and lack of funding. Millions and millions of locals have died (at least 5.6 million in the past decade and probably much more than that), millions more have been displaced, many tens of thousands have been raped (if not more) and these atrocities still continue daily in the most brutal fashion. More than half of the remaining 55 million people in the country are children who are vulnerable to recruitment into fighting factions, are subject to a lack of access to education, malnutrition, or other major human rights abuses, which makes long-term peace increasingly difficult. If these children grow up in constant violence and war, how can they ever know peace?

The peacekeepers’ are under a Chapter VII mandate which allows them to take “necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its infantry battalions and as it deems it within its capabilities, to protect United Nations and co-located JMC personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel, and protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.” Their role on paper is essentially to provide stability, security and protection in the country while monitoring human rights abuses and assisting in disarmament, demobilization, resettlement and reintegration of rebel troops. The mission is clearly flawed as violence keeps increasing around them. By supporting the Congolese government, the UN peacekeepers are routinely found being complicit in operations that could be construed as war crimes. Peacekeeping is not enough for this mission. The corrupt government, police and army systems meant to protect are often accused of raid, rape, abuse and murder and the communities propagandized to continual vengeance by rumors that separate and demonize entire ethnic populations. Peacemaking, peacebuilding and regulation of government systems are a necessity on top of the peacekeeping force if any semblance of peace within the country is to be established.

President Joseph Kabila has been a controversial leader of the DRC since 2001. Taking control after his father’s assassination, he was elected as president three years later. His history (including even his age) is highly debated and the subject of great rumor. His lineage and parentage are also debated. Many local rumors claim he is the son of a Rwandan who was adopted by Laurent Kabila after his marriage to Joseph’s mother (Laurent was said to have as many as 13 wives and more than 25 children). There are also many claims of Joseph’s relation to and alliance to Rwandan forces, as he is feared as a puppet of Rwandan President Paul Kagame with an eventual plan to occupy and annex the eastern Kivu provinces from the Congo. Joseph spent many years of his life in neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda, making his life even more of a mystery to many Congolese citizens. He was commonly known as the commander of the famous army of kadogos (child soldiers) in his father’s campaign to oust the Mobutu regime. Kabila is also said to have studied at the Makerere University in Uganda and the PLA National Defense University in China. He had to change the Congolese constitution in 2006, lowering the eligibility age for elections from 35 to 30 so that he could himself run for office legally. His government troops have been accused of mass atrocities and continuing violence that seem to go unpunished. Despite this violence and lack of accountability, his government continues to receive extensive funding and assistance from many foreign sources.

The IMF has loaned over $502 million to the government of the Congo, requiring with it a roll-back of government services that have had some devastating effects. The World Bank and many other agencies continually supply the Congolese government with financial assistance, despite claims of massive human rights abuses by governmental parties. The DRC currently owes billions in debt from Mobutu’s dictatorial period with interest payments consuming more than 10% of the government budget each year, although talks are currently underway to try to reduce this debt. CIDA, Canada’s international development agency funnels over $30 million per year to “political and economic governance” programs with little accountability and transparency of where this funding actually goes. Natural resource wealth is the prime fuel for much of the violence including that earned from uranium, cobalt, coltan, gold, copper, tin, zinc, diamonds, and tantalite often found in many electronics products or packaging for products such as cans. Rebel and government groups battle it out for control of resources; a single mine able to provide them with upwards of $20 million per month in profit, enough to fund more weapons, power and control. The Chinese, Belgians, French, Canadians and Americans (among others) all have a vested monetary interest in the country and often take the opportunity to politically maneuver the government for their own interests.

Refugees returning to the Kivus are adding to the tensions as local politicians and rumor say the returnees are not Congolese Tutsi but rather Rwandans who have never even lived in the Congo. They are accused of throwing locals off their land, fueling further ethnic tensions and hatred in the region. Armed militias for several different ethnic groups who claim to “provide protection” for local and refugees populations are themselves accused of mass rape, murder, forced recruitment of soldiers (including child soldiers), and using slaves to illegally exploit minerals. There is little place to really turn for protection. The intense violence has caused dwindling humanitarian services (see also here, here, here, and here) that will surely diminish even further if the UN does withdrawal.

Something must be done to stop this violence. Proper oversight of natural resources is an absolute necessity combined with awareness in consuming nations to pressure the change within North American, Chinese and European consumption and lending habits. UN withdrawal will only bring more devastation, murder and abuse to the civilian population and must be avoided at all costs.

Please speak out against these crimes to anyone who will listen and be aware of what you purchase as you may be much more connected to this war than you might think. If you would like to read more about conflict resources in the Congo, please read about my quest for a conflict free laptop.

Bookmark  and Share

Some hope for the future.

In Canada:

Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries

In the US:

Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009

Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009

In the EU:

Global Witness pushes for legislation

Some of the corporations:

Congo tracking project aims to end IT industry’s use of “blood tin”

Supply chains unite to start iTSCi mineral traceability project in DRC

Global e-Sustainability Initiative


Descending into madness. Time for change in the DRC.

Ok, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is perhaps not descending into madness. It has already been there for quite some time. Violence there is out of control right now, and things are getting worse not better. Talks of peace are hollow and full of corruption. The international community seems to ignore the problem entirely, instead hoping they can use the corruption to their advanatage to get rights to resources or political support, resisting spending enough money or providing enough assistance to actually make a difference. There seems to be little being offered in the way of real transformations of violence or ensuring lasting peace and most definitely very little hope that it’s coming anytime in the near future.

The population in many areas live in near constant fear. Many more people live as virtual transients, floating from village to village or town to town, displaced from their homes and unable to return. Forced labour (ie. slavery) and torture are on the rise. Rape and sexual mutulation has been a massive tool of the war; affecting both men and women (although women probably in much higher numbers), and is used to demoralize and humiliate. Humiliating and torturous methods of castrations and sterilizations are used to help exterminate populations as reprisals.

A disturbing case of a 3 year old little girl dying after a brutal rape by a group of rebel soldiers sends chills down the spine. Other stories, including horrors such as soldiers digging holes into the ground, lining them with razor blades and forcing the men to self-castrate; or the cutting of babies out of women’s bellies and forcing them to eat their own fetuses make me feel physically ill. Male children have been forced to rape their mothers and sisters; fathers their daughters. It is thoroughly disturbing to think about; but we need to think about this. This cannot continue to happen. Why are we sitting back and doing nothing to stop it?

This war is not about ethnicities. It is not about ancient hatreds or blood-hungry populations. It is about years of political manipulations, massive theft of resources and land, denial of rights and we are all connected to it whether we truly know the extent or not.

Every time we buy an electronic product- we are connected. We are connected through the political choices of our elected leaders. We are also connected because we are all humans. We all share the same blood, the same organs, the same flesh, the same souls… We need to work together to develop solutions to transform this violence. Too many innocent people are dying, being tortured or enslaved, raped or beaten and money is just not a good enough reason for it.

Please. Take the time. When you buy an electronic product, call the manufacturers or the corporations that sell, distribute or produce them. Ask them, just ask them what they are doing to stop war resources from getting into their products. You don’t have to take it much further. When enough people make the connection between what we use, where it comes from and what effect this is having and start to demand that corporations have ethical purchasing– something more positive must come.

Please. Take the time. Write a letter to your government. Ask them to send support, either financially, or in peacekeeping troop personnel to help build peace in this region. Ask them to create policies to ensure corporations are acting in legal and ethical manners throughout the world.

Alone, we do very little, but our voices together can help to make a change.

If you need suggestions on what to write or who you can contact, please feel free to ask me (apeaceofconflict@gmail.com)– I’ll be happy to help!

-RS

Bookmark and Share

Who cries for the three-year old rape victim?

A three year old girl died this week after being brutally gang-raped by rebel fighters in the DR Congo. Somehow, the last 7 words in that sentence seem to make the rest disappear. A three-year old rape victim dying in North America would be the cover of every news story in the country. A massive campaign would be launched to prevent it from happening in the future and a thorough investigation into how it happened in the first place would be ordered. The public would have no less. They would take every effort to ensure this type of crime never occurred again.

Why is it any different when it happens in the Congo? Why do we suddenly feel it is ok to ignore this problem? Is it because it is happening in a place that is already so violent? Does that somehow make it ok? The child would have probably faced violence her entire life anyway, right?

Is it because we feel disconnected from the violence there? This is interesting, since, as electronics loving Canadians, we are probably more connected to this crime than we might think. We could do something about it. We could protest. We could stop buying things that could help contribute to the crimes (and that list includes most of the electronics and metal products that we use every single day). We could write our government. But most of us never will. We won’t do this because it isn’t easy. Because it would involve some sort of sacrifice on our part.

Ask yourself this: If this rape victim were in North America, and the crime was partially committed by some company whose product you used every day– would you stop using it? Would you write the company a letter to express your outrage? Or would you sit there and do nothing? Why does this victim deserve any less?

Lately, violence in this region seems to be on the rise again. And we are still oblivious. Human rights campaigners and journalists trying to get the truth out are being silenced. Rape is again on the rise. The metal industries (and many many others) are making profit from these crimes. They are supplying massively violent warlords with weapons and money, and sometimes even logistical supplies to commit massacres. When will we stand up against them and say, no more?


Bookmark and Share

Ethnic Conflict

There is a modern tendency to refer to wars as ethnically or culturally based.  But what is ethnicity really? Is everyone in one group of the same thinking? Ethnicity is fluid, changing and constantly evolving, not something that is static. Ethnicity or culture is something that is self-identified, and has been known to change over a life time. When it comes to conflict, this ethnic label allows for no real political solution to end the war. It is seen as something that must be worked out between the ethnicities, an ancient hatred that is not easily resolved; but what is the reality of this? In most cases where “ethnic” war has been declared, different ethnicities lived side by side in the cities for generations or millennia with little problem. They may have even had high intermarriage and mixing rates in some areas.
I have heard stories from my older Lebanese friends of Jew, Christian, Muslim and Druze all living within one city’s walls as neighbours, sharing and intermixing before the wars (at least to some degree) and how this changed once the wars began. The census statistics would seem to back part of this up.
I have watched documentaries like “We are all neighbours” by anthropologist Tone Bringa (I urge you to watch this!), a sad realization of the situation in the former Yugoslav nations. This movie traces the friendships between the ethnic communities before the war started, and follows the progression as the violence intensifies. It shows once loving neighbours turn against each other in rapid progression in the wake of hostility and propaganda. It shows elderly neighbours, life-long best friends of fighting ethnic backgrounds who turn against each other as fear takes hold. It is heartbreaking to watch, but this type of progression is found in most of the so-called “ethnic” conflicts.
These conflicts are not ethnic; this is merely the manifestation and progression of how the conflicts are shaping themselves. It is not about religion or culture or ethnic background. It is more about inequity within the systems combined with intensive war-time propaganda and political policies that shift the blame for this inequity onto specific ethnic groups or citizenship regimes that reward one population over another. Propaganda gets spread to the populations to engrain this into their heads and becomes the new “truth”. Textbooks and other educational materials made by the governments may even back it up.
A glaring example of these political realities and ethnic labeling can be found in the DR Congo.

As many as 200 ethnic groups live within the borders of the DRC. Divisions in Congolese society, however, run deeper than ethnic heritage, with separations also running along language, class, political, cultural and citizenship lines. Ethnic, cultural or language groups are often allied with other groups, political parties, governments and organizations, blurring the exact lines between warring parties. The continuing conflict in the DRC has often been referred to as “ethnic”, despite the fluidity of ethnicities and the fact that ethnic segregation is something most ordinary Congolese resist, having lived in multi-ethnic communities for generations. Ethnicities in the DRC are incredibly overlapping and heavily inter-mixed by marriage, and continue to be inter-mixed despite the war.

In the DR Congo, colonialization is still playing its role in inequitable systems. Belgian colonial powers attempted to separate the Lendu peoples (a cultural group) from the Hema peoples, giving them strict administrative boundaries (although they had lived together intermixing for generations before this). The Belgians regarded the Hema as a superior race, and gave them privileged access to education, land, administration and commerce. They decided who was in which cultural group rather arbitrarily, sometimes based solely on outward physical features. From the 1930s to the 1950s the Belgian administrators started to deliberately transplant Hutus and Tutsis from Rwanda into the Congo to help and alleviate the demographic pressure in famine-prone parts of Rwanda and to meet growing labor demands in colonial plantations and mines in the Congo. These people, commonly referred to as Rwandophones often stayed on in the DRC and had families here.

At Independence, it was decided by Constitutional decree that only one Congolese nationality existed and only those ethnic groups (not individuals) who were declared as occupying the territory prior to 1908 were granted this privilege. Many Rwandophones whose families had been residing in the Congo since the start of colonialization, were denied citizenship rights on this basis. The citizenship decree was annulled in 1981, and the occupying date was pushed back to 1855, still excluding many. 

In 1973, authoritarian ruler Mobutu Sese Seko began his zaireanization process in an attempt to reverse the colonial policies. Post-colonial reorganization attempts to incorporate another ethnic group (the Ngiti) resulted in depriving them of access to Lake Albert (the main water source) and created ethnic tensions which can still be felt today.

Mobutu also began transferring ownership of ex-colonial plantations in Ituri (in the North of the country) over to elite Hema individuals. He manipulated ethnic divisions over identity and land ownership to reward his political followers. His General Property Law of 1973 allowed land to be privatized (including ancestral land), and sped up the process where Hema cattle herders could displace Lendu agriculturalists. The elite Hema, who dominated local governance, passed this law because it was beneficial to them.

Much of the population wrongly believed they could still inherit ancestral land, but this new law allowed land to be sold privately, without the occupier’s notice. The Law stipulated that occupiers should be given a two year grace period to leave their land, which was subsequently ignored by the Ugandan troops (assisting the Congolese government) in the area who instantaneously evicted mostly Lendu from their lands.

Another deal between Mobutu and Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana allowed one ethnic group (the Banyarwanda) to take over territories in North Kivu. Local chiefs and non-Banyarwanda, fearing encroachment by these land expropriations began forming local militias to protect themselves. Between 6,000 and 10,000 people were killed and more than 250,000 were displaced in clashes in this one area over land in 1993 alone.

A fragile peace was achieved soon after, but was subsequently destroyed when more than one million Hutu refugees (including members of the interahamwe militia responsible for the Rwandan genocide) fleeing the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) settled in the DRC in 1994-5. Many of the refugees were heavily armed and with the help of local Congolese Hutu and propaganda, transferred the conflict and began killing the Congolese Tutsi. The Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire headed by Laurent Kabila, scattered the interahamwe militia throughout the DRC (then named Zaire) and captured Kinshasa in 1997, overthrowing Mobutu from his 32 year rule. Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, angered that they did not receive remuneration expected for helping to topple Mobutu, stayed in the country and began extensively plundering its wealth. In response, Kabila’s new government began arming the interahamwe and other local militias (especially the Mai Mai) in an attempt to drive these foreigners out. Rwanda responded by attacking the largest towns in the Kivus through proxy armies such as the Rassamblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RDC).

This type of political and citizenship manipulation is separating ethnic groups and creating hatreds among them, and is still happening in the DRC to this day. In fact, the examples go on and on.  It is happening also all over the world, in many other countries. The next time you hear a story about ancient ethnic hatreds, think twice and do some digging. You may just find there is much more to the conflict than meets the eye. 


Bookmark and Share

 

 

New Colonies of Death: despair, anarchy and plunder in the Congo.

This is an essay I wrote for a class last year that talked about the conflict in the DRC. It discusses the human rights abuses happening, the main parties involved, and the complicit governments and companies who have a hand in ensuring the abuses continue.

“The deadliest war since [WW2] is starting again – and you are almost certainly carrying a blood-soaked chunk of the slaughter in your pocket. When we glance at the holocaust in Congo… the clichés of Africa reporting tumble out: this is a “tribal conflict” in “the Heart of Darkness”. It isn’t. The United Nations investigation found it was a war led by “armies of business” to seize the metals that make our 21st-century society zing and bling. The war in Congo is a war about you. …These resources were not being stolen for use in Africa. They were seized so they could be sold on to us. The more we bought, the more the invaders stole – and slaughtered.” – Johan Hari, commentator at The Independent (Uhururadio.com, 2008)

 

The massive human rights violations happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are being perpetuated by a variety of complex and inter-weaving actors both locally and internationally. Multiple militias, armies, and security forces roam the country, wreaking havoc on villages and innocents as they pass. Calculating the exact numbers of victims is currently nearly impossible as many people are simply missing, probably decomposing in the forest, or in mass graves, with no surviving family members left to miss them, and incomplete national registration processes that didn’t even know they existed in the first place. The continual conflict and insecurity also makes it next to impossible for monitoring missions or human rights observers to do their job. As many as 45,000 people are dying per month of war-related causes. These deaths include not only direct violence, but also disease, starvation, and malnutrition (among other things) brought upon by the violence.  These statistics do not even begin to address the psychological abuses, physical abuses, sexual violence, tortures, displacements and destruction of property, let alone the severe and lasting political, social and economic effects that the continued violence has on the country itself.

The DRC is in desperate need of intervention, security, regulation, mediation, negotiations, assistance and structures to help it to stabilize itself before more people are endangered. Too many of the population have been living in constant fear, terror and frustration, in the face of daily bloodshed, destruction and death. They have lived in a virtual hell for over a decade, mostly ignored by the outside world.  We as Canadians are helping to ensure this conflict continues, despite the outward veneer of philanthropy our government and our media would have us believe. The individuals of the world need to wake up and realize the connection that exists between their own lives and the rest of humanity. The media of the “global north” mostly ignore the cries of Africa, and most definitely ignore the connections Canadians have to the bloodshed. Resistance to these atrocities does exist, in the form of certain media, academic scholarship, human rights organizations, awareness campaigns, and individual actions. The possibility for peace in the DRC exists, but it will take an intense combined international and local acknowledgement of the severity of the situation, the complex institutions that reinforce it, and the support and effort necessary to stop it.

The Crimes

Several former militia leaders have been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes or crimes against humanity committed in the DRC and have warrants out for their arrest (ICC, 2004). The charges include massacres of civilians, systematic rape, torture, murder of UN peacekeepers; along with multiple other war crimes and crimes against humanity including enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen to actively participate in hostilities. Among those charged are Jean-Pierre Bemba (the former VP of the transitional government of the DRC), Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (founder and former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots), General Laurent Nkunda (former leader of the Rally for Congolese Democracy), Bosco Ntaganda (military chief of staff of the National Congress for the Defense of People), Germain Katanga (leader of the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri), and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chiu (of the National Integrationist Front). Many other regional parties, such as Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), are also guilty of war crimes in the DRC (Faul, 2008). Many leaders of the LRA have also been charged by the ICC, but not in connection to crimes committed in the DRC. Although these parties are guilty of numerous atrocities and wanted by the international community, the lack of enforcement capabilities at the ICC means that many of these criminals may remain elusive for years to come (Allen, 2006; 4-9).

The government in the case of the DRC is also guilty, as is its army and its president Joseph Kabila. Although not yet (and probably never to be) charged by the ICC for mostly political reasons, Kabila, his army and his government have been accused of rampant human rights abuses. These include the presence of children in the ranks of the DRC armed forces, the new recruitment of child soldiers, abuses against street children, as well as sexual violence, torture, disappearances, mass murders, abuse of civilians, and the arbitrary arrest and detention without charge of children allegedly associated with armed opposition groups (HRW, August 22, 2008).  Many of these abuses are in strict contradiction to The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNHCR, 1989) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948); and are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the past 3 months alone, the government has been charged with the murder of at least 20 civilians, including 5 children (HRW, November 7, 2008), and wounding at least 50 civilians by direct violence (HRW, November 7, October 30, 2008). In this same time period, they have been accused of numerous rapes, robberies, as well as the arbitrary detention and subsequent torture of at least 40 Tutsi and other alleged sympathizers of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda (HRW, October 30, 2008). Roadblocks set up by the government have prevented many fleeing citizens from escaping the violence, often forcing them to pay a “tax” or bribe or give up their electoral (and identity) cards to pass through (HRW, September 25, 2008). The government has circumvented the Rome Statute and its obligations to arrest and surrender four leaders of the LRA, instead sending them into the Sudan (which refuses to cooperate with the ICC) where they are sure to evade justice (Clifford, 2007).  The government has also been accused of colluding with the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda or FDLR (a rebel militia), most notably over the control of the lucrative mineral trade in North Kivu (The Economist, Oct 18, 2008; 57).

More than 20 militias roam the DRC, bringing with them intense violence and destruction. The Hutu Interhamwe militias responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda have mostly transformed into the FDLR now fighting in the northeastern DRC. The FDLR is guilty of mass human-rights violations, ranging from mass murder, to public gang raping and sexual violence, torture, disappearances, destruction of property (burning entire villages to the ground), and other abuses against the civilian population in the DRC. In only the past 3 months, at least 100 civilians have been killed and more than 200 have been wounded by the direct violence of rebel forces (HRW, November 7, 2008). Nkunda’s forces also encouraged the town of Rutshuru on October 28th, 2008 to dismantle displacement camps where more than 26,000 people had sought refuge (HRW, November 7, 2008). The FDLR was accused of deliberately killing at least 20 civilians and wounding another 33 in Kiwanja on November 4th, 2008 during a battle for the town and the “cleanup” operations that followed. The rebels ordered the population of some 30,000 inhabitants to leave the town, while systematically seeking out and killing particularly men, who they accused of supporting their enemies (HRW, November 6, 2008). The Congolese government was supposed to have disarmed the FDLR according to a 2008 peace agreement, but has made no effort to do so thus far (HRW, Oct, 30, 2008).

The Mai Mai, a group of traditional Congolese local security forces that operate inside the DRC, support the government by working as guerillas inside territory held by antigovernment forces. They have also been accused of similar atrocities on the civilian population (Ware, 2001), including recruiting at least 37 children into militias in the last week of October 2008 (HRW, November 7, 2008), and deliberately killing at least 6 civilians in Kiwanja on November 4-5, 2008 (HRW, November 6, 2008). Many of the neighboring African governments (including the Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi) are guilty of crimes within the borders of the DRC. They claim to be protecting their borders from invasion by DRC-based armed groups which legitimizes (in their minds) sending troops to these locations (Essick, 2001).  The list of atrocities committed by all parties is incredibly extensive and entirely incomplete, as the war has raged on for over a decade and the almost non-existent infrastructure makes proper investigating of crimes almost impossible. War-related deaths make it even harder to establish direct guilt of parties. If these numbers were included as specific crimes by individuals, as many as 45,000 people are dying each month because of direct violence, or disease, malnutrition, and starvation brought on by dislocation because of violence (Reuters, 2008). Reports come from a variety of sources including the millions of surviving victims who were first-hand witnesses; the UN’s monitoring mission, human rights organizations, official government reports, NGOs and other organizations, radio, blogs, and newspaper accounts.

The Conflict

            The DRC’s conflict is intimately connected to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Rwanda’s post-war Tutsi government invaded the Congo (then named Zaire) in 1996 to pursue extremist Hutu militias and helped to overthrow leader Mobutu Sese Seko from his thirty two year rule. The Rwandans installed rebel leader Laurent Kabilla, only to later turn against him when he was accused of stirring hatred towards Tutsis in the Congo. Rwanda intervened to try and remove him from power with the help of the Ugandans, and ignited a new regional conflict as Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe joined forces with Kabilla to fight off the Rwandans. Laurent Kabilla was assassinated in January of 2001, and replaced by his son Joseph Kabilla, who set up a power-sharing government and began “negotiating peace”[1] with some of the parties. He was eventually elected as President in 2006 (Reuters, 2008).

            The DRC’s infrastructure is in shambles. At least 5.4 million people are dead since 1998 from war related violence, hunger and disease, and at least 40,000 women and girls have been raped (although the actual number is probably significantly higher than this; Reuters, 2008). This conflict has been called the worst humanitarian crisis ever, with armies and militias increasingly recruiting children for their fighting. A January 2008 peace deal signed between the government and 22 of the rebel groups (but clearly excluding others such as the FDLR; The Economist, October 18th, 2008; 57) has not been able to contain the violence (Reuters, 2008).

Push for Democracy

            The first “post-war” elections in the DRC were delayed six times in two years, eventually happening in July of 2006 (Clark, 2007; 30). Much of the violence in North and South Kivu during that period was attributed to Nkunda’s rebel forces trying to increase military and political power. Nkunda represents the minority Tutsi (ethnic group) population in the DRC and his attacks have helped to increase anti-Tutsi sentiment while increasing support for Kabila across the country. The elections process was fraught with difficulty as over 26 million voters had to be registered, in an area with very little infrastructure[2] or government capability. The 2006 elections were the most expensive in history with the UN and the European Union (EU) providing almost 500 million US dollars for logistics. The voter turnout was around 75%, and international observers reported only isolated cases of voting irregularities and violence near polling stations. The elections were proclaimed an incredible success, despite the fact that many of the electoral candidates were rebel leaders still involved in violence across the country (Clark, 2007; 32). Joseph Kabila won the elections, but without the majority, requiring a runoff election in October. The runoff occurred between Kabila and his closest rival, Bemba, who was accused by the ICC a year later for crimes against humanity. Two days after the first round of elections, the forces of Bemba and Kabila fought in the streets (Clark, 2007; 33), as if nothing had changed. The war raged on, despite this new found “democracy”, even though the world subsequently forgot about the people of the Congo. The elections processes seem to have been more meaningful to the “western” world who still like to describe them as a “success” (Economist, October 18, 2008; 57) than to local actors who know the truth.

Trade, Investment and Debt

The World Bank (WB) has classified the DRC under its Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC), making it eligible (according to the WB) to reduce the constraints on economic growth and poverty reduction imposed by the DRC’s debt-services burdens (WB, 2006). In reality, the WB and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are providing the human-rights abusing government of the Congo with a continual supply of funding that will eventually be extracted from the people (and not the borrowing government) through Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). One of the conditions of SAPs require the roll-back of state services, such as health care, education, etc. to generate funds to begin repaying debt. The continued financial support for a proven corrupt and human-rights abusing government by the WB and IMF is appalling, especially since it will be the poor and marginalized and not the borrowing government who will be the ones to suffer the effects. Stabilization and welfare spending targets required by the IMF were completely ignored by the Congolese government because of their need for increased military spending (EN, 2008). This internationally funded money then was used to finance the atrocities of the Congolese government instead of its proposed aim to help the people. The IMF and the WB have continued funding, despite receiving reports on the Congolese government’s misspending, and so are complicit in the crimes (EN, 2008). The effect of the WB and IMF’s policy has been said to be “legaliz(ing) the corporate looting of the Congo” with “foreign companies pay(ing) nothing to the government for lucrative mining concessions” (Ismi and Schwartz, 2007)

The Congo has fallen on the Inward FDI Potential Index, which ranks countries by how they do in attracting inward direct investment, from 73rd (out of 140 economies) in 1988 to 139th (out of 141 economies) in 2006 (UNCTAD, 2006). The lack of basic infrastructure such as roads or railways combined with continual conflict make investment and trades a difficult venture for many local and international corporations despite the fact that the DRC does have a major deep-water port that is currently not being utilized and is abundant in natural resources. The Congo was ranked 175th out of 178 countries on the Doing Business report of 2007. The institutional environment is not conducive to business, with the country’s financial sector completely underdeveloped. Real growth in trade of goods and services declined significantly in 2007 from 11.1% in 2005-6 to only 0.7% in 2007, giving the DRC the rank of 151st out of 160 countries in terms of real growth in trade (WB, 2008).

 

The Complicit

The governments of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi are all accused of supporting rebel groups that fight within the DRC. The government of Rwanda refuses to allow the FDLR’s demands to return to Rwanda and transform themselves into a legitimate political party, and also refuses to negotiate or participate in peace talks with the group. The UN and other governments who backed a January 2008 peace deal addressed Nkunda’s rebellion, but offered no forum for talks with the FDLR, ignoring one of the key actors in the crisis and ensuring the conflict’s continuation (The Economist, October 18, 2008; 57).

The governments of Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan, Namibia, China, Canada, the United States and several other countries are complicit in their support for the human-rights abusing Congolese government.  The United States, along with supporting the human-rights abusing DRC government, paints the war in the Congo as a French issue, refusing to send troops or support the mission in the Congo until France does something about Iraq (Cowan, 2005). Owing over a billion dollars (or 68% of the regular budget arrears) to the UN, the United States’ lack of financial commitment means fewer troops and support for UN missions, which could help alleviate the suffering of the people of the DRC (Global Policy Forum, 2008). The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2005 pleaded with member states for assistance to stop escalating violence in northeastern DRC. Only Uruguay responded, with 750 troops to replace over 5,000 departing Ugandans (Cowan, 2005). Departing a few years later, the Uruguayans were eventually replaced by an Indian contingent of 4,500, only after the Senegalese refused to move in (IANS, 2008).  The international community has failed to prevent these atrocities by their continual inaction and lack of full support for peace processes and so is complicit in the atrocities (Cowan, 2005).

Several other international governments are also guilty of complicity in the crimes of the DRC. The government of Libya provides arms and logistical support to Congolese government forces, while North Korea sent advisors to train government troops. Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe all have supported the government of DRC, financially, logistically and in arms (Ware, 2001). The government of China made a deal with the Congolese government worth $9 billion to get access to several of Congo’s minerals in return for building a highway and a railroad in the Congo (Faul, November 3, 2008). The international community has failed to properly respond to the crisis. International humanitarian aid to the Congo was $188 million or only $3.23 per person in 2004 (with a death toll of about 5.4 million people). Contrast this to the aid received for the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 (with a death toll of about 150,000) which netted over $2 billion in humanitarian aid from the international community (IRC, 2004). International humanitarian aid has been controversial. In fact, the massive influx of humanitarian aid to Rwandan refugees in the Congo following the 1994 Rwandan genocide has been cited as actually strengthening or starting many militias who are now committing atrocities in the DRC (Clark, 2007)

Perhaps surprisingly, Canadians are among these guilty actors. Many Canadians are guilty for purchasing or using products[3] that have components that were possibly sourced in the war zones of the DRC and obtained through illegal or unethical means that support human-rights violating actors who are ensuring the war continues in this region. The retail companies which sell these products are guilty of complicity, along with the individual buyers, buyer companies, distributors and marketers who buy, sell, advertise or use these products. 

The DRC is home to 80% of the world’s supply of coltan (columbite-tantalite), a metallic ore that is processed into tantalite and used in many electronic devices (Dizolele, 2007), and currently supplies at least 15% of the world’s coltan needs (Essick et al., 2001). The world’s largest supply of cobalt is also found and mined in the DRC (Cobalt Development Institute, 2008) along with wolframite, tungsten ore,  tin, and several other minerals (Nolen, 2008). Human Rights Watch researchers claim “there is a direct link between human rights abuses and the exploitation of resources in areas in the DRC occupied by Rwanda and Uganda” (Essick, 2001). Rebels strategically attack coltan-rich villages in the North, causing environmental destruction in the Congo’s protected national parks that have nearly decimated the gorilla populations, and whose profits fund rebel and government projects that are responsible for mass murder, rape, torture, and a plethora of other atrocities in the DRC (Essick, 2001).  

Many of these minerals are smuggled out of the Congo into neighboring Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi to export onto the global market. This is indicated by the increase in official statistics on the export of coltan for these countries following their occupation in northeastern Congo (Essick, 2001), and their official export statistics which include minerals not found natively in these countries (Nolen, 2008). Profits from smuggling often go directly into the pockets of warring parties. Officials and miners would seem to corroborate these accounts, with statements such as, “The armed groups are all involved in mining – even our Congolese armed forces,” and “The FDLR are the ones controlling the coltan mines and they are very strong”. The mining ministry claims that the FDLR controls at least 20 percent of mining in the eastern area of the country (Nolen, 2008). Rebel groups often use forced labor, illegal monopolies and civilian murder to extract these resources, earning up to $20 million a month in profits, making continued war to ensure access to resources incredibly lucrative (Essick, 2001).

The Congolese government and armed forces also serve to profit.  Along with taking bribes at numerous military and police checkpoints that allow smuggled minerals through, the government has also been accused of using “taxation” of minerals to line their own pockets. The armed forces have even been accused of forcing the local population to mine its cassiterite mine at Bisie, as essentially slave labor (Nolen, 2008). This contravenes Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states that no one shall be held in slavery (UN, 1948). The profits from mining, either through bribery or “taxation” of the trade means there is little incentive to move against the rebels and actually stop the war. The cost to bribe a border guard (who are rarely paid their official $40 a month salary) to smuggle a shipment of minerals across the borders is about $350, in contrast to the government’s “taxation” on minerals which makes legal exportation of minerals cost upwards of $17,000 per shipment. Occupation of land by the army is more “acceptable” under war, so mines are simply taken over and exploited. The governments then, along with individual soldiers often serve to profit from continuing conflict. Businesses dealing with the smuggled goods also have little incentive to stop, with statements such as, “it’s not as easy as, ‘get out of the business and wait.’ There’s a huge investment here: half a million dollars” (Nolen, 2008).

Although many of these companies claim to have “ethical business practices”, they are complicit in the war crimes in the DRC by not insisting on regulations that prevent using war-related minerals in their business practices. Tracing the supply chain for coltan is deemed by the mining industry as nearly impossible, as most ore passes through at least 10 hands before it ends up in electronic devices (Essick, 2001). This is interesting considering the Kimberly process was able to overcome this to make regulations in the diamond industry to prevent many violence-related diamonds from entering the marketplace (Kimberly Process, 2008). Most mining in the DRC is done by peasants attracted to the possibility of making a few dollars a day, including children with estimates that suggest that 30 percent of schoolchildren in northeastern Congo have forgone schooling to dig for coltan. This ore is collected by local traders (often rebels), who sell to regional traders located in Rwanda and Uganda. In Rwanda alone, more than 20 international mineral trading companies have been reported by the UN as importing minerals from the Congo. These import companies sell to companies such as AVX, Epcos, Hitachi, Kemet, NEC and Vishay, which manufacture capacitors. These capacitors then go into products manufactured by Alcatel, Compaq, Dell, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lucent, Motorola, Nokia and Solectron, to name a few. Many of the companies claimed to have asked their suppliers whether the minerals supplied to them were mined in the DRC, but the CEO of AVX, Dick Rosen says they “don’t have an idea where (the metal) comes from. There’s no way to tell. I don’t know how to control it”. Epcos denies using conflict resources, despite the fact that their own suppliers A&M Minerals and Metals claim they “couldn’t tell you for 100 percent that this material (from Uganda) didn’t come from the Congo. It could have been smuggled across the border” (Essick, 2001).

At least 10 Canadian mining corporations were implicated for supporting major human rights offenders in the DRC by the UN’s 2000 “Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Congo” (UNSC, 2002) and have yet to be further investigated or punished for these crimes. Anvil Mining, a Canadian copper mining company working in the DRC, was accused of providing logistics to troops in the massacre of close to 100 people; a charge that they vehemently argue was accidental, unknown at the time and forced upon them by local legalities (Anvil Mining, 2008). All of the ten corporations in the report were accused of violating the guidelines of the OECD; some were even accused of bribing officials to gain access to land and its containing resources. Barrick Gold, another Canadian mining business, is supplied by and partnered with Adastra mining, which received a one billion dollar deal for control of mines in the Congo at Kolwezi (for cobalt) and Kipushi (for zinc) from Laurent Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire (ADFL) before they were officially in power and in legal control of said resources (Snow and Barouski, 2006).

The Canadian government is guilty for supporting major human rights offenders, specifically Joseph Kabila and the RPF. They are also guilty of complicity for supporting the implicated mining companies accused of violations, by allowing mining-friendly tax laws (NRC, 2008) and for not further investigating and punishing those implicated in the UN report. The Canadian government is also guilty of refusing the UN’s request for peacekeeping assistance and aid, and instead funneling these resources for the continued illegal war in Afghanistan. Canada has all but abandoned its peacekeeping missions (with less than 56 troops worldwide), despite the fact that peacekeeping was recognized as a strong defining Canadian value by 69% of Canadians in a national survey (Staples, 2006). Canadian troops and support are needed in the Congo to help stop the human rights abuses, but the responsibilities to the international community are being ignored by the current Canadian government.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Canada’s lead agency for development assistance abroad, committed $33 million for projects and initiatives in the DRC in 2006-7. These projects focused mostly on political and economic governance and access to primary health care (CIDA, 2008), and mostly ignored the broader humanitarian situation. The humanitarian situation in the DRC has been described as “the worst humanitarian crisis ever “(Reuters, 2008). The situation has gotten so bad in recent weeks that thousands of local Congolese demonstrators have taken to physically attacking the UN compound in Goma for what they say is the UN’s failure to protect them against rebel attacks and provide them with the basic necessities of life (AP, 2008). The UN says its first priority is re-supplying clinics that have been looted by retreating government troops. Unfortunately, this means that refugees who haven’t eaten for days are met with shipments of soap and jerry cans (to prevent disease) while they wait for death by starvation. These refugees have recently taken up with the demonstrators in violently attacking anything identified with the UN (Faul, November 3, 2008).

The Silence of the Media

              The mainstream media has largely ignored the Congolese conflict, instead favoring to spotlight more “popular” conflicts and issues such as Iraq, Afghanistan or Darfur. Stories about the DRC are mostly relegated to a small column (of less than 1,000 words) in the middle of the paper, or a quick blurb on the news, that is shorter than the laptop commercial that follows it. None of the stories collected during the past 3 months about the Congo appeared on the front page of the paper, even though the Congo is arguably the most violent conflict and largest humanitarian crisis currently happening in the world. In three major Canadian newspapers (The Globe and Mail, The National Post and The Toronto Star) the conflict in the Congo was reported only about half as much as the conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq[4], despite the fact that the death tolls are considerably higher in the Congo (several hundred thousand in Afghanistan and Iraq versus the 5.4 million deaths in the DRC). The Congo has just recently started to become the “issue of the moment” and is receiving slightly more press than normal, but still nowhere near the amount that stories about Iraq or Afghanistan receive in the mainstream media. Most of this press focuses on the victims, projects, aid or organizations working to make a difference, or the “tribal” or “ethnic” components fueling the crimes and not the resource extraction or international complicity in the crimes. During the chaotic month of August 2008, the DRC began descending into the highest level of violence it had seen in many years. Despite this fact, the Economist, the Globe and Mail and the National Post did not even mention the fighting in the Congo once during this period, except to mention mineral extraction projects and the profits they were earning (Globe and Mail, August 12, 2008).

              The media keeps highlighting the “successful elections” (Economist, October 18, 2008; 57), talking about the DRC with almost surprise that peace has not yet been found despite its new “democracy”. The journalists predict that things will soon get worse “fear(ing) that huge, frightening massacres could start again…”. This despite the fact that hundreds of people had been slaughtered, assaulted or dislocated in singular events during that same month, which many would consider to be massacres (HRW, November 6, 2008). The Economist reported that more than one hundred thousand people were forced to flee their homes since mid-August of 2008 because of escalating violence (Economist, October 18, 2008; 57), even though they themselves had not reported a single thing about this violence until October.

              Almost surprisingly, the Globe and Mail seems to portray rebel leader Nkunda as almost caring in contrast to incapable UN troops. Statements such as “(Nkunda) declared he was opening a humanitarian corridor to allow aid to get through and refugees to get home. To ease food shortages, rebels… allowed farmers to reach Goma in trucks packed with (food)” and “rebels seem to be holding a self-imposed ceasefire” (Faul, November 3, 2008) are found in the same article which criticizes the UN’s inability to secure food for refugees.  Nothing was mentioned of the UN member states’ lack of financial or troop support, the main reason for the food shortages among the refugees. Most of the Globe and Mail articles completely ignored the resource components to the war, or mentioned them only in passing, such as “(the peace process) threatened to cut off warlords and neighboring-country governments from their access to the illegal mineral trade” (Nolen, October 18, 2008). The majority of columns that did mention the resource component mentioned only the warlords or neighboring government’s role and not that of international companies or governments that are also guilty. One article was even titled “How Rebels Profit From Blood and Soil” (Nolen, October 29, 2008; emphasis added), entirely ignoring the international component. Often, the “festering hatreds left over from the 1994 Rwandan genocide” are cited as fueling the conflict (Faul, October 30, 2008), ignoring the intense structural or economic components that clearly play a role. Few editorials about the Congo have been written in the past year. For example, in the Toronto Star, only 2 op-eds that mention the Congo have been published in the past year; one in March, and one in November (Dallaire, 2008; Goar, 2008). Dallaire’s editorial mentioned the Congo only in passing, saying “We did not intervene to stop the slaughter in the Congo”, and even then only in the past tense, as if the fighting had already stopped.

Resistance

              Mfuni Kazadi, Secretary-General of the group the Coalition for the Cancellation of the Illegitimate Debts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, opposes the WB’s demand that the Congo pay debts accumulated by Mobutu. Kazadi has said,

“The Rwandans were used by the US as puppets to fight for American interests. When the war started, there were American ships that gathered all the communications for Rwanda’s and Uganda’s armies. US authorities said that the Congo is too big and must be divided into four countries. The resistance of the Congolese to this partition has led to the death of (more than) four million people.” (Ismi and Schwartz, 2007)     

The enduring resistance of the Congolese to the balkanization desired by the US is cited by Kazadi as the real reasons for the continued war (Ismi and Schwartz, 2007). Other local scholars, such as Felix Ulombe Kaputu who was wrongly jailed and tortured by the Congolese government, have also spoken out against the continuing violence (Anderson, 2007).  Local resistance seemed to be voiced only from afar, by refugees living in new countries and not by locals still enduring the conflict. Local resistance forces were incredibly difficult to locate, possibly because it is too dangerous for them to speak out in their current situation.

              Some international resistance has been incredibly vocal. Uhuru radio, an “online voice of international African revolution” has been one critic of the international role in the Congo’s conflict (Uhurunews.com, 2008). Many organizations exist with the intention of bringing awareness or support to the plight of the Congolese, most of them based in the “global North” (such as Friends of the Congo; Congo Global Action; Breaking the Silence; Congo Vision; Resistance Congo; Congo Church Association; Ambassador Girls Scholarship Program; among many others). It is in the “western” media, the Socialist Review, that the connection between the peace deals signed and rushed by international governments and the exploitation of resources from the Congo is mentioned. Third World Report reporter Leo Zeilig tells us that the peace deal “triggered two important processes (in the Congo). The first saw the return of some multinational companies…The second process… (saw) rebel commanders responsible for much of the killing and slaughter in the war were incorporated into the Congolese army” (Zeilig, 2006). Sixty-six international humanitarian agencies currently work in the Congo (Reuters, Who works where, 2008). These range from hunger programs to medical assistance, mostly based in the “global North”. The United Nations has sent in over 17,000 troops to help stop the violence (MONUC, 2008). They have also appointed a Special Rapporteur to do a report on the Situation of Human Rights in the DRC (APIC, 1999). Resistance is mostly informal, in the form of blogs, or “leftist” newspapers.

Conclusions

              One of the most frustrating parts of the whole situation in the Congo is separating out those who claim to be helping from those who are complicit in the crimes; often one and the same group or individual. The contradiction of the international community, which on the one hand, sends aid and support to the Congo, and, on the other, exploits its resources and ensures continuing conflict, is staggering. Congo is very much a modern-day colony of the “western” world, used and abused for what it can offer the “west”, and regarded as a backwards place beyond assistance. The “west” will keep “helping”, as long as it serves their interests; and the conflict in the Congo will keep being painted as an indigenous problem in the heart of Africa. This conflict is not an issue of ethnicities, militias or rebellions. It is a continuation of the colonial project that was started by invading Europeans so long ago. It is about extracting resources, gaining profit and power. This war continues because the truth remains shrouded in propaganda, and because the international community is ignoring the underlying causes of the conflict. This conflict must stop, and justice must begin to emerge in the DRC. Too long have these people lived in hell, and too long has the international community ignored our fellow humans’ cries for help.

             

 

 

Sources:

1)      Allen, Tim. 2006. Trial Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Zen Books. London and New York.

2)      Anderson, Stacy. September 23, 2007. Professor who survived persecution in Congo is teaching at Purchase. The Journal News. Scholars at Risk Network. http://scholarsatrisk.nyu.edu/News/Article_Detail.php?art_id=582.

3)      Anvil Mining. 2008. Sustainability. The DRC: Working in an Emerging Democracy. http://sustainability.anvilmining.com/go/sustainability/the-drc-working-in-an-emerging-democracy.

4)      APIC. April 30, 1999. Oral Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Africa Action. http://www.africaaction.org/docs99/con9904.htm.

5)      Associated Press (AP). October 27, 2008. Protestors attack UN building in eastern Congo. Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081027.wcongo1027/BNStory/International/.

6)      Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). 2008. Democratic Republic of Congo. http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/democraticrepublicofcongo.

7)      Clark, Phil. Winter 2007. In the Shadow of the Volcano: Democracy and Justice in Congo. Dissent. Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas. P. 29-35.

8)      Clifford, Lisa. September 25, 2007. Plan to Flush LRA Out of DRC “Recipe for Impunity”/Military-Court Trials Worry Rights Activists. The Passion of the Present. http://platform.blogs.com/passionofthepresent/2007/09/plan-to-flush-l.html. (blog by reporter for The Hague).

9)      Cobalt Development Institute. 2008. Sources of Cobalt. http://www.thecdi.com/general.php?r=E6EM5BQBAL

10)  Cowan, Paul. 2005. The Peacekeepers. National Film Board of Canada, 13 Production, and ARTE France. (Film)

11)  Dallaire, Romeo. March 14, 2008. A Leading Middle Power Goes AWOL From Darfur. The Toronto Star. http://www.thestar.com/article/345880.

12)  Dizolele, Mvemba Phezo. August 8, 2007. In Search of Congo’s Coltan. Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting. http://www.pulitzercenter.org/openitem.cfm?id=529

13)  Encyclopedia of the Nations. 2008. Congo, DRC. Foreign Investment. http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Africa/Congo-Democratic-Republic-of-the-DROC-FOREIGN-INVESTMENT.html.

14)  Essick, Kristi; Boslet, Mark; and Grondahl, Boris. June 11, 2001. A Call to Arms- demand for Coltan causes problems in Congo- Industry Trend or Event. The Industry Standard.  http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0HWW/is_23_4/ai_75669917/pg_2

15)  Essick, Krisit. June 11, 2001. Guns, Money and Cell Phones. The Industry Standard. http://www.globalissues.org/article/442/guns-money-and-cell-phones.

16)  Faul, Michelle. October 30, 2008. Congolese Soldiers Retreat from Rebels. The Globe and Mail. A18.

17)  Faul, Michelle. November 3, 2008. Hungry Congo refugees get soap but no food. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/v5/content/subscribe?user_URL=http://www.theglobeandmail.com%2Fservlet%2Fstory%2FRTGAM.20081103.wcongo1103%2FBNStory%2Fenergy%2F&ord=2735740&brand=theglobeandmail&force_login=true.

18)  Faul, Michelle. November 8, 2008. Angolans join Congolese soldiers to battle rebels. The Globe and Mail. A20.

19)  Goar, Carol. November 10, 2008. Familiar horror engulfs Congo. The Toronto Star. http://www.thestar.com/article/533207.

20)  Global Policy Forum. 2008. UN Finance. http://www.globalpolicy.org/finance/index.htm.

21)  The Globe and Mail. August 12, 2008. First Quantum Profit Jumps. Report on Business.

22)  Human Rights Watch (HRW). August 22, 2008. Submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child for Period Review of the DRC. Human Rights News. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/08/22/congo19671.htm.

23)  Human Rights Watch (HRW). November 7, 2008. DR Congo: Civilians Under Attack Need Urgent Protection. Human Rigths News. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/11/07/congo20158.htm.

24)  Human Rights Watch (HRW). November 6, 2008. DR Congo: New Attacks on Civilians. Human Rights News. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/11/06/congo20150.htm.

25)  Human Rights Watch (HRW). October 30, 2008. DR Congo: International Leaders Should Act Now to Protect Civilians. Human Rights News. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/10/30/congo20107.htm.

26)  Human Rights Watch (HRW). September 25, 2008. DR Congo: Humanitarian Crisis Deepens as Peace Process Falters. Human Rights News. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/09/24/congo19881.htm.

27)  IANS. October 30, 2008. Army concerned at attacks on Indian peacekeepers in Congo. Thaindian News. http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/army-concerned-at-attacks-on-indian-peacekeepers-in-congo_100113201.html.

28)  International Criminal Court (ICC). January 2004. Situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo. http://www.icc-cpi.int/cases/RDC.html.

29)  International Rescue Committee (IRC). December 9, 2004. IRC Study Reveals 31,000 Die Monthly in Congo Conflict and 3.8 Million Died in Past Six Years. When Will the World Pay Attention? http://www.theirc.org/news/irc_study_reveals_31000_die_monthly_in_congo_conflict_and_38_million_died_in_past_six_years_when_will_the_world_pay_attention.html.

30)  Ismi, Asad and Schwartz, Kristin. April 2007. The World Social Forum in Nairobi: African Activists Lead Resistance to Western Plundering and Imperialism. CCPA Monitor. www.policyalternatives.ca.

31)  Kimberly Process. 2008. What is the Kimberly Process? http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/.

32)  MONUC. 2008. Democratic Republic of the Congo- MONUC-Facts and Figures. UN DPKO. http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/monuc/facts.html.

33)  Natural Resources Canada (NRC). 2008. Mining-Specific Tax Provisions. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/miningtax/d_inv_2d2_taxcredit2000.htm.

34)  Nolen, Stephanie. October 18, 2008. Rape again rampant in Congo. The Globe and Mail. A22.

35)  Nolen, Stephanie. October 29, 2008. How rebels profit from blood and soil. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081024.wcongo1025/BNStory/International/

36)  Reuters. 2008. Who works where. Thomson Reuters Foundation. Alert Net. http://www.alertnet.org/thepeople/whowhatwhere.htm?fb_emergencycodes=ZR_CON&fb_membnetcombocodes=all&fb_countrycodes=214383&x=37&y=11.

37)  Reuters. June 11, 2008. Congo (DR) Conflict. Thomson Reuters Foundation. AlertNet. http://www.alertnet.org/db/crisisprofiles/ZR_CON.htm.

38)  Snow, Keith Harmon and Barouski, David. March 1, 2006. Behind the Numbers: Untold Suffering in the Congo. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Africa/Congo_BehindNumbers.html.

39)  Staples, Steven. October 2006. Marching Orders: How Canada abandoned peacekeeping- and why the UN needs us now more than ever. The Council of Canadians. http://www.canadians.org/peace/issues/Marching_Orders/index.html.

40)  Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center (TIC). “Coltan”, 2007, found at: http://www.tanb.org/tantalum1.html.

41)  Transparency International. 2008. Corruption Perceptions Index. http://www.transparency.org/news_room/in_focus/2008/cpi2008/cpi_2008_table.

42)  UhuruRadio.com. November 1, 2008. African Students Demand an End to Imperialst-Driven War in the Congo. Indymedia. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/11/01/18547873.php.

43)  Uhurunews.com. 2008. Online Voice of the International African Revolution. Burning Spear Publications. http://uhurunews.com/.

44)  UN. December 10, 1948. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. General Assembly resolution 217 A (III). http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html.

45)  UNHCR- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. November 20, 1989 .Convention on the Rights of the Child. http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm.

46)  United Nations Security Council. 2002. Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth in the Congo. http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/DRC%20S%202002%201146.pdf.

47)  United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. 2006. FDI Indices. http://www.unctad.org/Templates/Page.asp?intItemID=2468&lang=1.

48)  Ware, Natalie D. December, 2001. Congo War and the Role of Coltan. Inventory of Conflict and Environment (ICE) Case Studies. http://www.american.edu/ted/ice/congo-coltan.htm.

49)  World Bank (WB). March 9, 2006. Republic of Congo Reaches Decision Point Under the Enhanced HIPC Debt Relief Initiative. Press Release Number 2006/301/AFR. http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTDEBTDEPT/0,,contentMDK:20847652~menuPK:64166657~pagePK:64166689~piPK:64166646~theSitePK:469043,00.html.

50)  World Bank (WB). April 2008. The Republic of Congo: Trade Brief. World Trade Indicators 2008. http://info.worldbank.org/etools/wti2008/docs/brief45.pdf.

51)  Winter, Mark. 2008. Uses of Cobalt. WebElements. http://www.webelements.com/cobalt/uses.html.

[1] I use this term lightly, since I believe Joseph Kabila was only trying to secure more voters and power for himself and not actually interested in peace. This is the term Reuters used to describe the events.

[2] For example there are less than 500 km of paved roads in the DRC (Clark, 2007; 32). The DRC is also home to an incredibly corrupt government and civil service, with a corruption perceptions index ranking of 171st out of 180 countries in the world (Transparency International, 2008).

[3] This includes laptop computers, cellular phones, jet engines, rockets, cutting tools, camera lenses, X-ray film, ink jet printers, hearing aids, pacemakers, airbag protection systems, ignition and motor control modules, GPS, ABS systems in automobiles, game consoles such as Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo, video cameras, digital still cameras, sputtering targets, chemical process equipment, cathodic protection systems for steel structures such as bridges, water tanks, prosthetic devices for humans – hips, plates in the skull, also mesh to repair bone removed after damage by cancer, suture clips, corrosion resistant fasteners, screws, nuts, bolts, high temperature furnace parts, high temperature alloys for air and land based turbines, gas turbine parts, and strong permanent magnets. It is also used as a pigment in pottery, glass enamels and paints, varnishes and printing inks, among other things. It also includes anything with the alloy alnico, or Cobalt 60, which is a commercial source of high energy radiation used to destroy cancerous tissue or detect flaws in metal parts (TIC, 2007; Winter, 2008).

 

[4] Over a 90 day period, there were 118 stories about the Congo and more than 200 stories each about Iraq and Afghanistan in the Globe and Mail. There were 87 stories about the Congo while there were more than 500 each for Iraq and Afghanistan in the National Post. There were 37 stories about the Congo, 141 stories about Afghanistan, and 88 stories about Iraq in The Toronto Star. This was replicated in major international publications such as the Economist, which had only 28 stories about the Congo, 144 stories about Iraq, and 91 stories about Afghanistan for the same period (The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Star, The Economist, August- November 2008).



Bookmark and Share

Blood on Canadian hands.

***This is an adaptation of several essays I have written over the past semester. It combines many of the facts I learned in my research in peace with a plea to Canadian people to take back democracy and voice their opinions. Free speech is only free speech if we use it! Peace studies is a rising academic discipline. We need to start spending money on peace studies and conflict transformation strategies instead of war and destruction!
For the record– I’m not anti-Canadian. I love Canada, it is my home.  I just disagree with certain political choices that are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

Several Canadian politicians and companies are ruining our international reputation by their actions that detract from our long-standing position as peacekeepers and humanitarians concerned with human rights and freedoms. They are actually even participating in crimes around the world.

Slowly but surely, we have been lessening our international commitment to peacekeeping. We have dropped from being one of the largest troop contributors–way down to 56th in troop contributions behind Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Nepal, Jordan, Ghana, Rwanda, Uruguay, Italy, Senegal, China, South Africa, Ethiopia, France, Morocco, Benin, Brazil, Spain, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Indonesia, Poland, Argentina, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, Philippines, Niger, Zambia, Ukraine, Chile, Tunisia, Bolivia, Austria, Korea, Gambia, Belgium, UK, Portugal, Togo, USA, Slovakia, Russia, Romania, Fiji, Mongolia, Greece, Guatemala, Peru, Cameroon, Qatar, Netherlands and Malawi. This despite the fact that 69% of Canadians surveyed nationally recognize peacekeeping as a strong Canadian value.

In place of peacekeepers worldwide, we now feel it is important to give our military an unlimited budget, following the example of the mighty war machine in the United States. Instead of keeping our value as peacekeepers, we are now making one as war-mongers. What sort of response will this elicit from the world? Surely, it only detracts from our longstanding neutrality and makes us targets.

Canada is guilty of helping to support war crimes in several areas around the world, either through aid projects, inaction or direct policies that support major human rights abusing governments. I will profile the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as an example– there are (unfortunately), MANY more examples of Canada condoning or supporting major human rights violations. The Congo is currently experiencing a MASSIVE human rights disaster, with close to 45,000 people dying per month of war related causes. You read right- that’s 45,000 DYING every month.

At least 10 Canadian mining corporations were implicated for supporting major human rights offenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the UN’s 2000 “Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Congo”  and have yet to be further investigated or punished for these crimes.

Anvil Mining, a Canadian copper mining company working in the DRC, was accused of providing logistics to troops in the massacre of close to 100 people; a charge that they vehemently argue was accidental, unknown at the time and forced upon them by local legalities. All of the ten corporations in the report were accused of violating the guidelines of the OECD; some even accused of bribing officials to gain access to land and its containing resources from leaders who were not in possession of said land. That’s right- they were accused of bribing rebel groups who were fighting in the area (who often force the locals to mine as slave labor) to gain control of mines so they can make a profit for themselves. These fighting groups are making up to $20 million a month in profits, often with Canadian assistance, to help continue funding their war.

Barrick Gold, another Canadian mining business, is supplied by and partnered with Adastra mining, which received a one billion dollar deal for control of mines in the Congo at Kolwezi (for cobalt) and Kipushi (for zinc) from Laurent Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire (ADFL) before they were officially in power and in legal control of said resources.

The Canadian government is guilty for politically supporting major human rights offenders, specifically Joseph Kabila and the RPF, who are guilty of massive crimes against their own people. Our government is guilty of complicity for supporting the implicated mining companies accused of violations, by allowing mining-friendly tax laws and for not further investigating and punishing those implicated in the UN report. The Canadian government is also guilty of refusing the UN’s request for peacekeeping assistance and aid, and instead funneling these resources for the continued war in Afghanistan.

Canadian troops and support are needed in the Congo (and elsewhere) to help stop the human rights abuses, but the responsibilities to the international community are being ignored by the current Canadian government.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Canada’s lead agency for development assistance abroad, committed $33 million for projects and initiatives in the DRC in 2006-7. These projects focused mostly on political and economic governance and access to primary health care, and mostly ignored the broader humanitarian situation. Some of these political and economic governance programs that were supported by our politicians contribute to  Joseph Kabila’s governmental control- securing his place in government and ensuring the crisis continues.

The humanitarian situation in the DRC has been described as “the worst humanitarian crisis ever “. The situation has gotten so bad in recent months that thousands of local Congolese demonstrators have taken to physically attacking the UN compound in Goma for what they say is the UN’s failure to protect them against rebel attacks and provide them with the basic necessities of life. The UN says its first priority is re-supplying clinics that have been looted by retreating government troops. Unfortunately, this means that refugees who haven’t eaten for days are met with shipments of soap and jerry cans (to prevent disease) while they wait for death by starvation. These refugees have recently taken up with the demonstrators in violently attacking anything identified with the UN.

This is not the UN’s fault (necessarily). The UN relies on its Member States for support. If they do not provide troops or funding to properly implement missions– the UN has no legs to stand. Overdue arrears are currently worth more than half the entire peacekeeping budget. The largest arrears account is owed by the United States, who is currently behind in their payments by US$1,288 million (total peacekeeping expenditures for 2005 was $4,737 million). No wonder the UN can’t meet the needs of their missions–they are not being staffed or funded to send a properly trained mission!

Why are we not supporting the Congolese and many other peacekeeping missions with the necessary troop support? — because your government has decided that it would rather spend its money on war.

The only way to stop these crimes is to make your voice heard and write to your government today demanding that they respect the Canadian values of peacekeeping and humanitarianism and stop supporting war and terror!
If you’d like more information on where you can find more resources or suggestions on what to write, or who to write- I’d be happy to discuss.

What are they mining in the Congo? The minerals to make sure we have our electronic equipment and luxuries.
This includes laptop computers, cellular phones, jet engines, rockets, cutting tools, camera lenses, X-ray film, ink jet printers, hearing aids, pacemakers, airbag protection systems, ignition and motor control modules, GPS, ABS systems in automobiles, game consoles such as Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo, video cameras, digital still cameras, sputtering targets, chemical process equipment, cathodic protection systems for steel structures such as bridges, water tanks, prosthetic devices for humans – hips, plates in the skull, also mesh to repair bone removed after damage by cancer, suture clips, corrosion resistant fasteners, screws, nuts, bolts, high temperature furnace parts, high temperature alloys for air and land based turbines, gas turbine parts, and strong permanent magnets, among other things.
Our luxuries are fueling this war! Make companies accountable for where their resources come from– demand that they implement processes to ensure this does not continue!
-RS


Bookmark and Share