Sunday, August 4, 2013

Congo rebels threaten main eastern city

DR Congo protesters attack UN convoy

Protesters angry at a UN disarmament effort in the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have hurled rocks at a peacekeeper convoy there.
Police fired tear gas at the protesters in the provincial capital city of Goma in response to the clash, while Congolese army leaders tried to talk to protesters to end the demonstration on Thursday.
The protest, which targeted the UN convoy near Goma's airport, was one of several demonstrations demanding an extension of the security zone.
Protesters are angry that a new UN security zone will not take in the regions under the control of the rebel M23 movement, which briefly controlled Goma in November.
N'senga's Fight for Change (Lucha) youth movement issued a written statement that called for the immediate extension of the security zone "in order to secure thousands of other civilians who are in zones under the occupation of the M23 and other armed groups".
The M23 rebels briefly controlled Goma in November, and subsequent peace talks with the government have repeatedly stalled.
UN peacekeepers began patrolling a new security zone in the Goma-Sake region on Thursday.
The area has about a million residents and includes dozens of roving militias.
"It is absurd to claim to protect the civilian population 'in densely populated Goma and Sake' without protecting the sources of food supplies which are currently in the regions plagued by armed groups" in Nord Kivu province," the Lucha statement said.
The group has accused the M23 rebels in recent weeks of looting, kidnapping and other attacks on civilians.
The commander of the UN force, Brazilian General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, said that the parameters of the security zone were not fixed.
"This is only a first step. Each zone has its own particular conditions," he said.
"We are going to adapt to the situation on the ground."
Approaching deadline
The security zone was established after the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) gave a 48-hour deadline on Tuesday to armed groups and individuals to surrender or risk being disarmed by force.
As the deadline came and went it was unclear how many fighters had heeded the call, which the M23 had dismissed as irrelevant.
A photographer for AFP news agency saw a group of Goma motorcyclists on Thursday, honking their horns and shouting, "We are chasing MONUSCO," as the UN mission in DR Congo is known.
Goma leader Jean-Mobert N'senga said that the incident forced the shops in the area to close.
Lambert Mende, Government spokesman, said that he understood the frustration of Goma residents, but that the government and UN peacekeepers were trying tofind a solution to the crisis.
The UN gave no immediate indication that military action had started or was planned in the troubled region which holds massive potential mineral wealth for a country that is almost as big as western Europe.
DRC has been wracked by violence and civil war since independence from Belgium in 1960, often rooted in its vast mineral wealth and drawing in its neighbours, particularly in the eastern provinces.


Congo rebels threaten main eastern city

Associated Press

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — The M23 rebel group in eastern Congo has said it will not rule out retaking the city of Goma unless there is progress on negotiations with the government.
A statement signed Saturday by M23 president Bertrand Bisimwa said that if the government does not respect its vow to hold talks, which have repeatedly stalled, rebel fighters could be redeployed to the same positions they held last November when insurgents briefly captured Goma.
Fighting between rebels and Congo's army resumed last month after a period of calm. Last week, the United Nations peacekeeping mission announced plans to disarm anyone outside the security forces in and around Goma, where it said M23 has attacked army positions since mid-May.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende on Sunday dismissed M23's latest threat as "nonsense."

UN selects unarmed surveillance drone for Congo


Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United Nations announced Thursday that it has selected its first unarmed surveillance drone, an Italian-made plane that will be tried out by peacekeepers in eastern Congo, which has been engulfed in conflict for nearly two decades. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the world body's peacekeeping department chose an unmanned aerial vehicle produced by Selex ES, known as the Falco, which is "capable of carrying a range of payloads including several types of high-resolution sensors." The U.N. Security Council gave approval in January for the trial use of unarmed drones for intelligence gathering in eastern Congo. Nesirky said deployment of the medium-altitude, medium-endurance drone is planned in the coming weeks. In March, the Security Council authorized a new "intervention brigade" with an unprecedented mandate to carry out offensive operations to neutralize armed groups. It is part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, the world body's largest, with a capacity for nearly 20,000 military and international police. The Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation of 70 million people that is equal in size to Western Europe, has seen its mineral-rich east engulfed in fighting since the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. More than 1 million Rwandan Hutus fled across the border into Congo, and Rwanda has invaded Congo to take action against Hutu militias there. Other armed groups have also been engaged in combat, including the M23 rebel group which swept through eastern Congo in 2012 and captured the key city of Goma last November, before pulling out under international pressure. The M23, whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces, is an incarnation of a group of Congolese Tutsi set up to fight the Rwandan Hutu rebels in Congo. U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has said the unmanned aerial vehicles will for the first time give the United Nations state-of-the-art 21st century technology. Nesirky said it will allow U.N. peacekeepers, especially in eastern Congo, "to monitor the movements of armed groups and protect the civilian population more efficiently." If the trial in Congo is successful, U.N. officials have said that drones are likely to be used in other peacekeeping missions, possibly including Ivory Coast and South Sudan.
According to its website, Selex ES has a workforce of about 17,700, total revenues in excess of €3.5 billion. In addition to major operations in Italy and the U.K., it also operates in the United States, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and India.

Highlights From the Archives

Mass Rapes in Congo Reveals U.N. Weakness

Mass Rapes in Congo Reveals U.N. Weakness
Despite years of experience and billions of dollars, the peacekeeping force still seems to be failing at its task of protecting civilians.
October 4, 2010worldNews

Chaos in Congo: Many Armies Ravage Rich Land In the 'First World War' of Africa
Congo and the nine nations around it sit on what may be the richest patch of this planet: there are diamonds, oil, uranium, gold, plentiful water, fertile land and exquisite wildlife. It is now also one of the biggest battlefields in Africa's history, the object of a conflict that has been dubbed ''Africa's first world war.''
February 6, 2000worldSpecial Report


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