Congo-Kinshasa: In North Kivu Visit, Envoy Reaffirms UN Commitment to Resolve Conflict20 August 2013
During his first visit to the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a United Nations envoy reiterated the world body's determination to help restore State authority in the eastern region of the vast country.
"I shall do everything in my power to address the armed groups' issue in the Kivus and in the rest of the eastern DRC," said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC, Martin Kobler, who just ended a three-day visit to North Kivu, his first since he was appointed in June.
In Goma, Mr. Kobler met with provincial administrative and security authorities, as well as UN military and civilian staff, to assess the situation on the ground.
Upon his arrival, Mr. Kobler met with the Deputy Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), as well as the Mission's military and civilian officials.
He also met with the provincial Governor and the speaker of the provincial Assembly, with whom he discussed their expectations about the work of MONUSCO and the Force Intervention Brigade in the North-Kivu province.
Over the past year, the M23, along with other armed groups, have clashed repeatedly with the national forces (FARDC) in the eastern DRC. The rebels briefly occupied Goma in November 2012. The fighting resumed in recent weeks, this time dragging in a group of Ugandan-based rebels, and displaced more than 100,000 people, exacerbating the region's ongoing humanitarian crisis, which includes 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.
During his meetings, Mr. Kobler made clear his determination to see the UN Mission resolve the issue of armed groups, help restore State authority and fulfil its mandate.
Mr. Kobler also met with the UN troops based in Kiwanja and Sake, located 300 kilometres and 30 kilometres from Goma, respectively, and held a town hall meeting with UN staff at MONUSCO headquarters.
Bemba Trial Website (The Hague)
Central African Republic: Two Bemba Witnesses Blame Atrocities On Bozizé RebelsBy Wakabi Wairagala, 20 August 2013
Today, two defense witnesses in Jean-Pierre Bemba's trial attributed crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003 to rebel forces that were commanded by François Bozizé.
Testifying in the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which resumed on Tuesday following the court's summer recess, both 'Witness D04-23' and 'Witness D04-26' gave evidence via video link from an undisclosed location. Their evidence was frequently heard in closed session, and their images and voices were distorted during public broadcasts of their testimonies in order to protect their identities.
In the morning, 'Witness D04-23' said that during October 2002, the Bozizé rebels pillaged several towns, including Fu, Boy-Rabé, and PK12. "I can not say that they conducted themselves like responsible freedom fighters," he said.
Asked by defense lawyer Aimé Kilolo-Musamba whether he was aware of any rape incidents perpetrated by the rebels, 'Witness D04-23' said there was one incident that affected him personally as it concerned his family. The witness gave details of this incident in private session.
Meanwhile, during the afternoon 'Witness D04-26' also attributed acts of pillaging to the Bozizé rebels. He said that due to limited resources, the rebels were not being paid and had no food. This prompted them to "start stealing" from civilians.
Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops raped, pillaged, and murdered during the conflict that ended in a capture of power by Mr. Bozizé. The Congolese troops were invited into the neighboring country by its then president, Ange-Félix Patassé, to help him beat back a rebellion.
As the MLC commander-in-chief, Mr. Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is on trial for purportedly failing to restrain or sanction his troops. He denies all five charges against him, claiming other groups involved in the fighting perpetuated the crimes.
In testimony heard today, both witnesses said the Bozizé rebels consisted of "a mix of people," including former soldiers of the Central African armed forces, civilian recruits and Chadian nationals. According to 'Witness D0-23,' these individuals spoke numerous languages, including the Central African dialect Sango, French, and Lingala - a language native to the Congo.
'Witness D0-23' said the Chadians were not fluent in French but a number of them spoke Sango. He explained that besides French, the former soldiers in the CAR army, some of whom had attended military training in Congo, spoke Sango and Lingala. He said the civilian recruits included immigrant workers from Congo commonly referred to as "shoe shiners" who spoke Sango, French, and Lingala.
Numerous prosecution witnesses have testified that they identified the perpetrators of the crimes as Mr. Bemba's troops partly because they spoke Lingala.
'Witness D04-23' had earlier been withdrawn from the defense list of witnesses when Mr. Bemba's lawyers lost contact with him. However, on August 15, 2013, the defense asked judges to re-instate this witness, stating that owing to his role at the time of the events, he was "in possession of information not previously presented by other witnesses heard in the case." It was not clear what roles 'Witness D04-23' and 'Witness D04-26' played during the conflict.
Due to undisclosed reasons, 'Witness D04-15' who was previously scheduled to take the witness stand this morning was not available to testify and his testimony has been postponed.
Hearings in the trial continue tomorrow with 'Witness D04-23' appearing in the morning and 'Witness D04-26' in the afternoon.
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- Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme, 19 July 2013"At this crucial moment for the future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a strong response from the United Nations Human Rights Council is necessary to establish a ... read more »
- The New Times, 19 July 2013Reports coming out of eastern DRC are that its army, FARDC, and one out of a slew of rebel factions in the country, M23, are in the thick of a flare-up again, after a short lull. ... read more »
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