Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tanzania: Senseless War in Eastern DR Congo Must End Sooner

Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Senseless War in Eastern DR Congo Must End Sooner

HEAVY fighting has been reported in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the so-called M23 rebel forces massively assisted by Rwandan troops and the Congolese army.
The United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) and Force International Brigade (DIB) are there essentially to maintain peace and stability, have been given the mandate to shoot back at the rebel forces when they threaten innocent lives of the Congolese people.
And this was what happened during the week when the M23 rebels shelled the people of Kibati in the eastern Congo killing several people and the peace-keepers returned fire which proved to be too heavy to the rebels who suffered huge losses.
Rwanda, whose leaders have always brazenly denied supporting and helping the rebels militarily, is said to have sent two battalions in DR Congo to prop up the devastated M23 forces.
May be it will not be so easy for Rwanda to deny the recent developments. In another breath, South Africa has warned the M23 rebels and their cohorts fighting in the DR Congo not to try to retake the battleground city of Goma in the escalating violence in the area.
And the South African National Defence Force Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi minced no words as he warned the rebels against any move to try to retake Goma when he said they were sending a message to M23... ."this time around you're not going to see Goma... "
This means that the peacekeepers were ready for any eventuality. So Rwanda's decision to send her troops into DR Congo to assist the M23 rebels essentially means Rwanda has now decided to openly fight the peacekeepers in pretext of fighting Rwandan rebels.
The United Nations has condemned the recent fighting in the area. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned about the escalating violence in eastern DR Congo and in particular the indiscriminate shelling by the armed M23 group which caused deaths, injuries and damage among the civilian population in the eastern provinces as well as the immediate border area in Rwanda. The situation in the eastern DR Congo raises a lot of concerns not only to the UN Secretary General , but to many stakeholders especially in the Great Lakes Region.
More so in the DR Congo where hundreds of innocent lives are lost unnecessarily. The greed for Congo gold by the big people in Rwanda and elsewhere is sending innocent Congolese men, women and especially the vulnerable children to their premature deaths.
The greed for power by some people who consider themselves 'semi-gods' blocks their minds and hearts from reconciliatory considerations.
We draw some veneer of hope from the emergency meetings in Kampala convened by the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni of the ministers and Heads of State from the Great Lakes Region next week where we hope the eastern DR Congo situation will be the main menu. Let sense prevail at the meetings and we urge that personal pride by whosoever should not be allowed to prevail.


Tanzania's Children and the Toxic Lure of Gold

Tanzania needs to act on child labour in the hazardous gold mining industry, fast.
I met Farida, a widow, and her seven children on a gold processing site for small-scale miners in Tanzania. The air was thick with dust mixed with particles of the metal and mercury - byproducts of the mining process. A thin layer of white powder settled on my arms and face. Some of my colleagues started to cough heavily. Large ball mills - machines used to crush gold ore into powder - made unbearable clanging noises.
Two of Farida's teenage sons were preparing gold ore for the ball mill by crushing it into pebbles with large rocks, narrowly missing their fingers with each strike. Farida kept some of her children out of school so they could mine enough gold to support the family. I wondered what it must be like to be one of Farida's children, trapped there nearly every day.
Farida's older sons described their long, exhausting days. The 13 year-old, Rahim, had never been to school, and spent his time digging in deep, unstable pits - which frequently collapse on miners in the area - and transporting and crushing heavy sacks of gold ore.
Amani, at 15 the eldest, had recently learned how to extract the gold using mercury. He carefully mixed and swirled the ground gold ore, water, and silvery liquid mercury in a basin using his bare hands. Once the mercury and gold combined, I watched in alarm as everyone gathered closely around the trader who was burning the resulting amalgam. The mercury vapour released in this process is incredibly toxic, and can have dire health implications, especially for children. How much of these fumes had the family inhaled over the last few years?
In the course of researching a new report for Human Rights Watch, "Toxic Toil: Child Labor and Mercury Exposure in Tanzania's Small-Scale Gold Mines," my colleagues and I interviewed 59 other children working in similar conditions. Sadly, their stories are not unique in Africa's gold-producing countries.


The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: SRSG Concerned About Exploitation of Liberia's Resources

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and coordinator of UN Operations in Liberia, Karin Landgren has reported to the United Nations that the country still has several challenges even though it is sufficiently stable to provide an environment conducive to the critical reforms the government is undertaking.
Terming her observation as "many potential drivers of conflict" that remain to be addressed in the country, Ms. Landgren named land and the exploitation of Liberia's abundant natural resources as the cornerstones of Liberia's economic development, but that they also can be powerful sources of conflict.
She said therefore government and its many other partners should acknowledge the need for transparent and responsible management of concession agreements, particularly, when it concerns those who should be benefiting from development.
Briefing the United Nations Security Council recently, she also outlined the lack of adequate consultation with affected communities as an issue that needs attention, noting, "It will be important to institutionalize mechanisms for consistent dialogue between concessions and communities."
The UN envoy said, "Corruption in general remains a very significant handicap, impeding the functioning of national institutions, public confidence in those institutions, and the pace of economic growth."
Ms. Karin Landgren, lauded Liberia's commitments in maintaining peace, while underlining the need for the country to progress on critical reform processes and steadily strengthen its justice and security sectors in preparation to take on increasing security responsibilities. SRSG Landgren among other things highlighted the important role of the Constitutional Review Committee in leading a comprehensive, inclusive and participatory review process with intensive civic education efforts about to start under a tight timeline.
The SRSG also reported on the implementation of the three-phased military drawdown endorsed by the Security Council last September and stated that following the first phase of drawdown, UNMIL no longer maintains a fixed military presence in four of Liberia's counties, and the Mission is expected to vacate a further three counties by April 2014.
The UN boss in Liberia emphasized that more demands on the government are expected as this transition progresses and that the phased approach has permitted the government and UNMIL to develop close routine and effective mechanisms; however, greater efforts need to be made to strengthen security institutions for a successful transition.
"The Liberian security forces have not been able to scale up their presence and operational effectiveness to assume the increased security responsibilities, and they remain severely constrained by weak mobility, resources, and administration," she intimated.
She underlined that Liberia's security is intertwined with its neighbours and that strengthening regional approaches remains imperative to security as well as to development and that the country should remain on course, thereby pledging support for the Government, development partners and civil society.


DR Congo unrest: Children freed from militia, says UN

Monusco vehicles in Kagnaruchinya, north of Goma. 2 June 2013 Monusco is tasked with protecting civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo says that 82 children - some as young as eight - have been rescued from an armed group.

Monusco says the children, including 13 girls, had been forcibly recruited in the past six months by the Mai Mai Bakata Katanga militia.

The group is active in Katanga province in the south-east of the country.

Forty of the rescued children have been reunited with their families and the others are said to be receiving care.

Correspondents say the region remains very restive, with local militia demanding a fairer distribution of wealth between the poorer north of Katanga and the southern zone where foreign mining firms operate.

Monusco - the UN's stabilisation mission in DR Congo - said in a statement that the children had been identified and separated from the militia through the concerted efforts of child protection agencies.

"We are extremely concerned by continued reports of active recruitment by Mai Mai Bakata Katanga and other armed groups in eastern DRC," said Monusco head Martin Kobler.

"Children face unacceptable risks when they are recruited for military purposes. The recruitment of children, particularly those under 15 years of age, could constitute a war crime and those responsible must be held to account."

Monusco said that since the beginning of the year, 163 children, including 22 girls, have been removed from the militia.

DR Congo Seeks Democracy

Goma crisis


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