Tuesday, September 10, 2013

South Africa: Update On the Security Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

South African Government (Pretoria)

South Africa: Update On the Security Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

press release

On the 30 August 2013 the offensive attack by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) supported by the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) over the past weeks, the government forces (FARDC), together with the FIB, took over the Triple Tower mountain where the M23 rebel forces had lodged themselves.

The FARDC, supported by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and Tanzanian People's Defence Force (TPDF), are holding the ground at Triple Towers and the general area of Kibati to date. Since then, there has been a break in the offensive firing.
The SANDF is committed to update the media about the development in the Eastern DRC through frequent media briefing.

Issued by: Department of Defence


Congo-Kinshasa: EU Is to Limit Mineral Imports From the DRC

The European Union has announced plans of setting limits on the importation of raw materials coming from the Congo DRC for electronics production.
The EU says it is concerned about "blood minerals" making their way to Europe. It has joined the US in targeting minerals from conflict zones like the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The EU trade commissioner for trade, Karel de Gucht, said European economies need conflict-free mobile handsets. "I know the Congo quite well. I have been there and often met with President Kabila," said Karel de Gucht, a former Belgian foreign Minister.
In 2008, de Gucht threatened to withdraw aid to DRC if President Joseph Kabila didn't address issues of governance. This led to a diplomatic crisis between the DRC and its former colonial power Belgium.
President Kabila declared him a 'persona non grata'. Since then, de Gucht no longer enjoys the good relations with Kinshasa that enabled him to secure mining licenses for prospective clients.
His opinion of President Kabila has not changed. And in his capacity as the EU trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, hasn't been allowed to enter the DRC since 2010.
Commodity trading finances civil war
Now Karel de Gucht wants to proceed with a new initiative against the intolerable conditions in the ore mines in the eastern Congo. The EU wants to emulate the new U.S. model following the import of rare metals such as coltan from the Congo.
"You need trade to survive. But sometimes it brings you into contact with conditions that you would not tolerate any minute at home," said Karel De Gucht.
Militias, rebels and government troops continue to fight each other in eastern Congo.
The mines are under extremely dangerous conditions and children have to break down the mineral ores under the watchful eyes of the militias.
"The situation in the Congo is very complicated," Karel de Gucht points out.
The United States calls for complete proof of business
In the US and other industrialized nations protest groups have been formed, calling on large companies like Apple, Microsoft and Samsung to sell products that are conflict free.
The rare minerals from the Congo are used in the manufacturing of mobile phones, computers, electronic equipment and cars.
In the US, the Dodd Frank Act requires persons or a company to disclose the source of raw materials such as tantalum, tungsten or gold from the mine to final production, especially minerals coming from the DRC.

A study conducted by the Öko-Institut in Freiburg, found that the Dodd- Frank Act could lead to cases where the company would to completely withdraw from doing business with the Congo.
"The required proof is simply too expensive and too complicated," said Andreas Manhart from the Öko-Institut.
"Best evidence can only be achieved if we rethink strategies for mandatory origin of the whole production chain."
This means not only the illegal mines run by rebels would be considered but also other regular mines.
German economy resists strict conditions
The Federation of German Industries (BDI), has also criticized the conditions in the Congo as well. Ulrich Grillo who heads the federation, believes that certification of raw materials and limiting exports from eastern Congo , will not bring any meaningful change.
"The UN group of experts confirmed that the trade of minerals in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo was partially used to finance the ongoing conflicts," said Grillo, "the past and present conflicts were not caused by minerals."
The BDI and the Öko-Institut urge the European Commission to work together rather than simply imitating the Dodd- Frank Act in the U.S. for European companies.
EU seeks "viable" remedy
Commissioner De Gucht will submit the bill with all stakeholders in the coming year after intensive discussions. "We need to find a system that is feasible," said de Gucht.
"De Gucht quoted a research institute that estimates that 20 percent of all wars were related to the world of raw materials.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will also soon present a first report how the Dodd- Frank Act has impacted the American public companies trading with the Congo.


Congo rebels to return to talks, but not to army

(Blank Headline Received)
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Congolese leaders of the M23 rebels are escorted in Bunagana, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, …

By Chrispin Mvano

BUNAGANA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - D emocratic Republic of Congo's M23 insurgents said on Sunday they are ready to return to peace talks and would not make integration into the national army, which has not proved successful in the past, part of the deal.

Regional presidents on Thursday called Kinshasa and the rebels to restart negotiations after the army, backed by U.N. troops, bolstered the government's position with rare military successes in recent fighting.

The M23 insurgency is the latest incarnation of a Tutsi-dominated rebellion that has repeatedly tried to integrate into the Congolese army, only to withdraw. Its fighters deserted en masse 18 months ago, accusing the government of reneging on a 2009 peace deal.

M23's leader Bertrand Bisimwa said on Sunday that the rebels would send a delegation to talks which are due to reopen in Uganda's capital Kampala on Monday. But he said they were not interested in pursuing a new reintegration deal.

"We are not demanding integration into the FARDC or into politics," he told journalists in the town of Bunagana, a rebel stronghold near Congo's eastern border with Uganda and Rwanda.

Congo's government has already said it will attend the talks.

Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger in Congo's gold, diamond and tin-rich eastern borderlands during nearly two decades of ethnically driven conflict that has its roots in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Bisimwa reiterated a long-standing demand that the government eradicate the Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels, made up in part of ex-soldiers and militia who fled to Congo after slaughtering around 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

M23 has accused the army of receiving military support from the FDLR, an accusation Kinshasa rejects. The government and U.N. investigators meanwhile claim Rwanda is supporting M23, a charge the rebels and Kigali have repeatedly denied.

Bisimwa also called for the return of thousands of Congolese refugees - most of them Tutsis - now living in camps in Rwanda.

"We are ready to go to Kampala and to be disarmed. And our soldiers are ready to enter the demobilisation process if Kinshasa accepts to fulfil the two conditions," he said.

M23 humiliated Congo's army and the country's 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission by briefly occupying the eastern city of Goma in November, forcing Kabila to accept the Ugandan-brokered peace talks as a condition of the rebels' withdrawal.

However, with the help of a new U.N. Intervention Brigade - created in wake of Goma's seizure and given a tough mandate to neutralise armed groups - the army has pushed M23 fighters away from the city of one million.

A military standoff has prevailed since the rebels pulled back to Kibumba, some 30 km (18 miles) north of Goma, last month. U.N. forces are reluctant to pursue them deep into the dense forests and rugged hills of North Kivu province.


Congo rebels 'ready to disarm' if conditions met


The leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 rebels said Sunday they were ready to disarm under two conditions: the return of Congolese refugees and the eradication of Hutu militia the FDLR.
M23 chief Bertrand Bisimwa said the army mutineers, whose rebellion has terrorised eastern DR Congo for more than a year, would return to civilian life if the government agreed to their demands at peace talks set to resume in Uganda after breaking down in May.
"We are ready to disarm under two conditions: first, that the question of the FDLR be resolved, and second, the return of the Congolese refugees living in camps" in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, he told AFP.
The M23 was founded by former Tutsi rebels who were incorporated into the Congolese army under a 2009 peace deal.
Complaining the deal was never fully implemented, they mutinied in April 2012, turning their guns on their former comrades and launching the latest rebellion to ravage DR Congo's mineral-rich but conflict-prone east.

The United Nations and various rights groups have accused the M23 of atrocities including rape and murder in a conflict that has caused tens of thousands of refugees to flee the country.

The UN also accuses Rwanda's current Tutsi leadership of backing the M23, a charge the country has adamantly denied.

The rebels for their part have accused the Congolese army of joining forces against them with the FDLR, or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which is also active in eastern DR Congo where its members fled in the wake of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Some FDLR members are wanted on charges of taking part in the genocide, when Hutu extremists killed around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

"We don't want them (the FDLR) on our territory anymore," said Bisimwa, calling for the Hutu group to be "neutralised" and Tutsi refugees returned.

The M23 have recently retreated from their positions around the key eastern city of Goma in the face of a fresh offensive by the army and a new UN combat force created to fight the rebels.

Speaking three days after declaring the M23 was willing to resume peace talks, Bisimwa said Sunday the rebels were ready to become civilians again.

"The M23 isn't interested in joining the army or the Congolese government," he said.

"That army's not attractive," he added. "The M23 is ready to demobilise and return to civilian life."


Congo's M23 rebels set conditions for disbanding

SALEH MWANAMILONGO September 8, 2013 12:49 PM

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — The leader of eastern Congo's M23 rebel movement said Sunday the group will disband only if another rebel group that is composed of ethnic Rwandan Hutu fighters is disarmed and Congolese refugees return home from neighboring countries.

"We are ready to disarm but for these two conditions," Bertrand Bisimwa, the M23 president, told The Associated Press by phone.

He said the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, should be disarmed before M23 can be disbanded. In the past Rwanda has justified military intervention in Congo to protect itself from the FDLR, some of whose core members took part in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Bisimwa's comments came on the eve of renewed peace talks with Congo's government in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The talks have repeatedly stalled since they started last December, and Congolese President Joseph Kabila said on Saturday that government troops were prepared to resume their offensive against the rebels if the talks failed.

The M23 rebel group, which briefly captured the eastern city of Goma last November, is made up of hundreds of Congolese soldiers mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group who deserted the national army last year after accusing the government of failing to honor the terms of a deal signed in March 2009. The rebels are widely believed to be backed by the government of Rwanda, a charge Rwanda denies despite evidence presented by United Nations experts and Human Rights Watch.

In the recent fighting, however, Congolese troops were boosted by a special intervention brigade of U.N. troops who, unlike the other 17,000 peacekeepers stationed in the vast Central African nation, have a mandate to attack the rebels.

Bisimwa said that if M23 disbanded its fighters would have no interest in being integrated into the Congolese army.

"Nobody is interested in anything else," he said. "M23 will not be a political party. Each one will take care of his cabbages and carrots, because we are herders, farmers and merchants."

Lambert Mende, the Congolese government spokesman, said Sunday that Kabila's administration had no problem with the conditions set by M23, noting that the government has long been working for the return of refugees and considers the FDLR to be "a negative force just like M23."

Both conditions, however, would be difficult to meet, especially given the government's inability to stabilize Congo's volatile east.

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