Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beautés à Dakar

Surprise request to leave Goma for a bit and come out to Dakar for a week of meetings. Amazing food, beautiful people, a new city to discover--who could resist?

[Senegal's original flag from late 1950s]

After satisfying a song that's been on the brain for days (classic Brimful of Asha, or the hilarious short version), I hit the streets and have been exploring and eating non-stop since arriving last Saturday. Delighted to run into an old friend I studied with in Germany eight years ago here in the hotel. Nothing more dreamlike than hearing your name called in a country where you know no one, turning around and finding the beaming face of a long lost friend.

Yves and I were together in Abidjan the eve of the 1999 coup that ticked off Ivory Coast's descent into civil war; he was carjacked on the way to pick me up at the airport. What a planet.

Hopefully I'll get some sightseeing in before I leave, between the meetings, the email and the reports to write. There's always Ile de Gorée, Africa's most poignant monument to human slavery, in stark contrast to the Statue of Liberty, a very different maritime marker of [voluntary] human migration.

Back in Goma next Tuesday to learn what is going on with CNDP (Nkunda hasn't been heard from or seen in almost a month) and whether our efforts to keep political negotiations alive will be successful. Not sure that can be claimed at this point.

At least I'll have these memories of Dakar to keep me going!

[Funny the way earworms love a void... the new one is 'Bros'.... or better yet Carrots -- amazing beats!]

Monday, July 21, 2008

DRC: 200 hundred ceasefire violations since January

And civilians continue to die in far greater numbers than before the Goma Agreement was reached six months ago. A serious lack of political will on all sides is undermining the agreement.

A new Human Rights Watch communique begins:

"On January 23, 2008, after weeks of talks, the Congolese government signed a peace agreement in Goma, North Kivu, with 22 armed groups committing all parties to an immediate ceasefire, disengagement of forces from frontline positions, and to abide by international human rights law. Following the signing, the Congolese government set up a peace program, called the Amani Program, to coordinate peace efforts in eastern Congo. Yet the government and international donors have provided limited funds to carry out that work.

The agreement failed to halt the fighting. United Nations officials have documented some 200 ceasefire violations since January 23, the majority between the forces of renegade general Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and a loose coalition of combatants from the Mai Mai Mongol, the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance (PARECO), and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan armed group whose leaders participated in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The FDLR was not a party to the Goma agreement.

Human Rights Watch also found credible evidence that soldiers from the Congolese national army were supporting the PARECO, Mai Mai Mongol, and FDLR coalition, questioning the government’s commitment to the peace process."

Read the rest here. For victim testimonies, see here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

DRC: Peace Deal Unraveling

I'm currently in Goma supporting the international effort to uphold the Programme Amani, a rather free-wheeling effort to bring over 20 militia groups in the region to an agreement on disarmament, demobilization and absorption into the national army. The ceasefire responsible for this optimistic state of affairs has been broken repeatedly, however.

A primary concern is the lack of 'sticks' (vs carrots) for Laurent Nkunda, the most powerful group. His military advantage over the national army has been demonstrated several times, to much embarrassment in Kinshasa. His strong hand in these negotiations is not diminished by the threat of an ICC indictment; rather he knows he could turn the entire east upside down if things don't go his way. Without a convincing stick to wave in his face, the negotiators' hand is weak.

The other oncoming train in this particular tunnel is the prospect of a national army massively inflated by former rebels, when the Ministry of Defense can barely clothe, train, equip let alone pay its own forces. So a bigger, more dysfunctional national army is a good thing for Congolese civilians? Not sure where that strategy was rubber stamped, but there you go.

Coverage of the Amani process itself can be found here (Radio Okapi)

And the following report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting describes the fragmentation of peace process itself. It is certainly accurate from my view on the ground, but does not exclude the possibility of resuscitation, which we are currently busy with.

'A ceasefire signed by more than 20 militia groups earlier this year is being broken repeatedly.'

The fragile peace that has restored some calm in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, is in danger of collapsing, say key militia groups.

“They attacked our positions. It is now war,” said Sendugu Museveni, the former president and now chief negotiator for PARECO, one of the major ethnic Hutu groups to sign a ceasefire in January.

A peace deal was signed in the Goma, the capital of the North Kivu Province, by more than 20 militias operating in the region. Museveni accused the forces of Tutsi militia General Laurent Nkunda of repeated violations of the ceasefire and of sabotaging the peace process by backing out of the talks last week, as it has done several times before.“This is the last chance,” said Museveni. “We are very tired of responding to the capriciousness of the Tutsis who do whatever they want …. We will not agree to be dominated all the time by the Tutsis.” Read the rest here.