AFRICA GREAT LAKES UPDATE: January 2009

CPTnet
16 February 2009
AFRICA GREAT LAKES UPDATE: January 2009

Members of CPT Africa Great Lakes (AGL) during this period were Cliff Kindy, Rosemarie Milazzo, Andrea Siemens, and Jane MacKay Wright.

In January 2009, CPT AGL, located in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), continued its consultation with partners Groupe Martin Luther King (GMLK), and met with the following:


Ebenezer Peace Center of Evangelical Friends Church, Goma
- The team gave a presentation to about 30 participants, describing CPT work in other countries and encouraging those present to share their experience of nonviolence.

Synergie medias de paix dans la sous region des grands-lacs - Journalists have no facilities for newspaper printing in Goma, but nevertheless work to expose injustice.

Pentecostal Pastor Marcel Serubungo and Maurice Omollo of World Relief - World Relief is working to strengthen relationships among churches in conflict areas, to encourage their leaders to work together in nonviolent peace building.

Centre de Recherche Sur L'Environment, La Democratie et Les Droits de L'Homme (CREDDHO) - These are Goma human rights activists who have produced insightful research into political and economic issues in eastern Congo.

Monsigneur Henri Isingoma, Bishop of the Diocese of Boga, and his wife Mugisa - In Bunia, DRC, the Bishop spoke of the Anglican church's work in uniting the people of the diocese, and in the need to reintegrate former militias. Mugisa spoke of her work with traumatized women.

Bunia United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) Director Olamide Adedeji and United Nations (UN) political affairs officials - They emphasized that Bunia has been peaceful and that there were only residual militias nearby. The UN is working on demobilization, and support for government and civil society.

Association d'Exploitants Miniers Artisenaux pour la Pacification et Reconstruction de l'Ituri - A union official spoke of the difficult conditions for 100,000 artisanal miners in Ituri district.

In addition, team members spoke with production workers at the Gisenyi, Rwanda refinery of MPA; a Goma women's rights activist;  a Minova rape crisis worker; lay sisters of Saint Boniface Institute; USA Consulate officials; the Bishop of the Church of Christ (ECC) in Goma, and, in Bunia, the MONUC Security Director; and Justice Plus.

Thursday 1 January

The team began the new year with a joyful celebration in the residence where they live with five Salesian priests who run the Don Bosco Technical School in Goma. The team helped the cook prepare food, and joined in a festive meal with the priests and their guests.

Friday 2 January

Accompanied by GMLK members, the team visited Mugunga 1 and Mugunga 3 camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). They talked to families who had been forced to leave their homes because of fighting by rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) soldiers. Several of the women willing to share their stories had been raped by CNDP soldiers. Young men told of CNDP and Rwandan soldiers forcibly taking children from their villages to be trained as soldiers. IDPs are living in banana-leaf huts, in deplorable conditions, with little to fill their time. Some have taken refuge in Mugunga 1 for over a year, while others fled their homes during the conflict last fall.

Saturday-Sunday, 10-11 January

The team travelled to Minova, accompanied again by members of GMLK, where they discussed possible nonviolence strategies with community members in the village of Kashenda. They learned of the recent abduction of two schoolgirls by Congolese government (FARDC) soldiers. (See: http://cpt.org/cptnet/2009/01/22/democratic-republic-congo-missing-child....) Kashenda villagers appear to live in fear of militias and of the FARDC. It is unsafe for farmers to cultivate their fields. Christophe Mutaka of GMLK had contacted a Goma lawyer who was beginning the process of informing the FARDC commander and bringing charges against the soldiers who abducted the schoolgirls.

Milazzo visited with a woman who works with traumatized rape survivors and cares for abandoned children in Minova. (See: http://cpt.org/cptnet/2009/02/06/africa-great-lakes-meeting-masika)

Tuesday 13 January
About 8:30pm, four or five armed robbers overpowered the person who was closing the outer gate to the Salesian residence and entered the compound. The intruders beat and tied up the five Salesians as well as CPT member Kindy who had left his room to investigate a loud scream. The intruders made the men lie down on the dining room floor, attacked them and threatened them with death. Siemens and Milazzo prayed silently in their rooms with lights off. Milazzo had seen a gunman in military uniform threatening Father Firmin, the senior priest. The light remained on in MacKay Wright’s room at the front of the building, which had a window opening onto the inner courtyard. After a period of silence, MacKay Wright heard gun butts pounding on her door. She quickly locked herself in the adjoining bathroom, and listened as her courtyard window was smashed. The intruders pounded on the bathroom door also, then all of a sudden it was over. The thieves stole money, computers and telephones. No one was seriously hurt. Salesians and CPTers alike spent the next hours debriefing and coming to terms with their frightening experience. During the next days there was a stream of visitors offering their sympathy. The Salesians and the team’s neighbor concurred that the thieves were civilians.

Wednesday-Tuesday, 21-27 January

The team learned of a struggle between Generals Laurent Nkunda and Bosco Ntaganda of the rebel CNDP. Bosco took over as leader and put his troops at the disposal of the Congolese government. President Joseph Kabila of DRC made an agreement with the government of Rwanda allowing Rwandan troops to enter Congolese territory to "disarm" Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) mililtia. These are described as Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and for violence in the Congo. The CPT team heard and saw large convoys of Congolese government troops heading from Goma into the conflict  zones.

A reported 7,000 Rwandan troops entered the Congo and were stationed in North and South Kivu provinces. Human rights activists expressed concern that FDLR would be hard to identify and that all civilians would be at risk. Some contended that the purpose of Rwandan military operations against the FDLR was to gain control of their lucrative mining regions. Some consider that Rwanda is backed by the United States and United Kingdom.

On January 21, Kindy and Milazzo traveled  by public bus from Goma, through North Kivu to Bunia, Ituri district. Siemens and MacKay Wright joined them in Bunia, having travelled by airplane to Butembo and bus to Bunia.