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Nigeria’s Retrogressive Anti-Gay Law By Abiodun Ladepo.

By Abiodun Ladepo

This past Wednesday, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan elevated crassness and primitiveness to the highest level imaginable by signing into law a bill banning homosexuality in Nigeria.  I deliberately crafted the previous sentence so unambiguously.  He did not just ban homosexual marriage; he banned homosexuality as a whole!  Perhaps if the law had only stopped at “persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” one might not feel so much outrage.  But it went on to state that “any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison”!  In essence, only heterosexuals are allowed to hold hands in public, sit on each other’s lap, hump each other while dancing in clubs or kiss publicly.  What, in the name of God, just happened to Nigeria?

Let me state upfront that I am a Straight (heterosexual) guy who is happily married to a beautiful woman.  So, this write-up is not about me or my sexual preference.  It is about Nigeria’s lack of originality and lack of creative instincts.  We the people, along with our leaders, fail to do the deep thinking, the due diligence, in many respects that will take our country farther and more quickly than we have hitherto done.  Lethargy is irredeemably ingrained in our psyche.  Otherwise, how does being openly gay draw our country back?  We already have thousands of gay people in our midst!  How does their gayness prevent those of us who are not gay from going about our businesses?

This law assumes that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community just arrived in Nigeria yesterday.  No, the LGBT has been with us since, at least, when I was a young boy over 50 years ago.  I recall growing up in (yes) Zaria, Kaduna State, of all places, and going to watch evening dances of members of the LGBT.  We used to call them “Dandaudu.”  We, the kids, used to marvel at their public display of amorous acts.  This was in the early 60s.  They were not hidden behind the walls of any clubs in the middle of the night; they danced in open spaces and in early evenings.  I have also personally witnessed “Dandaudus” doing their dances in Bukuru, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri in the 70s.  And if you lived in the hostel during your secondary school years, don’t tell me that you did not catch a few of your guy friends “doing it.”  I have heard from some of my secondary school female friends of the sexual trysts that went on in their hostel.  Let’s not even talk about what happens in the dorms of our universities.  So, why are we just now finding out that their presence in our midst is anathema and antithetical to our moral fiber?

Reuben Abati, that formerly celebrated anti-bad government champion, who is now a turncoat and who I now detest with so much passion, defended the law with the pedestrian argument that since 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage, “…the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs.”   Ninety percent?  First, how did we come up with that percentage?  When did we poll the country to ascertain that 90 percent of our people oppose same-sex marriage?  And even if they do, what right does the majority have to trample on the basic right of the minority – the fundamental human right to freedom of association?  What right does the majority have to deprive the minority of having sex with whomever it wants as long as it is consensual?  The worst that the Nigerian government should have been able to do should have been the denial of official recognition of such a union. But to criminalize it is akin to despotism, especially in a democratic dispensation.

And by the way, since when has this government or any past Nigerian government taken a decision in favor of an issue perceived to have received the support of the majority of Nigerians?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the removal or Stella Oduah as Aviation minister, Diezani Madueke as Petroleum minister and Reuben Abati as adviser?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the banning of government officials, especially the President, from seeking medical attention abroad until our medical facilities and personnel are of the same standard as those they use when they go abroad?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the supply of 24/7 uninterrupted electricity to all corners of Nigeria?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the revamping, rejuvenating and reinvigorating of the EFCC so it can better fight corruption?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support a massive overhaul of our educational infrastructures from elementary all the way to university systems?  Don’t 90 percent of our people oppose the blocking of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by mega-churches and mega-mosques?  Have our lawmakers crafted any laws that criminalize the failure by government to do the things mentioned above?  No.  But these nosey people are eager to get into the bedrooms of Nigerians.

I find this homophobic inclination that is so rampant in our country as yet another example of religious zealotry and self-righteousness that have been the bane of our society.  Everybody is stampeding and trampling each other today in their quest to out-do one another as they condemn homosexuality.  But we will find out one day – tomorrow maybe –  just as we have found out in Europe and America that even family members of influential government officials can be (and are indeed) gay!  In fact, we will soon find out that membership in the LGBT community cuts across all spectra of our society – from the ranks of elected politicians, to traditional rulers, military officers, police officers, teachers, technocrats, pastors, imams, babalawos, traders and what not.  And what are we going to do when we find out that one of these influential people whom we had thought was heterosexual was indeed bisexual?  Would we throw OBJ or IBB or GEJ or Mama Iyabo or Dame Patience or any of their children into 14 years of prison terms if any of them turns out to be gay? What would we do when we discover that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye or his wife, Folu do engage in homosexual acts (with other partners, of course)?  What about Sheik Muhammad Yahaya Sanni and his many wives?  Are we going to give them immunity against prosecution?

This is why I stated earlier that our leaders did not subject this law to a rigorous and intellectual discuss before allowing their emotion, religion and communal bandwagon mentality to overtake their sense of reason.  Before the bill was adopted by the Senate in 2011, a few Nigerian members of the LGBT community, supported by some civil rights activists, appeared before the Senate to argue against enacting such a law.  The lawmakers and religious zealots in the chambers of the Senate booed and heckled these gay folks till they cried and left in disgrace.  Among the booing and heckling crowd were men who maintain two, three, four or more wives – wives who are subjugated, mentally and are physically abused.  Among this crowd were women who cheat on their husbands with their pastors and imams to the extent of making babies out-of-wedlock while their husbands thought the babies were theirs.  These people, in my opinion, lack the moral right to tell a gay man or woman whom to love and whom to cavort with in public.

Believe me, gays are the least of Nigeria’s problems.  Graft in high places, greed in high places, hired assassination, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, neglect of rural areas, neglect of urban areas, lack of functioning basic amenities like electricity, water, hospitals, education, transportation, youth unemployment – all take precedence over what my neighbor is doing in his/her bedroom.  I am ashamed that my leaders do not see this.

And I get it. I get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  Even if I wonder how truly religious we are when we watch our religious leaders steal from the religious houses and sexually abuse the laity; even if I sometimes wonder why our religious leaders live in obscene opulence while they watch their followers wallow in abject poverty, I still get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  It is the reason why an issue such as gay rights should have been thoroughly debated intellectually.  I hope the passing of this primitive and retrogressive law begins the rigorous discussion of how we allow members of the LGBT to bask in their rightful sense of belonging.  We should lead Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia out of the comity of nations still wedded to the archaic tradition of segregating their own people on the basis of sexual preferences.

We should join South Africa, Zaire, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali (yes, Chad, Niger and Mali), Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in the comity of nations that embrace the diversity of their people’s sexual preferences and have legislated to protect the rights of their LGBT people.

By Abiodun Ladepo

Los Angeles, California, USA


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

At Least 20 Killed When Mine Collapses in Eastern Congo.

KINSHASADemocratic Republic of Congo — At least 20 people were killed when a mine collapsed in mineral-rich but conflict-plagued eastern Democratic Republic of Congo following heavy rains, the government said on Friday.

The accident occurred on Thursday at the mine near the village of Rubaye in the country’s North Kivu province. Local officials were attempting to recover bodies still believed buried on Friday.

“We’re still digging at the site, so the death toll could rise. The provincial government is handling the rescue,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters.

Congo’s eastern borderlands have some of the world’s largest deposits of tin ore and coltan, which is used in electronic devices like mobile phones and video game consoles.

But the region is a patchwork of rebel and militia fiefdoms left over from a 1998-2003 civil war that killed millions, and the insecurity has discouraged large-scale industrial mining.

Rampant poverty has pushed hundreds of thousands of Congolese to work in unregulated smaller mines, often controlled by armed groups, where fatal accidents are commonplace.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

U.N.’s Ban to name Ireland’s Robinson as key Africa envoy: diplomats.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has told the Security Council he plans to name former Irish President Mary Robinson as his envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes region to oversee apeace deal aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Congo, diplomats said on Friday.

There were unlikely to be any objections to the appointment among the 15-member council, diplomats said. In addition to having been Ireland’s president from 1990 to 1997, Robinson, 68, was the U.N. high commissioner for human rights from 1997 to 2002.

Ban advised the Security Council in a letter of his intention to appoint Robinson as U.N. Great Lakes special envoy. Diplomats told Reuters on Monday that Robinson was a front-runner for the job.

African leaders signed a U.N.-mediated regional accord late last month aimed at ending two decades of conflict in eastern Congo and paving the way for the possible creation of a U.N. intervention force to combat armed groups.

Robinson will help oversee implementation of the peace deal.

U.N. peacekeepers in Congo have been stretched thin by the “M23” rebellion in the resource-rich east. A U.N. expert panel has said that M23 was supported by Rwanda and Uganda, although the two countries have denied it.

The Security Council is considering creating an intervention force, which one senior council diplomat has said would be able to “search and destroy” the M23 rebels and other armed groups in the country.

M23 began taking over parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honor a 2009 peace deal. That deal ended a previous rebellion and led to the rebels’ integration into the army, but they have since deserted.

The Congolese government said on Monday it hoped to sign a peace deal with the M23 rebels by Friday, but a rebel leader said more talks were needed.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney)



Third of children in conflict-ridden Congo denied schooling: U.N.

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Nearly a third of Congolese children are missing out on schooling as conflict, poverty, and weak governance take their toll, according to a study from the United Nations.

Democratic Republic of Congo is recovering from decades of dictatorship and two wars that left millions dead and the country’s infrastructure in ruins.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes in areas of ongoing rebel conflict, such as North Kivu province, and live in makeshift camps.

The study, begun in 2010 by the U.N. bodies for children and education, UNICEF and UNESCO, found that more than 7.3 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 do not go to school.

The problem is worst in North Kivu, where there are myriad armed groups and the government is struggling to control the latest in a series of uprisings; and in Katanga province, the country’s most productive mining region.

Poverty plays a major role, the study found, with half of all children in typical households that live on less than $50 a month not attending school. Among much richer families, where the income tops $500 per month, the figure falls to less than 2 percent.

The failure of the state to adequately fund the education sector means, on average, families have to spend more than a tenth of their income to send children to school, said the report which was released on Friday.

This is in a country where most people live on less than a dollar a day.

There is also persistent gender inequality, the study found, with girls’ education opportunities often reduced by marriage and pregnancy during schooling years.

The report said the problem of children missing out on education was worst in provinces of high mining activity or recurrent conflict.

It did not explain why the problem was more pronounced in mining areas, though human rights advocates have said child labor in the mining sector is widespread.

Congo, which is two-thirds the size of western Europe, is Africa‘s second-largest copper producer and exported about half a million metric tons last year.

Despite its mineral riches, including significant deposits of gold, diamonds and tin, the country has been described by the United Nations as the least developed on earth.

(Reporting by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Pravin Char)



United Nations To Launch Predator Drone Surveillance.

The watchmen sound the alarm but the people won’t hear

The bible says that in the last days, the end times church would not be on fire for the Lord, but rich, increased with goods, and very self-satisfied. It would be the church of Laodicea, whose ears have grown cold and dead, and whose heart has waxed gross. This is the current state of the professing Christian church.

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15,16

If you would have done a story like this 20 years ago, every, single prophecy person in America would be rushing to write their next book on the One World Government. There would be a huge outcry and protests in the streets. But in 2013 you will hear none of that. Most Christians don’t know bible prophecy, and neither do they care to take the time to “study to show thyself approved unto God”.

We are asleep at the wheel as the world prepares to go dark.

From WashPost: UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations, looking to modernize its peacekeeping operations, is planning for the first time to deploy a fleet of its own surveillance drones in missions in Central and West Africa.


But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.

The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping has notified Congo, Rwanda and Uganda that it intends to deploy a unit of at least three unarmed surveillance drones in the eastern region of Congo.

The action is the first step in a broader bid to integrate unmanned aerial surveillance systems, which have become a standard feature of Western military operations, into the United Nations’ far-flung peacekeeping empire.

But the effort is encountering resistance from governments, particularly those from the developing world, that fear the drones will open up a new intelligence-gathering front dominated by Western powers and potentially supplant the legions of African and Asian peacekeepers who now act as the United Nations’ eyes and ears on the ground.

“Africa must not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas,” said Olivier Nduhungirehe, a Rwandan diplomat at the United Nations. “We don’t know whether these drones are going to be used to gather intelligence from Kigali, Kampala, Bujumbura or the entire region.”

Developing countries fear Western control over intelligence gathered by the drones. Some of those concerns are rooted in the 1990s, when the United States and other major powers infiltrated the U.N. weapons inspection agency to surreptitiously collect intelligence on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s military.

The growing American use of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere to identify and kill suspected terrorists has only heightened anxieties about their deployment as part of multilateral peacekeeping missions.

U.N. officials have sought to allay the suspicions, saying there is no intention to arm the drones or to spy on countries that have not consented to their use.

The U.N. drones would have a range of about 150 miles and can hover for up to 12 hours at a time. They would be equipped with infrared technology that can detect troops hidden beneath forest canopy or operating at night, allowing them to track movements of armed militias, assist patrols heading into hostile territory and document atrocities.

“These are really just flying cameras,” said one U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “Our best method of protection is early warning. We recently had a patrol ambushed in Darfur. If you had a drone ahead of the patrol, it could have seen the ambush party.”

“If you know armed groups are moving in attack or battle formation early enough, you can warn civilians,” the official added.

The United Nations, which manages a force of more than 100,000 blue helmets in 15 peacekeeping missions, views drones as a low-cost alternative to expensive helicopters for surveillance operations.

Along with the pending deployments in the Congo, the organization has ordered a feasibility study into their use in Ivory Coast. U.N. military planners say they see a need for drones in many other missions, including Darfur, Sudan and South Sudan, where the United Nations monitors tensions along the border of the two countries. But they acknowledged that they have little hope that Sudan would permit them.

The United Nations has previously turned to the United States and other governments to provide with over-flight imagery. Rolf Ekeus, the former Swedish chief of the U.N. Special Commission in Iraq, persuaded the United States to loan the United Nations U-2 spy planes to monitor Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program in the 1990s.

More recently, Ireland, France and Belgium supplied unmanned aircraft to U.N.-backed, European-led missions in Chad, Lebanon and the Congo, and Belgium sent four drones to the Congo to help provide security for presidential and legislative elections. Two days before the 2006 election, one of the drones crashed, killing one woman and injuring two in Kinshasa, the capital.

Interest in drone technology has picked up among U.N. humanitarian and relief agencies. Last February, the U.N. Institute for Training and Research deployed the United Nations’ first drone in Port-au Prince, Haiti, to survey earthquake damage and help coordinate recovery efforts.

The use of drones in peacekeeping missions has proved more sensitive.

Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador, Masood Khan, recently told reporters that member states understand the importance of surveillance in ensuring the safety of peacekeepers. But he said there are differing views over the appropriateness of deploying drones.

Others say the dispute centers on questions about who would have access to the images and intelligence collected by the drones and whether the next step would be arming them.

To address such questions, the U.N. special committee on peacekeeping operations, which is made up of more than 140 countries, has asked the secretary general to assess the effect of drones and other modern technology on peace missions.

Herve Ladsous, the U.N. undersecretary general for peacekeeping, asked the Security Council in a closed door meeting Tuesday to support his plan for drones in Congo.

The United States, Britain, France and other Western members of the council backed the proposal, saying the United Nations needs to modernize its peacekeeping role. But China, Russia, Rwanda, Pakistan and Guatemala voiced concern, setting the stage for a contentious debate over the U.N. plan. Rwanda’s U.N. ambassador, Eugène-Richard Gasana, told the council that the U.N.’s introduction of drones carries the risk of transforming the peacekeeping mission into a belligerent force, according to a council diplomat.

But Richard Gowan, an expert on U.N. peacekeeping at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, said much of the resistance is driven by fear that drones would replace the legions of U.N. peacekeepers.

“This really boils down to a concern from the troop contributors that they are going to be sidelined. A drone is a cheaper and more efficient alternative to an infantry patrol,” said Gowan. “I think, very frankly, that a number of the large African and Asian troops contributors are worried that if the United Nations gets involved in high-tech operations like this, that their personnel will be made redundant.”source – Washington Post

by NTEB News Desk

Congo rebels demand government sign ceasefire for talks.

BUNAGANA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Congolese rebels on Thursday threatened to walk away from this week’s peace talks to end their nine-month revolt unless the government signs an official ceasefire, a demand Kinshasa dismissed as unnecessary.

The rebel March 23 Movement, preparing for talks on Friday in Kampala, capital of regional mediator Uganda, said government troops had reinforced positions in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and warned it would resist an offensive.

“If Kinshasa continues to refuse to sign a ceasefire, M23 is going to ask its delegation to return to DRC. We will wait and when they say ‘we’re ready to sign (a ceasefire)’ we’ll go back,” Jean-Marie Runiga, head of the rebels’ political wing, told reporters in Bunagana, a border town under rebel control.

The first attempt at peace talks to end the nine-month rebellion in Congo’s volatile east failed last month amid threats and accusations.

A government spokesman dismissed the rebel demand.

“There’s no point in a ceasefire. When did we declare war?” Lambert Mende told Reuters by telephone. “This group wants permission to kill Congolese without the army reacting, and we will never accept that. If they attack us, attack the people, the army will defend the people.”

Negotiations began last month after regional leaders secured a rebel pull-out from the city of Goma in Congo’s eastern North Kivu province. The front lines have been quiet since, although the talks quickly stalled in a climate of deep mistrust.

Foreign powers fear the conflict could spark another regional war in a borderlands zone that has suffered nearly two decades of turmoil. Neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda are accused by a group of U.N. experts of supporting the rebel campaign.

Successive cross-border conflicts have killed and uprooted millions in the Congo basin since the colonial era, driven by political and ethnic divisions and competition for minerals.

At first, M23, named after a 2009 peace deal for eastern Congo, said it had taken up arms because the Kinshasa government failed to honour its side of the bargain, under which rebel fighters were integrated into the army. It later broadened its goals to include the “liberation” of all of Congo and the removal of President Joseph Kabila.


M23 is led by Bosco Ntaganda, a Tutsi warlord indicted by the International Criminal Court. This week the United Nations blacklisted M23 along with another Congolese rebel group.

“We need encouragement from the U.N., not sanctions,” said Runiga, dressed in a sharp suit and flanked by fighters clad in crisp fatigues and brandishing automatic rifles.

Nestled in lush green hills less than a kilometre from the Ugandan frontier, Bunagana fell into rebel hands last July after government soldiers fled.

The other group hit with U.N. sanctions was the FDLR, or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. The FDLR is a Rwandan Hutu group that opposes Rwandan President Paul Kagame‘s Tutsi-led government and includes militiamen suspected of participating in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

One M23 commander, Bertrand Bisimwa, said Congo’s government had air-dropped FDLR fighters to reinforce army positions near Goma last month. Officials from the government were not immediately available to comment on the accusation.

The U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, MONUSCO, rejected talk that the number of FDLR fighters had risen to several thousand.

MONUSCO said on Wednesday that the group had “no more than a few hundred” fighters in the region and dismissed claims that weapons and munitions were being supplied to the FDLR.


By Elias Biryabarema | Reuters

Affleck calls for stronger US leadership in Congo.


WASHINGTON (AP) — With an atypical audience — members of Congress — actor and director Ben Affleck read from a script with a pointed message: A desperate humanitarian situation in Congorequires a stronger display of U.S. leadership, and it will get worse without one.

Glancing down at prepared testimony, Affleck told the House Armed Services Committee that he had traveled to Congo regularly in recent years, seeing both the effects of violence and the potential of the African country. He called for the U.S. to show moral leadership in the region, saying it didn’t require a deep investment of tax payer money.

“They deserve better than this cycle of violence and upheaval,” he said of the people of Congo.

“Without persistent, high-level leadership by the United States, the key players will not come to the table and do their part,” he said.

Affleck, who wore a charcoal gray suit and a blue tie, said the U.S. should lead an effort to reshape the United Nations’ role in the region. Despite a U.N. presence in the country for 15 years, and a major peacekeeping operation in the country, a rebel group called the M23 has operated in eastern Congo, terrorizing the region.

Affleck was one of five witnesses — and the only one asked to pose for pictures by starry-eyed aides — to testify to the committee about Congo. The African country of about 68 million people has seen an estimated 5 million people killed since a second regional war began there in 1997. State Department officials have described the situation in Congo as the most volatile in Africa.

The “Argo” star told the committee he planned to travel to Congo again next year. His place at the committee table among academic experts and government officials came through his experience founding the East Congo Initiative, a nonprofit organization that helps direct aid to the war-torn region. The group, which was founded in 2010, says it is the first U.S. organization to focus solely on aiding eastern Congo.

Affleck’s earnestness — and apparent knowledge of the conflict — seemed to impress committee members.

As the actor-director completed his testimony, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the committee’s chairman, said that he “knew nothing about the Congo other than what I learned today.” He thanked Affleck and the other witnesses for informing him.

Later in the afternoon, Affleck met in private with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Massachusetts native posed for a photo with the committee and stood next to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the committee’s chairman.


Follow Associated Press writer Henry C. Jackson on Twitter http:/


By HENRY C. JACKSON | Associated Press

International Criminal Court acquits Congolese militia leader of crimes against humanity.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The International Criminal Court has acquitted a Congolese militia leader of all charges of leading fighters who destroyed a strategic village in eastern Congo in 2003, hacking to death and raping some 200 people including women and children.

Tuesday’s acquittal of Mathieu Ngudjolo is only the second verdict in the court’s 10-year history and the first time it has cleared a suspect.

Prosecutor Fatou Besnouda immediately indicated she would appeal and ask for Ngudjolo to be kept in custody.

Ngudjolo’s acquittal comes as parts of eastern Congo remain virtual war zones even today, with rebel fighters believed to be backed by Rwanda locked in conflict with government forces.

Ngudjolo, wearing a suit and tie, stood up and showed no emotion as Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte acquitted him.

 Source: YAHOO NEWS.
By The Associated Press | Associated Press

Congo rebel group demands president’s resignation.

  • FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2012 file photo, Congolese M23 rebel president Jean-Marie Runiga poses for a portrait at his hideout near the Congo-Uganda border town of Bunagana. The rebel group starting negotiations with the Congolese government wants the country’s president to resign, according to a rebel document shown to The Associated Press on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 by Jean-Marie Runiga, president of the M23 rebels. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

    Enlarge Photo

    Associated Press/Jerome Delay, File – FILE – In this Dec. 5, 2012 file photo, Congolese M23 rebel president Jean-Marie Runiga poses for a portrait at his hideout near the Congo-Uganda border town of Bunagana. …more 

BUNAGANA, Congo (AP) — The rebel group starting negotiations with the Congolese governmentwants the country’s president to resign, according to a rebel document.

Jean-Marie Runiga, president of the M23 rebels said to be backed by Rwanda, on Thursday showed The Associated Press a list of demands that he said will be presented to the Congolese government.

The rebels’ demand for Congolese President Joseph Kabila to step down comes as a leading advocacy group says the president is “unable to effectively govern the country.”

The M23 recently withdrew from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in eastern Congo, in order to begin negotiations with Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s government.

But the Congolese government and the rebels have so far disagreed on how the negotiations should be conducted, who they should include and what issues should be discussed.

On Monday, the M23 delegation refused to attend the preliminary meetings in Uganda after the government representative objected to their opening speech, saying it was “insulting.”

The rebels came back to the table Tuesday, but observers are skeptical that the talks will lead to concrete results and resolve the conflict. The delays have already increased tensions, threatening to restart the fighting.

Speaking from eastern Congo territory that the rebels control, Jean-Marie Runiga, the president of the M23, said if given the opportunity, the rebels could retake the city of Goma in eastern Congo.

“The information that I have is that Kinshasa is reinforcing its positions. It is bringing troops, weapons and ammunition. If we are attacked, we grant ourselves the right to defend ourselves and go very far. And this time we will not retreat,” Runiga told the Associated Press from his living room in the border town of Bunagana.

Since the beginning of the conflict, the M23 rebels have called for the Kabila government to fully implement the 2009 peace agreement. As the rebels gained ground in eastern Congo, including the seizure last month of the provincial capital Goma, their demands have increased to encompass a wide range of issues in Congo including governance, the economy and social matters.

The full list of M23’s demands, seen by AP, includes the resignation Kabila and the dissolution of the national assembly. The rebels call for the creation of a transitional government that would run the country while new elections are organized, starting with local elections.

The president of M23 says the rebels’ political branch should resume its control of the city of the Goma as a precondition to the negotiations. He and Gen. Sultani Makenga, the M23 troops commander, are staying in eastern Congo until the negotiations deal with substantial issues.

“I think our members who are in Kampala represent us. In due time I will be there, too. I am waiting for things to be organized and when Kabila will be there, I will go, too,” Runiga said.

The rebels’ demands come as Congo’s president faces growing criticism for his handling of the crisis in the country’s east.

On Thursday, the Enough Project expressed concerns about Kabila’s leadership and said the current talks between the president and M23 were not inclusive enough to address wider, underlying issues in eastern Congo.

“President Kabila has now lost nearly all confidence among the Congolese people and is unable to effectively govern the country,” the group said in a policy brief.

“In order to restore political order, a national dialogue process must take place, in which leaders from across the country actively participate and decide on a national consensus to move the country forward,” said the Enough Project report. “If he does not successfully build out such a process, Kabila may not survive politically.”


By MELANIE GOUBY | Associated Press

Talks between Congo government and rebels open.

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Talks started here between the Congo government and rebels who have seized strategic parts of eastern Congo.

Ugandan Minister of Defence Chrispus Kiyonga Sunday opened the dialogue between Congo President Joseph Kabila‘s government and the M23 rebels.

Congo was represented by Foreign Affairs Raymond Tshibanda while the rebel delegation of 26 was headed by Francois Ruchogoza, executive secretary of the M23.

Ruchogoza blamed Congo’s security problems on the Congolese government‘s failure to integrate former rebels into the army, prompting them to defect and start the M23 earlier this year.

The Congolese minister protested that the M23 should not be making its specific complaints in front of the press.

 Source: YAHOO NEWS.
Associated Press

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