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Posts tagged ‘Democratic Republic of Congo’

Pope Calls on Atheists to Work With Religious Believers for Peace.


Pope Francis, celebrating his first Christmas as Roman Catholic leader, on Wednesday called on atheists to unite with believers of all religions and work for “a homemade peace” that can spread across the world.

Speaking to about 70,000 people from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the same spot where he emerged to the world as Pope when he was elected on March 13, Francis also made another appeal for the environment to be saved from “human greed and rapacity.”

Francis: A Pope for Our Time, The Definitive Biography 

The leader of the 1.2 billion-member Church wove his first “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and world) message around the theme of peace.

“Peace is a daily commitment. It is a homemade peace,” he said.

He said that people of other religions were also praying for peace, and – departing from his prepared text — he urged atheists to join forces with believers.

“I invite even non-believers to desire peace. [Join us] with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace,” he said, drawing sustained applause from the crowd.

Francis’ reaching out to atheists and people of other religions is a marked contrast to the attitude of former Pope Benedict, who sometimes left non-Catholics feeling that he saw them as second-class believers.

He called for “social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.”

Thousands are believed to have died in violence divided along ethnic lines between the Nuer and Dinka tribes in the country, which seceded from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war.

The pontiff also called for dialogue to end the conflicts in Syria, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq, and prayed for a “favorable outcome” to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!” he said, saying their most vulnerable victims were children, elderly, battered women and the sick.

The thread running through the message was that individuals had a role in promoting peace, either with their neighbor or between nations.

The message of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was directed at “every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty,” he said.

“God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world,” he said.

Pilgrims came from all over the world for Christmas at the Vatican and some said it was because they felt Francis had brought a breath of fresh air to the Church.

“[He] is bringing a new era into the Church, a Church that is focusing much more on the poor and that is more austere, more lively,” said Dolores Di Benedetto, who came from the Pope’s homeland, Argentina, to attend Christmas Eve Mass.

Giacchino Sabello, an Italian, said he wanted to get a first-hand look at the new pope: “I thought it would be very nice to hear the words of this pope close up and to see how the people are overwhelmed by him.”

In his speech, Francis asked God to “look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers.”

He also called for a “dignified life” for migrants, praying tragedies such as one in which hundreds died in a shipwreck off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa are never repeated, and made a particular appeal against human trafficking, which he called a “crime against humanity.”

Francis: A Pope for Our Time, The Definitive Biography 

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Nigeria ranked 4th highest slave country.


 

Nigeria-flag

The Global Index on Modern Slavery for 2013 released yesterday rated Nigeria as the fourth country with the highest numbers of slaves in the world.

The report shows that there are 701,032 estimated population in modern slavery in Nigeria. The range of the estimate spans from 670,000 to 740,000 salves in the country.

India has the highest population of slavery in the world with 13,956,010; China is rated second with 2,949,243; and Pakistan third, with 2,127,132. The report showed that 30 million people are enslaved worldwide, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labour, victims of debt bondage or even born into servitude.

Almost half are in India, where slavery ranges from bonded labour in quarries and kilns to commercial sex exploitation, although the scourge exists in all 162 countries surveyed by Walk Free, an Australian-based rights group. Its estimate of 29.8 million slaves worldwide is higher than other attempts to quantify modern slavery.

 

The International Labour Organisation estimates that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour. “Today some people are still being born into hereditary

slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia,” the report said.

“Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through ‘marriage’, unpaid labour on fishing boats, or as domestic workers. Others are tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false promises of a good job or an education.”

The Global Slavery Index 2013 defines slavery as the possession or control of people to deny freedom and exploit them for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or deception. The definition includes indentured servitude, forced marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars.

The rankings for the index are generated using three variables: a composite estimate of the number of people in slavery in each country, an estimate of the level of human trafficking from and into each country, and an estimate of the level of child and early marriage in each country.

According to the index, 10 countries, including Nigeria, alone account for three quarters of the world’s slaves. Other countries with high population of modern slavery include Ethiopia (651,000), Russia (516,000), Thailand (473,000), Democratic Republic of Congo (462,000), Myanmar (384,000) and Bangladesh (343,000). United Kingdom and Ireland tied as the least countries with low population in modern slavery.

The index also ranked nations by prevalence of slavery per head of population. By this measure, Mauritania is worst, with almost 4 percent of its 3.8 million people enslaved. Estimates by other organisations put the level at up to 20 percent.

Chattel slavery is common in Mauritania, meaning that slave status is passed down through generations. “Owners” buy, sell, rent out or give away their slaves as gifts.

After Mauritania, slavery is most prevalent by population in Haiti, where a system of child labour known as “restavek” encourages poor families to send their children to wealthier acquaintances, where many end up exploited and abused. Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Gabon have the next highest prevalence rates.

At the other end of the scale, Iceland has the lowest estimated prevalence with fewer than 100 slaves.

Next best are Ireland, Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark, although researchers said slave numbers in such wealthy countries were higher than previously thought.

Source: Radio Biafra.

“Presidents For Life” Fight For Re-election; Audit Finds Billion Dollar Loss Of Nigerian Oil Profits; Conflict Across Great Lakes Region Prompts Confab; Zuma Cozies Up To Nuclear Power.


Faure
By Global Information Network (GIN)

Jul. 30 (GIN) – Ruling parties in Togo, Zimbabwe, Mali and Guinea Bissau are looking to take one more bite of the apple and snatch one more electoral victory, deflating hopes by opposition parties to bring new faces and fresh ideas to the top offices.
Early returns in Togo and Mali have some crying foul. “It’s a sham amid massive corruption and proven fraud,” declared Agbeyome Kodjo, a former prime minister of the West African nation of Togo, whose party Togo Solidarity (OBUTS) joined with Let’s Save Togo for the elections.

Early results show Togo’s ruling party of Faure Gnassingbe winning two-thirds of parliamentary seats, allowing the president’s family to continue its 46 year-long grip on power.

Faure’s father, Eyadema Gnassingbe, came to power through a coup in 1967 and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005, when his son was installed by the military.

Gnassingbe’s party will now control 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of 81 seats.  Observers from the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS have said that the elections were held in acceptable conditions.

Zimbabwe is slated to vote on July 31, Malians voted July 28, while Guinea Bissau is due in November.

Challengers to the firmly entrenched leaders appear to face insurmountable odds. The seemingly unbeatable so-called “Presidents for Life” include Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (25 years), Paul Biya of Cameroon (29 years), Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (31 years), Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola (32 years) and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (nearly 32 years).

Meanwhile, hundreds of comments crowded the website My Continent – Africa on the “Presidents for Life” topic. http://mycontinent.co/Ditactors.php  Jackson of Uganda, speaking of the aging leaders, wrote:”Their overstay has affected our development, they are only after empowering their friends and families, the rest is history.” Added Nana Debrah Bekoe Isaac of, Ghana: “How can some people be so power glutton? Staying in power for over two decades is too bad. African leaders should change.” w/pix of F. Gnassingbe

REPORT OF BILLION-DOLLAR LOSS TO OIL FRAUD DIMS OIL WEALTH DREAMS

Jul. 30 (GIN) – Nigeria lost billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over a 2-year period as the nation suffered from crumbling infrastructure, polluted lakes and rivers, joblessness and a growing insurgency now operating nationwide. A damning auditor’s report of fraud, mismanagement and corruption comes as neighbor countries Uganda and Ghana are becoming oil giants themselves.

The amount of potential oil revenues lost to oil theft, from 2009-2011, is estimated at approximately $10.9 billion, according to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

“Over 136 million barrels … were lost to crude oil theft and sabotage,” said Ledum Mitee, a former activist with the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. Mitee heads the National Stakeholders Working Group for the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, an appointment approved by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

In addition to oil theft and pipeline vandalism, the audit blamed a poorly defined pricing methodology, a dilapidated refining sector and excessive fuel subsidy for significantly reducing government revenue from the oil sector.

While the country pumped more oil, noted the report, there was no measurable improvement in the standard of living of the people and the ever-expanding population of the poor.

Anthony Ebipade, a former fighter in the Niger Delta, observed:”Since our people’s livelihoods have been destroyed through oil spillage and gas flaring, coupled with the poor quality of human potential owing to poor education, the easiest option is illegal business such as oil bunkering.”

Nnimmo Bassey of the Mother Earth Foundation added:”As we see clearly, neither farming nor fishing thrives in polluted and severely degraded places like the Niger Delta. This entrenches unemployment, poverty and disease.”

Writing from Uganda, journalist Byaruhanga Chris of the Ugandan daily New Vision asked when Uganda would take similar measures with its new oil income.

“So what’s the delay? Why has Uganda been slow to prioritize an already tried and tested transparency tool, especially now that the country is facing some of the biggest corruption scandals of its time?  Why can’t we, the citizens, be told how money is exchanging hands in the oil and gas sector?”

AS CONFLICTS MOUNT, REGIONAL LEADERS TO MEET IN KENYA FOR SPECIAL SUMMIT

Jul 30 (GIN) – Nairobi will be the venue for a major summit on growing flashpoints in the Great Lakes region, including renewed hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, tension among the two Sudans over the use of oil pipeline and rebellions, the pacification of Somalia and crisis in the Central African Republic.

Heads of states and governments from the Great Lakes region will also discuss the issue of refugees in the region, regional economic integration, investments in infrastructure and increased regional trade.

Kenya has been lobbying the international community for support to resettle refugees residing in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in northern Kenya and those living in other urban cities and towns. Nairobi’s involvement in Somalia has been a burden, said Minister Ken Vitisia, “both in terms of refugees and our presence militarily. It is very important that we find a common ground on this problem.”

The leaders expected to attend include the presidents South Sudan, Sudan, Angola, Zambia, the Central Africa Republic and the DR Congo.  The UN and development partners such as the African Development Bank, African Union and the World Bank will also attend.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has engulfed other neighbors such as Rwanda and Uganda. There are also emerging tensions between Sudan and Uganda. Khartoum has filed a complaint with the African Union and the Great Lakes bloc over Uganda’s alleged support for rebel insurgencies against Sudan.

Sudan was alarmed after Sudanese opposition parties and rebels signed a charter dubbed the “New Dawn” in Kampala last January whose aim, according to Sudan, is to topple Omar al-Bashir’s regime.

Kenya is hosting the meeting while it seeks regional support for a non-permanent  seat at the United Nations Security Council for a two year period (2017-2018)

The summit kicks off July 31. w/pix of Somali refugees recently arrived

SOUTH AFRICA COZIES UP TO NUCLEAR POWER, DISMAYING CRITICS

Jul 30 (GIN) – President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in three reciprocal working visits this year with nuclear cooperation high on the agenda at the meetings.

Russia is reportedly seeking to provide South Africa with uranium enrichment, supply, reactor technology and localization of nuclear skills. French and Chinese investors will have supporting roles.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Energy praised nuclear power stations for holding “tremendous benefits” for South Africa.

“Most importantly, it will leapfrog South Africa into the knowledge economy, as well as massive industrial development,” said Energy Minister Dipuo Peters.

But Democratic Alliance MP Jacques Smalle said South Africa did not need new nuclear power plants to complement its energy mix.

“In fact, the program could cost the taxpayer up to one trillion rand,” he told the House. A project of such magnitude was “completely unaffordable”.

“We are certain that the corruption [involved with] such a nuclear build would dwarf the arms deal,” Smalle said. “Instead of building new nuclear power plants, South Africa should increase its natural gas footprint.”

Zuma’s embrace of nuclear power, including taking over the chair of the National Nuclear Energy Coordinating committee, dismayed South Africa’s Greenpeace environmentalists.

“The confirmation of the take-over and the underhanded manner in which Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe was replaced both highlight the continued lack of transparency and ongoing secrecy by government when it comes to the country’s nuclear energy plans,” said Greenpeace activist Ferrial Adam.

He warned: “Even putting aside the issues of safety, security, and waste management, South Africa cannot afford new nuclear power plants and the stubbornness of the government on its delusions of grandeur would drive the country to bankruptcy.”

 Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

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.
Source: NEWSmax.com

UN: Girls as Young as Six Raped by Congolese Soldiers.


UNITED NATIONS — Democratic Republic of Congo troops raped at least 97 women and 33 girls, some as young as six, in the country’s volatile east after they fled from advancing M23 rebels in late November, according to a U.N. report released on Wednesday.

The majority of the rapes by the Congolese army (FARDC) occurred in the eastern town of Minova during a two-day period, and most cases documented by U.N. Joint Human Rights Office followed the same pattern, the report said.

“FARDC soldiers entered houses, usually in groups of three to six and, after threatening the inhabitants, looted whatever they could find,” the Joint Human Rights Office, which is part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, wrote in its report on abuses in eastern Congo between Nov. 15 and Dec. 2.

“One or two of the soldiers would leave with the looted goods and at least one would stand guard as the remaining FARDC soldiers raped women and girls in the house,” the report, based on more than 350 testimonies, said. “Most victims were raped by more than one soldier.”

Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters the authorities were determined to punish the culprits.

“Military reforms are underway and we’ve also taken very severe action against those who were involved, either directly or indirectly,” he said, speaking from the capital Kinshasa.

Twelve senior officers, including the commanders and deputy commanders of the 41st and 391st battalions, have been suspended over the Minova incidents and “were to be put at the disposal of military justice authorities,” the U.N. paper added.

The 391st battalion was trained by the United States in 2010 as “a model for future reforms within the Congolese armed forces,” according to the U.S. Africa Command website.

The U.S. Defense Department said last month it condemned the crimes in Minova “irrespective of which unit is accused” and that U.S. training included teaching respect for human rights and prevention of gender-based violence.

The report said the United Nations threatened on Feb. 4 to withdraw support for battalions 41 and 391 over the accusations of rights abuses in Minova but decided to continue working with them after the commanders and deputy commanders were suspended.

M23 REBELS ACCUSED AS WELL

After provincial capital Goma and the town of Sake fell to M23 rebels, the report said thousands of Congolese troops fled in a disorganized manner toward Minova, where they “committed mass rape and other acts of sexual violence, as well as cases of arbitrary execution, mistreatment and systematic looting.”

A further 11 Congolese soldiers have been arrested and are awaiting trial in relation to incidents in Minova, although the U.N. report said only two of them face charges of rape and another two are accused of murder.

The arrest of a “select few” soldiers would not cure the underlying problems that lead to regular human rights abuses by the Congolese army — known as one of the most brutal and ill disciplined in the world — said Samuel Dixon, policy adviser for Oxfam in the eastern city of Goma.

“When soldiers are free to extort, rape and abuse the population as they please, local people are condemned to live in constant fear of any man in uniform,” Dixon added.

The U.N. report also documented widespread looting, at least 11 arbitrary executions and 59 cases of sexual violence carried out by rebels during the M23 occupation of Goma and Sake

“The victims, mostly wives of FARDC soldiers who had fled during the M23 advance, were raped,” the report said.

M23 began taking 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.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Report: Most Rape Victims in Conflict Zones Are Children.


LONDON — Most victims of sexual violence in conflict zones are children who are suffering rape and abuse at an appalling rate, said campaigners who described the attacks as the “hidden horrors of war.”

In the worst-affected countries, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, children made up more than 70 percent of victims, said a report by charity Save the Children published on Wednesday.

The study contained harrowing stories of children being killed after being raped and of others who were abducted and abused by armed forces and groups. It also said children as young as two were being attacked by opportunistic predators including teachers, religious leaders and peacekeepers.

Many survivors were cast out from society after the attacks.

“It is shocking that in conflict zones around the world, children are being raped and abused at such an appalling rate,” said Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth. “Sexual violence is one of those hidden horrors of war and the damage it wreaks ruins lives.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has been campaigning to raise awareness of the issue and recently met victims in Democratic Republic of Congo with actress and U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie.

The issue will be on the agenda at a meeting of G8 countries’ foreign ministers hosted by Hague in London on Wednesday and Thursday.

Save the Children found more than half of victims of sexual violence in conflict zones were children. It cited a study in Liberia, still recovering from a civil war that ended a decade ago, which found more than 80 percent of victims in 2011-12 were younger than 17. Almost all were raped.

In post-conflict Sierra Leone, more than 70 percent of the sexual violence cases seen by the International Rescue Committee were girls under 18, and more than a fifth of those were under 11, the report said.

In Democratic Republic of the Congo nearly two-thirds of sexual violence cases recorded by the United Nations in 2008 involved children, mostly adolescent girls.

Save the Children spoke to a girl named Pamela, in Democratic Republic of Congo, who was attacked and raped near a refugee camp where she had fled after her village was attacked.

“I’d been in the camp for three days. I’d gone to collect water, and as I was leaving the water point I met three boys. They grabbed me. One took my legs and the other took my hands. I tried to fight them off.

“After the rape I wanted to leave the house and return home. But the people told my mother and she said I had to stay there. I didn’t want a husband because I was still a girl.”

Rejected by her community, Pamela was forced to stay with her attacker and become his wife. He abandoned her when she was seven months’ pregnant.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Congolese Warlord Leaves Rwanda to Face Charges.


KIGALI— A Congolese warlord accused of war crimes charges was flown out of Rwanda bound for the International Criminal Court in the Hague on Friday, four days after he surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, the Rwandan foreign minister said.
Bosco Ntaganda has just taken off from Kigali in custody of ICC officials following cooperation between Rwanda, US and Dutch governments,” Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Twitter.
The International Criminal Court confirmed he was on his way to the Netherlands. It would soon set a date for his first appearance in court to confirm his identity, it said in a statement.
A Reuters witness earlier saw a blacked-out U.S. Embassy vehicle under police escort drive along the perimeter of Kigali’s international airport. Shortly after, a private jet took off.
Ntaganda, a rebel commander nicknamed “the Terminator,” walked off the street and gave himself up to the U.S. Embassy on Monday after a 15-year career that spanned a series of Rwandan-backed rebellions in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
He asked to be moved to the ICC where he faces charges of recruiting child soldiers, murder, ethnic persecution, sexual slavery and rape during the 2002-3 conflict in northeastern Congo’s gold mining Ituri district.
“Bosco’s arrest won’t bring peace to the eastern Congo, but Bosco’s arrest does spell a victory in the battle against impunity and the dismantling to one of the barriers to a peace process in the country,” Jason Stearns of the Rift Valley Institute wrote on Friday.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: NEWSmax.com

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