Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Zimbabwe: The Mickey Mouse Kleptocracy

BBC News reports

Zimbabwe outlines plans for 'Disneyland in Africa'

                                   The Victoria Falls resort town will host the multi-million dollar complex

Zimbabwe plans to build a "Disneyland in Africa" at the world famous Victoria Falls to boost tourism, a government minister has told the BBC.

The government would spend more than $300m (£193m) on the theme park, said Tourist Minister Walter Mzembi.
Zimbabwe is trying to rebuild its tourism industry after a decade of conflict and hyperinflation.
President Robert Mugabe was elected for a seventh term in peaceful but disputed elections last month.
Zimbabwe is not leveraging the Victoria Falls enough, Mr Mzembi told the BBC on Tuesday, describing it as a "sleeping giant".
"It's a wake-up call for us...we must build a new tourism facility with an impact," he said.
"We think it should be modelled along the size and the kind of vision that is on Disneyland, including hotels, entertainment parks, restaurants, conferencing facilities. This is the vision and we need people who can run with it."
This is truly batshit crazy I guess $300 million US gives huge opportunities for all the Crocodiles to further enrich themselves. Victoria Falls came close to losing it's World Heritage Site status in 2010. 
One of Africa’s most famous landmarks, Victoria Falls, is in danger of losing its status as a world heritage site following the construction of a restaurant and curio shop in the ­adjacent rainforest, which has sparked loud protests from Zimbabwean environmentalists.
Unesco first listed the falls as a world heritage site in 1989. Its status came under threat in 2007 when the United Nations agency accused Zimbabwe of “mismanagement and overdevelopment” of the site.
“A world heritage site is governed by very strict laws and, if they are transgressed, Unesco certainly has the right to revoke the status — Once again there is a very real ­possibility of that ­happening,” said Hewat.

'Free zone'
Mr Mzembi earlier told Zimbabwe's official news agency New Ziana that the government wanted to create a free zone with a banking centre "where even people who do not necessarily live in Zimbabwe can open bank accounts" .
Why would anyone in their right mind open a bank account in Zimbabwe.
He announced the plans at the UN World Tourism Organisation general assembly, which Zimbabwe is co-hosting with Zambia.
The decision to award the conference to Zimbabwe was condemned by UN Watch, an independent human rights group based in Geneva, citing reports of human rights abuses and election rigging.
"The notion that the UN should spin this country as a lovely tourist destination is, frankly, sickening," UN Watch head Hillel Neuer said.
Exactly. Somewhat hilariously Zimbabwe have been in hot water over the falls before.
 Tourism and Hospitality Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi has said.
Eng Mzembi said only God could delist the Victoria Falls Rainforest from being one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
“No individual or grouping can delist it or downgrade it. It is only God who can delist Victoria Falls Rainforest as a natural wonder if the world comes to an end. Fortunately, the world has not ended and therefore we still have the Rainforest as a natural wonder. God as He pleases when the world comes to an end may create the Rainforest somewhere, but for all I know it will be back in Zimbabwe,” said Eng Mzembi.
He was wrong then and he appears not to have learnt from it.
The government already has plans to expand the Victoria Falls airport, saying it will invest about $150m in the project.
In the first quarter of this year, Zimbabwe's tourism authority said the country registered a 17% increase in visitors.
If the country remains stable, it says, tourism is set to contribute 15% to the country's GDP.
Over the past decade, Zimbabwe recorded the world's highest inflation with its economy in virtual collapse. However, a power-sharing deal reached after an acrimonious election in 2008 helped to stabilise the economy.
Yeah and that situation has just changed for the worse. Victoria Falls doesn't need a theme park to bring back tourists. Mugabe and his bunch of merry murders are the problem not the falls.

Rwanda: I don't believe them this time either.

The BBC reports

Rwandan Pascal Manirakiza found 'tortured' in Uganda

                                                                           Picture: Rwanda - Land of the Lost 

A Rwandan refugee who went missing in Uganda last week has been found tortured and unconscious, a Ugandan official has said.
Pascal Manirakiza's abductors had "dumped" him at a cemetery near the capital, Kampala, the official said.
Mr Manirakiza was one of four Rwandans who told the BBC last month that they were seeking asylum in Uganda.
They accused the Rwandan army of forcibly recruiting them to fight in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The army dismissed their claim, saying they must have made up their stories to get asylum.
Last week, the UN called for an investigation into the "disappearance or abduction" of three Rwandan refugees from Uganda.
Rwanda denied any involvement in the abductions.
" He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions " -  Thomas Jefferson
And that is the situation Rwanda finds itself in.  It is standard Rwandan practice to recruit forcibly  kidnap  for their proxy   M23. 

'Extradition blocked'
Police found Mr Manirakiza, 23, in an unconscious state after he was "dumped" at a cemetery by unknown men, said Douglas Asiimwe, the senior protection officer in the Ugandan prime minister's office.
"He was full of blood... He has torture marks in the back," Mr Asiimwe said.
Mr Manirakiza was being guarded at a hospital where he was receiving treatment, he said.
It was hoped that he would regain consciousness in a few days and that he would be able to shed light on who had abducted him, Mr Asiimwe said.
Last week, another of the refugees about whom the UN had expressed concern, Joel Mutabazi, an ex-Rwandan presidential guard, was placed under the protection of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's office.
He had earlier been arrested by Ugandan police on a warrant issued by Rwanda.
The UN strongly protested against his arrest and demanded that Uganda guarantee the safety of refugees.
Uganda's government then rejected a request by Rwanda to extradite him.
One of the refugees is still missing, Mr Asiimwe said.
Mr Manirakiza last month told the BBC he had been a student in Rwanda when he was forcibly recruited to fight with the M23 rebel group in DR Congo.
He managed to flee and sought asylum in Uganda, he said.
So he was a student who according to Rwanda decided to make up a story and flee Rwanda for the life of hell that refugees experience. That doesn't add up, or as Jefferson reminds us lies become habitual.
The UN and DR Congo government have repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the M23, an allegation it denies.
In 2010, Rwanda's ex-army chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa fled to South Africa.
He accused Rwanda of a failed attempt to assassinate him later that year, after he was shot and wounded in Johannesburg. Rwanda denied any involvement.
The shooting strained diplomatic relations between South Africa and Rwanda.
" Never believe anything until it has been officially denied. " - Claud Cockburn

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DR Congo: Hard Truths about Hell on Earth.

Pambazuka News reports

The Hard Truths We Must Swallow: Rwanda is Wreaking Havoc in Congo
By Alice Gatebuke

The government of Paul Kagame continues to relentlessly support, arm and command rebel groups such as the M23, which commit war crimes and human rights violations in Congo

The Rwandan Genocide was 19 years ago. Though the genocide ended in 1994, its consequences are still deeply felt today. For myself and other survivors, those memories are ever present. We have never forgotten the horrors we lived through as unimaginable violence overtook our country. We grapple with mixed emotions, trying to process and come to terms with today’s reality. Our struggle has evolved from physical survival to that of the emotional turmoil caused by our trauma. Some days, we are grateful to be alive, to breathe, and to feel. Other days are fraught with anger, guilt, and sadness. We wrestle with endless, unanswerable questions. Many days we feel unworthy to be alive. We cannot comprehend why we are still alive and why many others perished. Why me, we wonder? Why not my family or friends? We wonder why we had to witness their demise and are angry because we felt so helpless. Try as we might, we can never reverse the darkest moments of our lives. We cannot undo the damage, no matter how hard we wish we could. The genocide was real, it happened, and we live with its consequences to this very day. I was a powerless child, but still, what if there was something I could have done? And what if it happened again?

If you haven't seen Hotel Rwanda watch it.  It is sanitised but it brought home to me the horror of the situation Tutsi in Rwanda faced. The world stood back and watched or rather ignored what was happening and make no mistake it was our failure act that has led to current disaster the is the Eastern DR Congo.

                                                               Hotel Rwanda Scene 

It is precisely this fear of another genocide carried out by the perpetrators of the genocide of 1994 that motivated the current Rwandan government’s first invasion of Congo in 1996. It is this fear that has sustained the Rwandan government’s justification for repeated intervention in the Congo over the last 16 years. And it is precisely why the world continues to live with the consequences of the Rwandan Genocide. Even though as survivors of the Rwandan Genocide we understood the security the Rwandan government sought when they first invaded Congo, we did not sanction the human catastrophe they triggered. We did not sanction the torture, rape, and possible genocide of women, children, and the elderly that were targeted in Congo when the Rwandan Government sent troops inside of Congo for ‘our protection’. And we certainly did not sanction the government of Rwanda’s ‘Six-Day War’ against Uganda over a diamond mine inside Congo, leaving significant numbers of Congolese people dead, injured, and displaced. And even now, we do not sanction the violation of the United Nations arms embargo, undermining of peace deals and processes, and commanding proxy rebel groups who kill, torture, rape, and displace people, while illegally capturing cities in Congo. And most of all, we do not sanction any attempt to annex any part of Congo in our name.

The battle for Kisangani has become part of a wider rivalry for regional supremacy. To that end, Rwanda has gained territory for its proxy army from the past week's fighting. It has consolidated its control of the town's two airports, while the Ugandans have withdrawn across the nearby river Tshopo. Between the two of them, Rwanda and Uganda now hold sway over more than half of the entire country.

It happened though. Today the situation is that M23 the current successor to the then Rwandan proxy Congolese Rally for Democracy is causing the havoc along with the remnants of the of the genocidal regime that supervised in a period of 100 days the killing of a million Rwandan Tutsi the FDLR. 

Since the first invasion, more than five million people have died in Congo, making it the deadliest conflict since the Second World War. And many of those deaths lie at the hands of the Rwandan government. These are hard truths we must swallow. Not only must we come to terms with crimes that were committed against us, we must now deal with crimes committed in our names. These crimes are not simply committed in our names, the survivors of the Rwandan Genocide, but in the name of the entire global community that stands still, providing tacit approval. They are also committed for the same international community that justifies, excuses, and protects the Rwandan government, as it continues to wreak havoc in the Congo. Though we could not stop or stand up against the violent acts that were committed against us during the Rwandan genocide, we can and we must stop and stand up against crimes committed against others, crimes committed in our name in Congo. 

I don't buy into the fear of another genocide lie that the Rwandan Government continues to push. The bottom line is that the FDLR isn't capable of overthrowing the Rwandan regime  Its current strength is thought to be 2000 combatants. It is capable of being a pain in the arse though, but the idea that they could launch a new genocide in Rwanda is laughable. Rwanda has one foreign policy objective in the DR Congo and that is economic colonialism. Six million Congolese have died because of that.  

After sixteen years of invasion and intervention through proxy groups, it is still difficult for people in the international community to accept that the Rwandan government is guilty of anything but justified intervention in Congo. But members of the international community must look past the glowing economic reviews, look past the constant denials and well-oiled public relations machine, and deal with the hard truths. The Rwandan government is committing unspeakable crimes against humanity in the Congo under false pretenses, and we must stop it. U.S. President Barack Obama understood this when as senator, he authored and passed into law the Democratic Republic of Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act, PL 109-456 in 2006 that called for accountability for those of Congo's neighbors that destabilize the country. And he understood it last summer when he cut $200,000 in military aid to Rwanda. And he understood it last December when he personally made a call to Rwandan President Paul Kagame and asked him to cease support of the M23 rebel group, currently wreaking havoc in Congo.

I actually think the tide has turned with regard to the international community supporting Rwanda. The problem seems to be that Rwanda refuses to see that and continues to attempt to impose its economic imperialistic goals on the Eastern DR Congo.

Despite all these steps from the Obama administration to address the conflict, the Rwandan government continues to relentlessly support, arm, and command rebel groups such as the M23, while these groups continue to commit war crimes and human rights violations in Congo. It is precisely because we refuse to swallow these hard truths that the Rwandan government continues to commit such atrocities unchallenged and with impunity. If we can muster the courage to face these truths, we can impose accountability measures consistent with the degree of suffering and instability wrought by the Rwandan government against the Congolese people. We can and we should sanction and impose travel bans on and freeze the assets of identified Rwandan military personnel responsible for committing atrocities in Congo. And we should cut or withhold military aid to a dangerous regime that wages and sponsors war and conflict in the territory of another nation. 

I agree. Rwanda will not respond to the carrot and so it must be the whip. I would prefer that whip to target the regime and not the people of Rwanda who aren't complicit in the crimes of the Rwandan leadership.

Survivors of the Rwandan Genocide mourned and commemorate the 19th anniversary of the genocide this past spring. As we commemorate our loved ones, we continue to grapple with traumas of our past, and issues of our present. Our responsibility lies in what we do with our future, and how we stand up to evil perpetrated against our neighbors. We, along with the rest of the world, must no longer refuse to swallow difficult and painful truths, and dedicate consistent focus and action towards resolving the deadliest conflict since the Second World War in Congo.

" I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts. "
Abraham Lincoln

The writing's on the wall and Kigame needs some reading lessons.

* Alice Gatebuke is a Rwandan genocide and war survivor, Cornell University graduate, and a human rights activist. She is a co-founder of African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN).

Alice's voice is more powerful than I think she suspects. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

DR Congo: The US weighs in on the Eastern DR Congo

All Africa reports

United States Department of State

(Washington, DC)

Congo-Kinshasa: Statement on Situation in Eastern Congo

People displaced by fighting between M23 and FARDC set up camp on the outskirts of Goma. Photo: MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti

The United States is alarmed by the escalating fighting between the M23 armed group and the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in eastern Congo. We condemn the actions of the M23, which have resulted in civilian casualties, attacks on the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO), and significant population displacements. We are also concerned by reports of shelling across the Rwandan border, including credible UN reports that the M23 has fired into Rwandan territory. We call on the M23 to immediately end the hostilities, lay down their arms, and disband, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.
How interesting and the Rwandan line.
Rwanda's army has warned neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, who it accuses of deliberate bombing over the border, that it will not stand by "indefinitely", it said in a statement late Friday.
Given the Rwandan regimes inability to separate actual facts from convenient fictions I guess you can make a judgement who to trust. I actually wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if M23 fired on Rwandan instructions. 
We commend the actions of MONUSCO to protect civilians in and around Goma. Attacks against UN installations and personnel are unacceptable. We are deeply concerned about evidence of increasing ethnic tensions in Goma and call on all parties to avoid any actions that could exacerbate such tensions.
France 24 reports

The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has called for an investigation after two protesters died of gunshot wounds near one of its bases.

"The head of MONUSCO deplores the death of two civilians who were killed in demonstrations in Goma on Saturday and has called for a joint inquiry by the DRC police and MONUSCO’s police cell," the UN said in a statement.
Witnesses told AFP that Uruguayan peacekeepers shot dead two people who were part of a crowd attempting to storm the mission's base near the airport during Saturday's protest.

That is problematic, it is hard to praise MONUSCO protection of civilians while they are shooting them. I feel that this situation has been allowed to get out of control. The anger of the Gomatricians is understandable but not helpful at this stage.

It might be wise for MONUSCO forces to increase their presence on the ground in Goma. I have heard several rumours of incidents against Tutsi although none seem to be confirmed at this stage. The last thing needed at the moment is a some freelance ethnic cleansing. Lets remember that many if not all the Congolese Tutsi do not support M23. I have yet to meet any that do. 

The State Department are correct to be concerned, this has the potential to escalate into ethnic cleansing   genocide against Congolese Tutsi and that has the potential to send the whole region up in flames. Make no mistake Rwanda is looking for any excuse it can find to change the situation on the ground to one that suits it.

We urgently call on the DRC and Rwandan governments to exercise restraint to prevent military escalation of the conflict or any action that puts civilians at risk. We reiterate our call for Rwanda to cease any and all support to the M23 and to respect DRC's territorial integrity, consistent with U.N. Security Council resolutions and its commitments under the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework. We also call on the DRC to take all prudent steps to protect civilians and to take precautions that FARDC shells do not inadvertently land in Rwandan territory. We urge MONUSCO and the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism to promptly and thoroughly investigate charges of cross-border shelling. We urge all parties to facilitate access for humanitarian organizations assisting populations in need.
That is good advice and I hope that all pay heed to it.
The United States fully supports the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework signed by the DRC, Rwanda, and neighboring governments in February 2013 as the basis for a political dialogue to resolve the longstanding conflict in the region. We also believe any political settlement of the conflict must include accountability for human rights atrocities committed by leaders of the M23 and other armed groups, including the FDLR. The United States stands ready to consider further targeted sanctions against the leaders of the M23 and other armed groups and those who support them.
Targeting the M23 ( and other armed groups ) leadership with further sanctions is will achieve bugger all. Sanctions if they are to work need to targeted at those financing and providing weapons to them. In M23's case that is the leaders of Rwanda, should it emerge that the Congolese government are supporting the FDLR rebels then sanctions should also be applied. 

Accountability for human rights atrocities as part of a political settlement seems to me unworkable. Former M23 leader General Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the ICC after a split in M23 his other option was death.

Ntaganda, a former general nicknamed "The Terminator" and widely seen as the instigator of the M23 group's rebellion against Kinshasa last year, is wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape, murder and recruiting child soldiers.

It is hard to see how a political settlement with his former colleagues would work if it involved a negotiation to surrender followed by a life sentence for crimes against humanity. I do not think a political settlement is possible with regard to the M23 leadership, the term the State Department is looking for is " unconditional surrender "

Kinshasa I suspect has come to a similar conclusion hence the Congolese indifference to the Kampala peace process. Kinshasa seem to be investing some long overdue effort into professionalising FARDC. Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa notes.

The retirement of 322 colonels and generals in a July 7 decree also simplified things, although none if any of these commanders were on the front lines.

Of course, the problems of the Congolese army are far from over. As argued here before, the real challenge of army reform lies in tackling the culture of patronage, racketeering and impunity that undermines military discipline and any sense of hierarchy in the armed forces.

The last thing Kinshasa wants is to integrate M23 officers and soldiers into FARDC given that they are specialists in the problems that Stearns identifies and have already proved their disloyalty to the Congolese State.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

DR Congo: Batshit Crazy by Kinshasa

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports. As this is a news story I would usually put in some comments but I have been stuffing around for so long on this it will be probably be fixed soon. New Zealand readers think Nova Pay and then be grateful we have a decent banking system even if there is a fair amount of batshit crazy around Nova Pay. It is a Google / Hamish translation and any errors are mine.

In the DRC, banking ... without bank

                                                   Photo: Radio Okapi / John Bompengo 

By Chantal Faida,  Goma

More than a year has passed since the Congolese government decided direct banking remuneration of its employees across the country. This decision continues to raise the ire of those working in rural areas where there is no bank.

Jules Alimasi is a teacher in a secondary school in Walikale. It is in a bank in Goma, 220 miles away, his salary (70,000 Congolese francs, or about 65 euros) is paid. The road is long, dilapidated and a one-way trip will cost him 30,000 francs. In Goma, he manages to stay with family, he will tell others about places to stay. Meanwhile, students must wait for him to return to complete exams and finish the school year.

A month had 36 or 40 days in some state offices

Teachers, doctors, judges, police, military, regardless of where they are stationed are now paid through the bank. The reason, according to the Prime Minister Matata Ponyo, is to keep track of the number of public personnel. Previously, salaries were paid ​​using the lists held by the public accountants who moved from the city to rural areas. But public accountants liked to inflate the number of public employees as well as
 delay paydays so a month had 36 or 40 days in some state offices. To avoid these scams, we changed the system: every employee must get their own salary from the bank, even if there is no bank in its locality.

But Jules Alimasi can do more. That is why he decided to join the protesters outside the office of the Provincial Minister of Education of Goma, Thursday, June 2, 2013. "The new banking system hampers our work. This consumes our time, energy and costs us. And ultimately, our salary is spent before we even return to our jobs," he goes banner in hand. "They have to wait days and days before our windows" Given the international bank credit BIAC / Goma, where a long queue of employees waiting to be paid is combined under a scorching sun, Joceline Muyembo, also a teacher, looks visibly dejected. She was brought cold water and a chair and it was with difficulty that she talks:. "It's been three days here and I'm going back and forth to the bank I had leave everything as we need my pay for my family and me. The worst part is that my name is not on the new list, because I'm new and my number is still being processed. They asked me to wait because I am a special case. Enough is enough, the state must stop taking abrupt action is inhuman, " she laments.

A banker instead explains. "We serve our customers without any discrimination Only in the case of public servants, we must first process all transfer orders and paperwork then they rush to our branches in the city before being informed if the money is available. Thus they are forced to wait days and days before we can pay out. We are not there for nothing. "

Discovery 3500 officials fictitious

A Cabinet Minister's aide in charge of education in North Kivu, Vincent M., criticizes the decision bank payments."Every day, we manage complaints from public servants , as well as marches and demonstrations by them, especially those based in rural areas where there are no financial institutions. We sent Kinshasa a report about the situation regarding pay in the province of North Kivu and we hope that a solution will be found shortly. The error that the Prime Minister has made is to generalize the payroll system through the bank without consulting relevant government agencies on workability of this decision. "

In May 2013, during a press conference in Kinshasa, the Congolese Prime Minister had welcomed the benefits of the new payroll system. Including the discovery of 3500 fictitious public servants throughout the Congolese territory, saving 5 million U.S. dollars.

For trade unions, organizations of human rights and some opposition political parties, the unilateral decision of the government must be modified or corrected to prevent inequality between urban and rural workers. Change, yes, but under certain conditions.

DR Congo: M23 want to count worms ?

Reuters reports

UN Intervention Brigade fires on Congo rebel positions

* Fighting continues near Goma in eastern Congo
* Congo army says it has pushed back M23 rebel thrust
* U.N. brigade backed Congo army in clash - spokesman (Adds details, French condemnation, analyst comment)
By Kenny Katombe
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug 23 (Reuters) - A special U.N. brigade formed to neutralise armed groups in Congo has taken its first military action, firing artillery at rebels menacing the border city of Goma, U.N. and Congolese military officers said on Friday.
The force of Tanzanian, South African and Malawian soldiers was backing the Congolese army against M23 fighters, whose brief occupation of the city last year damaged the image of the U.N. mission in Congo and led the Security Council to create the brigade.
The United Nations pledged in July to prevent the rebels from getting back within range of the city of about a million people on the Rwandan border.
But M23 this week entered a security zone ringing Goma that was established by the new, robustly-mandated Intervention Brigade earlier this month.
At least three people were killed on Thursday when shells landed on the city.
Interestingly it may not only have been M23 that fired on Goma on Thursday. Several reports out of Goma suggest that some shells seemed to originate from Rwanda to the west rather than M23 to the north.
"Of course we responded with artillery as we cannot accept any threat to the population. That's why we retaliated," U.N. Lieutenant-Colonel Felix Basse told Reuters by telephone from Goma referring to Thursday's fighting.
Clashes between M23 and the Congolese army resumed early on Friday with peacekeepers again involved to hold back the rebels.
"Not just the Intervention Brigade but the complete MONUSCO force is acting to protect Goma," Basse said, adding that the army had by late afternoon taken territory from the rebels, including a strategic hill in Kibati, 11 km (7 miles) north of the city.
It might be wise for MONUSCO forces to increase their presence on the ground in Goma. I have heard several rumours of incidents against Tutsi although none seem to be confirmed at this stage. The last thing needed at the moment is a some freelance ethnic cleansing. Lets remember that many if not all the Congolese Tutsi do not support M23. I have yet to meet any that do. 
A Congolese army spokesman acknowledged the brigade was supporting government troops with artillery fire.
Meanwhile an M23 spokesman claimed the rebels were trying to avoid direct clashes but would respond to attacks.
If M23 have bombed the Goma and that seems to be likely I would expect a concerted effort now to destroy them as a military unit. The expectation of the Gomatraciens has been raised and the UN and Congolese government will be only to aware that just getting a few runs on the board isn't going to be good enough this time.
"If the army carries on attacking us we're going to defend ourselves," Amani Kabasha said.
M23 has rejected responsibility for shelling Goma, but U.N. officials were quick to accuse the rebels of deliberately targeting civilians and U.N. positions. France followed suit.
" particularly condemns the attacks perpetrated by M23 against the civilian population and installations of MONUSCO, which constitute war crimes," a foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday.
The bottom line is that the world is sick of the depredations of this Rwandan backed outfit. If you want a laugh you can read the " official Rwandan position " sorry the independent government owned New Times propaganda editorial about how it is everyone's fault but Rwanda's.   
Though it received its mandate in March, only around 2,000 of the Intervention Brigade's total force of 3,000 troops are currently in place in Congo and supplies and weaponry are still en route from contributing countries.
But Jason Stearns, director of the Rift Valley Institute's Usalama Project, said the force had little choice but to engage.
"The current fighting comes at a time of almost unparalleled pressure on the U.N. mission to do something. Unfortunately, it also comes before their Intervention Brigade is completely operational," he said.
The special brigade was established after M23 fighters marched past U.N. soldiers to briefly seize Goma last November.
The Intervention Brigade is taking a long time to get deployed and operational and that is playing with fire for MONUSCO in my opinion.
The rebels withdrew after receiving promises of peace talks with the Congolese government. But the city's fall dealt a serious blow to the image of MONUSCO - with 17,000 troops the world's largest U.N. mission - and the U.N. is under pressure to ensure Goma is not retaken.
M23 seem to think peace talks are still on the agenda perhaps they have had a much needed wake up call.
Some in the Intervention Brigade's contributing countries have voiced concern over their troops' daunting task of fighting and disarming rebel groups in the difficult terrain of Congo's volatile eastern borderlands.
A military spokesman in South Africa, which saw 14 of its soldiers killed in clashes with rebels in the Central African Republic in March, said South African troops had not been involved in clashes with M23.
"The fight is taking place near where our troops are positioned. We have a defensive line but we have not engaged," Siphiwe Dlamini said.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

DR Congo: The Goma awakening. Charley Kasereka in Goma.

Charly Kasereka blogs ( Translated by Google and cleaned up by me. Any errors are mine alone )

Goma angry, walking with bodies

                                                                           Police direct protesters

Three killed including a child, and five others were injured Saturday, August 24, 2013. Shells fell on two areas of Goma in North Kivu (Ndosho and Mugunga area) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It is only 48 hours after four other shells hit that killed four people on the previous Thursday 22.
It is past 7am in Goma, a loud bang is heard and soon the news is heard by all, transmitted by bikers (motorcycle Taximen), of course with mobile phones.
The information comes in all corners of the city. The media talks about'' two people died by shells in the neighborhood Ndosho'' is what the radio and tell the social network facebook.
Journalists along with the curious head to the west of the city to verify the information. I arrive at the place called '' Three'' Paillote in the Katindo neighborhood located west of the city center on the road leading to the city of Sake.
In front of me their are a lot of people and in the middle six young men with a stretcher on their shoulders. I approach the carriers with my camera and recorder,'' You're a reporter?'' It's a muscular guy who asks me. 
'' Yes'' I replied showing my badge.
- So what happened?
- In a angry tone he replied
'' It was 7 hours ago a shell fell on my neighbor's house you see on the stretcher, it's a boy only 15 years, he was killed by the shells.
- How far are you going to go ?
- Still in an angry tone,'' Until we reach MONUSCO, to give this body.''
 The General of Police Awa Shango umia Viatl wisely redirects demonstrators who wanted to deposit the body at the base of MONUSCO (in the south of the city). Other members of the crowd wanted it taken right down to Rwanda.

A Saturday like no other on August 24 in Goma. Furious people descended onto the streets to demonstrate their anger for both victims of the shelling of the city. Protesters have even broken the doors of some shops and stores
By Midday the demonstrators moved to the centre of Goma with the body and end the march.
4:50 p.m., the city is calm again. Traffic resumes gradually. But I must admit that what I saw today is beyond my comprehension.
The population of Goma has proven it has had enough! A spontaneous gigantic march through every corner of the city? Goma has never seen that before !
Civil Society has mobilized people! Unfortunately MONUSCO fired on protesters! Shame! On the frontline, FARDC control of the situation and are contain the attacks of M23 and its allies.
Who do FARDC fight really, ask the people of Goma ? The answer is known to all.  ( Rwanda:  Hamish In Auckland )
In any case, with this awakening of the awareness of the population of Goma, MONUSCO and the Congolese government are obliged to take steps to end the adventurism of the M23! Otherwise, the young of Goma promise to show their anger "amongst the aggressors!" something they have demonstrated this Saturday after reaching the Rwandan-Congolese border (Petite Barriere Goma)

Now, we have learnt that Rwanda have positioned tanks in a village called Gachirabwenge, in the Busasamana sector, Rubavu district. It is from one of these tanks that shelled the front line as well as Kibati and they may have fired on Goma ...The Joint Verification 
Commission organisation is hard at work determining what has happened. The Commission was in Rwanda and Goma working to identify the origin of the bombs that fell on the city of Goma! It continues to monitor the situation closely and Rwanda will not have the chance to continue lying!
To be continued ...
                    Protesters this Saturday, August 24, 2013 in Goma, framed by the army and the Police
Pictures Charly Kasereka 

Rugby: 56 Years and " Down Town " Tony Brown's boys bring The Log O' Wood home.

Appropriately the  Otago Daily Times reports

                                                             The Log O' Wood

Rugby: Heart got side home - Brown

Otago Tama Tuirirangi, Paul Grant, Tony Brown, with the Ranfurly Shield after winning it off Waikato 23 aug 2013 PHOTOSPORT

Heart. That is what won the Ranfurly Shield for Otago last night, coach Tony Brown said.

''It was just all heart from the guys,'' he said.

''It is an unbelievable feeling. I can't actually realise we have knocked it off. It has been 56 years and there have been so many teams that have gone before us, so many close games.

I can't remember the number of times I have watched the TV listened to the radio and hoped for this day. The Ranfurly Shield is the NZ provincial rugbys equivalent of the British football's FA cup. Andrew Buchanan  an old friend went fairly close to mental on Facebook last night.  

Andrew Buchanan
19 hours ago
This is the greatest moment of my life. Jimbo, Kerrence, SHJ, et al. This is for all those moments when I cried, banged my head against walls, swore at strangers. Fuck, the whole goddamn shebang. It's Speights O'clock and I've no-one to share it with.

Iain Stewart
Fairly sure I could swing you the security job if the ODT decides to do get
photoed with the shield.
Like · Reply · 19 hours ago via mobile

Andrew Buchanan
Mate, there's a memory I love to share with folk. By the way, two weeks ago I was a mascot at the All Blacks' games at the Hutt Recreation Ground. Remember those hungover O'Daily mornings?
Like · 19 hours ago

A blue and gold touch couldn't resist it. 

I have witnessed more than a few of those "I cried, banged my head against walls, swore at strangers " moments. It is Andrew's birthday today but I doubt any present will come close to the one Down Town's  boys delivered yesterday. Hopefully he has got that out of his system now.  Actually I don't recall any swearing at strangers moments but there might be a reason for that as Andrew alludes in his reply to me.  

                                                             House of Pain Carisbrook. 

My one regret is that The Log O' Wood will not be defended at the House of Pain Carisbrook. 

''It is just an awesome feeling.

''The guys just went out and played for the entire 80 minutes. They went out there and put their bodies on the line.''

Brown said Otago had to stick to its patterns throughout the match.

Otago home matches at the " Brook " when Tony Brown was playing as opposed to coaching were referred to as " A party at Tony Brown's place. That it was Tony Brown an Otago Local that coached this team makes the victory even more special.

''We were all about performance in the match. We knew what we had to do to win the match and we knew it would take a massive, massive effort to win the game.''He told the team at halftime to keep doing its job, and keep knocking Waikato over.

The Ranfurly Shield is won ( and lost ) on a challenge basis, all home matches in the regular season are challenges so we will have four defences left this season assuming we can win the first three. 

He paid credit to his forward pack and the inside backs of Fumiaki Tanaka, Hayden Parker and Peter Breen.

''They just play so tough, do the right things to put us in the right places on the field. They are the three smallest guys on the field but are great competitors.''

Otago assistant coach Phil Young said it was something of a surreal moment.

A bit of Shield History I had no idea it was originally designed as a football trophy.

In 1901 the Governor of New Zealandthe Earl of Ranfurly, announced that he would present a cup to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, to be used as the prize in a competition of their choosing. When the trophy, which actually turned out to be a shield, arrived, the NZRFU decided that it would be awarded to the union with the best record in the 1902 season, and thenceforth be the subject of a challenge system. Auckland, unbeaten in 1902, were presented with the shield. The shield was also designed as a trophy for football, not rugby. This was because the picture in the centrepiece was a football one. The picture was modified by adding goal posts on the football goal that comprised the picture, to create a rugby scene.

''For me, it has been so long as a player and as a coach. I never thought this day would come,'' Young said.

''It's pretty emotional, really. They are a great bunch of lads who will fight for each other... we said to them at halftime if me and Tony [Brown] have to come out at full time and pick you up and bring you back inside we'll do it.

''It was a total team effort. Everyone gave it their all.''

A great day, today I wish I was in Dunedin I guess that is a feeling many Otagoites are struggling with. It is ironic to think that we are Rugby's IDP ( Internally Displaced People ) a subject this blog often deals with.

Friday, August 23, 2013

DR Congo,Tanzania, Zambia and Burundi: A hospital ship for Lake Tanganyika.

The Telegraph reports 

Meet Amy Lehman, the woman bringing a floating hospital to the Congo

Three years ago, Chicago doctor Amy Lehman was shipwrecked in Sub-Saharan Africa. Stranded for 36 hours on a remote beach on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, she made a decision.

"I decided to get a tattoo of the lake on my back, so I'd never get lost again," she laughs, putting down her cup of tea, throwing her waist-length salt and pepper hair over her shoulder and starting to unzip her polka dot dress in the middle of the London private members’ club where we meet.

"Would you like to see it?"

Lehman, it’s safe to say, is no wallflower. A former exotic dancer, her motto is purloined from fellow American and soul singer James Brown: "you gotta use what you got, to get what you want" – which she shouts across the table at me in a gravely voice.

Not often lost for words but I am at the moment.

What she wants is $30 million.

Saving the world

Five years ago, Lehman, 39, left her home in Chicago and moved to Tanzania. Her big idea? To provide adequate health care for three million people living on the shores of the longest lake in the world by raising enough money to build a fully functioning hospital. On a ship. It might sound bonkers. But this ambitious idea hasn't been developed in a whim.

It doesn't sound bonkers at all. Although I am starting to think Amy might be.

Lehman had been interested in Sub-Saharan Africa since her teens and saw Lake Tanganyika as a "mythical adventure designation in the heart of Africa." Then – while studying business and medicine at the University of Chicago (not to mention single-handedly raising her son) – a Tanzanian friend asked whether she'd like to go on holiday there.

It was the chance Lehman had been waiting for.

"I told him that I wanted to visit Lake Tanganyika," (pictured) she says. "He was like, 'What? No, I'm not going there. It's in the middle of nowhere!"'

So she went alone.

What she found, was a vast and poverty-stricken community, cut off from the outside world. The lake is surrounded by four countries – Congo, Tanzania, Zambia and Burundi. There are 12 million people living in its basin and no basic healthcare or services.

That is not true (The healthcare bit ), I suspect Amy didn't say that. Journalistic licence is fine but don't mislead people. Never paint a picture that demeans. My daughter is Congolese and she has read the story and that pissed her off. It may come as a surprise to some, but Africa has schools, microwave ovens they even have computers.  

"During the trip I got stuck in a typhoon,” explains Lehman, "and the air strip where I was supposed to be picked up had been washed away.

"Sitting there, in the shadow of the Eastern Congolese mountains, it dawned on me that I was in a very interesting place; somewhere with lots of geopolitical significance and millions of people living in it – yet totally unknown to the rest of the world. I found that deeply intriguing."

The ignorance of the world about central Africa is quite astonishing. 

Lake Tanganyika: a 'biodiversity hotspot'

There can be no denying that Lake Tanganyika is intriguing. It contains a fifth of the world's entire supply of fresh water, as well as mineral rich oil and gas reserves. It's also a biodiversity hotspot with hundreds of unique species. Then there are the people: the percentage of refugees and internally displaced people is very high, thanks to 20 years of regional conflict and civil war.

"So when people say they don’t know where Lake Tanganyika is, it’s like there’s a huge gap in our understanding of the world,” shrugs Lehman.

To many, her decision to leave behind a comfortable life in Chicago to work in a deprived part of the world, under physically touch circumstances and – on occasion – under protection from armed bodyguards, might seem inexplicable. Self destructive, even. But Lehman is no stranger to overcoming adversity. As a child she suffered from an autoimmune condition which forced her to spend years in a wheelchair and left her with nerve damage in her right arm. This ultimately threatened her job as a surgeon.

Following a botched operation, Lehman was forced to reconsider her career. What else could she do? "All I could think about was going back to Lake Tanganyika," she says.

So, leaving behind friends and family – “they weren’t that shocked – I’ve never taken the well trodden path in my life” – she did just that.

Quality of life on Lake Tanganyika is a perfect storm. Malaria is still the number one killer. There's incredibly high maternal mortality. And the under five death rate is a staggering 25 per cent.

"If a quarter of the children in London died before the age of five, civil society as we understand it would come to a screeching halt," says Lehman, throwing her head back and roaring with laughter at the absurdity of it all (she does this a lot).

There is a lot of truth in that. I wouldn't describe it as absurd though, criminal maybe.

The list of life threatening conditions includes typhoid, malnutrition, cholera, and measles. The few health centres dotted around the lake offer only basic care and the lack of infrastructure makes referral to hospital impossible.

Lehman is working to change that – albeit under the gaze of various sceptics.
A hospital ... on a ship?

"People get fixated with the idea of a hospital on a ship – it seems so crazy to them," she admits. "But it's really just a case of rethinking access to one of the most remote places in the world."

Remote ? I certainly don't think of it like that.

When enough money has been raised for its construction, the ship will travel around the lake, stopping at each community for a couple of weeks and responding to emergencies with the help of an ambulance boat and radio system. It will also act as a teaching hospital, with rotations for local volunteers lasting for 4-6 weeks.

Although realising the boat is still some way off ("if somebody plonked the money in our laps today, it would take eighteen months to build"), Lehman and her dedicated team have started a number of outreach programmes.

It depends on the specs of the boat. One of the traps with projects like this is that things are over specced it is often better to use simple easy to fix technology, navigation and safety systems. In the South Pacific we have learnt this lesson the hard way. Hi tech seats often don't float but wooden seats do it can be that simple and it can be the difference between life and death. 

They've already succeeded where some larger organisations have failed – delivering drops of mosquito nets, vital supplies and footballs to small communities around the lake.

They've also tackled some of the problems experienced by the female population.

“Life for women on Lake Tanganyika is hard,” says Lehman. “The day consists of hauling water and fire wood. There's no access to family planning and the birth rate is high. Education levels are low in general, but even more so for women, as they’re busy running the home. The physical work a woman has to do on a daily basis is pretty astonishing."

Most serious among the health issues affecting them is Obstetric fistula; an injury that occurs after obstructed childbirth. With no access to appropriate medical care, they are often left with permanent tears, which – to put it delicately – cause embarrassing symptoms that damage their quality of life.

Often very young (the average age of first motherhood is around 13) they are then shunned by the community – seen as shameful and hidden away. More often than not, their husbands abandon them, too. Their lives effectively come to an end.

“Think about it,” says Lehman, shaking her head. “You’re a young woman – sometimes not even a woman yet – you’re pregnant and your baby gets stuck. It’s painful and awful. There’s no help. 99 per cent of the time your baby dies. Then you’re left with terrible injuries. And no one has even explained to you what’s happened.”

She arranged for some of the women to travel to Tanzania for surgery.

All but one was operated on successfully. But, explains Lehman, this 19-year-old Congolese woman was actually the person who taught her the greatest lesson.

'Emotional repair'

“After the crushing disappointment of not being able to do the surgery, we had to find a way to help her," says Lehman. "We didn’t want her to sink back into the dark recesses of her hut.

“I realised she had information and experience that could help others. I spoke to the Relais Communautaire – a group of women from the southern Congo who teach basic health care – and asked whether she could join them. And so, in the space of a week, we watched the transformation of this girl into a leader. Although we couldn’t physically heal her, she had undergone emotional repair. It just goes to show that a pill or an operation isn’t the whole story.”

Where Lehman's own story ends is anyone's guess. She's devoted her life to raising funds for the floating clinic and is determined to see the project through ("I made that choice and I've no one to blame but myself").

Her fundraising takes her all over the world – she currently only spends about 40 per cent of her time on Lake Tanganyika – and has brought her to the attention of the press. In 2011, she was named by American magazine Newsweek as one of '150 Women Who Shake the World' and by Elle magazine as one of nine women who are 'fixing the world'.

How does she feel about being heralded as a role model?

"It's not why I do it," she says. "But I'm humbled and proud. I hope I can demonstrate something that can lead people in interesting directions in their own lives."

Any advice for budding social entrepreneurs?

She pauses. "Having a big idea is the first part of a very long path. You need the passion and inspiration to get people to believe in you. But you have to be ready for a slog. It takes discipline and flexibility. You've also got to be prepared for constant learning. I've had a lot of education and gone to good schools, but I don't feel like I know it all."

Throwing down the gauntlet

There can be little doubt that Lehman is constantly learning. From tackling the language barrier to winning over officials from all four countries that border the lake and facing issues such as shipping, customs and immigration – she's thrown herself headlong into understanding a different culture. Not to mention the arduous journey just to travel to the lake itself – which can take days, aboard a series of uncomfortable modes of transport.

All things considered, it's no wonder this brave woman is more than happy – indeed, proud and delighted – to show off the detailed tattoo of rocky headlands, rippling water and sea creatures that run from the base of her neck, across her shoulders and down to her hips. It took 18 hours to complete and, to Lehman, represents more than just a way of overcoming further shipwrecks.

"It's a pledge of how important the region is to me," she says. "I carry it on my back, wherever I go. It's me throwing down the gauntlet. I'm the one who has to live with whether I'm successful or not."

Somehow, it's hard to imagine her hospital won't be up and floating before too long.

Good luck and safe passage.