AFRICA GREAT LAKES UPDATE: February 2009

CPTnet
5 March 2009
AFRICA GREAT LAKES UPDATE: February 2009

Team members for this period included Cliff Kindy, Rosemarie Milazzo, Jane MacKay Wright, and Andrea Siemens.


SUMMARY

In the last month of the team's sojourn in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), team members continued to meet with local and international human rights organizations and sent two members to visit Kinshasa to hear perspectives from DRC's capital city.


2-6 February
Kindy and Wright traveled by air to Kinshasa where Suzanne Lind of Mennonite Central Committee, in conjunction with the Eglise du Christ de Congo (ECC), hosted a busy two days of meetings with church peacebuilders and other civil society leaders.  Kindy and Wright attended the Journée de la Paix seminar at Kinshasa Christian University, followed by a luncheon discussion led by Lind.  They also met with the founder of a gun exchange program known as PAREC, Rev. Mwenelwata Milenge of ECC, Pentecostal pastor Msgr. Jean-Luc Kuye-Ndondo (See 19 February 2009 CPT net release, "AFRICA GREAT LAKES: Taking the initiative from violent actors"), a former Congolese Minister of Defense, and officials of mining company Somiko.  Wright met with the Political Counsellor of the Canadian Embassy, and urged the Canadian government to support the team's Action Alert (See 9 February 2009 CPTnet release, "AFRICA GREAT LAKES ACTION ALERT: Call for compliance with processes of International Criminal Court.")

8 February
CPT visited the town of Minova and village of Kashenda for a third time and participated in a meeting with representatives of a newly formed nonviolence committee in Kashenda, as well as with representatives of the Bweremana Peace Committee, which included members from Minova.  Following the meeting, CPTers also met again with "Rebecca" a rape survivor who works tirelessly as wounded healer, assisting and advocating for other survivors of sexual violence.  She is connected to Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelles (SFVS) and brought the team her ledgers showing the incidents she had documented since the team's prior visit on 11 January 2009.  During that time, she had assisted forty new survivors of rape, aged eleven to over fifty-five.  She showed how she wrote in code to protect herself and the survivors.

10 February
CPT learned of the targeted killing of a neighbor youth, a twenty-one-year-old sociology student at the University of Goma.  He is the fourth student to be killed in this academic year (first killing was in April 2008; last three were in February 2009).  It remains unclear who is behind the murders, but students are mourning and angry.  CPT met with the president and vice president of the student government, who recounted their attempts to contact police and government officials who have yet to begin investigations.  The student government is planning a demonstration before the end of the school year in April.  Because of threats on his life, the student government president sleeps in different places and has appealed to United Nations peacekeepers for assistance.

23 February  

At a meeting with Groupe Martin Luther King on Feb. 22, CPT learned of retaliatory attacks by the Forces Démocratique pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR)-some of whom are responsible for the Rwanda genocide-in several villages of the Masisi territory.  They learned of villages attacked after the joint Rwandan/DRC armies, trying to eliminate the FDLR, had passed through villages previously under FDLR control.  Christophe of Groupe Martin Luther King offered to take CPT to meet some of the survivors who are recovering in a Goma Hospital.  Then on 23 February, the team traveled to the Bethesda Hospital (C.B.C.A.) in Goma and met multiple survivors.  In one ward were two severely burned women, a mother and fourteen-year-old daughter who had survived the razing of their village (approximately 100 km from Goma) by the FDLR.  Two children from the family, an infant and a four-year-old died in the fire.  The father escaped the fire with their fourth child.  In the same ward were another woman and her three-year-old and an older woman who had received gunshot wounds in the attack of the same village.  Ten people total died in the attack.  Neighbours carried the survivors to U.N. forces who then transported them to Goma.

In another ward were two survivors of an attack on another village, nearer to Goma, on the road to Masisi town. One, an older man, had his arm broken and had been shot after refusing to give soldiers money when they demanded it.  He told CPT he is poor and had no money to give them.  Another man was there with his infant son, a victim of a gunshot wound from the same attack.

These survivors have no money for food or medical bills.

25 February

The team watched a television broadcast of an event attended by diplomats from Rwanda and the DRC, as well as U.N. forces.  Participants said thank you and farewell to the Rwandan forces, who participated in the joint military initiative with the DRC against the FDLR.  Congolese told team members that the ceremony was a significant sign of hope that the countries may be able to work together in the future.