Kony 2012

Invisible Children launched a new initiative this week called Kony 2012. The idea is to not only draw attention to the crimes being perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) but to create a movement designed to bring Kony to justice by the end of the year.


The movement is particularly timely as the Voice of America is reporting that thousands have fled their homes recently to escape LRA attacks in the Congo.

UNHCR spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba said the most recent attacks took place in the village of Bagulupa, 55 kilometers east of Dungu. “There have been 20 attacks since the beginning of this year. One person was killed and 17 abducted during these incidents,” Lejeune-Kaba said.

“Abducted civilians are often used as porters, while the LRA has forced young women into sexual slavery…According to information gathered by our staff, most newly displaced were already displaced by previous LRA attacks,” Lejeune-Kaba added. “Other civilians could be displaced in areas that humanitarian agencies cannot reach due to insecurity and poor road access.”

Not unlike similar movements by other grassroots organizations of its kind, Invisible Children are attempting to leverage social media and local activists to drive the project.

Connect for the Congo

Congo Global Action will be holding a conference and legislative advocacy day at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) on March 30 – April 1. The first two days will be the conference, which includes workshops on gender, children, exploitation, stabilization, and advocacy:

1. Exploring Gender based violence in the Congo
This panel will highlight the social and political implications of rape and other gender based violence in the Congo. Practitioners, experts on gender based violence and others will discuss the realities and policy prescriptions. April, in the U.S. is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and provides a unique opportunity to make local-global links around awareness of sexual violence and its prevention.

2. What Children Here? Children as victims of war and economic realities in the DRC
Children, in any conflict, are the most vulnerable and those tasked least able to survive. This workshop will examine the reality that faces many children in the Congo as child laborers, soldiers and displaced persons. Practitioners, experts on the rights of children and others will discuss the current realities and possible policy prescriptions.

3. National resource exploitation and conflict
This workshop aims to give participants a holistic point of view of the systems and framework that underpin natural resource exploitation in the DRC with an emphasis on the human dimensions of the mining industry and the role of the DRC government, international bodies and multinational corporations in economic exploitation.

4. Post conflict nation stabilization and governance concerns
Post conflict stabilization and reconstruction in the DRC is closely linked with governance, transparency and the intervention of international bodies. These workshops will explore with post-conflict experts from the DRC and the U.S. the current realities and possible policy prescriptions.

5. Essential tools for Congo advocates
These trainings are designed to help support grassroots earn media, organize people and build constituencies around the Congo. Ultimately the skill building in this setting will help our shared work on behalf of the people of the Congo while providing a space to develop ways to put information into action.

The final day (April 1) is set aside as a legislative advocacy day. For more information, stop by the conference website.

Peace on the decline

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program at the Uppsala University Department of Peace and Conflict Research is reporting that the number of violent conflicts has seen a rise in recent years as peace initiatives are falling off. The Center’s largest number of registered conflicts took place during the 1990’s, but a steady decline began to take place thereafter and continued until 2002. Since then, the number of active conflicts has been holding steady around thirty.

“This is of course a cause of concern. Today’s ongoing conflicts are extremely protracted,” comment researchers Professor Peter Walensteen and Lotta Harbom. “This indicates that the successful negotiation efforts of the 1990s are no longer being carried out with the same force or effectiveness.”

Today’s conflicts appear to be intractable and drawn-out, and the researchers believe that the 1990s peace strategies need to be improved in order to achieve results. At the same time, there are encouraging trends. Conflicts between different groups and peoples, with no involvement of the state, are decreasing in the number of both conflicts and fatalities.

“This type of conflict often arises in the wake of civil war, but they seem to be easier to bring to an end,” says Joakim Kreutz at the Uppsala Conflict Data Program.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest problems in recent years is the lack of negotiations in the war torn Middle East. Even as the United States takes measures to physically curtail violence, there have been few visible signs that any of the parties in question are being addressed in a meaningful way.

The Middle East is the region in which peace initiatives are most clearly conspicuous in their absence. The central importance of the region for the world’s oil supply and for world religions makes this serious. The conference in Annapolis in lat November 2007 was the first attempt since 2001 to bring the parties together. They even found it difficult to agree on the declaration that started the negotiations, notes Peter Wallensteen.

“This is a worrisome sign. At the same time, we have to welcome all attempts to bring peace to this area. It has been more than 60 years since the UN General Assembly adopted a plan for Palestine. It must be adapted to today’s reality and implemented.”

During the year other regional conflict complexes have emerged and worsened. The crisis in the Sudanese region Darfur is now spreading to the surrounding countries, such as Chad and the Central African Republic.

“These developments have prompted neighboring countries to take certain peace initiatives,” states Lotta Harbom. “The international mediators in the Darfur conflict, including Jan Eliasson, who is also a visiting professor at Uppsala University, are working to arrange negotiations among the parties. But thus far they have had no success.”

It’s likely that many of these conflicts will continue to linger until the United Nations (and others) decide to press en masse. The larger peace deals in the 20th Century were accomplished through multi-national pressure, persuasion, and promising that we’ve seen little of in the last ten to fifteen years.

Congo’s looming genocide

Over the last couple of weeks, tensions in the Northeastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been escalating, as 29 people were clubbed or hacked to death in remote villages of Kivo. The perpetrators are Rwandan Hutus who fled to the Congo after the 1994 genocide.

Even though the Congolese army has been conducting operations to root out the Hutu extremists, they’ve only managed to push them further north where they’ve managed to gain allies and increase their organization.

The United Nations Observer Mission in Congo (MONUC) investigators, trying to reach the affected villages, have been met by stone-throwing crowds. A faction of a Rwandan rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), carried out the killings in retaliation over Congolese army operations against them. The faction, known as ‘the Rastas’, vowed to return to punish civilians.

This incident is a picturesque reminder of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda where the extremist Hutu, known as the Interahamwe and former fighters of Rwandan Armed Forces (Ex-FAR) clubbed, macheted and shot to death an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderates Hutus in 100 days.

In Congo, the extremists Rwandan Hutus, operating under the umbrella of FDLR, have continued to kill indigenous Congolese civilians, but threats to flush them out have not materialised. Yet FDLR has continued to grow in strength and experience. Conservative estimates by the International Crisis Group has estimated their strength at 8,000 to 10,000. Their dream is to return to Rwanda.

MONUC website has pointed to Walungu, Kanyola, Kyalubeze, Chikamba territory in south Kivu province as being controlled by the Rwandan Hutu extremists.

In North Kivu province, the Hutu extremists are equally active and control villages in Rutshuru territory. They use bases inside Virunga and Maiko national parks to raid neighbouring villages. In these camps, women are trained as soldiers, and children are born and brought up as soldiers.

Ishasha and Nyamirima, along the Uganda borderline, are operation zones for these militias, who are closely associated with the Mai Mai group of Vasaka Sikuli Kakule alias La Fontaine.

All of this fueled the formation of a new anti-Tutsi group known as PAROCO-FAP, who claims that their goals are to reach a solution with the Kigali government. The propaganda and rhetoric of this new Hutu extremist group echoes the messages that launched the Rwandan genocide.

Clearly, greater efforts need to be taken in this region, as the conflict, which has roots in Rwanda, has been spreading from the Congo to Uganda and has the potential to destabilize the entire Central African region. Even if the violence is contained, the increased influence that we’re seeing from the anti-Tutsi groups could easily lead to a spread of violence, and possibly another rolling genocide.