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Entries in Democratic Republic of the Congo (4)

Monday
Nov262012

US Sends Top Africa Diplomat for Congo Peace Talks

U.S. Africa Command photo by Vince Crawley(WASHINGTON) -- White House and State Department officials confirmed that the Obama administration has dispatched the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Johnny Carson, to Central Africa this weekend to help negotiate an end the latest crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I can tell you that Assistant Secretary Carson is in the region working on this issue,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters. “The president is updated through the Presidential Daily Briefing on the developments there in the Congo and is obviously very concerned about the violence and the loss of life.”

Last week the rebel force M23 seized Eastern Congo’s financial capital, Goma, throwing the country and the region into chaos and uncertainty. For months the group has been advancing on the eastern part of the country, exchanging fire with the Congolese army and committing atrocities such as rape and murder in its campaign. With evidence of involvement from regional neighbors Rwanda and Uganda, the crisis is threatening to turn into a war, similar to the last Congolese war, which lasted over a decade and killed more than an estimated three million people.

Aid organizations such as Oxfam and UNICEF say the latest crisis with M23 has already caused nearly 100,000 people to flee their homes. Other humanitarian groups are struggling to get supplies and food in to help the nearly half a million Congolese who were already living in camps in the area, displaced from decades of violence.

The Obama administration has come under fire for what some have called a lack of engagement on the issue. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congo President Joseph Kabila at the U.N. General Assembly Meeting in New York in September to urge them to find a peaceful solution to not only M23, but the underlying issues that were fueling the rebel group.  The administration also suspended $200,000 in military aid to Rwanda, the staunch U.S. ally, who United Nations investigators say is funding the rebel group. But human rights groups say last week’s actions by M23 are proof that not enough has been done diplomatically.

“The US government’s silence on Rwandan military support to the M23 rebels can no longer be justified given the overwhelming evidence of Rwanda’s role and the imminent threat to civilians around Goma,” said Tom Malinowski,  the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “The US government should support urgent sanctions against Rwandan officials who are backing M23 fighters responsible for serious abuses.”

The Rwandan government continues to deny it is supporting the rebel group. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland confirmed that Carson will meet with President Kagame while in the region, but she declined to explicitly name Rwandan as a supporter of the militia.

“We’ve been very clear that we want to see all outside support for M23, for any of these groups, come to an end,” said Nuland, who also said Secretary Carson is working with leaders from Rwanda, Congo and Uganda to negotiate a ceasefire and withdrawal of the rebels before the violence escalates.

“We want to see a ceasefire. We want to see a pullback to July lines,” said Nuland. “We want to see a sustainable process of negotiation and discussion of the status of the eastern Congo with all the stakeholders.”

Actor Ben Affleck, who founded the Eastern Congo Initiative, a humanitarian organization working in Eastern Congo with local leaders for peaceful, long-term solutions to the country’s problems, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week that the administration could be applying more pressure to all the parties involved to bring peace to the region.

“We have a lot of levers there. We can engage in the kind of high-level, shuttle diplomacy that you saw be so effective in Gaza,” said Affleck, who pointed out that the United States contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the 17,000 U.N. peacekeeping force in the country. “With the United States, when we had issues that were important to us, we sent John Kerry to Sudan, we sent Bill Richardson, we sent — I think it was North Korea — General Powell, folks like that.  That’s a level of engagement that I think we need to step up to.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec162011

US Criticizes Election, Congo Supreme Court Confirms Kabila's Win

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images (KINSHASA, Congo) -- On Friday, the Democratic Republic of Congo Supreme Court declared incumbent President Joseph Kabila as the winner of last month's disputed presidentia; elections.

BBC News
reports that international observers and the U.S. State department said the election was flawed, had several irregularities and was chaotic. The U.S. based Carter Center sent observers and said in some areas there were high turnouts that were not credible.

The court confirmed that Kabila received nearly 49 percent of the vote beating Etienne Tshisekedi, his main challenger who received 32 percent.

Congo held their second democratic election since independence in 1960 and the first since civil war ended in 2003. Mineral rich Congo has seen several decades of civil wars with intervention by surrounding countries representing the different factions fighting for the nation's rich resources.

The African Union and the 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region congratulated Kabila on his win and called the election a success. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul082011

Congo Plane Crashes, At Least 53 Dead

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(KINSHASA, Congo) -- Nearly 40 survivors have been rescued from a crashed airplane that killed nearly 53 people Friday in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Boeing 727 was carrying 112 passengers.

Congolese Hewa Bora airline, the carrier of the crashed airplane, reported the numbers but said they would likely change as searches for bodies continue.

The plane crashed about 200 metres from Kisangani International Airport while trying to land during bad weather, according to Hewa Bora officials.

The Hew Bora airline is on the European Union's list of banned airplanes due to poor security practices.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct282010

White House Faces Backlash Over Child Soldiers 

Sudanese children displaced by war record their experiences. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is facing backlash from humanitarian and human rights groups after lifting restrictions on the use of child soldiers in certain countries, according to The Cable.

On Thursday, the administration waived a key section of the 2008 Child Soldier Law for the countries of Chad, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Yemen. The law, signed by former President George W. Bush in 2008, prohibits the U.S. from providing military assistance and financing to countries who continue to actively recruit child soldiers.

The administration’s move will allow one more year for those countries to improve before they can be flagged by the State Department for violating the law.

A memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed by the president on Monday states that the waivers were in the “national interest of the United States.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio