A JUBILEE REPORT
The Killing Continues: A path to peace
1.1 Between September 19th and October 2nd 2004 a delegation sponsored by the British charity, Jubilee Action, visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) andRwanda. The delegation included LordAlton ofLiverpool, Canon Anthony Harvey, Sam Burke and Raphael Mpanzu.
2.0 Purpose of the Visit.
2.1 Jubilee is involved in advocacy on human rights and the promotion of dialogue and conflict resolution in many parts of the world. Jubilee Action also supports projects aimed specifically at alleviating the plight of street children, many of whom are often left orphaned, destitute or homeless as a consequence of conflict.
Lord Alton and Raphael Mpanzu talk to some children from the orphanage
2.2 In arranging a delegation to the DRC, Jubilee was responding directly to an invitation by the Congolese Government and was welcomed by the Vice-President, Yerodia Ndombasi. InRwanda, the delegation was welcomed by the President, Paul Kagame, and by senior Ministers.
2.3 Political, social, and economic progress in DRC is inextricably linked with conclusively ending the conflict betweenRwanda- a country that faces its own daunting but by no means insuperable challenges. We are indebted to the individuals and agencies that we met (Appendix 3) and to all those who went to so much trouble to make our mission productive.
3.0 Narrative and History.
3.I The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
3.1.1 After becoming independent from Belgiumin 1960, the DRC has been blighted by instability, by debilitating and incessant conflict and by corruption. We heard many allegations that, to this day, with the complicity of western governments, European quartermasters continue to fuel the conflict by the sale of weapons. This continues a tradition begun in the 16th century by French and Portuguese traders and pursued in the nineteenth century with ruthless zeal by King Leopold II ofBelgium (who literally sold the country – his personal possession – to the Belgian government in 1908).
3.1.2 The country’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Professor Mbwinga Bila, told us that as a consequence of the long corrupt and rapacious rule of President Mobutu and the almost incessant armed violence since decolonisation “the decaying infrastructure we have today is the one we inherited at the moment of independence. In fact, we have even less now than we had then. The only change is that in 1960 the infrastructure supported a population of 14 million and today the population is closer to 60 million. We have had 35 years of bad government followed by 10 years of armed conflict.”
3.1.3 Many Congolese told us that it is futile to simply blame the past and that it is now time for the country to move on. In doing so it faces enormous challenges and has great possibilities.
3.1.4 DRC is the third largest county inAfricaand the fourth most populous. Per capita income is $107 dollars.Congohas been benighted by exploitative rule, and by callous and corrupt leadership.
3.2 The Consequences of Conflict
3.2.1 According to the United Nations in the four years after 1998 more than 3.5 million deaths “occurred from the beginning of the war up to September 2002. These deaths are a direct result of the occupation byRwanda andUganda.” Put another way, 2,000 people a day were killed in a war that has been likened toEurope’s Great War. As the DRC saw this staggering loss of life, catastrophic conflict has rendered social development impossible.Congo became a text book example of a failed State – with marauding war lords vying for power and central government barely in control of the capital’s government buildings, let alone its far-flung provinces.
3.2.2 As the country was disfigured by the mass killing of civilians, by the end of 2003 3.4 million people remained internally displaced. Rape has been used as a weapon of war, accompanied by torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and the widespread use of child soldiers, some as young as seven.
3.2.3 From the moment of its birth DRC was plunged into civil war, with army mutinies, the attempted secession ofKatangaprovince (richly endowed with minerals) and the assassination of the first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. By 1965 the head of the army, Jospeh Mobutu had installed himself in power, renamed the country Zaire, and initiated conflict with Angola.
3.2.4 Uniquely, the DRC has nine neighbours –Angola,Zambia,Tanzania,Burundi,Rwanda,Uganda,Sudan,Central African Republic, and the Republic of theCongo. At various times in its turbulent history the DRC has either been at war or in alliance with most of its neighbours. Internally, its sprawling landmass – covering an area half of the size ofWestern Europe– is occupied by ethnic groups who have invariably been at war with one another.
3.2.5 The Mobutu regime squandered 30 long years in an orgy of violence and corruption of a high order.
3.2.6 It was toppled by a rebellion in May 1997. This led to the installation of Laurent-Desire Kabila as President. A year laterRwandaandUgandasupported a rebellion against him while troops fromZimbabwe,Angola,Namibia,SudanandChadintervened on Kabila’s side. The stage was set for continued blood-letting in which the prize has always been the DRC’s huge potential mineral wealth. Sometimes the conflict is described in shorthand as a conflict between DRC andRwanda(and some of its other neighbours). Minister Bila reminded us that DRC “is 80 times bigger thanRwandaand we have no territorial ambitions inRwanda. They have no natural resources that we could possibly want” – and we were inclined to believe him.
3.2.7 Throughout the 1990s groups of militias and counter insurgents were spawned everywhere. The Rassemblement Congolais pour la democratie (RCD), the Mouvement pour le liberation du Congo (MLC), and the Mai-Mai all emerged in this climate. The instability and violence, particularly in the east of the county, was intensified by the exodus to DRC of 1.2 million predominantly Hutu refugees who had fled from during the genocide of 1994.
3.2.8 With impunity the perpetrators of the genocide used the cover of the camps to escape arrest. The Interahamwe militia used DRC as their base while they continued to mount incursions intoRwanda.
3.2.9 In 1999 a ceasefire was agreed. Intermittent fighting continued and it culminated in Kabila’s assassination in January 2001. His son, Joseph Kabila, assumed power.
3.2.10 Meanwhile,RwandaandUganda– former allies – fought each other for control of the strategically and commercially important city ofKisangani. 1400 Congolese civilians were left dead by the time the city fell to the Rwandans.
3.2.11 In 2002 President Kabila secured the withdrawal of the Ugandan troops from the Ituri district of theOrientaleProvince. Rwandan troops also withdrew from the east of the country (although around 10,000 Rwandan Hutu rebels – Forces democratiques de Liberations du Rwanda (FDLR) still roam the highlands ofSouth Kivu).
3.2.12 An agreement was made with the external parties involved in the conflict, accompanied by the creation of a coalition government of national unity (GNU). A National assembly – comprising 500 deputies and senators – was convened. A pledge was made to promote a new constitution and a promise of democratic elections for 2005. A rare window of opportunity for DRC had been opened.
3.3 An Impossible Task?
3.3.1 Kabila appeared to have been given an impossible task. Most observers believed the GNU’s life would be short-lived. The four vice presidents who were appointed to serve under Kabila each represent different parties to the conflict and seemed at best to be uneasy bedfellows and, at worse, belligerent parties who would only be interested in preserving their own position. It was suggested to us that this formula of “one plus four equals zero” but we saw encouraging signs that opposing factions have tried to make the process work. DRC is a fragile if no-longer a failed State and can best be characterised as “a situation that is not as bad as it could have been.”
3.3.2 DRC desperately needs peace. In a huge country of 2.3 million kilometres (about a quarter of the size of theU.S.) there is a population of 58.3 million – 65% of whom are` under the age of 25. Minister Bila told us that “only 3 million have a regular supply of drinking water and the same is true of electricity.” Life expectancy is put at 40.6 years; 1.3 million are living with HIV/AIDS, and infant mortality is 94.6 deaths for each 1,000 live births.35% of the people are illiterate. An estimated 3 million people have been displaced from their homes (accentuating urban drift and urban squalor). Inflation in 2001 peaked at 135% and bundles of Congolese Francs are still needed to buy basic things. Resources are virtually non existent for public services (the national budget is just $820 million). The social infrastructure is in a state of collapse.
3.3.3 We cite two examples, one a hospital and one a school. We visitedKinshasa GeneralHospital. Built in 1912, we were told that it had once been one of the finest hospitals inAfrica. With around 1700 beds it remains the biggest hospital \in the DRC. Dr.Diabeno Tombe, the hospital’s medical director, told us that the 160 doctors, 1,100 nurses and 1200 employees regularly go for months on end without remuneration: “This has led to us losing doctors to countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, because they have no salaries, no equipment and little else but disillusionment.”
3.3.4 Dr.Tombe said “patients have to pay on arrival and 4 out of 10 cannot pay. Sometimes people are removed from beds when there are not enough spaces or they cannot pay. Half the patients have HIV.”
3.3.5 He painted a grim picture, which we can confirm, of dedicated staff working in impossible conditions: “most of our equipment is useless, in our trauma service we have no artificial limbs; families have to bring in food to feed patients, or they would starve.” We saw what had once been the hospital’s kitchen – now an overgrown jungle, strewn with detritus and debris.
Two abandoned children at the Kinshasa general hospital. We later learnt that they had passed away.
3.3.6 In the premature baby unit there were nine incubators; most were occupied by tiny infants. Only two of the incubators were working, the others were no better than glass boxes. One of the babies, Mayamba – which means Welcome – had been born by Caesarean Section at 38 weeks gestation. Like her country, Mayamba’s situation was fragile and her future uncertain. We later learnt Dr.Jose Loumpze said, “We don’t even have nappies for the babies.”
3.3.7 The broken-backed facilities – a dearth of resuscitation equipment, malfunctioning aspirators, wholly inadequate equipment – is a stain on the reputation of the DRC’s government. Dr.Loumpze told us: “Yes, I feel anger and sadness to see the way the hospital was before and the way it is now. Every day children are losing their lives – lives that could have been saved. Officialdom is forever promising us improvements but seems paralysed and never delivers on its promises. They just don’t care about life. The big problem here is that no-one seems to respect the dignity of the human being.”
3.3.8 We were encouraged by two small signs of hope – one part of the hospital had been renovated thanks to a contribution from Shell and we learnt that the Knights of Malta and the hospital’s Catholic chaplaincy provide free medicines for many patients and pay for a medical team who attend the hospital each day.
3.3.9 If health provision inKinshasais minimal, it pales alongside the situation in the East of DRC. We heard from the co-ordinator of the (US) Presidential Emergency Fund for Aids Relief (PEFFAR), Colette Cunningham, of a medical worker who literally has to carry patients to her clinic on her back, and who has a complete dearth of medicines. She said that donors are reluctant to commit any funds because they simply believe it will be looted.
Orphaned schoolchildren attend classes.
3.3.10 In Kinshasa, we also visited a school, Mbenseke Futi, situated about 50 kilometres from the centre ofKinshasa. There are about 300 children in the school – including 50 street children, many of whom have lost parents during the conflict. Fernand Matabo, the headmaster, showed us decaying buildings, including a wing that had been storm damaged in 1991. The dangerous collapsed roof had never been repaired. The squalid kitchens had long since been abandoned and the children’s meals – usually nothing more than a pea broth – was being prepared in pots over an open fire. The dedicated teachers are unpaid and have to raise their own salaries by asking for donations from parents and there are few books and little equipment. We were especially moved by the school dispensary. Posters emphasised the importance of immunisation programmes but when we asked the elderly man who cared for the dispensary what drugs and medicines he had, he told us that he had nothing and simply pointed to a row of empty bottles. There was nothing to treat the malaria that affected all of the children – and the sleeping conditions, wooden slats in bunks placed in filthy dormitories, were an absolute disgrace.
3.3.11 Minister Bila told us, when we asked him, that this was not an untypical situation: “In our schools books don’t exist, parents have to pay and the buildings are in ruins.”
3.3.12 He was quite emphatic about the cause of the decaying hospitals and schools: “the real problem is the war. It has destroyed the infrastructure.”
3.3.13 It would be tempting for the outside world to see the DRC as an impossible situation. This was not our conclusion and we concur with the view of the All Party Parliamentary group on The Great Lakes Region and Genocide Prevention, expressed in their report “A Break in The Clouds”, October 2003, that there is “a moment of hope” in the DRC.
The roofless buildings of the orphanages.
3.3.14 If the hope is to become a reality and the catalyst for social change it will be because of the resolution of the conflicts that have scarred the face of the DRC. Only then will the exploitation of the country’s natural resources become a means of raising the standard of life of its people rather than a cause of fratricide.
3.3.15 The UN Security Council Panel of Experts have pin-pointed the continuing stripping of resources that are benefiting insurgents and outside interests (includingUKcompanies: cf Corporate Watch for examples) – not the people of DRC. Although ratifying and signing the Kimberley Process on blood diamonds and a Mining Code, these formularies are largely honoured in the breach and are unlikely to be enforced until security and the rule of law stabilise DRC. The pre-requisite for the long-term development of DRC is an end to conflict and the demobilisation of the competing marauding militias.
3.4 Demobilisation and the International Community
3.4.1 Despite the ceasefire and the shared power arrangements of 2002 and 2003, there are at least 200,000 men still under arms. And the violence is far from over. In May and June 2004 a battle ensued for control of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu (DRC’s province abuttingRwanda). The renegades – the RCD, who were backed byRwandaduring the earlier war and who have been opposed to reunification – were doubtless encouraged by the military supportRwandais known to have given to several Kivu militias at the end of 2003.
3.4.2 The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in July 2004 thatRwanda“gave some of its old allies the belief that they could maintain the status quo.Kigalihas given the impression that the restoration of effective Congolese sovereignty generally orKinshasa’s authority in the Kivus specifically is not in its interests. Rwanda’s governing elite has developed important commercial interests in theCongothat alone may be sufficient to motivate continuing involvement in its internal affairs.”
3.4.3 The DRC’s transitional government has been mandated to form an integrated national army and to demobilise and to reintegrate into civilian life those combatants who will not be taken into the national army. Simultaneously, the international community has been represented by the UN Mission for the Congo (MONUC), and it has deployed peace-keeping troops inCongo(4800 deployed in Ituri).
3.4.4 In September 2003 the Security Council, in Resolution 1493, gave Chapter VII powers (“all possible means”) to the UN force in Ituri. This followed fighting in Ituri’s capital, Bunia, including the massacre of patients in a hospital. The same powers do not obtain elsewhere and the failure to forestall the unrest in the Kivu provinces has been blamed on MONUC’s apparent impotence, inadequate mandate and manpower and confused strategy. We also heard disturbing allegations about the behaviour of MONUC soldiers towards the civilian population, especially in relation to the sexual exploitation of young women and children.
Street children in Kinshasa
3.4.5 The ICG commented that MONUC’s shortcomings, which were evident during the Bukavu crisis, need to be overcome, and it must implement its mandate more assertively.” About 10,000 militia remain at large in the Kivus.
3.4.6 The criticism of MONUC was shared by members ofKinshasa’s diplomatic community who told us that “there are significant gaps” and an urgent need to strengthen capability and manpower. Some of the militias remain larger than the UN force and the different terms of reference within the mandate is a recipe for confusion and paralysis.
3.4.7 When we put the criticism of the ICG to Peter Swarbrick – who deals with demobilisation issues for MONUC, he warned that an over-assertive approach could lead to years of fighting against militias who would use the jungles and hostile terrain to their own advantage. Having “picked up all the low hanging fruit” he said that the fighters who remained to be disarmed were particularly “hard men who thrive in abnormal conditions.Rwandahas exported their genocide into theCongo. Just how are we supposed to tell the difference between the competing combatants?” He believed that the key to disarmament lies in normalisation.
3.4.8 We were told by a MONUC representative that normalisation is being impeded because “Rwandais not playing straight. They don’t believe that a resolution of this conflict is in their interests. But they are wrong. A stable DRC is in their interests.” It was put to us thatRwandaacts both covertly and overtly to cause instability.
3.4.9 About 6,000 men have been sent back to Rwanda thus far (about half of whom were combatants) but we were told that the most reluctant to return are those who would face genocide charges in Rwanda and that they had every personal interest in fighting on to avoid the inevitable jail sentences that would await them. We were told that about 5-15% of the militias at large in the Kivus are “serious criminals.” The MONUC representative told us that he believed “a climate of confidence and security will make them wither away. Pinstripe suits, not guns, will giveRwanda access to all the assets they want – not this futile war in which hundreds of thousands have already died and hundreds of thousands more will die unless it is permanently ended.”
3.4.10 During the course of our visit, the political crisis in the DRC was among the issues that dominated the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly. On his return toKigali, the Rwandan Prime Minister, Bernard Makuza, said that the Security Council will set out clearer measures by which the Interahamwe militia and other rebels will be disarmed and returned toRwanda. He said that “The insecurity that is being caused by Interahamwe militias inCongo is comparable to the terrorism that is currently rocking the globe.”
3.4.11 He also confirmed that under the mediation of the UN Security CouncilRwandaand the DRC had signed a joint agreement aimed a wiping out the Interahamwe problem. He also claimed that MONUC was allied to the militias and that until the Security Council honoured its promise to investigate this alleged link it would not be possible to disarm successfully.
3.5 DRC and the International Community
Lord Alton and Raphael Mpanzu meet with Minister’s of the Christian Churches
3.5.1 No huge investment will be made in DRC until the conflicts and instability are seen to be resolved. Mark Bensberg, British Charge d’Affaires inKinshasa told us that without a legal framework for investment it is very difficult to persuade investors to engage commercially in the DRC. Risible levels of trade with theUK are indicative. In 2003 the tenth largest export to DRC from theUK was a second hand Mercedes. The bribes required by police officers at road blocks on the road to Kinshasa airport and the chaotic and anarchic arrangements at the airport itself would be totally unacceptable to legitimate western business interests but conducive to the corrupt. The Kinshasa Government could do worse than inviting the management ofNairobi’s Kenyatta airport to offer advice and they should prioritise the training of airport personnel and police officers on the main routes in and out of the city.
3.5.2 Corruption is not confined to DRC nationals. InRwanda, for instance, we heard allegations that, despite UN prohibitions, European companies (with, at best, the implicit connivance of some governments) are still selling weapons to parties involved in the conflict.
3.5.3 In this very complicated and difficult environment we were impressed by the high standing of theUnited Kingdomand the widespread belief in its probity and its enhanced commitment to the development of the country. We were impressed by the calibre of the British officials we met, their commitment to the country, and the clarity of their Engagement Plan.
3.5.4 Augustin Amisi Wa Lika and Rachel Brass, of the Department for International Development (DFID), outlined what is a new programme “aimed at supporting the peace and transition process” targeted particularly at vulnerable groups including displaced people “many of whom are women and children and child soldiers.” The DFID programme ranges from strategic macro-level interventions in Security Sector Reform, work for elections, support for the World Bank-led Multi-Country Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme (MDRP) of £25 million over 5 years.
3.5.5 We were pleased to learn of DFID’s decision to fund a peace and reconciliation programme throughout the Great Lakes countries, including DRC, which will be organised by the British Catholic Aid Agency, CAFOD and their international partner CARITAS. Christian Aid will receive £666,000 over 2 years to facilitate democratisation and human rights work in the Kivus. In addition, Christian Relief Network has been granted £697,000 over 3 years to provide relief assistance to 20,000 Rwandese Hutu refugees located in 8 transit camps in eastern DRC.
3.5.6 We agreed with DFID’s assessment that “faith based organisations have an important strategic role in the country as well as having influence at the local, micro and practical level.” DFID told us that “The Catholic Church in DRC is the organisation with the broadest reach down into the communities” and that “religious leaders have played a major role in promoting dialogue between the warring factions in promoting peace and bringing human rights violations onto the agenda.” We are also painfully aware that when the Church does not have such an appreciation it can remain silent and even a negative force.
3.5.7 DFID has also earmarked £5 million to assist with the election promised for 2005. Trish Hiddleston of UNICEF told us that DFID’s assistance had been pivotal in getting their programme for the demobilisation of child soldiers off the ground – “it saved us”, she said.
3.5.8 Beyond the diplomatic and NGO communities, the DRC’s ties with theUKhave been sparse and sporadic.
3.5.9 Minister Bila reflected that “far too few visitors come to DRC from theUK.” He was pleased that the All Party Parliamentary Group had visited and intended to return. We commented that it would be helpful for the Inter Parliamentary Union to strengthen ties with the National Assembly and to invite a Congolese delegation to visitWestminster. The IPU might also arrange a round-table discussion betweenDRC,UKand Rwandan representatives.
3.5.10 Patrick Merienne, Director of the NGO, Search for Common Ground, told us that there was a desperate need for civic education, formation of citizens, and in facilitating the rapprochement of conflicting groups.
4.0 DRC and Human Rights
4.1 Jubilee’s triple mandate of advocacy, conflict resolution and protection for children, led us to concentrate on these three areas.
4.2 DFID told us that “There is documented evidence of appalling human rights violations in the country including murder with impunity and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Human rights are violated in all spheres – economic, social political and cultural.” We particularly commend the reports by Human Rights Watch (January, 2004), “DRC: Confronting Impunity” and “DRC: War Crimes in Bukavu” (June 2004) and Amnesty International’s 2003 Report “DRC: On the Precipice – the deepening human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ituri.”
4.3 Among the gravest reports we heard was one from the UN who estimates that between October 2002 and February 2003 some 5,000 women had been raped inSouth Kivu– an average of 40 women each day. Many were raped by men with HIV/AIDS.
4.4 Combatants operate with total impunity. We heard of a combatant who broke into the home of Kavira Muraulu I Mangangu, near Beni,North Kivu. Kavira was raped. She reported the crime to the Governor. She was then attacked again by the alleged rapist and four other soldiers – who beat her and stabbed her with a bayonet.
4.5 We learnt that serial human rights abuses and violence, particularly in Bukavu, the wider Kivu region, Ituria andKatanga, continues to this day. These include abuses by pro-government forces.
4.6 For instance, we were told that following the violence in Bukavu in May 2004 , forces under the command of General Mbuza Mabe killed civilians of the minority Banyamulenge (Congolese whose ancestors migrated from Rwandaand Burundi) as a reprisal following the death of a soldier. Between May 26th and May 28th at least 15 civilians were killed. These included six university students, two of whom were student leaders. They were stripped, tied together and beaten to death. Their bodies were thown into shallow graves. Among the dead were Ruhimisha Mahirwe Manege, Mahoro Ngoma, and Mande Manege.
4.7 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) subsequently estimated that 3,000 Banyamulenge fled toRwanda– many with gunshot, machete and knife wounds.
4.8 The militia if the Rally for Congolese Democracy – Goma (RCD-G), supported by Rwandaand loyal to Colonel Jules Mutebutsi and Brigadier General Laurent Nkunda responded with their own orgy of violence. For instance, in Bukavu their soldiers shot a fifty-five year old man in his home wile they looted and plundered it. On June 3rd six soldiers raped a mother and another raped her three-year-old daughter in the centre of the town – forcing her husband and other children to look on. They then looted their home.
4.9 This violence and the mutual recriminations between DRC andRwandaled to the closing of the border in June of this year.
4.10 We also heard of retaliation against those who report these events or who champion human rights. For instance, N’sii Luanda Shndwe spent nine months in prison as a prisoner of conscience at the Centre penitentiaire et de reeducation deKinshasa. He was never formally charged with a criminal offence but was detained because of human rights activism. He was released at the end of January 2004.
4.11 InKinshasawe met an impressive human rights lawyer, Amigo Ngonde, who is President of the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights. He told us that the Government of DRC had “signed and ratified all their UN obligations but has not acted upon them.” He said that “The justice system is not working – resources are not made available for salaries, the magistrates work in intolerable conditions and there is widespread corruption… we have been at war since 1996 and this has paralysed our justice system. So many crimes and so many criminals have never been punished. There is a culture of impunity.”
4.12 He pointed to the wholly inadequate judiciary, the need to train human rights lawyers and judges, and an international tribunal (as in the case ofBosnia), including some DRC magistrates, to properly investigate and try the perpetrators of the massacres and human rights violations.
Delegation meets with Mr. Ngonde
4.13 He asked why the international
community suffered from myopia when it came to theCongoand why there is no universal applicability of the rights of man.
4.14 Mr.Ngonde is involved in promoting human rights information through the country’s churches and is developing programmes in schools, teaching duties, responsibilities, rights and obligations. He passionately believes that “without justice the conditions necessary for reconciliation and harmony cannot be satisfied. There has to be an honest facing up to the past. When members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (established in 2002) have themselves been accused of human rights abuses, it is difficult to see how it can do good work. They will be partie prie. If it is compromised, it cannot facilitate reconciliation. Nor should its existence prevent the administration of justice.”
4.15 We discussed the parallel withSouth Africaand Mr.Ngonde reflected: “Congodoesn’t have a Mandela. He gave inspiration. Here, we have more than 3 million dead and the killing is still going on. To end this we will have to do without a Mandela but we cannot do without a legal system. The instigators and perpetrators must be brought to account.” These were observations with which we profoundly in agreement.
5.0 DRC and its Children
5.1 One of Jubilee’s central concerns is the children who become caught up in conflict. In the case of DRC we are especially concerned about the use of child soldiers and about the plight of street children.
5.2 Two thirds of the population of DRC is under the age of 25. UNICEF told us that in broad terms about 30,000 children are under arms and comprise about 10% of the armed groups: despite the demobilisation programme “both recruitment and re-recruitment is continuing.” Children as young as seven carry arms – and we cannot adequately emphasise the importance of ending the traffic in small arms from neighbouring states (in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1493).
5.3 Amnesty International reported in December 2003 that “all armed forces in the DRC” had used children as soldiers. In the east of the country children have comprised as much as 40% of the militias. Some were sent into combat, some were used as sex slaves. According to Amnesty, “some were forced to kill their own families; others were made to engage in cannibalistic or sexual acts with enemy corpses. Girl soldiers were raped and some died as a result.” Sexual violence has often been accompanied by subsequent HIV/Aids.
5.4 In January 2004 Human Rights Watch confirmed these reports: “All groups have recruited children, some as young as seven years old, for military service, subjecting the children to the risks and trauma of military operations.
5.5 We heard from UNICEF that as well as being used as combatants, children have routinely been used to clean and carry guns and to collect and prepare food and camps for combatants.
Brother and Sister, some of many children affected by the violence of the Congo
5.6 UNICEF told us that there has been a very small drift of children out of the militias. Sometimes commanders refuse to let them go but many children joined of their own volition – some enjoying the degree of power that a gun gives them, others without families pleased to be given food and camaraderie. Others again were even sent by their families. Many of the children are not interested in demobilisation as they have nowhere else to go and are fearful that if they are returned to communities where their past is known they will face retribution.
5.7 UNICEF told us that a lack of resources is also hampering the demobilisation of children but that the transitional government of DRC has played a constructive and helpful role.
5.8 Domestic laws now prohibit the use of children but paradoxically the demobilisation of children could make them doubly vulnerable unless proper social and educational provision is made. Clearly, children in a school are less likely to be recruited and more likely to be given a protective framework. While teachers remain unpaid, and parents and children are expected to pay for education, this protective environment will remain out of reach for the 30,000 child soldiers of DRC. UNICEF told us that the main-line churches remain the best hope for making such provision. UNICEF has also called for the creation of “convergence zones” where demobilised child soldiers can be helped in properly resourced health and education centres.
5.9 If no provision is made it will undoubtedly accentuate the growing problem of drifting, rootless, children on the streets. Save The Children have initiated a programme to re-integrate children into foster families but, welcome though this is, UNICEF point out that there is no tradition of fostering outside of extended families.
5.10 In the capital,Kinshasa, it is estimated that there are now some 20,000 children on the streets. We met and talked to some of them.
5.11 Like most children of their age they dream of becoming Beckham or Ronaldo. Poignantly, Yvec, aged 14 said “I would just like the same opportunities as other children, but I don’t even have a
football.” Nsimba, aged 13, saw her parents and her twin die. She now cares for her 3-year-old sister, Octavia. She didn’t want to talk about the things that have happened to her on the streets.
Yvec, dreams of a football career
5.12 During our stay we also heard reports about the plight of street children in the East of DRC. 18 children were reported dead by the local media after an incident in a small diamond mining town, reportedly killed by “unofficial” diamond miners and the reason given was that “they had made a nuisance of themselves.”
5.13 One of our delegation, Raphael Mpanzu (RM), is Congolese. After the death of his parents he came to theUKas a refugee and has worked as the project co-ordinator for the refugee and homeless people’s project at Notre Dame de France inSoho.
5.14 RM has established the Jedidah Foundation (named for his six month old son) to help the street children ofKinshasa. The Revd.Dr.Anthony Harvey, another member of the Jubilee delegation – and a retired Canon and sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey, is the President of Jedidah. They have acquired a small, safe, compound in Kinshasa which will house 32 young people and they hope that this may become a model for similar small-scale initiatives that can be taken by voluntary organisations, parishes, groups of friends, companies or parishes who wish to respond to the acute needs and desperate plight of the children of the Congo.
5.15 In addition, we took evidence on the phenomenon of “witch children” cited in the All Party Parliamentary group’s report. Although witchcraft has always been practiced in theCongo, and deep superstitions remain ingrained in their lore, over the past decade a new and disturbing trend has emerged. In a climate of deep poverty families who cannot cope with the up-bringing of their children, or who have a child with behavioural problems or disabilities, declare the children to be witches or involved in sorcery. This is used as a pretext for abandoning their children to the streets.
5.16 The situation has been exacerbated by i) the collapse of many traditional extended families who would have taken in a related child; and ii) the emergence of myriad independent Christian groups which display many of the attributes of cults.
5.17 Trish Hiddleston, Director of UNICEF’s Child Protection Programme in DRC, told us that the linkage of sorcery with disability or behavioural problems was used by self-appointed pastors as a source of income generation. These “dodgy priests”, as she described them, acquire small buildings on main streets, and by holding dramatic “healing” services where they claim to have purged children of their “darkness” reinforce the popular belief that God is to blame for infirmity, disability, or maladjustment and that it is legitimate and even necessary for the good health of the rest of family to be rid of “witch children.” UNICEF estimates that inKinshasaalone there are between 20,000 and 30,000 street children and that 60- 80% of these are “witch children” accused of sorcery.
5.18 AtKinshasageneral Hospital we saw a baby of two months, Mukranda, born with withered hands, and who had been abandoned at the hospital by the girl’s mother when she saw her disability, believing this to be a sign from God. We also visited a shelter for street children inKinshasawhere the only provision was a place to sleep overnight. Most children worked the streets by day in order to get money for food.
Mukrunda, abandoned by her Mother because of her deformed hands.
5.19 We were re-assured to be told that Government Ministers have begun to speak out about the phenomenon of “witch children” and we were assured by Simon Kimbangu Kiangani, the spiritual leader of the Kimbanguist church (founded in 1921 as a national Protestant church, highly influential and accounting for about 10% of the DRC population) that this is an issue he takes very seriously.
5.20 The Vicar general of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa (all the other Bishops being ill or absent) told us the view of the Catholic church which is carefully nuanced. Each case must be examined: there are instances of strange phenomena – a child speaking with the voice of an old man or in a foreign language for example. The causes may be imaginary or psychic or (in a very small number of cases) genuine possession, in which case a church service of prayer may be appropriate. Different churches have different approaches, which makes an ecumenical response to the problem difficult. But all churches, other than the small ones who are exploiting the situation by selling ‘exorcisms’, recognise the gravity of the problem and seek to combat it in their teaching.
6.0.1 Our recommendations fall into the three areas of our mandate: Conflict, Advocacy, Children.
6.1.1. The international community must use its leverage withRwandato end all military involvement in theCongoand to actively collaborate with the DRC and MONUC in disarming the militias.
6.1.2. Western governments should urgently hunt down and prosecute arms dealers and those giving assistance and training, or benefiting from involvement inCongo’s
6.1.3. MONUC’s mandate, capacity and effectiveness (as evidenced by its impotence in the events in Bakuvu in June last) are all in serious doubt and should be radically re-assessed.
6.1.4. The DRC’s unified army and the former rebel groups such as RCD-Goma must exercise more stringent control and discipline over their soldiers, hold them to account when accused of abuses, and accelerate the disarmament process and creation of an integrated professional national army.
6.2.1 The DRC must entrench the rule of law, hold to account those who have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, with special regard to the use of rape as a weapon of war.
Canon Harvey speaks to the Congolese about the need for ecumenical efforts in combating the culture of child-sorcery
6.2.2 The DRC should allow proper debate about the transparency of bodies such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, seek assistance from the international community in the training of more judges and magistrates and police officers.
6.2.3 Human rights advocacy should not be seen as a threat but as a vital component in the upholding of the rule of law, human dignity and the sanctity of human life.
6.2.4 The central role of the churches as a lynch-pin in building civil society, in educating for citizenship, democracy and human rights, and in working for reconciliation should be further encouraged.
6.3.1. UNICEF’s work in demobilising child soldiers continues to be the highest priority and donor countries should remain committed to demobilisation and the creation of convergence centres where children can be helped to make the transition back into normal living.
6.3.2. The international community and DRC should urgently reassess their pitiful support of the DRC’s schools and paediatric facilities. Special attention should be paid to the removal of prohibitive school fees, the non-payment of salaries, the condition of buildings and provision of resources.
6.3.3. Those churches that have been capitalised on or encouraged a belief in “witch children” should be openly challenged by DRC government ministers, main-line church leaders, and the overseas churches that often support them.
6.3.4. An urgent co-ordinated, regulated strategy for the creation of child-headed households, shelters and opportunities for the children of the streets should be agreed between the government of DRC, the donor community and NGOs.
Lord Alton thanks a family for their warm hospitality
7.1 Our delegation was enormously impressed by the hospitality and warmth of the Congolese people. We marvelled at their capacity to endure colossal suffering and pain. We were shocked by the scale of what they have had to endure and staggered by years of indifference by the international community. But we saw signs of hope in theCongo and believe that the transitional government remains the country’s best hope. As DRC approaches free elections there is a moment of opportunity. If this moment is not seizedCongo could drift back into brutal anarchy with horrendous consequences for its people and its neighbours.
8.0 Contact Information
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