As Congolese prepare to vote, Ban calls for peaceful and secure elections
Publisher: UN News Centre
Story date: 27/11/2011
Language: English

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged politicians and voters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to ensure that tomorrow''s presidential and parliamentary elections take place as peacefully and smoothly as possible.

In a statement Mr. Ban described the elections as "crucial for the country''s progress towards stabilization and development" and stressed the support of the United Nations for the electoral process.

He called on "all political leaders and the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to exercise restraint throughout the process to ensure that the elections are held in a peaceful and secure environment.

"I appeal to them to conform to the relevant provisions of the constitution and the electoral law to promote democratic debate to respect the results of the ballots and to address any disputes that may arise, through the established mediation and legal channels."

Mr. Ban commended the DRC''s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its "notable work to organize the elections in a timely manner," and also the UN peacekeeping mission to the DRC (MONUSCO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for their support during the process.

He also voiced hope that many national and international observers, along with political party witnesses, will be present at polling stations tomorrow and throughout the electoral process.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General''s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom said it was "completely unacceptable" that the militia commander Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, who was indicted over the notorious mass rapes in the eastern DRC town of Walikale last year and yet remains at large, has been campaigning for a parliamentary seat.

Mr. Sheka was indicted in January for sexual violence crimes after being apprehended following the July-August 2010 attacks in Walikale, in which at least 387 civilians were raped over four days by members of two armed groups – the Mai Mai Sheka and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (known by their French acronym, FDLR).

Militia commander Sheka is already indicted for crimes of sexual violence perpetrated against citizens of Walikale," she said. "Now asking for their votes in Monday''s elections is nothing but a grave insult.

"I call upon Congolese law enforcement agencies to enforce the arrest warrant for militia commander Sheka and bring him to justice immediately. The terrible events that took place in Walikale last summer created a global outcry. Impunity is not an option."
 

Congo Votes Amid Expectations of Fraud and Fears of Violence
Publisher: The Washington Post
Author: By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Story date: 27/11/2011
Language: English

KINSHASA, Congo — After weekend clashes between supporters of rival parties and security forces firing on crowds, Congolese began voting on Monday in only the second election in this vast and troubled country in which the entire population has been able to vote.

President Joseph Kabila, the incumbent, is fighting challenges from 10 rivals while 500 seats in Parliament are being contested by more than 18,500 candidates.

In the eastern lakeside town of Goma, which has seen some of the worst pre-election violence, Reuters reported, polls opened slightly late but thousands of people lined up to cast their ballots. News reports said that at one polling station in the southern city of Lubumbashi ballot boxes did not arrive on time.

As the vote approached, several people were killed at political rallies, including two men who were smashed with rocks on Saturday. President Kabila's security forces have been widely accused of torturing opposition supporters. The opposition, for that matter, is hardly faultless, and Etienne Tshisekedi, a 78-year-old firebrand and the leading presidential challenger, recently declared himself president and stirred up his supporters to break their comrades out of jail.

There have been delays, myriad logistical problems and growing accusations of fraud. More alarming, analysts say, is the possibility that the presidential race will be close, seriously testing this country's dangerously weak institutions.

"People are scared," said Dishateli Kinguza, who sells baseball caps from a rickety stand here in Kinshasa, the capital. "Actually, I'm scared. If people don't accept who wins, it's going to be bad."

This enormous nation in the heart of Africa plunged into war in 1996 when rebel fighters and Congo's neighbors teamed up to overthrow one of the most corrupt men on the most corrupt continent, Mobutu Sese Seko, Congo's former dictator who ran this country into the ground during three decades of kleptocratic rule.

Congo has never really recovered, especially in its staggeringly beautiful eastern region, where the real spoils are: the gold, the diamonds, the tin ore, the endless miles of towering hardwood forest. Brutal rebel groups still haunt the hills, pillaging minerals and killing and raping at will.

Congo's stagnation or even worse, its reverse development — this year the United Nations ranked it dead last of the 187 countries on the Human Development Index — is driving many people to vote against Mr. Kabila, who has been in power since 2001.

"I don't see any changes in my life," said Angel Nyamayoka, a single mother of seven children who scrapes by on $2 a day. "We have to vote for anyone but Kabila."

Many analysts say it is hard to see how Mr. Kabila could win this election fairly. Mr. Tshisekedi, a veteran Congolese politician still revered for standing up to Mr. Mobutu, is very popular in Kinshasa. He is also seen as a father figure of the Luba ethnic group, one of Congo's biggest, and is expected to carry the populous Kasai regions in the south and pick up anti-Kabila votes across the country.

Mr. Kabila, 40, has never been well liked in Kinshasa, where many people view him as an outsider, possibly even foreign born, who does not comfortably speak Lingala, the lingua franca. In 2006, the last election, Mr. Kabila relied on eastern Congo to win the presidency. But this time around, eastern Congo has its own champion running for president — Vital Kamerhe, the well-educated former speaker of the national assembly who hails from the city of Bukavu and is expected to draw votes away from Mr. Kabila.

A recent United Nations report described a "general climate of intimidation" with opposition supporters "threatened, beaten or arrested" and noted an episode in July in which Republican Guard soldiers set up a roadblock in a central Congolese town and warned residents that a new war would break out if they did not vote for Mr. Kabila.

"If it is close," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, "the chance for significant unrest is high."

But there is a crucial difference between this election and 2006, when intense gun battles erupted on Kinshasa's boulevards between Mr. Kabila's forces and the militia of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the presidential runner-up. This time around, most opposition supporters are not part of a militia and therefore do not have guns.

Western diplomats predict that Mr. Kabila, who this year pressured the Parliament to change Congo's Constitution and eliminate a second round of voting, will win a thin plurality, spurring opposition protests in Congo's biggest cities. But many Congolese say their country has become so exhausted and jaded that the protests will not degenerate into all-out rebellion and that they will eventually fizzle out.

"We'll take to the streets and burn some tires and the police will shoot at us and we'll throw rocks," said Mr. Kinguza, the vendor of baseball caps. "But that will probably be about it."

Alan Cowell contributed reporting from London.
 

Elections en RDC: les Congolais ont commencé à voter
Publisher: AFP
Story date: 27/11/2011
Language: Français

LUBUMBASHI (RDCongo), 28 nov 2011 (AFP) – Les Congolais ont commencé à
voter lundi à 06H00 locales (04H00 GMT) pour élire le futur président de la
République démocratique du Congo (RDC) et 500 députés, un scrutin sous tension
après des violences lors de la campagne, ont constaté des journalistes de
l'AFP.
Les premiers bureaux ont ouvert dans l'est. En raison d'un décalage horaire
dans ce pays grand comme l'Europe occidentale, les bureaux ne devaient ouvrir
à Kinshasa et dans les régions de l'ouest qu'à 05H00 GMT.
Dans le centre de vote du complexe scolaire Imara à Lubumbashi, dans la
province du Katanga (sud-est), les opérations ont débuté à 06H02 (04H02) avec
le vote des membres du bureau. Dehors, une douzaine d'électeurs attendaient
déjà sous une petite pluie fine.
En revanche, à l'école Jean Calvin, les agents de la Commission électorale
attendaient toujours les urnes, les isoloirs et les bulletins de vote. "On est
là depuis 05H00, mais pour l'instant nous n'avons rien reçu", a déclaré à
l'AFP le chef du bureau Jean-Clément Tshibangu.
Une demi-heure après l'ouverture du scrutin, l'abbé Benoit Tambwe, 50 ans,
sort du bureau où il est inscrit, le pouce noirci par de l'encre indélébile,
signe anti-fraude qu'il a bien voté: "Il n'y a pas eu de problème, tout se
passe bien, dans le calme. J'avais repéré mon candidat page 13 du bulletin des
législatives, et j'ai fait une croix au stylo en face de sa figure".
A Kinshasa, de petites grappes d'électeurs patientent déjà devant le bureau
10189 à l'école Saint Georges dans le quartier Kintanbo.
Hélène Manbanda, une agente de la commission électorale de 22 ans s'affaire
à guider les électeurs qui cherchent leurs noms sur les listes.
Tel un magicien qui retourne une boîte pour montrer qu'elle n'est pas
truquée, le président du bureau exhibe une urne transparente devant les
électeurs.
A Mbuji Mayi, la capitale du Kasaï Oriental (centre) et fief du dirigeant
d'opposition Etienne Tshisekedi, certains électeurs s'impatientent. "On est
des centaines devant le bureau 17803. Pas d'urnes, pas de bulletins, pas
d'isoloir", affirme à l'AFP Patrick Kalombo Tshilobo, visiblement remonté.
Près de 64.000 bureaux de vote sont prévus dans tout le pays. La Commission
électorale nationale indépendante (Céni) a été placée sous forte pression ces
derniers jours pour parvenir à distribuer le matériel électoral, notamment les
bulletins de vote.
Onze candidats, dont le président sortant Joseph Kabila, se disputent la
présidentielle, et près de 19.000 les 500 sièges de l'Assemblée nationale.
Face à Kabila, grand favori de ce scrutin à un tour, l'opposition se
présente en ordre dispersé.
Le patron de l'Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social (UDPS),
Etienne Tshisekedi, 78 ans, n'a pas réussi à rassembler les autres concurrents
sur son nom face au président sortant qui a disposé de gros moyens et des
medias d'Etat durant tout le mois de la campagne électorale.
Ni le mobutiste Léon Kengo, 76 ans, président du Sénat, ni Vital Kamerhe,
51 ans, ex-président de l'Assemblée nationale et ancien proche de Kabila
devenu opposant déclaré en 2010, n'ont souhaité se ranger sous la bannière de
Tshisekedi.
Dans un message à la nation, Joseph Kabila a appelé dimanche soir à aller
voter en masse et dans le calme.
"Notre pays vient de loin, d'une situation de guerre et de conflits en tous
genres (...) Cette élection est un scrutin "pour la stabilité et l'avenir",
a-t-il poursuivi, en mettant en garde de ne pas revenir "à la case départ".
Les résultats provisoires de la présidentielle sont attendus le 6 décembre
au plus tard, ceux des législatives le 13 janvier.
 

UN chief appeals for calm after DRCongo election violence
Publisher: AFP
Story date: 27/11/2011
Language: English

KINSHASA, Nov 27, 2011 (AFP) – UN chief Ban ki-Moon on Sunday appealed for
calm after deadly violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo marred the
final day's campaigning ahead of national elections.
But in the statement, issued from New York, Ban warned the government that
it had "primary responsibility" for maintaining peace.
His appeal came after two people died and police clashed with the main
opposition candidate and his entourage Saturday, the final day of campaigning
before Monday's elections.
"I call on all political leaders and the people of the Democratic Republic
of the Congo to exercise restraint throughout the process to ensure that the
elections are held in a peaceful and secure environment," Ban said.
All sides needed to respect the constitution and election laws, he said.
But he added: "I stress the primary responsibility of the government of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo for maintaining a secure environment for the
elections," Ban said.
Two people were killed in campaign-linked violence Saturday and opposition
leader Etienne Tshisekedi was engaged in a stand-off with police when he tried
to defy a ban on political rallies.
National police chief General Charles Bisengimana and 300 of his officers
blocked 78-year-old Tshisekedi and his entourage for several hours at Kinshasa
airport.
Police eventually pushed members of his 20-car entourage into their cars
with shoves and baton blows and forced the motorcade to drive off.
Kinshasa police had called off the last campaign rallies Saturday after the
campaign-related violence earlier in the day. Interior Minister Adolphe Lumanu
said two people had died.
But apart from "a few incidents", the election campaign had passed off
peacefully across the country, he added.
Kinshasa governor Andre Kimbuta, an ally of President Joseph Kabila, also
said the ban was for security reasons, accusing Tshisekedi supporters of
carrying stones, machetes, knives and petrol bombs.
The violence closes a tense campaign marred by a series of street fights
between rival supporters.
Amid the chaos of the final day of campaigning, the national election
commission also cancelled for the second time a press conference on its
efforts to get ballots delivered in a country two-thirds the size of western
Europe and with a crumbling and limited road network.
The commission has been running behind schedule throughout the process,
raising fears the vote could be delayed.
Ban, in Sunday's statement, praised the "notable work" of the Independent
National Electoral Commission, supported by the government, in getting the
elections ready on time.
The elections are only second here since back-to-back wars from 1996 to
2003, the scars of which are still fresh.
 

Why eastern DR Congo is 'rape capital of the world'
Publisher: CNN
Author: By Fiona Lloyd-Davies
Story date: 27/11/2011
Language: English

Editor's note: Award-winning film maker Fiona Lloyd-Davies is one of the UK's most experienced foreign documentary and current affairs program makers. She has been making films about human rights issues in areas of conflict since 1992. She writes for CNN as part of special coverage on the Democratic Republic of Congo as the country heads to the polls on November 28.

(CNN) – From the first time you step into eastern Congo, you find yourself surrounded by the exotic and extraordinary, be it flora and fauna or the just plain incongruous – the severed wing of a Russian aircraft stored on the side of the road, or a boy with a gun.

The place is pulsating with the heat and energy of a population of people fighting to survive just one more day. But the violence here is as intense as this intoxicating, heady mix of Africa at its best and worst.

Filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-DaviesEastern Congo has been called the "rape capital of the world" by U.N. Special Representative Margot Wallstrom. Reports record that 48 women are raped every hour. I have been working in the region for 10 years and have seen a tragic development in this unpunished crime against the heart of society.

I first went to a town called Shabunda, deep in the forest. It was October 2001 and circumstances brought me to Congo rather than Afghanistan. A small twin-engined plane was the only way in. And out.

It was the height of the war and I was with a returning team from the medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). They had pulled out because of the regular attacks on the town, but had decided it was safe to bring their team of three back: there was such a need for medical help here.

As the plane taxied its way precariously down the grass airstrip, we knew we were waving goodbye to the only escape route we had. I was there for a week.

A week hearing terrifying stories of torture and rape. Multiple rapes. Violent, brutal rape. Rape with sticks and guns, even bayonets.

Women told me of their daily choice – to stay at home and face starvation. Or, go out to the fields for food and be raped. Most women chose the latter. It had become the norm.

The war continued until 2003, when a peace treaty was signed. Officially, the fighting came to an end, but it didn't stop. Nor did the rape.

I returned to Shabunda in 2005 to find the women I had interviewed and photograph four years earlier. It was an unsettling search, for most of those women had died or disappeared in the forest after an attack, never to be seen again.

The new women I met had similar tales of horror. But there was a twist. The people I spoke to this time related organized rape camps, with daily roll-calls. There was a new efficiency in the rape, it had become an integrated part of the rebel forces lives. As these women told me, it was now systematic.

Some years later, in 2009, I returned to make a film about rape and found a disturbing new trend.

Women told me how they expected to be raped. Not once but many times. The women I met, spoke of gang rapes, three or four times. Sometimes it was "only" two soldiers, more often gangs of men,10, 20, over and over again.

Rape has now become generational.

In Panzi hospital, Bukavu, Dr. Mukwege, a general surgeon continues to work tirelessly to repair these damaged women. I met one of his patients. She was a cheerful little girl, it was impossible not to be drawn to her smile.

The nurse saw me playing with her said: "You know she's HIV-positive." She was just three years old. Her twin sister had been killed when she and her mother had been raped. This little girl had been conceived from rape.

It makes difficult reading, but not nearly as difficult as it is for the women survivors, who are living with the consequences and stigma of rape.

Not least one particular woman, Masika Katsuva. She's tiny, barely five foot tall but is a giant of a personality. Her story has inspired many of us, it is so bleak but also hopeful because she's providing an answer to these women.

The African beauty empowering women

Like so many women survivors, she too was rejected when she and her two teenage daughters were raped by militia men. Her husband was murdered in front of her, chopped up and she was forced to eat his private parts.

Her two daughters Rachel and Yvette were 15 and 13 years old, and both of them conceived children. Masika's husband's family rejected them and she brought her daughters and their babies to a market town hugging the shore of Lake Kivu to try and rebuild their lives.

This year I made a film about her and her work. She's taking care of 170 women at the moment, they call her Mama Masika. Over the past 10 years she's helped more than 6,000 victims of rape, providing them with a wide range of care – practical, medical and psychological.

She has created a community in an area that is not regularly attacked, providing support to anyone who wants it, and she uses a farm to bring them together.

That field is their hope, their therapy and their source of food and income. They come to this refuge as victims, punished by the violation of rape, blamed and rejected by their families and the local community.

Masika has become a mother figure to the women and their children – the results of rape – and as they plant, tend, harvest and finally sell their crops they begin to heal together.

Masika tries to dream of a better future, but she's also realistic. She wants her women to be able to stop doing manual labor in the fields and learn skills like sewing. But for that to happen, she believes, the fighting and the rape must stop.

She looks me in the eye, and with a sigh, says: "But I don't see either the rape or the fighting ending today."
 

Ahead of Ivorian legislative polls, UN envoy warns on sexual violence
Publisher: UN News Centre
Story date: 27/11/2011
Language: English

The envoy spearheading United Nations efforts to eradicate sexual violence in conflict today urged the Government and all political leaders in Cote d''Ivoire to speak out against the scourge and ensure it is not used to intimidate people ahead of critical legislative elections slated to take place next month.

Margot Wallstrom, the Secretary-General''s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, issued a statement after an official visit to Cote d''Ivoire, during which she met with top Government ministers, senior police officials, the chairman of the national truth and reconciliation commission and many survivors of sexual violence.

She noted that sexual violence was used as a tool of political intimidation during last year''s presidential elections, which were won by Alassane Ouattara. The runner-up and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down in the wake of the result, leading to months of deadly clashes until Mr. Gbagbo was eventually ousted and arrested this year.

Legislative elections, the first polls to be held since the post-electoral crisis, are scheduled to be held on 11 December.

In her statement Ms. Wallstrom called on the Government to "translate its promise to fight impunity for crimes of sexual violence into concrete action. In light of the upcoming? [elections], I call on all people in positions of influence to speak up against the use of sexual violence as a tool of political intimidation and to do their utmost to put in place measures to prevent sexual violence from being employed to this effect."

She stressed that "much more" is needed to assist survivors of sexual violence in Cote d''Ivoire, particularly in ensuring they have access to justice and helping them reintegrating into society.
 

Some 76,000 people fleeing conflict in Sudan enter Ethiopia, South Sudan – UN
Publisher: UN News Centre
Story date: 27/11/2011
Language: English

The United Nations refugee agency voiced concern today over the movement of large numbers of people from Sudan into Ethiopia and South Sudan, saying that an estimated 76,000 people have moved since August, mainly as a result of conflicts.
Of the estimated 36,000 Sudanese refugees who moved towards Ethiopia, up to 17,000 have been transferred to camps, according to Raouf Mazou, the Deputy Director UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) African Bureau in charge of Eastern, Horn of Africa, Chad and Sudan.

The challenge UNHCR is facing is that the refugees have gone to extremely remote locations which are difficult to reach, Mr. Mazou told reporters in Geneva. Assistance had been provided by helicopter, he said, adding that up to 100,000 Sudanese could enter Ethiopia and South Sudan in the coming few weeks if the current trend continues.

Meanwhile, efforts are under way to encourage people to relocate from the Yida refugee site in South Sudan's Unity State to safer area further south away from the border, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The refugees fled fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state.

South Sudan has also been receiving refugees crossing from Sudan's Blue Nile state.
 

Sudan refugees to hit 100,000 in weeks
Publisher: Montreal Gazette
Story date: 27/11/2011
Language: English

GENEVA – The number of people fleeing unrest in Sudan is likely to reach 100,000 by the end of the year, a UN expert said on Friday.

Since August about 76,000 have sought refuge in Ethiopia and South Sudan from fighting in the volatile Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas, according to Raouf Mazou of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

"If the trends we are seeing continue we are likely to see in the coming weeks and definitely before the end of the year up to 100,000 refugees having fled Sudan into South Sudan and into Ethiopia," said the deputy director for East and Horn of Africa, Chad and Sudan.

Mazou said an estimated 16,000 people had crossed from Sudan's Blue Nile state into Upper Nile in South Sudan as a result of fighting.

A further 20,000 have fled South Kordofan for Unity province in the newly independent south.

In both Blue Nile and South Kordofan Sudan's ruling National Congress Party has been battling militiamen who fought alongside the former southern rebels during their decades-long conflict with the north.

The UNHCR has been delivering aid to the refugees who have mainly settled in the border areas.

"The challenge that we are facing is that they are in an extremely remote location and it is difficult to access them," said Mazou.

"Most of the assistance has had to be provided by helicopter.

"We hope with the dry season coming up we will have easier access by road to these refugees."
 

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