DRCongo: North Kivu: Journalist Killed


The words abound to describe the unacceptable murder, repulsive, outrageous, irresponsible…. Our friend from the RTNC (Radio Television Nationale Congolaise). Robert Shamwami Shalubuto was murdered last Friday but the causes of this package are still unclear.

Our colleague went through tough times lately that can make everyone to think.

There is one thing in Goma City of North Kivu that when there is a lightweight fact Benin death can be close…

A man (gang) was burnt alive in his neighborhood by the population in July this year of 2014. Another was in prison since. Our colleague was arrested and spent a month in jail … he was on bail when he was murdered…

According to several sources, it is with the last escape into Munzenze prison life of the journalist was in danger then obviously programmed.

Provincial Minister of Communication and Spokesman of the Government of North Kivu has called for the killers be ashamed, then found themselves punished but this kind of call is not the first one because it is a slogan used continually by the regime.

Remember that I always call for International support to Congolese, Rwandan journalists and HRDs within as outside the countries to get more help directly not through intermediaries who can be also obstacle to the victims.

colleague killed 2 colleague killed1

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INTERNATIONAL: Moving to Utah gives refugee family newfound perspective

For Yvette Bugingo, Ethiopia is home — as much as any resting spot for a refugee can be called “home.”

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and forced to flee at 11 when her father was killed, Bugingo spent most of her childhood in northeast Africa, studying English, converting to the Mormon faith, waiting for her life in a better place to start.

Now, seven years later, Bugingo is learning to call Salt Lake City home.

Bugingo, her mother Godelive, sisters Ines and Alia and brother Philip arrived last summer. They’ve scrambled to find housing and jobs and enroll in school. Now, five months later, the family is trying to catch its breath.

“I guess everyone is doing good,” 18-year-old Yvette said. “We’ve got to get used to the cold now.”

The Bugingos are among the roughly 60,000 displaced people who call Utah home. Each year, 1,100 more refugees settle in Utah, according to Gerald Brown, director of Utah’s Refugee Services Office, a division of the Department of Workforce Services.

First it was families from southeast Asia fleeing the Vietnam War. Then Bosnians, Serbs and Croats escaped ethnic violence in the former Yugoslavia. Then exiles from Burma found refuge in Utah. And finally, refugees from Africa — the Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia — have started settling in the Intermountain West.

The state’s refugee numbers are fluid, and change as exiles become U.S. citizens, eventually adopting their native country and moving beyond the crisis stage of resettlement. At that point, the state stops counting them.

Getting to the point of citizenship, however, is a long, difficult road — of menial jobs and English classes and remedial education in some cases.

Refugees, Brown says, are survivors. Their successful transition to life in American is more than an exercise in self-preservation — their unique talents and cultural history benefit Utah as well.

“You don’t get here by being stupid,” he said. “All of them are survivors. They have the potential to be tremendous assets to our community, but to become assets we’ve got to welcome them and we’ve got to give them a hand up.”

Out of Africa

The Bugingos don’t talk much about their life before Ethiopia.

After years of schooling in Ethiopia, the children speak fluent English. Settled into a spartan Salt Lake City apartment filled with bargain furniture, they are articulate, jovial and brimming with warm smiles.

But questions about their life in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) prompt uncharacteristically guarded responses.

Yvette remembers the country of her birth being beautiful and full of animals. Her parents didn’t talk much about the dangers surrounding them, but even as a child she was aware that her family wasn’t safe.

“It’s home, but it wasn’t home,” she said. “I was born there and I know my family is from there, but the country doesn’t feel like home because of all that happened.”

utahPierrette Shandwe

INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: Turkey hits back at US over torture report

Always disgruntled over the US State Department’s annual country report on human rights, which highlights allegations of torture and maltreatment by the Turkish police against terror suspects, the US Senate’s report on CIA tortures appears to have given Ankara a rare opportunity to hit back at Washington.

Turkey is the only NATO ally that has come out to officially condemn the United States, albeit in diplomatic terms, and to call for American officials who authorized the use of torture against Muslim suspects to be brought to justice. Ankara also says it is investigating whether Turkish citizens were detained and unlawfully tortured by the CIA.

Revelations about the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” have also elicited skepticism about Washington’s honesty, resulting in harsh condemnation of the United States from pro-government and Islamist columnists in Turkey.

Meanwhile, anti-government papers are highlighting that supporters of the government are conveniently avoiding any mention of allegations that Turkey also facilitated the CIA’s prisoner transport flights, or rendition, of suspected Muslim terrorists.

In a written statement released on Dec. 11, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the preparation and release of the Senate’s report was “a positive step in terms of transparency.”

Noting that “the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms is one of the most basic responsibilities of contemporary democracies,” the ministry said, “the practices enumerated in the report cannot be condoned in any way. Torture and other brutal, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments are unacceptable under any circumstance.”

It went on to underline the necessity “to bring to justice those who, as stated in the report, violated laws and democratic practices by completely ignoring established universal norms” and said that this had to be done “to avoid the repetition of such acts.”

Given Turkey’s questionable track record in terms of complying with “universal norms,” it was not surprising to find Western diplomats in Ankara who took the Foreign Ministry’s statement with a pinch of salt. Turkish human rights groups continue to accuse Turkish police of acting with impunity when maltreating prisoners detained under anti-terrorism laws.

Accusations of police brutality also peaked after the anti-government demonstrations that followed the Gezi Park protests in 2013. The government, however, continues to stand behind the police force and remains reluctant to cooperate with the courts to penalize policemen accused of maltreatment or lawful killings.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also condemned Washington over the report on CIA torture. “When you look at the report you see unacceptable inhuman treatment and torture. Transparency is important but this does not excuse the torture,” Cavusoglu told reporters on Dec. 11 during a news conference in Ankara with his Slovakian counterpart Miroslav Lajcak.

“I hope our friend and ally America does not repeat such inhuman treatment,” he said, going on to announce that they were scrutinizing the Senate report to see if any Turkish citizens were involved.

Islamist and pro-government commentators were also quick to pick up on the Senate’s report and condemn the United States. Pointing out that he has been highlighting the topic since 2002, Ibrahim Karagul, the editor-in-chief of Yeni Safak, found nothing in the report that was new to him.

Questioning the honesty of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Karagul maintained in his Dec. 11 commentary that the Senate’s report was not just a supposed attempt at coming clean but also an effort to cover up. “That which has to be kept secret has still been hidden, while the revelations that have been made public are already known,” Karagul said.

Karagul contended that all the operations listed in the Senate’s report were continuing today without interruption, including complicity by a large number of countries in transport flights by the CIA of terror suspects, and the setting up of secret CIA torture centers around the world. He said these operations would increase in the future because the Middle East is facing new crises.

Akif Emre, another prominent Islamist commentator for Yeni Safak wrote on Dec. 11 that America’s ethical problem had now been officially documented as a result of the report on CIA tortures.

Emre said that this report collates, in a clear manner, facts that were previously revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“Although the details of the CIA’s inhuman practices are horrifying, they are more or less predictable. What we see now in a concrete manner is what an organization that teaches torture techniques to intelligence services under its control is capable of,” Emre wrote.

Arguing that “US democracy basically has a militaristic characteristic” Emre went on to maintain that the Senate report had also revealed how various countries can be “bribed into becoming a party to immorality and crimes against humanity.”

He recalled reports of CIA torture centers set up in certain NATO countries, naming Poland, and also referred to reports of CIA prisoner transfers between military bases in various countries.

Neither Karagul nor Emre, however, mentioned that Turkey was also named as one of these countries in a report released in June 2006 by the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on the CIA’s transport flights.

“The Turkish government and state never played a part [in the secret transfers] … and never will,” Namik Tan, spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, told reporters during a press briefing after that report was released.

Secret US documents leaked by WikiLeaks in January 2011, however, indicated that Ankara had given permission to Washington to use the Incirlik air base near Adana in southern Turkey for such transfers between 2002 and 2006.

The matter never received full clarification and was left to drift off the agenda and recede into the background. It is back on the agenda, though, after the Senate’s report on CIA torture.

Daily Cumhuriyet, a staunch opponent of the ruling Justice and Development Party, reminded its readers of this in a Dec. 12 article on the topic. It said that although it was condemning Washington now, the government was conveniently overlooking this detail.

“Ankara, which has chosen not to investigate serious allegations of cooperation with the CIA, preferring to remain silent on this topic, is now trying to see if there are Turkish citizens among those who were tortured,” Cumhuriyet said.

Cumhuriyet went on to list some of the allegations against Turkey. These included the claim that an aircraft charted for the transport of terror suspects by the CIA from the Richmor Aviation Co. had landed in Adana at least once in 2002, and another claim that the Incirlik air base had been used to illegally transport at least six suspects to Guantanamo.

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan answers a reporter's question during a rare news conference at CIA Headquarters in Virginia

Posted by Pierrette Sh.

US: Us to Accept Thousands of Syrian Refugees Resettlement

US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard says the United States will dramatically increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle permanently in the United States from about 350 this year to close to 10,000 annually as the crisis grinds on into its fifth year.

While the number is minuscule given a total Syrian refugee population of 3.3 million, it reflects US recognition that the civil war in Syria is not about to end anytime soon and that, even when it does, Syria will need years for reconstruction and reconciliation.

In an interview with Al-Monitor Dec. 22, Richard said, “People are surprised we haven’t taken more.” She said the initial low numbers reflect the reality that “resettling refugees is never the first thing you do when people are fleeing an emerging crisis” and that other countries — in particular Germany and Sweden — have “stepped forward and offered to take a lot” of Syrian refugees.

According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Germany has pledged to absorb 30,000 Syrians just since 2013 — nearly half of those processed for resettlement.

“We thought that was a great offer and unusually generous so we encouraged UNHCR to take advantage of that,” Richard said.

After initial vetting by UNHCR, Syrian refugees who want to resettle in the United States must be interviewed by officers of the Department of Homeland Security at US diplomatic facilities in Amman, Jordan or Istanbul, Turkey. That leaves out a million Syrians who have fled to Lebanon and large populations in Iraq and Egypt. Richard said lack of space and security concerns have kept the United States from interviewing Syrian refugees at the US Embassy in Beirut but that US officials are looking at the possibility of setting up a refugee vetting operation in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

UNHCR seeks to identify the most vulnerable candidates, Richard said. “By Dec. 15, we had 10,000 referrals from UNHCR and they are coming in at 1,000 to 1,500 a month.”

Asked how many of those referred would be accepted, Richard said, “I think most” because they are likely to meet the United State’s definition of a refugee as someone fleeing persecution or threats because of race, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs or membership to a particular social group.

Refugees must also pass medical and security checks. “The last part has been tricky in the past,” Richard said, but added that it is not likely to be a major problem with the Syrians referred by UNHCR. She said she expected them to comprise mostly widows with children, the elderly and people with medical conditions. “It will be fairly clear that they are not terrorists bent on harming Americans,” she said.

No preference is given to those with relatives already in the United States but if they do have family among the estimated half million Syrian Americans, “we try to reunite them because that can improve their chances of doing well in the US,” Richard said.

There are large populations of Arab Americans outside Detroit and in San Diego, but the Syrian refugees who have arrived in the United States recently have been settled all around the country.

According to the latest State Department statistics, 33 Syrian refugees were sent to North Carolina so far this year, 30 to Texas, 24 to both California and Illinois, and only five to Michigan.

Richard said her office works with nine networks in the United States, six of them faith-based, to identify communities willing to help refugees find new homes. “They sign up to take certain numbers based on what their organizations can handle,” she said.

This past year has been extremely challenging for her office, and not just because of Syria. The year started with humanitarian crises in two other countries — South Sudan and the Central African Republic — followed over the summer by Ukraine, a new Gaza war, a flood of unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the US border, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the sudden advance of the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

“It’s been a tough year,” Richard, who is also a former executive with the International Rescue Committee, said with some understatement.

But on the positive side, she said, “We’ve kept millions and millions of people alive” who otherwise would have succumbed to hunger and disease.

While the United States remains the world’s leader in providing humanitarian relief — allocating about $6 billion for refugee assistance, disaster assistance and food aid in the past year and $3 billion for Syria since 2011 — other countries such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are beginning to make regular contributions to the UN agencies that provide most humanitarian aid.

Even Saudi Arabia, which has been reluctant to participate in such UN programs in the past, gave half a million dollars to help Iraqis cope with the crisis caused by IS this summer, Richard said.

“We would like to see more governments contributing and those new to doing so to do it routinely in a dependable way … so that organizations like UNHCR and the World Food Program can plan ahead,” she said.

The United States takes in about 70,000 refugees a year, of whom Iraqis accounted for the largest number in the last fiscal year — nearly 20,000. They were followed by more than 16,000 Burmese, more than 9,000 Bhutanese, more than 7,000 Somalis and more than 4,000 Cubans. The number of Bhutanese is dwindling, however, opening up room for more Syrians.

Richard said it was her impression that the number of Syrians fleeing their country has “leveled off a little bit” but that the problem of those internally displaced and in need of aid is more acute than ever.

“A lot of people are trying to stay and make it inside Syria,” she said, noting that the number of internally displaced had grown from 6 million six months ago to 7.6 million now, with more than 200,000 in areas that cannot be reached by outsiders because of the fighting. “It’s hard for me to understand how they are managing,” she said.

The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has floated a proposal to “freeze” the fighting, starting in Syria’s second largest city, Aleppo, to ease the humanitarian crisis there.

However, Richard expressed skepticism about the plan.

“After Staffan de Mistura came through [Washington recently], everyone wanted to give it a chance but I don’t think we have much evidence of a change,” she said. “There has been modest cooperation from the Assad regime but the thinking is that they haven’t suddenly adopted a whole new pro-humanitarian approach. It’s more that they are trying to distinguish themselves from [IS],” she said..

Others who work on the Syria crisis also expressed pessimism about a near-term solution to the conflict.

“I can’t believe that I’m still doing this after almost four years,” Sasha Ghosh-Siminoff, president and co-founder of an aid group called People Demand Change, told Al-Monitor. “When I left Syria in 2011, we all thought the regime would decide to save itself and make reforms, crumble quickly or that the international community would step in. Unfortunately none of that has come to pass.”

Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, and Lindborg, USAID assistant administrator for democracy, conflict, and humanitarian assistance, visit the Al Zaatri Syrian refugee camp in Mafraq

DR. Congo EDUCATION: One Reason Millions of Congolese Children Don’t Go To School: Fees Parents Can’t Afford

While cash may be a little tight around the holiday season, there are some basic expenses most families don’t have to budget for. That includes, for example, having to pay fees every day simply for our children to go to school.

But in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I am today, thousands of struggling moms and dads are still paying school fees even although the country’s government has ordered them to be abolished and is fully committed to free school education.

Sadly, the noble aspiration has yet to become an everyday reality. An estimated 11 million families still have to pay for their children to have an education. Almost 75 percent of school finance still comes from ordinary families, and the average fees are $44 per year, per student. The tragic result of that is that 40 percent of pupils drop out of education before they have even finished their primary schooling.

Charging for school shuts millions of children out of a basic chance to learn. Denied the oxygen of opportunity, they will never obtain skills that are needed for work in a country that, if well-educated, has enormous natural resources to exploit. Charging for learning is one of the reasons why the Democratic Republic of Congo has, out of all African countries, the second largest out-of-school population at 3.5 million children. One out of four children never start primary school, and only 60 percent of those who start actually complete their primary education – among girls, it’s only 30 percent. Most of these children cannot afford to continue school because their parents cannot meet the costs. Thus, another generation loses the chance to better itself.

So this week, I met with the president to discuss an ambitious plan to make schooling free and universal for everyone by the end of next year.

I have seen with my own eyes why it is essential. On the way to the meeting, I travelled along roads with dozens of school-age boys and girls walking aimlessly, some of them begging — all of whom should be in a classroom, learning basic skills that will equip them for the rest of their lives. The DRC education budget has risen from 6.5 percent to 13.8 percent in the past two years. And while teachers’ salaries have increased, the national coffers of one of the poorest countries in the world are big enough only to pay teachers a paltry $90 per month.

Think about that. That’s an average pay of $3 a day, or 37 cents an hour, even for a qualified teacher. This is unacceptable not only in the West but everywhere. Parents are asked to pay school fees to top off the teacher salaries, and even then, it is still not a living wage.

You may think that charging poor people to go to school is a vicious idea that should have been left behind in the 19th century but the Democratic Republic of Congo will need an extra $500 million simply to complete the abolition of school fees.

And as its population inevitably grows, the DRC will also have to find the money to increase primary school capacity by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

At the same time, they have to pay to construct classrooms urgently needed today in the most remote rural areas. On top of that, they have to provide the books and equipment, including computer technology, that are now essential for children to have the best possible start in life.

The costs indeed are daunting and might deter a government less committed than today’s DRC President, Prime Minister and Education Minister. But as they recognize, the consequences of doing nothing are far, far worse. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.K. Department for International Development recently signed an agreement to implement a bold, five-year $180 million program to help nearly half a million children in the DRC go to school and another 1.4 million learn to read by 2020. The Global Partnership for Education has also recently joined the coalition now assembling to back the education ambitions of the DRC with $100 million over four years.

But the international community will need to do more in the new year if, by December 2015, no child is to be denied the right to go to school or to face a closed classroom door because her parents are not able to pay a fee.

Sourcing for statistics: Department for International Development, United Kingdom (2014). “Overview of Education in DRC.” London: Department for International Development.

GREAT LAKES: Former FDLR fighters call for disarmament of militia

Former FDLR fighters call for disarmament of militia

Former members of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia have asked the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco) and other stakeholders to step up their efforts and make sure the group is disarmed as soon as possible to end their continued holding of captives.

FDLR is a terrorist group that is holed up in the eastern swathes of DR Congo, where they have continued to hold captive civilian refugees since fleeing into the jungles 20 years ago after their genocidal machinery was defeated in Rwanda.

The former militiamen were speaking in Musanze on Tuesday during the ceremony to discharge 50 of them after they underwent a three-month rehabilitation and reintegration training that included entrepreneurship skills, adult literacy, and Rwanda history, among others.

Emmanuel Ntibiramira, 36, said he had been forced to join the militia group and whenever he wanted to repatriate with other militiamen, they were threatened with death.

He said all the theatrics that led the world to believe that the militia was willing to disarm was all about playing to the gallery and the FDLR, unless forcefully disarmed, would never surrender voluntarily.

Ntibiramira said even with the January 2 deadline given to the militia to voluntarily lay down arms under a regional security arrangement, FDLR is reluctant to do so, instead they are holding innocent people in camps in areas such as Kisangani.

A framework spearheaded by the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region, backed by the UN, gave the militia group that largely consists of people responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, until January 2 to disarm, else they face military offensive.

“FDLR is not willing to voluntarily lay down weapons, though they tend to show the world they are willing to disarm and stop fighting; with my experience with them I know they have no such intention,” said Ntibiramira.

“After mounting international pressure, FDLR hoodwinked the world that they were disarming and regrouping at the Kisangani camp. Actually, the people they took to the camp are civilians they have held captive and some aging militiamen. There is no single senior militiaman who stepped there,” he added.

Ntibiramira said more members of FDLR are not happy to stay in the group but they are under threat to be killed whenever they are caught escaping or suspected of trying to.

“Once, I mobilised my colleagues and convinced them to repatriate but I was later discovered and sentenced to death by senior militiamen, the sentence was commuted after we expressed remorse and sought forgiveness,” he said.

Women, children suffering

Some family members of FDLR militiamen, including children and women who are willing to repatriate but can’t get a way out are only suffering from various issues in the forest, he said.

“People are hungry, suffer from various diseases and have no shelter but they can’t repatriate because they are held hostage by FDLR senior commanders who are aware of their direct role in 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and fear justice,” Ntibiramira said.

Jean Damascene Ndinkabandi, another ex-militiaman, said he was lucky to be back home after decades of suffering in the Congo jungles with FDLR.

“It was not easy to escape, it took me a lot of efforts and I had reached a point where I was ready to die while attempting to flee. I am calling on Monusco and DR Congo to work together with other partners to end FDLR insurgency and free the thousands of civilians from their bondage,” he said.

Ex-combatants said they regretted the over 20 years they spent in jungles and committed their efforts to use the acquired entrepreneurship skills to build better lives for their families.

Jean Sayinzoga, the chairperson of the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, said the Government of Rwanda is working with Monusco and other partners to help more willing fighters repatriate.

He said they are planning to use various communication channels such as radios, telephone, video conference, among others, to show them that Rwanda is a peaceful and hospital country.

The issue of FDLR disarmament has been of concern to the United Nations, members of International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, among others.

In October, Martin Kobler, head of the Monusco, told UN Security Council that the lack of progress in the preferred voluntary disarmament and surrender of FDLR will mean “taking the fight to the jungle.”

“Taking this fight to the jungle will be long and difficult. It will result in many casualties. I, for one, do not want to see that. But it is up to the FDLR to prevent this scenario,” Kobler said.


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