DRC and Uganda update
11th April 2006

1. COMMENTARY

The humanitarian situation remains critical in the DRC with severe malnutrition being reported in the Kantanga province. The forthcoming election must not distract the Government, aid agencies or media from recognising and addressing this most urgent of situations. The evidence presented by the UN documenting 1,800 deaths attributable to landmines is a timely reminder of the continuing danger of landmines and the measures needed to disable these death-traps, which continues to kill Congolese people indiscriminately.

The report by HART, following the visit of Baroness Cox provides alarming evidence of the continuing grave violations of human rights in Northern Uganda. The aftermath of the Presidential elections draws to a close with the Supreme Court decision reported in last weeks update. The important announcement from the Opposition candidate, Besigye, that his supporters will not engage in violence provides an important assurance needed for the stability of the Great Lakes region. It should be noted, however, that Besigye has not accepted the validity of the election. Perhaps Ms. Betty Nambooze of the Democratic Party put it best when she said of Museveni, “He has been legally elected but he is not a legitimate President.” Regardless of Museveni’s legitimacy, his administration needs to act on HART’s recommendations and begin to confront these violations.

2. NEWS

DRC

LANDMINES KILL 1,800 IN DRC IN THREE YEARS

05/4/06

Landmines laid in the Democratic Republic of Congo's five-year civil war have killed almost 1 800 people since the end of the conflict, the United Nations anti-landmine centre in DRC said on Tuesday. Speaking on the first world day for the fight against explosive devices, the centre's director Harouna Ouedraogo told Agence France-Presse that landmines kill people every month in the vast African country, the size of western Europe. "Their presence has a psychological impact on the population, who live in fear because mines do not go quiet after a war, they do not recognise any peace agreement," he said. The UN operation lacks funding to de-mine DRC, Ouedraogo said.

More info at:

http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=268597&area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__africa/

FOOD DROPS BEGIN TO PEOPLE DISPLACED IN KATANGA

6/4/06

The United Nations began airdrops of food relief on Wednesday to tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting between the national army and Mayi-Mayi malitiamen in Katanga, the south-eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a UN official said. "With the logistical problems of transport and the very bad state of the roads, as well as the prevailing insecurity in the region, we are obliged to proceed with aerial food distribution," said Claude Gibidar, a senior official for the World Food Programme (WFP), on Wednesday. Airdrops are being made to 40,000 displaced people in the villages of Dubie, Mitwaba, Sampwe and Kasongeji, he said.

More info at:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/de5a4b0770874fa6e5ccdbf58b61b037.htm

HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION URGENTLY NEEDED IN KATANGA PROVINCE

10/4/06

When an International Medical Corps nutrition and health assessment team recently went into camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, they found the humanitarian situation to be extremely alarming. Camp residents are displaying severe malnutrition – adults as well as children. Health care services here do not meet the enormity of the needs, and water-sanitation facilities are far too few for the thousands they serve. The trauma suffered by those fleeing the violence in the Katanga region is intensified by a significant degree of sexual-gender based violence perpetrated by militia.

More info at:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/fromthefield/218615/114469656869.htm

Uganda

SURVEY REVEALS GRINDING POVERTY IN WAR-AFFECTED NORTH

07/4/06

Seventy percent of the population in war-affected northern Uganda live in absolute poverty, with each adult's consumption expenditure at about 20,000 Uganda shillings (US $11) per month, according to a survey released this week. A government study of the living conditions and social welfare of people living in northern Uganda, many of whom have been displaced by civil conflict, revealed a dire humanitarian situation in the region. Dwellings were substandard, and most of the population lived on less than $1 a day.

More info at:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/2731d273895cf2ce8f2fcfd08c0966c2.htm

BESIGYE RULES OUT WAR

7/4/06

FDC leader Dr Kizza Besigye has assured his supporters and the country that neither his party, nor himself was planning to wage war against the government in the wake of the 2006 presidential election petition. Fears had risen after Besigye made a statement soon after the ruling that its likely this could be the last presidential petition the Supreme Court judges are presiding over, since subsequent petitions are likely to be addressed to courts similar to one which President Museveni found confidence in 1981. Besigye's statement was interpreted by some people as a hint on his plans to go to the bush. He had also described the incoming Museveni administration as illegitimate.

More info at:

http://allafrica.com/stories/200604070794.html

3. REPORTS BY NGOs

DRC

HART: Report not yet published, visit to Uganda by Baroness Cox

6-16/2/06

The Report is a harrowing account of the mass suffering in Northern Uganda. Documenting personal accounts of violence, torture, burning of homes, rape and the massacre of children, at the hands of the LRA, it provides a chillingly authentic reminder to avoid “false complacency”. The report draws attention to the vulnerability of “commuter children” who commute to shelter at the safe havens provided by NGOs but are often abducted by the LRA on the journey.

The reports makes several recommendations:

(i) Urgent humanitarian assistance: many people spoke about the urgent need for the region to be declared a ‘disaster area’ in order for the international community to become involved with the provision of humanitarian assistance to prevent the escalation of suffering, disease and death among the populations of the camps. There is an urgent need to develop health care and educational facilities, as well as the provision of essential resources such as water, sanitation and firewood.

(ii) Security: the people are yearning to be able to leave the camps, with their diminishing, demeaning way of life in the cramped, unsanitary and prison-like conditions. There is therefore an urgent need for the provision of adequate security to enable them to return to their villages and to their traditional way of life, with its established customs, values and morals.

(iii) Political: whoever wins the forthcoming election, it will be essential for the next president and the new administration to make a genuine commitment to solving these problems and to enabling the people of the north to begin to try to rebuild their shattered lives and to attempt to heal the deep wounds of physical and psychological trauma to which they have been subjected for 20 years. Many have suffered losses and pain which will leave permanent scars, but it is essential that any political leadership moves on from established positions and entrenched attitudes to attempts to develop new, creative initiatives, involving the international community as appropriate.

(iv) Education: perhaps the most frequent request we heard from the young people was a ‘cri de coeur’ for education. There is now a ‘lost generation’, many of whom have suffered the horrors inflicted on them when abducted by the LRA; many of these and many others have lost their parents through war and disease, particularly HIV/AIDS (the rate in the north is almost double that for Uganda as a whole). Many children are having to assume responsibility for younger siblings in ‘child-headed families’. Many cannot afford school fees and therefore are doomed to remain uneducated and unable to find any employment, or obtain qualifications for a career of their choice. They are currently doomed to ‘trajectories of despair’. The provision of free or affordable education is a prerequisite for them to break out of the this trajectory, to find new hope and purpose for their lives – and, through these, some healing for the indescribable suffering so many have endured.

More info to follow in subsequent updates

4. IN PARLIAMENT

PARLIAMENT IS CURRENTLY IN RECESS

DRC

VISIT OF PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION TO DRC

A group of MPs, under the auspices of the All Party Group for the Great Lakes Region and Genocide Prevention are currently visiting the DRC: Eric Joyce, Jeremy Hunt, Mary Creagh and Oona King (former MP, former Chair of APG)

5. LOOKING AHEAD

DRC

FIRST ROUND OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Date: sometime after June 18th