WALTER JAMES

Walter James (SOS Femme en Danger – SOSFED): Walter graduated in 2006 from the University of Minnesota. Following college, he worked on international development in Haiti and Senegal, and studied human rights and international development in Senegal, Costa Rica, and Morocco. Walter first visited Eastern Congo as a 2009 Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, where he documented the work of civil society organizations such as SOS Femmes en Danger, Arche d’Alliance, and Tunza Mazingira. The following year, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with a Master’s degree in Public Policy.



Security briefing

13 Mar

On February 28th, a vehicle belonging to CCAP, a local NGO based in Uvira, was stopped by bandits up near Magunda, in Uvira Territory.  CCAP coordinates the efforts of 28 local NGOs working on food security, civil society, health and sanitation, and sexual violence.  The bandits took money, cell phones, and the clothes of the passengers.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The zone where the CCAP vehicle was taken is by no means safe as churches, but it was still a bit disquieting to learn of such an incident so close to Uvira in an area considered not near as dangerous as it was back in 2009.

According to UN sources, Amani Leo troops are pulling out of some of the smaller villages in Fizi Territory and moving into the bigger towns for re-organization and training.  On March 5, we got a call from the ANR in Kikonde to tell us that the Mai Mai had just moved into Kikonde, which means that our visit there for March was cancelled.  The Mai Mai are not implicated in near as many rapes as the Amani Leo troops, who are truly a scourge to the civilian population of Fizi Territory, but their unpredictable behavior makes it difficult to travel and work in areas they control.

On February 26th, the FDLR raped around 50 women (and a few men) on the road to the market in Milimba.  This is the 6th case of mass rape in the Haut Plateau in 2011.  The number of reported rape cases in the Haut Plateau is around 150 just since January 19th.  Chew on that statistic a little bit and tell me there shouldn’t be more done.  Médecins Sans Frontières responds to many of these mass rape incidents, but the simple truth is that there isn’t enough being done to stop the violence, particularly against women.

Just how difficult is it to bring security to South Kivu?  The answer is very difficult.  The FDLR is very well entrenched in the remote areas, controlling mineral mines and fishing around key areas near the border with Katanga Province.  They are adequately trained and equipped, and can simply melt into the jungles when attacked.  In Fizi Territory, the roads, where they exist, are terrible.  In the Haut Plateau, most places are only accessible via footpath or helicopter.  The MONUSCO troops do not have a substantial presence in Fizi, and therefore are unwilling to send what few troops they have there out to get ambushed in the jungle.  When I asked the UN people why there isn’t a greater troop presence in Fizi, they told me it is because of lack of resources.  Fizi is far away from Bukavu, where MONUSCO is headquartered in South Kivu, and therefore the lines of supply and communication are stretched.

MONUSCO is the largest UN mission anywhere, but the Congo is such a vast country with so little infrastructure that it remains difficult to keep the peace, especially in areas like Fizi Territory.  This problem is greatly compounded by several other facts:

  • The rebel factions and militias (various groups of Mai Mai, FDLR, FRF, etc.) are numerous, complicated, and have shifting alliances.
  • The FARDC is undisciplined and resented by many in Fizi because of ethnic unbalances within the ranks and the fact that many of FARDC troops are comprised of soldiers of previous Rwandan-backed rebel groups that ravaged the civilian populations of the Kivus (AFDL, RCD, CNDP).
  • The illegal mineral trade has implications for governments, generals, and politicians beyond the Congo’s borders.

What does this mean for small NGOs like SOS FED?  The lack of security in Fizi Territory makes work difficult, to say the least.  SOS FED had to shut down their reception center in Kazimia because the FDLR and Mai Mai are camped too close to ensure the security of the staff.  The Mai Mai looted the reception center in Mboko back in 2009, although no one was hurt.  Visiting the SOS FED reception center in Kikonde is very difficult because of continued Mai Mai and FDLR presence in the area.

Posted By WALTER JAMES

Posted Mar 13th, 2011

1 Comment

  • JYJ

    March 14, 2011

     

    Yes, you are absolutely right. There definitely needs to be more done. Security, it seems, is paramount. Thanks for your report and stay safe.

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