Wednesday, 31 May 2017

DR Congo: UN Should Investigate Kasai Violence

DR Congo: UN Should Investigate Kasai Violence


271 Groups Urge Prompt Human Rights Council Action

UN investigators have confirmed the existence of at least
 42 mass graves in the greater Kasai region since 
August 2016

(Geneva) – The United Nations Human Rights Council should urgently establish a commission of inquiry into the situation in the central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congoa coalition of 262 Congolese and 9 international nongovernmental organizations said today. The 35th session of the Human Rights Council begins June 6, 2017, in Geneva.
“The violence in the Kasai region has caused immense suffering, with Congolese authorities unable or unwilling to stop the carnage or hold those responsible for the abuses to account,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “An independent, international investigation is needed to document the abuses, identify those responsible, and help ensure justice for the victims.”
Between 500 and 1,000 people have been killed in the Kasai region since large-scale violence between the Congolese army and the Kamuina Nsapu movement broke out in August 2016, according to the UN. Human rights activists and UN monitors have had difficulties reaching parts of the region, so the actual number of dead may be significantly higher.
Congolese army soldiers have used excessive force in violation of international law, killing scores of suspected Kamuina Nsapu members and sympathizers, including large numbers of women and children. Members of the group, armed largely with sticks and other crude weapons, have recruited children and carried out targeted attacks on the government, killing police officers, soldiers, and local officials.
Over 1.3 million people in the region have been displaced from their homes in recent months, including over 23,500 who fled to neighboring Angola.
Two members of the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Zaida Catalán, a Swede and Chilean, as well as Michael J. Sharp, an American, were killed in March 2017, while investigating widespread human rights abuses in the region. It remains unclear who was responsible. The four Congolese who had accompanied them – their interpreter, Betu Tshintela, and three motorbike drivers – are still missing.
UN investigators have confirmed the existence of at least 42 mass graves in the greater Kasai region since August 2016.
On March 8, 2017, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called for the creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate violence in the Kasais. Congolese officials then pledged to carry out their own investigation, and on March 22, agreed to support from the UN and African Union (AU). This investigation has not moved forward in a transparent or credible way, and the UN and AU have not been able to effectively collaborate with the Congolese investigators or support the Congolese investigation, the organizations said.
On April 19, the high commissioner said that meaningful steps by the Congolese government “to ensure that there is a prompt, transparent, independent investigation to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by all parties, and other abuses of justice” had been “lacking.”
“Given widespread army violations, alleged involvement by top officials, and past interference in sensitive cases, the Congolese judiciary’s ability to credibly investigate the violence is in serious doubt,” said Georges Kapiamba, president of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ). “An independent, international inquiry is necessary to get to the bottom of what’s really happening in the Kasais and who is responsible.”
The conflict in the Kasai region is purportedly about customary control over local chieftaincies, but there are also clear ties to national political dynamics, with the Congolese army backing the leadership of people seen to be loyal to President Joseph Kabila and his political coalition, and some of the Kamuina Nsapu groups supporting people seen to be closer to the opposition.
Violence escalated after state security forces killed Kamuina Nsapu, the apparent heir to the throne of a chieftaincy in the Tshimbulu area, in August 2016. Since his death, the group named after him has grown into more of a popular movement than an organized armed group with clear command structures. Some Kamuina Nsapu members have directed their demands toward the national political crisis, calling for Kabila to step down. His constitutionally mandated two-term limit ended on December 19.
In recent months, Kamuina Nsapu factions and other armed groups have proliferated, with some of the groups fighting each other. Local politicians have reportedly sought to manipulate ethnic tensions in the region, encouraging militias from certain ethnic groups to attack people from other ethnic groups.
“The Human Rights Council’s engagement now is critical to help protect civilians from further violence, and to press for accountability for serious violations and abuses both by the Congolese army and armed groups,” said Paul Nsapu, deputy secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “A strong message is needed to show that these crimes won’t go unpunished.”
For a complete list of the 262 Congolese and 9 international nongovernmental organizations calling for the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a commission of inquiry into the situation in the central Kasai region, please visit:
 Human Rights Watch

Friday, 26 May 2017

Cobalt and lithium are ones to watch in 2017

Cobalt and lithium are ones to watch in 2017


China's appetite for new tech is set to drive demand for key battery ingredients

Artisanal miners work at the Tilwizembe copper-cobalt
 mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

SYDNEY Cobalt may be the most interesting commodity to watch in 2017.
With global carmakers committed to producing more electric vehicles amid changes in battery technologies, Macquarie Research has projected that demand for cobalt-cathode batteries could rise 10% this year. That could give cobalt a significant boost. "Risks remain -- mainly technological ones on the demand side and geopolitical ones on the supply side, but for now the perennial underperformer in metals markets looks well-placed to shine," Macquarie said in a recent report.
The outlook is similarly rosy for lithium, which is also used in device batteries. U.S. chemicals producer Albemarle said in March that it expects demand to grow by 30,000 tons a year, up from an initial forecast of 20,000 tons. The company puts global consumption last year at 190,000 tons.
MARKET MOVER As with most commodities, what happens in China will largely determine which way the markets for technology materials move. China produces, processes, consumes or otherwise controls much of the world's supply and demand for rare-earth metals, lithium, cobalt, manganese and nickel. These materials are in demand for new electronic devices and renewable energy systems, among other emerging applications.
There are exceptions to China's dominance. South Africa is the world's biggest manganese miner, largely from its rich Kalahari Basin. Australia and Chile are the leading producers of lithium, though Chinese companies are angling to secure stakes there. Australia's Lynas is the only significant rare earths producer outside of China, but its key customers are in Japan and China.
Cobalt has an uneasy reputation in the mining industry as a "conflict mineral" in the same vein as diamonds. About 60% of the world's cobalt is mined in the strife-riven Democratic Republic of Congo, where years of civil war, human rights abuses and child labor have left a legacy of suspicion and mistrust. Some mining there is artisanal, or effectively manual, often by very young workers in unsafe conditions.
China buys and processes more than half of the cobalt produced in Congo for its own needs and for shipping elsewhere. Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt is the single biggest buyer of Congolese cobalt. Earlier this year, China Molybdenum bought a 56% stake in the Tenke Fungurume mine, one of Congo's biggest, for $2.65 billion from Freeport-McMoRan of the U.S.
Following a report last year by Amnesty International on cobalt mining conditions in Congo, end users such as Apple, Samsung SDI and Sony came under pressure to take action.
In March, Apple suspended purchases from Zhejiang Huayou, but it continues to buy cobalt from Chinese rivals Ganzhou Yi Hao Umicore Industries, Lanzhou Jinchuan Advanced Materials Technology and Jiangsu Cobalt Nickel Metal.
Everywhere end users are aiming to iron out potential kinks in their supply chains. Sometimes that can mean getting closer to the source of critical minerals. Officials from BYD, a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer that counts Warren Buffett as an investor, disclosed in April that it is in talks with Chilean lithium producers about possible investment. "We consume 20% of the lithium supply in the world," the Financial Times quoted one executive saying. "That means we have a strong interest to secure a stable supply of lithium."
The brine pools and processing areas of the Soquimich
 lithium mine in Chile.

Chinese metals company Tianqi Lithium last year announced plans to invest in one Chilean producer, and it is working to expand a mine it co-owns with Albemarle in Western Australia. Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium, another producer, reached a deal in January that will give it a 19.7% stake in a company with lithium projects in Argentina and the U.S. state of Nevada. In Western Australia, Ganfeng owns 43% of the Mt. Marion lithium mine, which shipped its first concentrate to China in February. Another China-focused company, Australian Securities Exchange-listed Galaxy Resources, resumed concentrate shipments to China from its Mt. Cattlin lithium mine in Western Australia in January.
BYD uses only lithium-iron-phosphate batteries and is the market leader in China for both pure electric vehicles and hybrids. London-based metals consultancy CRU Group, however, says other Chinese electric vehicle makers are moving toward cobalt-based batteries, which are already the battery of choice elsewhere.
CRU predicts that greater interest in nickel-cobalt-aluminum and nickel-manganese-cobalt vehicle batteries from Chinese producers will raise demand for cobalt to more than 8,000 tons by 2021. BAIC Motor's E-series electric vehicle, which uses a nickel-manganese-cobalt battery, was the country's top-selling fully electric vehicle last year.
Short of some dramatic breakthrough in alternative battery technology, demand for lithium, cobalt, graphite and other rare earths looks destined to rise hand in hand with the global growth in electric vehicles, renewable energy and consumer devices.
GEOFF HISCOCK, Contributing writer

Nikkei Asian Review

Hundreds of children dying of malnutrition in Congo

Hundreds of children dying of malnutrition in Congo


Doctor Without Borders reports 16 pct malnutrition among young children in settlements of displaced people

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and local leaders said Friday that hundreds of children of displaced communities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are dying from malnutrition.
The international medical humanitarian group said in a statement that displaced people living in settlements around the city of Kalemie in the Tanganyika province have limited access to healthcare and face alarming shortages of food, water, and shelter, which has led to many children dying.
Thousands of people were displaced 10 months ago due to intercommunal clashes in the province, which also led to dozens of deaths. It is common in the Central Africa country for militia or tribal groups to attack villages of tribes and kill innocents.
“Children are dying of malnutrition and preventable diseases such as diarrhea and measles,” said Hugues Robert, Doctors Without Borders’ emergency program manager.
He added that the displaced people remain living in desperate conditions and are in immediate need of more humanitarian assistance.
MSF said that during a measles vaccination campaign, MSF evaluated malnutrition in 5,700 children under 5 years old in 10 of these settlements, and found malnutrition levels above the emergency threshold: 16 percent malnourished, 4.5 percent severely so.
A local leader in Kalemie, Muasa Lame, told Anadolu that in the last 10 months over 200 children have died from malnutrition and diseases.
''The displaced people can’t adequately feed their children because they lack food. They also do not have money to pay for treatment of the children. That has led to hundreds of children dying.''
Over 500,000 people were displaced between July 2016 and March 2017 due to violence, according to UN estimates. Over 44,000 are living in settlements around the city of Kalémie.
MSF has requested an increased humanitarian response in the territories of Kalémie and Kansimba from UN agencies and the government.
Doctor Without Borders (MSF)

Monday, 22 May 2017

DR Congo has world’s highest number of people fleeing conflict internally

DR Congo has world’s highest number of people fleeing conflict internally


Over 922,000 people were forced to flee their homes inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2016. This was the highest number of internal displacement due to conflict recorded globally, and was one of the most startling findings of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s global report which was launched in New York today.
“DRC’s largely forgotten crisis in central Africa superseded all other crises in terms of the number of people forced to flee their homes,” said Ulrika Blom, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in DRC. “Even Syria or Yemen’s brutal wars did not match the number of new people on the move in DRC last year.”

“Certain countries drop off the international agenda only to re-emerge a few years later with significant numbers of new displacements,” said Alexandra Bilak, Director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). “This was the case for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which highlights how the failure to address the underlying causes of conflict and crisis results in cyclical patterns of displacement.”

The new IDMC report found that political insecurity in DRC aggravated long-standing ethnic tensions and clashes between armed groups last year, particularly in North and South Kivu provinces in the east of the country.
Of the 3.7 million displaced people overall, over 1 million are newly displaced since the start of 2017 after violence clashes in Kasai province. Over half the rest of the people displaced are in North Kivu (837,000) and South Kivu (387,000).
“DRC is the world’s most forgotten crisis,” said Blom. “Humanitarian needs here are immense. But despite over 7 million people needing aid, the US$813 million international aid appeal is only 20 per cent funded.”

Twenty years of armed conflict and inter-communal violence has pushed millions of people into vulnerability, faced to fight off food insecurity, malnutrition and epidemic outbreaks.
Communities in North Kivu province, for example, have been left with acute needs. Raids and communal clashes between armed groups in Walikale and Lubero territories forced nearly 373,000 people to flee their homes, making up 42 per cent of the province’s displaced population at the end of 2016.
NRC is concerned by the UN mission in DRC, MONUSCO, reducing its presence in some territories. As such, it is crucial now more than ever that humanitarian agencies are able to step up efforts to ensure that displaced families are fully protected. “Unless we properly define who and how we can protect civilians after the UN mission scales down, DRC’s people will be plunged deeper into crisis,” warned Blom.

·         2.2 million people are internally displaced, and over 550,000 people have fled the country as refugees.

·         7.3 million of DRC’s 92 million people are estimated to need humanitarian aid.

·         1 in 10 people in eastern DRC was displaced in the past decade.

·         Life expectancy is only 58 years.

·         On average 1 in 10 children die before their 5th birthday.

·         DRC ranks 176 of 188 on the world’s human development index.

·         DRC is among the last 10 per cent of the least developed countries in the world, according to United Nations Development Programme.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Glencore: 'Electric vehicle revolution is happening faster than expected'

Glencore: 'Electric vehicle revolution is happening faster than expected'



Around half of global copper demand is from the electronics industry and roughly one quarter finds application in building and construction. The remainder find its way into industrial machinery, consumer products and – important in terms of growth potential – the vehicle market, specifically electric vehicles.
Vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines typically contain about 20 kilograms of copper. For electric vehicles the copper load is up to 80 kilograms (and increased quantities of cobalt, nickel, manganese).
Bloomberg reports Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore, the world's third largest producer of copper, told investors at an industry meeting in Barcelona “the electric vehicle revolution is happening and its impact is likely to be felt faster than expected.”
Almost all carmakers are increasing investment in electric vehicles as governments adopt tighter emissions targets, he added.
In a recent report consultants McKinsey forecast that barring large-scale substitution by aluminum and other materials or a significant increase in recycling, primary copper demand could potentially grow to 31 million tonnes by 2035 as per capita usage rates in emerging markets, particularly in China, approach levels in developed economies. The prediction represent more than 40% growth from today's annual demand levels of around 22 million tonnes.

The Urgency of Now: The fate of the lungs of Africa hangs in a balance

The Urgency of Now: The fate of the lungs of Africa hangs in a balance


As the plane from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) makes her descent towards the airport in Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur province, I was impressed by a beautiful canopy of greenery that paints the landscape below my window; I was looking at the Congo Basin Forest. A casual observer sees a forest, nice and robust, full of life. But I know it is a fragile forest that could lose one of its best protection measures soon if we do not fight for it. 

After the war in the DRC in 2002, under pressure from the World Bank, the Congolese government suspended the awarding of new industrial logging concessions. One of the primary objectives of this Moratorium (a temporary stop until certain conditions are fulfilled) placed 15 years ago, was to embark on a path whereby the forest sector would become a sustainable industry, generating billions of dollars in revenues and tens of thousands of jobs. 
Due to inaction to embark on participatory zoning on potential concession areas; failure to establish a three-year rolling plan indicating the exact number, areas and locations where concessions would be gradually awarded; and failure to build institutional capacity to regulate, monitor and control commercial forestry, the moratorium has remained in place for all these 15 years, and continuously helped to preserve Congolese forest and  prohibits the expansion of logging concessions.
That the moratorium is under threat is an alarming but painful truth. During the last fifteen years, there have been numerous breaches to the moratorium by Congolese government officials who are tied to the moratorium because preconditions for lifting it have not yet been fulfilled, but would rather get rid of it. This would put at risk the habitat of threatened species and the chance for forest communities to manage their livelihood.

In July 2016, Greenpeace exposed the awarding of illegal concessions by then Environment Minister Bienvenu Liyota and in February 2017 exposed again the award of two illegal concessions in September 2016 by then Environment Minister Robert Bopolo. Bopolo subsequently admitted he had signed three concession contracts, and alluded to the existence of even more illegal awards. 
While Minister Athys Kabongo Kalonji announced he would cancel all the illegal concessions awarded by his predecessor, the cancellation orders have not been published till today. Also, it still remains unclear what other people were involved in the concealing of the illegal allocations, no investigation has been initiated,  hence no sanctions have been taken against those involved. How can it be possible that those involved in these illegalities are not held accountable, but some of them are even promoted?

Donors of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), an initiative that aims to protect the Congo forest to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, requested the immediate cancellation of these illegal awards, but more than three (3) months after the exposure, the DRC government still hides in vagueness.
These same donors also seem to believe that industrial logging could actually be part of the solution. An expansion of the logging sector and the lifting of the moratorium is considered by them as credible option to reach the initiative’s objectives. Greenpeace, as well as a significant part of the global scientific community, considers this option as fundamentally incompatible with the goals of reducing forest degradation and deforestation.  

I was heading from Mbandaka to Imbonga village to meet local partners. The village’s only route is a twelve hours journey on a fast boat on the Congo River. Although illegal under Congolese law, large quantities of logs abandoned by bankrupt logging industries can be seen in some villages on the way to Imbonga.
Working for a campaign organisation that bears witness to environmental destruction, I realised the delicate nature and what’s at stake to protect the Congo Basin forest.
Villages are in conflict with industrial logging Corporation because of little or no dialogue between both parties and there is minimal trickle down gains from forest exploitation revenue. Community Forestry offers the opportunity for local and indigenous people to control and manage the forest in a sustainable way, but once the moratorium is lifted, new industrial concessions will very likely be in direct competition with these community projects. 

The Congo Basin forest boasts impressive Intact Forest Landscapes (IFL);  forest ecosystems which show no remotely detected signs of human activity and can maintain all native biological diversity. The forest is rich in plants and animals unique to the region like okapis and lowland elephants. This forest also boasts the world’s largest tropical peatland. The lifting of the moratorium can put at severe risk the existence of animal species critically endangered, like the bonobo as well as the peatland, which is only useful in the fight against climate change when left intact.
As our plane flies out of Kinshasa’s night sky, the darkness out of my window makes me realise the limited reach of electricity supply in DRC. With basic infrastructure and limited social amenities, I asked myself what rewards have industrial logging brought to the people? Why would one want to lift the moratorium without adequate safeguard to manage forest resources and who are the real beneficiaries of forest exploitation?
By Nchemty Metimi Ozongashu

Greenpeace Africa 

Stand up for forests, sign the petition here!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Time for High-level EU and US Targeted Sanctions on DR Congo

Time for High-level EU and US Targeted Sanctions on DR Congo


In 2016, the United States and the European Union announced targeted sanctions against a total of nine Congolese individuals deemed most responsible for violent repression of protests against President Kabila’s moves to cling to power beyond his constitutional term limits. On the last day of 2016, following several stages of U.S. and E.U. sanctions combined with extensive mediation by the Catholic Church, the political opposition and government reached agreement on a roadmap for the country’s governance leading up to elections to be held before the end of 2017. However, the government’s appointment of a new prime minister on 7 April without the opposition’s consent is widely regarded as a violation of the agreement, including by the Catholic Church, and casts serious doubt over Kabila’s commitment to live up to his promise to step down.
The time is ripe for additional sanctions in order to maintain pressure on the Kabila government. Rather than looking at those directly responsible for violent repression, this post focuses on how US and EU sanctions can be expanded to target the core of Kabila’s kleptocratic regime, which seems to be committed to preserving itself at all cost.
In order to pursue the designations made in 2016, both the US and EU added new sanctions criteria to relevant operational authorities. In 2014, Executive Order 13671 was issued in the US to update the sanctions authorities on the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the addition of “actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC” to the sanctions criteria. An  EU Council decision of 12 December 2016 added “obstructing a consensual and peaceful solution towards elections in the DRC” to the EU sanctions criteria. These criteria came in addition to those already in place to implement UN Security Council resolutions that mostly deal with human rights violations and support to armed groups.
Five out of nine of the 2016 designations were based on the additional sanctions criteria, whether solely or in combination with criteria related to planning, directing or committing human rights violations. Whereas UN sanctions have in the past mainly targeted armed groups, their leaders and the associated businesses operating in the east of the country, U.S./EU sanctions now hit senior state officials in Kinshasa. The table below lists the nine individuals designated by the US and the EU in 2016.

While these sanctions start to focus on close allies of President Kabila, they haven’t affected those who profit most from the violence and corruption in Congo and who obstruct or help obstruct the democratic process: the Kabila family, key presidential advisors, heads of state owned enterprises, and some of Kabila’s other business accomplices.
The Enough Project earlier reported that during Kabila’s tenure, up to $4 billion per year has gone missing or been stolen due to the manipulation of mining contracts, budgets, and state assets. A share of this money is likely to have gone to at least 70 businesses that Bloomberg recently linked to the Kabila family, which are reported to have to generated hundreds of millions of dollars for the family.
In a passport scam recently reported by Reuters, a company owned by one of Kabila sisters is set to make an estimated $120 million from a deal that will require Congolese citizens pay $185 for a new passport. Kabila’s advisor Emmanuel Andrupiako, who helped broker the deal, reportedly received $700,000 from companies associated with the passport producer.
To facilitate dubious transfers the Kabila family often seeks to control commercial banks. President Kabila’s sister Gloria Mteyu has a 40% stake in the Congolese branch of BGFI Bank, where his brother, Selemani Mtwale, is CEO, as reported by Bloomberg. According to a whistleblower quoted in the Belgian newspaper le Soir, BGFI has been involved in a number of suspicious multimillion-dollar transactions favoring the president’s close ally Albert Yuma, who is also president of the state-owned mining company Gecamines.
Foreign business accomplices play an equally important role. For example, in a recent U.S. Department of Justice plea agreement, the U.S. hedge fund Och-Ziff pleaded guilty to having paid, through an associated businessman, tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Congolese officials in order to receive mineral concessions at very low prices.
The existing U.S. sanctions criteria may offer greater scope to target individuals involved in embezzlement and corruption than those of the EU because corruption and mismanagement clearly “undermine democratic institutions.” Beyond the sanctions provided for in EO 13671, theGlobal Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act became law at the end of 2016. This law is not tied to one country but authorizes targeted sanctions against any foreign official and/or their accomplices involved in significant acts of public corruption, including “the expropriation of private or public assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, bribery, or the facilitation or transfer of the proceeds of corruption to foreign jurisdictions.” To the extent DRC sanctions do not directly provide the authority to target corruption, the Global Magnitsky Act does. The process for implementing the law is currently being developed by the U.S. government, and sanctions are expected to be issued during 2017.
Concerning targeting corruption within the EU sanctions framework, the current EU criterion most likely to be used is the impact of a targeted official on elections (the EU does not yet have an analogue to Global Magnitsky). One could argue that money embezzled from state coffers draws away finances needed to organize elections and, by depleting state coffers, threatens other basic rights. But it is not clear how far this criterion could extend or the evidence that would be needed to make these linkages. Thus, it would appear to be a safer legal course for the EU to follow its previous process and add a new, targeted criterion to its legislative texts and expand its targeted sanctions list accordingly.
As long as Kinshasa’s kleptocratic leaders and their entourages enjoy unrestricted travel and are able to wire money through the EU and US and hold assets here, they won’t feel the pressure to cease violent repression and self-enrichment and adhere to the constitution. Targeted sanctions on these individuals, their corporate holdings and networks, as well as their facilitators, would send an important political signal and offer a swift and effective way to alter their calculations and push them toward holding elections. Such change still being elusive, it is now time for the EU and US to push ahead with more significant designations.

Enough Project

Friday, 5 May 2017

Did Murdered U.N. Expert Unknowingly Tell Her Killers How to Find Her?

Did Murdered U.N. Expert Unknowingly Tell Her Killers How to Find Her?


By informing FARDC Brigadier General 
Emmanuel Lombe of their itinerary, 
which would be standard practice,
 did Zaida Catalan sign her death 
warrant and that of her colleague
 Michael Sharp in the Democratic 
Republic of Congo?

“The U.N. Security Council urged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Thursday to cooperate in the investigation into the killing of two UN experts and the mass graves found in the Kasai region.”
The Voice of America/Africa presser then segues to a statement written by France (the penholder for DRC) that calls on Kinshasa and opposition parties to reach an agreement allowing a presidential election to move forward before the end of 2017.
Tying the investigation of the murders of Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp to politics in the same document is telling. One must revisit the narrative that began in August 2016 in Kasai Province when Mwami (Chief) Kamwina Nsapu was killed to understand why.
According to Radio Okapi, the Coordinator of the Congolese Human Rights Observatory (OCDH) in Central Kasai, Hubert Ngulandjoko, condemned the killing of “militia leader” Kamwina Nsapu. Overnight, the Mwami who was organizing against the regime of President Joseph Kabila and fighting for social justice became a militia leader and terrorist in press reports. His body was desecrated in opposition to traditional beliefs.
The two murdered experts, commissioned by the UN secretary-general to document the violence in central Kasai province, were investigating the killing of the Mwami and the discovery of more than 40 mass graves in the region. Since August more than 400 villagers have died in what is now known as the uprising of Kamwina Nsapu.
Who is doing the killing?

The deaths of Sharp and Catalan mirror those of the 400 they were investigating.
“There are multiple, credible allegations of massive human rights violations in Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental and Lomami provinces, amid a sharp deterioration in security situation there, including people being targeted by soldiers (FARDC) for their alleged affiliation with a local militia,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in February and before the deaths of Sharp and Catalan.
YouTube video posted on February 17, 2017, shows men in Congolese army uniforms fatally shooting a group of villagers. A close look at the grainy footage shows that the victims are carrying slingshots, machetes and spears as they are mowed down by machine gun fire.
After a series of denials by DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende, and pressure by Human Rights Watch and other groups, the soldiers responsible for the atrocities against the villagers were arrested and charged.
“At a press conference, military justice announced several arrests in the video case of the execution of alleged militiamen Kamuina Nsapu. There were uniformed men firing on civilians, most of them disarmed. The Congolese government had described these images, shot in a single plane and broadcast on social networks, as “rough editing.” Military justice says something else.”
Ida Sawyer, Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch offered a different take on the arrests. “But Congolese judicial officials have shown little ability or willingness to independently investigate the military chain of command to examine the role of high-ranking commanders in unlawful killings and other crimes,” she said.
The orders came from high up the chain of command, and by his denials and blame directed at a “roughly edited” videotape, DRC spokesman Lambert Mende was introducing the possibility of culpability.
While all of this was going on, the U.N. investigators were kidnapped on March 12 and their bodies found 16 days later in a shallow grave. At least that is the narrative you will find in most international press reports. Other reports suggest that their bodies were found within a day of the executions, but this was hidden from the public and United Nations officials. Was this an attempt to buy time?
CGTN Africa, among others, is questioning the veracity of a video being circulated by the Congolese government.
“On 13 March, JMAC (the intelligence service of MONUSCO), informally circulated the news of the killings to the chancelleries and high authorities of the international community in the DRC.” See this report.
I am queasy discussing the execution of these young people, yet another of millions of atrocities that have not been brought to light in Congo. My fear is that writing about this assault and veering from the spoon fed narrative could be an unintended exploitation of the families. But, experience suggests that the truth is not what the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo wants us to believe. Unfortunately, the official United States narrative seems to be following suit, as evidenced in the VOA presser.
Mounting evidence and reports from the ground suggest that DRC government troops (FARDC) killed the U.N. experts in the most heinous ways possible. Coincidentally or by design, their executions were also videotaped and Mende has used the video, which shows men with red headbands (a symbol of the followers of Mwami Kamwina Nsapu) committing the executions.
Mende conveniently produced a professionally edited video (he will not say where he got it). Is this really “proof” that FARDC was not involved?
Someone needs to explain how rebel forces could execute two innocents, film it, and then how Mende could obtain it and subsequently have it narrated by Congolese police. Mende learned his lesson when a video surfaced in February and implicated government forces. Would a self-produced video help to exonerate him this time?
Couple that with the fact that MONUSCO (UN in Congo) has cozied up to FARDC and is working hand in glove with them. As Radio Okapi reports, “During discussions with the authorities of Upper Katanga, MONUSCO Force Commander Mgwebi Mbuyi Leso stressed the need for collaboration between the UN mission and the Congolese army (FARDC).”
Also, MONUSCO and General Emmanuel Lombe Bangwanga allegedly knew the secret route the victims were taking to investigate the mass graves.
Consider this: “On March 11, UN expert Zaida Catalan was received at the headquarters of the 21st Military Region in Kananga (Kasai, DRC) by the commander of the latter, General Emmanuel Lombe Bangwanga. Together, they would have agreed on the route to the villages where the Swedish young woman with her teammate, the American Michael Sharp, accompanied by a Congolese guide and three moped drivers, should have traveled to investigate Mass graves full of opponents belonging to the Kamuina Nsapu movement. Following the indications of this senior officer, that the following day, the convoy took a runway located in a zone under the control of the regular army (FARDC).”
The independent investigative unit L’AgenceD’Information asks the question no one has answered.
“By entrusting General (Emmanuel) Lombe, on the eve of her departure, the itinerary she was about to take, did Zaida Catalan sign her death warrant, that of her colleague Michael Sharp and their Congolese interpreter Betu Tshintela? Confirmed by numerous indices, the hypothesis is more than likely.”
You can find the rest of this report here.
This information contradicts the statements of Lambert Mende who, after the disappearance of the experts, said he regretted that they did not inform the authorities of their itinerary.
Voice of America Africa should be demanding, not “urging,” a thorough accounting from dictator Joseph Kabila. But expecting human rights from Kabila is a non sequitur.
Zaida Catalan was beheaded after other even more unspeakable atrocities. This is not what you want to read in the morning, but this is reality every single morning for villagers in Kasai and elsewhere. Adding to the mounting obfuscations propagated by DRC spokesman Mende, I will add that having worked under a U.N. press badge in DRC, you must inform them of your routing. It did not work out well for me either. My “bodyguard” turned out to be a mercenary who turned me over to the secret police. I was lucky and got out of the mess. Oh, and my “bodyguard” was working under a U.N. badge also.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley summed it up. “In other words, the U.N. is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behavior against its own people. We should have the decency and common sense to end this.”
It was too late for Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp who were trying to help the people of Congo. You can read more about Michael Sharp, an extraordinary young American, here.
Zaida Catalan’s last re-tweet on March 3 read: “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. –Buddha”
By Georgianne Nienaber
The Huffington Post