UN Admits Failure in DR Congo

November 26, 2009

The UN is admitting failure in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  A new report even claims that UN forces have aggravated the conflict in North and South Kivu provinces with the UN trained Congolese Army and the rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Richard Dowden of The Guardian writes, “There have been signs that elements of the UN force are going local and also taking to trading minerals and abusing local people.”

But not everyone agrees with the findings.  Reuters South Africa reported Information Minister Lambert Mende as saying such accusations are “really what we can call an exaggeration. If the situation is now worse, what is that based on? How many people were dying before this operation? How many are dying today? he asked, arguing there could have been many more victims of fighting if the offensive had not taken place.”

The FDLR, an ethnic Hutu militia that relocated to the Congo after the 1994 genocide from the neighboring country of Rwanda, continue to wreak havoc in the region.  They have been accused of such crimes as murder, rape, pillaging, and taking advantage of the natural resources of the Congo including smuggling gold.  According to Sky News “Congolese records show only a few kilos of gold are exported legally every year, but the country’s own senate estimates that in reality 40 tonnes a year – worth £743m – gets out.”

It is a troubling problem that continues to fund and fuel the trouble in Central Africa from an international network of buyers from dozens of countries, including the United States and Europe, according to the UN.

The New York Times predicts the new UN report will force the US government to do more, including  “urging Congress to pass legislation that would bar American companies from buying Congo’s “conflict minerals,” which include gold, tin and coltan, a metallic ore used in many cellphones and laptop computers.”

Evictions in the Mau Forest

November 20, 2009

Daniel M. Kobei, an Ogiek leader, told New York Times reporter, “Tell Obama and his men to help us.  It’s not that we’re special, but this forest is our home.”

The Ogiek are Kenya’s traditional forest dwellers and honey hunters, living off the land in Mau Forest. Unfortunately, however, the Ogiek will now be in search of a new land as the government looks to remove settlers from the region, close to 25,000 people.

The hope is to conserve the delicate ecosystem of the forest.  The Environment News Service writes that the forest provides Kenya and the region with  ‘river flow regulation, flood mitigation, water storage, reduced soil erosion, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, carbon reservoir and microclimate regulation’.

But due to heavy deforestation and a regional water crisis, the government plans to clear the forest in order to plant millions of trees.

But at what cost to those living there?

The Standard writes,

“The possession of a parcel of land, even if tenuous or without legal backing, is the only access to capital for most. Losing it, as well as the harvest on it, will reduce many to destitution. Thus, it is imperative they get help from the Government and organizations like the Kenya Red Cross Society.”

According to the Daily Nation, the Kenyan government started delivering food aid last week for squatters evicted from the Mau Forest such as maize, beans and vegetable oil.

The sudden interest in environmentalism by the Kenyan politicians is breeding suspicious for those that once called the Mau Forest home.

“The government wants that forest for economic reasons, not conservation reasons,” said Towett Kimaiyo, an Ogiek leader. “The only people who are going to benefit are the saw-millers.”

Do you think that the settlers in the Mau Forest should be compensated, with or without a title deed?  What about the Ogiek who have lived on the land for centuries and have proven to take care of the region?