Africa
DRC displaced

Displacement crisis in eastern DRC —again

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is voicing alarm over the worsening situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern Beni Territory, North Kivu province, where violence has forced more than a hundred thousand civilians from their homes over the past two months. Attacks by armed groups since December on a number of towns and villages in the Watalinga Chiefdom, near the border with Uganda, have displaced residents to the town of Nobili and surrounding areas. Many were displaced previously and had only just returned to their villages in November last year, after fleeing violence in April. They remain in dire need of assistance. Violence in the region have been rising since the launch of a government-led military operation in December against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). (Photo: UNHCR)

Africa
Africa mining

Africa mining confab urged to address human rights

Amnesty International urged participants in an international mining conference in South Africa to address human rights violations. The African Mining Indaba conference is set to run this week, but civil organizations are holding their own counter-conference to bring attention to claims of rights violations in the industry. Amnesty said in a statement: “From child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to squalid living conditions for workers at South Africa’s Marikana mine, the mining industry is tainted with human rights abuses. Mining firms have often caused or contributed to human rights abuses in pursuit of profit while governments have been too weak in regulating them effectively.” (Photo via Africa Up Close)

Africa
Congo mining

Congolese survivors sue US tech companies

Families of young children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been injured or killed while mining cobalt have launched a lawsuit against Apple, Google, Tesla, Dell and Microsoft. Cobalt is used in batteries for the electronic devices that technology companies manufacture and is abundant in the Congo. The complaint, filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, details the dangerous conditions in which children are working, and makes comparisons with the conditions with the 16-19th century slave trade. The impoverished children are digging with rudimentary equipment and without adequate safety precautions for USD $2-3 a day. (Photo: Julien Harneis/WikiMedia Commons)

Africa

Congo warlord gets life for crimes against humanity

A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo sentenced Frederic Masudi Alimasi to life in prison after a two-month trial. Alimasi, AKA Kokodikoko, was head of the Raia Mutomboki, one of the most powerful militias operating in the Eastern DRC. He was arrested in April on multiple charges including murder, rape and enslavement committed against the civilian populations of two villages in 2018. The case saw the use of mobile courts, conducting hearings where the victims live. This relieved them of the burden of travel, and enabled victims who had not been able to take part in the initial investigation to appear and have their testimony entered into the record. (Photo: JusticeInfo.net)

Africa
Africa fires

Central African forests burning faster than Amazon

Central Africa’s rainforests are currently being consumed by a vast system of forest fires dwarfing even those that are ravaging the Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of hectares have been engulfed by flames over the past weeks—to comparatively little notice in the world media. French newspaper La Voix du Nord states, “In Angola, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, thousands of fires consume phenomenal amounts of vegetation.” Since the beginning of 2019, it is the DRC that has recorded the most fires, far ahead of Brazil. NASA attributes the fires to “widespread agricultural burning,” as farmers employ slash-and-burn methods to clear land for crops. (Photo: FIRMS)

Africa

Land defender slain in Democratic Republic of Congo

A Congolese environmental and human rights activist was killed by a security guard of the Canadian palm-oil company Feronia Inc, near the company’s Boteka plantation in Eqauteur province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The killing follows months of intimidation directed at local communities that have filed a grievance against the company for its occupation of their lands. Joël Imbangola Lunea operated a motor-boat to transport people and goods between local villages. He was also a community leader and member of the NGO Information & Support Network of the DRC (RIAO-RDC), and was involved in mediating land disputes. He was killed when his boat, filled with passengers and luggage, was approached by a security guard who accused him of transporting stolen palm oil from the plantation. He was beaten and finally strangled to death, his body thrown into the Moboyo River. (Photo of Lunea at mediation session via RIAO-RDC)

Africa

Congo rebel leader convicted of war crimes

The International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Bosco Ntaganda, a notorious Congolese rebel commander known as “The Terminator,” of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes were committed in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), from 2002 to 2003. Ntaganda was found guilty of “murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation” of populations, along with war crimes such as “intentionally directing attacks against civilians.”  His conviction marks the third standing conviction by the ICC—all of defendants from the DRC. (Photo via UN News)

Africa

Hundreds dead in new DRC ethnic conflict

A new UN report details violent ethnic attacks in December, leading to hundreds of deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A UN special investigative mission sent to the Yumbi territory, in the country's west, confirmed at least 535 deaths, including women and children—but found that the death toll may be even higher, as it was reported that bodies were thrown in the Congo River. The report also said some 19,000 people were displaced, many across the border into the neighboring Republic of Congo. (Photo: UNHCR via Africa Times)

Africa

Internet silence in Democratic Republic of Congo

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression called for the restoration of telecommunication services in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Internet continues to be shut down across the DRC in the wake of Dec. 30 general elections. Authorities ordered closure of net the day after the vote due to "fictitious results" circulating on social media. The results of the election have now been postponed and the shutdown extends past its original end date. Both the opposition and ruling coalition say they are on track to win the election. Many citizens were not able to vote due to an Ebola outbreak, and the delay led to protests in the east of the country. The opposition has alleged irregularities and fraud, and there have been reports of militias forcing voters to vote for the ruling coalition. The election commission dismissed any problems as minor. (Photo via SoftPower)

Africa

DRC opens rainforest to oil, logging interests

Concern is mounting for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s vast forests and rich wildlife as logging concessions and licenses to explore for oil in protected areas are prepared ahead of presidential elections later this year. A moratorium on industrial logging, in place since 2002, has been broken with three concessions reportedly handed out by the DRC environment ministry to Chinese-owned logging companies. A further 14 logging concessions are expected to be granted within months, according to a Greenpeace investigation. In addition, the government is preparing to reclassify large areas of Salonga and Virunga national parks—both UNESCO World Heritage sites—to allow oil exploitation. (Photo via Global Forest Watch)

The Andes

Bolivia’s African king speaks for coca growers

The "King of the Afro-Bolivians," Julio I, is said to be South America's last reigning monarch, although he lives as a peasant cocalero in the Yungas region on the Andean slopes north of La Paz. The descendants of slaves brought in by the Spanish to work haciendas and silver mines, the Afro-Bolivians today have constitutionally protected autonomy. They have joined with their indigenous Aymara neighbors to demand greater rights for the coca-producing high jungle zone. Julio, of Kikongo royal blood, was crowned in a ceremony recognized by the Bolivian state in 2007. Last month marked 10 years of his official reign. (Photo: Casa Real Afroboliviana)

Africa

DRC recruited ex-rebels to suppress protests: HRW

The Democratic Republic of Congo recruited former M23 rebel fighters to protect President Joseph Kabila after protests broke out last December over his refusal to step down at the end of his constitutionally mandated two terms, Human Rights Watch reports. During the protests, at least 62 people were killed and hundreds arrested. The crisis de-escalated when Kabila agreed to hold elections by the end of 2017, and not run again. But the elections were never held, and have now been scheduled for the end of 2018—prompting renewed protests.