From Child Gunman to Social Educator: Pappy Chimalamungo

From Child Gunman to Social Educator: WFP food forges social cohesion and supports peace process in Eastern DRC

By Djaounsede Pardon Madjiangar — 29 August 2014

Pappy Chimalamungo
Pappy Chimalamungo, ex-Child Soldier now Social Educator in Bukavu

 

The protracted armed conflict in DRC which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives continues to negatively affect wellbeing and social development of children, especially those who were forced to pick up the weapon and fight for their lives. For those children, transitioning from child soldier to normal life is another struggle. To help them through, WFP works with UN and NGO partners to build trust and help the children get back on their feet. Pappy Chimalamungo, former child soldier tells us how a child soldier’s life can be transformed!

Pappy Chimalamungo was only 14 years old when rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) invaded his village, Mwenga, in South Kivu province.  The rebels looted households and murdered villagers. Pappy’s father was amongst those killed in the attack. In response, a self-defence militia group was formed to combat FDLR rebels. Pappy, along with other boys his age, was forced to join the militia in 2000.

The boys’ main tasks were to carry ammunition, and fetch water and firewood. They were forced to walk long distances to collect fruit and steal food from other people’s farms. After three gruelling months under this tyranny, Pappy managed to escape and reunite with members of his family in Uvira Territory. To his horror and dismay, Pappy was intercepted by another rebel group in Uvira. He was told to join the rebellion or be killed. Again, the young boy’s only option for survival was to pick up a weapon and fight for his life.

Following a peace agreement with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) in 2002, Uvira rebels finally agreed to disarm. Teenagers like Pappy were demobilized and handed over to the Office for Voluntary Action in Support of Childhood and Health in Bukavu (BVES). They were then transferred to a Transit and Orientation Centre supported by WFP, UNICEF and other partners. After three months of psychological counselling, Pappy re-enrolled in secondary school.

“I came out of the bush very weak because of hunger. But WFP’s [food assistance] gave me strength and courage to survive and continue with my studies,” Pappy says.

In 2007, he completed his secondary education and started pursuing a degree in Sociology at the University of Bukavu.

“I am interested in Sociology because I want to understand the drivers of human behaviour in a given society,” he says.  “Understanding these drivers is fundamental in finding sustainable solutions to such social phenomena like armed conflicts and the enrolment of child soldiers.”

After his graduation in 2013, the 28-year-old came back to BVES as a volunteer to help other demobilized child soldiers.

“I am a real example of how a child soldier’s life can be transformed,” he said.  “Children associated with armed groups most often think everything is lost and that they can no longer get back on their feet.  I am telling them recovery is possible no matter what they have experienced in the bush.”

Since the creation of BVES in 1996, hundreds of thousands of child soldiers have been demobilized. More than 30 former child soldiers have made their way through university after completing a literacy training and psychological counselling programme supported by WFP.

While forced to fight, child soldiers loose contact with their relatives. As a result, transitioning ex-child soldiers are deprived of the stability and resources that had been a part of their former lives. During the first three brutal months after an ex-child soldier defects, they find WFP assistance is the most steadfast source of food and an important and consistent source to help restore trust.

While improving beneficiaries’ nutritional status, WFP food forges social cohesion between children—most of whom were rivals when they were soldiers. Every day, lunch becomes a time when these strong children chose to sit together over shared rations of cooked maize meal and beans.

Follow @djaounsede  on Twitter for more inspiring posts on WFP in DR Congo.

 

WTC Trustees Meet with BVES Founder Murhabazi Namegabe

Dave Mantle and Deanne Bennett who are the founding trustees of Working Together-Congo were recently delighted to be invited by Murhabazi Namegabe, who is the founder of BVES, to meet with him during his recent visit to London.

Murhabazi had been invited by the UK government to attend the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which was held at the Excel centre in London.  The summit was attended by over 140 world leaders and hosted by Angelia Jolie and William Hague.

During the meeting Murhabazi was warm and welcoming.  “He seemed genuinely please to see us” said Dave who added, “my aim for the meeting was to express our appreciation of him, yet he was so appreciative of us, it threw me. He had even stated that meeting with WTC was one of his reasons for visiting the UK when applying for his visa.”

During the meeting, which included translators provided by Save the Children, Murhabazi updated Dave and Deanne on how BVES now provide education for over 900 returning child-soldiers and displaced children. This is an increase of over 400 since 2013, and WTC are the only charity that solely funds all aspects of that education. “This strongly indicates that the impact made by WTC is bigger than we had imagined, and that without our funding, the education of 900 kids would be in jeopardy” said Dave, who was pleased to confirm that in addition to the $6k sent to BVES earlier this year, WTC are now in a position to send a further grant of $6k in September. Dave informed Murhabazi that this had been made possible by the contribution of the University of Sussex students who did a magnificent job of raising funds and awareness for WTC earlier this year. Murhabazi was so impressed by this that he is offering to support placements for any students or volunteers who wish to work in the DR Congo or experience first-hand the work of BVES. An invitation was also offered to Dave and Deanne who re-iterated to Murhabazi how WTC operate, and that no donated money goes toward expenses or salaries and therefore any visits to assess the grant expenditure, on our behalf, were undertaken by others who were already visiting the DR Congo.  Murhabazi stated that a full financial report detailing all money received and spent would be sent to WTC shortly.

BVES who have over 500 volunteers, have a turnover this year of $140k which is an increase of almost 100k in the last three years.  This financial increase is largely due to the money awarded to Murhabazi when he won the International Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child in 2011. The work of BVES is also increasing as explained by Murhabazi, who informed Dave and Deanne that; the situation appears to be stabilising and with the folding of the M23 a lot more people are joining the Congolese Army, this has increased the amount of displaced children who need rehabilitation and education. The work of BVES has never been more important.

Dave & Murhabazi in 2010

 Dave who originally met Murhabazi in 2010 in the DR Congo, left the meeting with the lasting impression that “Murhabazi is impressive and extraordinary, the most caring and genuine man I have ever met, and that, in his hands, the hard work and the money raised by WTC is truly changing lives”.

Also attending the summit in London was Faida Kasilembo, who at the age of 11 was kidnapped, raped and forced to work as a child soldier.  In 2010 BVES, led by Murhabazi, negotiated her release. Faida received her education from BVES and now makes clothes and has become an advocate for enforcing legal repercussions for rapist. She had a private meeting with William Hague and Angelina Jolie where she asked them to help to stop the sexual violence and bribery. You can read more about Faida on the next posting on the News page.

Biography of Murhabazi Namegabe, Founder of BVES

A CONGOLESE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER

wtcmMurhabazi Namegabe was born in DRC in 1964. He is from a Christian family of 3 girls and 8 boys. His father was a worker at the Belgium boarder/colonist until 1960.

In 1964, there was a war in Bukavu, in the Eastern part of DRC and Julienne, his mother was in displacement, she begot  one boy, who was named Murhabazi (in mashi dialect, it means “someone who was born during the war”, but also, “someone who helps others”). Namegabe (means in the same dialect “Grace from God”). “Mammy was often saying that we have survived because it was said that I could be born. And that I was predestined to devote my life in order to protect people in danger”.

Murhabazi Namegabe grew up in the quarter which is the most poor in Bukavu. Since his childhood, he was very interested in the issue of so many children of different families in the quarter but also at school. He searches for solutions against the hunger and ill-treatments done to his companions. Through that innate initiative, it brings his success, but also concerns.

He was educated in the catholic schools (primary schooling), protestant (secondary schooling) and Kimbanguist (secondary schooling) and at the Technical Medicine College in Bukavu, where He obtained his graduation diploma. Between 1989 and 1992, he was specialized in growth, Development and child rights protection. Mr Murhabazi Namegabe sees his vocation and engagement in favour of rights protection of children at risks/danger, from 6 March, 1992, he created a Voluntary Office in Childhood and Health service, “BVES”, an organization exclusively devoted to the promotion, protection and defense of rights for children separated from their families due to poverty conditions or armed conflicts. In cooperation with the UN Agencies (UNICEF, in particular), MONUSCO, Amnesty International and other International NGOs involved in the defence of Human Rights.

During the 20 years ago, Mr Murhabazi Namegabe has greatly contributed to the childwtc j Rights protection affected by armed conflicts of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 50 000 children involved in the war have been saved up to now (30% are girls).

His work has succeeded by getting the prestigious prices, like  The Oscar Romero Award (USA, 2009), The World Price of Child Rights (Sweden, 2011) and The Africity Price “HARUBUNTU” of Hope Carrier for African Children (Senegal, 2012) ; and The First Crown as a Best Child Rights Defender by Congo Children Parliament (DRC, 2013).

Faida Kasilembo Shares Her Story at Sexual Violence in Conflict Conference

Newsweek 10th June 2014

Moments before the official kickoff of the three day conference on sexual violence in conflict that they are hosting in London this week, Angelina Jolie and U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague stopped to talk to Faida Kasilembo.

Kasilembo, 19, speaks softly, but with calm, measured resolve. When she was 11 she was kidnapped by one of several armed groups operating in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kasilembo was raped regularly and forced to work as a child soldier for the next four years. In 2010, the group BVES (Voluntary Force at the Service of Childhood and Health), led by Murhabazi Namegabe, negotiated her release.

“Now I cut clothes and make dresses,” Kasilembo tells Newsweek, speaking in French. She also attends conferences and meetings, and has become an advocate for enforcing legal repercussions for rapists.

“I asked [Jolie and Hague] to stop the sex violence, and the bribery. If you are raped and you try to sue [the perpetrator], he can just pay the judge.”

In DR Congo, rapists enjoy virtual impunity, according to award-winning documentarian Fiona Lloyd-Davies, who has recently released a film on the subject. In one day in 2012, 130 women and children, some as young as 6, were raped in the eastern DR Congo town of Minova. Last month, a Congolese trial of 39 soldiers accused of committing the mass rape resulted in the conviction of only two. Thirteen soldiers were acquitted for lack of evidence, and the rest were charged with crimes other than rape.

“It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power,” Jolie said at the start of the conference, which will bring together delegates from more than 140 countries over the next three days to discuss approaches to addressing rape in conflict.

Congolese warlord Germain Katanga jailed over 2003 massacre – Guardian 23 May 2014 (click to read more)

Congolese warlord Germain Katanga has been sentenced to 12 years in jail by the international criminal court for arming an ethnic militia that carried out a village massacre in 2003.

“The chamber sentences Germain Katanga to 12 years in prison,” the presiding judge, Bruno Cotte, told the Hague-based court in its second sentencing since opening in 2003.

The almost seven years that Katanga has already spent in detention will be deducted from the sentence, he said.

Katanga, 36, was convicted in March of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder and pillaging for his role in the “particularly cruel” attack on Bogoro village in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in February 2003.

Judges found that he armed fighters of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI), who carried out the massacre in which more than 200 people died.

“The scars of the fighting that occurred that day are still be seen today,” Cotte said on Friday. The use of machetes in the attack was “particularly cruel and caused extreme suffering”, he added.

However, the ICC cleared Katanga of charges of rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.

Katanga’s lawyers have appealed against his conviction and have 30 days to appeal against the sentencing. The decision on the conviction’s appeal is still pending.

The sentencing is the court’s second since opening its doors in 2003, with another Congolese warlord and Katanga’s one-time adversary Thomas Lubanga sentenced to 14 years in July 2012.

An armed UN mission is employing drones to keep the peace in the DR Congo. The Economist 14th March. (click here to read more)

In the past three months two Italian-made, snub-nosed craft with the UN logo painted on their sides have been taking off from Goma in eastern Congo to scan rebel-infested hill regions with high-tech cameras. Intelligence is beamed back to units trying to flush out homicidal groups. At 1% of the mission’s annual budget, the drones are considered good value. Three more will be launched this month to cover remote areas. The problem now is a lack of manpower to follow up intelligence.

But the number of boots on the ground is growing. The long-standing peacekeeping force in the country was boosted last year by 3,000 troops from various African countries, and was given the mission of actively fighting the rebels. The intervention force, another UN first, is modelled on a surprisingly effective African Union effort in Somalia. Deployment around Goma is almost complete and already having an effect. UN teams relying on drone imagery have dismantled M23, a rebel group that had repeatedly attacked Goma; other mobs are on the defensive, at least for now.

The Congolese army has rejoined the fight alongside the UN after overcoming severe discipline problems. Together they have pushed an originally Ugandan group called the Allied Democratic Forces out of its base in the town of Makoyoya. UN helicopter attacks were followed by a Congolese ground assault, which killed 22 rebels on March 11th. The army says it has destroyed the bases supporting the group’s supply lines; it will be overcome “in a few days”, a spokesman says.

Optimism is spreading among diplomats after months of worrying that the UN intervention brigade might get bogged down in endless skirmishes. The mood was buoyed by the conviction of a Congolese militia leader at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on March 7th, only the second time the 12-year-old court has succeeded in a prosecution. Germain Katanga was found guilty of ordering the massacre of an entire village in 2003, killing hundreds of non-combatants.

The economic situation is brightening, too. Copper output reached record levels last year, though much of it came from outside the rebel strongholds in eastern Congo, where the population is still crushingly poor and vulnerable. Investors remain wary of American legal constraints on sourcing minerals from the region around Goma, where warlords have long controlled trade.

With the rebel threat receding, the most urgent problems are the supply of food and electricity. The World Food Programme says a funding gap is forcing it to reduce rations. The prime minister has warned foreign mining firms such as Glencore and Freeport-McMoRan against expanding their operations, because of power shortages.

America’s special envoy to Congo, Russ Feingold, visited the country on March 10th to urge measures that could eventually make the calm permanent. The next two steps should be the reform of the army, which has been undermined by corruption and the willy-nilly integration of former rebels, and the creation of a state apparatus that can work under someone other than President Joseph Kabila. Because of term limits, he cannot run in elections in 2016 but is trying anyway. If Congo can realise those aims, the fertile and mineral-rich east of the country could start feeding itself again. As the UN’s drones whirr over Goma, that dream is still hard to picture.

Democratic Republic of Congo Profile (BBC Africa 11.03.14 )Click here to read the article

A vast country with immense economic resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has been at the centre of what some observers call “Africa’s world war”. This has left it in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. The five-year conflict pitted government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

Despite a peace deal and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, people in the east of the country remain in terror of marauding militias and the army.

The war claimed an estimated three million lives, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition. It has been called possibly the worst emergency in Africa in recent decades.

The war had an economic as well as a political side. Fighting was fuelled by the country’s vast mineral wealth, with all sides taking advantage of the anarchy to plunder natural resources, and some small militias fight on.

The history of DR Congo has been one of civil war and corruption. After independence in 1960, the country immediately faced an army mutiny and an attempt at secession by its mineral-rich province of Katanga.

A year later, its prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was seized and killed by troops loyal to army chief Joseph Mobutu.

In 1965 Mobutu seized power, later renaming the country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko. He turned Zaire into a springboard for operations against Soviet-backed Angola and thereby ensured US backing. But he also made Zaire synonymous with corruption.

After the Cold War, Zaire ceased to be of interest to the US. Thus, when in 1997 neighbouring Rwanda invaded it to flush out extremist Hutu militias, it gave a boost to the anti-Mobutu rebels, who quickly captured the capital, Kinshasa, installed Laurent Kabila as president and renamed the country DR Congo.

Nonetheless, DR Congo’s troubles continued. A rift between Mr Kabila and his former allies sparked a new rebellion, backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe took Kabila’s side, turning the country into a vast battleground.

Coup attempts and sporadic violence heralded renewed fighting in the eastern part of the country in 2008. Rwandan Hutu militias clashed with government forces in April, displacing thousands of civilians.

Another militia under rebel General Laurent Nkunda had signed a peace deal with the government in January, but clashes broke out again in August. Gen Nkunda’s forces advanced on government bases and the provincial capital Goma in the autumn, causing civilians and troops to flee while UN peacekeepers tried to hold the line alongside the remaining government forces.

In an attempt to bring the situation under control, the government in January 2009 invited in troops from Rwanda to help mount a joint operation against the Rwandan rebel Hutu militias active in eastern DR Congo.

Rwanda arrested the Hutu militias’ main rival, Gen Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi hitherto seen as its main ally in the area.

In early 2013 the UN secured a regional agreement to end the M23 rebellion in eastern areas, and the group’s alleged founder Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the International Criminal Court to face war-crimes charges.

Rwanda and Uganda denied UN accusations that they had supported the M23 group, but the region remains volatile.

 

Germain Katanga guilty of murder and pillage in Congo massacre – International court convicts rebel leader over 2003 Bogoro attack in which 200 were hacked or shot to death and women raped. (Article from the Guardian 7.3.14) Click here to read more.

The International Criminal Court  has convicted a rebel leader of charges including murder and pillage over a deadly attack on a village in eastern Congo, but acquitted him of rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.

Germain Katanga showed no emotion as judges convicted him as an accessory in the attack on the strategic village of Bogoro on 24 February 2003, in which about 200 people were hacked or shot to death and many women were raped and used as sex slaves.

Katanga, nicknamed Simba, is only the second person convicted since the court was established in 2002. Another alleged rebel leader originally charged alongside him, Mathieu Ngudjolo, was acquitted of all charges in December 2012.

In a 2-1 majority verdict, the court said Katanga played an important role in the attack on Bogoro by arming rebel fighters, “reinforcing the strike capability of the militia”, the presiding judge, Bruno Cotte, said.

One of the three judges criticised the verdict, however, saying the court changed the nature of the charges against Katanga, depriving him of the ability to defend himself.

Katanga was originally charged as an “indirect co-perpetrator” in the crimes, but judges said on Friday they had changed the nature of his involvement to cast him as an accessory, watering down his involvement in the attack.

Defence lawyers were told of the possible switch months ago, but the Belgian judge Christine van den Wyngaert said in a written dissenting opinion that changing the charges “has rendered this trial unfair by infringing a series of Germain Katanga’s rights”.

Katanga will be sentenced after a separate hearing. He is likely to appeal against the convictions.

 

Apple plans to cease using conflict minerals (extract from the Guardian 14.2.14)Click here to read more.

Apple plans to cease using conflict minerals, the company has announced in its annual supplier responsibility report.

As of the end of January, Apple’s entire supply of tantalum, a rare metal used extensively in the production of capacitors, is provided by smelters verified as conflict-free. The move was announced in Apple’s supplier responsibility report, the eighth edition of which was published on Thursday.

As the electronics industry is the biggest customer for tantalum, Apple focused its efforts on securing a clean supply chain for that element. But the company intends for all the tin, tungsten and gold it uses to be similarly verified as from safe and fair sources, and the Guardian understands that the intention is for this to happen by the end of 2014.

When asked why it didn’t simply refuse to buy from unverified sources, the company’s  senior vice president of operations, Jeff Williams, told the Financial Times that “we could wave our conflict-free flag but it would do nothing to affect the workers on the ground… what we are focused on is getting a critical mass of suppliers verified such that we can truly influence the demand situation and change things.”

Conflict-free smelters must demonstrate that the minerals they use don’t come from sources whose existence finances or otherwise benefits armed groups associated with human rights violations. The issue is particularly pressing for the four elements Apple is addressing because of the large sources in and around war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The search for Bosco Ntaganda continues. The ICC, UN, State troops and even his own M23 militia seek the warlord who the chief prosecutor says is as dangerous as Joseph Kony. (click to read more)

(The Guardian 28th Nov)

Ntaganda, about 40, is the subject of two arrest warrants from the international criminal court, whose chief prosecutor says he is just as dangerous as Joseph Kony – the globally infamous Ugandan warlord.

Human Rights Watch has said: “Congo is full of war criminals, but the ICC arrest warrants put Ntaganda in a different league.”

He is now described as the leader of M23, a rebel movement accused of serial atrocities on its way to capturing the major eastern city of Goma. Yet when M23 commanders paraded triumphantly through the streets last Tuesday, Ntaganda was nowhere to be seen. His current whereabouts remain the Congolese rebels’ best kept secret.

The days when the Rwandan-born fugitive from international justice swaggered around Goma’s best hotels, playing tennis and dining in style, appear to be over. One hotel is run by his cousin and, on Saturday, was guarded by an M23 fighter with green beret, rifle, crackling radio and chest-sack bursting with rockets. “What is this fucking white man doing here?” he snapped at the sight of a western journalist.

The cousin, who gave his name only as Kubi, said he last spoke to Ntaganda seven months ago. “I don’t know where he is now,” he continued defensively. “He has his business and I have mine. The international community is looking for him – that’s why a lot of people don’t know.”

Whatever the allegations against Ntaganda, Kubi admitted, blood is thicker than water. “I have a good relationship with him. I’m not a politician or a soldier. I like my family. When he’s fighting, the family members follow him to the field.”

According to some theories, Ntaganda is moving from town to town, helping direct the increasingly successful war against the Congolese army. Others believe he has taken refuge in Rwanda – a country widely accused of supporting M23. But the PR-savvy rebels have moved to distance themselves from the man indicted by the ICC for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery and the recruitment of child soldiers. Their media liaison officer, Colonel Vianney Kazarama, said: “I’m not the spokesman for Bosco Ntaganda. We are not with him.”

One of the triggers of Congo’s latest crisis was pulled far away, at The Hague eight months ago. It was there that the decade-old ICC claimed its first scalp: the warlord Thomas Lubanga, Ntaganda’s former boss. During the trial, a witness testified that as a child he fought alongside Ntaganda, describing him as a man who “kills people easily”.

Ntaganda’s position as a general in the Congolese army, which is backed by UN peacekeepers, looked increasingly untenable. In April he defected with hundreds of heavily armed soldiers to form M23.

President Joseph Kabila finally bowed to international pressure and called for his arrest, though he said Ntaganda would not be handed over to the ICC, which in July brought extra charges against the general.

Deepening the riddle of his movements since then is the complex internal politics of M23, which draws heavily upon a previous Rwandan-backed rebel militia, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). Ntaganda, who once led the CNDP, is said to be at loggerheads with M23’s military leader, Sultani Makenga, prompting conjecture that he may have been sidelined or even detained by M23.

The potholed, crumbling road north from Goma runs deep into Ntaganda territory where, according to the UN, he has built a business empire by collecting taxes from charcoal markets, illegal checkpoints and mines controlled by his loyalists. But in the M23 stronghold of Rutshuru, its fighters are elusive on his location.

“I remember him in the CNDP,” said one colonel, who did not wish to be named. “He had to do his job. I never saw him recruit children to fight. I last met him in Goma in March and I don’t know where he is now. Maybe Kabila knows. People try to say Ntaganda is here, but he’s not involved in M23.”

Nearby is the village of Kiwanja, where in 2008 Ntaganda was caught by TV cameras commanding his troops as 150 people were massacred in a single day.

Mwendo Mutalubeko lost five children in the carnage. “They came and asked them to go and, when they refused, they shot them, even people asleep in their beds,” she recalled, holding a hand to her pained face. “I want to cry again. We are still suffering here. Only God can help us now.”

Standing among rudimentary mud and wicker homes, Rubago Lazaro, 67, whose son was murdered, said: “The whole village is crying. We still don’t have peace, we still don’t sleep. Bosco Ntaganda and his people should face justice.”