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Congolese women: we have had enough


Mothers of Congolese children have had enough of war.

They live in poverty, in fear of being raped, and of daily losing their sons and husbands to endless fighting.

When M23 rebels seized Goma they reignited a war that has ravaged the region for 16 years.

And the UK has suspended aid to Rwanda amid concerns about its role in the conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, is a major city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of about 1 million people; its centre is only 1 km from the Rwandan border.

Announcing the news, the UK’s International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the money would not be released because Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame’s government had ‘breached agreements.’

President Kagame has been praised for improving the economic and social conditions in Rwanda since he came to power at the end of the 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 people died.

But a UN report claims that Rwanda’s defence minister is effectively commanding the rebellion group in the east of the DR Congo (DRC) and the BBC has uncovered evidence that Rwandan support for the rebels may be more widespread than previously believed.

The UK government will, however, be giving £18m for ‘immediate humanitarian needs in the DR Congo’.

Congo is home to the second largest rain forest in the world, behind Brazil, and 60 percent of all Africa’s forests, has enough hydropower potential to power all of Africa, and an estimated 24 trillion dollars of mineral wealth.

It is, apparently, far greater un-monetized wealth than any other nation in the world.

According to Susannah Sirkin, writing for CNN recently, the single largest UN peace-keeping force in the world, MONUSCO, just stood by as some 1,500 M23 rebels overran Goma – and the Congolese troops, many of them hungry and penniless, ran for the hills.

And in the midst of all this, Neema Namadamu and a group of grassroots women leaders who call themselves the Mama Shujaa (Swahili for ‘Hero Women’) are calling on you and US woman leaders Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, and Michelle Obama to take immediate action in solidarity with the women of the Congo.

“We are,” they say, “brutalized in unconscionable ways by monsters wearing military uniforms. We are tired of this. We have had enough.”

In July Neema Namadamu set up a women’s internet café and media centre and gathered together grassroots women leaders across the region to discuss the future of their country.

Within two months they had nearly 200 women activists reporting about life in war-torn DRC through the action media network World Pulse.

But then the rebels took hold of Goma, inflicting more horrors upon its women and children – even pregnant women.

And, writes Neema Namadamu, from Bukavu, the captial of South Kivu provence, ‘they threaten to advance to our area’.

By December 2 government soldiers were marching back towards Goma, which fell to rebel forces close to a fortnight ago, but, said the Telegraph, it is not clear when or where the next round of peace discussions will be held.

The Mama Shujaa are asking for the immediate appointment of a special presidential envoy to work with the African Union and United Nations to forge a peace process that addresses both the immediate crisis and the underlying longer-term economic and political interests of the parties involved.

They believe that only through a mediation of this level ‘can we hope to establish resolution among the numerous states, rebel armies, and special interests who have long fueled this conflict and humanitarian crisis’.

And, they add, ‘we ask that any action ensures Congolese women have a voice in the peace process and a seat at the table’.

And they are asking us to sign a petition and help them get the support they want.

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