This dispatch is based on research and interviews conducted by the author in Kampala, Uganda between September 11–18, 2013 at the site of Kampala Peace Talks between the Government of Congo and the M23. It is part of an ongoing Enough Project series on issues related to the peace process in Congo and the Great Lakes region.
The U.S. was put in a difficult diplomatic position this week as ICC indictee and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced his intent to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York. An agreement between the U.S. and the UN legally requires the U.S. to issue Bashir a visa and facilitate his travel. Although it might seem like restrictive international laws have created this problem, some activists see law as also offering the solution. Read More »
WASHINGTON --- 25 Sudan experts, human rights groups, and leading voices on genocide prevention, including George Clooney, Don Cheadle, and Omer Ismail and John Prendergast of the Enough Project released a letter addressed to President Obama today, calling on the U.S. government to do everything possible to dissuade President Bashir from travelling to New York City for next week's U.N. meetings.
Don Cheadle, Co-Founder of Not on Our Watch, said:
"Each time that President Bashir is allowed to travel freely, without the threat of arrest, is another blow to accountability and justice for his victims. The legal issues involved in Bashir's travel to the U.N. are complicated, but we hope that the U.S. and other countries do everything in their power to prevent this trip."
Citing the 2007 Genocide Accountability Act, which allows for the prosecution of genocidaires who are in the United States, even if their crimes were committed abroad, the letter urges the administration to announce that it will open a criminal prosecution once Bashir lands. While the letter acknowledges that the U.S. is generally obliged to facilitate travel for all visiting dignitaries, since it plays host to the United Nations, it goes on to outline a number of other diplomatic steps that the administration could be taking to dissuade President Bashir from persisting with his travel plans.
John Prendergast, Co-Founder of the Enough Project, said:
"If Bashir ends up coming to the U.S. despite the administration's best efforts to convince him otherwise, all legal channels should be explored for prosecuting him under existing authority. His visit also highlights the deadly conflicts continuing to rage in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile regions of Sudan. President Obama should lead efforts at the U.N. General Assembly meetings to construct a credible and comprehensive peace process."
It is troubling that Sudan's president continues to travel around the world with impunity, notwithstanding a pending warrant for his arrest at the Hague. Now, he might even come to New York just as Sudan is facing some of the worst violence the region has seen in years. Human rights lawyers are investigating civil litigation to hold the Sudanese president accountable for his crimes and hope to serve him once he steps on U.S. soil. Meanwhile, activists are mobilizing on Capitol Hill, planning protests in New York City and warning Manhattan hotels against offering him accommodation.
The letter notes that if President Bashir attends next week's opening session at the U.N., it will be the first time that anyone who is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court has entered the country. It will also be President Bashir's first trip to the United States since 2006. Since then, at least 300,000 people have died in Sudan while millions more have been displaced from their homes.
# The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, South Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas affected by the Lord's Resistance Army. Enough conducts intensive field research, develops practical policies to address these crises, and shares sensible tools to empower citizens and groups working for change. To learn more about Enough, go to www.enoughproject.org.
25 Sudan experts, human rights groups, and leading voices on genocide prevention, including George Clooney, Don Cheadle, John Prendergast and Omer Ismail, released an open letter addressed to President Obama, calling on the U.S. government to do everything possible to dissuade President Bashir from travelling to New York City for UN meetings.
A new Enough Project infographic and accompanying table reveals how the M23 rebel group and the Congolese national army – currently the two most powerful armed actors in eastern Congo - pursue their interests through a set of relationships with other armed groups. Read More »
Congo's National Army and M23 Rebel Group, Most Powerful Armed Actors in Eastern Congo
GOMA – The M23 rebel group and the Congolese national army – currently the two most powerful armed actors in eastern Congo - pursue their interests through a set of relationships with other armed groups, reveals a new Enough Project infographic and accompanying table. A field dispatch further documents recent clashes between the Congolese military and the M23 rebel group.
The infographic illustrates the strength and nature of the relationships between the Congolese army, the M23 rebels and their feuding alliances. The accompanying table provides detailed information about these groups, including their histories, leadership, composition, and other notable features. The research reveals that interaction among groups is often to support economic and political interests, often at the cost of human life.
Enough Project Field Researcher Fidel Bafilemba states:
"The number of senior defectors from the Congolese army who now head armed groups and their complex web of relationships only exemplifies the perversity of the Congolese security system, and the genuine political commitment it will require for its reform as Congo aspires to have sustainable peace."
The field dispatch, "The Recent Fighting in Eastern Congo and Its Implications for Peace" documents recent clashes between the Congolese military and the M23 rebel group from July 14 – 26, stating that fighting was at the worst it's been since M23 temporarily occupied Goma, eastern Congo last November. The report is based on Enough Project Researcher Timo Mueller’s eyewitness account at the frontlines during the first days of fighting in Mutaho, a few kilometers north of Goma, where fighting was heavy until moving onto M23-held territory.
Amid the fighting, talks between the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 rebels have stalled in neighboring Uganda. Over the course of the last seven months, the warring parties have employed militaristic bluster, as well as traded fierce accusations of foul play as a means of furthering narrow political agendas. The resumption of fighting on July 14 suggests that the Congolese government has been trying to influence its bargaining position at the talks through military gains on the battlefield.
Enough Project Field Researcher Timo Mueller states:
"If the army could manage to hurt M23 badly enough—short of a military defeat—the movement might be willing to make concessions in Kampala and provide the least politically damaging exit strategy for Rwanda, an alleged supporter of M23. Uganda, on the other hand, could present itself as a successful mediator to the crisis after it was accused last year of supporting M23."
As a response to increased fighting, the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission, the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or MONUSCO, put all of its agencies on high alert, stating that they are prepared to use “lethal force” to protect civilians. Mueller writes: "The latest escalation takes place against a growing militarization of the peacekeeping mission, which later may join the army in fighting M23."
The report warns that active, open conflict presents a wide range of problems for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, or U.N. PSCF, as parties continue to trade accusations and delay agreements. Continued violence in the region between M23 and the army has already displaced thousands of civilians, and resulted in the death of civilians, Congolese army soldiers and M23 rebels.
The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, South Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough conducts intensive field research, develops practical policies to address these crises, and shares sensible tools to empower citizens and groups working for change. To learn more about Enough, go to www.enoughproject.org.