BRIEF: Maori Concerned Over Clause in Land Bill

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Maori have worked for six years toward getting Mount Maunganui, known by the Maori name Mauao, given back to them.  Mauao is an extinct volcanic cone that rises above the town of Mount Maunganui, a suburb of Tauranga.  Mauao is a former Maori pa, a fortified village from the 19th century or earlier.

The proposed bill would hand over Mauao to three Maori iwi.  [“Iwi” is a term roughly similar to “clan”.]  A clause in the proposed bill seems to suggest that the Crown would still own Mauao after the handover.  The Crown claims that the clause at issue refers only to public safety and that the Crown will take responsibility if someone gets injured on the mountain, which is a popular hiking spot open to the public.

There is also some controversy over the Waitaha iwi’s participation in management decisions but not ownership, according to Radio New Zealand.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand – Iwi debate Mt Maunganui ownership – 31 December 2007 – Iwi take issue with clause in handover bill – 31 December 2007

At Least 125 Killed after Kibaki is Named Victor in Kenya’s Election

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – It took a few minutes on Sunday, after Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, was declared the victor of an intense and controversial election, for the country to fly into a rage. More than 100 people have been killed across Kenya in protest blamed on the disputed presidential election. Mwai Kibaki was officially re-elected president while Raila Odinga, the opposition, rejected the results saying he was robbed of victory by electoral fraud.

It was earlier predicted that the vote would be close, and the final results had Kibaki winning by a splinter, 46 percent to 44 percent. According to the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), Kibaki won 4,584,721 votes, beating Odinga by more than 230,000 votes. But that gap may have included thousands of invalid ballots. Before the final count, Kibaki trailed in all opinion polls.

Kibaki, in a statement, urged healing, reconciliation and unity going into the New Year in an effort to quell one of the most volatile moments in Kenya since the 1963 independence. However, Kibaki cautioned that his government would “deal decisively with those who breach the peace by intensifying security across the country.”

As riots spread across Kenya, the government took the first steps toward martial law on Sunday night and banned all live media broadcasts. Police, who have imposed a 6am to 6pm curfew, told the Associated Press that they had orders to shoot to kill. The orders have divided the police force, with many officers sympathizing with protesters.

Most of the violence has been between Kenya’s two largest tribes, Luo supporters of Odinga clashed with members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe. According to the local television stations, ten people were killed in the ethnically-mixed town of Kisii. The bloodiest attacks took place in Kisumu, the country’s third-largest city and a concentrated area of the opposition. According to witnessed, 25 bodies lay at the mortuary. In Nairobi, police fired live rounds and tear-gas to break up Odinga’s supporters in the Kibera slum, where a blackout forced the area into darkness while ethnic gangs set homes and businesses on fire. The death toll from clashes between protesters and police, or ethnic violence has risen today to more than 130.

Meanwhile, the opposition candidate, Odinga, has dismissed the presidential vote as rigged. After the police warned the opposition from holding a rally in Uhuru Park, Odinga has called on a million protesters to gather in the park on Thursday.

Many people have taken refuge in police stations as the violence spreads. Took make matters worst, food, water and fuel are in short supply in most of the country.

Bewildered tourists are left stranded in the chaos as flights have been delayed and airports turned into makeshift shelters.

The US, which works closely together with the Kibaki government on anti-terrorism issues, initially congratulated the president on his re-election but today withdrew its commendation.

For more information please see:

BBC News – Odinga rejects Kenya poll result – 31 December 2007

BBC News – Scores dead in Kenya poll clashes – 31 December 2007

Reuters: Africa- Kenya Election Violence Kills More Than 100 – 31 December 2007

Yahoo News (AP) – Kenya Rioting Death Toll at 125 – 31 December 2007

Washington Post – Kenyan Election protest Kill More Than 100 – 31 December 2007

Stranded Palestinian Pilgrims Protest for Re-Entry

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

El-ARISH, Egypt – Following a pilgrimage to Mecca, two thousand Palestinians are stranded in Egypt as a result of a dispute on their re-entry into Gaza.  The Egyptian and Israeli governments would like the pilgrims to return to Gaza via the Israeli controlled Aouja crossing, to ensure that weapons or money are not smuggled into Gaza.

However, Palestinians insist that the pilgrims be allowed to re-enter via the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing.  The Rafah crossing is the only entry into Gaza which is not controlled by Israel.  In mid-December, the Egyptian government permitted the pilgrims to exit Gaza through the Rafah crossing, despite Israeli protests against it.

Some of the Palestinian pilgrims are members (or are related to members) of Hamas or are wanted by the Israeli government.  They fear that if they will be arrested if forced to return through the Israel.  Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, said that Hamas rejects any other crossing.  Also, Hamas lawmaker, Yehia Moussa, said that Egypt had an obligation to allow the pilgrims to return home.

On December 28, over two thousand Palestinian pilgrims left Jordan to sail to the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, Egypt.  The Egyptian government finally permitted entry into Egypt after the pilgrims were stranded on the ferries for two days.  Then, the Palestinians were bused to several camps in the Sinai until the parties agree on a method of re-entry.  Currently, Egyptian officials are considering several options; including receiving assurances from Israeli authorities that no one will arrested or allowing the pilgrims to re-enter through Rafah, despite Israel’s wishes.

Following the busing of at least one thousand pilgrims to temporary camps near el-Arish, Egypt, many of the pilgrims began protesting.  Many refused to exit the bus, while others broke windows and started fires to protest Egypt’s decision.  Masses of Palestinians gathered on the border between Gaza and Egypt and demanded that the pilgrims be allowed to enter.  However, the demonstration was quickly controlled by the Hamas security forces.

In a similar incident, Palestinians and Israelis clashed at a border crossing.  According to an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) official, IDF soldiers fired warning shots into the air to disperse the on-coming crowds and these warning shots resulted in the death of a Palestinian woman.  However, witnesses claim that following warning shots in the air, IDF soldiers also fired shots into the crowd, killing one woman and wounding three others.

For more information, please see:
Al-Jazeera – Stranded Pilgrims Riot in Egypt – 31 December 2007

BBC – Protest by Stranded Gaza Pilgrims – 31 December 2007

Jerusalem Post – IDF: Pilgrim ‘Apparently’ Shot by Troops – 31 December 2007

London Times – Pilgrims Left in Limbo as Egypt Bars Their Route Home to Gaza– 31 December 2007

Reuters – Stranded Palestinian Haj Pilgrims Protest in Egypt – 31 December 2007

AFP – Palestinian Pilgrims Stuck in Egypt Refuse to be Moved to Camps – 30 December 2007

Associated Press – Pilgrims Stuck in Egypt Taken to Camps – 30 December 2007

BBC – Gaza Pilgrims Stay on Their Buses – 30 December 2007

Reuters – Gunfire Kills One Palestinian Pilgrim, Wounds Four – 30 December 2007

Al-Jazeera – Gaza Pilgrims Stranded off Egypt – 29 December 2007

BBC – Gaza Pilgrims Stranded in Red Sea – 29 December 2008

International Herald Tribune – Close to Two Thousand Palestinian Pilgrims Trapped in Egypt – 29 December 2007

Moti Extradited to Australia to Face Rape Charges

By Sarah C. LaBelle
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

HONIARA, Solomon Islands – Julian Moti, former attorney general for the Solomon Islands, was extradited to Australia on Thursday, where he was promptly arrested.  The Fiji-born Moti is an Australian citizen who is facing a charge of child sex tourism for an incident in Vanuatu in 1997.  Moti eluded Australian authorities in Papua New Guinea before fleeing to the Solomons, where he was made attorney general.  However, last week the government changed over and the new government is not as friendly to Moti as their predecessor and has said for their entire campaign that they intended to return Moti to Australia.

Moti has maintained throughout the affair that the charges were dropped in Vanuatu and that the Australian government has been pursuing the charge for racial or political reasons.  [There is some debate over the actual case status in Vanuatu regarding whether the charges are pending or lapsed.  Please see theImpunity Watch report here for more.]  He is not well-liked in Australia, and a recent article in The Australian described him as “better known for hubris than any show of humility.”

Moti’s supporters rallied at his house on Thursday, confronting police and immigration officers who had come to escort him to the airport, delaying Moti’s departure for an hour and a half.  He was flown to Brisbane, where he was detained by Australian Federal Police, who handed him over to Queensland police.

After his arrest, Moti reiterated his belief that the charge against him is political and nature.  He has accused the Australian Federal Police of coaching witnesses and claims that he has not been given adequate time to raise his defense.  He is charged with engaging in sexual intercourse with a person under sixteen years of age, which has a maximum penalty of seventeen years of imprisonment.

Former Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare, who appointed Moti, has accused the Solomons government of “evading law and proper procedures” in the deportation process “merely to please Australia,” according to the Solomon Times.  Sogavare said that international human rights protocols were not observed, and that it was improper for the same judge to hear the case on appeal.

For more information, please see:

The Australian – Moti arrested at Brisbane airport – 27 December 2007

The Australian – Moti faces court after eviction – 28 December 2007

The Australian – “Victim of political conspiracy” – 28 December 2007

Solomon Times – Sogavare Accuses Government on Moti Deportation – 28 December 2007

Solomon Times –  Moti to Face Rape Charge – 28 December 2007

Sydney Morning Herald – Moti forced onto Brisbane flight to face charges – 28 December 2007

BRIEF: Kurds Promise to Continue to Fight

The Kurds have promised to continue fighting Turkey until they are promised equal rights including the right to teach the Kurdish language in public schools.  Suzdar Avista a local Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader stated that “We will not surrender, and if Turkey continues its aggression against our bases and kills civilians we will respond, we’ll begin fighting inside Turkey.” (International Herald Tribune)

Some locals have remained in the area despite the constant shelling.  They have condemned the Turkish actions.  They believe that the purpose of the attacks has only to improve the morale of the Turkish people, rather than actually eliminate the PKK rebels.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune (AP)- Kurdish rebels in Iraq vow to carry out more attacks against Turkey if airstrikes continue- 30 December 2007

BRIEF: Bahrain Extends Amnesty Deadline

Bahrain has extended its amnesty deadline for illegal workers to January 31, 2008.  The purpose of the extending the deadline is enable illegal workers to stay in Bahrain or leave the country without having to pay high penalties for violating their contracts.  The amnesty was issued as a response to the reported abuses of migrant workers.

The government stated that the amnesty has been successful and that 80% of the illegal workers have benefited from the amnesty.  Around 12,000 workers have already left the country and 22,000 workers legalized their stay.  However, the government is committed to helping the remaining 20%  of illegal workers through amnesty and has promised to launch an “inspection campaign next week to ensure that no one is working in Bahrain illegally.”

For more information, please see:

Gulf Daily News- New deadline for amnesty seekers- 31 December 2007

Human Rights Watch Urges Morocco to Investigate Rights Activists Beating

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RABAT, Morocco – Human Rights Watch on Friday urged the Moroccan Ministry of Justice to investigate the police beating and intimidation of two human rights activists in Western Sahara. More importantly, the New York-based rights organization expressed “concern that the action is part of a broader attack on human rights monitoring by the authorities in the Western Sahara region.”

Police allegedly detained Dahha Rahmouni and Brahim Alansari, members of two nongovernmental human rights organizations in El-Ayoun, on December 14 and beat them while in custody. Two days later, the authorities released both without charge, but threatened to use statements they were compelled to sign if they continued their activities. Rahmouni is a member of unrecognized organization based in El-Ayoun called the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations. Alansari is a member of the legally recognized Moroccan Association of Human Rights.

Rahmouni and Alansari are known as sympathizers of the independence movement Polisario Front in Western Sahara. In 1976, Morocco annexed the northwest African territory of 260,000 people after Spain withdrew from what is known as “Spanish Sahara.” Although the Moroccan government has offered it autonomy, Polisario Front movement is calling for full independence.

Currently, talks between the two sides are at stalemate. Two rounds of talks to resolve the 32-year-old dispute were held in June and August this year, but each side had stuck to “rigid position.” January 7 negotiation is impending, but many believe the outcome is not hopeful based on past history.

Human Rights Watch said “the Moroccan authorities tightly restrict independent human rights activities in the contested Western Sahara region on the pretext that several rights organizations there violate Moroccan law by espousing independence for Western Sahara,” and added that “authorities frequently keep activists in these organizations under police surveillance and subject them to various forms of harassment.”

The Morrocan government denies all allegations of mistreating independence activists.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Times – Endless conflict in West Sahara – 30 December 2007

Reuters – Morocco urged to probe beating of rights activists – 29 December 2007

Human Rights Watch – Investigate police beating of rights activists in Western Sahara – 28 December 2007

BRIEF: Kibaki Re-elected as President of Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya – The electoral commission has declared that Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki won Thursday’s contested election, amid accusations by opposition leader Raila Odinga that Mr. Kibaki used electoral fraud to win.  Opposition protesters in Nairobi began riots minutes after the announcement.  Mr. Kibaki won with 4,584,721 votes, more than 230,000 more than Mr. Odinga. 

President Kibaki was sworn in for his second five-year term an hour after the announcement was made.  He described the election as “free and fair” and urged all political parties to “accept the verdict of the people.” 

At least 14 people have died in the Nairobi rioting since the vote on Thursday.  The electoral commission suspended announcing the results until Sunday, promising to look into the allegations of fraud.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Kibaki named victor in Kenya vote – 30 December 2007

AP – Kenya Candidate Claims Rigging in Vote – 30 December 2007

Reuters – Kibaki wins Kenya vote, protests erupt – 30 December 2007

Sudan Accuses Chad of Bombing Territory

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudan has accused Chad of bombing its territory and sending troops across their shared border, and warned that Khartoum may have to retaliate. Sudan’s Foreign Ministry stated on Saturday that the Friday bombing followed similar attacks in West Darfur earlier this month and in April. Chad’s Foreign Minister Ahmat Allam-mi defended the bombing as necessary to counter Darfur fighters he claimed were preparing to attack Chad’s forces.  Chad denies sending any troops into Sudanese territory.

There has been tension between the two countries over the conflict in Darfur with each side accusing the other of aiding the rebel groups.  Both countries have reiterated their right to undertake any measures they deem necessary for self-defensive purposes.  Khartoum has stated they reserve “its full right to respond in self-defense in the place and at the time Sudan’s interest dictate.”  Chad countered by reminding Sudan of “Chad’s right to take all means to assure its security, notably by preventive measures.”

Meanwhile, a 26,000 strong joint AU and UN peacekeeping force is scheduled to start deployment in Sudan on January 1.  A 7,000 strong AU force has been in Darfur for the last three years, but has been largely unsuccessful.  50 African troops have died, including 12 in the deadliest attack on an AU base in September. 

The increased force was approved by the UN Security Council in July but will not be fully operational until later in 2008.  There have been numerous accusations that Khartoum has stalled the deployment and that contributing countries are not supplying enough hardware. 

UNAMID head Radolphe Adada warned that “the situation in Darfur will not be transformed overnight” but that they “are optimistic that the deployment of UNAMID will help to begin to improve the security situation in Darfur and create a climate favourable to the achievement of a negotiated settlement of the conflict.” 

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune – Sudan criticizes Chad for bombing territory, sending troops across border – 30 December 2007

AFP – New Darfur peacekeepers set to take over Jan 1 – 30 December 2007

Reuters – Sudan accuses Chad of bombing Darfur, Chad denies – 30 December 2007

Reuters – Little relief for Darfur seen from new peace force – 30 December 2007

BRIEF: Alarming Malnutrition in Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan – A joint survey carried out by the government and the United Nations found that child malnutrition rates have reached their highest level in three years in war-torn Darfur.  The overall malnutrition rate reached 16.1 per cent this year, compared to 12.9 per cent last year. 

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) continuing insecurity is one of the primary causes.  Access to those in need is compromised due to fighting and violence against civilians and aid workers.  Other contributing causes are poor feeding practices, inadequate sanitation, low health coverage, and low coverage of special feeding programs. 

There are currently more than 13,000 relief workers in Darfur who work for 13 United Nations agencies and 80 private groups, with an annual budget of a billion dollars.  Attacks on aid workers are on the rise, making it more difficult to get aid to the 290,000 civilians displaced in Darfur this year alone. 

For more information, please see: – New UN Survey Reveals Alarming Malnutrition Rates Among Darfur’s Children – 28 December 2007

AP – Child Malnutrition on Risk in Darfur – 27 December 2007

New York Times – Despite Aid, Malnutrition in Darfur Rises – 26 December 2007

Shooting along the Eritrea- Ethiopia Border

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Yesterday, the UN released a statement that gunfire was exchanged between Eritrea and Ethiopia on Wednesday. Eritrea, once again, accuses Ethiopia of instigating a war between the two nations. In a statement posted on a website, Asmara claims Ethiopia “planted mines, carried out excursion, abducted nationals and burned crop fields in the ground”; all part of an ongoing effort to provoke them.

For several months, both Ethiopia and Eritrea has accused the other of violating the 2002 border resolution which ended the 1999-2000 war that took the lives of roughly 70,000 people. The United Nation decision granted the disputed town of Badme to Eritrea. The terms of the resolution required that the countries physically mark the boundary by the end of November or the International Boundary Commission would draw it on maps themselves and let it stand. The deadline passed with no agreement.

Last month Secretary- General Ban Ki- Moon warned in a report that the failure to resolve the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia was a cause for serious concern. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Ethiopia to avoid raising tension with Eritrea.

According to the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), it’s Indian Battalion Post in the Temporary Security Zone on Eritrea’s side heard firing sounds coming from the direction of Gergera. The UNMEE has been in contact with both nations and is investigating the incident.

The Ethiopian government has denied all allegations by Eritrea and claims it has not employed any military attacks along the border.

With nearly 200,000 troops and heavy military equipment posted on the border, the UN has called on both sides to show the utmost restraint. The UNMEE has 1,676 military personnel, including 1,464 troops and 212 military observers, monitoring the border. The number of troops was cut back due to the lack of progress by either country.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News – Exchange of Gunfire on Eritrea- Ethiopia Border: UN  – 27 December 2007

Reuters: Africa – Eritrea Accuses Ethiopia of Border Attack – 27 December 2007 – East Africa: UN Mission Calls on Ethiopia, Eritrea to Show Restraint after Shooting Incident – 27 December 2007

Jailed Iran Rights Activist Sent to Hospital

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – A prominent human rights activist jailed since October was rushed to a hospital after collapsing in a prison shower.

Emadeddin Baghi, 45, suffered a “double heart attack” in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, where he has been held for the past 74 days. He was taken to a private hospital when a prison official found him unconscious in the shower. He had collapsed twice in his cell earlier in the morning due to high nervous pressure.

Baghi, a reformist journalist who is in jail for the second time, has reported been held in solitary confinement ever since he was first taken to Evin, and his health deteriorated steadily during the past two months. His lawyer believes his poor health was mainly due to appalling prison conditions and harassment he has been subjected to during interrogations.

Baghi was arrested in October on charges of violating national security. Iranian authorities said that due to his ongoing activities, he had to serve the remaining year of an earlier prison sentence he had received back in 2003. In 2003, he was sentenced to three years in prison on similar charges of threatening national security, but he only served two years of the term. Authorities have accused Baghi, who campaigns for the humane treatment of prisoners and against the death penalty, of using his activism as a guise to cover anti-regime efforts.

In 2005 Baghi was awarded a top human rights prize by the French government for his work campaigning against the death penalty. Since his jailing, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the US State Department have both called for his release.

In Iran, capital offences that results a death penalty include murder, rape, armed robbery, serious drug trafficking, and adultery. Iran is reportedly the second most prolific applier of the death penalty worldwide after China.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune – Media advocacy group RSF worried about health of jailed Iranian activist – 28 December 2007

AFP – Jailed Iranian rights activist hospitalized – 27 December 2007

The New York Times – Human rights activist, jailed in Iran, is transferred to hospital – 27 December 2007

Associated Press – Jailed Iran rights activist in hospital – 27 December 2007

Iraq: Thousands Seeking New Livelihoods

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

The Turkish military has attacked the northern Kurdish region of Iraq.  The Turks have claimed that the attacks have killed hundreds of PKK militants, including up to 175 rebels killed on December 16 alone.  (BBC-Turkish jets in fresh Iraq strike)

The attacks have destabilized the region and forced those who live in the area to seek safety.
“Since 16 December when Turkish warplanes renewed their bombing of the borders, nearly 700 families, about 4,000 people, have fled their villages, leaving everything behind,” said Mohammed Khalil, a spokesman for the Regional Displacement and Immigration Directorate.  (IRIN)

The instability has forced many Iraqis to sell their homes and possessions in order to relocate during the attacks.

However, since many Iraqi Kurds in the northern mountainous region were farmers and shepherds, many of the people relocated have been forced to find new livelihoods.  They have been forced to find the shelter from relatives while seeking to begin a new life from scratch.

For example in a phone interview, 65 year-old father of eight, Hama Numan Jalil, a relocated farmer from the border region explained his plight from his cousin’s home.  “I lost all my animals last week: nine cows, 18 sheep and 14 goats which we depend on for a living . . . We left everything behind – our home, which is partially damaged, and our land, and now we have ended up here at my cousin’s home in the city; my cousin has 10 sons to feed already,” Jalil said.  (IRIN) Jalil stated that he would probably have to remove his children from school to make sure that they could be able to survive.

The Turkish attacks have been condemned by leaders of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region.   However, these condemnations seem to not have dissuaded the Turks who seek to eliminate all strongholds of the PKK.

For more information, please see:

BBC News- Turkish jets fresh in Iraq- 26 December 2007

BBC News- Iraq Kurds warn Turkey over raids- 25 December 2007

IRIN News- IRAQ: Newly displaced in north considering alternative livelihoods-26 December 2007

BRIEF: Police Not Above the Law, says Weicavu

SUVA, Fiji — At several points during the course of this year Fijian police and governmental officials have been charged with acting beyond the confines of the law.  On 26 December, however, Assistant Police Spokesman, Corporal Josaia Weicavu, told Fiji Times reporters that no one is above the law.  His remarks came after reporters asked him about an incident involving a police officer beating two children in Suva.  Weicavu said that he had not been personally aware of the incident, but that if it did happen that police officials should always follow official rules of engagement.

The incident in question occurred on 25 December, when a police officer exited his highway patrol vehicle outside of the Fiji Visitors Bureau office and proceeded to belt two boys who was standing on the street corner.

When Weicavu became aware of the incident he issued his strong warning that police should not take the law into their own hands and that beating members of the public would not be condoned.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Police officers issued a stern warning — 26 December 2007

Fiji Times — Police: No one is above the law — 26 December 2007

Increase in Child Abductions in DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo – According to the charity, Save the Children, the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has resulted in an increase in child abductions by rebel groups. While the conflict has forced about 800,000 people from their homes, only about 800 children have been freed from armed militias during 2007.

The Congolese director for Save the Children, Hussein Mursal, has described the situation for children and teenagers in eastern DRC to be “catastrophic.” Militant groups have been forcibly capturing children as young as age ten to fight in the front lines. The UN claims “that rape, pillage (and) the recruitment of child soldiers are practiced by all Nord-Kivu fighters.”

Kemal Saiki, a spokesman for MONUC, the UN mission to DRC said “Our latest information shows 200 pupils were forcibly recruited on December 17, with school materials and ID cards being burnt.”

General Nkunda has reported that he is not interested in using child soldiers to fight against Rwandan Hutu rebels who threaten the DR Congo’s Tutsi population.  Nevertheless, reports show that Nkunda’s men have been responsible for taking children from Tongo. 

Presently, Nkunda has called for a ceasefire in an attempt to undertake internationally sponsored peace negotiations in Goma that will take place on January 6, 2008. Currently, 20,000 government soldiers with the help of United Nations forces are fighting 4,000 Nkunda loyalists.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Child Kidnap Surge in DR Congo   – 24 December 2007

BBC – DR Congo: Voices of Violence – 17 October 2007

VOA – DRC Rebel Leader Calls for Ceasefire   – 26 December 2007

AFP – UN slams Congolese rebel child soldier recruitment   – 26 December 2007