Friday, October 31, 2008

Congo crisis - contact your elected officials - 10/31/2008


Dear Friends,

The situation in Congo is deteriorating dramatically
, and it seems that all the US media can focus on is the election. While this is an important, historic election, we must not lose perspective of the global imperatives facing us today. I invite you to join me in raising awareness about the crisis in Congo and urge you to contact your elected officials.

A BBC article today provides a good summary of what is being done, internationally, and I drafted a short letter to accompany an edited version of that story.

FCNL (Friends Committe on National Legislation) has a convenient website for submitting letters to the President and Congress:

You can enter your zip code, and your elected officials will appear. You can write all of them with one click (link is above their pictures). Below is the text I submitted to my elected officials for this issue: Crisis in Congo (Foreign Policy).

Along with the UN's IRIN news service briefings, I've posted two emails from Quaker field staff based in Kenya, Anna Crumley-Effinger (AFSC staff) and David Zarembka (AGLI staff), with updates from their contacts in the region.

BBC has an excellent overview of the long and terrible history of the civil war in Congo, in case you need more background:

They also provide a concise timeline of Congolese history:

Doctors without Borders also has a good press release on the conflict in Congo:

Congo is Kenya's neighbor, and there is a very desperate community of Quakers in eastern Congo, who need our prayers, attention, and assistance.

Please do what you can to:
  • take action by contacting your elected officials
  • to pray for the displaced and traumatized
  • and give support to relief efforts there.
Be blessed,
Mary Kay


Dear Elected Official:

Please urge the President and US State Department to take stronger action on the situation in Congo (BBC story below). The US should continue talks and join the EU in reinforcing UN Peacekeeping troops to end this humanitarian disaster promptly. We do not want to witness another genocide like Rwanda's. My particular concern is for the safety of women and children, as gang rape is now widespread in Eastern Congo. It is my sincere hope that US will be instrumental in protecting innocent citizens there. Instability in Congo affects all countries in Eastern and Central Africa. I look forward to your reply regarding your plans to help resolve this enormous crisis.


'Human catastrophe' grips Congo

BBC - Fierce fighting between government and rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo is causing a humanitarian catastrophe, the Red Cross has said.

It said the number of displaced people was growing by the hour and that the precarious security situation was making it difficult to deliver aid.

Intense diplomatic efforts are under way to end the crisis, which has displaced a total of 250,000 people.

A tense ceasefire is holding in and around the eastern city of Goma.

A spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, told the BBC that the situation was "extremely critical".

A Congolese aid-worker based in Goma, Godefroid Marhenge, told the BBC's Network Africa programme that some displaced people were without water or shelter, and "in desperate need of humanitarian assistance".

Overstretched peacekeepers
After several days of fighting, Gen Nkunda declared the ceasefire late on Wednesday, and his Tutsi forces are positioned some 15km (nine miles) from Goma - the provincial capital of North Kivu.

However, Gen Nkunda has threatened to take the city unless UN peacekeepers guarantee the ceasefire and security in Goma.

Looting, killings and rapes were reported in the city on Thursday, much of it blamed on retreating Congolese troops.

Meanwhile, intense international diplomatic efforts are going in a bid to maintain the ceasefire and bring an end to the fighting:

• The parliament in DR Congo has called on government to negotiate with Gen Nkunda, although President Joseph Kabila has previously refused to do so
• UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he is "deeply concerned" about the situation, and has called on regional leaders to take concrete measures to broker a peace deal
>>> EU are diplomats meeting in Brussels to discuss whether to send troops to back up UN peacekeepers, after EU envoy Louis Michel met Mr Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame
>>> The EU is also to discuss sending troops to the area to aid the humanitarian effort
• An African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council is to hold crisis talks at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa
• US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer has held talks with Mr Kabila in DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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