Tag Archives: Democratic Republic of Congo

Human Rights in 2013: Our End-of-Year Top 10

As we get ready for the New Year, we’re also taking a moment to celebrate the joys and victories in human rights that took place in 2013—an exciting and tumultuous year for human rights around the globe. Read on for 10 human rights happenings that AJWS celebrated in 2013, listed in chronological order. Let’s celebrate the strides we’ve made together and take heart for the work still ahead of us!

10.  India: Supreme Court ruling upholds indigenous people’s rights over contested land (April 2013)

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Children from the Dongria Kondh community. Credit: Survival International

In a landmark ruling, India’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal that would have allowed a UK-based company, Vedanta Resources, to mine the Niyamgiri hills. The court recognized the indigenous community of Dongria Kondh‘s right to the land, which they make a living from and worship as part of their traditional beliefs. The ruling affirmed that people with religious and cultural rights to land must be involved in decisions about how to use it.

This marked a major win for the rights of indigenous people in India, and it shows the power of social action. Thousands of protesters rallied to protest the mining effort last December, and hundreds of Dongria pledged to stay in the Niyamgiri hills.

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Click to watch Survival International’s video story on the mine. A new window will open.

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Congo peace activists celebrate defeat of M23 rebels

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Women in Goma marched in the streets to celebrate the defeat of the M23.

For many months, I have heard tragic reports of rising conflict from our partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eastern DRC has been engulfed by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda—where they had just slaughtered Tutsis and moderate Hutus in one of the most organized genocides of the 20th century.

But in the last week, we have started seeing signs of hope. The notorious M23 rebels have finally surrendered, after years of unrelenting attacks against both civilians and the DRC military.

Here in DRC, people have been celebrating this important milestone. Women have dressed in white to show their support to the Congolese army and government in Goma and Kinshasa. There is a festive mood in the air.

However, grassroots advocates for peace are also calling for caution.  People are waiting to see what happens next and how the pending peace negotiations between the government and the M23 unfold. Still, this is a huge step toward breaking the cycle of recurrent violence in the Eastern DRC. We hope the United Nations and the Congolese army succeed in fighting the remaining rebel groups. There will be challenges ahead, particularly when human rights groups seek justice for war crimes—but this is a huge first step.

Read on for reflections on this news from AJWS partners in Goma and Bukavu, DRC, who will continue working with their communities to recover from this conflict and demand their basic human rights.

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Women’s groups in DRC pressure UN special envoy for inclusion in peace process

On Saturday, the International Day of Peace, AJWS grantees and other women’s groups in North Kivu gathered to protest ongoing conflict and finalize a joint statement to Mary Robinson. This activist's sign reads, "Mrs. Robsinson, we want justice and not impunity."

On Saturday, the International Day of Peace, AJWS grantees and other women’s groups in North Kivu gathered to protest ongoing conflict and finalize a joint statement to Mary Robinson. This activist’s sign reads, “Mrs. Robinson, we want justice and not impunity.”

On September 21, the International Day of Peace, many of AJWS’s partners around the world were pushing for peace, justice and reconciliation in their communities and countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where fighting has escalated due to a standoff between armed groups, civilians have increasingly become the targets of violence, particularly women and children. AJWS’s grantees and allies in DRC are particularly working to address sexual violence in North Kivu province, the epicenter of the recent fighting. Read More »

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Letter from Goma: Living through the Congolese conflict

Last week, conflict ramped up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Congolese rebel group M23 and the Congolese Armed Forces escalated fighting. At least 800,000 people have fled their homes in the DRC since the M23 launched its rebellion in April 2012 and laid siege to the city of Goma last December. In response, the United Nations has launched an intervention brigade with the strongest mandate in UN peacekeeping history.

However, civilians in North Kivu have begun protesting the intervention brigade, arguing that the UN has not done enough to protect civilians. This week, forces from DRC dropped bombs in Rwanda, creating a complex and controversial political situation. Rwanda has allegedly supported the M23 rebels and is now threatening retaliation. According to an AJWS consultant, the current situation is very unpredictable.

This post comes to Global Voices from Nelly Godelive Mbangu, who lives in Goma.

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What I Learned from Grassroots Activists and AJWS Grantees at the International AIDS Conference

AJWS intern Jessica Newfield (right) at the “Grantee Meet and Greet” with AJWS grantees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last Monday, I took part in a gathering of global change-makers. Not only did I have the incredible opportunity to attend the International AIDS Conference, but I also participated in AJWS’s “Grantee Meet and Greet” event, where close to 24 of our grantees from Africa, Asia and Latina America networked, learned together, and shared experiences and stories. Now that the United States’ HIV travel ban has been lifted, grassroots activists and grant-makers can join forces in their fight against HIV and AIDS.

My specific role at the Meet and Greet event was to be the French interpreter for our grantees. It was very powerful to talk with the community leaders whose work I’ve been learning about all summer, and especially to observe how the impact of their work resonates internationally. Read More »

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Defending Defenders: Providing Support to Grantees at Risk

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Quarterly blog.

In mid-March, following the news that Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a warlord from the DRC, had been convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), activists lauded the long-awaited verdict, calling on the ICC and the Congolese government to implement the arrest warrants of others who are also suspected of serious war crimes committed in the DRC. These calls for justice were met with hostility by warlords and their supporters, including some from within the DRC’s armed forces. Activists who have long worked on campaigns to bring justice to their communities received messages to stop meddling—and veiled threats of violence—from powerful actors.

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Gleaning Inspiration from the “I-Witness Awards”

From left to right: Fred Kramer, JWW Executive Director; Ambassador Verveer; Pat Mitchell, CEO and President of the Paley Center for Media; and Allison Lee, Los Angeles Regional Director of American Jewish World Service.

On January 11, 2012, American Jewish World Service was pleased to co-sponsor the I-Witness Awards presented by Jewish World Watch at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. I was among the standing-room only crowd gathered to honor Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues for her incredible work to address grave injustices faced by women and girls in conflict zones.

In 2009, the Obama administration created the post of U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, finally giving this issue a diplomatic face within our own government. Obama brilliantly chose Melanne Verveer to fill the role. As Hillary Clinton’s chief-of -staff, the founder and CEO of Vital Voices, and in her current position, Ambassador Verveer has consistently recognized and muscled forward the inclusion of women leaders in key decision-making bodies. She has also shined a spotlight on gender-based violence and the paucity of women in global politics—issues that demand serious attention. Read More »

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Remembering Jeanne d’Arc Mihigo

Jeanne d'Arc Mihigo (1970-2011)

“We are born with only one obligation – to be completely who we are.” The wisdom behind these words by poet and teacher Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening hit me as I reflect upon the one thing I learned from the death of my very dear colleague, Jeanne d’Arc Mihigo, AJWS’s country consultant in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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A Win for Human Rights in the DRC!

On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we have something to celebrate. Fifteen years after signing the UN convention, the DRC has taken a major step forward in advancing human rights. After months of delay, the DRC finally changed its penal code and adopted a law criminalizing torture on July 13th.

Local and international human rights activists fought and waited for this victorious day to arrive. Among them is AJWS’s fearless partner, Action des Chretiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (ACAT), based in North Kivu in eastern DRC. ACAT’s mission is to fight against all forms of human rights violations, including torture and death penalty. ACAT actively investigates and monitors human rights abuses in North Kivu, one of the most affected areas by the ongoing armed conflict in the country. For years, government security forces, including police and the army, have inflicted unimaginable suffering on civilians and detainees alike through torture.

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Dvar Tzedek: Parshat Balak 5771

A specter of violence and conflict hangs over Parshat Balak. Fearing attack by the approaching Israelite nation, Balak, king of Moab, hires the prophet Bilaam to curse the Israelites. Balak entreats Bilaam: “come then, put a curse upon this people for me, since they are too numerous for me… for I know that he whom you bless is blessed indeed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”
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