A Voice For the Voiceless


The Advocacy Project (AP) recruits students to help marginalized communities tell their story and claim their rights.

My RSS Feed

Twitter: #apfellows

Posts tagged mai mai

Weekend Update, Sud Kivu Edition

Walter James | Posted October 28th, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

More news from Uvira/Fizi:

On 10/24, Mai Mai rebels attacked a FARDC position in the village of Kabumbe, next to the village of Mukwesi.  In the attack, 4 civilians were killed and 3 injured, and the FARDC suffered 2 dead and 2 injured.  Kabumbe/Mukwesi is about 2 hours south of Uvira, close to the town of Mboko.  The attackers allegedly belonged to Mai Mai Pascal, an armed group loyal to Pascal Bwasakala, a former protégé of Yakutumba.  The day after the Mai Mai attack, FARDC troops arrived to reinforce the position.  However, the attack prompted massive IDP movements away from Kabumbe/Mukwesi, leaving the villages virtually empty of inhabitants.  OCHA is cautioning all humanitarian workers passing through the Swima-Mboko area to only travel in vehicle convoys.  Furthermore, OCHA warns that if the situation persists or deteriorates, agencies will be forced to travel with a PAKBATT escort.

There are continuing inter-ethnic tensions in Tulambo and Maranda, two villages in the Massif d’Itombwe, a large forest in the Haut Plateau of Fizi.  Just since 10/21, clashes between the Bembe and Banyamulenge communities have left 4 wounded and 3 dead.  This next week, MONUSCO and several local NGOs are poised to launch a Joint Assessment Mission to the area.

On 10/21, the population of Kahanda, a village in Uvira Territory close to the town of Lemera, fled due to the arrival of Mai Mai Bede, a small band of armed men loyal to ex-FARDC commander Col. Bede Safari.  Col. Bede defected from the FARDC in 2010, and his troops only number in the dozens.  However, his arrival still precipitated a panicked IDP movement of around 64 households.  FARDC troops stationed nearby went to Kahanda to hunt down the Mai Mai Bede, but the rebels were warned in advance and fled before the FARDC arrived.

In addition, there are further reports of violence and insecurity occurring just this week: 2 nurses killed in Buhonde by unidentified armed men, 3 civilians kidnapped in Kalungwe, and a traditional chief shot in the night in Kitundu.  This is all just human-on-human violence; this past week rainy season floods have also destroyed part of the town of Sange, on the Rusizi Plain in Uvira Territory.  The damage includes the destruction of 500 houses, 3 schools, 1 bridge, and several fields.  The casualty toll from the flooding currently sits 5 dead and 2 severely injured.

Military Justice II: The Stinky Courtroom

Walter James | Posted September 5th, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Capt. Issokelo Didier, FARDC Magistrate
Capt. Issokelo Didier, FARDC Magistrate

Capt. Issokelo Didier, FARDC Magistrate

On Thursday, September 1st, I arrived at the military tribunal of Uvira, based on an invitation from the head magistrate, Captain Issokelo Didier. In terms of what I focus on (the fight against sexual violence), there was not too much to learn. However, I found some aspects of the experience to be quite interesting:

-While waiting in the courtroom for the judges to arrive, I struck up a conversation with the three prisoners whose cases were to be heard that day. The three men, decked out in faded orange jumpsuits, were accused of being members of an “insurrectionist movement”, the Mai Mai; these accusations were the basis for their appearance in a military court as opposed to a civilian court. They had all been arrested in December 2009, and they said that this day in court was only the second time they had appeared before a judge since being arrested.

Waiting in court
Waiting in court

Waiting in court

-The soldiers assigned to guarding the prisoners were a raggedy, if friendly, group of individuals. I struck up a conversation with a soldier named Jeannot, a miniscule and jocular soldier with several missing front teeth and a battered and dented AK-style assault rifle. I asked Jeannot when he joined the army, and he told me he had first joined as a soldier with the RCD in 1998. I asked him how old he was.

“I was born in 1984,” he said. If what he told me was the truth, this meant he had joined the army when he was fourteen. A year younger than me, and yet Jeannot had already marched as a soldier through 13 years of conflict.

Another soldier, Sergeant Alain, told me that he had joined as a kadogo (child soldier) with Laurent Kabila and the AFDL in 1996; again, he did not look that much older than myself.

I asked the soldiers where they were from. Jeannot told me he was a Mubembe from Fizi Territory. I found many of the soldiers were from Fizi, but there were quite a number from all over the Congo, including Bas-Congo, Nord Kivu, and Katanga. Indeed, this group of soldiers appeared to be the most diverse group of Congolese I had ever seen, from the short Babembe to the towering Katangans. They spoke with each other in an interesting mix of Kiswahili, French, and Lingala. Normally, I do not interact with Congolese soldiers, since under different circumstances they might harass me or worse, but this time it was interesting to see the ordinary FARDC foot soldier “up close”.




-The three military judges were a panel of stern-looking, stern-talking FARDC captains who seemed to speak to the prisoners only in admonishments, alternating between French and Kiswahili. During the court recess, all of them lit up noxious cigarettes, which explained the generally stale, sour odor in the courtroom. When I asked the judges about their qualifications, they simply shrugged their shoulders and said that the military had assigned them to this post.

-All three prisoners had the same lawyer representing them, and after a few opening statements, the lawyer disappeared. After a while, the judges had to call a recess, since the prisoners had no legal representation; since their conviction would carry the death penalty, the judges decided that the trial could proceed no further until the three had a trained jurist present on their behalf. The three prisoners complained that the lawyer was charging them a lot of money ($1500), but doing little work. Since no one of them could afford to hire a lawyer himself, they had pooled their resources to hire one to represent all three of them.

-When I asked Capt. Didier if the death penalty had ever been carried out in Uvira against soldiers convicted of “supporting insurrection”, he shook his head no. He told me that if someone is convicted and sentenced to die, he immediately writes a letter to President Kabila asking for amnesty on behalf of the prisoner.

-According to the new rules set out for FARDC military justice, a FARDC officer can only be tried and convicted by officers of his own rank or greater. Thus, if anyone above Capt. Didier’s rank were being investigated (say, a colonel), a group of higher-ranking judges would have to come down from Bukavu to render a judicial decision in the case.

-Capt. Didier complained quite a bit about the lack of resources allocated to him and his team at the Auditorat. He told me that if an investigator opens a dossier in Shabunda, it may take up to a month for the dossier to arrive in Uvira. I asked if he had pleaded to his superiors for more resources, and he claimed that he had, but to no avail. Capt. Didier also claimed he did not have the resources to hold more military courts or open much-needed parquets in parts of Sud Kivu far away from the tribunal in Uvira. When I look at the dismal state of military justice in Sud Sud Kivu, I wonder about all the resources that numerous organizations (United Nations, European Union, etc) have dedicated to stabilization and security sector reform, and whether any of it is reaching our far-flung corner of the Congo.

Overall, the overwhelming feeling I got from attending this trial was frustration with the Congolese judicial process, both civilian and military. However, it was an eye-opening experience, and I learned quite a bit.

One wonders if the landmark trial and conviction of Col. Kibibi Mutware earlier this year was a start of a new trend or simply an irregular blip in a region fraught with impunity for members of armed groups. Not much of what I saw and heard in my experience with the Uvira Auditorat supported the former. I am willing to give Congolese military justice the benefit of the doubt, but I also believe it is about time both the Congolese government and their international partners take a closer look at what is going on.

If you are interested more in the Congolese justice system, please refer to one of my blogs from 2009, where I visited the Tribunal de la Paix, a court where civil cases are heard. If you want to read about community justice and mediation, here is a blog about a case heard at the Comite de Mediation et Conciliation in Luvungi.

Mboko, August 2011

Walter James | Posted August 18th, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The conflict, and its effects on civilians, is not quite abating in Fizi Territory.

The village of Mboko is situated about halfway down on the road between Uvira and Baraka. Mboko is sandwiched between Lake Tangayika, immediately to the east, and the mountains of the Moyen Plateau, which rise up to the west. The area of the Moyen/Haut Plateau to the west of Mboko is infested with armed groups, most notably Mai Mai militias, the FDLR, and Burundian FNL rebels.

SOS FED has one center in Mboko, providing services to survivors of sexual violence. The Mboko center has seen some rough days, especially when the surrounding area was a battleground between the Congolese military and various non-state armed groups in the mid-late 2000s. The Mboko center staff had noted that starting in end of 2010, the situation around Mboko was relatively calm due to FARDC actions that pushed the zone-of-combat away from the main road. However, that is now starting to change.

On August 3rd, armed men stopped and robbed 2 vehicles in the village of Ilila, about 15 minutes north of Mboko. In the incident, 7 women were raped; these women went to the MSF hospital in Baraka. There is no official confirmation as to the affiliation of the armed perpetrators, but the word around the area is that these men belong to a Mai Mai militia based in the Moyen Plateau just above the area.

On August 15, armed men (again, presumed Mai Mai) attacked civilians working in their fields near the village of Senza, just south of Mboko. About 13 women reported being raped in the attacks. SOS FED Mboko center manager Mariamu Bashishibe tells me she and her staff are making all effort to reach the survivors and provide them with assistance. In addition, several NGOs in the area, along with local authorities, are working together to help those who have fallen victim to these attacks.

In the month of August, the SOS FED center in Mboko has received two women from a village near Ilila that were attacked and raped in their homes by presumed Mai Mai assailants.

There are many more reports of attacks in the area, with rumors of alarmingly high numbers of rapes, but I am waiting for confirmation from several sources before I report on these other incidents. Please stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

In general, it appears as though attacks on civilians on the Uvira-Baraka road are starting to pick up, particularly close to Mboko. According to people I spoke with in Mboko, the Mai Mai have successfully infiltrated the villages and seem to raid at will. What is the possible reason for this escalation in rape, pillage, and violence? The Mboko center staff connects the escalation to the general reduction of FARDC troops in the area since the braçage process started earlier this year for units based in Mboko. Earlier this year, the Mboko-area FARDC units went into braçage for training/re-equipment/re-organization. However, their units have returned back to Mboko in fewer numbers than before. While the reduction of total troop numbers in the Kivus is a positive change, especially considering the massive amount of human rights violations committed by the FARDC, the continued presence of armed groups such as the Mai Mai, FDLR, and FNL means that civilians will continue to suffer as non-state armed elements simply move into areas left empty by the FARDC.

The confused FARDC presence, paired with an almost total lack of effective MONUSCO troop presence in Fizi Territory, is making things rather easy for armed groups that wish to prey upon the civilian population. While the rest of Congo is supposed to be moving forward in terms of peace, security, and stability, Fizi Territory remains stuck.

Child with fish in Fizi Territory
Child with fish in Fizi Territory

Child with fish in Fizi Territory


Walter James | Posted August 2nd, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , ,

In Fizi Territory, one of the more prolific armed groups is Mai Mai Yakutumba.  Fortunately, I have not had any run-ins with Mai Mai Yakutumba soldiers, but their influence throughout Fizi is highly visible.  In Baraka, the political wing of the Mai Mai has logos painted on buildings.  In fact, the restaurant that I frequent the most when I am in Baraka (“Jardin des Saveurs”) is owned by the son of the political leader of Mai Mai Yakutumba.

In the past two months, Mai Mai Yakutumba has been consolidating control over parts of Fizi Territory.  In June, the Mai Mai stopped a boat on Lake Tanganyika at Talama and demanded a toll of $15,000 from the crew and passengers.  Now, the Mai Mai Yakutumba are enforcing a $500 a boat tax on boats traveling between Uvira and Kalemie/Kazimia.  Since there are zero paved roads south of Uvira to Kalemie, boat traffic on Tanganyika remains an important lifeline to economic activity in Uvira/Fizi Territories and eastern Katanga Province.  These new extortions imposed by the Mai Mai are sure to have negative consequences on economic activity.

The Ubwari Peninsula
The Ubwari Peninsula

The Ubwari Peninsula


The effects of spreading Mai Mai Yakutumba/FNL influence are also having negative human rights effects; most of the 12 survivors of sexual violence that arrived at the SOS FED center in Kikonde in June/July reported being raped by FNL/Mai Mai Yakutumba soldiers.

In Jason Stearns’ excellent blog, Congo Siasa, guest blogger Judith Verweijen writes up a fascinating and detailed profile of Mai Mai Yakutumba.  The motivations/identities of the various armed groups in the Kivus are complicated and not easy to comprehend at first glance, and profiles like Ms. Verweijen’s go a long way in terms of understanding who is doing what and why in eastern Congo.

Security Update 6-25-11

Walter James | Posted June 25th, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

More reports on security incidents occurring this month:

June 4: Monitors reported that the FDLR raped 15 women in Makungu

June 11: Former FARDC soldiers loyal to Col. Kifaru (an ex-PARECO commander) have been ravaging the area around the village of Nakiele. According to Arche, there have been 68 documented cases of rape in the area from these soldiers.

To recap what I stated in my previous blog entry, a lot of the integrated FARDC units that used to belong to rebel movements (such as PARECO) are not happy with the whole bracage/mixage process, and thus quite a few have deserted and gone back to running wild in the bush. So, bracage has not been the grand success that everyone had planned.

Due to combat between the FARDC and the FDLR/Mai Mai, there have been more refugee movements in Fizi Territory, such as from the area around Lukungu towards places like Mboko and Swima. At an OCHA meeting in Baraka on Friday, the HCR security liaison gave strict orders to all NGO workers to avoid certain areas of Fizi (particularly between Fizi Centre and Lulimba) and to observe precautions in more secure districts.

In addition, this past week soldiers from Mai Mai Yakutumba stopped a commercial boat on Lake Tanganyika near Talama and demanded $15,000 from the crew and passengers. When the boat could not cough up enough cash, the Mai Mai made the boat go ashore at Talama. There is a lot of lake traffic up and down Tanganyika, since it is a convenient way to get from places like Uvira down to Baraka, Kalemie, Kazimia, or even as far as Zambia. However, it seems that more and more the rebels and militia are figuring out how to go naval, thus further disrupting economic activity in the region.

Security Update 6-19-2011

Walter James | Posted June 19th, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I really wish all the news I had from this part of the world wasn’t depressing, but unfortunately that’s the way things seem to be going at the moment.

I had a talk with an OCHA official recently about the increased violence against civilians we’ve been seeing since the beginning of the year. This particular OCHA official saw it as being directly tied to the braçage and reorganization operations that have drained crucial areas of South Kivu of FARDC troops. The OCHA official pointed out that in the area of Kilembwe, there has been a significant increase in reported human rights abuses committed by the FDLR since the FARDC units stationed there went into braçage.

According to OCHA and to Jason Stearns over at Congo Siasa, the reintegration of groups such as the FRF and PARECO is not going so smoothly anyway, with some rebel leaders and soldiers deserting the process to go back to acting outside of state authority.

On June 9, Arche d’Alliance monitors reported that elements of Mai Mai Yakutumba raped around 10 women near Kazimia. You may recall that the FARDC unit stationed in Kazimia pulled out a little less than a month ago; when they were passing through Sebele on their way to Kananda, one of the FARDC soldiers shot and wounded SOS FED reintegration officer M’Munga Selemane. So, with zero FARDC presence in Kazimia, human rights violations committed by the FDLR and Mai Mai are increasing. MSF-Holland is expected to try and reach Kazimia next Wednesday to treat the victims of this latest attack.

You will recall an incident previously reported in my blog from May 10 in the village of Matale, where 5 women were raped by unidentified armed men. According to OCHA, the aggressors remain unidentified, and no action has been taken by MONUSCO or the Congolese state.

Thus, the continuing Catch-22 of the conflict in eastern Congo: the FARDC commits human rights abuses against the civilian population when it is present, and when it is not the Mai Mai and FDLR pick right up, with perhaps further intensity. The real test will be whether the state armed groups can be reformed to the point where they stop their depredations of the Congolese population (particularly women) and perform their job of maintaining peace and security.

“A New Phase of Brutality”

Walter James | Posted March 24th, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

There is evidence of a growing humanitarian crisis in Fizi Territory. I have been attending regular OCHA security briefings to keep updated on the situation in Uvira and Fizi. Now, I will share some of what I have been hearing. We start in the Ubwari Peninsula, down in Fizi Territory.

The Ubwari Peninsula juts into Lake Tanganyika, south of Baraka and just north of Kazimia. In the month of March, battles continued between Amani Leo troops and Mai Mai Yakutumba on the Ubwari. Thus, accessibility to the villages in the Ubwari has been limited for humanitarian agents, and there is very little information on refugee movements and civilian casualties coming from the area. Fighting near Kazimia has resulted in at least 1 reported civilian casualty. Last year SOS FED closed the reception center in Kazimia, which was the right decision, given the current proximity of combat.

There are concerns about the lack of protection in the area around Kilembwe, in the Haut Plateau, where the FLDR is targeting the civilian population. Many of the mass rapes committed by the FDLR this year happened in the vicinity of Kilembwe and Kilimba. Supposedly there are plans for a larger Amani Leo operation to head into the Kilembwe area to drive out the FDLR. Right now, MONUSCO patrols only reach Kilicha. On March 14, more than 40 civilians were robbed by the FDLR on their way to the market in Kilicha.
The Mai Mai is waylaying and robbing travelers on the road from Uvira to Baraka, near the villages of Elila and Kabondozi. On March 16, a vehicle belonging to the NGO TEARFUND was ambushed and robbed near Mukindje, about 15 km from Baraka. In these incidents, there were no reported injuries.

In March, more FNL activity has been reported, throwing in another wrench in the machine. The FNL (Forces Nationales pour la Libération) is a Burundian rebel movement that is opposed to the current government in Burundi. In Uvira Territory, combat between the FNL and the FARDC on March 12 disrupted agricultural activity near Kiliba; when farmers hear that there is fighting close by, they become reluctant to go to their fields. In Fizi, as of March 15 it was reported that over 200 FNL troops were camped out in the forest of Lulambo, near the village of Kabembwe.

Now, we return to Uvira Territory, for a demonstration of just how difficult it is to negotiate the security situation in South Kivu. Due to increased incidents of armed bandits waylaying travelers in the Runingu area, the Pakistani Battalion of MONUSCO (PAKBATT) stationed in Uvira Territory attempted to create a Temporary Operations Base (TOB) in Kashatu. However, they soon abandoned their plans, due to a lack of support from the local authorities. Apparently, the local authorities wanted more and more money from MONUSCO for “permission” to put a TOB there, even though this would have increased security for the civilian population. Again, another demonstration of just how difficult it is, even for the UN, to stabilize the security situation in a region rife with corruption.

In February, Médecins Sans Frontières released a briefing on the “dramatic increase in mass rape and violence” in Fizi Territory. There are worries that the conflict in Fizi is entering into a “new phase of brutality”. In recent years, MSF saw a decline in reported incidents of sexual violence in Fizi; however, this trend is starting to reverse itself. The situation of women in Fizi, which has never been good, is getting worse.

On March 13, I wrote an entry about the cases of mass rape that have been rising since the beginning of the year. Please refer to that entry for a more complete picture of this “new phase of brutality”. Stay tuned for more.

Security briefing

Walter James | Posted March 13th, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On February 28th, a vehicle belonging to CCAP, a local NGO based in Uvira, was stopped by bandits up near Magunda, in Uvira Territory.  CCAP coordinates the efforts of 28 local NGOs working on food security, civil society, health and sanitation, and sexual violence.  The bandits took money, cell phones, and the clothes of the passengers.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The zone where the CCAP vehicle was taken is by no means safe as churches, but it was still a bit disquieting to learn of such an incident so close to Uvira in an area considered not near as dangerous as it was back in 2009.

According to UN sources, Amani Leo troops are pulling out of some of the smaller villages in Fizi Territory and moving into the bigger towns for re-organization and training.  On March 5, we got a call from the ANR in Kikonde to tell us that the Mai Mai had just moved into Kikonde, which means that our visit there for March was cancelled.  The Mai Mai are not implicated in near as many rapes as the Amani Leo troops, who are truly a scourge to the civilian population of Fizi Territory, but their unpredictable behavior makes it difficult to travel and work in areas they control.

On February 26th, the FDLR raped around 50 women (and a few men) on the road to the market in Milimba.  This is the 6th case of mass rape in the Haut Plateau in 2011.  The number of reported rape cases in the Haut Plateau is around 150 just since January 19th.  Chew on that statistic a little bit and tell me there shouldn’t be more done.  Médecins Sans Frontières responds to many of these mass rape incidents, but the simple truth is that there isn’t enough being done to stop the violence, particularly against women.

Just how difficult is it to bring security to South Kivu?  The answer is very difficult.  The FDLR is very well entrenched in the remote areas, controlling mineral mines and fishing around key areas near the border with Katanga Province.  They are adequately trained and equipped, and can simply melt into the jungles when attacked.  In Fizi Territory, the roads, where they exist, are terrible.  In the Haut Plateau, most places are only accessible via footpath or helicopter.  The MONUSCO troops do not have a substantial presence in Fizi, and therefore are unwilling to send what few troops they have there out to get ambushed in the jungle.  When I asked the UN people why there isn’t a greater troop presence in Fizi, they told me it is because of lack of resources.  Fizi is far away from Bukavu, where MONUSCO is headquartered in South Kivu, and therefore the lines of supply and communication are stretched.

MONUSCO is the largest UN mission anywhere, but the Congo is such a vast country with so little infrastructure that it remains difficult to keep the peace, especially in areas like Fizi Territory.  This problem is greatly compounded by several other facts:

  • The rebel factions and militias (various groups of Mai Mai, FDLR, FRF, etc.) are numerous, complicated, and have shifting alliances.
  • The FARDC is undisciplined and resented by many in Fizi because of ethnic unbalances within the ranks and the fact that many of FARDC troops are comprised of soldiers of previous Rwandan-backed rebel groups that ravaged the civilian populations of the Kivus (AFDL, RCD, CNDP).
  • The illegal mineral trade has implications for governments, generals, and politicians beyond the Congo’s borders.

What does this mean for small NGOs like SOS FED?  The lack of security in Fizi Territory makes work difficult, to say the least.  SOS FED had to shut down their reception center in Kazimia because the FDLR and Mai Mai are camped too close to ensure the security of the staff.  The Mai Mai looted the reception center in Mboko back in 2009, although no one was hurt.  Visiting the SOS FED reception center in Kikonde is very difficult because of continued Mai Mai and FDLR presence in the area.

Down in Fizi

Walter James | Posted February 13th, 2011 | Africa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Februry 7th, Amisi, Marceline, and myself made our first official field visit down into Fizi Territory, visiting the SOS FED center in Mboko and visiting with the managers of the SOS FED Kikonde center. We had to meet Sangho and Mimmy, the Kikonde center managers, in the town of Baraka, as the road to Kikonde was too close to some recent battles between Amani Leo troops and opposing elements of the Mai Mai.

In order to get us all down there, we hired a motorcycle and driver to carry Marceline. Our driver was named Hali, which in Swahili means “The Situation”. I explained to Amisi and Hali that there was a famous American TV star that went by the same name. When they inquired what the American “Situation” did on television (actor? musician?), I had a really difficult time explaining to them that he was not a talented individual, but just famous for being stupid. Alas, the cultural gap.

The road into Fizi can only be described as bone-crunching, but scenic. Most of the way it follows Lake Tanganyika’s shoreline, and as one goes further and further into Fizi it feels as if the jungle is swallowing you whole. All the towns kind of look the same, with the same signs (bearing the painted logos of various international NGOs) proclaiming some development project (clinic, school, etc.) that has since fallen into dilapidation. We passed by small markets where women sat by vegetables, oil, and piles of ndagala (fry-sized fish) swarming with flies. We also passed many women hiking back from their fields, shouldering heavy loads of produce or firewood. Most of the men we passed were leisurely sitting in the shade, chatting and glaring at us when we passed by.

I first visited the SOS FED center in Mboko in the summer of 2009. This time around, there is a new lupongo (fence) built around the center to shield it, and the outdoor kitchen finally has a roof. I was very glad to see Mariamu Bashishibe, the center manager, and her assistant Chamulungo. We met for an hour or so, talking about plans for 2011, and got an update on how many women had come to the center in the past month, how many therapy sessions they held, etc.

We left Mboko after a while to get to Baraka before dark. Once in Baraka, we checked into the Hotel Pili-Pili (“Chili-Pepper Hotel”), and then we hustled off to meet Sangho Laliya, the director of the Kikonde center, and her assistant Mimmy.

Sangho and Mimmy reported that the Kikonde center had already received 14 women in the month of January. Two of these women reported that they had been violated by Amani Leo troops in Fizi town during the infamous mass rape of January 1st. Through word of mouth, these women had heard that “SOS FED is there to help you”, and had trekked to Kikonde. It was encouraging to hear that SOS FED has such a reputation all over Fizi Territory, even if I find it extremely sad that in this time of unprecedented “peace”, SOS FED’s services are still in very high demand.

On our way back, we stopped at Mboko again to visit a hectare where beneficiaries were cultivated miyogo (manioc). The field was surrounded by squat palm trees, the air buzzing with the calls of exotic birds and the harsh whine of insects. It was hot and humid, and you could almost feel things germinating on your skin. As the women tilled the green-brown earth, they talked to each other in loud voices, joking and gossiping. Indeed, it was clear that the therapy aspect of SOS FED’s services extended beyond group therapy sessions at the centers. Here in the fields, I saw women working together, talking together, healing together.

We showed women photos of the completed Ahadi Quilts, assembled by quilting societies in East Lansing, Michigan and Columbia, Maryland. The women were very pleased to see the results, happy that someone abroad was taking interest in the expression of their experiences.

The manioc and bean harvest is supposed to be sometime in March. Stay tuned for more.


Walter James | Posted December 5th, 2010 | Africa, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kitagi miyazi, rafiki yangu.  So, I am headed back to the Congo.  After three months of documenting and reporting on the work of several civil society organizations, I left Uvira in August 2009 with a bad case of dysentery.  However, the violence and oppression in Eastern Congo has never been far from my mind.  I have tried to keep track of the human rights situation in the region, and now I am presented with the opportunity to work with SOS Femmes en Danger, a courageous local NGO based in South Kivu province that assists survivors of sexual violence.  Over the summer of 2009 Ned Meerdink and I produced a mini-documentary that showed the importance of SOS FED’s work.  Now, The Advocacy Project, SOS FED, and Zivik are embarking on an ambitious risk-reduction campaign, helping women decrease the probability of attack and enslavement.  Ned Meerdink has been laying down the groundwork for this project for months, and now I will be switching spots with him for about 12 months or so.

Here are some news articles and reports that give some background on the current situation in the Congo:

-UN peacekeepers ‘failed’ DR Congo rape victims

BBC News article on Atul Khare’s report to the UN Security Council on shortcomings of UN peacekeepers in preventing sexual violence committed by the FDLR, highlighted by the August 2010 mass rape in Luvungi.

__________________________________________________________ Read the rest of this entry »

Fellow: Walter James

SOS Femmes en Danger


advocacy project africa amani leo arche d'alliance baraka congo corruption CTLVS drc dr congo elections etienne tshisekedi fardc fdlr fizi fnl gender equality great lakes region haut plateau human rights joseph kabila justice kifaru kikonde kikoze luvungi mai mai mass rape mboko monusco ocha pprd rape refugees sexual violence sos fed sos femmes en danger south kivu sud kivu tanganyika unhcr uvira violence war women's rights




2013 Fellows


Benan Grams
Meron Menwyelet
Mohammed Alshubrumi
John Steies


Andra Bosneag
Chris Pinderhughes
Emily MacDonald
Jasveen Bindra
Kelly Howell
Raymond Aycock
Sujita Basnet

Middle East

Mona Niebuhr

2012 Fellows


Dane Macri
Laura McAdams
Mallory Minter
Megan Orr
Oluwatooni Akanni
Katie Hoffman


Adam Kruse
Alex Kelly
Alicia Evangelides
Heather Webb
Jesse Cottrell
Matthew Becker
Rachel Palmer


Claire Noone
Elise Filo

Latin America

Laura Burns

Middle East

Nur Arafeh
Thayer Hastings

North America

Caroline Risacher

2011 Fellows


Charlie Walker
Charlotte Bourdillon
Cleia Noia
Dina Buck
Jamyel Jenifer
Kristen Maryn
Rebecca Scherpelz
Scarlett Chidgey
Walter James


Amanda Lasik
Chantal Uwizera
Chelsea Ament
Clara Kollm
Corey Black
Lauren Katz
Maelanny Purwaningrum
Maria Skouras
Meredith Williams
Ryan McGovern
Samantha Syverson


Beth Wofford
Julia Dowling
Quinn Van Valer-Campbell
Samantha Hammer
Susan Craig-Greene

Latin America

Amy Bracken
Catherine Binet

Middle East

Nikki Hodgson

North America

Sarah Wang

2010 Fellows


Abisola Adekoya
Annika Allman
Brooke Blanchard
Christine Carlson
Christy Gillmore
Dara Lipton
Dina Buck
Josanna Lewin
Joya Taft-Dick
Louis Rezac
Ned Meerdink
Sylvie Bisangwa


Adrienne Henck
Karie Cross
Kerry McBroom
Kate Bollinger
Lauren Katz
Simon Kläntschi
Zarin Hamid


Laila Zulkaphil
Susan Craig-Greene
Tereza Bottman

Latin America

Karin Orr

North America

Adepeju Solarin
Oscar Alvarado

2009 Fellows


Adam Welti
Alixa Sharkey
Barbara Dziedzic
Bryan Lupton

Courtney Chance
Elisa Garcia
Helah Robinson
Johanna Paillet
Johanna Wilkie
Kate Cummings
Laura Gordon
Lisa Rogoff
Luna Liu
Ned Meerdink
Walter James


Abhilash Medhi
Gretchen Murphy
Isha Mehmood
Jacqui Kotyk
Jessica Tirado
Kan Yan
Morgan St. Clair
Ted Mathys


Alison Sluiter
Christina Hooson
Donna Harati
Fanny Grandchamp
Kelsey Bristow
Simran Sachdev
Susan Craig-Greene
Tiffany Ommundsen

Latin America

Althea Middleton-Detzner
Carolyn Ramsdell
Jessica Varat
Lindsey Crifasi
Rebecca Gerome
Zachary Parker

Middle East

Corrine Schneider
Rachel Brown
Rangineh Azimzadeh

North America

Elizabeth Mandelman
Farzin Farzad

2008 Fellows

Adam Nord
Annelieke van de Wiel
Juliet Hutchings
Kristina Rosinsky
Lucas Wolf
Chi Vu
Danita Topcagic
Heather Gilberds
Jes Therkelsen
Libby Abbott
Mackenzie Berg
Nicole Farkouh
Ola Duru
Paul Colombini
Raka Banerjee
Shubha Bala
Antigona Kukaj
Colby Pacheco
James Dasinger
Janet Rabin
Nicole Slezak
Shweta Dewan
Amy Offner
Ash Kosiewicz
Hannah McKeeth
Heidi McKinnon
Larissa Hotra
Hannah Wright
Krystal Sirman
Rianne Van Doeveren
Willow Heske

2007 Fellows

Johnathan Homer
Adam Nord
Audrey Roberts
Caitlin Burnett
Devin Greenleaf
Jeff Yarborough
Julia Zoo
Madeline England
Maha Khan
Mariko Scavone
Mark Koenig
Nicole Farkouh
Saba Haq
Tassos Coulaloglou
Ted Samuel
Alison Morse
Gail Morgado
Jennifer Hollinger
Katie Wroblewski
Leslie Ibeanusi
Michelle Lanspa
Stephanie Gilbert
Zach Scott
Abby Weil
Jessica Boccardo
Sara Zampierin
Eliza Bates
Erin Wroblewski
Tatsiana Hulko

2006 Interns

Laura Cardinal
Jessical Sewall
Alison Long
Autumn Graham
Donna Laverdiere
Erica Issac
Greg Holyfield
Lori Tomoe Mizuno
Melissa Muscio
Nicole Cordeau
Stacey Spivey
Anya Gorovets
Barbara Bearden
Lynne Engleman
Yvette Barnes
Charles Wright
Sarah Sachs

2005 Interns

Eun Ha Kim
Malia Mason
Anne Finnan
Carrie Hasselback
Karen Adler
Sarosh Syed
Shirin Sahani
Chiara Zerunian
Ewa Sobczynska
MacKenzie Frady
Margaret Swink
Sabri Ben-Achour
Nitzan Goldberger

2004 Interns

Ginny Barahona
Michael Keller
Sarah Schores
Melinda Willis
Pia Schneider
Stacy Kosko
Carmen Morcos
Christina Fetterhoff
Stacy Kosko
Bushra Mukbil

2003 Interns

Erica Williams
Kate Kuo
Claudia Zambra
Julie Lee
Kimberly Birdsall
Marta Schaaf
Caitlin Williams
Courtney Radsch