Useful website for LGBT Africa: http://www.mask.org.za/
May 23, 2005 – New York Times (non-gay background story)
U.N. Forces Using Tougher Tactics to Secure Peace
by Marc Lacey in NairobiI, Kenya
The United Nations, burdened by its inability to stave off the mass killings in Rwanda in 1994 and by failed missions in Bosnia and Somalia, is allowing its peacekeepers to mount some of the most aggressive operations in its history. The change has been evolving over the last decade, as the Security Council has adopted the notion of "robust peacekeeping" and rejected the idea that the mere presence of blue-helmeted soldiers on the ground helps quell combat.
It is most obvious in Congo, which commands by far the largest deployment of United Nations troops in the world. Peacekeepers in armored personnel carriers, facing enemy sniper attacks as they lumber through rugged dirt paths in the eastern Ituri region, are returning fire. Attack helicopters swoop down over the trees in search of tribal fighters. And peacekeepers are surrounding villages in militia strongholds and searching hut by hut for guns.
" The ghost of Rwanda lies very heavily over how the U.N. and the Security Council have chosen to deal with Ituri," said David Harland, a top official at the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York.
A turning point came in 2000 after rebels in Sierra Leone killed some peacekeepers and took hundreds more hostage. The United Nations commissioned a review, headed by Lakhdar Brahimi, a former foreign minister of Algeria, which called for troops to be deployed more rapidly in peace enforcement operations. "No amount of good intentions can substitute for the fundamental ability to project credible force," the so-called Brahimi Report said.
Recently a commander in eastern Congo, a Bangladeshi colonel named Hussain Mahmud Choudhury, pointed at a huge map in his office in Bunia, the regional capital, to show a reporter where his troops had been chasing the militias. "Here, here, here," he said, banging on the map. " If we hear they are somewhere, we move in," he said. "We don’t get them all the time, but they have to run. Their morale is shattered, and from a military point of view, that is everything."
The peacekeepers in Haiti, as well, are using Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which allows them to protect their soldiers or innocent civilians by using force. Peace missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Burundi and Ivory Coast – each with its own rules of engagement – have also moved well beyond the traditional notion of peacekeeping in which blue helmets occupy a neutral zone between former combatants.
But nowhere do war and peace seem as cloudy as in Congo, where peacekeepers received a beefed-up mandate from the Security Council in 2003 – and where at least one human rights group has complained of civilian casualties. " The trend over the last decade is that you deal with many factions, factions that don’t always have a political agenda and that are not always committed to peace," said Margaret Carey, an Africa specialist at the United Nations’ peacekeeping office. "Ituri is an extreme example."
The operation in Congo began as a modest observer mission in 1999. It has mushroomed, now commanding 16,500 soldiers – but is still regarded as understaffed by United Nations officials in New York. After the failed missions of the 1990’s, Western countries began contributing significantly fewer troops overseas. In 1998, about 45 percent of peacekeepers came from Western armies. The figure is now less than 10 percent; most now come from the developing world.
In Congo, most of the peacekeepers are Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Nepalese. As they root out the insurgents who prey on Ituri’s population, United Nations soldiers in the east have at their disposal tanks, armored personnel carriers, Mi-25 attack helicopters, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers – all of which are getting heavy use.
" It may look like war but it’s peacekeeping," said Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye of Senegal, the force commander in Congo, of the largest and most robust of the 18 United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world. At a militia camp in Kagaba recently, the peacekeepers backed up besieged Congolese troops and engaged in a running battle with ethnic Lendu fighters.
In March, after an ambush that killed nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers, the United Nations forces raided a crowded market near Loga to root out fighters preying on the local population. The peacekeepers also conduct what they call "cordon and search" operations, which are essentially hunts for weaponry in remote villages.
Their opponents are tribal fighters who ignored the United Nations deadline of April 1 for disarming. A last opportunity to comply is approaching; after that, the peacekeepers say they will get even tougher. As the United Nations has become more aggressive, many tribal warriors have disarmed. Of the 15,000 fighters that the United Nations estimates once operated in Ituri, nearly 14,000 have turned in their weapons. The holdouts are fierce, and show no signs of surrendering.
In February, militia fighters ambushed a group of Bangladeshi soldiers on a foot patrol around a camp of displaced people. Nine peacekeepers were killed, then mutilated.
On May 12, another Bangladeshi patrol was ambushed. This time, six were wounded and one was killed. At a memorial service, Dominique Aitouyahia-McAdams, the top civilian in the United Nations operation in Bunia, said the death would only embolden the operation in its quest for peace. She called those who killed the peacekeepers "remnant militia bandits still marauding in the district."
General Gaye was in Bunia the other day to attend a lavish ceremony for the first anniversary of a peace deal that the militias signed, agreeing to give up their guns. Since that declaration, one of the half dozen militias in Ituri has disbanded, and others have shrunk to small bands. Various militia leaders have been arrested by the Congolese, with help from peacekeepers. But the ceremony occurred a day after the memorial service, demonstrating that the job was not done. United Nations peacekeepers in Congo were not always so gung-ho. For years, they were criticized for huddling in their camps as atrocities recurred in the countryside. Now, some critics condemn them for being too aggressive. And critics also denounce the sexual abuse of girls by some peacekeepers.
Justice Plus, a rights group based in Bunia, lamented that when the peacekeepers raided the market near Loga some civilians "paid with their life while the mandate of the United Nations was to protect them." The get-tough approach wins praise from those in Bunia who remember when, just two years ago, it was a battlefield between rival Hema and Lendu militias. As Lendu militias chased Hemas out of Bunia in May 2003, Lea Assamba, 17, was confronted by armed Lendu men and threatened with death. She said she explained to them frantically that she was not a Hema but someone from another tribe, one not involved in Ituri’s madness.
The militiamen made her suffer nonetheless. They killed a Hema girl standing by, and her body fell on Lea. They made her balance on her head the decapitated head of a Hema man, she said. The stranger’s blood dripped down on her. Lea escaped but was confronted by more marauding militias down the road. They shot some people standing next to her, and she dropped to the ground as they did. They died. She, covered with blood, was left for dead. " Things would not be good if Monuc went away," Lea said, using the French acronym for the United Nations mission in Congo. But not far from Bunia, awful things continue. Villagers are on the run. Men with guns and machetes chase them. In the midst of it, heavily armed United Nations soldiers are trying to extend their reach. They engage in something shy of war but also a long way from peace.
Marc Lacey reported from Bunia, Congo, and Nairobi for this article.
2 August 2008 – msmandhiv.org
"Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights"
On 2 August 2008, Si Youth Knew, an association of young feminists Congolese gathered in Kinshasa, representatives of major women’s organizations, defense of human rights, health programs, media professionals and youth exchange, discuss and see how to engage the promotion, protection and defense of sexual and reproductive rights of LGBTI people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The seminar-workshop scheduled to start on 17 May 2008 to commemorate the world day against homophobia, has been postponed twice due to lack of funding. It is therefore with pleasure If Youth Knew welcomed the positive response of the "collaborative effort of Acton Urgent Fund-Africa has fully funded the project. The seminar-workshop was also financial participation of the African Bureau of International lesbians and gay human rights commission (ILGHRC) which took over the hosting of a participant from the province of Maniema to 1800 km from Kinshasa.
The office of the United Nations for Human Rights (BNUDH) had also agreed to issue three promissory notes free of aircraft that 3 sexual rights activists, representing the association Swallow Group (RI) working in partnership with Youth If Knew powerful rally Bukavu in South Kivu in Kinshasa Unfortunately circumstances beyond the goodwill of the Office of the United Nations for Human Rights (BNUDH) have enabled its participants to move to the capital.
February 10, 2009 – rising.globalvoicesonline.org
AIDS Rights Congo: Using Technology to Fight Gender Violence
by Juhie Bhatia
In late November the AZUR Development organization’s AIDS Rights Congo project participated in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, using blogs, cell phones, and radio broadcasts to raise awareness. This international campaign to fight violence against women takes place annually from November 25 (International Day Against Violence Against Women) to December 10 (International Human Rights Day).
AZUR Development is based in Brazzaville, Congo, but they work to provide leadership in the socio-cultural and economic development of all of Congo. They launched the AIDS Rights Congo project last year with the help of a Rising Voices micro grant. Through this project they are training communication officers and leaders of local HIV and AIDS organizations in digital story telling, podcasting, and blogging to help document the stigma and discrimination faced by people infected by HIV/AIDS in Congo.
During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, AIDS Rights Congo participated in Take Back The Tech’s campaign to reclaim information and communication technologies to end violence against women. As part of this, AIDS Rights Congo blogged about the rights of women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and shared their thoughts on violence against women.
20 June 2009 – AllAfrica.com
Uganda: You are Worth Nothing
by Joshua Kyalimpa
Kampala – Widespread gender-based violence against women and children in the conflict zones of the Great Lakes region has received some attention in recent years; less well-known is the extent of sexual violence against men. A new documentary film shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Uganda and elsewhere in the region shows the extent of sexual violence against men.
"You are worth nothing. You are like women," says one of the male rape survivors in the film, recounting what government soldiers told him. "They would ask you to bend and remove your trousers and different soldiers would penetrate you through the anus. They put their penis wherever they could see an opening: in the ears, mouth, and the anus. By the time they were done I had sperm all over my body," another survivor of sexual abuse recounts.
Women and men alike are raped in conflict situations in order to dominate them physically and psychologically. Male survivors are humiliated in terms of socially-accepted sexual and gender roles. Survivors in the film describe women being told to lie on top of their husbands while being assaulted by soldiers; of men raped in front of their wives to demonstrate their weakness vis-à-vis government soldiers. Just as is the case for women, comprehensive statistics on the extent of sexual violence against men in the region is difficult to come by.
The Refugee Law Project of the Makerere University faculty of law provides counselling, documentation and advocacy on refugee issues towards better refugee policies in Uganda. Dr Chris Doran, director of the project, told IPS at the launch of the film in Kampala that at least three out of 10 male refugees reporting to the centre have been sexually abused. Moses Chrispus Okello, the centre’s head of research and advocacy, says many more men could be suffering in silence, fearing society may shun them if they speak out. According to the Refugee Law Project, there are cases where police, rather than going after the perpetrators, have accused male survivors of rape of engaging in homosexual acts – outlawed in Uganda.
Women’s rights activists Akina Mama wa Africa argue that gender inequality, inadequate laws and poor-or non-existent-enforcement contribute to the problem; inadequate statistics and funding mean support for survivors is limited. Men who suffer rape find themselves living in a woman’s reality. Dr Sylvia Tamale, former dean of the faculty of law at Makerere University and advisor to the RLP, says because the penal code does not recognise rape committed against men, perpetrators can only be charged with "indecent assault" which attracts much lighter punishment.
The documentary will be used to expose the realities of sexual assault against the men to governments in the region and the donor community. The film-makers believe it should open up research into the issue and lead to a clearer understanding of sexual violence in the conflict-ridden Great Lakes region.
4 August 2011 – LGBT Asylum News
Life as a gay refugee in South Africa
by Junior Mayema
Life in South Africa as a gay black foreigner is a horrendous nightmare. Well, many days I wish it were just a nightmare. But it is the reality for me. This reality is one full of intolerance, discrimination, and prejudice. I am a refugee and a gay activist – this is my story. I fled my home after my mother tried to inject me with a syringe full of gasoline when she discovered that I was gay. After leaving my mother’s house, I began living with my father and I attended Bandundu University. I became friends with other gay students at the university and began to date and experiment. During this time, my father saw a picture taken of me kissing another man. After confronting me, my father and mother forced me into a “healing process” run by a pastor. I was made to fast for days in order to expel the “devil spirit” out of my body.
When I did not change my behavior, my father spread the news of my homosexuality to the community. Local boys began to beat me. I was particularly weary of a notorious group that hunted homosexuals. My friends and family shunned and banished me. My life was in danger and I had nowhere to go, so I came to South Africa. I came full of hope that things would get better; that I would be able to live my life without fear of being persecuted for who I am. And in some ways I do feel safer here than I did in Congo. But after being here for a year, I can honestly say that this hope did not come true.
Life is tough here. Firstly, there is a lot of homophobia in the Congolese community in South Africa. When I first arrived, I lived with my cousin. When he found out from my family in Congo that I was gay, he kicked me out on the street. My mother ensured that no other family member in South Africa took me in after that. Since then I have moved around a lot, living with different Congolese people, but the story is always the same: once they detect that I am gay, they kick me out. I also lived in some shelters and there I experienced xenophobia from South Africans. Even some members from the South African LGBTI community were not helpful. Their priority is to help South African LGBTI individuals, but other LGBTI refugees, like myself, have less access to support groups and assistance. It is tiring to be reminded every day that you are ‘not a South African’, and it hurts even more when it comes from other LGBTI people.
I wish I could just get to my feet and find a job. But finding a job in South Africa is tough enough as it is; trying to find a job as an openly gay foreigner is close to impossible. I have been looking for a job since I came here and I felt that most of the managers were judging me by my ‘gay’ physical appearance. Although the South African constitution protects LGBTI people from discrimination, homophobia is deeply rooted in South African society. The majority of South Africans, like in most other African countries, think homosexuality is a western culture emulated by some African youths who are being recruited by white sugar daddies into homosexuality.
What can be done to change the desperate situation that I and countless other LGBTI refugees in South Africa are facing? Changing the culture of homophobia is difficult, but it has to be done, step by step. More people need to start campaigning against homophobia within our communities. We need to raise awareness and take action against xenophobia and racism in parts of the South African LGBTI community. We need to create a shelter or accommodation for LGBTI refugees in South Africa to help them get on their feet.
We have to build up a job referral system for LGBTI people to tolerant or ‘gay-friendly’ businesses and managers. It is unlikely that things will get better in the near future. Yesterday I got kicked out by yet another Congolese host, on my 24th birthday. But hope is what dies last.
Junior Mayema is a volunteer with People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP)