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OkoNGO: Solutions and Investment needed for DRCAlysha Atma Salem-News.com African Affairs Correspondent
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Next year is shaping to be a defining year for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country is scheduled to be the Chair of the Kimberley Process, Presidential & Parliamentary Elections are scheduled for this year, and the United Nations Mission is scheduled to withdraw from the Country mid-year as well. Tensions in the region continue to rise as reports of subjugation of refugees continue and women are incessantly sexually exploited.
OkoNGO is releasing to the United States government a policy review in the hope of opening the dialogue to move past continued instability and years of volatility into solutions for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Investment is needed, a change in focus from aid to opportunity, according to Wemba-koy Okonda, President of OkoNGO:
“see us as an opportunity to grow and stabilize the area, invest in us and we will repay you with stability, sustainability and an equal partner in the international world. Stop giving us aid that only slows our bleeding and see us as world partners that need investment in our farmers, land seed; help us to grow our own food not dropping it from the sky, shipping it in boxes or herding us into camps."
Okonda wants to see investment in micro-finance where businesses can be built, families can be fed, and children can be sent to school.
"We will repay our loans by rebuilding our country with less reliance on continues foreign money. Congolese are strong and tenacious we can and will rebuild if given opportunity to move past hand outs into stable governance and a stable economy that can only come from investment in programs that are working, educating our children and healing one another through self empowerment.”
November 3, 2010
Dear Honorable Representatives:
We are reaching out to you in effort to bring stability to the Democratic Republic of Congo, this could mean stability to the entire region, bringing balance to almost a dozen surrounding countries. We ask the United States Government to review their policies and practices regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo, to invest in the people and empowerment solutions. Thirteen years of war and strife, over six million dead and over four million displaced, it is time to change our focus. This is a call for action, for the U.S. Government to start listening and begin to work for, and with the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We respectfully ask for policy makers to implement the following best practices within the Democratic Republic of the Congo in an effort to bring synchronicity back to the people so they may live with dignity, peace and justice.
1.) Enforce Public Law 109-456, there several key components to this law that have not yet been implemented. They include assigning a Special Envoy , currently there is a Presidential Advisor, this needs to be upgraded to a more Permanent Status. http://www.washingtonwatch.
2.) Working as an active partner with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to help impose stronger consequences against those who are found to participate in human rights violations and plundering of the natural resources.http://www.ohchr.org/EN/
3.) We ask that the United States become a member to the International Criminal Court.http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/
4.) Security Sector Reform
The Armed Forces of the DR Congo are unorganized, lack leadership and the resources to protect and uphold the laws for their citizens. Government soldiers that do not receive pay are deflecting into the militias. Recent Press reports indicate the soldiers are now actively mining in the mineral rich Kivu Provinces. Discipline is a problem as well.
It appears senior leadership does not have effective control over rank and file. We do not believe having civilian oversight of the military will increase its effectiveness; this is a moot point if Generals cannot, or choose not to have control within their own troops. We believe this disorganization of the armed forces will also increase tribalism and lead to the formation of militias. This will create even more disarray when trying to bring DR Congo back into balance.
a.) AFRICOM training the NCO Corps will pay dividends in the long run and should be used and an effective model for continued military aid support.
b.) We strongly condemn the use of Child Soldiers by any and all elements operating within the Country. We are also disappointed by the Recent Decision by the Obama Administration to grant a Waiver to the Congo so that it receives US Military Aid despite being in violation of current US and International Law regarding the use of Child Soldiers. The Use of Child Soldiers under any circumstance is unacceptable. We ask for an immediate repeal of these waivers.
c.) Security Sector Reform will be seen as short-sighted if there lacks reorganization of the Congolese National Police. Preserving evidence and investigations, enforcing laws and civilian protection are all currently being taught, however an increase in aid will help enforce these current programs. Failure to adequately address these fundamentals is leading to crime victims taking matters into their own hands particularly in the Eastern part of the Congo. This increases the cycle of violence and leads to more unnecessary trauma for the people.
d.) An Independent Audit Panel is needed to properly reorganize and hold the military monetary budget accountable, ensure fair pay and quickly identify any and all corruption practices are immediately halted as well as due process is remitted. All efforts to stop the soldier deflection can be increased if the government soldiers – all of them are getting proper wages to feed themselves and their families.
5.) Humanitarian Aid
Aid must be allocated to programs and models that have shown a record of success, investment in the people and infrastructure that will garner the greatest benefits. Greater accountability of all aid programs needs to be a priority; aid programs cannot and will not be effective if they are not reaching the citizens. We must also work together with those programs on ground that continues to sustain both the people and resources.
a.) Food Security is a major Issue as well. A Recent Report indicated that over 1 Million People were suffering from hunger in the Congo. This is unacceptable under any circumstance. Feeding programs and drop aid are a short-term, unsustainable solution; they are easily manipulated by governments and those in power. We would like to see the USAid invest in small plots for the communities as well as increase aid in the form of seeds and real agriculture.
b.) The grant by the State Department Bureau of Narcotics and International Law Enforcement, to help set up a Legal Framework in effort to try and bring to justice sexual violence cases is due to expire January 2011, we wish to see this important program extended. There should be greater emphasis placed on all programs dealing with sexual violence, recovery, prevention and justice.
c.) Investment in micro finance programs, particularly in areas of the east where employment, education and physical well being have been halted.
d.) Education must take a front seat if we are to see leaders grow and build this country toward a peaceful future. Children are missing there education when they are subjected to war and poverty, this is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. The USAid must increase the availability to primary and secondary education, libraries and access to information for the Congolese people.
e.) Repatriation programs that focus on peaceful, open dialogue reintegration should also begin immediately, the focus on child soldiers, and returning children as well as refugees and displaced wishing to go home. Skills training in conjunction with the above programs are necessary to see an increase in sustainable infrastructure and working peace.
6.) Conflict Minerals Act:
Recently the GAO produced a report suggesting effective enforcements for the United States Government within the Congo Conflict Minerals Act; we would like to see these implemented with great speed.
a.) Provide congress and other international Stakeholders with help monitoring, regulating and accounting for the minerals traded in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
b.) Have the State Department and the Pentagon periodically update all data regarding the activities of the mines. In effort to halt the resource supply of militias, operations currently conducted by militia Groups including which routes are currently taxed and used must be made transparent.
c.) A bureaucratic process similar to the Kimberley Process which issues a code on each resource that is mined to prevent Rebel Groups from financial gain.
7.) Outside the Democratic Republic of Congo:
A comprehensive policy review completed on Uganda and Rwanda as well as United States pressure to hold these two governments accountable for crimes committed inside DR Congo. The United Nations mapping exercise have shown Rwanda’s use of proxy Militias in the Eastern Congo and their devastating results. Rwandan troops have been seen in force within the mining areas of Walikale.
Currently Ugandan Special Forces are conducting operations in both the DR Congo and in the Central African Republic. Reports indicate Islamists from various areas are seeking retribution for Uganda’s support in Mogadishu, the current instability inside the DR Congo leaves room for Islamist growth, which would further destabilize the region.
We also recommend continued monitoring of Burundi and the Central African Republic as well as maintain pressure on the leaders of Sudan, Southern Sudan and Chad. Some of the Problems from the Democratic Republic Congo and Sudan are migrating to other countries and regions and need to be addressed. The Lord’s Resistance Army is currently conducting operations in the country. Its proximity to both Southeastern Chad and Darfur also make it an ideal location for Insurgents to set up bases and conduct Operations. Very few American Officials have undertaken the task to go to Bangui or other parts of the Country to do a firsthand assessment. If violence is allowed to fester it can and will spill over into the DR Congo; therefore, we must maintain a solid presence.
We thank you for your time and look forward to working with you to help shape a peaceful and sustainable future for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Wemba-koy Okonda, President of OkoNGO
15423 10th Avenue Court East
Tacoma, WA 98445
Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at: email@example.com
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