2009 News items

2nd December 2009

The Kimwa II operation is creating a lot of tension in the Fizi zone and in the high plateaux
from Mkoko Boseka

The displaced people are afraid of returning to their respective areas because of the tension between the Mai Mai and the Kimwas II army, but some of them have decided to come back because of the lack of food. The
hospital in Abeka continues to serve the people without any problems and with much success and a good reputation.

In Misisi, about 100 Km from the capital of the Fizi zone, there has been conflict between the local population and the Kimwas II army who wanted to protect a civilian who had killed a motorcyclist. Immediately 5 people were killed by the soldiers of Kimwa II and there were many wounded.

We are grateful for your prayers and for the financial help, but so far we have not received any help from an NGO. We will keep you in touch with the situation.

29th November 2009
Friends of Quaker Congo Partnership Newsletter 3 - November 2009
from Janet Gilbraith

If you have been following the reports from the DR Congo you will know that fighting has flared up in the eastern provinces again recently. This time though we have heard that the fighting has come further south than previously and it has affected our Quaker partners in CEEACO. Our agent, Bridget Butt, visited the area in mid-November and was very concerned. Many people have fled their homes for fear of the fighting, including more than 1,000 Quakers.

Our CEEACO partners have asked us for immediate help with relief - money for food, transport and medical supplies and for attempts at peace building between the two factions fighting. The hospital run by Friends in Abeka is one of the few hospitals still functioning in the area, but the staff have had to move equipment to Uvira because of fear of looting. To add to their problems, many of the patients fled, taking the mattresses and blankets with them, and without paying their fees.

The CEEACO committee have prepared a proposal for what they believe they can do in a threemonth project to ease the situation. It would cost $50,000. The appeal has been sent to other organisations, too, who we hope will help, but we, obviously want to do what we can. As it happened our partnership committee was meeting last week and were able to discuss our response. Because of the generosity of Friends in supporting our partnership we actually had enough money in our Fund to be able to make an immediate payment of £5,000 and this has now been sent. But we hope, also, to raise more, specifically for a four-wheel drive vehicle which is desperately needed to help with the relief work.

As before donations can be made on line or by post to Cambridgeshire Area Quaker Meeting, Friends Meeting House, 12 Jesus Lane, Cambridge, CB5 8BA. We are putting an advert in the Friend and plan to make a wide appeal.

Meanwhile our three partnership projects are going well. We have received the reports and balance sheets for the second and third quarters and are very heartened by the progress they have made, in spite of the frequent ill-health of the main leaders. We are pleased that each project is keen to fund more training and we are encouraging this.

We considered whether we could build links with British hospitals, which might lead to support or offers of volunteer help for the Abeka hospital, and have begun exploring this possibility with Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

We have also realised that we are not going to want to bring this partnership to an end when the current three-year agreement ends, so we are looking for new members for the committee who will enable us to carry the work on in some form. We would be glad to hear of Friends with the necessary skills interested to get involved - not necessarily from the two original Area Meetings.

Meanwhile we have been strengthening our links with other Quaker groups working in Africa, particularly with the QP&SW Friends Africa Link Group, and looking for ways to introduce our CEEACO partners to possible new contacts.

We ask for your prayers for our partners and for their work.

27th November 2009
UN-backed forces 'failing' in rebel fight
from Martin Gilbraith

"UN-backed operations against rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have failed, a leaked report says" - a very helpful report from the BBC on the wider issues contributing to the climate of insecurity in Eastern Congo: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8377842.stm

20th November 2009
Emergency appeal launched
from Martin Gilbraith

Following our Quaker Congo Group meeting in Leicester yesterday, and in response to CEEACO's proposal & budget for a project of immediate relief and strategic peace-building, we have launched an emergency appeal - please give now!

15th November 2009
Update from Abeka
from Martin Gilbraith

We are relieved to have received an update on the unfolding situation in Abeka from our project consultant Bridget Butt who met with CEEACO project leaders in Uvira on Thursday, for a regular quarterly review meeting which was scheduled some time ago.

There have been no civilian casualties registered as a result of the recent fighting, however several thousand people have been displaced towards Uvira and Baraka including over a thousand CEEACO members. A number of families have also fled to Burundi in fishing boats.

Patients of the Abeka hospital were among those who fled the fighting in Abeka. CEEACO has chosen to keep the hospital open, and has elected to give free treatment to patients during this period, due largely to the fact that almost all of the other surrounding Health Centres are now closed and many have been looted.    CEEACO strongly applauds the sacrificial work of their nurses and doctor during this period.  Most of the hospital equipment has also been moved to Uvira for fear of looting.  

A large military reinforcement has been sent to the Abeka area and the area is reported to be calm.  The population, however, refuses to return to their homes until the whereabouts and intentions of two disappeared military commanders are known.

While they are displaced, the most urgent problems for these displaced people remains food, clean water and medical care.  CEEACO has begun to prepare a project proposal for immediate humanitarian relief, including an urgent information-sharing campaign to try and dispel rumours and fear. 

We hope to  be able to consider this at our meeting in Leicester on November 19th.

12th November 2009
East DRC village empties out after raid
from Martin Gilbraith

This looks to me to be what has been affecting Abeka - I estimate that Mboko is a couple of hours drive south of Abeka: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/DKAN-7XPNQN?OpenDocument

11th November 2009
The fighting in Abeka has not continued
from Martin Gilbraith 

We have already heard again from Bridget Butt, our consultant in Bjujumbura - apparently the clashes between Mai-Mai and FARDC (Congolese Army) around the Abeka area have not continued and a very small number of Fizi residents are returning home from their refuge in Uvira / Kigongo.  The majority continue to wait to see how the situation will evolve.  Heavy military reinforcements have been sent, and public transport is running again through Abeka to Baraka (further down the lake).

The fighting was limited to a relatively small area in Fizi, but was centred in Abeka, headquarters of the Congolese Friends Church.  According to reports from the CAPP Field Officer, the fighting followed the apparent "defection" of a Congolese army officer back to his Mai-Mai rebel movement en route to an appearance before his FARDC commanders in Bukavu.

Bridget will be travelling to Uvira tomorrow (Thursday) and will send a further update on her return from Uvira on Friday.

10th November 2009

Congolese Friends flee fighting in Abeka
from Martin Gilbraith 

We heard news on Sunday November 8th that the fighting in the eastern part of DRC has spread to South  Kivu, around Abeka, and that there is a massive movement of people  fleeing, including many members of the Friends Church.

We ask all Friends to hold Congolese Friends in their prayers.We will continue to try to keep in touch with our Congolese Friends and will let you know when we know more.

21st September 2009
Friends of Quaker Congo Partnership Update
from Janet Gilbraith

The Partnership continues to proceed smoothly and the joint committee met in Leicester on 1st September.

You will have been aware of continuing news of fighting and violence in Eastern Congo,but our CEEACO partners have not told us of it affecting them in any unusual way. What is perhaps more significant for them is continuing illness amongst their members. Mkoko himself has been very ill, he tells us. However he managed to go to Nairobi for a meeting of the American-led Quaker Peace Network, which brings together Friends in the different groupings in the Great Lakes region.

Our bank balance is healthy. We have now sent the second instalment of the budget we had promised and paid the first bill for our consultant, Bridget Butt. We have almost raised already the amount we originally set ourselves to raise, but we are aware that that figure will almost certainly have to be revised upwards.

We had two very good meetings at Yearly Meeting Gathering in York in July - one we hosted ourselves and one was hosted by Quaker World Relations Committee. About 40 Friends came to hear about the Partnership and there was considerable interest. We are also developing better links with Quaker Peace and Social Witness and their placement workers in Burundi, just over the border from Uvira where CEEACO is based

We have only had the first quarter's report from CEEACO so far - the second has been delayed because Bridget Butt has been away during the summer. We have raised some questions about how things are going, but we are not anxious. As we expected, it is taking a little while for us all to settle into the timetable of what we are doing.

Many questions have come up and have been discussed in our Yahoo Group - some raised by the news from the media and some by apparent needs expressed by Mkoko or others. Mostly it is a question of whether we should be trying to fund other things outside the three projects we had planned to support, or outside what we had budgeted for these three. Our meeting helped us to clarify our responses to such questions.

We are recognising that the Partnership will probably need to be continued in some form after the end of the current three-year agreement and we will be looking further at that another time. Clearly the current committee will need some replenishing if that happens, so we are now thinking of who else might be drawn in to strengthen the group. Any offers?

10th August 2009
Friends of Quaker Congo Partnership Update
from Janet Gilbraith

I have now created a link from the yahoo group to our web-site, so do use that to see what is new on the web-site. The most recent is an extract from our CAPI consultant, Bridget Butt, about her meeting with the two leaders of the Trauma Clinic Peace Garden project.

We have now sent the second half of our payment for this year and are looking forward to hearing a further report of the progress of the projects.

There was a very good meeting with Friends at Yearly Meeting to explain what we are doing and some interesting ideas have come out of that. Our group will be meeting in Leicester again next month and will be considering these ideas at that meeting.

Meanwhile fund-raising is still going well - and new imaginative ideas are being explored.

Thank you all for your continued interest and support.

31st May 2009
Stories from our partners, following her first quarter's monitoring visit to CEEACO
from CAPI consultant Bridget Butt

The two Trauma Clinic Peace Garden leaders, Shabani and Hamisi, shared some of their personal stories with me.

Both are from Makobola where more than 600 people were massacred in 1998.  Hamisi lost 48 direct family members, including wife, children, parents, uncles, nieces and nephews. His approach to trauma healing, almost immediately after the event, was to reach out to the Banyamulenge population he held responsible for the massacre, and try to organize relief distributions for them. He joined the CEEACO at a later date, when they approached him and suggested that he could find support in the church for his healing…which he has. 

Both of the TCPG leaders have tremendous personal testimonies of trauma healing, and great sensitivity and commitment to the project.  They described progress they have already made with an orphan survivor of the massacre, who is now smiling and speaking again, because of the material aid provided in the form of school fees. They also described their attempts to approach and counsel a 75-year-old woman who was raped and now remains in self-imposed solitary confinement in her home in Makobola, afraid to even speak to men. 

We underscored the importance of qualified female trainers.  Shabani and Hamisi’s testimonies and commitment were encouraging.

25th May 2009

Friends of Quaker Congo Partnership Newsletter 2 - May 2009
from Janet Gilbraith

Welcome to our second newsletter, telling you what the Quaker Congo Partnership has been doing since February.

If you've been getting the messages from our Yahoo Group or our web-site you will know that we have still been seeing reports of fighting in the eastern Congo - though not, it seems, much in South Kivu where our CEEACO Friends are. One report mentioned a raid into Uvira in South Kivu, but our Friends told us it was a one-off and didn't seem too worried. However the situation is obviously still fragile - and now we are told there are signs that there may soon be more volcanic activity in the region. So we begin to understand how uncertain life is in such a region.

And personal health is obviously a problem, too. Our main contact, Mkoko Boseka, has been ill again, though apparently now rather better again; and our women's project has been delayed because of the ill-health of the project leader.

The joint committee from our two AQMs met in Leicester last week and had hoped to consider the first quarterly report of the partnership. We knew that Mkoko had put something in the post for us, but it had not arrived in time for the meeting. Neither had we received an e-mail report we had hoped to have from Bridget Butt, who monitors the project for us. But that arrived on the day of the meeting and we were able to hear some of it.

There was a very positive report of the work of the hospital under its new doctor, Guillaume Marumje Bashombana, and his eight staff. The hospital and its six local clinics looks after a population of about 7,000 inhabitants. Malaria is the most common illness. Medical consultations are now offered free of charge and other charges reduced to encourage attendance. An electric generator was given them by American Quaker missionaries, and two solar panels and a refrigerator given by the Nundu Health Zone. There is still a need for very basic equipment. A study visit to another hospital is budgeted for and planned. However Bridget reports a remarkable increase in the number of patients and a noticeable improvement in hygiene, organization and general optimism.

The Women’s Loan Project is now being actively planned - a meeting was held on May 7th and a further planning and training meeting will take place soon.

Expenditures have now begun on the Trauma Clinic Peace garden including school fees for the orphans and trauma clinic construction. The start of work on this project was delayed because of problems with the absence of a signatory needed for the bank account.

Meanwhile, in Britain, we have continued fund-raising and have now got a healthy balance in the bank, ready for sending the next payment due in July. Leaflets about the partnership went out with copies of the Friend in February and produced a very encouraging response. We will have a presence at Yearly Meeting Gathering in York in July, too. Other fund-raising has been both big and small - a sponsored half-marathon. an art exhibition, two drama productions; and so on. We agreed to keep the current single sheet newsletter going for now but to try to produce a more eye-catching issue in the autumn.

The committee continues to consider how we can best help and support our CEEACO Friends, whether by offering to try to increase our budgeted payments, applying for grants from other bodies, promoting inter-visitation, etc. For the moment we have decided to wait and see how the current work develops, though we are already considering what our strategy might be when our planned three years comes to an end.

31st March 2009
A report from Cambridgeshire Friends on some recent fundraising activities
from Janet Gilbraith

There is still a lot of fund-raising going on in Cambridge, such as the following:

  • Gemma Jones, from Jesus Lane Cambridge did a sponsored half-marathon and raised £180
  • Cambridge Hartington Grove held a book sale at Area Meeting on March 14th and raised another £150
  • Leaflets went out with The Friend on 13th February - to all subscribers. Over £3,500 came in. At least two Meetings expressed an intention to hold collections and one has asked us for a speaker.
  • There will be a performance on April 26th at Jesus Lane Meeting House, Cambridge at 2.30 pm, by Peterson Toscano - a visiting American Friend who does stand-up comedy. Half the proceeds will go to the Congo Partnership.
  • Tim Brown in Cambridge is a "blue badge guide" and is taking a group round the colleges this week and collecting for Congo from them
  • Colin Gilbraith was asked to sit for his wife's painting class and got paid £60 for three sessions, which he put in the Congo Fund.
  • There will be a stall and information at Yearly Meeting Gathering at York - July 2009.
So keep going, Friends. There are all sorts of fun and interesting things you can do to raise money.

A week ago the balance was standing at £10,845 so we are doing well, but we needn't let up. Already we are hearing of other things CEACCO would like to have money for - in particular the new doctor at the hospital would like some capital investment there - so if we raise more than we budgeted for there will be a good use for it still.

Best wishes,

28th February 2009

Friends of Quaker Congo Partnership Newsletter 1 - February 2009
from Janet Gilbraith

Amidst the reports before Christmas of heavy fighting and displacement of populations in N. Kivu, we were glad to be able to clarify that our partners and projects in S. Kivu, only a few hundred miles away, were unaffected. We were encouraged to support international aid efforts in N. Kivu via agencies such as Oxfam and Médecins sans Frontières as our own funds are not being raised for relief purposes.

Following the sad death of Dr Etando Mkoko, who had been in charge of the hospital, we were heartened to hear that Dr Guillaume had been appointed to replace him, and that Dr Aloys Kapama will act as consultant from the Uvira hospital, where he is based. We heard from Mkoko Boseka, brother of Dr Etando, that there was a determination among CEEACO members to press on to develop the projects in S Kivu, despite the setback of Dr Etando’s death.

Ten months after we sent two Friends, Hazel Shellens of Huntingdon (Cambridgeshire AQM) and Martin Gilbraith of Manchester (Manchester and Warrington AQM) we have now finally completed a formal Agreement between CEEACO (The Community of Evangelical Churches of Friends in the Congo) in S Kivu and our two Area Meetings. in England. We have agreed a budget with them of funds to be sent at six-monthly intervals and the first payment has been transferred. We expect a first quarterly report in April.

The Agreement, for a three-year-period, sets out planned financial support, monitoring and capacity development for three agreed projects in Abeka, based on the 34-bed hospital, trauma counselling and a loan fund to support women setting up businesses. This work is embedded in our mutual Quaker faith and will be supported on the ground by Bridget Butt, a development consultant based in Nairobi but with close connections in eastern DRC, who has agreed to visit on a quarterly basis starting last November, when the draft agreement was discussed.

Publicity and fund raising are key tasks of the Quaker Congo Group in England. The website (www.quakercongo.org.uk) publicises the projects world-wide and enables on-line giving. UK donors are encouraged to Gift Aid their donations, if appropriate, to allow the Group to claim tax back and augment the sum. A generous donation from New Zealand Quakers set the ball rolling.

Leaflets and 20 posters have been printed and distributed via local meeting houses. Leaflets were distributed through each copy of The Friend, national weekly magazine, in February. Hannah Morrow prepared an article for The Friend which appeared the following week. We will have a presence at the Yearly Meeting Gathering in York in August later this year.

Meanwhile a variety of fund-raising efforts, both large and small, are happening and the money is coming in steadily.

27th February 2009
Declaration by Central African Quakers regarding the critical situation in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bujumbura, Burundi 22 January 2009

We, members of Quaker Peace Network-Central Africa, gathered for a conference in Bujumbura, Burundi from January 19-23, 2009, are deeply concerned by the current situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  After exchanging information with colleagues in the region, we were devastated by their accounts of the conditions currently facing the population of eastern DRC:
-    The war continues to rage
-    Massacres of innocent populations, especially women and children, are committed day by day
-    Rapes of young girls, mothers, and old women are commonplace
-    The population continues to pour into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and flee the country.  Deaths pile up in the IDP camps (5-6 deaths a day in Bulengo)
-    Hunger, malnutrition, and lack of shelter affect all
-    Villages are burned in their entirety
-    Kidnapping and forced enrollment of young, especially children.  Torture, including castration, is inflicted on those who refuse to join armed groups

Considering that an agreement signed on January 16 between the Congolese and Rwandan governments to pursue the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Interahamwe (armed groups, some of whose members are accused of perpetrating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda) will surely exacerbate the situation and cause more deaths and displacement, there is a major risk of activating conflicts in the countries of the subregion.
    Despite this terrifying and alarming situation, the Quakers of the region, especially those in the eastern province of North Kivu, have not ceased providing emotional and material assistance to the victims.  An able team of Quakers are undertaking a series of initiatives in Goma, North Kivu:
-    Establishing support groups for survivors of rape
-    Distributing clothes, food, and soap
-    Holding dialogues through Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) workshops

Yet despite the laudable intervention of Quakers in the region, the situation remains far from manageable.  Deaths continue to pile up, numbers of displaced grow at an unbelievable rate, such that their needs become even more overwhelming.

Thus, we implore the Quakers of the world to join us without delay in providing immediate relief and:
-    In making pleas to the highest possible places, including the United States government, European Union, and the UN, to put active diplomatic pressure on parties to the conflict to stop the despicable crimes and unspeakable violence in eastern DRC, and insist that the UN Mission in DRC, MONUC, takes a more neutral stance in its operations.
-    In supporting the Quaker Values in Goma Fund by sending a contribution to the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI), using the instructions at the bottom of the page.  This money will be used to help meet the needs of the displaced and others, including food, clothing, blankets, and tents to offer temporary shelter to displaced persons.
-    In supporting our trauma healing and reconciliation efforts that contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Together, we can offer hope and belief in a better future to all the affected populations in the eastern DRC.  We thank you in advance for your consideration of our declaration, and assure you of our highest consideration.

For questions regarding this declaration, please contact Adrien Niyongabo, Director, HROC Burundi (adniyo@hotmail.com).  For questions regarding Quaker work in the DRC, please contact Pastor Levy Munyemana, Change Agent Peace Program Director in Goma (leviyfcgoma@yahoo.fr), or Anna Crumley-Effinger (anna.crumleyeffinger@gmail.com), who works on Quaker advocacy related to the DRC.

To contribute to the “Quaker Values in Goma” Fund online, please go to the African Great Lakes Initiative website (www.aglionline.org), and click on “Donate”; please put “Quaker Values in Goma” in the “Designate my donation” field.

To contribute by check in the United States, please make the check out to “Friends Peace Teams/AGLI”, write “Quaker Values in Goma” in the memo line, and mail to Friends Peace Teams, 1001 Park Ave, St. Louis, MO 63104.  In the United Kingdom, please make the check out to “African Great Lakes Initiative” with “Quaker Values in Goma” in the memo line, and send to Laura Shipler Chico, 33 Caithness Rd, London, W140JA, England.

Participants of the conference of QPN-Central Africa January 2009

M’sato Lubungula Dem’s (CAPP Sud Kivu, DRC)
Binwa Mkoko Justin (CAPP Sud Kivu, DRC)
Anne-Marie Ntamamiro(EEA Burundi)
Enock Gahungu (SOC-PADEV Burundi)
Gabriel Morden-Snipper (HROC Burundi)
Modeste Karerwa (Peace School Burundi)
Louis Perrot Ntirandekura (AVP Burundi)
Theoneste Bizimana (FPH Rwanda)
Florence Ntakarutimana (HROC Burundi)
Elie Nahimana (MiPAREC Burundi)
Levy Ndikumana (EEA Burundi)
Fidele Bizimana (EEA Burundi)
Nicodeme Basebya (EEA Rwanda)
Andrew Peterson (HROC Burundi)
Jeannette Kimuzayire (FPH Rwanda)
Jacques Bataana (CTPM Nord Kivu, DRC)
Juliette Usanuwera ( AGR Rwanda)
Musafiri N. Adock (FPH Rwanda)
Alexia Nibona (FWA Burundi)
Pricile Barhafumwa (CAPP Sud Kivu, DRC)
David Bucura (EEA Rwanda)
Sadock Ndanga (CAPP Nord Kivu, DRC)
Jacinta Makokha (CAPI)
Suzanne Styves (CAPI)
Bridget Butt (CAPI)
Kavano Furaha (CEACO, DRC)
Adrien Niyongabo (HROC Burundi)
Gianne Broughton (CFSC)
David Niyonzima (THARS Burundi)
Leon Mkangya Alenga (CAPP Sud Kivu, DRC)

17th February 2009

Update to Friends of Quaker Congo Partnership
from Janet Gilbraith

We have at last agreed the terms of the partnership

Wonderful news for you - we have at last agreed the terms of the partnership with Mkoko and CEEACO and the "January" funds promised have been transferred. (There wasn't any disagreement - it has taken so long because communication is slow and we are all trying to keep everyone involved at each end which takes time.) So we are now seriously in business.

Now the discussion has a pause and we concentrate again on fund-raising. (I hope you saw our leaflet which went out last week with all copies of the Friend) so that we can send what we have promised for the second half-year in July. We will have a stall and have planned a meeting to publicise the project at the Yearly Meeting Gathering in York in July. Do come along and meet us if you are going to be there.

The next excitement will be in April when we hope to receive the first quarterly report of the projects and hear how the money is being spent.

We were sorry to hear, though, that Mkoko himself has not been well. We have sent him our good wishes and hope he recovers quickly.