Meditation Focus #39
Renewed Hopes for Peace in Congo
Web posted on May 26, 2001 for the 2 consecutive weeks
beginning Sunday, May 27, 2001
What follows is the 39th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, May 27, 2001.
RENEWED HOPES FOR PEACE IN CONGO
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
4. Latest developments related to the ongoing Meditation Focus on the Middle East Crisis
Imagine if you were living in a country the size of western Europe, endowed with rich mineral deposits and lush tropical forests, but invaded 33 months ago by several armies and rebel groups from surrounding countries fighting each other to carve up a slice of your land and exploit its riches for their sole benefit, creating in the process an apocalyptic chaos responsible for the death of over 2.5 million people, mostly women and children. Further imagine that this has been taking place with very little notice and concern from the international community and very little support, except from the usual dedication of non-governmental aid agencies, to alleviate the sufferings and wrenching poverty you've had to cope with, while the rest of the world enjoyed one of the most prosperous times it has ever known. This is the situation you would be experiencing if you were living today in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the heart of Africa. Fortunately, some glimmers of hope are finally flickering at the end of the tunnel following the assassination of Congolese President Laurent Kabila and his replacement by his son Joseph last January, thus revitalizing the momentum of the peace process initiated with the 1999 Lusaka peace accord, which calls for the withdrawal of foreign armies and the disarmament of government and rebel militia. A U.N. Security Council mission has just completed a tour of the region to seek agreement on key issues of withdrawal of foreign troops, disarmament and an internal Congolese dialogue to chart the country's future after the conflict dubbed ``Africa's World War One, thus giving rise to cautious optimism about peace in Congo while all but some Congolese rebels are finally pulling back as promised from the front lines in key battle zones and a small U.N. force is being deployed to monitor the pullback of armies.
Please dedicate your prayers and meditation, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to help create in the hearts and minds of everyone involved the uncompromising desire to put an end to all violence and assist all those in urgent need of succour, while ensuring that a true lasting peace is made possible in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for the Highest Good of All.
You may also review a previous Meditation Focus entitled "Humanitarian Crisis and War in Congo" (Web posted on August 25, 2000) at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus16.htm
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:
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+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.
* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.
You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.
3. MORE INFORMATION ON THIS MEDITATION FOCUS
This section is for those who wish to understand in more details the situation outlined in this Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognize that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.
Saturday May 19
Congo Allies Say Foreign Foes Killed 2.5 Million
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Congo President Joseph Kabila and his allies on Saturday accused
Ugandan, Burundian and Rwandan forces in the country of killing 2.5 million people in an
In a statement read by Namibian President Sam Nujoma on behalf of and in the presence of Kabila, Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, the allies demanded that the international community and the United Nations should condemn the alleged genocide.
`It is a failure of the international community for not pointing out the genocide of 2.5 million Congolese people,'' Nujoma told reporters summoned to hear his statement during a break in an allied meeting ahead of a summit with U.N. Security Council ambassadors.
Nujoma's statement appeared to dash hopes of a breakthrough in the U.N. delegation's effort to broker an end to the 33-month-old war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Congo, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe are ranged against rebels backed by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Aid agencies have estimated that 2.5 million people from all sides have died in combat and of war-related causes including disease and starvation since the war erupted in the former Zaire, Africa's third largest country.
ENDING AFRICA'S FIRST WORLD WAR
April 5, 2001
No one knows how many people have died in the war that has engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some estimates put the number as high as hundreds of thousands. But there is reason to hope the vast Central African nation formerly known as Zaire has seen the worst of the fighting.
Slowly and cautiously, some of the seven African armies, three rebels groups and various militias ensnared in what diplomats call Africa's First World War have started pulling their troops back from the chaotic front lines.
This is welcome news and a tribute to the persistence of United Nations, African and U.S. diplomacy. But it's only a beginning. It can't even be called conflict resolution so much as conflict management. Yet it lowers the level of hostilities and paves the way for the two key ingredients in any solution: a future withdrawal of forces and a return to dialogue among the warring parties.
It was the assassination of Congo's late President Laurent Kabila in January that provoked movement toward peace. Kabila was succeeded as president by his young son, Joseph, who helped break the logjam that has prevented progress in stopping Congo's civil war.
That change of tone was predictable. The war started in 1998 when Uganda and Rwanda, backed by Burundi, sent troops into Congo to support rebels fighting to oust the elder Kabila. The three countries accused him of sheltering armed movements that threatened the security of neighboring nations. Kabila was quickly propped up with the support of troops from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, which were enticed by promises of Congo mining contracts. More than 2 million people were displaced from their homes in the subsequent fighting.
Laurent Kabila was long seen as the main obstacle to peace. With his passing, UN peacekeepers who had waited more than a year to step in have finally started to do just that. Under Kabila, there was no peace to keep. Now there could be.
That Joseph Kabila has managed to stay in power is itself surprising, but it's evidence of the crucial support given him by Angolan forces. He sacked his entire cabinet Wednesday in an effort to improve management of economic and social crises aggravated by the war. He strongly advocates peace, even though he won't join a dialogue until foreign forces opposing him withdraw.
The UN is supervising a disengagement agreement that bore fruit in recent weeks, with all but some Congolese rebels pulling back as promised from the front lines in key battle zones. Most significant was the withdrawal Tuesday of 200 troops by Zimbabwe--Kabila's ally--from the town of Mbandaka, far northeast of the Congolese capital, Kinshasa. Zimbabwe still has over 10,000 troops in the country, but it's a start. Uganda also has said it will withdraw its troops.
Soldiers from Uruguay arrived over the weekend, the first armed UN soldiers to arrive in rebel territory, and UN troops from Senegal were to arrive Wednesday to deploy behind government lines. They are among 2,500 UN peacekeepers expected to protect 500 unarmed observers assigned to monitor a ceasefire.
After far too much bloodshed, this could be the beginning of the end of Congo's war.
(Friday May 25)
Powell Optimistic on Congo Peace, Opposes Partition
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Friday he was ``cautiously optimistic'' about peace in the Congo but warned that the United States would not allow the warring parties to partition the country.
Powell said peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa's third largest country, hinged on implementation of the 1999 Lusaka peace accord, which calls for the withdrawal of foreign armies and the disarmament of government and rebel militia.
``I am cautiously optimistic. It is important that peace be achieved,'' he said in a 45-minute talk to students, diplomats, government officials and the media at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg.
``The U.S. will not accept any solution that does not preserve the territorial integrity of the Congo. A partition will not be accepted in the Congo.''
Powell spoke as a team of U.N. Security Council ambassadors ended an eight-nation African tour on Friday, saying they were convinced the region was committed to ending the three-year conflict in the former Zaire that has killed more than 2.5 million people.
Regional political analysts have repeatedly warned that the country risks being carved up into autonomous regions by the foreign armies unless the Lusaka peace deal is implemented.
Angolan, Namibian and Zimbabwean troops are fighting alongside the Congolese government, while rebels backed by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi control the east, the southeast and large parts of the north of Congo, which is rich copper, cobalt, uranium, gold and diamonds.
Six African heads of state and two rebel movements in the Congo signed the Lusaka accord in 1999.
The ``Made in Africa'' peace deal includes political negotiations among Congolese political rivals, opposed by late President Laurent Kabila but strongly supported by his son, Joseph, who became Congo's head of state after his father's assassination in January.
Under the agreement, foreign troops were to have withdrawn within 180 days, but the warring parties have yet to agree on a date for the pullout to begin.
The plundering of Congo: without precedent
One hundred years ago, novelist Joseph Conrad called what was then King Leopold II's private property the "Heart of Darkness" and its exploitation a horror. This vast land is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, and what is happening there eclipses Conrad.
The chronicler today is a panel of experts established by the United Nations Security Council to find out what five years of civil war, invasion by neighboring states, and the corruption of its leaders have done to the enormous wealth of this vast country.
The Congo, as big as the United States east of the Mississippi, with 50 million people, has become a carcass being chewed at by its elite and its neighbors. They have looted and sold its natural resources on a scale without precedent. This, with the direct or tacit complicity of pious governments and corporations around the world.
Rot really set in with the accession to power of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, one of history's great thieves, in the 1960s. The current drama began in 1996, with rebel raids from the Congo into Uganda and Rwanda. Lighting a backfire against Mr. Mobutu, the two states spurred into action a nondescript Congolese rebel, Laurent Kabila. He rewarded his friends with mining concessions even though they were already stealing livestock, coffee, and other resources.
After driving Mobutu out in 1997, Mr. Kabila sought to stop this, whereupon Uganda and Rwanda, joined by Burundi, instigated rebellions against him, joining in with their own forces. They seized control of large areas in eastern and northeastern Congo. In the first year of mass looting, they made off with the region's total stockpiles of minerals, agricultural and forest products, and livestock.
Southern neighbors Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia sent troops to Kabila's aid. International bids to make peace, bring withdrawal of all foreign soldiers, and find a political settlement for the Congo's internal problems have failed.
For Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, the Congo is too rich a cash cow to abandon. When Laurent Kabila was assassinated last January, his son Joseph succeeded him, but it is not clear who holds the power in the Congolese phantasmagoria.
Meanwhile, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi turned looting into an ongoing business. The UN report cites how, for instance, a Uganda-Thai forest company in cahoots with rogue Congolese has cut mahogany and other timber at an alarming rate without any regard for law and forest management. Enormous quantities have been exported to companies in major industrial countries including Belgium, Japan, and the US.
Coffee is taken from private plantations. Wildlife has suffered. In one national park only two of 350 elephant families remained last year, when a total of 5 tons of tusks went into the international black market for ivory.
The most lucrative trade is in diamonds, gold, and minerals, including coltan, which is valuable for jet and rocket engines. Prison labor, forced labor, and child labor are employed. The occupiers levy taxes in their areas. They buy commodities with counterfeit money, Kenya being the base for fake US dollars.
The occupying armies are business armies, working for their high commands and the political leaders of their countries. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is quoted as calling the conflict a "self-financing war."
The profits have certainly bolstered the treasuries of Uganda and Rwanda.
The World Bank has praised Uganda's economic performance, overlooking the fact that a country that produces no diamonds has exported millions of dollars' worth over the past four years.
Looking ahead to the time when Rwandan, Ugandan, and Burundian troops are finally withdrawn from the Congo, the occupiers have been setting up criminal cartels and international networks of front companies with banking links to keep this good thing going, according to the UN experts.
The experts urge an embargo on illegal trade, freezing the financial assets of companies and individuals engaged in it, as well as an international mechanism to investigate and prosecute individuals involved.
The accused have denied everything, but the report may at least be a shock. The Security Council has asked the experts to flesh out their findings in the next three months and then report back.
The Council has never before faced this kind of problem. There is no NATO or other agency to which it can be thrown. The Council members must act on their own. At the moment, there is no telling how they can.
U.N. Security Council Mission Hits Snag in Congo
(Saturday May 19)
KINSHASA (Reuters) - A U.N. Security Council mission to breathe new life into the Democratic Republic of Congo's peace process hit a snag when President Joseph Kabila's African allies took an unexpectedly hardline stance.
Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia on Saturday accused countries backing rebels in Africa's third largest country of killing 2.5 million people in genocide since 1998 and urged sanctions to push Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi to withdraw their troops.
``These were unusually tough remarks. It was a clear message that the allies are prepared to stand with Congo to the end, and that implementation of any peace deal would be on their terms,'' an African ambassador in Kinshasa told Reuters.
The aim of the mission, which includes 12 of the 15 Security Council members, was to build momentum for a peace process that was revitalized in January with the assassination of Congolese President Laurent Kabila and his replacement by his son Joseph.
What the mission heard from Congo's allies in the war for the mineral-rich former Zaire were similar arguments to those the elder Kabila often used to justify his defiant stand.
``Two-point-five million have been massacred. The genocide continues to take place, carried out by Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. Such genocide cannot be allowed in the 21st century,'' Namibian President Sam Nujoma said after a summit of allied leaders.
U.N. officials said Nujoma complained that the United Nations was not doing enough to force the countries backing rebels fighting the Congolese government to withdraw unconditionally.
U.N. Security Council spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters: ``There is a recognition of a need for a comprehensive solution to the problem that finger-pointing won't solve.''
COUNCIL SEEKS AGREEMENT ON KEY ISSUES
The 12 Security Council ambassadors are seeking agreement on the key issues of withdrawal of foreign troops, disarmament and an internal Congolese dialogue to chart the country's future after the conflict dubbed ``Africa's World War One.''
Kabila and his allies agree on all three issues but say further movement can start only after Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda pull out of Congo.
Rebel factions backed by Rwanda and Uganda hold most of the country's north and east. The government and its allies control the capital Kinshasa, copper and cobalt-rich Katanga province and diamond center of Mbuji-Mayi.
Rwandan military strongman Major-General Paul Kagame has repeatedly said he would withdraw all of his troops from Congo, but only after Congo secured the border with Rwanda.
Kagame accuses Congo of harboring militia blamed for the deaths of an estimated 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
The Security Council has authorized a small U.N. force to monitor a pullback of armies and is awaiting decisions among the combatants on a timetable for withdrawing all foreign armies.
Regional analysts said the United Nations, unable to field the vast number of troops that would be needed to enforce peace in a country the size of western Europe, would be at pains to respond to the tough stance taken by the allies.
The United Nations has deployed some 1,300 observers. Although the force could be increased to 5,500, it would still be far smaller than the armies facing each other in the jungle heart of Africa.
The council team heads to Zambia on Monday for meetings with President Frederick Chiluba and ministers involved in the peace process.
It will also visit Burundi, where a civil war is raging, and Tanzania to speak to Burundian rebel leaders. The council trip ends in Rwanda and Uganda on May 24-25 for talks with their leaders and the rebel groups they support.
U.N. Delegation Finds Reasons for Hope in Congo Peace Talks (May 24, 2001)
More coverage at http://www.congopost.com and http://www.congodaily.com
Full Coverage at http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/World/Democratic_Republic_of_Congo/
4. Latest developments related to the ongoing Meditation Focus on the Middle East Crisis
For more information, you may also review our 9 previous Meditation Focus on the Middle East Crisis archived at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/home.htm
Israel, Palestinians Urged to Restrain Violence
(Friday May 25)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli and Palestinian leaders came under growing international pressure on Saturday to put a halt to eight months of bloodshed following suicide bombings in the heart of the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip.
Secretary of State Colin Powell appealed to both sides to show restraint, and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana called on them to ``revive hope and trust and return to the peace process.''
But after another day of violence, there were few signs that Israelis and Palestinians weref any closer to ending their hostilities, which have claimed more than 500 lives since peace talks broke down last September.
Two Palestinians blew themselves up in a suicide bombing that injured 67 people in the central Israeli town of Hadera on Friday just hours after a truck driver died carrying out an attack against an Israeli army outpost in the Gaza Strip.
After nightfall, a Palestinian activist with President Yasser Arafat's Fatah (news - web sites) faction was killed and several others wounded when their car exploded in the West Bank town of Nablus.
A Palestinian source close to the activists said a grenade they were carrying detonated by accident, but the official Palestinian news agency later carried a statement in which the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of carrying out an ''assassination.''
The Israeli army said its forces played no role in the explosion.
Friday's bombings carried out by militant Islamic groups were the kinds of bloody attacks that would normally draw swift, harsh Israeli retaliation against Palestinian targets.
When a suicide bomber killed himself and five others at a shopping mall a week earlier in the seaside city of Netanaya, Israel unleashed its warplanes against Palestinian targets for the first time since the 1967 Middle East war.
But this time Israeli officials signaled that they were taking a more measured response.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seized the opportunity to repeat his call for a cease-fire -- an initiative that Palestinians dismissed as a propaganda ploy when he first announced it on Tuesday night.
``I repeat a call and hope that the head of the Palestinian Authority Arafat and the Palestinian Authority will finally instruct and call for a cease-fire,'' Sharon told a news conference.
But he also issued a veiled threat, saying ``we won't sit with our hands tied'' and giving Arafat only a few more days to consider his proposal.
Palestinian leaders disputed Israeli claims they were acting with greater restraint, pointing to the destruction of a Palestinian police station in the Gaza Strip on Friday in apparent reprisal for a truck bombing there.
``What is needed now is more than Sharon's public relations stunts. The Israeli violence...did not stop for a minute,'' senior Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat told Reuters.
The United States was continuing its efforts to broker a diplomatic solution.
Arafat was expected to meet soon with U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, Consul General Richard Shlicher and the designated Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns, U.S. officials said.
Palestinian officials confirmed Arafat's interest in a meeting but said no firm date had been set.
``Let's not wait for other things to happen. Let's just do it now and stop the violence,'' Powell said in a television interview from Johannesburg.
Referring to the attack in Hadera that targeted a municipal bus with a car bomb, Powell said: ``So what has been accomplished? Two more young men have given their lives for their cause... Has that moved anything one way or the other? No.''
``Will retaliation help? No. The violence will continue,'' Powell said. ``So I call on all leaders of the world to call on leaders in the region to have an unconditional cessation of violence.''
At least 447 Palestinians, 87 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed in the revolt.
In the Mideast, a Ceasefire or a Spin War?
(Wednesday, May. 23, 2001)
Israelis and Palestinians jockey over Mitchell Report, but America's reluctance to become involved suggests doubt over breakthroughs
Senator George Mitchell may have hoped to help engineer an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire; instead, his report into Mideast violence has started a new spin war. And Israel has had the better of the opening volleys. By ordering his troops to avoid firing unless their lives were threatened, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon achieved three important effects: He complied with Washington's request that Israel make the first gesture towards implementing the Mitchell Report by declaring a unilateral cease-fire; he made the Palestinians look like the spoilers for deriding that gesture; and he has drawn the focus of discussion away from the fact that he has no intention of complying with the settlement-freeze recommended by the Mitchell Report as essential to creating a climate for peace.
There has certainly been no letup thus far in attacks by Palestinian militants, nor is there likely to be until both sides have embraced the Mitchell proposals in their entirety. These require the Palestinian Authority to stop Palestinian militants from firing on Israelis, and to arrest known terrorists. But in the current climate, Arafat won't risk the heavy political price he'd have to pay on the Palestinian street for going after the radicals unless there was a tangible political incentive for doing so. And Sharon's position on the settlement question is likely to make more impact on Arafat than his cease-fire call, and the Palestinian leader is unlikely to be moved to do anything about fulfilling his side of the Mitchell proposals in the absence of a settlement freeze. Indeed, Israeli opposition leader Yossi Sarid appeared to echo Palestinian skepticism when he accused Sharon of only pretending to adopt the Mitchell plan, saying that without a settlement freeze the proposals were meaningless.
Arafat spokesmen did themselves few favors in the propaganda war by simply dismissing Sharon's offer as a "trick." But the Palestinians may do better with their demand for an international conference to formulate mechanisms for implementing the Mitchell proposals. That's a coded way of saying there's going to be no game without a referee, and the only plausible referee as ever is the U.S. And that suggests we're a long way off from a cease-fire, since the Bush administration clearly has no intention of running onto a field that from Washington's distance looks like a chaotic quagmire. Despite endorsing the Mitchell Report in principle, Washington has simply urged to the two sides to implement it and has kept U.S. involvement to a minimum. Washington has appointed a low-level diplomat to consult with both sides over their attitudes to the Mitchell proposals, but President Bush clearly has no intention of reprising anything close to the hand-on role played by President Clinton, and even Secretary of State Colin Powell is steering clear of personal involvement in efforts to broker a cease-fire precisely because the risk of failure, and the inevitable blow to U.S. prestige, is too high. And the cautious distance maintained by the Bush administration may be its most eloquent statement on the prospects for stopping the violence any time soon.
Mitchell Report on the Mideast - excerpts from the May, 2001 report by former Sen. George Mitchell's fact-finding committee. Also see the committee's recommendations for action. From the Miami Herald at: http://www.miami.com/herald/content/opinion/opcol/digdocs/103509.htm
See also from http://www.antiwar.com/hacohen/h052601.html
Building Settlements, Killing Peace - Cease Fire as Spin
Full Coverage at http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/World/Middle_East_Peace_Process/
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