SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda will make his first appearance before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 26, following his transfer from Rwanda to The Hague, the court has said.
Judges at the Hague court will use the Tuesday morning hearing to verify his identity.
"The initial appearance of Bosco Ntaganda before Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC is scheduled for Tuesday, 26 March 2013 at 11:00am local time (10:00 GMT)," the court said in a statement on Friday.
Ntaganda, who faces charges ranging from murder and rape to using child soldiers in Democratic Republic of Congo, in a surprise move handed himself in to the US embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on Monday.
Earlier on Friday, Rwandan foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a message on her Twitter account that Bosco Ntaganda had taken off from Kigali.
The ICC also confirmed Ntaganda had arrived at the court's detention centre in the Netherlands after leaving the Rwandan capital.
"This is the first time that a suspect has surrendered himself voluntarily to be in the ICC's custody," the court said in a statement, thanking American, Dutch and Rwandan authorities for their support.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has welcomed the transfer of Ntaganda to the ICC as a victory for "justice and accountability".
"Now there is hope that justice will be done," Kerry said, in a statement.
Ntaganda, who is dubbed 'The Terminator', is wanted on seven charges of war crimes and three of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in DR Congo.
He was allegedly involved in the brutal murder of at least 800 people in villages in the eastern DR Congo, using child soldiers in his rebel army and keeping women as sex slaves between September 2002 and September 2003.
Ntaganda will receive a medical checkup in The Hague before appearing "as soon as possible" before judges, where he will then be read the charges against him.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Democratic Republic of Congo rebel Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for suspected war crimes, has surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali, Rwanda's foreign minister said.
"We have learned today that Bosco Ntaganda entered Rwanda and surrendered to US Embassy in Kigali," Louise Mushikiwabo said in a message posted on her Twitter account on Monday.
The US State Department has also issued a confirmation, saying Ntaganda asked to be turned over to the ICC and that they were working to facilitate his request.
"I can confirm that Bosco Ntaganda... walked into the US embassy in Kigali this morning. He specifically asked to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Ntaganda faces charges of conscripting child soldiers, murder, ethnic persecution and rape in eastern DR Congo.
Neither Rwanda nor the US has an obligation to hand Ntaganda over to The Hague-based ICC since they are not
parties to the Rome Statute that established the court.
ICC spokesman Fadi el-Abdallah told the AFP news agency late on Monday that the court was trying to confirm Ntaganda's surrender.
"If this information is confirmed, the court will make the necessary arrangements for the transfer of Ntaganda to The Hague," he said, adding that "nothing prevents a state which is not a signatory of the Rome Statute from
cooperating with the court on a voluntary basis."
A year-long uprising in the resource-rich North Kivu province by M23 rebels was partly triggered by President Joseph Kabila's plan to arrest Ntaganda on the international charges.
Fighting between the M23 and Congolese forces has displaced 500,000 people since last May, according to the UN refugee agency.
Ntaganda was integrated into the Congolese army with rebels as part of a 2009 peace deal.
The ICC has been seeking Ntaganda's arrest since 2006, but Kabila resisted acting on the warrant until April last year, saying Ntaganda was a linchpin in the fragile peace.
The alleged atrocities he has been charged with were committed in the Ituri region in the northeastern DR Congo in 2002-2003.
Ntaganda, who is believed to be in his 40s, is accused of having once again recruited under-age fighters in the North Kivu region during the rebellion last year.
According to UN investigators, Ntaganda has managed to amass considerable wealth by running a large extortion empire in North Kivu, running rogue checkpoints and taxing the area's many mines.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been dubbed the rape capital of the world.
The United Nations says more than 200,000 people have been raped in the country since 1998. And now the UN has issued an ultimatum to two army battallions accused of mass rape.
Rape is weapon of war that goes largely unpunished in the eastern DRC. And the UN mission says it will stop working with the army unless legal action is take against those responsible.
Many abuses by M23 rebels and Congolese troops are able to take place with impunity.
M23 rebels took control of the eastern city of Goma in late November last year. Their leaders declared themselves a liberation force and talked about the discipline of their troops.
But research by Human rights Watch (HRW) found that during their short occupation of Goma, the M23 looted, killed and forcibly recruited army soldiers. They also raped at least 36 women.
As M23 took over Goma, the Congolese army retreated to the town of Minova.
Human Rights watch says that "Over the next 10 days, they went on a raping and looting rampage in Minova and neighbouring communities."
The rights group documented soldiers threatening to kill women if they refused to have sex with them.Some victims were gang raped in front of their husbands and children.
They say that the United Nations and other groups involved in the peace agreement, should have a mandate to arrest those accused of crimes against humanity. And bring them to justice.
So, how serious a problem is rape in this war-torn country?
Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses with guests: Ida Sawyer, DR Congo researcher and advocate for Human Rights Watch; Marie-Roger Biloa, editor of Africa International, a pan-African news magazine; and Marc-Andre Lagrange, Central Africa senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The United Nations is set to expand its peace mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, creating a new special force to work alongside existing peacekeeping troops, diplomats have told Al Jazeera.
DR Congo has been in crisis since M23 rebels took control of large parts of the country's east.
The proposed plan, currently being finalised, will create a new special intervention brigade, comprising between 2,000 and 2,500 troops, to be deployed to that area.
The troops will operate under the overall UN umbrella, but will likely have more robust rules of engagement, Al Jazeera Diplomatic Editor James Bays reported on Friday.
Relaunching peace talks
Tanzania and South Africa are leading contenders to provide the first special force to bolster the UN mission, diplomats said.
Meanwhile, the presidents of DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Angola, Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania are set to sign a UN-brokered accord relaunching political efforts to bring peace to the region on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa on Monday, officials said.
"We have been told that the agreement is still vague, just two pages long, and does not include the specifics like the disbanding of the M23," Al Jazeera's Bays reported from the conference.
As part of the agreement, the UN will name a special envoy to the great lakes region, to assist with its implementation, our correspondent said.
The UN mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, is the global body's biggest peacekeeping force. It currently has about 17,000 troops and under its UN Security Council mandate is allowed to have up to 19,800 troops.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon proposed in December that the UN peacekeeping force in Congo be supplied with "intervention" troops, night-vision equipment, surveillance drones with cameras and enhanced river patrols.
Surveillance drones authorised
The UN Security Council on Thursday also authorised the use of surveillance drones in eastern DR Congo, where the M23 rebel group briefly took the provincial capital of Goma in late November.
The intervention brigade and the drones could be in operation within three months, a UN official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
The drones will mainly monitor the border with Rwanda, which UN officials accuse of arming and financing the M23 rebellion against the government. Rwanda denies the charge.
A letter released on Thursday from the president of the Security Council to Ban Ki-moon said that the council members note the robot spy planes will be used "on a case-by-case basis" and will not set a precedent for the UN's general consideration of "legal, financial and technical implications of the use of unmanned aerial systems".
The letter from Masood Khan, Pakistan's UN ambassador, who holds the rotating Security Council presidency, was released as a UN expert launched a special investigation into drone warfare and targeted killings.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The United Nations Security Council has slapped an arms embargo on M23 rebels and their alleged Rwandan allies, the FDLR, amid a flare-up of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern region.
The council committee tasked with monitoring sanctions on the Congo also imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on two key M23 figures: the group's civilian leader Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero and Lieutenant Colonel Eric Badege, a commander suspected of being responsible for the deaths of women and children.
The decision came just hours before Rwanda was set to join the council as a non-permanent member on Tuesday.
The UN statement said M23, which is widely believed to be receiving support from neighbouring Rwanda, has been complicit in serious crimes such as "killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, and forced displacement."
No Rwandans have been sanctioned in connection with M23, which diplomats have said on condition of anonymity was because the United States, in particular, opposes any such moves as counterproductive.
The FDLR, or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, is a Rwandan Hutu group that opposes President Paul
Kagame's Tutsi-led government in Kigali and includes Hutu militiamen suspected of participating in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said in a statement: "We believe these designations will directly help advance the goal of a sustainable peace in eastern DRC."
"We urge the rank and file of both the M23 and the FDLR to defect and demobilize in order to disassociate themselves from the sanctioned groups."
'Atrocities against civilians'
UN experts accuse Congo's neighbours Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23, an accusation both countries deny.
The Security Council has already issued targeted sanctions, the latest round at the end of November, against three M23 military leaders - Sultani Makenga, Baudoin Ngaruye and Innocent Kaina - but had yet to sanction the entire group.
Britain's Africa minister Mark Simmonds welcomed the agreement, saying: "The dialogue needed to resolve the crisis must ensure that all violence stops, that external support to M23 ends and that there is no impunity for M23 commanders and others who have committed serious human rights abuses, including the FDLR."
Rice said: "For years, the FDLR has committed atrocities against civilians and remains a threat to the stability of North and South Kivu. Today's action against the FDLR is a critical step toward ending impunity and advancing peace."
She warned of "additional action" by the council if necessary "against those who persist in providing external support to M23 or act in violation of the sanctions regime and arms embargo."
Although the council has repeatedly denounced external support to the M23, it has not cited Rwanda or Uganda by name so far.
Congolese military officials allege that the M23 have formed an alliance with the FDLR in a bid to gain more territory in the region.
The M23 was formed in April by former fighters in the National Congress for the Defence of the People, an ethnic Tutsi rebel group that was integrated into the army under a 2009 peace deal whose terms the mutineers claim were never fully implemented. - www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) --A rebel group is demanding that Congo's president step down and hand over power to a transitional government.
That's according to a document shown Thursday to The Associated Press by the M32 rebels' president Jean-Marie Runiga.
The M23, an armed group said to be backed by Rwanda, is currently in the process of beginning negotiations with the Congolese government, following the rebels' withdrawal from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in eastern Congo.
But the Congolese government and the rebels have so far disagreed on how the negotiations should be conducted, who they should include and what should be discussed.
The list of demands made by the rebels casts further doubt on the success of such talks. The delays already have increased tensions, threatening to restart the fighting.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Rebels in Congo believed to be backed by Rwanda Friday postponed indefinitely their departure from the key eastern city of Goma, defying for a second time an ultimatum set by neighboring nations.
The delay raises the possibility that the M23 rebels don't intend to leave the city they seized last week, giving credence to a United Nations Group of Experts report which argues that neighboring Rwanda is using the rebels as a proxy to annex territory in mineral-rich eastern Congo.
An M23 spokesman said Friday morning that for "logistical reasons" the rebels needed 48 more hours to complete their withdrawal, promising that the fighters would leave the city by Sunday.
Later in the day, the rebels attempted to force their way into Goma's international airport in order to seize arms belonging to the Congolese military which were being safeguarded there. Although the city fell to the rebels last week, United Nations peacekeepers regained control of the airport and on Friday, they blocked the fighters from entering, prompting the rebels to cry foul, and say that this "changes everything."
The regional bloc representing the nations bordering Congo had issued a Friday deadline for the M23 fighters to retreat, after the rebels had thumbed their nose at an earlier ultimatum. The statements made by the rebels on Friday suggest they are dragging their feet.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A cargo plane crashed into houses near Brazzaville Maya-Maya airport while attempting to land in a thunderstorm on Friday, killing at least 32 people, a Congolese Red Cross official said on Saturday.
"We have already pulled 32 bodies from the crash site, but there could be more victims," the official said, asking not to be named. The official said the dead included six crew members.
The Soviet-made Ilyushin-76 cargo plane, operated by local carrier Trans Air Congo was travelling from Pointe-Noire, the commercial capital of the Central African state. It crashed into more than a dozen houses near the airport.
Congo Republic, like its neighbor the Democratic Republic of Congo and many countries in the region, has one of the world's poorest aviation safety records due to poor maintenance and the use of old planes banned from other skies.
In March 2011, another Soviet-made Antonov cargo plane, operated by the same company, crashed into houses in Pointe-Noire while attempting to land, killing 23.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -
Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who last week seized strategically important territory in the east of the country, say they have pulled back several kilometres and are on track to leave the key city of Goma by Friday, in accordance with a pullout deal brokered by Uganda.
Fighters from the M23 group were seen loading seized government weapons onto trucks on Thursday and the group's leader told Al Jazeera that they were preparing to leave the city.
"We must respect what the presidents of the Great Lakes have asked us to do," Sultani Makenga said.
On Friday, however, he accused UN peacekeeping troops of blocking the withdrawal from Goma. He said that the withdrawal would continue once logistical supply lines had been unblocked by UN troop movement. Makenga was speaking from Sake, west of Goma.
UN officials denied that charge, with a spokesperson saying that the dispute was over supplies that the UN understood to belong to government forces, not the rebels.
Regional leaders have pressured M23 to withdraw from the area after they seized Goma, provincial capital of the eastern North Kivu province, on November 20.
A deal was announced at the weekend during the 5th Summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), held in Uganda.
The ICGLR is made up of Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, DRC, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
Leaders of the countries fear the rebellion in DR Congo could escalate into a wider conflict.
Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa, reporting from Goma, said residents there were growing increasingly anxious at the prospect of a power vacuum once M23 leaves.
"While soldiers arrived in Sake in preparation of a withdrawal, there is much confusion over when M23 will leave Goma. While the city was extremely quiet on Friday morning, it was bustling by the mid-afternoon, though there is still much confusion on the streets," he said.
Residents are preparing for the return of government troops, and spoke to Al Jazeera about the difficulties they faced while M23 troops were in control of the city.
One resident, a fuel vendor, told Al Jazeera that the insecurity that M23 brought has been terrible for business and she was looking forward to order being restored. Another resident, an elder of the town, said that it was unlikely that M23 would withdraw completely. He said that they have infiltrated the city and would remain in civilian clothing.
"This is a sentiment expressed by many in the city. M23 has denied these allegations, describing them 'baseless' and 'just an attempt to spoil the name of M23'," reported Al Jazeera's Essa.
Rebels have left the northern territory of Masisi but remained in the strategically important town of Sake on Friday.
On Thursday, lines of government troops carrying weapons and ammunition were advancing north from Minova on the road to Goma, approaching to within a few kilometres of M23 positions in Sake. The government says the troops will spend the night outside Sake.
UN peacekeepers held the ground between the two opposing forces.
The humanitarian situation in Goma and the neighbouring towns taken by M23 is worsening, with tens of thousands of people uprooted due to the fighting.
In Sake, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said people had returned, abandoning a camp for displaced persons, but many found their homes looted or destroyed.
"They have almost no food supplies and are unable to reach their fields," said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in Congo.
'Prepare for war'
Congo has agreed to negotiate with the rebels and hear their grievances, once they have retreated to 20km north of Goma.
But in Minova, Lieutenant-General Francois Olenga Tete, Congo's newly-appointed head of land forces, said government troops were preparing to re-enter the city after the rebels had left it, and that only war could end the rebellion.
"I am going back to Kinshasa to prepare for war," he said. "I'm going to ask our leaders for permission to wage war. We don't want more negotiations. It's war that will bring peace to Congo."
President Joseph Kabila met M23 rebels for the first time at the weekend after a summit in the Ugandan capital Kampala.
The pullout agreement would allow the rebels to stay in their home region of Kivu, which is believed to hold up to three-quarters of the world's reserves of coltan, a mineral used in the manufacture of many electronic products.
The rebellion erupted in April when the M23, which UN experts have said is backed by neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, broke away from the DR Congo army, complaining that a 2009 deal to end a previous conflict had not been fully implemented.
Since April, more than 475,000 people have been displaced in the country and more than 75,000 others have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, according to UNHCR.
Rwanda and Uganda deny supporting the rebels.- www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - R ebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo kept a firm grip on Wednesday over towns captured from government forces, despite a pledge to respect a deal brokered by Uganda and withdraw.
World powers and regional neighbours are scrambling to contain the latest violence in Congo's volatile east, where political and ethnic rifts and competition for vast mineral resources are again threatening to ignite a regional war.
At a summit in the Ugandan capital Kampala at the weekend, regional presidents demanded that the M23 rebels pull out of the strategic border city of Goma.
Compliance would signal progress in efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis, although the rebels - which U.N. experts say are backed by neighbouring Rwanda - have given no indication they were ending their eight-month insurgency.
It appeared earlier on Wednesday as though the rebels were ready to cooperate.
"We're leaving Sake. We're leaving Masisi," rebel military leader Sultani Makenga told Reuters, referring to positions seized from the government in the past week.
"Goma will be later... We're prepared for the return of government troops. They're going to come," he said.
Makenga said rebel forces would withdraw about 20 km (12 miles) from Goma, leaving 100 soldiers at the airport and allowing government troops to return to the city, as set out under the terms of the deal.
However, witnesses and residents living in areas freshly under the control of the rebellion said M23 fighters were holding onto their positions.
In the town of Sake, 25 km west of Goma, young rebels smoking cigarettes and holding machineguns told Reuters they had received no orders to withdraw.
"They're still in town. They've not left. They're still in the hills and we've seen no movement of troops," said Sake resident Isaac Kanefu, who accused the rebels of extorting illegal taxes from townspeople.
"If the army comes back it'll be better," he said.
The rebels were also maintaining control over Mushake, a town further west in the territory of Masisi, residents said.
Ugandan military chief Aronda Nyakayirima said on Tuesday after a meeting with Makenga that M23 had agreed to leave Goma unconditionally. Defence officials from neighbouring countries are due to travel to the city on Friday to verify progress.
A rebel spokesman said late on Wednesday that M23's fighters would leave Goma on Friday.
The rebels seized Goma on Nov. 20 after Congolese soldiers withdrew and U.N. peacekeepers gave up defending the city.
In exchange for a rebel pull-out from Goma, Congo's government agreed in Kampala to listen to M23's grievances, but Congo's Information Minister Lambert Mende said on Wednesday he remained skeptical that the rebels would leave the city.
"We're waiting to see it in reality, because the M23 elements and those who support them have made us used to red-herrings. We're used to their unkept promises," he told a press conference in the capital Kinshasa.
The rebels initially claimed to have taken up arms over what they said was the government's failure to respect a March 23, 2009 peace agreement that saw them integrated into the army.
However, they have since broadened the scope of their movement, declaring their aim to "liberate" the entire central African nation and topple President Joseph Kabila.
M23's political leader Jean Marie Runiga initially cast doubt on the Kampala deal, saying on Tuesday that a pull-out was contingent on a long list of demands, including the dissolution of the elections commission and the freeing of prisoners.
The mixed messages from Makenga and Runiga could be a sign of divisions within the movement, according to analyst Jason Stearns at independent think-tank the Rift Valley Institute.
"This is a military movement with a political wing created post facto... It's undermined internal cohesion," he said.
Stearns believes M23 may be coming under external pressure given the storm of protest from regional powers caused by the rebel capture of Goma.
"The future of M23 depends on the diplomatic dance between donors, countries in the region and Kigali," Stearns said.
Rwanda, which United Nations experts accuse of giving orders to the Tutsi-dominated rebels and supplying arms and recruits, has twice invaded Congo over the past two decades, sparking a conflict that has killed more than 5 million people.
It justified its interventions by the need to pursue Rwandan Hutu militias who fled into Congo after carrying out the 1994 Rwanda genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.
About 100 people gathered in rain in Goma on Wednesday to protest against the possible return of government troops, marching to U.N. offices there to deliver a memo.
"When the government troops were here before we had no peace. Now, as we welcomed M23, we think they'll cause even more problems than before," protester Alain Safari said.
The conflict in eastern Congo - which has big reserves of gold, tin and coltan, an ore of rare metals used in making mobile phones - has displaced 140,000 civilians this month alone, according to the U.N. www.shafaqna.com/English