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ICC/Africa: Feb '08

Congolose outreach efforts pay off with a series of republications in leading local media.

This month several of our in-depth reports have been republished in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. DRC, and Uganda, drawing encouraging feedback from local editors and international NGOs IWPR articles have appeared on a widely read United Nations website and a leading newspaper in the capital.

Written in conjunction with our Congolese journalist Eddy Isango, the investigation - Will ICC Indictments Extend Beyond DRC Borders? - was republished in Kinshasa’s Le Potential newspaper.

It was about the role of Kigali and Kampala in bloody violence in Ituri, a region in the northeast of the DRC, which led the Congolese government to invite ICC prosecutors to investigate who was most responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The piece explored whether ICC investigators could look to the governments of Rwanda and Uganda to find those most responsible for supporting rebel factions, with Isango providing on-the-ground analysis and reaction.

Le Potential editor Freddy Monsa Iyaka Duku said that he republished the French translation of the story because the article was “interesting and relevant”.

He told IWPR that “the Congo has been the subject of aggression from its neighbours. Why should only Congolese people be punished, and not those who have attacked the Congo? For us, this is why we found the article interesting”.

Anneke Van Woudenberg, DRC analyst from pressure group Human Rights Watch, said that it is important that IWPR is working to cultivate journalism in the DRC through the development of a network of IWPR-trained journalists.

“In general of course the work of local journalists is essential and it is important that the Congolese press, who play a vital watchdog role, become more professional and have the support of their international colleagues,” said Van Woudenberg.

Our work is also now being picked up and republished by MONUC, the UN mission in DRC. Comment pieces from our trainees in Kinshasa and Goma have been republished on MONUC’s site in both English and French.

Michel Bonnardeaux from MONUC’s public information division told IWPR that reporting on the ICC is very important because problems often stem from the fact that the ICC is not as active as the Congolese would like and certainly not as expeditious.

“Reporting on the ICC is a double-edge sword in that it raises expectations for justice amongst affected populations but disappoints the same when proceedings drag on for long periods and accusations are not brought forth,” he said.

“The Congolese are terribly suspicious of foreigners coming into their country with promises and delivering very little.”

Bonnardeaux explained that while Congolese journalists are dedicated and willing to provide fair, independent and accurate reporting, such journalism does not pay the bills and “talent is often diverted by [various] parties for propaganda purposes”.

“IWPR’s stories allow us to make certain facts known that we otherwise would not be in a position to publish. Using external stories to publicise facts that we know to be true helps our readers get to the bottom of things.

“The French translations are extremely helpful given the fact that DRC is at least officially a French speaking country and that many of our readers are Congolese people living abroad.”

Since traveling to the DRC to conduct training sessions with journalists, the IWPR Hague staff has been working hard to cultivate the most promising trainees.

Jack Kahorha, Charles Ntiryica and Taylor Toeka Kakala in Goma, plus Eddy Isango and Désiré-Israel Kazadi in Kinshasa, are now working alongside IWPR journalists and editors, pitching story ideas and providing on the ground analysis.

Our relationship with the journalistic community led Eugène Bakama Bope to approach us to support a seminar he ran in Kinashasa to mark International Women’s Day. The topic was “Fighting Impunity” and IWPR sent a range of training material.

As well as our French translations being republished in the DRC press, IWPR stories about justice issues in Uganda Army also appearing in local newspapers.

David Mukholi, editor of the Sunday Vision, said our stories “certainly make a good read for the Ugandan audience”.

According to Mukholi, our story about the LRA’s plans to ask the ICC to scrap indictments because of a peace agreement between the group and the government of Uganda was “a good assessment” of the assessment facing the LRA.

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