Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Congo Suffers From Market Meltdown

The global economic meltdown may have dire consequences in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The BBC reports that crashing commodity prices have wiped out more than 200,000 jobs in the DRC's southern Katanga province, the economic engine that drives the country. More than 40 firms processing minerals had shut by November, with an additional 100,000 jobs expected to be lost this month.

According to Provincial Minister of Mines Barthelemy Mumba Gama, Katanga province generates nearly half of the country's revenue.

Job losses on that scale will not only cripple the economy in the region, but could have far-reaching effects throughout the country. One of the major problems facing the Kabila government is its inability to pay the soldiers in the army fighting Laurent Nkunda's rebel forces in the eastern provinces. Without pay, the army preys on the civilian population, extorting food and money from them with threats of brutal treatment as violent as anything the rebel forces inflict. Further cuts in government revenue from dwindling taxes on copper, cobalt, and other minerals mined in the country will certainly exacerbate that problem.

Rogue units of the Congolese army have also turned to trafficking in stolen minerals themselves, further undercutting the government's ability to raise funds. There have been many reports of government units cooperating with remnants of the Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe to operate mines and/or suck protection money from legitimate mine operators and mineral transporters in the Kivus. Downward pressure on commodity prices in world markets will have a devastating trickle-down effect on those operations, which are already squeezed by the criminal elements. Laborers in those regions work for next to nothing now; slave labor will be the likely next step.

In both regions (and possibly others), a major upswing in violence is on the horizon. Miners without jobs and rogue armies living on the backs of the impoverished civilian population are nothing but fuel for a major conflagration.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, December 27, 2008

House Cat

Cat In Zambia
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bright Eyed Young Man

Young Man In Zambia
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Monday, December 15, 2008

New Allies Attack Lord's Resistance Army

While media attention on the Democratic Republic of Congo has been focused on North Kivu and the uprising led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda, military action against another self-proclaimed liberator has been launched in the DRC. Yesterday, the armed forces of Uganda (UPDF), DRC (FARDC) and Southern Sudan (SPLA) launched a joint attack on Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army in the Garamba forests of the DRC.

Kony is one of the worst operators in the region, noted for killing and abusing citizens and particularly for kidnapping children. He is reputed to have dozens of "wives" and to personally select sex slaves for the pleasure of his commanders. His long-running guerrilla war against Uganda is believed to have created two million refugees in the last 22 years. He and several of his underlings are wanted by the International Criminal Court for their crimes against humanity.

In a joint press release reported in Reuters, the three nations' military intelligence chiefs said the armed forces attacked the main body of Kony's army and destroyed its main camp, burning it to the ground.

Kony has proven adept at swift movement and cross-border raids into Sudan, Uganda, and the Central African Republic. He operates from numerous camps in the thick forests of Garamba National park near Congo's northern border with Sudan. His tactics have continually frustrated the UN forces in Congo as well as the FARDC and no quick end is expected for the campaign to bring him to justice.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Shy Girl In Zambia
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

UN Confirms Government Rebel Support

The United Nations is about to confirm that the rebels fighting in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been receiving support from the governments on both sides of the border. Reuters says a draft report prepared for the Security Council verifies that Rwanda has sent men (and boys) to serve with Laurent Nkunda's army while the DRC government in Kinshasa has been supporting the Hutu rebels in the region. Unfortunately, this isn't news to anyone.

The UN report says that Rwanda has not only sent soldiers to serve with Nkunda, but that young boys have been recruited for the rebel force as well. In addition, units of the Rwandan army have been reported operating in the DRC.

Nkunda is a Congolese Tutsi whose forces (CNDP) seized large swaths of territory around Goma, the regional capitol of North Kivu province on the border with Rwanda. He claims to be protecting the Tutsi minority living in the DRC, but has also threatened to mount a military campaign to overthrow Joseph Kabila's government in Kinshasa. The UN report confirms that he is operating with the solid support of the government of Rwanda.

Kabila's government, on the other hand, has been cooperating with and provisioning the Hutu rebels in the region, many of whom are remnants of the Interahamwe who carried out the Rwandan genocide in 1994. They fled to the DRC afterward and have been operating in the eastern provinces with impunity under the acronym FDLR.

Just a few days ago, the DRC and Rwanda announced with great fanfare that they have reached an agreement for joint military operations to control the FDLR. It should be interesting to see who actually fights whom--and ends up controlling the immense mineral wealth in the region that is the real root of the conflict that has made 250,000 Congolese homeless since August.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Congo In Connecticut

"...this enticing tale of suspense and romance sounds like a great premise for a fictional thriller," says the Litchfield County Times. "...the book finds itself jumping between literary invention, reality and that opaque area in between the two."

I'll be reading from Heart of Diamonds, displaying photos from my trips to Central Africa, and discussing the current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo at 6:30 PM, Tuesday, December 9, at Gunn Memorial Library in Washington, CT.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Cattlemen or Boys

Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Congo Takes Baby Steps Toward Peace

This week saw several tentative moves toward peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are baby steps, and they have all been taken before, but at least there is movement in the right direction.

One interesting step was the demand by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) that they get a seat at the table for any peace talks. The group is made up of Hutu Interahamwe who fled Rwanda after the genocide in 1994.

In an interview with Franz Wild, Colonel Edmond Garambe, the military spokesman for the FDLR said their goal is to participate in political life in Rwanda.

“Our goal is to return home and to see a democracy in Rwanda,” Garambe said. “There needs to be a platform for everyone.”
Garambe (who uses a nom de guerre) also denied that he receives support from the Congolese army, the FARDC. He made the statements to Wild while walking through Masisi accompanied by FARDC commanders. MONUC, the UN force in the region, has confirmed collaboration between the two in the past.

In the meantime, Garambe's forces moved into the Ishasha corridor on the border between the DRC and Uganda, an area recently vacated by renegade General Laurent Nkunda's army. Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), is a Tutsi group supported by the government of Rwanda.

In another development with potential for positive results, the DRC government has agreed to meet in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday for direct talks with Nkunda. Joseph Kabila's government has been resisting direct negotiations with the rebel leader, insisting instead that they return to a wider peace pact signed last January. DRC Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said they now hope to formalize a ceasefire and discuss a peace plan for eastern Congo with Nkunda.

Mwamba made the announcement following a meeting with Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister, Rosemary Museminali, in which agreement was reached on a joint plan to deal with the FDLR. The comprehensive operational plan against the Interahamwe had been prepared and presented by senior military personnel from both countries.

Officially, at least, the DRC and Rwanda are now allied in the effort to defeat Garambe's forces. It remains to be seen whether the FARDC commanders respond to that development. It will also be interesting to see what role, if any, Nkunda will play in the campaign if and when it begins.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reviewer Calls Heart of Diamonds "Action Packed Thriller"

Book Reviewer Debra Gaynor had this to say about Heart of Diamonds:

Heart of Diamonds has something for almost every reader: a touch of romance, suspense, and intrigue; this is an action-packed thriller. Donelson captured my attention early in this tale, and he held my attention to the very last page.
You can read the full review on

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Facts And Reality In Heart of Diamonds

One of the most rewarding things about the release of my romantic thriller, Heart of Diamonds, has been the way it draws attention to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis occurring right now in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At one presentation on a college campus recently, I noticed tears on the cheeks of a young lady in the audience as I finished reading from a particularly moving scene near the end of the book. Her tears weren’t for my writing; they were for the real people in the Congo who are suffering from violence I portrayed.

It was a moving moment for me, too, but it helped to answer a question that followed: why write fiction when there is a real, non-fiction story to be told?

As I explained to the audience member who posed that question, I am a journalist by trade. Event though I write novels like Heart of Diamonds, I also report on social issues like the contributions of illegal immigrants to our economy and the battle between real estate developers and environmentalists. Those are the kinds of magazine features I write-fact-based, dependent on solid research from confirmed sources, and balanced in presentation. I strive to make my blogs about the Congo meet those same standards.

But there are some truths that are most strongly expressed by having them play out in the reader’s imagination. Like what do people do when forced to choose between intervening in a fight to punish the villain or letting the bad guy get away so they can tend to the victim? Or the choice Valerie Grey, the heroine in Heart of Diamonds, has to make between giving the bad guys what they want so the children she is protecting can go free or sticking with her resolve to expose the scandal to the world to stop a war that might kills thousands?

I suppose you can answer questions like that with scientific psychoanalysis and discussions with experts in the study of ethics, but I think they resonate more with the reader who vicariously experience the same dilemmas through a fictional character in a fictional situation. One approach explains the facts to the rational mind; the other touches the heart.

That’s not to say that “reality” has no place in fiction. Heart of Diamonds is based on the very real and very smarmy relationship between Mobutu Sese-Seko, the brutal dictator who raped the Congo for thirty years, and Pat Robertson, the famous American televangelist, founder of the 700 Club, one-time Presidential candidate, and spiritual leader of millions of Christians around the world. When I found out that Robertson owned a diamond mine in the Congo (as well as gold mines, timber concessions, and other businesses given to him by his buddy Mobutu), I simply had to tell that story. The facts were already known; fiction allowed me to explore all the emotion-laden ironies of them.

The events of the Second Congo War, where nearly six million people have died in the last ten years to make it the deadliest conflict since World War II, found their way into Heart of Diamonds as well. My portrayals of gang rape as a weapon of terror, the abduction of children to turn them into soldiers and sex slaves, the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees who can’t be reached by well-meaning but under-supported aid groups, all of these play an important place in the novel. My fictional accounts are no more horrifying than the news reports that spawned them.

And that was the aspect of Heart of Diamonds that moved that young lady to tears. It wasn’t the fiction, it was the reality it conveyed.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, December 1, 2008

Congo War Spreads HIV/AIDS

Bloggers UniteThe spread of HIV/AIDS is among the many deplorable effects of the continuous violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While the country as a whole has an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 3.2%, UNAIDS reports that prevalence of the infection among women who have suffered sexual violence in areas of armed conflict may be as high as 20%.

The eastern provinces have seen an astounding number of terror rapes--one every half hour, 24 hours every day--with a corresponding rise in HIV/AIDS.

Children are affected, too, both by infections through mother-to-child transmission and the loss of a parent to the disease. According to UNAIDS, 120,000 children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV.

While Congolese government efforts to fight the epidemic are not inconsiderable and the US provided $10.6 million specifically for essential HIV/AIDS programs to the DRC through USAID in fiscal 2008, getting assistance to the war zones is all but impossible. Over 1,000,000 people are homeless as a direct result of the fighting in the region, further complicating the delivery of essential medical services of all types.

While there is little we as individuals can do to stop the violence in the DRC, we can help its victims. One organization I support is Women For Women International, a leading force in helping women and their families re-establish their lives.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nkunda's Larger Plan

The ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo held only long enough for Laurent Nkunda to find another target of opportunity, this time the town of Ishasha on the border with Uganda. His successful attack there expands the territory under his control eastward from Rutshuru.

Some big questions remain about what Nkunda is trying to accomplish. His avowed goal was first to protect the minority Tutsi population in the DRC, the Banyamulenge, but that morphed into his stated ambition to take his army across the country and topple Joseph Kabila's government in Kinshasa. On a more prosaic note, some believe Nkunda's goal was simply to regain control of the Lueshe Mine, a source of the strategic mineral niobium that at its peak employed 3500 men. That might be a nice side benefit, but my guess is he and his backers have their eyes on a much larger prize: control of the entire North Kivu province with its rich cassiterite, gold, and coltan deposits.

As Amnesty International explains:

Most of North Kivu's mineral resources are found in Walikale territory, in the west of the province, an area so far unaffected by the fighting. At least some of these minerals are transported through Goma and into Rwanda. The Walikale mining sector is outside effective state control and many mines are under the physical control of unintegrated national army forces or armed groups, including the FDLR. The commercial interests in these mines are shadowy but reportedly extend to important figures in government circles as well as to Congolese Tutsi businessmen. These latter are rumoured to be the financial backers of Laurent Nkunda's rebellion.
The tip off is Nkunda's demand that Kabila's government make a place for him and his army in the hierarchy governing the country. Having the imprimatur of Kinshasa on his army--even a false one earned under duress--would lessen the danger that MONUC or other outside forces would interfere with his plans. That legitimacy would also clear the way for him to attack other outlaws like Congolese Colonel Samy Matumo, who controls the rich cassiterite mines in Walikale territory with the renegade 85th Brigade of the FARDC, supposedly part of the DRC army. Kabila's government has been unable to manage Matumo even though he technically reports to Kinshasa. He's believed to be operating the mines in an alliance with the FDLR.

Nkunda has also demanded that Kabila's government renegotiate contracts recently made with Chinese mining concerns for development in the region.

Nkunda's original excuse for rampaging through the eastern provinces was to protect the minority Tutsis from the depredations of the remnants of the Interahamwe (FDLR) that committed the 1994 Rwandan genocide and then fled into the DRC. If Nkunda becomes the semi-legitimate military governor of the entire province, there would be nothing to prevent him from moving against them--and the mines they control.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Slash and Burn

Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Arrest Nkunda Now Petition Online

The following guest post is by Joseph Robert:

The web site, , provides information about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by troups under Nkunda 's command since 2002 . The website is also launching a petition calling on concerned people around the world to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.N.'s biggest peacekeeping mission will soon be over 20,000 in Congo "must ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws are brought to justice" said Mr. Kyubwa.

Nkunda is accused of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity of which most cases are well documented by various human right organzations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In September 2005, the Congolese government issued an arrest warrant for Nkunda, accusing him of numerous war crimes and crimes against human rights. Human Rights Watch, for example, which has been calling for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity since February 2006 has documented summary executions, torture and rape committed by soldiers under the command of Nkunda in Bukavu in 2004 and in Kisangani in 2002. Also armed groups loyal to warlord Nkunda have been repeatedly accused of using rape as a weapon of war and the recruitment of child soldiers, some as young as 12 after the abduction from their homes.

According to Mr. Kyubwa, NKunda continues to be involved in the committing of crimes in DRC, and in particular in the province of North Kivu, where again groups armed acting under his command are reportedly responsible for killing civilian systematically in the town of Kiwanja. The continuing horrific killing of civilians testifies that Human Rights Watch was absolutely reasonable in its warning then in 2006 and it’s today. “So long as Nkunda is at large, the civilian population remains at grave risk"

The website encourages concerned people around the world to sign a petition to demand that MONUC immediately arrest Nkunda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For more information please call the project coordinator in the United States , Amede Kyubwa at (916) 753 5717 or email:

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Heart of Diamonds Interviews and Reviews

Interviews and reviews highlighted this week's Heart of Diamonds virtual book tour.

The Printed Page
Review Your Book
The Plot - An Interview with Valerie Grey
The Plot - An Excerpt from Heart of Diamonds
The Book Connection
Fiction Scribe

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hazy Hot

Hot Uganda Village
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rebels Win First Battle In Congo War

The Battle of Rutshuru is over and Laurent Nkunda is the clear winner. The foreign diplomats have come and gone, their sound bites dutifully recorded by the reporters, most of whom will soon be gone themselves. The United Nations has voted to send an additional 3,000 peacekeepers to the region, a noble thought but likely irrelevant to the current situation since it may take as long as four months for them to arrive on the scene.

The battle itself was fought over the last ten weeks between Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), the official Congolese army, the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), and local mai-mai militia groups. The CNDP conquered as much new territory in the mineral-rich North and South Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as they could swallow in one bite. As they were destroying refugee camps and pushing the boundaries of their domain outward, the wrongly-mandated and thinly-deployed UN troops stood by and watched while the corrupt, ineffectual FARDC troops ran away, looting, raping, and pillaging as they went. The mai-mai militias, dislodged from their own little territories, skirmished with the CNDP, but spent most of their time murdering the civilians they claimed to be protecting and attacking the government troops who were supposed to be their allies.

As the one-sided battle unfolded, UN Commander Lieutenant General Vicente Diaz de Villegas y Herreria of Spain resigned for "personal reasons" and DRC President Joseph Kabila sacked his defense and interior ministers.

Nkunda stopped at the outskirts of the regional capitol of Goma, declared a ceasefire, then withdrew a few kilometers to consolidate his winnings. He's now in the process of installing loyalists in village government positions, collecting taxes from the civilian population, and exacting tribute from commercial interests attempting to operate in his territory.

Nkunda not only won control of much valuable territory, he also gained a seat at the head of the bargaining table. Joseph Kabila and other heads of state may refuse to negotiate with the renegade general, but Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, serving as Special Envoy from the UN, sat down with him during his latest foray into the region.

The first battle has been won. Now Nkunda will solidify control over his territory, build up his army with supplies from Rwanda and child soldiers impressed from the villages he's conquered, and prepare to swallow another piece of Congo. Goma could be next, but he will probably find it easier to simply surround the capitol and win the entire region through negotiation from a position of strength.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Refugees Flee to Uganda

One of the areas I visited while researching Heart of Diamonds was Ishasha in Uganda, which is located about five km (three miles) south of Lake Albert on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. That region is today overrun by refugees from the clashes between Laurent Nkunda's rebel forces and militias backed by the Congolese army.

abandoned hut in Ishasha

"There was an influx of 2,000 people who crossed into Ishasha last evening (Tuesday)," said Roberta Russo, the spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)in Uganda.
Most of the Congolese in Ishasha wanted to be transported to the Nakivale, a large refugee camp in Uganda's Mbarara district, she added. We traveled through that region, too, just a little over a year ago.

The latest influx brought the total number of refugee arrivals in Uganda since the ceasefire in Congo broke down to more than 14,500. They are part of the estimated 250,000 civilians displaced by the fighting since August.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Greatest Silence: Rape In The Congo

Lisa Jackson's moving documentary, The Greatest Silence: Rape In The Congo, airs this Thursday on HBO2 at 10:30 PM Eastern Time. Rape is taking place on an epic scale in the Democratic Republic of Congo, destroying the lives of thousands of women and their families. Emmy®-winning filmmaker Lisa Jackson shot this inspiring documentary in the war zones of the DRC. It's not to be missed.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, November 17, 2008

NY Times Explains Congo Perfectly

For an excellent explanation of the cause behind the unending war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, see the New York Times article that ran Sunday, November 17, 2008.

Reporter Lydia Polgreen tells how Colonel Samy Matumo and his renegade brigade collects an outlandish $80,000,000 annually from the mining region he controls in North Kivu. She also describes the living and working conditions faced by the people of the region, which could have been lifted unchanged from accounts of King Leopold's reign over the Congo.

Polgreen's explanation of how a private army can operate unfettered in today's Congo is spot-on, too. She explores the quandaries faced by the UN, the Congolese government to whom Colonel Matumo technically reports, and the South African mining company that has the legal right to mine the area.

The situation described in this article is emblematic of the struggle to control the Congo's riches, a struggle that has cost nearly six million lives in the last ten years.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Online Book Tour For Heart of Diamonds

My virtual book tour is proceeding apace, with more stops logged this week:

Book Publishing Secrets
If Books Could Talk
The Writer's Life
Divine Caroline

You'll find posts such as an account of how Heart of Diamonds made it from my scribblings to the bookstore shelves, an examination of my work habits (good and bad), and the inside details on the creative process that produced Heart of Diamonds.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Adolescent Mountain Gorillas

Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Does Nkunda Want?

Renegade general Laurent Nkunda launched a new offensive in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo on August 28, capturing large swaths of territory and stopping at the edge of Goma, the regional capitol. The conflict has reportedly drawn Rwandan and Angolan troops into the region, created 250,000 new civilian refugees, and threatens to become the Third Congo War.

The question is, why?

Nkunda has always said he was fighting to protect minority Tutsis from Rwandan Hutu rebels, remnants of the Interhamwe who carried out the 1994 genocide and then fled to Congo.

Along the way, however, Nkunda has begun collecting taxes in the regions under his control, and even went so far at one point to set up a customs post on the border with Uganda to collect tariffs on goods crossing the border. He has repeatedly demanded tribute from companies operating mines and other businesses in the region.

Although Nkunda himself has been careful to not be quoted saying it, his supporters have referred to the territory as the nation of Virunga, indicating that his plans for the mineral-rich region may include establishment of an independent state.

Lately, Nkunda says he is fighting to "liberate" all of Congo from Joseph Kabila's allegedly corrupt government. He recently threatened to march across the huge country and conquer the capitol of Kinshasa if his demands are not met. That threat may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

Nkunda has been accused of crimes against humanity, and Congo's government issued an international arrest warrant against him after he defected from the army in 2004. It cites war crimes including massacres of civilians in 2002, when he was still in the army, and in 2004 when he took his rebellion to eastern Bukavu town.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Refugee Story

Bloggers UniteThe refugee count keeps climbing in the Democratic Republic of Congo as fighting between the Congolese army and rebel warlord Laurent Nkunda drives more and more people from their homes. Recent tallies by the United Nations add more than 250,000 people to the rolls of displaced persons, bringing the total to over a million.

Numbers are only part of the story, of course. It's highly likely that a huge percentage of these people will eventually become casualties, killed by starvation and disease, dying of despair. I wrote about the plight of refugees in the Congo in this passage from Heart of Diamonds:

"That is Ogastine," Frannie explained quietly. "She was raped by seven men in front of her husband and children. One of them used a plantain to humiliate her even more." Bobby turned the camera on Frannie, who ignored it and kept on talking. "She had to take her children and go live in the hills when her husband kicked her out."

"Why did he do that?" Valierie asked.

"He was sure she had contracted a disease from the men who raped her, so he didn't want anything to do with her anymore. Her children all died in the bush. There were three of them."

As Frannie told Ogastine's story, Valerie felt the anguish draw around her like a dark curtain. She mentally pushed it back so she could focus on Frannie and the story. "How did her children die?" she asked gently.

"I don't know for sure, but probably from what you and I would consider a minor disease. It could have been just a simple infection. Like most of these kids, they were probably under-fed to start with. Weak. That means just about any medical problem becomes life threatening. The massacres and battle get press coverage, but nobody ever reports on how many people die from the real effects of civil war. Disruption of the food supply and lack of medical care kill a lot more people than bullets. More than five million have died in the Congo since 1998. The shame is, almost all of them die from treatable diseases like malaria and diarrhea, aggravated by living in a permanent war zone."
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Civilians Killed By Both Sides In Congo Conflict

UN investigators are already researching war crimes against civilians committed during the latest outbreak of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kivu provinces. What they found near the village of Kiwanja is a story that could easily have come from Heart of Diamonds.

UN spokeswoman Sylive van den Wildenberg said investigators visited eleven graves containing what villagers said were 26 bodies. Anneke Van Woudenberg, a researcher for Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press that their reports are of more than 50 dead, but haven't been confirmed.

Witnesses said they suffered two waves of killings. First the mai-mai militia, backers of the Congolese government, came and killed people it accused of supporting renegade general Laurent Nkunda, then the rebels won control and killed those they charged with supporting the militia, targeting people from the Nande tribe for assassination. The local mai-mai draws its fighters from that tribe.

Nkunda's rebels also looted and burned homes and businesses, according to witnesses. Many victims were killed execution style with bullets to the head, then dressed in military uniforms.

The UN has been unable to protect civilians in the fighting that broke out in August. The peacekeepers have a well-established base near Kiwanja but has only 120 soldiers in the town of about 40,000. UN military spokesman Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich told the AP that the UN troops were pinned down under crossfire for some of the first day of the killings, and were trying to deter rebel attacks on two other nearby towns, Nyanzale and Kikuku, on the second day.

The incidents occurred about fifty miles north of Goma, the regional capitol.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yet One More Congo War Fatality

When rebels seized the headquarters of Virunga National Park--home to 200 of the world's 700 remaining endangered mountain gorillas--some 50 rangers fled into the forests and abandoned the park station. Intense fighting between the Congolese army and the rebels loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda drove them into the mountains where they spent days trying to return home, walking without food or shelter, trying to avoid the violence around them.

They all made it except for one, who was reported today to have died from cholera contracted in the refugee camp in Goma.

In the last decade, 120 rangers have died due to the civil conflict in the DRC. These brave men have received no wages recently and a lot of equipment was lost or broken during the flight. Given the accelerating conflict in the region, it's not likely they will be able to return to the park anytime soon.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Wave

Welcome to Siankaba
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

Friday, November 7, 2008

More About Heart of Diamonds

For those who would like to know more about Heart of Diamonds, here are five more places to read about it. They include author interviews, reviews, and selections from my romantic thriller about love, scandal, and death in the Congo.

Beyond The Books
Book Reviews and Author Interviews
The Dark Phantom
The Story Behind The Book
The Library At The End Of The Universe

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Full War Around The Corner In Congo

The Congo continues to move closer to full-scale war even as Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) honors its self-proclaimed ceasefire in the region around Goma in North Kivu. While Nkunda solidifies his positions surrounding the city, his troops are fighting with units of the ethnic militia PARECO in a village about two kilometers outside Rutshuru in rebel-held territory.

PARECO, the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance, is a movement claiming to unite non-Rwandan peoples as well as some Hutu in North Kivu. Nkunda, a Tutsi warlord with ties to the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame, says his army's goal is to protect Tutsi inhabitants of the DRC from the remnants of the Hutu Interahamwe who fled to the DRC after the genocide of 1994 and today operate in the region under the acronym FDLR.

Nkunda's actions, however, point more toward establishment of a separate "Republic of Virunga," an autonomous state in the mineral-rich area. As he has claimed more and more territory, he has increased his control over the civil administration, police, the intelligence service, the distribution of land, and the collection of taxes and tariffs. He's also demanded a say in appointment of the provincial governor and other officials.

The Congolese army and the over-stretched UN forces have been unable to block Nkunda's advance. Of the UN's 17,000 troops in the country, about 5,000 are currently deployed in North Kivu, with 1,700 of them holding Goma, a city that has swelled to over 700,000 residents. Nkunda is believed to lead an army of 5,000.

The warlord isn't acting alone, however. The UN also acknowledges for the first time that Rwandan government forces aided Nkunda's troops during the recent rout of the DRC army. Rwandan forces fired tank shells and other heavy artillery across the border at Congolese troops during fighting last week and intelligence reports from UN observers say there are Rwandan soldiers integrated into the rebel forces. Rwanda has denied the charges, just as they did the last two times the country invaded the DRC.

During the Second Congo War, eight neighboring countries weighed in on one side or the other. In addition to Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi fought against the Congolese national army while forces from Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan, and Namibia provided support for the government. Some 25 armed militias weighed in as well. Today, Kabila's government has appealed for help from Angola and Nkunda's supporters have accused Zimbabwe of mobilizing troops in the Congo as well.

In the meantime, Nkunda continues to demand negotiations with the DRC government to legitimize his control of the territory he's conquered and threatens to lead an assault on the capital of Kinshasa if he doesn't get recognition.

More than 200,000 civilians have been driven from their homes by the fighting, adding to the nearly 800,000 already displaced. In addition to lack of food and medical care, there have been reports of selective killings by Nkunda's troops, who also drove refugees from some camps. Government troops were reported to have looted and pillaged parts of Goma as they retreated early in the fighting.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Web Tour Begins

I'm touring the web this month to talk about Heart of Diamonds and the situation in the Congo. Three of the early stops tell the story behind the story and how I came to write a romantic thriller about blood diamonds. You can read more at Beyond The Books, The 1st Page, and The Story Behind The Book.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tree Sleeping Lion

Ishasha Tree Sleeping Lion
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

White House Proclaims Displeasure

The Bush administration has responded to the fresh outbreak of hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a less-than-resounding boilerplate proclamation renewing unspecified measures first adopted two years ago. It was a routine action that caused the combatants in the Congo about as much concern as a proclamation against jaywalking.

Here's the text of the announcement:

On October 27, 2006, by Executive Order 13413, I declared a national emergency with respect to the situation in or in relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706), ordered related measures blocking the property of certain persons contributing to the conflict in that country. I took this action to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States constituted by the situation in or in relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has been marked by widespread violence and atrocities that continue to threaten regional stability.

Because this situation continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States, the national emergency declared on October 27, 2006, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond October 27, 2008. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13413.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

October 22, 2008.
The saddest part of the entire affair, of course, is that this limp missive represents the entire U.S. government response to the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Congo On Brink Of New War

The Democratic Republic of Congo moved a step closer to the brink of outright war last week when Laurent Nkunda announced that his army, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), is officially withdrawing from the Goma accords signed just ten months ago.

"...we are going to fight this [Congolese] government until we will be free forever," said Nkunda in a letter to the head of the UN mission in Congo in which he demanded negotiations while confirming that he had decided to ignore the peace agreement he signed in January.
Nkunda's announcement follows weeks of increasingly-destructive clashes between the CNDP and DRC government forces (FARDC) in the eastern provinces. Nkunda rejected a UN appeal for a renewal of the ceasefire two weeks ago. The scenario is nearly identical to the civil strife depicted in Heart of Diamonds.

While Nkunda's announced intention is to overthrow Joseph Kabila's democratically elected government while somehow protecting the ethnic Tutsi living in eastern Congo, it is more likely that he is pushing to establish an independent state in the mineral- and timber-rich region around the Great Lakes. He is believed to receive substantial support in this effort from the government of Rwanda.

The CNDP already controls large swaths of territory where Nkunda collects taxes and tribute from the residents and siphons profits from the mines and timber operations in the region. He even went so far at one point this summer to set up customs offices on the Ugandan border where he collected tariffs on goods moving between the two countries.

Yesterday, Nkunda's forces seized an east Congo army base at Rumangabo and the headquarters of Virunga National Park, home to 200 of the world's remaining 700 critically endangered mountain gorillas.

The heavy fighting sent thousands of civilians fleeing, U.N. officials said. They join the estimated 100,000 newly displaced persons created by the violence that has flared in the region since August. Nearly one million Congolese are on the official UN roles of homeless people in the region. The unofficial toll is substantially higher. The fighting has also cut off medical aid and food supplies for the refugees

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, October 27, 2008

African Traveler Praises Heart of Diamonds

This Amazon reviewer said Heart of Diamonds is "...all story - story - story."

She also said

"The story takes place against the background of the mess that is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In HofD, the Congo itself is the thread that runs throughout the book, brings the characters together, develops and changes their relationships. In this book, the DRC is not just a prop to the characters, it makes the characters (or destroys them)."
That comment pleased me greatly since the reviewer has traveled in Africa and knows whereof she speaks.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Long, Hard Road

road in Uganda
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Friday, October 24, 2008

A People Destroyed

Blood continues to flow despite the signing of a peace agreement intended to stop the horrendous violence in the eastern provinces of the Congo. The agreement has been largely ignored by the alphabet soup of militias, army factions, guerilla bands, and outright criminal enterprises terrorizing the region. It is a humanitarian nightmare that may never end. Here is a short passage on the subject from Heart of Diamonds.

I hope you will make a donation to help the victims of rape, terror, and violence in the Congo. Women for Women International is one organization doing great work there Any bit you can send them will be appreciated and do a world of good for some people who really need it.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Anguish of Rape

Terror rape is an act that humiliates the woman, destroying her self-worth and interest in living. These effects are compounded when women are rejected by their husbands. Families are destroyed, women and children turned into refugees with no resources. Here is a short passage on the subject from Heart of Diamonds.

Your donation to Women for Women International will help the victims of rape, terror, and violence in the Congo. Large or small, anything you can send them will be appreciated and do a world of good for some people who really need it.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Refugee Children

More than a million people have been driven from their homes by the endless violence in the Congo. Many of them will die, but not from bullets or blades; they’re victims instead of silent killers like malaria, pneumonia, malnutrition, and diarrhea. But they are casualties of war just as surely as if they had been hacked to death by machetes. Here is a short passage on the subject from Heart of Diamonds.

Women for Women International is one organization doing great work in this area of the Congo and elsewhere, so please consider a donation. Any bit you can send them will be appreciated and do a world of good for some people who really need it.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Machete

Armed militias and criminal gangs control their territories by intimidating the civilian population. Exploitation of the Congo’s natural resources is their true goal, which they achieve by using brutal violence to enforce their demands for money and supplies. Here is a short passage on the subject from Heart of Diamonds.

I hope you will consider a small donation to Women for Women Internationalto help the victims of rape, terror, and violence in the Congo. Your gift will be greatly appreciated and do a world of good for some people who really need it.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, October 20, 2008

Making A Child Soldier

There have been child warriors ever since adults figured out they were cheap, expendable, and made good human shields. With modern weaponry, a four-year-old with an AK-47 is a deadly tool. In the Congo, children are recruited, kidnapped, and forced to serve as soldiers, sex slaves, and cannon fodder. Here is a short passage on the subject from Heart of Diamonds.

Please consider a small donation to help the victims of rape, terror, and violence in the Congo. Women for Women International is one organization doing great work. Anything you can send them will be appreciated and will do a world of good for some people who really need it.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Rape Of A Mother

Rape is an act of terrorism, not personal violation. In the Congo conflict, it is committed by an armed group, usually in public in front of parents, husbands, children or neighbors, and followed by mutilations and other corporal torture. In many cases, it turns into sexual slavery that continues for months. In others, it results in horrible death. Here is a short passage on the subject from Heart of Diamonds.

I hope you will consider a small donation to help the victims of rape, terror, and violence in the Congo. Women for Women International is one organization doing great work there Any bit you can send them will be appreciated and do a world of good for some people who really need it.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Brickmaker At Rest

boy worker
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hear Congo's Angels

Women singers, songwriters, and poets are banding together to raise awareness about violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Grammy winner Irma Thomas, Americana singer Neko Case, and pop icon Susan Cowsill are among those donating tracks to a CD that will benefit rape victims in the DRC. The CD is titled Congo's Angels.

The effort is part of Congo Week, a worldwide outpouring of support for the many victims of the seemingly endless war in the Congo, where nearly six million people have died since 1998. As part of my contribution to the effort, I'll be holding readings from Heart of Diamonds at several venues that week.

Other contributors include Eliza Gilkyson, Caroline Aiken, Karen Protti-Bailey, Claire Holley, Kim Carson, Theresa Davis, Mary LaSang, Ruby Rendrag, Gospel Gossip, Sonia Tetlow, Herman Put Down the Gun, Karen Garrabrant, Dede Vogt, Caroline Herring, Janet Bean, and Leilani Rivera Bond. Earthshaking Records donated studio and production time for the mastering of Congo's Angels. A group of emergency room doctors in Brainerd, Minnesota donated toward the environmentally friendly packaging of Congo's Angels. CDBABY has waived their percentage of sales from Congo's Angels as a gesture of solidarity with Congo Week. The CD manufacturer, Oasis, has given a deep discount for the production of Congo's Angels.

You can purchase the CD at CDBaby. Carrie Crawford, Chairperson of Friends of the Congo pledges, "All proceeds from Congo's Angels will raise awareness, fund independent media, and support women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Congo Week Appearances

It is time to break the silence about the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, which is why I will be reading from Heart of Diamonds and discussing the current situation in the Congo at numerous venues as part of Congo Week, a slate of events October 19 – 25 held on over 1,000 campuses and other venues in 100 countries worldwide.

Nearly six million people have died in this war so far and the violence is increasing as we speak. The media ignores the devastation, which is why I am speaking out.

I will be appearing at the Harrison, NY, Public Library at 7:30 PM, Monday, October 20, and the Multicultural Living Learning Unit of Clara Dickson Hall at Cornell University, Ithaca, at 7 PM, Wednesday, October 22. I will also appear at Borders in the Pyramid Mall in Ithaca at 3 PM that day. I will make a presentation at Barnes & Noble, White Plains, NY, at 7 PM, Thursday, October 23.

Heart of Diamonds is a work of fiction, but it is based on actual events in the most deadly conflict since World War II. I drew heavily on news accounts of rape as a weapon of terror, child soldiers, widespread corruption at all levels of government, and the very sad plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the violence that continues to wrack the nation.

In addition to these live events, I'll be blogging heavily during Congo Week. I have some special posts planned that will really dramatize the situation in the DRC.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Monday, October 13, 2008

Heart of Diamonds Called Fast, Modern Adventure

Amazon reviewer Harvey Karp of the Bronx says Heart of Diamonds will make a great screenplay. Among his comments was this observation:

Even with all the fights, raids, battles, chase scenes along crocodile-infested rivers and over refugee-clogged roads, the story is fast-paced with the romance allowing the reader to breathe as it unfolds.
As you might imagine, I'm hoping Harvey knows somebody in Hollywood.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

To Work

photo of girl working
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Reviewer Sees High Adventure - High Romance

NoraG, an Amazon reviewer, wrote about how Heart of Diamonds crosses between two genres, thrillers and romance.

Between the high-concept suspense, steamy love triangle, and action-packed portrayal of the Congo, Heart of Diamonds makes a great read.
Just like it's readers, Heart of Diamonds can't be stereotyped!

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nationwide Rebellion Threatens Congo

Laurent Nkunda has announced his intentions to spread war throughout the nation. During the last month, the leader of the largest rebel army in the Democratic Republic of Congo has defied the UN and ignored the Goma peace accords he signed in January by clashing repeatedly with government troops. Apparently the dissident general now feels ready to mount a full-scale war.

In a recent BBC interview, dissident general Laurent Nkunda threw gasoline on the fire by calling on Congolese people to "stand up" to the national government, saying his rebel group would "fight until the people are liberated." Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) has been openly fighting government troops for the past month in direct violation of the Goma peace accords he signed in January.

"We are going to liberate the people of Congo. Our army is well trained; well disciplined," he told the BBC. While supporters deny it, it appears his intentions are to spread the war throughout the Congo.
The CNDP is believed to be backed by the government of Rwanda. It claims to be protecting the Tsutis who live in the DRC, known as Banyamulenge, against the remnants of the Hutu Interhamwe militia who committed the 1994 Rwandan genocide and fled into Congo, but economic control of the region around Goma seems to be a more immediate goal. The move to widen the conflict may be a gamble to expand his empire or even to seize control of the entire country.

The DRC government issued an international arrest warrant against Nkunda in 2005 for alleged war crimes and Human Rights Watch says his troops have been implicated in widespread killings, torture, and rape.

As the always-fragile peace in the Eastern provinces of the DRC displays new cracks, hundreds of thousands of civilians are again fleeing their homes and farms in scenes reminiscent of my novel, Heart of Diamonds.

Both Nkunda's forces and government troops have been accused of terrorizing civilians, forcing some 100,000 to abandon their farms for refugee camps in recent weeks. They join some 837,000 displaced persons already on the UN roles. Starvation is the immediate problem facing them there, since many of the camps haven't received food supplies for two months due to the increase in violence. The UN's World Food Program has suspended operations outside Goma and even refugee camps that are reachable with supplies are only receiving half rations. Since the beginning of the year, humanitarian aid groups have been attacked at least 52 times.

Hungry, frustrated civilians in the region have rioted against UN forces recently, protesting the blue helmets' inability to stop the fighting. Nkunda may see this as a sign that the time it right to try for a complete overthrow of Joseph Kabila's government, the first chosen in democratic elections in Congo since the country's liberation.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Great Day For Congo Women

Today was a great day at Roosevelt Island in New York, where hundreds of people gathered to run, walk, and otherwise offer support for women in the Congo who have been victimized by the endless war that forms the setting for Heart of Diamonds. It was the NY Run for Congo Women, a fundraiser for Women For Women International.

This four-star charity helps women provide for their families by teaching them skills they need to end the cycle of poverty and suffering, providing funds to help them start businesses, and teaching them to protect themselves against the terror around them.

(from left: me, my son Jeremy, my wife Nora, and our friends Sacha, Art, and Connie)

I'd like to thank everyone who joined the Heart of Diamonds team and showed your solidarity with the women of the Congo. Six of us were able to appear, but dozens others supported us with generous donations and heart-felt good wishes. When all was said and done, we raised nearly $1,000 -- a nice portion of the $15,000 raised by the event.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Jackson, whose documentary film, The Greatest Silence: Rape In The Congo aired on HBO earlier this year and won a special prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. We chatted before the run, then in a nice bit of serendipity, the Outreach Coordinator for Jackson Films, Joseph Mbangu, won a copy of Heart of Diamonds in the raffle afterward!

Thanks again to all the donors and well-wishers who supported this great cause.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Laundry Day

baby with laundry
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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AfriCom Guns And Butter Hard To Swallow

The U.S. Department of Defense officially opened AfriCom, the U.S. Africa Command, this week in recognition of Africa's growing strategic importance to the world. Not to mention the continent's increasing importance as an oil producer. In a line that could have come directly from the double-dealing White House portrayed in my novel Heart of Diamonds, the new command says it will work with African nations to create a more stable environment for political and economic growth.

The delight with which this news was received by the countries involved is reflected in the location of AfriCom's headquarters--Stuttgart, Germany. It was reported earlier that none of the African nations approached was willing to have the American command on its soil.

Be that as it may, AfriCom is supposed to not just bolster the U.S. military presence, but to improve the delivery and effectivness of economic development aid as well. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said:

"The focus is on the three Ds: defense, diplomacy and development. On the defense side, AFRICOM's mission is not to wage war, but to prevent it; not to show United States military presence, but to enhance the security forces of our partners."
In fact, the non-military aspects of the command are supposed to be demonstrated by the assignment of a deputy from the State Department to the staff of the four-star Army general at the top of Africom. This "guns and butter" approach is rather hard to swallow, though, when USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore says,
"We expect AFRICOM to substantially contribute to African defense sector reform and to build African partner capabilities and capacities in peacekeeping, in coastal and border security and counterterrorism."
It sounds a lot more like the mission is building African armies than boosting African economies to me.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Reviewer Cites Heart of Diamonds For Action

Amazon reviewer Dan Berger says Heart of Diamonds is full of "Action Action Action!"

If you want action, this thriller is for you. From the beginning when a doctor is confronted by an AK-47-wielding rebel soldier to the wild ride in an assault helicopter at the end, Heart of Diamonds is one heart-stopper after another.
It's gratifying that this reviewer enjoyed the book.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Saturday, September 27, 2008


photo of grandmother
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vote For Congo Women -- Today!

Now is the time to cast your vote for women in the Congo and other victims of war and violence in the Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war-torn countries. If you haven't already, please go to American Express Member Projects and vote to Help Women and Children Survivors of War Rebuild.

The cause is in the top 25 and just a few votes shy of making into the top 5 finalists--who will share $2.5 million in funding from American Express.

With funding from Members Project, Women for Women International can provide even more tangible financial support, job skills training, rights awareness training and social networks for women rebuilding their lives and the lives of their children.

These are extremely vulnerable populations who may be widows, refugees, victims of rape and torture and at the same time the sole source of support for their families. But perhaps most importantly, these women are already the ones who have been rebuilding after war...time and time again.

This is the cause I'm supporting with the Heart of Diamonds Team at the NY Run for Congo Women on October 4. You can help, too, with just a few clicks of the mouse--but you must act now to have your vote count by the September 29 deadline.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Worst Business Climate In The World

When it comes to conducting business, the World Bank declares the Democratic Republic of Congo is the worst country in the world. The reason? Mostly the sheer amount of corruption, fostered by complex bureaucracy and a resistance to reforms.

The World' Bank's Doing Business report for 2009, which measures the expected ease or difficulty of investing in 181 countries around the globe based on their regulatory climate and enforcement policies, ranked the DRC dead last. It held the same position in last year's report.

Adamou Labara, DRC representative for the World Bank's International Fianance Corporation, said "It wasn't a big surprise. Last year, there was no major reform." He told Reuters it was in part because of fear of change.
In fact, the DRC's ranking declined in seven of the ten specific business activity categories, improving only in the the ability to trade across borders, enforce contracts, and close a business.

In some key measures, the DRC is woefully behind even other countries in the region. It takes 155 days to start a new business in the Congo, for example, versus 48 in the region. Need a construction permit? Count on 322 days in the DRC as opposed to 271 in the region.

The nation has been governed by kleptocrats of one type or another since the time of King Leopold, of course, so it's no surprise that corruption is the rule of the day. Even after the latest war ended in 2003, government loyalsts and rebels continued the tradition from their key jobs in ministries and public companies.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Heart of Diamonds In Video

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Award For Rape Fighter

Human Rights Watch announced that Mathilde Muhindo of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been awarded the prestigious Human Rights Defender Award for 2008. Her award was one of five announced by the international organization that polices human rights violations around the world.

Muhindo, once a member of Congo's parliament, was honored for her work supporting rape victims in South Kivu in eastern DRC, where a woman is raped every thirty minutes. The area has been ravaged by armed conflict for over ten years and sexual violence is used by government forces and rebel militias to terrorize the civilian population and control territory. Sexual slavery, gang rape, and mutilation are endemic.

Muhindo now works as director of the Olame Centre, a nongovernmental women's rights organization that provided psychological and practical assistance to victims of abuse. Its programs empower women to fight against pervasive discrimination and sexual violence. She also founded a parliamentary committee to investigate rape as a weapon of war.

“Women and children are paying dearly for the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Muhindo said when told of the award. “Sexual violence in eastern provinces should be seen in its proper contexts – a war within a war. A war against women.”
In partnership with Human Rights Watch and other groups, Muhindo has brought the issue to the European Union, the United States, and others. She led a coalition of local women's organizations that advocated for a comprehensive law on sexual violence in the DRC.

Muhindo faced death threats for her work, but refuses to be silenced.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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