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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Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Mother's Grave

photo of grave in Uganda
Taken while researching Heart of Diamonds

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Congo Rape Unimaginable

Forty-five women report being raped every day in South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a report issued by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. Estimates of non-reported rapes are triple that number. That's why I'm sponsoring the Heart of Diamonds team in the NY Run for Congo Women on October 4. The world needs to know.

The explosion of violent sexual assaults in the DRC over the last ten years is directly related to the endless conflict in the eastern provinces. The fighting involves Congolese forces, neighboring countries including Rwanda, and over 20 independent militias, rebel groups, and criminal gangs. Rape has been used by nearly all of them as a tool of war in the fight to control territory and natural resources.

The near-total lack of law enforcement and a working judicial system in the region has led to virtual impunity for perpetrators of rape and other war crimes.

SCIAF’s new report, Ending Mass Rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, points out that many victims die from injuries suffered during the brutal attacks, which often involve horrible physical abuse and mutilation. Rape survivors often have to walk miles to reach primitive health care facilities that are seldom able to cope with the massive injuries they have suffered. Transmission of HIV/AIDS and damage to the victims' reproductive systems is common.

The Heart of Diamonds team at the NY Run for Congo Women on October 4 will raise funds for Women For Women International, an organization that 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.

You can help by registering to run or making a donation at Thanks for helping us tell the world about the plight of women in the Congo.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heart of Diamonds Heroine Featured In Review

Valerie Grey, the protagonist in my novel Heart of Diamonds, was analyzed at some length in a recent Amazon review by Betty Crumpton of Kansas City, Mo.

Among other things, Betty says,

"Valerie Grey, the heroine of Heart of Diamonds, is one of the more nuanced characters in a popular novel. She's brave and not afraid to confront forces bigger than her, but still has plenty of internal doubts about what she's doing and why she does it."
I am happy to say Betty captured the essence of the Valerie Grey I was trying to portray.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's Always The Money

It's the economy, stupid, or at least it's the money when it comes to the question of war and peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. That's the conclusion drawn by Global Witness, who says attempts to keep the fragile peace program alive are being fractured by armed groups' involvement in tin and gold mining. Just as I wrote in Heart of Diamonds, greed drives war in the Congo.

Global Witness research this summer uncovered substantial evidence of exploitation and trade of minerals in North and South Kivu, scenes of renewed fighting in recent weeks. Armed militias and rebel groups are involved, as are units and commanders of the FARDC, the Congolese national army, according to the human rights group.

The FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu force under the command of leaders who allegedly participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, is scrabbling for control of mines in the region as well. The FDLR controls swathes of territory where gold and cassiterite (tin ore) mines are located in the territories of Shabunda, Mwenga, Walungu, Uvira and Fizi.

According to Patrick Alley, director of Global Witness, "Our researchers saw FDLR members openly selling cassiterite in South Kivu. The FDLR then use the profits to obtain other supplies and keep their movement alive. They have set up such efficient and lucrative business networks that they have little incentive to leave."
Even though Congolese army brigades (FARDC) have been sent to the region to counter the FDLR, they are apparently just participating in the systematic pillage.
"Local residents told us that the FARDC are doing exactly the same thing as the FDLR: taking over the mines, forcing civilians to work for them or to hand over their mineral production and extorting taxes," says Alley.
There have also been frequent reports that members of the FARDC supply the FDLR with arms, ammunition, and even uniforms.

FARDC units control the largeset cassiterite mine in North Kivu at Bisie, as well as gold and cassiterite mines in Mushinga and Tubimbi. Some of these army units were formerly rebels who were supposedly trained and integrated into the official Congolese army through the brassage program designed to give them an incentive to protect and participate in civil society. Apparently, they prefer the money.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008 Reviews Heart of Diamonds

Vlad Jecan, editor of Astigan Press, just published an in-depth interview with me and a review of Heart of Diamonds.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Monday, September 15, 2008

DRC Attacks Ugandan Rebels

The Congolese army attacked the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the northeastern DRC last week, sending several hundred troops to Dungu, which lies close to the border with Sudan. The action, which was intended to protect civilians from the LRA, was supported logistically by the UN mission in the DRC, MONUC.

Military action in the DRC isn't confined to one front or just one set of adversaries. More than 20 official armies, rebel militias, and armed gangs operate in the eastern and northeastern provinces alone. Atrocities are committed and shots are heard from the border with Sudan in the northeast to Angola in the southwest as the epic struggle for control of the Congo's resources continues just as it was described in my novel, Heart of Diamonds.

Civilians are targeted for abuse as the warring factions seize regions they can tax or otherwise extort.

"Our investigations show that there were eight killings, 52 abductions, of which 11 cases involved girls under the age of 18, and nine rapes," said Benoit Kinalebu, a Catholic priest and head of the Dungu branch of the Justice and Peace Commission.
The offenses were reportedly committed between August 2007 and July 2008.

LRA leader Joseph Kony is under indictment by the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses during his ongoing fight with the Ugandan government. Kony has been hiding in the mountainous area on the edge of Garamba national park in the DRC, using it as a base of operations to send raiding parties into Uganda. The LRA leader was meant to have signed a comprehensive peace agreement with the Ugandan government in April 2008, but he failed to show up for the ceremony.

Kony was a no-show in the southern Sudanese jungle town of Ri-Kwangba on September 6, where he was again supposed to sign the agreement already inked by the Ugandan government.

The Ugandan government expressed appreciation for the DRC's action.
"Our view is that the LRA can never engage in any meaningful peace process if they don't have pressure behind them," said Ugandan army spokesman Major Paddy Ankunda.
The spill-over of long-running conflicts within neighboring countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and Sudan continue to undermine efforts to create a peaceful, stable Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Join The Heart Of Diamonds Team At NY Run For Congo Women

The horrible abuse of women in the ongoing war in the Congo is one of the themes in Heart of Diamonds. Rape as a weapon of terror has reached epic proportions. Despite the Goma peace accords, literally thousands of women are still being victimized by the military and criminal gangs operating in many regions. The women of the DRC desperately need our help.

That's why I'm sponsoring a team to run or walk in the NY Run for Congo Women at Roosevelt Island on October 4. Proceeds from the event will go to support Women for Women International's program in Congo. 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.

I urge you to show your solidarity with the women of the Congo by joining this event or even just making a small contribution. Registration is only $20. When you register, please join the Heart of Diamonds group to get a free team shirt at Roosevelt Island. And bring along your copy of Heart of Diamonds, so I can autograph it!

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

On The Ground in Goma

A fascinating letter I received recently from an informed reader who heard about Heart of Diamonds

Dear Dave,

I intend to go right out tomorrow and buy your book. Having spent some time in Goma on a fact finding trip for Global Strategies for HIV Prevention in its work against gender based violence—-call it rape—-it is clear to me that the lust for precious metals and gems carries with it the need to subjugate, enslave, rape and kill men women and children, thus intimidating and destroying whole communities. The data we have gathered indicates that up to 60 percent of the rapists (Congolese soldiers, police and Hutu fugitives from justice) are HIV positive so not only is the violence tearing apart communities but it is infecting thousands of women in a delayed but certain genocide. (2000 women reported being raped in June 2008 in North Kivu Province and it is likely that at least that many more were raped but are fearful of the consequences were they to complain.)

Anyway, I look forward to reading your book. However terrible you may have painted conditions, actual conditions are probably even worse than you can imagine. I hope your book helps spread the word. The Congo government is lame, doing nothing, and the atmosphere of impunity encourages the epidemic of violence and rape. The resolutions passed by the UN Security Council, pending in the US Senate, and the “blood coltan” bill in the Senate are good for appearances, but the resolutions have not resulted in any changes, and the high tech lobbyists will never let the blood coltan bill pass.

Kerry Gough, Counsel and Director, Global strategies for HIV Prevention (Gender Justice)

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Heart of Diamonds Called Cool Book

Here's some fun: Heart of Diamonds is now officially cool.

It's actually the Cool Book Of The Day, an honor bestowed by PR guru Dan Janal. You can read Dan's scintillating interview with me at

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Has Third Congo War Begun?

Government troops struck rebel forces this week in Rutshuru district as tensions continue to escalate in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In events that could have been taken from my novel Heart of Diamonds, a large, as yet uncounted, number of civilians were forced to flee the village of Ntamugenga and the surrounding area as the DRC army retook the village from renegade general Laurent Nkunda, who leads the Rwanda-backed CNDP.

MONUC Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich reported that there was also some fighting in the Rugari region. MONUC, the UN peacekeeping force in the country, has repeatedly called on both the government and rebel forces to stand down and honor the January agreement known as the Goma Accords, but tension continues to build.

On the same day as the fighting in Ntamugenga, at least one person was wounded and a MONUC vehicle was destroyed during a demonstration against the peacekeepers in the town of Rutshuru. One witness said the town's residents wanted the UN to repel Nkunda's forces rather than simply maintain a buffer zone between the two sides.

In another regional hot spot, the DRC closed Bunagana, the country's border post with Uganda, after Nkunda's forces captured immigration officials there. Hundreds of trucks and passengers service vehicles backed up on the Ugandan side of the border, as uncertainty loomed. It is believed that the Congolese governement in Kinshasa closed the border point to deny food supplies to Nkunda's troops from Ugandan traders in Kisoro.

The Goma Accords were intended to create a "cooling down" period so that the 20-some-odd groups that signed them could resolve differences without violence. The two largest groups, the DRC Army (the FARDC) and Nkunda's breakaway force (CNDP), seem to have discarded the agreement and resumed maneuvers that will lead to a resumption of full-fledged war.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Greed Creates Congo Crisis

Unadulterated greed created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the aftermath of the Second Congo War. My fictional treatment of the Congo’s ongoing strife in Heart of Diamonds points to lust for the nation’s riches as the cause of over five million deaths since 1998.

We shouldn’t even pretend that conflicting ideologies or ethnic rivalries are the causes of this crisis. Those are nothing more than convenient excuses for the looting and pillaging that threatens to destroy the DRC.

In my novel, Heart of Diamonds, I use a diamond smuggling scheme to represent the fight for control of the DRC’s gold, timber, uranium, copper, coltan, and other natural resources. An intricate plot involving an American televangelist, the President of the DRC, and the White House reflects the convoluted relationships of the factions involved in the struggle. The book's heroine, Valerie Grey, is a TV journalist who uncovers the scheme and fights to expose it to the world.

I believe that ethnic conflicts like those between the Tsutis and Hutus that spilled over from Rwanda and between the Hema and Lindu are fronts for war lords looking to control territory in the DRC where they can exploit natural resources. Many of those militias receive support—-sometimes openly—-from governments or rebel factions in neighboring countries.

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.

Heart of Diamonds is my third book, but my first foray into the thriller genre. I wanted to write something that captures the vibrancy and complexity of Africa, and a suspenseful adventure framed against the endless war in the DRC seemed like the perfect approach.

Since I started writing the book, there have been glimmers of hope in the situation. But violence continues and hundreds of thousands of people are still suffering as refugees. Peace and prosperity are still a long way away. I hope Heart of Diamonds will help draw attention to the crisis.

Heart of Diamonds was published by Kunati Books, named Independent Publisher of the Year at the 2008 Book Expo America.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day Marked By Congo Violence

Mortar and grenade blasts echo through the mountains where I spent Labor Day weekend last year. Recently, fresh fighting broke out between the Congolese Army and rebels under renegade commander Luarent Nkunda. Just a year ago, I was wandering around that region on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda researching Heart of Diamonds. At the time, there was a lull in the fighting, although skirmishes had been reported farther north and west. Today, it looks like the Third Congo War is about to erupt.

Captain Tabaro Kiconco, a spokesman for the Ugandan Second Army Division, says they have stepped up already-heightened security and surveillance on the border near where I was camped a year ago. Several Ugandan rebel groups operating from eastern DRC use the tense security situation in the region to launch raids across the border.

The recent fighting in North Kivu in the DRC is the first major clash between forces since the Goma accords were signed in January, 2008, when some twenty-odd insurgent groups, gangs, and rebel factions agreed to a ceasefire under the aegis of the UN’s peacekeeping force, MONUC. Since then, the armed groups, including Nkunda’s breakaway army, have continued to attack civilians and loot the countryside, causing one of the most severe humanitarian crisis in the region since the Second Congo War officially ended in 2003. Estimates of the number of displaced civilians run as high as a quarter million people.

Tensions have been mounting in past weeks, with DRC forces (the FARDC) increasing troop strength while Nkunda’s CNDP ( National Congress for the Defence of the People) maneuvered to gain control of more territory. Western diplomats warned last month that the situation in the east of the DRC was becoming increasingly tense as various groups rearmed. The FARDC and CNDP blamed each other for starting the fighting which broke out in the village of Kanombe about 30 miles north of Goma and spread to several other towns.

MONUC said it has sent armored vehicles to patrol the region and increased contact with both sides to encourage an end to the latest clashes. It might seem that the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force would be easily dominant, but there are nearly two dozen insurgent groups in the region and many of the rebel forces receive outside help. Nkunda’s army, for example, has the near-overt backing of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who uses them as a proxy force to battle the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which includes many original members of the Interahamwe that carried out the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

More than five million people have been killed in the Congo since 1998 according to the International Rescue Committee. Peace treaties have been signed, but there is no end in sight.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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The Hidden Cost of Blood Diamonds

Jessica Giles, an obviously talented and socially conscious graphic artist, designed this striking image to illustrate the terrible hidden cost of blood diamonds.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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