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Congo (Kinshasa): Peacekeeping Steps

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Apr 4, 2005 (050404)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

As the United Nations Security Council last week approved another six-month extension for the peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwandan rebels in eastern Congo linked to the 1994 genocide declared their willingness to disarm and enter a UN plan for repatriation. And militia in Ituri district in northeastern Congo continued to enter UN camps for demobilization, while the commander of the UN force in the Congo said that those who did not disarm voluntarily would be disarmed by force.

These small steps forward in the long-delayed implementation of the transition to peace in Congo (Kinshasa) may indicate new prospects of success for MONUC, the largest current UN peacekeeping operation, numbering more than 16,000 troops. But the pervasive insecurity in eastern Congo is still linked to resolution of political rivalries within the transitional government in Kinshasa, says a new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG). The international community needs to be far more proactive in pushing to press through the impasse, the report concludes,

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two brief news reports on the latest development from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), and the press release and executive summary of the new ICG report.

For the full ICG report, visit

The official site of MONUC,, has extensive background and current information, in English and French, including links to the broadcasts of Radio Okapi, the UN-sponsored radio operating through eight regional stations in the Congo.

Additional background and regularly updated news from and IRIN are available on the AfricaFocus website at:

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on peacekeeping issues, see

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

[This material from IRIN may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]

DRC-Rwanda: Rebel group ready to disarm

Nairobi, 31 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Leaders of a Rwandan armed group operating from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced on Thursday their intention to end attacks against their homeland, according to the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC.

Moreover, the leaders of the Forces democratique de liberation de Rwanda (FDLR) indicated a willingness to enter a UN programme of disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, reinstallation and rehabilitation (DDRRR).

"In the light of this declaration by the FDLR, MONUC is ready to work out a timetable and details for undertaking the repatriation," MONUC said in a statement.

In response to the FDLR's announcement, William Swing, the head of MONUC, said in the statement that the decision created new prospects for a rapid and final resolution to the presence of armed Rwandans in the DRC.

Swing, who is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC, was quoted as saying the move by the FDLR might clear the way for the rapid reestablishment of normal diplomatic ties between Rwanda and the DRC.

FDLR fighters could assemble temporarily in the east of the country - at Hombo, Sake, Lubero, Walungu, Sange and Kanyabayonga - prior to their repatriation, according to MONUC.

On arrival at these sites, MONUC would register the combatants and their close relatives before transporting them under UN escort to the border with Rwanda. There, the Rwandan authorities would assume responsibility for the returnees under their own national programme of demobilisation and reintegration, MONUC said.

MONUC has promised to record and destroy all weapons handed in by the Rwandan fighters. Previously, FDLR leaders have been accused of blocking attempts by some ex-fighters to enter the DDRRR process and return home.

Improved relations between Rwanda and the DRC would offer the possibility of a "significant opening of humanitarian access" in the zones in which the Rwandan ex-combatants are located, MONUC said.

Moreover, it said, their repatriation would improve the climate for general elections due in the DRC later this year.

DRC: Uncooperative fighters will be hunted down, MONUC says

Bunia, 1 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - Militiamen in Congo's Ituri District who failed to comply with a UN ultimatum to disarm will be hunted down, Gen Jean-Francois Collot d'Escury, chief of staff of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), has said.

"If you do not surrender your arms by 1 April you will be treated like armed bandits and war criminals and we will chase you," Collot d'Escury said on Wednesday.

The warning, issued during a news conference, was aimed at thousands of militiamen still roaming in Ituri District in the northeastern province of Orientale. Should the militias resist disarmament, UN troops would seek and destroy militia camps, the MONUC spokeswoman for Bunia, Rachel Eklou, told IRIN.

At the end of February, the UN ordered militiamen to enter a programme, which started in September 2004, to disarm and either enter civilian life, or join the new Congolese army.

MONUC estimates there are some 15,000 militiamen still roaming around Ituri. Half of them are children thought to be associated with armed groups, but not necessarily combatants.

The armed groups still active in Ituri are the Union des patriotes Congolais-Lunbanga wing (UPC-L), the UPC-Kisembo wing, the Forces armees du peuple Congolais of Jerome Kakwavu, the Front des nationalistes et integrationnistes of Floribert Ndjabu Ngabu, the Forces de resistance patriotiques en Ituri, the Parti pour l'unite et sauvegarde de l'integrite du Congo and the Forces populaires pour la democratie au Congo.

So far, about 6,300 militiamen have been disarmed. The National Commission for Disarmament, or CONADER, has confiscated almost 400 rounds of 81 mm shells, 380 landmines, 70 grenades and several thousand rounds of ammunition.

Weary of what may immediately follow the expiration of the UN disarmament deadline, humanitarian aid agencies have decided to scale back their activities for one week.

"One week of observation is a typical precautionary measure," Modibo Traore, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told IRIN. "After the MONUC deadline, lots of movement and disorder may arise during the search for bandits and criminals. The displacement of the population may aggravate the situation."

Anticipating this possibility, the humanitarian community increased in March its food aid to areas heavily populated by internally displaced persons. This measure was taken to help cover for the observation period, Traore said.

However, MONUC said it would not slam the door shut on those militiamen still willing to disarm, even after the deadline.

"The doors will remain open until mid-April," Collot d'Escury said.

He acknowledged that the different transit sites set up to process militiamen did not have the capacity to handle the hundreds of combatants showing up daily, which was not really expected.

In addition, militia leaders told IRIN they failed to see how their fighters could be integrated either into the army or civilian life in such a short time if the measure could not be implemented in the past.

"In ten months the UPC has not integrated into the army. How can they integrate in 15 days?" Remy Banyina, a member of the Hema UPC leadership, said.

A leading member of the Lendu FNI militia, alias Commandant Unega, is wanted by MONUC and did not want to disclose his real name. He said MONUC and the transitional government should be more lenient on the disarmament deadline.

"In the Bunia area we surrendered all our arms, but we also have to address our combatants who are farther away and have still not disarmed. We need more time from MONUC," he said.

However, MONUC said the militias had been given enough time to disarm. On 16 May 2003, the militias signed an agreement in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to end hostilities and confine their fighters to bases. A consultative committee of armed groups, headed by MONUC, was also established to monitor compliance with the accord.

Ituri's inhabitants are anxiously awaiting the disarmament of all militia. One Hema trader in Buina's main market, Sophie Furaha, recalled how Hema militia raped her sister.

"During the day they walk around like saints, but at night they emerge as killers," she said. "They raped my sister in front of me and my parents - yet they belonged to us. We have suffered too much from these uncontrolled, undisciplined and drugged militias."

Other Ituri residents fear that the situation would not improve even if the militias are disarmed.

"I have no confidence in the Congolese army. They have not behaved well in Ituri in the past," a 17-year-old girl, requesting anonymity, told IRIN.

There are Ituri residents, like Cecile Nyamundu, 70, who believe the militias will only surrender some of their guns.

"If they have five weapons, they will surrender one. With the rest, they will make trouble," she said.

There are already indications that some of the militias have turned to banditry. On 24 March, armed men attacked a vehicle belonging to the NGO Solidarity International on the road to Gina, 50 km north of Bunia, in an area under UPC control. OCHA said the attackers then stole the vehicle. The driver was wounded and an expatriate aid worker maltreated.

Last week a bus with 80 passengers travelling to Beni in North Kivu was ambushed in Kombokabo about 30 km southwest of Bunia. One passenger was seriously wounded, but the bus was able to speed off.

Ituri District Commissioner Patronille Vaweka said the situation was unlikely to improve immediately.

"One has to realise that what has been destroyed in a single day can take years to rebuild," she said.

The Congo's Transition Is Failing: Crisis in the Kivus

International Crisis Group (Brussels)

Press Release

March 30, 2005 Nairobi/Brussels

As the UN Security Council debates this week the terms of renewing the mandate of its peacekeeping force in the Congo, decisive action is needed to prevent a return to full-scale combat in that ravaged country and the destabilisation of much of Central Africa.

The Congo's Transition Is Failing: Crisis in the Kivus. the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the political stalemate in Kinshasa and new military tensions in the Kivus region, where 1,000 people are dying every day in the ongoing political and humanitarian tragedy. The international community, which funds the political transition, needs to rein in spoilers, both inside the transition and outside it, and do a better job of training the new Congolese army. Also, the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) needs to get tougher with the Rwandan insurgents, the FDLR.

"Neither MONUC nor the wider international community has shown the necessary will to address the Congo's crises", says Suliman Baldo, Director of Crisis Group's Africa Program. "But donors finance over half the transitional government's budget, so they have clear leverage to take serious action against those who work against unification of the army and administration".

As it approaches the end of its second year, the transition risks breaking apart over the unreconciled ambitions of the former civil war belligerents. There is insufficient interest in making the peace process work in Kinshasa, where few leaders are interested in free and fair elections, now scheduled for June 2005 though almost certain to be delayed.

The transitional government has moved some aspects of the power struggle from the battlefield to Kinshasa back rooms, but former belligerents still compete for resources and power through parallel chains of army and government commands. Many stand to lose power in the elections and are set on prolonging or disrupting the transition. Recent fighting in North Kivu, which displaced over 100,000 people and killed thousands, was potent evidence that actors in Kinshasa still use violence to further their aims.

Appropriate solutions must address the political problems in the capital as well as the local conflicts in the Kivus, the eastern provinces where the wars of the 1990s began. In Kinshasa this means living up to the promise of the Sun City Agreement that brought the transition into existence: former belligerents must complete their military integration.

MONUC needs more troops, but the bigger problem is how it uses the resources it does have -- its willingness to use force as necessary to prevent worse violence. And after MONUC's sexual abuse scandal, the international community must urgently help it restore its credibility among Congolese.

"The most difficult task is to force progress from actors who have an interest in the status quo", says Baldo. "The international community must draw on the support of the 60 million Congolese exhausted from war and demanding the transition live up to its promises, to help it get a grip on the spoilers".

Executive Summary

As it approaches the end of its second year, the Congo's transition risks breaking apart on the unreconciled ambitions of the former civil war belligerents. Inability to resolve political differences in Kinshasa have been mirrored by new military tensions that the parties, as well as Rwanda, have stirred up in the Kivus, the birthplace of both wars that ravaged the country in the past decade. June 2005 national elections are imperilled, and 1,000 are dying daily in the ongoing political and humanitarian crisis. To reverse these ominous trends, the international community needs to use the leverage its aid gives it to rein in the spoilers in Kinshasa, and it needs to do a better, quicker job of training the new Congolese army. And the UN Mission (MONUC) needs to get tougher in dealing with the Rwandan insurgents, the FDLR, who provide Kigali with a justification for dangerous meddling.

Beginning in February 2004, dissidents from the former rebel movement Rassemblement Congolais pour la D‚mocratie-Goma (RCD-G) sparked clashes in the Kivu provinces of the eastern Congo. These were the result of disagreement within the transitional government over power-sharing in the army and the administration but the conflict was exacerbated by the interference of Rwanda, which sent troops across the border in November 2004, claiming to pursue the Hutu extremist FDLR. The resulting fighting displaced over 100,000 civilians and pushed the transition to the brink of collapse.

The fighting in the east is closely linked to the political impasse in the capital. The defining characteristic of the transitional government has been its weakness and the opportunism of its key members, who have little appetite for the approaching elections. None of the signatories of the Sun City Agreement, which ushered in the transition in 2003, has strong control of either its military or political wing.

Parallel chains of command persist in the army as well as in the administration as the former belligerents compete for resources and power. All still use taxation schemes and mining deals to enrich themselves. Many stand to lose power in the elections, and they are set on prolonging or disrupting the transition. This political weakness at the centre has allowed military conflicts to fester on the periphery.

The crisis in the east, which is again centred on tensions between the Congolese Hutu and Tutsi and other communities, has been manipulated by the Kinshasa contestants and Rwanda in pursuit of their own interests. The dissidents are hard-line Hutu and Tutsi from the RCD-G who feel their interests are not served in the transitional government. They have created a new "rwandophone" identity in order to fuse Congolese Hutu and Tutsi together, while President Kabila's party has roused anti-Rwandan sentiment. This manipulation of identity has raised the spectre of communal violence in a region where such feuds killed over 3,000 civilians in 1993.

The dissidents have some 8,000 to 12,000 troops around the city of Goma in North Kivu, faced by an equal number of Kinshasa troops. While hardliners on both sides want a military solution, neither has the strength to achieve it. The conflict can only be ended by bringing the moderate leadership of the dissidents back into the transitional institutions, while arresting or marginalising the others. This, in turn, will only be possible if the Kinshasa power-sharing issues are resolved.

Any peace initiative in the east must address the presence of the 8,000-10,000 Hutu rebels of the Forces D‚mocratiques pour la Lib‚ration du Rwanda (FDLR). They have been severely weakened and are no longer a strategic threat to Kigali but they are still able to conduct raids into Rwanda, and are a serious threat to civilians in the Congo, where they constitute a liability for the transition. The new Congolese army has ultimate responsibility for dealing with the FDLR but the army will remain weak and disorganised for the foreseeable future. The international community needs to launch an International Military Assistance and Training Team (IMATT) to support it. Efforts underway by South Africa, Belgium and Angola are a promising first step but more coordination and standardisation, as well as funding, are required.

Neither MONUC nor the wider international community has shown the ability or the will to address the Congo's crises. While donors finance over half the budget, they have been unable or unwilling to take serious action against the spoilers in the transitional government, who work against unification of the army and administration. Some members of the government have been suspended for corruption but none has faced criminal charges. Indeed, the government has rewarded criminality by naming accused war criminals from Ituri to senior army posts.

Similarly, MONUC has not lived up to much of its mandate. While it has the clear tasks of protecting civilians, monitoring the arms embargo, and supporting the new army against the FDLR, it has yet to devise a coherent strategy for any of these. Especially in the wake of the scandal involving sexual abuse by MONUC, there is urgent need for the international community to help it take urgent steps to restore its credibility among the Congolese. MONUC does not have enough troops, but the bigger problem is how it uses the resources it does have.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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