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Congo (Kinshasa): Conflict, Displacement Escalate
Dec 13, 2007 (071213)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
As fighting escalates between Congolese government troops and
the dissident forces of General Laurent Nkunda, UN SecretaryGeneral
Ban Ki-moon has called attention to the "massive
displacement of mistreatment of the population" in North Kivu. But
UN forces have a complex mandate of both protecting civilians and
aiding the Congolese army in reestablishing control.
The latest military effort by government forces, after Nkunda
repudiated an agreement to merge his troops into the national army,
seems to have backfired, as Nkunda's forces have retaken territory,
provoking new civilian flight. All forces involved, including the
"unified" national army, have been guilty of systematic violation
of human rights, including rape and other abuses of civlians.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several reports on recent
developments, from United Nations sources and from the Internal
Displacement Monitoring Centre. Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent
out today contains excerpts from several background analyses, from
the International Crisis Group, African Rights, and Refugees
International, as well as links to additional sources.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, and related links, visit
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Upsurge in Violent Clashes in Eastern DR Congo Alarms
UN News Service (New York)
12 December 2007
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that he was deeply
concerned by the intense fighting engulfing North Kivu province in
the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),
especially its impact on local civilians, many of whom have been
forced to flee to escape the renewed violence.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he was
"particularly troubled by reports of massive displacement and
mistreatment of the population" in North Kivu, where Government
forces (FARDC) are clashing with troops loyal to renegade General
"The United Nations is working closely with the Government of the
DRC and with others to help bring peace and security to this
troubled region," the statement noted. "The Secretary-General calls
on the forces of Laurent Nkunda to lay down their arms."
More than 4,500 blue helmets with the UN peacekeeping mission to
the DRC (known by its French acronym MONUC) have been deployed to
North Kivu to help ensure the defence of Goma, the provincial
capital, and the key town of Sak‚.
William Lacy Swing, the head of MONUC and the Secretary-General's
Special Representative to the DRC, has confirmed that Sak‚ remains
under the control of UN peacekeepers and that the blue helmets will
do everything under their mandated powers to protect Goma and Sak‚
from falling to the Nkunda forces. Yesterday dissident troops
recaptured Mushake, a hillside town about 40 kilometres northwest
Since the clashes began in North Kivu earlier this year, MONUC has
transported more than 25 tons of provisions for the Congolese armed
forces, conducted 33 air reconnaissance missions and evacuated 151
wounded FARDC soldiers.
North Kivu has also been plagued by increased sexual violence
against both women and young girls, with some 2,700 cases of rape
reported between January and October this year in the province.
The statement from Mr. Ban's spokesperson emphasized that the
mission backs the Government's efforts to establish legitimate
State authority in the far east of the troubled country and to meet
its commitment under the Nairobi communiqu‚, which the DRC and
Rwanda signed last month to try to work together against illegal
armed groups operating around the border between the two countries.
"The Secretary-General calls on the Government of the DRC to take
all measures necessary to protect civilians."
An inter-agency UN mission headed to the area this week to assess
the situation and devise recommendations on how to protect
internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the local civilian
Yet this week alone, another 60,000 to 70,000 IDPs are reported to
be on the move again, this time from camps near Goma. More than
400,000 people have been displaced in North Kivu in the past 12
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
reports that currently all humanitarian movements outside Goma are
proceeding only under the escort of MONUC blue helmets. Several
relief agencies have temporarily withdrawn their staff from areas
close to clashes and most aid convoys have been postponed.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has deposited several thousand
basic supply kits to zones that might soon become inaccessible
because of the fighting, while the World Food Programme (WFP) is
distributing food to thousands of families living at the IDP camp
The UN's humanitarian action plan for the DRC next year, launched
yesterday, calls for $575 million, with almost 30 per cent of the
total dedicated just to North Kivu.
The eastern DRC remains the most violent region in the vast
country, where MONUC has otherwise overseen the transition from a
six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives in fighting and
attendant hunger and disease - widely considered the most lethal
conflict in the world since World War II - to gradual
stabilization, culminating in the first democratic elections in
over four decades last year.
Concern Over Conscription of Children, Human Rights Abuses in North
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
13 December 2007
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Insurgents loyal to dissident general Laurent Nkunda, fighting
government troops in North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), are still recruiting children into their ranks, even
as serious human rights violations, including some committed by
agents of the state, are rife in the region, according to the UN
Mission in Congo (MONUC).
"Forced recruitment [of children] took place outside schools,
especially in the village of Burungu, when students returned to
their homes, causing many to flee into the bush," Kemal Saiki,
MONUC's spokesman, told reporters on 12 December.
In some cases, demobilised, underage former fighters are being
re-recruited, according to the spokesman, who cited the case of 20
children who had rejoined Nkunda's ranks in the North Kivu village
He expressed concern over cases of serious abuses, including rape,
summary executions, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and
arbitrary arrests that continue to be reported every day throughout
the country, despite an improvement in the overall human rights
record since the signing in 2003 of a peace agreement designed to
end civil war in DRC.
"Every month, hundreds of women and girls continue to be victims of
rape and other forms of sexual violence in all provinces of the
DRC," said Saiki.
"The main perpetrators of human rights abuses are no longer armed
groups [ie. non-government forces], but mainly agents of the state,
whose mandate is to ensure the protection of the Congolese
population," he added.
He noted that those serving in the police and the army worked and
lived under difficult conditions but stressed this was no excuse
for such acts and the culture of impunity that accompanied them.
Reiterating the seriousness of sexual violence, Saiki said that
2,656 cases were recorded in North Kivu between January and October
2007, while 4,500 cases were reported in South Kivu during the
first half of 2007.
"The figures reflect only a tiny fraction of the very many victims
who generally prefer to remain silent instead of asking for help
because they are traumatised, face stigmatisation by their families
and communities or are at risk of retaliation from perpetrators,"
On the raging warfare between Nkunda's forces and government troops
in North Kivu, Saiki said MONUC would continue to provide support
to the national army in an effort to save the lives of civilians in
positions held by insurgents.
"Despite the temporary setback by the Congolese army during the
past 48 hours in the region of Mushake, the town of Sake is still
held by MONUC peacekeepers. We are providing assistance to the
Forces arm‚es de la R‚publique D‚mocratique du Congo (FARDC) so
that they can handle the situation and consolidate their positions
in other areas of North Kivu," he added.
Nkunda's troops have regained control of Mushake in eastern North
Kivu, which they had lost to government forces less than a week
In a related development, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
expressed concern over the escalation of violence in North Kivu,
noting that civilians were bearing the brunt of the fighting
through massive displacement and mistreatment.
"The United Nations is working closely with the government of the
DRC and with others to help bring peace and security to this
troubled region," a statement issued by Ban's spokesperson on 12
December said. "The Secretary-General calls on the forces of
Laurent Nkunda to lay down their arms."
Nkunda has, meanwhile, reportedly expressed willingness to hold
talks with the government in a bid to stop the fighting.
"We need to negotiate. We call for the opening of discussions with
the government," Rene Abandi, spokesman for Nkunda's group, told
AFP news agency on 12 December.
Worsening humanitarian crisis as internal displacement escalates in
International Displacement Monitoring Centre
29 November 2007
[excerpts - for full report, including maps and references, visit
Following major new displacement in the eastern Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC), a total of at least 1.4 million people remained
internally displaced in the DRC as of November 2007. Fighting
between Congolese armed forces and dissident troops and militias,
as well as widespread human rights violations committed by all
groups, caused the displacement of at least 500,000 people in
eastern DRC in 2007, particularly in North Kivu province. IDPs in
North Kivu have been victims of grave human rights abuses committed
by all the factions engaged in fighting and by other civilians. In
addition, many of them could not receive assistance from
international agencies whose access has been blocked by the level
of insecurity. ...
Successful elections were held in the second half of 2006, but
after a lull in the conflict, fighting intensified in 2007, and
displacement in North Kivu was in 2007 at its highest level since
the official end of the war in 2003. No specific framework or
national policy addresses the rights of IDPs or returning IDPs, as
provided by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
Background of displacement and recent developments
In 1996, and again between 1998 and 2003, the Democratic Republic
of the Congo (DRC) suffered two major wars, in which millions died
and large-scale displacement occurred. A number of rebel groups,
more or less closely linked to neighbouring states such as Uganda
and Rwanda, competed to control large areas of eastern DRC.
Civilians bore the brunt of the violence, often being targeted for
ethnic or political reasons. Displacement peaked in 2003, with an
estimated 3.4 million people forced from their homes, most of them
in the east of the country. The International Rescue Committee
estimated that 3.9 million people had died as a result of
conflict-related causes since 1998 (IRC, 6 January 2006).
In mid-2003, a power-sharing transitional government was set up
following the withdrawal of foreign armies. Made up of former
enemies who frequently quarrelled openly, the national government
was unable to bring security to eastern DRC, where local militias
continued to cause massive displacement. In 2006, millions of
voters elected Joseph Kabila as President in the country's first
multi-candidate vote in over 45 years. The majority of IDPs were
reportedly unable to vote due to insecurity, or because they had
lost their electoral cards during their flight or had them
confiscated by armed men (OCHA, 15 August 2006; NRC, April 2006).
Authorised to use all necessary means to protect civilians under
imminent threat of physical violence ("Chapter VII" of the UN
Charter), the 17,000 peacekeepers of the UN Mission in the
Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) play a crucial role in
providing security in the country. About 85 per cent of them are
deployed in the unstable north-east of the country (UN News, 25 May
2007). MONUC is also tasked with monitoring compliance with the
arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council on armed groups
operating in eastern DRC. ... Despite the arms embargo, weapons
continue to be channelled to various armed groups in the DRC from
neighbouring countries. MONUC's mandate is due to be reviewed by
the UN Security Council at the end of 2007, and in the absence of
stability in the eastern provinces, it is essential that this
mandate is extended and adequately financed.
The continued presence of 20 foreign and domestic armed groups
remains the biggest threat to the population (OCHA, 17 July 2007).
The policy of the Congolese government in response to this
challenge is to integrate into the army over 78,000 troops from
various belligerent factions through a process known as "brassage",
as well as to disarm and repatriate foreign armed groups (MONUC, 8
March 2007). However, this integration process has been marred by
corruption and by conflicts between soldiers, often reflecting
local ethnic divisions, particularly in North and South Kivu.
Failings in the disarmament and demobilisation programme,
administered by the Congolese commission CONADER, have resulted in
an undisciplined national army, which has taken on the
characteristics of the rebel groups it was supposed to be
integrating (CFR, 16 February 2007). Congolese soldiers, themselves
ill-equipped, unpaid and unfed, are often in no position to defend
themselves - or any civilian in their care - against armed groups.
The government needs to complete the brassage process with the
support of the international community if the security of civilians
is to improve.
In North Kivu, dissident general Laurent Nkunda, at the helm of one
of the Congolese rebel groups, agreed in December 2006 to a limited
form of integration of his troops, called "mixage". In many cases,
Nkunda's troops then operated nominally as members of the national
army in the same regions where they had been renegade soldiers, and
continued to commit widespread serious human rights violations.
They are reported to have kidnapped and killed civilians accused of
collaborating with a Hutu militia called the Democratic Forces for
the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), while the FDLR retaliated against
civilians that had accepted the mixed brigades. The deal between
the Congolese army and Nkunda collapsed in August 2007, leaving
Nkunda in a stronger military and political position than prior to
the agreement (HRW, 23 October 2007).
New displacement and return movements
The UN estimates that at least 1.4 million people are displaced in
the DRC. Since December 2006, more than 500,000 have fled their
homes in eastern DRC, two-thirds of them in North Kivu (OCHA,
September 2007). Some 143,000 people were displaced between
mid-September and mid-October 2007 alone (MONUC, 19 October 2007).
Thousands more have fled to neighbouring countries. Many displaced
children have been separated from their families during the latest
fighting in North Kivu.
Most IDPs in eastern DRC have been displaced several times and live
with host communities or hide in forests. In recent months,
however, communities have been unable to cope with the massive
influx of people, and IDPs have had to build makeshift settlements.
In order to improve the conditions faced by some of the displaced
people close to Goma, North Kivu's provincial capital, UNHCR has
set up new camps with basic necessities, while the Norwegian
Refugee Council manages four other camps (UNHCR, 19 October 2007).
From January to June 2007, over 1.1 million IDPs were estimated to
have returned to their places of origin in eastern DRC (OCHA, 31
July 2007). More people seemed to benefit from assistance packages
in 2007 than in previous years. Still, needs are enormous, as
fighting and looting have led to a complete breakdown of services,
and returning IDPs often find health centres, schools and their
houses destroyed. ...
The protection of the displaced and other civilians in eastern DRC
is an urgent concern. The Congolese army, as well as armed
militias, have been responsible for increased human rights abuses
in North and South Kivu in 2007, particularly since the beginning
of the brassage and mixage processes, including killings, rape,
sexual exploitation, abductions, forcible conscription of children,
looting, plundering of crops, illegal taxation and general
harassment of civilians. According to UNHCR, IDPs in North Kivu
have been victims of grave human rights violations by all the
factions engaged in fighting and by other civilians (IRIN, 8 May
Despite all initiatives undertaken to counter sexual violence, rape
continues to be widespread throughout the country. Government
soldiers and rebel fighters have committed widespread sexual
According to the UN Special Representative on Children in Armed
Conflict, 54,000 victims of sexual violence were identified from
2004 to March 2007, of which 16 per cent were children (DPI, 16
March 2007). This is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, with
many sexual violence survivors ashamed or otherwise unable to come
forward to seek help (UNICEF, 24 July 2006). ...In the first half
of 2007, over 2,000 cases of rape were reported in North Kivu and
4,500 in South Kivu (IRIN, 15 October 2007; IRIN, 14 September
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