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Congo (Kinshasa): Risky Steps towards Peace
Jan 28, 2009 (090128)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has
announced that it is providing logistical support for the joint
Congolese-Rwandan military operation in eastern Congo, to maximize
protection of civilians and reintegration of rebel forces into the
Congolese national army. MONUC was not informed of the operation in
advance, and there are real fears for the consequences for
civilians. Nevertheless, most observers see the move, reflecting
new agreement between Rwandan and Congolese governments, as a
prerequisite for more fundamental peace-making measures.
The multi-faceted conflict in eastern Congo, which adjoins other
conflict zones to the north and east, has involved systematic abuse
of civilians both by government military forces and a wide variety
of militias and exile groups. Despite the presence of the largest
UN peacekeeping force anywhere in the world, conflict in the region
continues to feature the systematic use of child soldiers and of
rape against women.
In a parallel development, Ugandan, Congolese, and Southern
Sudanese troops have been operating together in Congo against the
Ugandan rebel group Lord's Resistance Army, which has slaughtered
at least 600 Congolese civilians in recent weeks.
The joint government military operations may have some success in
weakening the rebel groups, as will the arrest of formerly Rwandanbacked
rebel Laurent Nkunda and parallel commitments by the
Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate with Rwanda against
Congo-based Rwandan rebels. But no one expects that these
operations can by themselves establish stability, even if
cooperation among the regional states continues.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from several
commentaries and reports related to recent developments in the
eastern Congo, including a summary from the UN's IRIN news service,
a statement from UN Rights, a commentary from Colin Thomas-Jensen
of the Enough Project, remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Navi Pillay, and a report of a UN Security Council meeting
on the need to strengthen peacekeeping capacity.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, including links to recommended books, and other
resources, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/congokin.php
For background information and guides to action against violence
and for peace in the DRC, see
"Ten Things You Can Do About the War in Congo"
The Nation, January 15, 2009
Raise Hope for Congo
For background on mining and resource exploitation in eastern
Congo, see http://www.globalwitness.org and, in particular,
Also of relevance is the UN report from December documenting
previous Congolese and Rwandan involvement in backing rival
militias in eastern Congo.
"DR Congo: UN-mandated group finds evidence Rwanda, army aiding
rival rebels" 12 December 2008
For regular updates, in English and French, visit the MONUC website
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Congo-Kinshasa: Civilians At Risk From Further Fighting After
26 January 2009
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Nairobi - The arrest of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, coupled with
a Rwandan-backed operation to disarm Hutu militia in eastern
Democratic Republic of Congo, might eventually help to restore
peace to the region but also poses great risks for civilians,
according to analysts.
"Nkunda's arrest presents a great opportunity for restoration of
peace in eastern DRC [as long as it is] immediately followed by
comprehensive security sector reforms, an end to a culture of
impunity and protection of civilian populations," said Wafula
Okumu, senior research fellow, African Security Analysis Programme,
at the Institute for Security Studies.
Nkunda was arrested on 22 January after crossing into Rwanda.
Through the CNDP (CongrŠs national pour la d‚fense du peuple), he
claimed to be protecting minority Tutsis in the east from the FDLR
(Forces d‚mocratique pour la lib‚ration de Rwanda), who include the
Hutu militia blamed for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
"The neutralisation of Nkunda was part of a deal between President
[Joseph] Kabila [of the DRC] and President [Paul] Kagame [of
Rwanda]," Guillaume Lacaille, International Crisis Group DRC
analyst, told IRIN.
Senior military officials from the long-time foes DRC and Rwanda
attended the 16 January press conference during which CNDP military
chief Bosco Ntaganda announced Nkunda's removal as head of the
movement, according to Lacaille.
Attempts over the past year by DRC's lacklustre army to neutralise
the CNDP have been unsuccessful.
"To rebound from this last humiliation, Kabila actually made a deal
with Rwanda to oust the FDLR and in exchange he got Nkunda's head,"
According to Lacaille, the arrest of Nkunda alone will not deliver
peace unless the issues he used to justify his insurgency - powerand
wealth-sharing between Hutus and Tutsis, as well as the
interests of Tutsi businessmen - are dealt with.
"They were funding Nkunda as a kind of protection," Lacaille said
of the businessmen, pointing out that Nkunda's arrest removed this
Nkunda's arrest was part of a 15-day operation, aimed at disarming
and repatriating the FDLR.
"Problems are already piling up. And the main problem comes from
[...] the fact that Kabila did not consult with his constituency
before allowing [in] the Rwandese army," Gerard Prunier, a
historian on eastern and central African affairs, told IRIN.
"This is a grievous mistake. The people in the East are his voters
and calling in the [Rwandan army] is not exactly what they wished
for when they elected him."
"I don't think the [Rwandan army] is in Kivu just to cleanse the
earth of the FDLR," he said. "The point is to control the mines
which the FDLR now controls and to share the proceeds with the
Kinshasa administration rather than with the Hutu genocidaires,"
"But how can you extirpate the FDLR? It is deeply embedded in the
local social fabric. In order to extract the parasite you might
have to dig deep into the flesh and it will hurt," he said. "You
could do it with local support. But if you try to ram this
'solution' down the throats of a reluctant and fearful local
constituency, you are not likely to get the cooperation you
This local constituency includes a variety of armed groups
collectively known as Mayi Mayi, who in recent years have been
broadly allied with the Kinshasa government and the FDLR against
For Prunier, the Mayi Mayi "are the barometer and they are hostile"
to the disarmament operation. "The whole thing might end up in a
very bloody confrontation indeed," he warned.
This view was echoed by Lacaille: "The more Rwanda stays in the
DRC, the higher the risk of political instability in North Kivu and
if a military operation against the FDLR is launched quickly,
without more preparation to protect the population, there will be
high civilian casualties."
In the past, he explained, a carrot-and-stick approach was used to
repatriate the FDLR: sensitisation programmes for voluntary
disarmament - which led to the return of 8,000 Rwandan Hutus
between 2001 and 2006 - and gradual military build-up. "Now we have
the feeling that the DRC and Rwanda are all about stick."
The history of enmity between the neighbouring states poses a major
risk, according to Tom Cargill, assistant head of the Africa
Programme, at UK think-tank Chatham House. "The Congolese and
Rwandan militaries have problematic relationships with each other
and these operations will need sustained high-level monitoring by
all to ensure potentially disastrous mistakes do not occur," he
The Stunning Developments in Eastern Congo - What Do They Mean?
By Colin Thomas-Jensen
Published on Enough (http://www.enoughproject.org)
Jan 23 2009
In a dramatic reversal of fortune for one of Central Africa's most
powerful warlords, Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was
arrested by Rwandan authorities last night along the Congo-Rwanda
border. When my colleague Rebecca and I met with Nkunda in the town
of Rwanguba on Thanksgiving Day, he seemed on top of the world .
His rebel movement, the National Congress for the Defense of
People, or CNDP, had routed the Congolese army, embarrassed UN
peacekeepers, consolidated control of a large swath of North Kivu
province, and threatened the regional capital of Goma. Nkunda
shrugged off allegations that his lieutenant, Bosco "The
Terminator" Ntaganda, had directed a massacre of civilians in
Kiwanja, and confidently demanded direct negotiations with
Congolese President Laurent Kabila. Journalists flocked to his
compound, diplomats had him on speed dial, and the UN appointed a
former president of Nigeria to mediate a solution. This morning,
Nkunda was in Rwandan custody, and it sounds like he is already
back in Congo and headed for detention in the capital, Kinshasa.
The power play orchestrated by the Congolese and Rwandan
governments has been brewing for weeks. As Nkunda's power and
ambition grew, the governments of both Rwanda and Congo came to see
him as a serious problem, albeit for different reasons. Unable to
defeat Nkunda militarily and unwilling to treat him as a legitimate
political actor, President Kabila needed Rwanda's help to
neutralize him. Rwandan President Paul Kagame was stung by Nkunda's
increasingly bold pronouncements (particularly his ambition to take
his fight all the way to Kinshsa) and a U.N. panel of experts
report documenting Rwandan support for CNDP and involvement with
conflict minerals in eastern Congo. European donors began to
threaten aid money and Rwanda no longer had plausible deniability
that it was not involved with Nkunda.
Congolese officials sought Rwandan help to get rid of Nkunda. The
quid pro quo: the Rwandan military would be allowed to re-enter
eastern Congo to hunt down the Democratic Forces for the Liberation
of Rwanda, or FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group led by commanders
responsible for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. In a fantastically
cynical move, the two sides also agreed that indicted war criminal
Bosco Ntaganda would replace Nkunda as head of CNDP, and that his
forces would join in the offensive against the FDLR.
A week ago in Goma, Ntaganda announced that he had taken control of
CNDP and would collaborate with the Congolese and Rwandan armies
against the FDLR. As reported on this blog earlier this week, more
than 3,000 Rwandan troops crossed into eastern Congo this past
weekend, isolating Nkunda and ultimately arresting him. My
colleague John Prendergast noted in the New York Times today, "Now
the hard part begins."
While the move to take more aggressive action to remove the FDLR
from eastern Congo and arrest of Nkunda are welcome developments
and could contribute mightily to a lasting peace in eastern Congo,
there are lots of reasons to be profoundly apprehensive.
- The planned operations against the FDLR have the potential to be
catastrophic for Congolese civilians. The Congolese army and
Rwandan armies have abysmal track records in protecting civilians,
and the FDLR will almost certainly not stand their ground and
fight. As they have done in the past (and as the Lord's Resistance
Army has done in northeastern Congo), the FDLR may well melt into
the bush, leave civilians to bear the brunt of the offensive, and
return with a vengeance when the operation is over. Moreover, Congo
and Rwanda have clear economic motive to assert control over
valuable mines in FDLR controlled areas. This could be why the UN
peacekeeping force charged with protecting civilians in eastern
Congo has been kept deliberately in the dark  and is now
restricted from traveling to certain areas.
- The role of Bosco "The Terminator" Ntaganda sends a chilling
message about the lack of accountability for crimes against
humanity. Ntaganda is wanted for war crimes by the International
Criminal Court, and the Congolese government, a signatory to the
Rome Statute that established the ICC, is in full violation of
international law by failing to arrest him. Human Rights Watch
has documented his role in recent massacres.
- Even though Nkunda has been arrested, allowing Rwandan troops
back onto Congolese soil is a dangerous gamble for Congolese
President Kabila. Many people in eastern Congo loathe Rwanda for
its behavior during the wars that ripped the country apart 
from 1996 to 2002, when they failed to dislodge the FDLR while
looting substantial mineral wealth. The Rwandan military has been
able to inflict substantial casualties on the FDLR on the past, but
never to the point where they were able to break them as a force.
The longer Rwandan forces remain in eastern Congo, the more
vulnerable Kabila will be to internal challenges.
- Lastly, and as Enough has consistently argued, even a successful
operation against the FDLR must be accompanied by a process to deal
with the other major root causes of conflict in eastern Congo: the
fight for control over lucrative natural resources , access to
land, economic and physical security of ethnic minorities
(particularly Tutsis), and contentious debates over citizenship and
Events are unfolding rapidly on the ground, and Enough is preparing
on a statement with recommendations for policymakers on how to help
avoid the situation from spiraling downward. We will release the
statement next week, but as a first step the Obama administration
should immediately appoint a special envoy to the Great Lakes
region. The administration has not yet named its Africa policy
team, but the people of eastern Congo cannot wait another day for
the United States to get engaged at a high level.
UN rights chief decries 'grotesque' abuses by Ugandan rebels in DR
27 January 2009 - The top United Nations human rights official
today spoke out against abuses committed by Ugandan rebels in the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and voiced alarm about the
impact on civilians of a joint military operation being conducted
by DRC and its neighbour Rwanda.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described the
violations committed in eastern DRC by the Lord's Resistance Army
(LRA) as "grotesque." The rebels have attacked civilians in
Orientale province in retaliation for a joint military operation
launched last month by the Governments of DRC, Uganda and Southern
Sudan targeting LRA bases in north-east DRC.
The military action followed the failure of LRA leader Joseph Kony
to sign an agreement to end his rebellion against the Ugandan
Initial UN investigations suggest that the LRA retaliated by
killing hundreds of civilians, whom they believed were aiding
government forces. The LRA is also accused of conducting
large-scale kidnappings and rapes, as well as forced recruitment of
minors, all of which has led to a major humanitarian crisis in the
According to the most credible estimates from the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the LRA violence has
left 900 people dead and uprooted 130,000 others, with more than
8,000 Congolese taking refuge in Southern Sudan.
Teams from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently
visited several towns in Southern Sudan where Congolese have taken
refuge. The agency noted that humanitarian aid remains hampered by
the volatile security situation and limited accessibility.
"I'm also concerned that the joint military counter-operations,
unless properly planned and executed, could lead to further human
rights abuses being perpetrated against the civilian population who
are, in effect, caught between the conflicting parties," stated Ms.
The High Commissioner called on all actors in the various conflicts
in the troubled eastern part of the DRC to respect human rights and
international humanitarian law and called for accountability
measures to be included in international efforts to bring about a
Ms. Pillay also voiced concern over the situation in North Kivu
province where thousands of Rwandan troops have deployed in recent
days, in preparation for joint action with the Congolese army to
disarm the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Forces D‚mocratiques pour la
Lib‚ration du Rwanda (FDLR), who have been responsible for
committing massive human rights abuses against civilians over the
past 14 years.
She stressed that the protection of civilians should be the top
priority as this operation is planned and carried out, recalling
how similar actions in the past have resulted in widespread harm
"I am particularly concerned by reports that the Congolese-Rwandan
operation to flush out FDLR-rebels has already impacted negatively
on the ability of MONUC [UN mission in DRC] peacekeepers, as well
as various UN agencies and humanitarian organizations, to protect
and assist the civilian population in some areas," she said.
Alan Doss, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head
of MONUC, and the Mission's Force Commander, Babacar Gaye, are
meeting with Congolese authorities in Goma to discuss the possible
impact of the operation on civilians and on the Mission's work in
Regarding another conflict in the DRC, Ms. Pillay welcomed recent
calls by MONUC and others for the reintegration of members of the
mainly Tutsi rebel militia known as the National Congress in
Defense of the People (CNDP) into the Congolese national armed
forces (FARDC), as an important step towards securing peace in
North and South Kivu.
The conflict between the CNDP and FARDC has uprooted an estimated
250,000 people since late August, on top of the 800,000 already
displaced in the region, mainly in North Kivu province, which
borders Rwanda and Uganda.
However, she added that this process must include accountability
for massacres and other horrific abuses committed by the CNDP under
the leadership of Laurent Nkunda and Bosco Ntaganda, pointing out
that the former is suspected of crimes against humanity, and the
latter has already been indicted by the International Criminal
Court (ICC). Mr. Nkunda was taken into custody by the Rwandan
authorities last week.
Council Hears from Head of Peacekeeping, Field Support, Haiti
Mission; Aims to Formulate New Recommendations on Ways to
SC/9583 - January 23, 2009
6075th Meeting (AM)
Against the background of a growing demand for peacekeeping
missions with increasingly complex and multidimensional mandates
and confronted with diminishing human and financial resources, the
Security Council was told today by the Head of United Nations
Peacekeeping that "we need to look at our own house and find new
and innovative ways to tackle the challenges of modern
In a day-long discussion convened by France and the United Kingdom,
intended as a first step in considering how crucial improvements
could be made, the Council heard from high-level representatives of
the United Nations Secretariat, the Head of the United Nations
Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), troop-contributing
countries and representatives of the European Union, the African
Union and the Non-Aligned Movement. The aim is to continue
discussions until the summer, when recommendations could be
"Today, we are larger and spread more widely than ever before, with
mandates that are more complex and robust than ever,"
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy
said, noting that a surge in peacekeeping over the past decade
continued until today. United Nations peacekeeping was clearly
overstretched. With 18 operations deployed on five continents, with
112,000 troops, police and civilians deployed, the operational
challenge of supporting the missions and mounting new ones was far
beyond what the Brahimi reforms had envisaged. At the same time,
many missions carried forth mandates that represented much more
than the deployment of uniformed personnel, being fundamentally
political operations supporting complex transitions to peace within
deeply divided countries.
To ensure that United Nations peacekeeping remained a viable and
indeed a stronger instrument for the future, it was first necessary
to survive the current operational workload and the looming
challenges in the months ahead. At the same time, it was necessary
to begin finding new potential contributors to peacekeeping. To
deploy at high pace into remote territories, innovative ways should
be found to draw on support, which only Member States could
provide. On-hand capacities were needed to reinforce missions if a
crisis erupted. Several weeks ago, a process of introspection and
stock-taking had been initiated. To review how much progress had
been made in the Brahimi process and to consider how to meet new
challenges, he would share the results with the Council and the
General Assembly, to build consensus on the way forward.
The year 2009 needed to be a year of ideas, as much as a year of
operational success, he said. It needed to be a year of cooperation
and problem solving. The time to begin the revitalized peacekeeping
partnership was now.
Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, said
her Department now supported 16 peacekeeping missions and 18
special political missions, and administered 22,000 international
and local civilian staff. It operated and maintained more than 250
medical facilities, 300 aircraft, 18,000 vehicles and 40,000
computers. The creation of the Department of Field Support had led
to greater clarity of purpose and improved focus on service
delivery in the field - becoming more "field-centric".
In the ensuing debate, there was, in the words of the
representative of France, a clear awareness of the magnitude of the
challenges and collective will to tackle them. Among issues Council
member shared were: greater involvement of the Council in planning
and follow-up; strengthening of dialogue with the Secretariat;
strengthening of military expertise; better management of available
resources; a capacity for reducing and closing operations; and
better use of instruments apart from peacekeeping operations to
manage crises, such as conflict prevention. Critically important
were the contributions of the various players: troop-contributing
countries; financial contributors; the Fifth Committee; the Special
Committee on Peacekeeping Operations; and the various United
Nations agencies in the field.
Many speakers underscored the importance of clear mandates for
peacekeeping missions with adequate resources for implementation.
Mandates should include, according to Austria's representative,
protection of civilians, human rights, the strengthening of the
rule of law and the role of women in peace processes. Many speakers
welcomed the idea of improving the monitoring and evaluation of
mandates and missions under way. They stressed the need for
strengthening the capacity of preventive diplomacy, mediation and
peacebuilding, and underlined the importance of cooperation with
regional organizations such as the African Union.
"Let's put our own house in order first," the representative of the
United Kingdom said. The Council itself needed better information
and better military advice. The Council must also improve its own
practices, including with clear mandates and benchmarks. When
establishing mandates, it was also important to make sure that
there was peace to keep. Attention should shift to a practical way
Representatives of troop-contributing countries stressed the
importance of triangular consultations among the Council, the
Secretariat and troop-contributing countries. It was imperative
that the troop-contributing countries be involved from the
conception to the deployment of peacekeeping missions and that they
should be equally involved in the determination and review of
mandates. There should also be constant and reliable communications
between the Secretariat, field missions and troop- contributing
countries. Resources must be adequate and predictable to accomplish
the mandated tasks.
Nigeria's representative said it had become apparent that those who
provided materiel and logistical support for peacekeeping had
captured the peacekeeping process and relegated the welfare of
peacekeepers to the background. Attention and respect must revert
to the peacekeepers, who risked their lives, often without adequate
logistical support, in the cause of global peace. It was only
respect and support for peacekeepers that would encourage troopcontributing
countries to continue to commit their troops.
Other speakers in the debate were the representatives of Costa
Rica, Burkina Faso, Japan, Russian Federation, Croatia, Uganda,
Libya, United States, China, Turkey, Mexico, Viet Nam, India,
Pakistan, Jordan, Uruguay, Czech Republic (on behalf of the
European Union), Morocco (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement)
and Canada. The Permanent Observer of the African Union addressed
the Council as well.
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