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Congo (Kinshasa): Risky Steps towards Peace

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jan 28, 2009 (090128)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

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

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 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 at


Many thanks to those subscribers who have recently sent in a voluntary subscription payment to support AfricaFocus Bulletin. If you haven't yet sent in such a payment and are able to do so, please help AfricaFocus reach more people with reliable information on Africa. Send in a check or pay on-line by credit card. See for details.

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Congo-Kinshasa: Civilians At Risk From Further Fighting After Nkunda Arrest

26 January 2009

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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," Lacaille said.

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 protection.

Conflict warnings

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," Prunier said.

"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 desperately need."

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 the CNDP.

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 told IRIN.

The Stunning Developments in Eastern Congo - What Do They Mean?

By Colin Thomas-Jensen

Published on Enough (

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. What happened?

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 [11] 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 [15] 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 [16], access to land, economic and physical security of ethnic minorities (particularly Tutsis), and contentious debates over citizenship and identity.

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 Congo

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 Government.

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 region.

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. Pillay.

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 peaceful solution.

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 for civilians.

"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 general.

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 Strengthen Peacekeeping

SC/9583 - January 23, 2009

Security Council
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 peacekeeping".

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 considered.

"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 ahead.

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.

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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