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Congo (Kinshasa): Conflict Fueled from Many Sources

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Dec 22, 2009 (091222)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Minerals and arms smuggling worth millions of dollars persists in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) despite international sanctions, fuelling rebel strength despite national army operations, and army and rebel soldiers continue to kill civilians, according to a new United Nations report that calls on the Security Council to take action to plug the gaps." - UN News, reporting on independent Group of Experts on sanctions on DRC

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Note:

AfricaFocus Bulletin will be taking a year-end break for holidays and for needed website software updates. Publication of the Bulletin will resume in late January. The website will remain available without interruption.

Best wishes to AfricaFocus readers for the holiday season and the new year!

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This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several news releases from the United Nations (all available at http://www.un.org/News), referring to the report by the Group of Experts monitoring sanctions on minerals and arms smuggling, on the continuation of the UN peacekeeping mission, and on the UN decision to cease cooperation with Congolese government army units accused of significant rights abuses in the most recent offensive.

The full report of the Group of Experts, with extensive detail and documentation regarding smuggling networks linking the eastern Congo with neighboring countries as well as diaspora and commercial interests in Europe and the Middle East, is available at: http://allafrica.com/view/resource/main/main/id/00011978.html A very useful summary of the report, by Africa Confidential, is available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/200911250877.html

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today, available on the web but not sent out by e-mail, contains a summary of a related report by Global Witness on "the militarization of mining in eastern Congo," as well as links to other reports and recommendations on the issue See http://www.africafocus.org/docs09/gw0912.php

Further recent documentation on human rights abuses by government forces supported by the United Nations, as well as by rebel forces, is available in a new report from Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org / direct link:http://tinyurl.com/y9mr6e3) and in a Field Dispatch from Noel Atama of the Enough Project at http://www.enoughproject.org
(direct link: http://tinyurl.com/ykfb8f4)

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletin's on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/congokin.php

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Global minerals, arms smuggling networks fuel DR Congo conflict - UN report

Full report is available at:
http://allafrica.com/view/resource/main/main/id/00011978.html

7 December 2009 - Minerals and arms smuggling worth millions of dollars persists in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) despite international sanctions, fuelling rebel strength despite national army operations, and army and rebel soldiers continue to kill civilians, according to a new United Nations report that calls on the Security Council to take action to plug the gaps.

The independent Group of Experts monitoring UN sanctions on the DRC reports that the mainly Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Forces d‚mocratiques de lib‚ration du Rwanda (FDLR) continue to exploit gold and cassiterite in North and South Kivu provinces with the help of trading networks in Uganda, Burundi and the United Arab Emirates, while irregular arms deliveries have come from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Sudan.

End buyers for cassiterite include the Malaysia Smelting Corporation and the Thailand Smelting and Refining Company, which is held by United Kingdom-based Amalgamated Metals Corporation, the experts add. The rebels also get weapons leaked to them from the army itself while the rebel diaspora abroad, particularly in Europe, coordinates fundraising and operations.

"The increasing rate of FDLR combatant defections and FDLR temporary removal from many of its bases are only a partial success, considering that the armed group has regrouped in a number of locations in the Kivus, and continues to recruit new fighters," they write of the army's offensive, noting that the rebels continue to benefit from residual but significant support from top army commanders and external support networks in Burundi and Tanzania.

"FDLR has a far-reaching international diaspora network involved in the day-to-day running of the movement, the coordination of military and arms trafficking activities and the management of financial activities."

The report calls on the Security Council to ask Member States to share data on active FDLR diaspora members, prosecute sanctions violations by nationals or leaders of armed groups residing in their territories and take steps to prevent companies from supporting such groups by trade in natural resources.

The Council should also call on all States in the Great Lakes region to immediately publish their full import and export statistics for gold, cassiterite, coltan and wolframite and centralize them in a body chaired by an independent auditor mandated to verify any statistical anomalies.

"The focus of the report is the international, regional and local networks that are fuelling the crisis in eastern Congo," Group Coordinator Dinesh Mahtani told a news conference.

The experts call on the Council to strengthen the authority of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) in monitoring the arms embargo, and to reiterate its request to Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, the Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia to provide full data on all flights to or from the DRC.

On human rights abuses, they call on the Council to mandate MONUC to set up a vetting mechanism to screen the records of national army officers and impose disciplinary and judicial sanctions on gross human rights abusers. "FARDC (the national army) and FDLR have been involved in significant killings of civilians and other abuses from March to October 2009, causing additional waves of displacement of several hundred thousand civilians," they write.

Turning to the efforts to reintegrate former rebels into the army, the experts report that the officer class of another group, the CongrŠs national pour la d‚fense du peuple (CNDP), in particular General Bosco Ntaganda, has continued to retain heavy weapons from its period of rebellion and still controls revenue-generating activities and parallel local administrations.

They call on the Council to urge the DRC authorities to remove General Ntaganda from the position of Deputy Commander of Kimia II operations (the offensive against FDLR) and implement an assets freeze and travel ban against him, since his name is included in the list of individuals under sanctions.

"CNDP military officers deployed as part of FARDC Kimia II operations have profited from their deployment in mineral-rich areas, notably at the Bisie mine in Walikale, North Kivu, and in the territory of Kalehe, in South Kivu," they write.

"In both these areas, the FARDC commanding officers on the ground are former CNDP officers," they add, citing evidence showing direct involvement of CNDP military officials in the supply of minerals to a number of exporting houses which supply the international companies mentioned above.


DR Congo: UN has suspended cooperation with army units accused of rights abuses

14 December 2009 - United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have suspended logistical or other support for units of the National Armed Forces (FARDC) when there are sufficient grounds to believe their operations would violate human rights, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Asked at a news conference about a report that 1,400 civilians had been killed by Congolese or Rwandan troops and by rebels in eastern DRC as a result of the so-called Kimia II military operations launched with the cooperation of the UN Mission in DRC, known as MONUC, Mr. Ban replied: "MONUC continues to give the highest priority to the protection of civilians, which is something I strongly value. We have always acted in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council."

MONUC and the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) requested advice from the Office of Legal Affairs and they have already suspended cooperation with certain units, he said.

"We will continue to work, keeping in mind the highest priority is protecting the civilian population in military operations," he added. "Unfortunately, the Kimia II operation has been proved to be where many civilian casualties have happened, and that is why we have immediately suspended our military operations and cooperation with some parts of the Congolese national forces."

He pointed out that MONUC's mandate is to help the Congolese Armed Forces, but stressed: "I made it, and we made it, quite clear that whenever there [are] grounds for violation of the human rights situation, then we will suspend these military operations."

Asked whether the situation was serious enough for a blanket suspension, he replied: "There is an overall important mission that MONUC has to carry out in accordance with the Security Council mandate to preserve peace and security and to protect the civilian population."

"I am not sure whether it is desirable to suspend the whole peacekeeping operation there. That is what the Security Council has to decide, in closely following the situation, as well as assessing the situation there."


DR Congo: UN forces, army adopt new directives with civilian protection at core

16 December 2009 - United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the national army adopted new directives today for operations against rebels with the protection of civilians as the core focus following reports of massacres and other serious human rights violations by Congolese soldiers.

Announcing the new directives to the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative Alan Doss highlighted the dilemma faced by the UN Mission in DRC, known as MONUC, which is mandated to "give the highest priority" to protecting civilians, while at the same time working with the national army, which includes elements responsible for human rights abuses, in fighting rebels in the east of the vast country.

"There is no easy answer to this dilemma and we are looking towards the Council for clear guidance in this respect," he said, presenting Mr. Ban's latest report on the DRC, which calls for a six-month extension of MONUC, one of the UN's largest operations with nearly 20,000 uniformed personnel, until 30 June.

Asked at a news conference on Monday about reports that 1,400 civilians had been killed by Congolese or Rwandan troops and by rebels as a result of the so-called Kimia II military operations launched with MONUC's support, Mr. Ban said the mission had suspended logistical or other support for units of the Congolese National Armed Forces (FARDC) when there were sufficient grounds to believe their operations would violate human rights.

Underscoring the dilemma, an independent UN human rights expert today named two FARDC commanders, Innocent Zimurinda and Bosco Ntaganda, who remain in the their posts, as facing serious accusations of human rights violations.

"It is a contradiction of basic UN principles for UN peacekeepers to cooperate with a military operation led by individuals who stand accused of war crimes and grave human rights abuses," UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston said in a news release.

Mr. Alston, who reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, added that while action against the mainly Rwandan Hutu rebel group FDLR in eastern DRC was necessary, the manner in which Kimia II it has been carried out has been "absolutely catastrophic" for civilians.

"There has been insufficient planning for civilian protection, and civilians have been raped to death and massacred in revenge attacks by the rebels. Shockingly, civilians have also been gang-raped and hacked or shot to death by the Congolese army, the very force that is supposed to protect them," he stressed.

It is to address these problems that Mr. Doss announced the new directives today, with Kimia II ending by 31 December. "The FARDC and MONUC will now concentrate on holding ground recovered from the FDLR and preventing attacks on civilians in areas of vulnerability, while undertaking focused interventions against any centres of command and control where the FDLR may have regrouped," he said. "Protection of civilians has to be at the core of these operations."

He later told reporters that it was important to have the FARDC stabilized in some areas "with our support and our presence. So I would expect there would be fewer operations conducted, but we've still kept open the possibility of targeted operations if we see the FDLR regrouping and attempting to strike or recover or conduct reprisals."

MONUC aided Kimia II with helicopter lifts, medical evacuation, fuel and rations, as well as firepower support to FARDC to keep FDLR from reclaiming areas previously under its control.

He noted that human rights violations were rife in North and South Kivu provinces. "Sexual violence continues unchecked. Armed groups together with uncontrolled elements of the FARDC are responsible for most of these violations," he said.

Kimia II's goal of ending FDLR's control of population centres and weakening its ability to exploit the country's natural resources such as gold and cassiterite "has been largely achieved, although we do recognize there have been very serious humanitarian consequences," he added.

He reiterated the need to dismantle the international and expatriate networks behind the minerals and arms smuggling in the eastern provinces, which have continued to seethe with rebel and ethnic violence after much of the rest of the once war-torn country has returned to relative calm.

"At the same time, the Congolese Government must ensure the progressive demilitarization of the mining areas and prevent its own armed forces from exploiting these resources," he warned.

"Unfortunately, with the recent round of integration and demobilization of Congolese armed groups (whose members were enlisted in the army after reaching accords with the Government), the problem of discipline in the FARDC has worsened."

Mr. Doss noted that MONUC was implementing, together with other UN agencies, a multi-faceted protection strategy for tens of thousands of civilians "under the threat of imminent danger," with 58 forward bases. "I can assure that local people greatly appreciate our presence and the protection that MONUC provides," he said.

Over 1.25 million people have been uprooted or re-displaced by violence in North and South Kivu provinces, and the volatile security situation has hampered aid agencies' efforts to provide assistance.


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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URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs09/un0912.php