DR Congo: International community overwhelmed by complexity of crisis

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Human Rights watch has called on the United Nations to change its policy and strategy towards humanitarian intervention and conflict resolution in Congo. A leaked report, by UN panel of experts, claim there had been an upsurge in violence despite the UN joining the Congolese army to fight the rebels.

“There needs to be a comprehensive approach to dealing with this rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The report that was leaked today shows the huge diaspora networks that assist in money-laundering, in arms-trafficking, in the extraction of minerals and in the sale of those minerals. Until you cut off that side of it, I don’t think these operations are going to have any success,” Anneke Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch is quoted as saying.

The report says FDLR rebels have been able to use vast international networks to bolster their supply of arms and recruit extra soldiers. Rwandan rebels are also supported by senior members of the Congolese military. And the Congolese army has factions within it operating effectively as separate militias.

Ms. Voudenberg has called for a greater effort to tackle a global crime network backing the ethnic Hutu rebels. The rights group also say that the UN risked complicity in murders and rapes as most of the UN supported military operation against the rebel factions have often been followed by reprisal attacks on civilians by rebels; attacks that have often included rapes, mutilation and abduction.

The Security Council, which has already voted twice to continue with Monuc’s mission, faces a decision on whether to renew Monuc’s mandate at the end of the year as they continue to debate the findings of the experts. The new report does not criticize the UN peacekeeping mission known by its French acronym, Monuc – but suggests there may be a contradiction in its mission to both protect civilians and back a military campaign widely accused of atrocities. Experts say the UN will be closely watched to see how it takes into account the latest revelations.

Ituri success

Despite the crticisms of the UN peacekeeping mission in Kivu, they have been able to bring some peace in other provinces like Ituri. “Thanks to the work Monuc did, districts like Ituri today are at peace. They used to have over 20 different armed groups active in Ituri, today Ituri is pretty much a very peaceful place.” Spokesman Manoj Manoubai reportedly pointed to the successes Monuc had had in Ituri province where a bitter conflict ended in 2003 and several alleged warlords have gone on trial.

According to UN Group of military experts, FDLR, the Rwandan Hutu militia, controls gold and tin mining areas with about 6,000 – 8,000 fighters while Tutsi-led group CNDP, operates as a parallel militia of 6,000 men. With Monuc commanding an 18,000 UN peacekeepers nationwide and Congolese army commanding 50,000 soldiers in the east there is yet a solid policy or strategy to resolve the conflict.

The recent UN report also revealed that Burundi and Tanzania are supplying arms to FDLR; in a high-level contract between the rebels and the Tanzanian government. And both countries serve as conduits for the FDLR to traffic gold to the United Arab Emirates. Also, Rwanda is the cassiterite smuggling centre; where former CNDP rebels stay in contact with Kigali businessmen. The report also points out that Sudan and North Korea are Irregular deliveries of arms to DR Congo. And worryingly, FDLR members abroad maintain links between leaders in Europe, North America and commanders on the ground; perpetuating money-laundering in South Kivu’s illegal minerals export trade.

According to Africa analyst Peter Greste of the BBC, the people behind the leak are clearly worried enough about the UN’s willingness to adopt its recommendations to break the organization’s protocol and pass the report to the press. This is not the first report by a UN group of experts. The last one published a year ago came up with strikingly similar recommendations. If nothing was done to implement those recommendations the first time around, there are good reasons for insiders to suspect that nothing will be done this time.

On its own, the report will not resolve the complex mess in DR Congo, but the people who broke the rules and handed it to the BBC believe that if the UN takes it seriously, it can make a significant difference.

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