News / Africa

    UN Backs New DRC Offensive

    A joint UN-Congolese operation against a Rwandan Hutu rebel group is under way in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, just weeks after the anti-rebel military campaign was suspended amid allegations of rampant rights abuses.

    UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congno and DRC soldiers get ready to deploy from Gemena (2009 file photo)
    UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congno and DRC soldiers get ready to deploy from Gemena (2009 file photo)

    In December, as the mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo was up for renewal, global advocacy group Human Rights Watch reported that it had documented the "deliberate killing" of 1,400 civilians in the first nine months of 2009, during the military campaign against the Rwandan FDLR rebel group.

    The group said rebel and government forces were party to the civilian abuse, which also included widespread sexual violence.  Human Rights Watch implicated the U.N. mission supporting the Congolese army in the atrocities for logistically backing some of the rights-abusing Congolese commanders.

    Later that month, the U.N. Security Council extended the mission, known as MONUC, until the end of May, a shorter span than the usual one-year extension.

    The head of the U.N. mission in Congo, Alan Doss, announced at that time the offensive against the rebels in eastern DRC was ending and the Congolese army would focus on holding captured positions.  But Doss left open the possibility of continued U.N.-supported offensives in the future.

    Now, a new operation against FDLR strongholds is under way, supported and jointly-planned by MONUC.

    According MONUC spokesman Madnoje Mounoubai, the Congolese army units participating in the attacks were pre-screened, and one battalion tainted with rights violations will not receive support from the U.N. peacekeepers.

    He rebuffed criticism the U.N. forces were inadvertently adding to the poor humanitarian conditions by giving support to the much-maligned Congolese forces.

    "What is the alternative?  Not doing anything?  We cannot do that.  We are always concerned when we are launching a military operation that everything we can do to ensure security of the civilian population is done," he said.

    DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende says the new campaign against rebel pockets is on a smaller scale than the previous one, describing it as somewhere "between a military offensive and police work."

    The peacekeeping mission began in 1999 as the DRC was mired in a massive war that had already morphed into a wider regional conflict involving a number of outside nations.

    Since the end of that conflict, MONUC's main focus has been on the ongoing instability in the Kivu areas of the eastern territories.  There, the Rwandan government had been supporting a proxy Tutsi militia to attack the FDLR, whose leadership is thought to have been centrally involved in planning the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

    But in late 2008 the Congolese and Rwandan governments began to work together to dislodge the Hutu rebels, and much of the Tutsi militia was integrated into the Congolese army along with other community militias in the warlord-profuse region.

    MONUC has supported this newly-bolstered Congolese army,  criticized as poorly trained and ill-disciplined, in its campaign to push out the FDLR from its local strongholds, where Hutu rebels exploit the territory's rich mineral wealth to fund its ongoing survival.

    Few think that there is a long-term chance of peace in eastern DRC until there is a resolution to the FDLR threat.

    But the Kinsasha government says it has asked the U.N. mission to begin exiting its territory this year.

    "We have informed them that the withdrawal should start before the 30th of June this year, but we know that such a move needs time'" said DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende.  "So we expect the end of the withdrawal the 30th of June, 2011.  They seem to need more time, but we are reluctant," he said.  

    Analysts say Congolese President Joseph Kabila appears to want the international military presence out of his country during elections slated for later next year.

    "We do not see what they have not been able to do in 12 years that must be done in two or three years.  We think that we must come back to a traditional [relationship] with the United Nations in general, not an exceptional one.  And MONUC is an exceptional relationship," said Mende.

    Despite their disagreements with the U.N. mission in the past, many advocacy organizations say now is not the right time to wind down the peacekeepers' stay.

    Amnesty International DRC researcher Andrew Philip denounced the move by the Kabila government as self-motivated and against the interests of its own citizens.

    "It concerns us terribly," he said.  "To us it is a reckless request and a reckless decision because the security situation in the eastern part of the country, where MONUC is primarily concentrated, is not yet stable enough to allow for a substantial reduction of peacekeepers.  The humanitarian situation remains catastrophic.  And the real problems that remain in the East have not been dealt with," said Philip.

    He acknowledged the deluge of poor press against the U.N. mission has created "a degree of fatigue" in the international community, but said the DRC still needs outside support and scrutiny.

    "Frankly, the only real measure of protection for civilians in the eastern part of the country is MONUC," said Phillip.

    MONUC is the biggest peacekeeping mission in the world, comprised of nearly 20,000 troops.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora