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

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Audio Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

"Ebola in Town" has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid