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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs