In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the National
Congress for the Defense of the Congolese People (CNDP) rebel group loyal to
renegade general Laurent Nkunda is reportedly provoking fights against other
militia groups and causing instability in the restive North Kivu province.
President Joseph Kabila's government is accusing the rebel group of going on
rampage and executing civilians whom they claim to be members of other militias
in the area.
The government adds that actions of the CNDP rebels are
undermining the cessation of hostilities agreement recently signed between the
government and other rebel groups in North Kivu. But the rebels deny the
accusation, blaming the government for the deaths of the civilians. Anneke
Van-Woudenberg is the senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in the
Democratic Republic of Congo. She tells reporter Peter Clottey that peace seems
to be elusive to most of the residents in North Kivu province.
Human Rights Watch has published today is a report detailing a 10-day
investigation mission that we conducted in eastern Congo, and specifically in
the province of North Kivu. And what we found is that since the signing of the
ceasefire, six months ago, that the rape and the killing of civilians continue.
Now, one of those groups are indeed the soldiers of Laurent Nkunda, a renegade
general who has been operating here in eastern Congo,"
Van-Woudenberg pointed out.
said other military groups in the area are also involved in destabilizing that
part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
troops (Nkunda) are not the only ones. Human Rights Watch also documented
serious killings by a coalition of three other armed groups. These are
Congolese Hutu groups called the PARECO (Coalition of Congolese Patriotic
Resistance) and the Mai Mai, but also the Rwandan Hutu groups who have been
operating here in the forest of eastern Congo for the past 14 years. So what we
found is an ongoing serious situation for the protection of civilians, and for
most people there is no peace," she said.
describes the abuse of human rights allegedly being committed by government
forces also as unseemly.
"First of all these soldiers
of the Congolese army are also involved in human rights abuses. They are
looting from the local population, and raping women and girls, but perhaps as
importantly, we have discovered that they also continue to support this
coalition of armed groups including the Rwanda Hutu groups some of whom
participated in the genocide in 1994. This is the group that the Congolese
government have claimed they will seek to disarm, a group that is supposed to
return to Rwanda. But in fact we have found that the Congolese government
continues to support them and their allies, which means that we seriously
question the government's commitment to this process," Van-Woudenberg noted.
She said Human Rights Watch
has begun meetings with other armed groups and stakeholders to find a solution
to the problems documented in the report.
"Human Rights Watch have
been meeting for the past two days with leaders from all of the armed groups as
well as from senior officers from the Congolese army, and other government
officials to tell them what we have documented in our investigations, and
urging them to act on this. And we very much hope that they will take this
seriously," she said.
Van-Woudenberg said there
was need for an international effort to implement the peace process.
"But of course one of the
other things we have been urging is for the international facilitators to the
peace process, which includes the United States, and the European Union, and we
have said to them, let's make central to this peace process the protection of
civilians. And we are urging appointment of a special advisor on human rights
so that we can ensure that the protection of civilians and respect for human
rights is at the center of this peace process, and not a forgotten issue that
is never dealt with," Van-Woudenberg pointed out.