Four human rights groups are urging the UN Security Council
to dispatch additional peacekeepers to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s
Orientale province to help the Congolese army contain attacks by Ugandan
rebels. Human Rights Watch, Resolve
Uganda, the Justice and Peace Commission of Congo’s Dungu/Doruma, and the
Enough Project are also asking Britain, the United States, and countries near
the DRC to pursue an arrest strategy against Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)
rebel leader General Joseph Kony and
his followers, who are wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war
In Washington, the Enough Project’s Africa Advocacy Director Colin Thomas-Jensen said the attacks have escalated
in the past two months and are straining the mandate of a 17-thousand troop UN
peacekeeping force, known by its acronym MONUC, which has been trying to curb
tensions in Congo’s neighboring North Kivu Province.
patterns that we’re seeing, the hit-and-run attacks on large towns that have
military bases, like the town of Dungu, we think it’s part of a broader plan by
the Lord’s Resistance Army to increase their ranks, to bolster their military
capacity for ultimately what could be another round of conflict in region,”
the Juba peace process between Ugandan rebels and the Kampala government which
took place in southern Sudan, LRA negotiators have offered and then declined to
sign a final agreement to end more than 20 years of insurgency in northern
Uganda. The Enough Project’s
Thomas-Jensen says that this week’s most current hints that General Kony will
go ahead and sign the accord might counteract the peace process and complicate the insurgency even more.
could actually lead to a very complicated situation, one in which Kony might
actually sign a deal but then not come out of the bush. And then what do you have? You have a signed
peace deal, but the rebellion remains ensconced in a national park across the
border. And what does that do for any
sort of military options that might be on the table? What does it do for demobilization because he signed a peace
deal, but they’re still in the bush? So
I think what we’re likely going to see at the end of the month is a
continuation of the status quo. I don’t
think we’re going to see much of a change.
But if he does sign, it does alter the situation and make it somewhat
more complicated,” he noted.
says there are multiple reasons why the human rights organizations are pushing
for Washington, London and Congo’s neighbors to step up the pressure to
prosecute the rebels.
and foremost, the threat that the LRA poses to civilians, this is one of the
most bitter insurgencies of all time in terms of its ability to cause terror
and displace civilians at one-point-seven million Ugandans displaced by just a
couple of thousand LRA fighters. Also,
I think you have to put the issue of the LRA in the context of our never-ending
quest for international justice. Joseph
Kony is an indicted war criminal, indicted by the International Criminal Court
along with four of his cohorts, two of which are now deceased. And the fact that these warrants were issued
but there was no plan by the international community to execute the warrants I
think speaks volumes about the gap between the rhetoric on international
justice and the action,” he said.
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s return to New York from last weekend’s
emergency summit on the troubled Great Lakes region in Nairobi, Kenya,
discussions intensified at UN headquarters as the Secretary General pressed for
a ceasefire in North Kivu province, northwest of Orientale. Alan Doss, the UN chief’s special representative
for Congo appealed in early October for reinforcements for MONUC, and security
council consideration remains under discussion. In August, 150 current MONUC peacekeepers were dispatched to
neighboring Orientale to protect civilians and help Congolese troops contain
the LRA. But six DRC army deaths and
three rebel fatalities in October have prompted the four human rights
organizations to press for additional UN peacekeepers. Thomas-Jensen says it’s a matter for the
security council urgently to sort out the priorities.
“The situation we’re seeing right
now in the Congo is one that has the potential to spiral out of control pretty
dramatically, and one that demands a
big response, both diplomatically, but also in the immediate term militarily. I do think that there does need to be an
additional deployment of troops in the Kivus.
But the risk in neglecting what is a very serious and increasingly
violent insurgency by the LRA in Garamba National Park, I think the risk you
run in not addressing that is that we’ll have to be three, four, five, six
months down the road dealing with yet another massive crisis that we’ve allowed
to spill out of control,” he warned.