The aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders)
says that United Nations peacekeepers in eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo are not doing enough to protect civilians from attacks by the
rebel Lord's Resistance Army. Meanwhile, the United Nations says its
mission there is undermanned, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
criticizing the international community's failure to deliver additional
troops to the peacekeeping force.
Since mid-December, when the
governments of Uganda, DRC and Southern Sudan launched a military
operation to pursue the LRA in eastern Congo, the rebels have killed
more than 900 civilians in reprisal attacks.
organization Doctors Without Borders - known by its French acronym MSF
- is one of the few that work in the region targeted by the rebels. It
says that an additional 100,000 civilians have been displaced since the
operation began and more than 50 villages targeted. The group says the
attacks have been brutal, with men, women, and children stabbed or
clubbed to death. Rapes have also been reported.
'Liability issues' hinder response
MSF, the 100 peacekeepers in the area from the U.N. mission, known as
MONUC, have done little to protect civilians, focusing instead on
providing logistical support to the FARDC, Congo's army. MSF's field
coordinator for the Haut-Uelé region, Hakim Chikam, says the
peacekeepers have not intervened in any LRA attacks and have declined
on multiple occasions to transport wounded civilians for medical
"In Nagero, a woman had her throat slit.
Miraculously, she survived. And, again, while MONUC went to Nagero,
they did not take her on board the helicopter, while they were
transporting FARDC troops. What they say is that there are liability
issues to the transport of injured civilians."
Nations says its mission in the DRC is understaffed and that it has to
use most of its resources in the east to respond to separate
instability in the provinces of North and South Kivu. Last year,
clashes between the government and the rebel National Congress for
Defense of the People displaced some 250,000 people there. The
governments of DRC and Rwanda are currently leading another operation
to target a Hutu militia operating in the region.
the U.N. Security Council approved an additional 3,000 troops
to bolster the existing 17,000 force. But, in a letter to the
Security Council, Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
criticized the international community's failure to supply troops and
other equipment for bolstering the mission, saying that, out of dozens
of countries approached, only Bangladesh has offered to contribute
UN should do more
But MSF's Chikam says the United Nations should still be able to do more with the resources it has.
believe that with the presence of MONUC in Dungu they could do more to
protect civilians. For instance they do not patrol the streets of
Dungu. The number of troops is not the only element that is important
in the protection of civilians. They could do much more," said Chikam.
LRA is believed to have between 500 and 1,000 fighters in eastern
Congo. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for
five of its top leaders. Two have since died. A third is believed to
be discussing a deal to surrender with the Ugandan army and the
International Organization for Migration.
The governments of
Uganda, DRC and Southern Sudan launched the current military operation
in mid-December, following rebel leader Joseph Kony's failure on
multiple occasions to show up to sign a peace agreement that had been
negotiated with the Ugandan government.