The head of the United Nation's peacekeeping mission in the Democratic
Republic of Congo says significant progress has been made in
stabilizing conflict areas in the East, but that the Lords Resistance
Army continues to pose a serious threat to civilians there.
Alan Doss told the U.N. Security Council Thursday that the
reconciliation between the governments of Congo and Rwanda has led to a
real change on the ground in North Kivu since mid-January. That is
when two of the main rebel groups - the CNDP and PARECO - followed by
other armed groups, declared an end to the conflict and their readiness
to integrate into the Congolese army.
Fighters from the
Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda or FDLR have also begun
voluntarily going home. Doss said more than 500 fighters and their
dependents have been repatriated this year.
Doss, who heads the
U.N. mission known as MONUC, said this change has brought new
challenges, including paying salaries and providing food and ammunition
to the newly integrated troops. But he said it has also brought a very
important success - the release of many child soldiers.
significant success in the accelerated integration is MONUC's
separation of almost 1,100 children associated with armed groups since
the beginning of the process earlier this year," said Doss.
said the U.N.'s immediate efforts are focused on consolidating the
peace process in the Kivus and containing the threat of armed groups
such as the Lord's Resistance Army.
LRA has dispersed into small groups, who have sown terror and taken
revenge by looting, raping, maiming, abducting and killing civilians in
a vast area stretching from northern Ituri to the border with the
Central African Republic," said Doss.
He said most
of these attacks occurred between late December 2008 and mid-January
2009. Altogether, about 1,100 civilians were killed, hundreds abducted
and 200,000 displaced.
of attacks has gone down significantly in recent weeks, but there are
indications that the LRA may be regrouping, and a new wave of attacks
in the future cannot be ruled out," added Doss.
said U.N. peacekeepers are also faced with protecting civilians from
reprisal attacks from the FDLR and undisciplined members of the
Congolese security forces. The mission is also working with the
government to combat sexual violence, which is at epidemic levels in
In November, the U.N. Security Council approved
a temporary surge of 3,000 additional peacekeepers for the
17,000-strong mission in Congo, but so far those troops have yet to
materialize. Doss said several countries have confirmed their intention
to provide soldiers and police, but the mission still needs 18
helicopters for rapid deployment and reaction.