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DRC Lawmaker: Government Has Failed to Protect Citizens

A M23 rebel fighter prepares his machine gun at their defense position in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in north Kivu province, near the border with Uganda, July 12, 2012.
A Democratic Republic of Congo parliamentarian says the government has failed to form a credible army capable of defending its citizens from violent attacks by armed groups.

Aime Boji, who is also a leading member of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) opposition party, said the administration has so far abdicated its responsibility enshrined in the constitution, which he said is to protect Congolese from any foreign aggression.

“We have been telling the government to get on with the reform of the security sector, which includes the building of a truly republican army here in DRC… They have basically had 10 years to build a strong republican army… protect the citizens, but again they have failed to do so,” said Boji.

"The conflict in the east has led to the displacement of millions of people and it only continues on a repetitive basis. So, yes, the feeling is that of sadness and we have put it to the government hoping that they would be able to find a way to quickly end this situation.”

Boji said many legislators are displeased with the government’s handling of the ongoing clashes between the M23 rebels and the national army (FARDC).

But, the government said the national army is aggressively pushing back rebel attacks. U.N. helicopters Thursday attacked positions of the rebels in the eastern part of the country.

Boji said the government’s efforts to protect civilians have not been adequate.

“It is not enough because they had plenty of time to deal with this issue. They have had a number of opportunities which, in my view, they have missed,” Boji said.

He attributes the upsurge in violence to the government’s decision to abandon the “Amani peace program,” which brought together all armed groups operating in the country’s northeast, as well as civil society groups to resolve the concerns that led to their insurgencies.

"The government decided to end that program and enter into a joint military [operation] with Rwanda in eastern Congo and this is what has led to the current situation, of the mutiny of a section of our army in the east, which has asked the government to honor its engagement when they signed an agreement in March 2009,” Boji said.

Boji welcomed calls by neighboring Gabon for efforts to resolve the ongoing security crisis in the DRC.

Emmanuel Issozet Ngondet, Gabon’s foreign minister, called for a frank dialogue to ensure peace is restored in the restive east of the DRC, shortly after meeting President Joseph Kabila, Thursday.

"We welcome the initiative by the Gabonese foreign minister. I believe that most Congolese believe that a political solution is the best way to end this. But, on our side, we need to engage in a serious national debate on how to put to an end to this situation, which has been going on for 10 years,” Boji said.

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