Aid agencies have voiced fears that a possible military offensive by the United Nations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could make the humanitarian situation worse and lead to attacks on their workers.
US-based aid advocacy group Refugees International urged Mr Kerry to recognise that: “Unless certain safeguards are imposed, military action by the Intervention Brigade could further exacerbate DR Congo’s humanitarian crisis.”
The UN says more than 2.5 million people have been made homeless by the conflicts in the DR Congo — most of them in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres earlier said it was very concerned about a blurring of the distinction between the UN’s humanitarian and military work. Because of the potential confusion between those roles, MSF said it no longer wanted any military — including UN soldiers — deployed near its health facilities. There was a real danger, MSF said, that heightened tension could lead to a targeting of medical activities.
By Emmanuel Mugisha
The latest report by Human Right Watch does nothing but show the kind of bias that the US-based rights group has against the government of Rwanda, which makes me wonder how anybody with a fair mind fails to see this bias from the first to the last paragraph.
The report is deeply flawed – including quoting so-called Rwandan officers who have worked with M23 and were previously on Rwandan peacekeeping contingents in Darfur and Somalia- and only shows how too low HRW can stoop.
Surely it was not hard for this organization to establish that Rwanda has never deployed a single peacekeeper in Somalia.
In his well articulated document called ‘The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda’, retired American diplomat Richard Johnson, evidently proves that HRW’s discourse on Rwanda over the past twenty years has been viscerally hostile to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which defeated the genocidal regime in 1994.
In his own judgment, Human Rights Watch is far from doing human rights advocacy but actively involved in political advocacy against Rwanda.
An excerpt in his document calls upon the HRW’s Board of Directors to hold HRW personnel who cover Rwandan issues accountable for this travesty, which has dangerous implications for Western policy toward Rwanda.
The discipline of modern international relations considers non-state actors like HRW as potential actors in influencing diplomatic relations.
The continued and intentional bias of HRW reports against Rwanda leaves a big question in any ones rational mind as to whether HRW is not a well formed weapon against Rwanda targeting to tarnish the good and well earned reputation of Rwanda on the international scene.
As requested by Richard Johnson in his document, western governments should be careful about following HRW advice and reports on Rwanda simply because this will discourages Western governments from doing what they should to support Rwanda’s recovery from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Rwanda has on very many occasions proved her good will in contributing towards bringing sustainable peace in the Great Lakes region and being part of the solution to the sick man of Africa-Congo.
The HRW being adamant to accept Rwanda’s enormous contribution to the DRC question, recently produced a report linking the ongoing rape cases and human rights violation in DRC to Rwanda. Very unfair!
Human Right Watch, like other self styled watchdogs who play double standard when dealing with Rwanda, have a hidden agenda that the International community should endeavor to unearth before putting into consideration their misleading and biased reports.
I strongly believe that most of their decision making processes are not transparent. Is their practice open to public scrutiny and accountability? I wonder! The media ought to unveil to the international community the offense done against Rwanda by HRW.
The International Community should bring to account such organization especially by looking deeper into allegations such as paying witnesses to fabricate evidence, which is a common practice by Human Rights Watch.
We fight for our rights,we have to defend our lives, unless if the world believes that we must accept arbitrary arrests,and extermination of our families from the face of the Congo! We shall not surrender nor accept to be denied rights to exist on our ancestral land! Says Gen Sultan Makenga M23 Military Leader!
BY JEFFREY HERBST, GREG MILLS / foreignpolicy.com
The international community needs to recognize a simple, albeit brutal fact: The Democratic Republic of the Congo does not exist. All of the peacekeeping missions, special envoys, interagency processes, and diplomatic initiatives that are predicated on the Congo myth — the notion that one sovereign power is present in this vast country — are doomed to fail. It is time to stop pretending otherwise.
Much of Congo’s intractability stems from a vast territory that is sparsely populated but packed with natural resources. A mostly landlocked expanse at the heart of Africa, Congo comprises 67 million people from more than 200 ethnic groups. The country is bordered by nine others — among them some of the continent’s weakest states.
A local Kiswahili saying holds, Congo is a big country — you will eat it until you tire away! And indeed, for centuries, this is precisely what Congo’s colonial occupiers, its neighbors, and even some of its people have done: eaten away at Congo’s vast mineral wealth with little concern for the coherency of the country left behind. Congo has none of the things that make a nation-state: interconnectedness, a government that is able to exert authority consistently in territory beyond the capital, a shared culture that promotes national unity, or a common language. Instead, Congo has become a collection of peoples, groups, interests, and pillagers who coexist at best.
Congo today is a product of its troubled history: a century of brutal colonialism, 30 years of Cold War meddling and misrule under U.S. ally Mobutu Sese Seko, and more than a decade of war following his ouster in 1997. That conflict, which embroiled much of southern Africa, brought rebel leader Laurent Kabila, a one-time revolutionary colleague of Che Guevara, to power. Kabila was assassinated just a few short years later, leaving his son, Joseph Kabila, in office in Kinshasa, Congo’s ostensible capital.
The younger Kabila inherited a broken infrastructure and a tenuous national identity shaped on repression and patronage rather than governance and the supply of basic services. Despite winning internationally sponsored elections in 2006, he still struggles to rule over a territory one quarter of the size of the United States, where a nebulous sense of Congolese identity — based on French, music, and a shared oppressive history — has not translated into allegiance to the Congolese state. Innumerable secessionist attempts, including those instigated by his father, have turned Congo into ungovernable fiefdoms tenuously linked to the center. Kabila has few tools at his disposal. There is little in the way of a disciplined army and police force; they are more used to living off than serving the population. Like Mobutu before him, Kabila is dependent on patronage to remain in power and on revenue from aid flows and mining taxes.
Economically, the various outlying parts of Congo are better integrated with their neighbours than with the rest of the country. For instance, it is hard for anyone sitting in Lubumbashi, the capital of mineral-rich Katanga province in the far southeast, to see Kinshasa as ruling. It is a two-day journey from Lubumbashi to South Africa’s Johannesburg; the trip from Katanga to Kinshasa — of similar distance — is seldom attempted, even contemplated. With more in common with its southern Anglophone neighbors than with Kinshasa, no wonder one Zambian minister privately refers to Katanga as Zambia’s 10th province. Congo’s neighbors have learned to ignore its sovereignty.
The Congolese government’s inability to control its territory has resulted in one of the world’s longest and most violent wars. About 4 million people died between 2000 and 2004 — and that was merely one episode of the ongoing conflict. War has led to the predation of the various armies on the civilian populations, the destruction of what were the country’s transport and agrarian systems, and the collapse of any semblance of public health. Internationally, Congo has gained notoriety for the tremendous violence suffered by its civilians and the widespread use of rape as a method of coercion.
The many combatants in today’s Congo have little incentive to form a united country; they benefit from the violent chaos that ensures that so many can pick at the country’s resources. The international community does not have the will or the resources to construct a functional Congo. Nor do neighbors want one Congo, as many find it easier to deal with a plethora of ungoverned parts over which they can exert influence. Rwanda, Angola, and Uganda, for example, have all intervened to protect their security interests over the past decades.
To clean up the mess, the Central African country has been home to one of the world’s largest peacekeeping operations. More than 18,400 United Nations peacekeeping troops and observers are stationed in Congo at an annual cost of $1.24 billion. Yet recent events demonstrate just how impossible their task has become. Early this year, Rwandan troops entered eastern Congo’s two Kivu provinces with Kinshasa’s permission to flush out rebel Hutu militias left over from the Rwandan genocide a decade ago. Despite achieving some military success, reprisals by the Hutu militias left more than 100 civilians dead.
The Kivu provinces are not the only restive areas. Trouble has flared sporadically in the Bas-Congo, Ituri, Katanga, and Kasai provinces of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest state. At January 2008’s peace talks, the government categorized one of the largest rebel groups, the CNDP, as just one of two dozen armed militias not under government control. Nationwide elections in 2006, on which the international community spent more than a billion dollars, did little to mend Congo’s many divisions.
Given the immense human tragedy, it is time to ask if provinces such as the Kivus and Katanga (which are themselves the size of other African countries) can ever be improved as long as they fall under a fictional Congolese state. Although African states recognize the borders on paper, Congo’s neighbors have often acted as if no such lines exist. The international community is the only remaining player devoting large amounts of resources to the idea of one Congo — with dismal returns.
A solution to Congo’s troubles is possible with a reimagined approach. The West could start by making development and order its first priority in the Congolese territory, rather than focusing on the promotion of the Congolese state. This simple distinction immediately casts the Congolese problem in a whole new light. It would mean, for instance, that foreign governments and aid agencies would deal with whomever exerted control on the ground rather than continuing to pretend that Kinshasa is ruling and running the country. Such an approach might bring into the picture a confusing array of governors, traditional leaders, warlords, and others rather than the usual panoply of ministers. But that would finally be a reflection of who is actually running Congo.
Instead of continuing to spend billions of dollars on putting Congo together, the international community could regionally address actual security and political problems. For instance, troubles in eastern Congo have as much to do with continuing Rwandan insecurity than with what the government in Kinshasa is (or is not capable of) doing. A more realistic foreign policy toward eastern Congo would assign a high priority to Rwandan security interests, given that many derive from the wake of the 1994 genocide. Get this right and there might actually be a chance to reduce the violence that has haunted the Kivus. It would also incentivize the Rwandans to see Congo as a natural partner in trade and development rather than a security problem to be managed unilaterally. Joint Congolese-Rwandan operations early this year are a step in this direction.
Congo is rightly notorious for being one of the most pathological instances of the European division of Africa. Perhaps as a result, Western powers have shied away from anything other than reflexively trying to get Congo to work within the boundaries that the king of Belgium helped establish in 1885. Setting aside the scope of human tragedy, there are real reasons that getting things right in Congo matters now more than ever. The country is the region’s vortex; when it has failed in the past, its neighbors have often gone down with it.
The very concept of a Congolese state has outlived its usefulness. For an international community that has far too long made wishful thinking the enemy of pragmatism, acting on reality rather than diplomatic theory would be a good start.
After being overwhelmed by M23 forces in Goma and nearby towns last year, angry FARDC soldiers retreated to Minova. The soldiers, many of whom fled their hometowns leaving behind wives and children, said morale was low among the humiliated troops.
“There were over 2,000 soldiers out of control, with no orders,” said one soldier whose face was blurred in Lloyd-Davies’ footage that she shot on assignment for the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and the BBC.
“We’d lost all hope,” said another soldier. “We weren’t thinking like human beings anymore.”
The soldiers recount in candid detail how they went about raping the women of Minova.
“You see one, you catch her, you take her away and you have your way with her,” one explained. “Sometimes you’d kill her … When you’d finish raping then you’d kill her child.”
“Raping gives us a lot of pleasure,” said one soldier. “When we rape we feel free.”
Victims said the soldiers attacked the town in a frenzy and without warning.
“There were three who raped me,” one woman said. “I thought I was going to die.”
Is justice possible in Congo?
At least 102 women and 33 girls were raped or sexually assaulted by government soldiers in Minova, according to a U.N. report, but many observers believe the actual numbers are much higher. Eleven army officers have been arrested in connection with these incidents, but only two for related cases of rape, and no trial date has been set. Twelve army commanders have been suspended, but none have been arrested or charged.
The suspensions are a step in the right direction, say human right advocates, but do not go nearly far enough.
“It’s hard to be optimistic about justice in Congo,” said Rona Peligal at Human Rights Watch. “We’ve seen some positive movement, but the challenges and obstacles are great.”
The Congolese military has been collecting evidence and conducting interviews, but the investigation is reportedly delayed because many victims cannot identify their attackers.
“How can you see someone who is punching you in the eyes?” asked one victim. “How do you recognize someone who is inserting a gun barrel in your mouth while another man is between your legs?”
There is legal precedent, however, in cases where the attackers cannot be identified, to put their commanding officers on trial. Some of the soldiers interviewed said they were ordered to rape civilians.
“The commander gave us an order. He was the one who started to do it,” said one soldier, who claimed to have raped 53 women ranging in age from 30s and 40s to 3-year-olds.
Putting commanding officers on trial would be a bold move and a significant step in the army’s effort to enforce its zero-tolerance policy.
Lloyd-Davies, who was in Congo recently, said she sees signs of political will to prosecute the officers.
“Rather than hold our hands up in horror and say Congo has failed again,” said Lloyd-Davies, “we need to report this and keep the issue alive. There has to be a change and people have to be punished.”
FRANCE24 TELEVISION: We bring you a shocking insight into the horror of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the east of the country, thousands of women, children and even men were raped last November. A crime committed not by the M23 rebels, but by the regular army, supposed to protect the population. Our reporter Fiona Lloyd-Davies went to Minova in South Kivu province, where the rapists are now coming face to face with their victims in court.
See the vedeo on France24 RAPE IN DR CONGO VICTIMS AND TORTURES