Congo: Terminator in luxury, peacekeepers in contemplation

The UN mission in Congo is the largest operation of peacekeeping in the world, estimated at $ 1.350 billion per year. But instead of putting an end to an epidemic of rape and murder, UN forces are accused of actively supporting those they are supposed to bring to justice.

first, there is nothing disturbing about seeing a man playing tennis on red clay courts of the Hotel Karibu. Other guests in the hotel's park across the lawns treated calmly, dine in a Rondavel (kind of typical box) thatched or sip drinks while watching the Lake Kivu.

But the casual sports in this oasis of luxury amid the poverty of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a man whom the United Nations would have preferred it had never existed.

Bosco Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague because he would have hired and sent to fight for children aged under 15 years. He is also accused of being in command of troops responsible for massacres of civilians, which earned him the nickname "Terminator". Yet Ntaganda, who would 36 years old, is not only still at liberty, but it serves as an army general who has the full support of the UN mission in Congo, known as the mission of MONUC. He is the epitome of what critics call a "pact with the devil". While the world's eyes turned to the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, many think that the hills to dense forests of eastern Congo are witnessing a new chapter in the shameful history of keeping the peace UN to classify side deployments powerless in Srebrenica and Rwanda.

Loss of confidence

"I can not be trusted to MONUC," said a nurse who was robbed at gunpoint last week while trying to help wounded civilians. "We asked for help but they said it was not their job. We have asked for a convoy to the village with us but they did nothing to protect us."

The nurse who would not give his name for fear of reprisals, is employed by the hospital in Goma Heal Africa which treats many victims of violence who received last year, the visit of the Secretary U.S. State, Hillary Clinton. But even a hospital is not immune to abuse villains of the Congolese army supported by MONUC.

"Two uniformed men emerged from a cornfield and stopped our car," said the nurse. "One of them was armed with a gun and pointed it at us. They asked us where we were going and we said we were nurses, and we were going to Nyanbanira. They told us to give them $ 1,000 or they would burn the car.

We told them it was a car back and we would look for quake victims, but they would not listen. They opened the car door and have taken the driver. They took all the money, food, materials and tools. They could kill us. Thanks to God we are still alive. "

She said the incident occurred near the base of MONUC. "But when we called them to tell them that we had been looted, they said" it's not our job. "This is not the first time they do not help us. I do not see this they are in eastern Congo. "

With a force of 18,500 peacekeepers in Congo, the UN has assembled the largest operation of peacekeeping in the world for a cost of $ 1.350 billion per year. MONUC has provided daily rations, transportation, fuel and fire power to the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) in their operations against a group of exiled Rwandan Hutu rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), some of whose leaders took part in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Congo.

But the Congolese army is accused of atrocities against the people it purports to protect. In a series of damning reports, Human Rights Watch has information on hundreds of thousands of murders and rapes. Some deaths have been particularly cruel: civilians were decapitated, cut up with machetes, beaten with clubs, shot as they fled or burned alive in their houses. Most victims were women, children and the elderly.

Many NGOs such as Oxfam have joined the condemnation of Human Rights Watch on the support of MONUC in an army that has blood on their hands.

A leaked report of the Group of Experts mandated by the United Nations has shown that military operations had "worsened the humanitarian crisis. Writing in The Guardian last year, Eve Ensler, author and founder of V-Day, an international movement that aims to fight against violence against women and girls, says the UN troops (MONUC) does not remain passively watching the massacres, but in fact, argue the authors of crimes. "

There are political reasons why the Congolese army lacks significant military discipline. She has fought and lost against the rebel general, Laurent Nkunda, a military commander who was allegedly sponsored by Rwanda. But a year later, the Congo and Rwanda have signed a secret deal that led to his arrest.

The rebel group of Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), has been legitimized and quickly absorbed by the Congolese army.

Together, they go and shoot their guns at the FDLR. It was a necessary compromise, saying the United Nations, because it may finally give the government enough force to bring order to chaos in this vast country.

"The realignment of the CNDP is certainly the most important development in the country for 15 years," said Matthew Brubacher, a political affairs officer for MONUC. "Last year, before the agreement, the CNDP had almost managed to take Goma. If you can not beat them, it is better to have at your side. We can not beat them militarily, then what choice we have t'it? Is that NGOs prefer a group independent military continues to be stronger than the army? "

A difficult merge

But fusion is far from seamless transition, with many former members of the CNDP who refuse to abandon their old habits.

Lyn Lusi, program manager Heal Africa, born in the UK, said: "During the peace process, they took all the bandits and rebels and murderers of each group and have their uniforms then they told them "Now you do part of the official army. So, frankly, what could we expect?

"I know that the professional soldiers of the FARDC are sickened. They are now in the same basket as bandits and murderers. There are good professional soldiers into the FARDC and they are eager to have an opportunity to help clean up their army. "

She added that the UN mission did not fully understand the ground realities. "I think that MONUC was not aware of what everyone knew in Congo," Lusi said. "They concoct solutions firm. They sit in their offices around the world to say 'Come on, let's support the national army'. But anyone who knows the national army would have known that it was not enough. "

Tensions have been exacerbated by jealousy of rank, by the lack of training and non-payment of many former CNDP soldiers, who then moved back to loot. MONUC says it deals with these problems.

In the village of Kanyabayonga, a lieutenant colonel in the Indian army which, with more than 4,000 men in Congo is the largest contingent of peacekeepers in the country, said: "There was a problem for the soldiers integrated who were not paid. One night, a battalion rebelled, began firing shots and burned three houses. Our commander spent the night talking to the soldiers and the problem has been resolved. "

The colonel, who wishes to remain anonymous, added: "The FARDC realized he had to pay the soldiers. So the generals are currently addressing these problems. Things are changing on the ground but the training will take time. "

But Luofu, another village located approximately 145 km north of Goma, the discipline is not fast enough. Last year, approximately 1,000 houses were burnt by the FDLR rebels, leaving the residents that the Congolese army to turn hybrid. Bouyenge Gilbert, a Catholic priest, said the plight of villagers had improved slightly.

"There is no other army so we have to trust them. Some of them violent, but not all, "says'il said. MONUC has attempted to monitor more closely the behavior of the army even if the peacekeepers are deployed in an area the size of California.

At Luofu, Kyalwahi Daniel, who was forced to stay outside his home while his wife was being raped by the rebels, said that the presence of peacekeepers was one difference: "Since MONUC is here the soldiers dare to intimidate civilians, "Has'il said. "They know that people will see MONUC and a report will be sent to their commander. "

People forced from their homes

There are tentative signs that show that the worst may be over. Peacekeepers on the ground say they have seen violence reduced in the last six months and the Congolese government and the military command to take sexual violence seriously, finally catching and punish the guilty.

The UN figures show that the number of people forced from their homes in the province of North Kivu, has fallen from 1.1 million in July to 709,000 in late December. The repatriation of Rwandan officials have tripled last year when a larger number of FDLR rebels surrendered.

The size of this group is estimated at about 4000 men and would control the FDLR still many mining areas, taking advantage of the mineral wealth of Congo.

The Congolese President Joseph Kabila said that the war was "over 90%" and asked MONUC to leave the country in June for the 50th anniversary of independence, former Belgian colony. This seems extremely optimistic. MONUC has just begun a mission to change that, taking into account the criticisms of the past, will bring its support to the Congolese army operations as she helped prepare.

Alan Doss, the head of British origin of MONUC, the Congolese Army acknowledges that had committed human rights violations.

"Yes, elements of the Congolese army, especially among the newly integrated elements were involved in atrocities," said Doss. "We ourselves have reported and have conveyed our concerns to the Congolese armed forces and we have withdrawn our support for the unit against which the complaints had been made. "

Asked whether MONUC had perhaps been too eager to support the army, he replied: "Who knows, maybe when we look back in a few years, we say yes indeed, mistakes have been made, we were aware that all this had been precipitated.

"But we must consider the context in which we find ourselves: we must remember that the Security Council of the United Nations urged the government to strike a deal with the rebels of the CNDP and the FDLR with. "Doss added:" Every operation has, unfortunately, have an impact on the civilian population. The question is what we do here.

"Obviously, we do not enjoy what people are killed and women raped, but this part of the country will never be peace until we have not firmly made a deal with armed groups and yes, Of course, as we will not restore discipline within the FARDC. "

However, in the meantime, Ntaganda, under arrest for war crimes, is active in an army that is supported by a force of peacekeeping United Nations. "We said we did not want anything to do with him and we did nothing with him," said Doss. "Ideally, all people who were involved in violations of human rights to be delivered to the authorities but we must remember the condition in which this country was. We can not solve all problems immediately. We must be realistic. The integration process is still ongoing. "

Some would say it's pragmatism in a country shattered by war for generations while others regard this agreement as a dirty compromise.

But Kabila does not try to finesse the situation in his country. The Congolese president has admitted frankly: "Why do we choose to work with Mr. Bosco, a person sought by the ICC? Because we want peace now. In Congo, peace comes before justice. "

David Smith

Source: Tlaxcala

Translated by Isabelle Rousselot Tlaxcala

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