Peace Force Stymied by Congo Insurgency

Daily News Article   —   Posted on October 31, 2008

(by Betsy Pisik, WashingtonTimes.com) – UNITED NATIONS - U.N. peacekeepers are spread too thinly through eastern Congo to protect civilians or quell the fighting between rebel and government forces, U.N. officials warned Thursday.

The assessment came while thousands of Congolese took advantage of a
fragile day-old cease-fire to flee the regional capital of Goma in
eastern Congo.

The U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or MONUC, is
the largest U.N. peacekeeping mission, with more than 17,000 troops
posted at duty stations throughout the vast jungle-carpeted country.

“We are looking at a MONUC at the absolute limit of its capacity,”
said U.N. spokesman Kevin Kennedy. “It cannot be everywhere. It cannot
respond to every incident.”

Nine civilians were killed Wednesday evening by drunken soldiers —
described by locals as wearing army uniforms while looting in Goma,
U.N. radio reported.

In addition, tens of thousands of people were fleeing the city
Thursday, clogging roads and making it difficult for U.N. soldiers to
move around. Fighting also limited the presence of relief groups,
contributing to the humanitarian crisis.

“We want peace for people in the region,” rebel leader Laurent
Nkunda told the Associated Press by telephone after halting his advance
on Goma and calling the cease-fire.

Mr. Nkunda began his insurgency three years ago, charging that
ethnic Tutsis were excluded during Congo’s transition to democracy. He
resumed fighting in August in defiance of a U.N.-brokered truce and his
troops this week drove to the outskirts of Goma.

Frustration with the limits of the U.N. forces has led to popular
demonstrations against the peacekeepers, one of whom was seriously
injured.

Mr. Kennedy acknowledged Thursday that MONUC was unable to meet the “very high expectations” of the Congolese people.

“There have been a number of instances where the perception of the
population is that MONUC had not done enough” to counter rebels or
government offensives and “consequently MONUC was seen as the one at
fault.”

The senior U.N. official in Kinshasa, Alan Doss, asked the Security
Council earlier this month to temporarily authorize at least two more
battalions, two more police units, two companies of special forces as
well as air, engineering and intelligence gathering assets for the Goma
area.

Combatants have changed over the years and so have their targets.
Many continue to fight along Hutu and Tutsi ethnic lines, an extension
of hostilities that erupted into the Rwanda genocide of 1996. Other
groups are warring over access to precious minerals and timber.

Mr. Nkunda is often accused of being tied to the Tutsi-led Rwandan government.

But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi
Frazer, who arrived in the Congolese capital Thursday, has said there
is no evidence that Mr. Nkunda’s forces are backed by Rwanda.

Ms. Frazer is to meet with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Mr.
Doss, among others, to try to restart the political process that halted
fighting in the past, the State Department said Thursday, offering few
details because the situation is so “fluid.”

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Questions

1. a) List the countries that border the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
b) Name the president and capital of the DRC.

2. What are the problems with the U.N.’s peacekeeping force in the DRC?

3. How many troops does the U.N. Peacekeeping mission (MONUC) have in the DRC?

4. a) Who is Laurent Nkunda?
b) Why did he begin his insurgency three years ago?

5. Why are DRC citizens demonstrating against U.N. peacekeepers?

6. What did Alan Doss, the senior U.N. official in the DRC, ask the U.N. Security Council to do earlier this month?

7. How have the combatants fighting in the DRC changed over the years?

 


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Background

NOTE: This sounds complicated, but if you read through it a few times, it makes sense:

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

(from the CIA World FactBook)

  • Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo
    gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by
    political and social instability.
  • Col. Joseph Mobutu seized power and
    declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He changed the name .. of the country to Zaire.  Mobutu retained his position for 32 years through several
    sham elections, as well as through the use of brutal force.
  • Ethnic
    strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in
    1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the
    toppling of the Mobutu regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and
    Uganda and fronted by Laurent Kabila. He renamed the country the
    Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime
    was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda
    and Uganda.
  • Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe
    intervened to support Kabila’s regime. A cease-fire was signed in July
    1999 by the DRC, Congolese armed rebel groups, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda,
    Uganda, and Zimbabwe but sporadic fighting continued. Laurent Kabila
    was assassinated in January 2001 and his son, Joseph Kabila, was named
    head of state.
  • In October 2002, the new president was successful in
    negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying eastern Congo;
    two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining
    warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of
    national unity. A transitional government was set up in July 2003.
    Joseph Kabila as president and four vice presidents represented the
    former government, former rebel groups, the political opposition, and
    civil society.
  • The transitional government held a successful
    constitutional referendum in December 2005 and elections for the
    presidency, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures in 2006.
    Kabila was inaugurated president in December 2006. The National
    Assembly was installed in September 2006. Its president, Vital Kamerhe,
    was chosen in December. Provincial assemblies were constituted in early
    2007, and elected governors and national senators in January 2007.

(from the U.S. State Department website):

  • On September 8, 2007, the Governments of
    the D.R.C. and Uganda reached an agreement … in
    which they mutually agreed to strengthen efforts to eliminate
    all “negative forces” (illegal armed groups) operating in and from the
    two countries.
  • On November 9, 2007, the Governments of the D.R.C. and Rwanda (with
    facilitation by the UN and witness of the United States and the
    European Union) signed the Nairobi Communiqué, which was designed to
    put an end to the presence in the D.R.C. of all foreign armed groups. … These groups were to be disarmed,
    demobilized, and repatriated.
  • On January 23, 2008, the Government of the D.R.C. and over 20 armed
    groups signed a peace accord in Goma, D.R.C., under which the parties
    agreed on the need for immediate cessation of hostilities, the
    disengagement of troops, improved adherence to human rights standards,
    and the creation of UN buffer zones between and among the various
    factions.
  • As of October 1, 2008, none of these agreements had been fully
    implemented, and the eastern part of the country in particular
    continues to suffer from the activities of numerous illegal armed
    groups that operate largely with impunity.

Resources

Read more about the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the CIA World FactBook and the U.S. Department of State website.

Visit the U.N.’s MONUC website for current information on DRC.

Go to worldatlas.com for a map of Africa. (Click on DRC for a more detailed map.)