Tag Archives: Nkunda

UN envoy berates Nkunda for breaking ceasefire

Although the ICCN has been able to return to the Gorilla sector of the Virunga National Park and initiate a census of mountain gorillas, the political situation and humanitarian situation remains serious. Refugees are being moved by the UN Peace keeping force MONUC from Kibati camp to Mugunga camp west of Goma, moving them away from the conflict frontline for their own protection.

On the political front things seem to be deteriorating. The UN Special envoy, president of Nigerial Olegusun Obasanjo met for a second time with Nkunda yesterday but the visit had not provided any “clear answers” on how to move forward, said Bertrand Bisimwa, spokesman for Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP.

According to Bloomberg website, the former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who is accompanying Obasanjo said that direct talks were unlikely. In response, the CNDP has reiterated a threat to directly confront the government and go to war if the government doesn’t agree to talks outside the so-called Amani program.  

Nkunda has publicly requested direct talks with the DRC president, Joseph Kabila but Kabila has insisted that any talks are held within the Amani process which Nkunda agreed to in January this year.  Amani, which means “peace” in Swahili, was set up by the government after a January cease-fire deal between the government and more than 20 armed groups, including the CNDP.

During the meeting on Saturday, Obasanjo apparently berated Nkunda for breaking the cease-fire last week when he initiated a new offensive along the border with Uganda which saw over 30,000 refugees cross at Ishasha.  In the last week Nkunda’s rebels captured two border posts and a town last week.

According to this article on Associated press Obasanjo is disappointed with Nkunda’s behaviour but Nkunda continues to insist that the cease-fire does not apply to foreign forces and said he will continue to protect ethnic Tutsis from Hutu fighters who fled to Congo from Rwanda after that country’s 1994 genocide.

Congo – is there hope?

This is from an interesting article in Time

“Remarkable things are happening in eastern Congo. The Congolese army and the CNDP are working together to separate Hutu civilians from Interahamwe commanders, and already hundreds have been freed. According to one expert on the region: “For the first time, Rwandan and Congolese, Tutsi and Hutu are working together to begin the long road of ethnic reconciliation.”

Hard choices remain. Will Nkunda, for example, be extradited from Rwanda? Kabila has promised that Rwandan troops will be out of Congo by March, but every day that they stay — and the thrill of Nkunda’s capture recedes — it becomes more difficult politically for him to sustain his bold initiative. None of this will be easy”.

Talks to end conflict begin but EU cool on the idea of sending troops

Talks have begun between representatives of rebel forces fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and delegates from the Kinshasa government in Nairobi, Kenya. The discussions mediated by Olusegun Obasanjo (former president of Nigeria) hope to bring an end to fighting between the the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and the army that has displaced about 250,000 people since August. Neither Kabila nor Nkunda attended the talks.

On Friday, the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda agreed  to launch military operations against armed groups operating in Congolese territory as early as 2009. MONUC the United Nations mission in the country will also provide troops. But in response Hutu rebels operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo warned that any attempt to disarm their forces could spark a “long and dreadful war.”

In a related development, the EU declined to send additional troops to Congo because though the troops are urgently needed, the countries fear that “expanding commitments in Afghanistan mean that they have no soldiers to spare for other UN missions, such as the DR Congo”. But Belgium seems to be warming to the idea reports Radio Okapi. The Belgian ambassador de Gucht says Belgium is canvassing the EU to send a special force to eastern DRC.

 

 Meanwhle 71 rangers and their families from Virunga have sough refuge in IDP camps in Uganda following the latest conflict in North Kivu. Their situation is poor and they are surviving on rations provided through online donations.

 

Emergency appeals

While President Obasanjo of Nigeria was been in talks with Laurent Nkunda to end the crisis in the Congo,  Nkunda’s heavy fighing was taking place. The UN peace keeping force has denounced the violations of the ceasefire agreement, but that seems to be a tootless threat.  Nkunda has repeatedly refused to cooperate with MONUC who he claims is pro government.

As a result, the humanitarian crisis continues to deepen in eastern Congo and IDP camps are being moved to protect those seeking shelter by getting the camps out of the line of fire. The virunga national park rangers are amongs thtose internally displaced people living in a hellish camp.  This article in the New York Times describes a tragic situation where rangers admit rying to eat leaves – afterall that is what gorillas survive on.

 Once again we appeal to you to donate any amount on this blog to help those rangers and their families.

Its hard not to despair about the situation in Congo – who should we be supporting, who are the good guys? Here’s an interesting article by Neil Campbell of Reuters

“Reinforcing What? The EU’s Role in Eastern Congo”,
Neil Campbell in Reuters: The Great Debate

17 November 2008
Reuters: The Great Debate

“Unacceptable and murderous.” Those were the words French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner chose to describe the situation in north eastern Congo at a press conference after October’s monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers. Sadly, Congo was not even on the agenda of that meeting.

In the following weeks, Laurent Nkunda’s rebels advanced on Goma, displacing up to 300,000 people; the Congolese army went on a spree of looting, raping and killing in that town; and there was a double massacre in Kiwanja on 4 November, first by pro-government Mayi Mayi militia, then by Nkunda’s rebels against suspected Mayi Mayi loyalists.

At the next meeting of EU foreign ministers, on 10 November, Congo at last made it to the agenda. But the European response to the crisis in central Africa is not encouraging. EU military assistance was not completely counted out in their agreed statement, but turning a general call for “reinforcement of cooperation between the EU, its member states and MONUC [the UN force]” into any specific reinforcements on the ground is far from straightforward.

For now, the EU has chosen the diplomatic route, pressing for a political solution within the framework of two key agreements signed over the past year. The November 2007 Nairobi agreement provides for normalisation of relations between Congo and Rwanda, disarmament of Rwandan Hutu rebels in Congo – including some perpetrators of the 1994 genocide – and ending Rwandan support to Congolese Tutsi insurgent Nkunda. The January 2008 Goma agreement outlines a ceasefire, voluntary demobilisation of combatants and the “Amani” peace process between the government, Mayi Mayi militias and Nkunda’s rebels.

On the one hand, an international push behind these deals is welcome. The current escalation in violence resulted in part from international complacency once these agreements were signed, despite the best efforts of the EU’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Roland van de Geer.

Unfortunately, the EU’s recent track record of top-level diplomacy does not give much confidence the 27-country Union will stick together on this issue. Kouchner was the first to call for EU military intervention in Congo. The EU’s chief diplomat, Javier Solana, quickly rejected the idea, the Belgians came out in support, and the British were skeptical. Meanwhile visits to the region by van de Geer, commissioner Louis Michel, and Kouchner with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband left no impression of a unified front. It is not clear if Miliband’s primary objective was conflict prevention or Commonwealth enlargement with Rwanda. And Solana was not even allowed on the plane.

Diplomacy by others may prove more coherent. The UN Secretary General appointed an African heavyweight as his special envoy. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was then joined by Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, the African Union’s representative, as facilitators of the Nairobi and Goma agreements at the regional summit in Nairobi last Friday. Obasanjo and Mpaka could learn from the Europeans’ mistakes and initiate a clear division of labour. The former military man Obasanjo should concentrate on the Nairobi agreement and disarmament and reintegration of militias, while Swahili speaking Mkapa should concentrate on other aspects of the Goma process and the Amani peace-building program.

But the EU could still offer practical and immediate assistance. Despite the deficit in political will for the military option, there are possibilities the EU should explore. Europeans could temporarily secure Goma and its airport, allowing the UN forces to concentrate on security in the surrounding areas of Rutshuru and Masisi.

Sure, the EU needs to focus on its commitment to the political solution and ensure that there is one coherent EU message. The best way to protect civilians is a return to the agreements, and by assisting the UN with a specific short-term security objective – allowing the UN some breathing space to fulfill its wider mandate – the EU can play an important role towards that political solution, and reinforce its diplomatic message with real and visible commitment.

Time is short, however. Laurent Nkunda’s continued talk of a national agenda risks massive escalation of violence and chaos. But if in turn his rebels are seriously threatened, there is the real chance of widespread revenge killings of the Tutsi minority, to which Rwanda may well respond. And if the fighting continues indefinitely, we may see repeats of Kiwanja on a much larger scale. The paths currently being followed by all armed groups will only lead to an intensification of the conflict, with dire consequences of further regional involvement.

Neil Campbell, EU Advocacy Manager of the International Crisis Group, recently returned from eastern Congo.

Thousands displaced in recent fighting

refugees.jpg

Photo Marie Frechon/MONUC “Nearly 100,000 Congolese have been displaced in the last three months alone, and given the population in the areas attacked in the past few days, as many as 30,000 additional people could be forced from their homes”. Christian Science Monitor. 

Although the CNDP rebels have left Rumangabo, the situation on the ground is still dire because of the presence of so many armed militas in the area who are threatening the local population.  Alan Doss of the United Nations peace keeping force, Monuc, has raised concerns about harrassment and abuse by armed groups, including FARDC, the FDLR and the CNDP and warns that there are fifty thousand armed men in North and South Kivu. Monuc has sought the support of the United Nations Security Council for troop reinforcement to protect civilian populations in North Kivu.

In a letter to the Medical relief group here  Doss explains that a human rights violations can only be controlled if these armed groups are removed from villages, roads, markets and fields,

50 of the Virunga National Park rangers and their families are still safe in Goma and you can see photos here where Amir explains

“The area around Rumangabo is swamped with armed men, intent on pillaging the most vulnerable. A band came to the station yesterday and started breaking into the main building. The rangers fired in the air to scare them away. The bandits fired back in all directions. We heard later that they hit one of their own, killing him.

So it looks like things may begin to settle down. It’s an uneasy peace, but hopefully a situation that will allow us to go back to our business of protecting the park within a few days. We’ve made the decision to move the families out of the camp within a week. They will either go to an established refugee camp, where the big humanitarian agencies will provide them with food and healthcare, or hopefully, the situation will be sufficiently peaceful for us to be able to take them back to their homes at Rumangabo”.