Friday, January 23, 2009

DRC News Bulletin: Nkunda Arrested in Rwanda; Kigali, 'The Israel of Africa'; MONUC Not Involved in FDLR Sweeps

DR Congo rebel leader 'arrested'

Gen Nkunda says he is protecting Congo's Tutsis from Rwandan Hutus

Gen Laurent Nkunda, the leader of the main rebel group in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has been arrested, the military says.

The rebel leader was arrested in Rwanda after he tried to resist a Rwandan-Congolese military operation, the operation's joint command said.

Some 3,500 Rwandan troops crossed the border to help Congolese forces disarm Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels there.

Gen Nkunda has been leading the rival CNDP Tutsi insurgency.

The CNDP launched a major offensive in August, which displaced more than a quarter of a million people and raised fears of a wider regional war.

Gen Nkunda and his group says they are fighting to protect the Tutsi community from attack by Rwandan Hutu rebels based in DR Congo, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.

The Congolese government has often promised to stop the Hutu forces from using its territory, but has not done so.

However, others see the CNDP as a Rwandan proxy and the biggest reason why DR Congo is yet to benefit from landmark elections in 2006 intended to draw a line under decades of conflict.

Human rights group have accused CNDP forces, along with those of the government, of numerous killings, rapes and torture.

Talks in Kenya aimed at ending the conflict became deadlocked last month, with UN mediator Olusegun Obasanjo complaining that the CNDP's negotiators lacked the authority to make concessions.

Rwanda: 'The Israel of Africa'

By Mark Doyle
World Affairs Correspondent, BBC News

Aid agencies fear a new humanitarian disaster in DR Congo
The United Nations says some 2,000 Rwandan troops have entered the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebels opposed to the Rwandan government have been based for many years.

A UN spokesman said the Rwandan move was part of a peace plan agreed with the Congolese government.

However, the presence of Rwandan troops inside Congo is bound to spark controversy and could have a powerful impact across central Africa.

Rwanda has been described by some as the Israel of Africa.

The ethnic Tutsis of Rwanda experienced their genocide in 1994 but a Tutsi-dominated government then came to power and has ruled ever since.

Like the Israelis, the Tutsis have enemies on their borders, and now they have sent in their powerful army to deal with the ones who have bases in neighbouring DR Congo.

Thousands displaced

The parallels with Israel are not exact, of course. Rwanda and Congo have been fighting what amounts to a proxy war: Rwanda accuses Congo of harbouring ethnic Hutu militias who took part in the 1994 genocide and Congo accuses Rwanda of backing a Congolese Tutsi separatist movement.

1994: After Rwanda genocide, Hutu rebels move to DR Congo (then Zaire)
1997: Rwanda invades DR Congo to deter cross-border rebel raids
1998: Rwanda invades again. At least four other countries intervene
2002: Rwandan military leaves DR Congo
2003: "Africa's world war" declared over
2008:Congolese Tutsi rebel offensive on Hutus
2009: Rwandan military enters DR Congo

The two countries recently agreed to work together militarily to deal with the Hutu side of this equation, and the march of the Rwandan army into eastern Congo can be seen in this context.

So there is the potential for this military move to be a step towards peace. But its fraught with danger.

Recent fighting in eastern Congo, between Congolese, left a quarter of a million people displaced.

Most of them will be terrified of the Rwandan presence and a new humanitarian disaster is possible.

And of course the Rwandan Hutu militias, a well-drilled military machine, are unlikely to give up to the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan army without a fight.

So there is also a very real possibility of Rwandans fighting Rwandans on Congolese soil.

Angola: President Dos Santos Encouraged to Continue With DRC Peace Effort

21 January 2009

Luanda — Angolan head of State, José Eduardo dos Santos, was on Wednesday in Luanda encouraged to continue with the effort towards a solution to the military crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The encouragement came from the Community of Saint' Egidio, based in Italy, and was transmitted by its envoy, Matteo Zuppi, during an audience president Eduardo dos Santos granted to him.

"The meeting with mr. President Eduardo dos Santos was very fruitful. We spoke of the need for peace and stability in the region, particularly the situation of war in the DRC," said the prelate while speaking to journalists at the end of the audience.

Matteo Zuppi explained that the Community of Saint'Egidio intends to contribute to the resolution of the crisis in the DRC, without disturbing ongoing initiatives.

To him, Angola has a great capacity to attract peace, judging from the experience of its leader, José Eduardo dos Santos.

"The position expressed by president José Eduardo dos Santos on the issue is encouraging," said Matteo Zuppi, who is closing Wednesday a visit to Angola that started Monday.

The community of Sant'Egidio (St. Giles) was born in Rome in 1968 through the initiative of a young high school student. Since the beginning, its members have been committed to evangelization and solidarity with the poor and the weak. The Community has its heart in the small Roman church of Sant'Egidio, from which it takes its name.

The membership of the Community is approximately 15,000 - two thirds of whom are in Italy.

It is made up of many small groups - "small communities" - people who share the same spirituality while they measure themselves against the Gospel by :

The Community of Sant'Egidio acted as a mediator in the talks for peace in Mozambique (1990-1992). A more recent, very effective, involvement has been in the Algerian crisis (1994-1995). They are a practical demonstration of the value of citizen diplomacy.

The activities of the Community are financed through the voluntary contributions of its members, private donations, and the support of friends. For some activities, government funding covers part of the operating expenses.

Congo-Kinshasa: UN Peacekeepers Not Involved in Military Offensive Against Armed Group

21 January 2009

The joint military operation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against a Hutu militia fighting in the war-ravaged region does not involve United Nations blue helmets, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the country, Alan Doss, stressed today.

The offensive against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group which has been in eastern DRC since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, is a result of an agreement between the Governments of DRC and Rwanda.

The FDLR has been involved in the flare-up of clashes since late August mainly in North Kivu, where the national army, the mainly Tutsi militia - known as the CNDP - and other rebel groups such as the Mai Mai have fought in shifting alliances, uprooting around 250,000 civilians on top of the 800,000 already displaced by violence in recent years.

Mr. Doss urged the parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to fully adhere to international humanitarian law, adding that the UN Mission in DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC, will uphold its mandate in protecting civilians.

MONUC will also continue to support the Government's efforts to integrate armed groups into its army, as well as its efforts regarding humanitarian assistance and the political process.

Congo-Kinshasa: Haut Uélé - Monuc Concerned By the Fate of Civilians

Codjo Houegniglo
22 January 2009

MONUC and its UN partners are closely evaluating the consequences of the recent atrocities made on Congolese civilians by the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in Haut Uélé, Orientale province in northern DRC.

Reflecting MONUC's new mandate which underlines the protection of civilians as a priority, a MONUC multidisciplinary team went to Faradje and the areas around Doruma on the 16-17 January 2009, to evaluate the consequences of the attacks, with a view to proposing a suitable humanitarian response.

The evaluation mission comprised of MONUC, UN humanitarian agencies, the Catholic NGO Caritas and two Ministers from the provincial government.

In Faradje, the team checked and noted the damage to property and collected testimonies and allegations from the local population, at least those who remained after the murderous LRA attacks.

The team took note of the emergency requirements needed for protection, psychosocial assistance, the construction of shelters, and the supply of food and non food items for the population.

"We have been abandoned for three weeks, at the mercy of the LRA, with no security or humanitarian assistance. This is negligence on the part of the public authorities in relation to their responsibilities," said Faradje resident Ephraim Kabuli.

In a massive exodus, thousands of people are fleeing the LRA attacks which began on Christmas Day 2008, leading lives that are close to intolerable. Nobody knows exactly how many people have been killed, abducted or displaced.

According to the first evaluations and the most credible estimates of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the LRA attacks have left 900 people dead and 130,000 displaced, with over 8,000 Congolese living as refugees in South Sudan.

Doruma town, untouched by the LRA attacks, has already accommodated thousands of displaced people from Batandé, Bokudangba, Bamunzéré, Bama, Nahuru, Diagbé and Nagogé.

In expectation of new attacks

Several other localities are at risk of new attacks in the coming days. LRA rebels on the run after the raids of the armed forces coalition of South Sudan, Uganda and the DRC are understood to be in large numbers in the forests close to the localities of Tadu, Watsa and Tomati, as well as Ango in Bas Uélé.

In an apparent desperate attempt to escape and on the search for food to survive, the rebels have intensified their slaughter of Congolese civilians, with attacks recorded in the villages of Tomati, Sambia and Durba. These attacks have in general worsened the security and humanitarian situation, MONUC underlines.

Under these conditions, local civil society organizations have called for increased protection for the population, and has demanded the Congolese government to act quickly to reinforce their security forces (army and police) in the districts of both Haut Uélé and Bas Uélé.

Civil society representatives have also asked for the communications tools to have an early warning system, in the event of an imminent or latent LRA threat.

DRC: Rwandan operation "not welcomed"

Fears are growing that more civilians will be caught up in the battle against the FDLR in eastern DRC

KINSHASA, 21 January 2009 (IRIN) - The arrival of some 2,000 Rwandan soldiers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to help the Army disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Forces démocratique pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) has prompted fears of a new wave of civilian suffering. Below are some reactions to the development.

MONUC, the UN Mission in DRC
“The humanitarian community is deeply worried by the new deployment of troops in the areas of Goma and Rutshuru… This heightened military presence gives rise to fears of a new humanitarian crisis just as the ceasefire was allowing people to gradually return home and giving humanitarians easier access to several areas.”

Jean-Paul Dietrich, MONUC military spokesman
“The FDLR are in Masisi but the Rwandans have instead gone to Rutshuru. We don’t really know what they are doing there because our access has been blocked.”

Lambert Mende, DRC government spokesman
“I don’t think the Rwandan soldiers need humanitarian workers in order to deploy, unless the humanitarian workers want to conduct espionage.”

UN Children’s Fund briefing
“Immediate consequences [are] restricted access to Rutshuru territory and withdrawal of most humanitarian actors from their main intervention zones in Masisi and Rutshuru.
Possible consequences in case of military operations:
- Massive population displacement. A contingency plan (July 2008) anticipates for 350,000 newly displaced persons in North Kivu during the first phase of a military operation; 300,000 persons in the province of South Kivu.
- Current humanitarian interventions for approximately one million persons will be suspended or hampered by the lack of access and permanent displacement of populations.
- The reaction of FDLR might entail exactions on the population and social structures and looting.
- Taking into account that the FDLR have been established in the area for 15 years, their relationship with the population is important. At the same time, the coalition is unlikely to respect the distinction between combatants and non-combatants.
- The reaction of the population with regard to the presence of the Rwandan army is as yet unknown, but could turn negatively toward the government.”

Gérard Prunier, historian and author
"Definitely, yes [this is welcome for the people of the Kivus and the DRC peace process]. These guys were coming anyway in disguised form. So they might as well come openly ... The new deal is a direct deal between [Rwandan and DRC presidents] [Paul] Kagame and [Joseph] Kabila and they are playing with [rebel leader] Bosco Ntaganda. Now Ntaganda is of course also a criminal (but who isn't in those parts?) But he is trying to parley his new role as a 'peacemaker' (don't laugh) into a respite from an International Criminal Court war crimes indictment. If both Kabila and Kagame want to fish him out, they can try him in some [sham] court that will declare him innocent for the price of his services.

"The present dispensation might sideline [rival rebel leader Laurent] Nkunda and enable the real heavy duty RPF [Rwandan army] boys to hit the FDLR with the approval of Kinshasa, i.e. without Kinshasa playing a double game of saying, yes we want the FDLR dead and then helping them discreetly. In any case, the DRC army is useless and they'll just have token roles while the RPF does the real job .

"All in all it is a good start. But now let's see how it will end. So many things have gone awry before!"

Justin Bitakwira, Member of Parliament from South Kivu
“The Rwandan government and its offshoot RCD-Goma had already occupied Congo for eight years and we never heard of a single clash between the Rwandan army and the FDLR. On the contrary, all the coltan and cassiterite exploited by the FDLR is sold in Rwanda. So it’s a [complete] contradiction.”

A media analyst in Kinshasa
“This operation will finally persuade the FDLR to return to Rwanda after 15 years of hesitation. It will put an end to the illicit exploitation of the region’s natural resources and allow the Congolese state to have control over them.”

Enock Ruberangabo, president of the Banyamulenge community
“The community wants the FDLR and all Rwandan refugees, who have become, rightly or wrongly, the key to the tension between our countries, to return home. To do so by force is not desirable because experience has taught us that not only are results slow in coming but that matters are made worse. There is a need to plan how to ensure the security of the populations of North and South Kivu before any military operation against the FDLR. Any other way would further endanger security.”

Jean Sekabuhoro, president of the North Kivu Hutu communities
“[We] condemn this treason and reserve the right to use all means at our disposal to scupper this diabolical plan whose clear aim is to bring about the Balkanisation of the country.”

Report can be found online at:
This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire

DRC: Hundreds of Rwandan troops to help disarm Hutu rebels

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has pledged troops to oust rebels from eastern DRC

KINSHASA, 20 January 2009 (IRIN) - Hundreds of Rwandan troops entered eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 20 January to back a DRC operation against Rwandan Hutu rebels in the east of the country, officials said.

“We officially invited the Rwandan army to take part in the operation, to disarm the Interahamwe, which is about to begin,” said government spokesman Lambert Mende.

He added that the operation was designed “to repatriate, voluntarily or by force, combatants of the FDLR [Forces démocratique pour la libération de Rwanda] or Interahamwe or [ensure they] have refugee status in line with Congolese or international law, which precludes them bearing arms”.

“The operations will last between 10 and 15 days and will be led by the FARDC [the DRC army] under the observation of Rwandan military intelligence,” added the spokesman.

The UN Mission in DRC, MONUC, said it was not involved in the operations, whose joint nature was finalised during meetings early in 2009 between Rwandan and DRC chiefs of staff in line with an agreement signed in Nairobi in November 2007.

But MONUC’s military spokesman Col Jean-Paul Dietrich did confirm that “between 1,500 and 2,000 Rwandan soldiers crossed the border on the Munigi-Kibait road and deployed towards Kibumba on the Goma-Rutshuru road.”

One wing of a DRC rebel group also active in eastern DRC, the now-divided CNDP, last week offered to join government soldiers in their actions against the FDLR.

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