Monday, August 26, 2013

DR Congo: The US weighs in on the Eastern DR Congo

All Africa reports

United States Department of State

(Washington, DC)

Congo-Kinshasa: Statement on Situation in Eastern Congo

People displaced by fighting between M23 and FARDC set up camp on the outskirts of Goma. Photo: MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti

The United States is alarmed by the escalating fighting between the M23 armed group and the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in eastern Congo. We condemn the actions of the M23, which have resulted in civilian casualties, attacks on the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO), and significant population displacements. We are also concerned by reports of shelling across the Rwandan border, including credible UN reports that the M23 has fired into Rwandan territory. We call on the M23 to immediately end the hostilities, lay down their arms, and disband, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.
How interesting and the Rwandan line.
Rwanda's army has warned neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, who it accuses of deliberate bombing over the border, that it will not stand by "indefinitely", it said in a statement late Friday.
Given the Rwandan regimes inability to separate actual facts from convenient fictions I guess you can make a judgement who to trust. I actually wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if M23 fired on Rwandan instructions. 
We commend the actions of MONUSCO to protect civilians in and around Goma. Attacks against UN installations and personnel are unacceptable. We are deeply concerned about evidence of increasing ethnic tensions in Goma and call on all parties to avoid any actions that could exacerbate such tensions.
France 24 reports

The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has called for an investigation after two protesters died of gunshot wounds near one of its bases.

"The head of MONUSCO deplores the death of two civilians who were killed in demonstrations in Goma on Saturday and has called for a joint inquiry by the DRC police and MONUSCO’s police cell," the UN said in a statement.
Witnesses told AFP that Uruguayan peacekeepers shot dead two people who were part of a crowd attempting to storm the mission's base near the airport during Saturday's protest.

That is problematic, it is hard to praise MONUSCO protection of civilians while they are shooting them. I feel that this situation has been allowed to get out of control. The anger of the Gomatricians is understandable but not helpful at this stage.

It might be wise for MONUSCO forces to increase their presence on the ground in Goma. I have heard several rumours of incidents against Tutsi although none seem to be confirmed at this stage. The last thing needed at the moment is a some freelance ethnic cleansing. Lets remember that many if not all the Congolese Tutsi do not support M23. I have yet to meet any that do. 

The State Department are correct to be concerned, this has the potential to escalate into ethnic cleansing   genocide against Congolese Tutsi and that has the potential to send the whole region up in flames. Make no mistake Rwanda is looking for any excuse it can find to change the situation on the ground to one that suits it.

We urgently call on the DRC and Rwandan governments to exercise restraint to prevent military escalation of the conflict or any action that puts civilians at risk. We reiterate our call for Rwanda to cease any and all support to the M23 and to respect DRC's territorial integrity, consistent with U.N. Security Council resolutions and its commitments under the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework. We also call on the DRC to take all prudent steps to protect civilians and to take precautions that FARDC shells do not inadvertently land in Rwandan territory. We urge MONUSCO and the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism to promptly and thoroughly investigate charges of cross-border shelling. We urge all parties to facilitate access for humanitarian organizations assisting populations in need.
That is good advice and I hope that all pay heed to it.
The United States fully supports the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework signed by the DRC, Rwanda, and neighboring governments in February 2013 as the basis for a political dialogue to resolve the longstanding conflict in the region. We also believe any political settlement of the conflict must include accountability for human rights atrocities committed by leaders of the M23 and other armed groups, including the FDLR. The United States stands ready to consider further targeted sanctions against the leaders of the M23 and other armed groups and those who support them.
Targeting the M23 ( and other armed groups ) leadership with further sanctions is will achieve bugger all. Sanctions if they are to work need to targeted at those financing and providing weapons to them. In M23's case that is the leaders of Rwanda, should it emerge that the Congolese government are supporting the FDLR rebels then sanctions should also be applied. 

Accountability for human rights atrocities as part of a political settlement seems to me unworkable. Former M23 leader General Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the ICC after a split in M23 his other option was death.

Ntaganda, a former general nicknamed "The Terminator" and widely seen as the instigator of the M23 group's rebellion against Kinshasa last year, is wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape, murder and recruiting child soldiers.

It is hard to see how a political settlement with his former colleagues would work if it involved a negotiation to surrender followed by a life sentence for crimes against humanity. I do not think a political settlement is possible with regard to the M23 leadership, the term the State Department is looking for is " unconditional surrender "

Kinshasa I suspect has come to a similar conclusion hence the Congolese indifference to the Kampala peace process. Kinshasa seem to be investing some long overdue effort into professionalising FARDC. Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa notes.

The retirement of 322 colonels and generals in a July 7 decree also simplified things, although none if any of these commanders were on the front lines.

Of course, the problems of the Congolese army are far from over. As argued here before, the real challenge of army reform lies in tackling the culture of patronage, racketeering and impunity that undermines military discipline and any sense of hierarchy in the armed forces.

The last thing Kinshasa wants is to integrate M23 officers and soldiers into FARDC given that they are specialists in the problems that Stearns identifies and have already proved their disloyalty to the Congolese State.

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