Congo: Frustrated Peacekeepers Ready To Leave

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

November 11, 2010: The Congo is huge. Helicopters give peacekeepers an edge in mobility over rogue militias, gangs, and tribal war parties. The slow but sure withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces means there will be fewer helicopters available for transport and logistics. One UN office estimates that by mid-2011 remaining peacekeeping units will only have 14 helicopters available. India recently withdrew eight helicopters. Not all of the cuts in available helos are due to withdrawal of units; some of it is due to withdrawal of funds. Several countries have cut their peacekeeping budgets and helicopter are expensive to operate. MONUSCO, the new name of the UN peacekeeping force, recently had a $73 million budget cut, and it has already affected aircraft availability. Currently MONUSCO provides helicopter lift for the Congolese Army. MONUSCO still has around 17,600 peacekeepers in country.

November 7, 2010: The UN claims that its observers have documented over 650 case of sexual violence (rape) committed against women who were expelled from Angola to the Congo during the months of September and October. Angola expelled 6621 Congolese (men and women) during the time period. Earlier this year Angola expelled over 10,000 Congolese who had taken refuge in the country. In 2009 Angola expelled over 150,000 Congolese nationals.

November 6, 2010: Congolese authorities believe faction of the Burundi rebel National Liberation Forces (FNL, a Hutu group) murdered two civilians on the Congo-Burundi border. The Congolese Army claimed that the rebel group were trying to free two captured FNL fighters. When the rebels attacked the Congolese civilians were killed in the crossfire.

October 28, 2010: The U.S. military has deployed a training team to the Congo to help train Congolese Army medical personnel. The operation is code-named “Medflag 10.”

October 25, 2010: The government and UN peacekeepers are being urged to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, who is under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The government, has so far refused. Nataganda is allegedly helping Congolese security forces run anti-militia operations in the eastern Congo. Ntaganda was a senior leader in the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) militia. Ntaganda replaced rebel general General Laurent Nkunda as head of the CNDP.

October 24, 2010: The Angolan government announced that it intends to deport another 200 Congolese nationals who entered Angola illegally. Aid groups in central Africa claimed that the Angolan announcement indicates that Angola is considering another round of mass expulsions similar to those conducted in 2009. The expulsions are an indication of increasingly poor relations between Angola and the Congo.

The UN condemned an attack on a peacekeeping base in eastern Congo. Around 50 members of a Mai-Mai militia attacked the base camp of an Indian Army peacekeeping contingent located near the town of Rwindi. Rwindi is in North Kivu province. The Indian Army peacekeepers (in company strength, approximately 100 soldiers) killed eight militamen and wounded two. A MONUSCO military report described the firefight as fierce.

October 15, 2010: There is growing opposition, in several European nations, to the UN Congo peacekeeping effort. Critics (many of them former supporters) point to reports of continual mass rapes occurring in both the eastern Congo and along the Angola-Congo border. Despite a series of peace agreements signed in the last two years, rebel militias continue to operate. Militias that were incorporated into the Congolese Army (FARDC) respond selectively (at best) to orders issued by the national government. Rogue elements in the military are also involved in illegal mining operations. The government, led by President Joseph Kabila, is increasingly suppressing its political opponents. In fact, the government has reneged on promises to give the provinces more authority. Political instability continues, particularly in the eastern provinces. What the critics fail to realize is that all this is pretty normal for Africa, and is not going to be changed quickly, even by a large peacekeeping force.

October 14, 2010: The Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group now appears to have around 600 fighters in base camps in the eastern Congo (Uganda-Congo border area). The ADF has connections with the Somali Islamist extremist organization Al Shabaab.

 

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