Congo: The Safe Area

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

October 20, 2006: As the runoff election approaches (October 29), fighting between supporters of president Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has increased. Kinshasha remains quiet, though two TV stations were attacked on October 14. Riots have occurred in Equateur Province. On October 18, riot police deployed in Katanga to stop street-fighting between supporters of Congolese president Jospeh Kabila and supporters of his political rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba. Members of the pro-Kabila Union of Nationalists and Federalists of Congo (UNAFEC) threw rocks at a motorcade carrying Bemba supporters.

"Combined patrols" is one reason Kinshasha is comparatively peaceful. The UN has sponsored police patrols that includes elements of the Congolese National Police (PNC), military police drawn from the Congolese Army (FARDC), police from the European Union peacekeeping force (EU Police) and UN military police (from MONUC peacekeeping troops).

October 17, 2006: The UN designated Kinshasha as a "safe area" for the upcoming presidential run-off election. Both EUFOR and the UN have significant peacekeeping forces in and around Kinshasha. UN peacekeepers have been collecting and confiscating weapons in the Kinshasha area.

October 11, 2006: It's estimated that some 11,000 children are either still serving with militia groups in the Congo or are "unaccounted for" after being kidnapped by militias. Some children (teenagers) do serve as militia fighters. Others are used to carry supplies.

As part of the militia-integration program, the Congolese government gave two former militia commanders the rank of colonel in the Congolese Army. One commander served with the FPRI (Front for Nationalists and Integrationists) and the other was with the MRC (Congolese Revolutionary Movement). At one time both militias had approximately 3,000 fighters under arms. The organizations turned in their weapons and demobilized as part of a UN-sponsored program.

 

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