Congo: Tribal Hatreds Sustain The Violence

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

October 22, 2008: Since the UN began its MONUC operation in Congo, the diplomats and peacekeepers have said that the Congolese are ultimately going to have to solve their problems themselves. That means a political solution. However, despite elections and a security training program, peace has not come to eastern Congo. Militia forces still battle the Congolese Army (FARDC), battle one another, and battle UN forces. The latest UN initiative repeats many of its predecessors. Creating peace in North Kivu province, according to the head of UN peacekeeping troops in Congo, requires (1) an "immediate ceasefire"; (2) a separation of combatant groups; and (3) the reintegration of the militia fighters, rebels, and guerrillas into civilian life. So far no ceasefire has held for long and enforcing an "immediate ceasefire" or even an intermittent ceasefire has proved impossible. The new UN political plan does emphasize "disengagement operations." In fact, Congo, with the help of the UN, has put together a provincial committee in South Kivu province that is trying to give various political, militia, and tribal groups a forum for developing their own disengagement procedures.

October 18, 2008: General Laurent Nkunda has followed up on some of his recent rhetoric. In areas his troops control in North Kivu province, Nkunda has imposed taxes and established a radio station. It looks like Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) is establishing a political base for waging a long term war with the Congolese government.

October 17, 2008: Since August fighting in eastern Congo among militia forces and the Congolese Army has displaced another 100,000 people.

October 14, 2008: A Congolese Army force, backed by armored vehicles, fought a two-day long battle in North Kivu province in and around the town of Tongo (the site of a large refugee camp.)

October 13, 2008: The latest violence involving the Congolese Army and General Laurent Nkunda's CNDP militia is looking less like the usual spasm and more like a protracted war. The typical cycle in the eastern Congo has been two to four weeks of fighting and then a semi-official ceasefire or a local agreement to quit fighting and let a peacekeeping force create a buffer zone. But this round of fighting has been going on, without pause, since late August. Nkunda is playing the "Tutsi card" more openly, in what appears to be a political bid to directly involve Rwanda. Nkunda says his primary opposition in the FDLR, which is led by many former Rwandan Hutus who were connected to the Rwandan government in 1994 – and were involved in the Tutsi genocide. Rwanda, like Congo's other neighbors, has been involved in the Congo War at many levels. However, Rwanda has made efforts to focus on its own economic development. That said, Rwanda, which is led by a predominantly Tutsi government, regards the FDLR as a sworn enemy. The Rwandan government has said that it will accept ("repatriate") members of the FDLR, but the FDLR members suspect that means going to jail – and it probably does.

October 11, 2008: The African Union has sent a delegation to Kinshasha with the goal of arranging a new ceasefire in eastern Congo, specifically North Kivu province.

October 8, 2008: The UN reported that civilians in North Kivu province have accused UN peacekeepers of "failing to stop militia violence." That's a way of saying that locals in North Kivu believe that no one is protecting them from the on-going fighting. The UN peacekeepers are the good guys, but there are only so many of them and the UN is looking for a political settlement in the area. Who are the bad guys? The various militias and even the Congolese Army. The accusations of crime and abuse by Congolese soldiers are numerous and frequent. Many of the Congolese soldiers once served with militia forces. Loyalty to the Congolese government and respect for Congolese Army officers remains an iffy proposition.

 

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