Congo: Out Of Control

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

June 11, 2009: The chaos in the east is the result of corruption and undisciplined leadership. Soldiers are not paid, because the money is stolen by senior officials and officers. Too many of the military commanders are untrained, or uninterested in being professional soldiers. Many were formerly warlords and bandits, and are not keen to change. The thousands of FDLR Hutu rebels from Rwanda remain the most dangerous, because they are the most undisciplined and out-of-control fighters in the region. The Rwandan Hutus live off the locals, looting, raping and killing on a regular basis, extorting food and other goods via the threat of murder. From time to time, the Hutu rebels continue to kill dozens of villagers, to maintain the climate of terror. Despite several years of government and UN peacekeeper operations against them, the FDLR continues to hold its bases in the east. Over the last 15 years, the FDLR have caused hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes. Other fighting in eastern Congo in this period has caused over 1.3 million people from their homes.

After a decline in violence last year, casualties and violence against civilians is up over 20 percent this year. The military operations against the FDLR earlier this year were hobbled by theft (of money provided to maintain the troops), rape and looting. It was hard to tell the difference between the government forces and the rebels they were attempting to defeat.

Several hundred Ugandan LRA rebels have established themselves in northern Congo, where they live by looting from local villages. Operations against them by government and Ugandan troops earlier this year failed, as the LRA fighters simply evaded the attackers. The government has no plans to go after the LRA again, unless the Ugandan rebels become more of a problem.

June 5, 2009: LRA rebels kidnapped 135 villagers in northern Congo. The LRA has killed at least a thousand Congolese civilians since last December. The continuing violence is forcing local army forces to at least try to catch and kill the LRA gunmen.

May 28, 2009: The army and UN peacekeepers have again pushed into territory in the east (280 kilometers north of Goma) that has long been controlled by the FDLR.

May 19, 2009: The UN has asked the government to arrest five senior army officers for war crimes. The five are former rebel leaders that, as part of the amnesty deal, joined the army. But the former rebels did not give up their warlord ways, and continued to abuse civilians (rape, murder, looting). In addition, general Bosco Ntaganda, commanding many of the government forces (FARDC) fighting the FDLR in the eastern Congo, is wanted by the UN for war crimes. But the government refuses to give up Ntaganda.

May 14, 2009:  FDLR rebels in the east massacred 90 villagers.

May 12, 2009: Nearly 20,000 refugees have returned to their homes near Goma in eastern Congo.

 

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