Congo: No Way Out

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

July 1, 2009: Can the Congolese Army (FARDC) be reformed? This has become a critical question for the UN Security Council, MONUC (UN peacekeeping operation in Congo), and international donor nations. Reports of fragmentation, desertion and "occasional" mutiny continue to mount. There are always reports of FARDC attacks on civilians, looting, and plundering. One reason is that FARDC isn't really an army, especially in eastern Congo. FARDC is a "collection." There are some regular forces, but in eastern Congo many FARDC units were not so long ago rebel militias. MONUC is largely stuck with its "Congolese military restructuring" strategy. MONUC's intent has been to create, train, and equip an army that can take over security operations. However, the strategy has been sidetracked by using the military as a way to pay militiamen to quit being rebels. That decision vastly complicates the problem of creating a well-trained, disciplined, and loyal national military force.

June 26, 2009: The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militiamen continue to carry out reprisal attacks against civilians in North Kivu province. The FDLR militiamen are angry that Congolese civilians provided intelligence to the Congolese Army and Rwandan Army during their joint offensive earlier this year. An estimated 300,000 civilians have fled from FDLR attacks. There is an ebb and flow to the civilian displacements. FDLR militias attack and the civilians flee. The militias move on and the people return.

June 24, 2008: The UN peacekeeping operation Congo (MONUC) costs one billion dollars a year. This is about one-quarter of the UN's annual peacekeeping budget.

June 22, 2009: UN forces in Congo (MONUC) are continuing to conduct joint operations with the Congolese Army (FARDC) against the FDLR in North and South Kivu provinces. The UN says the operations have three objectives: (1) protect the Congolese civilian populace; (2) end the FDLR threat; (3) return the Kivus to Congo government control. MONUC estimates that the FDLR has reorganized and now has several thousand fighters (estimates vary, from 3000 to 6000). Congolese fighters now provide around a third of the reconstituted FDLR force.

June 20, 2009: Some 32 people died in fighting between the Army and FDLR militiamen from June 17 to June 19. The biggest clash occurred when an FDLR detachment attacked a government garrison in the town of Nyabiondo (northwest of Goma, North Kivu province).

June 19, 2009: A government believes that the "integration" of former Congolese Tutsi fighters from the National Congress for Defense of the People (CNDP) was tentative. The CNDP was led by General Laurent Nkunda. Nkunda remains in Rwanda, under arrest.

June 17, 2009: Soldiers opened fire on a UN base camp located northwest of Goma (in eastern Congo). The soldiers were involved in a pay dispute, which some describe as a mutiny. Under any circumstances, this is another indication of just how weak an organization the army is.

June 15, 2009: The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that former Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba will face five counts of war crimes charges. In 2006 Bemba lost the presidential election run-off to current Congolese president, Joseph Kabila.

 

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