Peace Talks Commence in DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

NORTH KIVU, Democratic Republic of Congo –  In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rebel delegates under the leadership of General Nkunda have arrived to attend peace talks between government and rebel actors. General Nkunda will not attend the nine day conference.

The fighting between rebel forces and the Congolese army has lead to the displacement of more than 800,000 civilians in the North Kivu province. More than 10,000 people live in the Buhimba refugee camp alone. People are suffering from sanitation, hygiene and health problems because they are living so close together. 

General Nkunda claims that his forces protect ethnic Tutsie in the Northern Kivu province from Hutus who drove them out of Rwanda in the 1994 genocide.

Presently, the rebels want the government to deal with Rwandan Hutu rebels, who have not been invited to attend the peace conference. All Africa.com has stated that the “Tutsi led rebels’ demands are not clearly defined.”

During the opening ceremony, more than 600 delegates from opposing parties were in attendance. Moreover, in the next few days, twenty government ministers will attend the conference. Congo’s Interior Minister Denis Kalume urged all rebels to disarm. Nevertheless, some members of President Joseph Kabila’s government in Kinshasa were reluctant to end the conflict, rejecting General Nkunda’s call for peace talks.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Rebels Attend Congo Peace Talks – 7 January 2008

VOA- Fleeing Civilians Swell Displacement Camps in Eastern DRC –   7 January 2008

All Africa – Congo-Kinshasa: Peace Conference Opens in Violence-Torn East  – 7 January 2008

Increase in Child Abductions in DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo – According to the charity, Save the Children, the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has resulted in an increase in child abductions by rebel groups. While the conflict has forced about 800,000 people from their homes, only about 800 children have been freed from armed militias during 2007.

The Congolese director for Save the Children, Hussein Mursal, has described the situation for children and teenagers in eastern DRC to be “catastrophic.” Militant groups have been forcibly capturing children as young as age ten to fight in the front lines. The UN claims “that rape, pillage (and) the recruitment of child soldiers are practiced by all Nord-Kivu fighters.”

Kemal Saiki, a spokesman for MONUC, the UN mission to DRC said “Our latest information shows 200 pupils were forcibly recruited on December 17, with school materials and ID cards being burnt.”

General Nkunda has reported that he is not interested in using child soldiers to fight against Rwandan Hutu rebels who threaten the DR Congo’s Tutsi population.  Nevertheless, reports show that Nkunda’s men have been responsible for taking children from Tongo. 

Presently, Nkunda has called for a ceasefire in an attempt to undertake internationally sponsored peace negotiations in Goma that will take place on January 6, 2008. Currently, 20,000 government soldiers with the help of United Nations forces are fighting 4,000 Nkunda loyalists.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Child Kidnap Surge in DR Congo   – 24 December 2007

BBC – DR Congo: Voices of Violence – 17 October 2007

VOA – DRC Rebel Leader Calls for Ceasefire   – 26 December 2007

AFP – UN slams Congolese rebel child soldier recruitment   – 26 December 2007

DRC Army Seizes Stategic Town of Mushake

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo –   Armed forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo have seized the eastern town of Mushake. According to General Dieudonne Kayembe, fifty of General Laurent’s Nkunda’s rebels were killed. General Nkunda and his remaining forces are rumored to have retreated to nearby mountains.

Presently, the 82nd brigade of the Congolese armed forces has control over Mushake, which will give the government a strategic advantage to monitor a key transportation road in the region.

The United States, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda have pledged support to the DR Congo army. These countries have also pledged not to “harbour negative forces.”

The United Nation’s peacekeeping mission in DR Congo has been providing logistical, and humanitarian support. On Tuesday, the UN claimed that as a last resort, they would provide “fire support” against the rebel forces.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary Rice visited the Ethiopian capital to get support from Great Lakes African leaders to diffuse the situation. According to Reuters, she was unable to obtain a major breakthrough.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Army Seizes DR Congo Rebel base  – 5 December 2007

Reuters – Rice pushes leaders for end to Congo conflict  – 5 December 2007

AFP – Congolese report rapes, abuse by Angolan soldiers: MSF  – 5 December 2007

Crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo

By Meryl A. White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

NORTH KIVU, Democratic Republic of Congo – According to Human Rights Watch, the United Nations has been slow to react to murder, rape, and the indoctrination of child soldiers in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Presently, the situation in DRC is grim, as the crisis is turning into a war between Hutu and Tutsi tribes.

In the last five days of fighting, more than 100 rebels were killed by the Congolese army.  This prompted General Nkunda to call for a cease fire to avoid civilian casualties. Presently, more than 150 of Nkunda’s fighters have “fled the rebel ranks.”

More than 370,000 people who have been displaced by the fighting in the eastern region. Around 8,000 refugees have been forced into migration across the border into Uganda to seek safety. Refugees are currently entering Uganda through the Bunagana and Busanza border crossings.

UNHCR has reported that women and children are taking shelter on shop verandas in Bunagana, while other refugees are remaining close to the border crossings in hopes of returning home.

Critics of the United Nations believe that peacekeepers in the region have been “powerless to intervene in the battles between government forces and three separate militias.” Nevertheless, the 18,000-strong mission in Congo is the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation.

For more information, please see:

AllAfrica.com – Congo-Kinshasa: 8,000 Flee to Uganda – 22 October 2007

AllAfrica.com – Congo-Kinshasa: Civilians in Peril – 23 October 2007

YahooNews – Congo Fighting Displaces More Civilians – 23 October 2007

Human Rights Watch – DR Congo: Civilians in Peril – 23 October 2007

Rebels in DRC Given Until October 15th to Cease Fire

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NORTH KIVO, Democratic Republic of Congo – In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, rebels under the leadership of General Laurent Nkunda have been given until October 15th to cease hostilities. The militants have been given the choice to enter the national army or face prosecution.

General Nkunda is currently backing DR Congo’s Tutsis population. He claims that he is protecting Tutsis from Hutus who escaped Rwanda and entered into the DR Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Nkunda firmly believes that Hutus in DRC have formed the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR). The Rwandan government denies supporting General Nkunda.

The fighting in North Kivu province forced thousands of people to become displaced when locals fled from their homes to avoid the violence. The “once-bustling” town of Mushaki, located 50 km west of Goma, is now deserted.

In Goma, the provincial capital, relief workers are preparing to accommodate at least 1,900 displaced families. The site’s capacity can hold 10,000 to 12,000 people. Furthermore, in the Masisi district, more than 16,000 people are sheltering along the roads that connect the villages.

Many people seeking relief avoid going to the displacement camps in Goma and travel up North into the Masisi Mountains. One reason for this growing trend is that the mountains in the north provide better grazing conditions for cattle “on which their livelihoods depend.”

The UNHCR stated that, “Displaced [people] report severe violations by armed groups, such as pillaging and destruction of houses, killings of civilians, recruitment of children into armed groups and cases of rape.” Between January and September 2007, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported more than 2,000 cases of rape in North Kivu.

In total, the United Nation’s believes that more than 370,000 civilians have been displaced in the province in the latest round of fighting.

For more information, please see:

All Africa.com – Congo-Kinshasa: Rape Cases Up By 60 Percent in North Kivu – UNHCR – 12 October 2007

BBC – DR Congo army moves on rebel HQ – 12 October 2007

BBC – DR Congo Key Facts – Accessed 12 October 2007

Update on DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NORTH KIVU, Democratic Republic of Congo – A United Nations source has revealed to the BBC that the Congolese Mai Mai militia and Hutu troops have formed the Front for the Liberation of North Kivu (‘FLNK”). The BBC has revealed that FLNK currently patrols with the army in eastern DRC to counter General Laurent Nkunda’s militia. Nevertheless, the United Nations and the Congolese army both deny coordinating tactical efforts with rebel groups.

General Nkunda is currently backing DR Congo’s Tutsis population. He claims that he is protecting Tutsis from Hutus who escaped Rwanda and entered into the DR Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Nkunda believes that Hutus in DRC have formed the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR). The Rwandan government denies supporting General Nkunda.

Eusebe Hounsokou, the representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said “While there is a slight reduction in tension in the province because the fighting has decreased, we are concerned that this may affect our access to the displaced.”

In Goma, the provincial capital, relief workers are preparing to accommodate at least 1,900 displaced families. The site’s capacity can hold 10,000 to 12,000 people.

In the Masisi district, more than 16,000 people are sheltering along the roads that connect the villages.

The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported nine suspected cases of cholera, with one death. The International Rescue Committee will “deploy operations in this area shortly”.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Dr Congo Hutu front ‘helps’ army – 2 October 2007

AllAfrica.com – Congo-Kinshasa: Troop Build-Up in North Kivu Worrying – UN Official – 2 October 2007

Gulf Times – UN refugee agency repeats warning on Congo violence – 30 September 2007

Ceasefire in DRC Challenged By Fighting

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo – In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, intense fighting between government forces and insurgents loyal to General Laurent Nkunda have forced the army to withdraw from its positions in the northeast.

Gabriel de Brosses, the military spokesman for MONUC, the United Nations peacekeeping force in DRC stated that “the fighting started early in the morning Monday and afterwards MONUC sent in heavy patrols to monitor the situation and some of the fighting resumed this morning,”

Army commanders have withdrawn from the area in order to meet strict orders from President Joseph Kabila that only allow soldiers to use defensive and not offensive force. Presently, the Congolese government is attempting to provide a peaceful solution to this violent situation.

According to Colonel Delphin Kahimni, government forces were attacked on three fronts in the North Kivu province. Presently, President Kabila declines to negotiate with the armed rebels.

According to Muzong Kodi, a DRC analyst with London-based Chatham House, believed that the DRC government has handled the situation poorly by not negotiating with the rebels. Kodi stated, “Nkunda is going to try as much as possible to force the government to the negotiating table, which the government is not going to want-otherwise they will lose face and there is a lot of pressure from the politicians in the area and a large portion of the population not to negotiate with Nkunda.”

During this year alone, more than 300,000 people have been displaced in the DRC. Many of the refugees flee from General Nkunda’s troops. In a site located twelve miles west of Goma, more than 10,000 people are being housed in camps. The United Nations refugee agency reports that over 4,000 people were seen arriving to those camps just this week. The conditions in the sites are very poor. Thousands of people live in crowded areas, while others squat in school buildings.

For more information, please see:

VOA news: Fighting in DRC Challenges Ceasefire 25 September 2007

VOA News: Displaced DRC Citizens Relocate Amid Lull in Fighting 24 September 2007

BBC: Rebel breaks DR Congo ceasefire 25 September 2007

Attack on Peacekeepers in DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

There was an attack on UN peacekeepers stationed in the Rusthuru region of North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. The incident took place when North Kivu brigades were hit with rocks on August 20th in Bunugana village by rebels who wanted to prevent the UN police from entering their village.

The peacekeepers were attempting to gather information on the assault of two Congolese intelligent agents that took place last weekend. Three Indian peacekeepers and an officer from the Congolese police were wounded during the attack.

The rebels were part of a militia organized by General Nkunda, who was a former general in the Congolese army. Nkunda’s militia is responsible for attacking government positions in North Kivu. While the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers have been able to force Nkunda’s militia to withdraw in the past, there have still been numerous clashes between the militia and army.

The general instability in the region has resulted in the displacement of 10,000. Moreover, since 1999, fighting between six armed forces has resulted in the deaths of 50,000 people.

UN Refugee Agency estimates that over 10,000 Congolese crossed to Uganda’s southwestern district of Kisoro in attempts to seek refugee on August 21st. Presently, Uganda hosts about 29,000 refugees from eastern DR Congo.

For more information, please see:

AllAfrica – Congo-Kinshasa: UN Peacekeepers Caught Up in Continuing Unrest in North Kivu – 23 August 2007

BBC – Congo Refugees Return from Uganda – 23 August 2007

IRIN – DRC: Thousands Disarm and Join Reintegration Process in Ituri – 21 August 2007