Congo Siasa

News round-up

The UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston published a short report on the DR Congo today. It is pithy and to the point, as those who have seen his recent work on Kenya have come to expect.

  • He looked at Bas-Congo, where over 200 supporters of the Bundu Dia Kongo community were bludgeoned, stabbed and shot to death by the government in 2007 and 2008. Alston tried to visit Kisantu, the site of one of the massacres. He was prevented from seeing BDK supporters and eyewitnesses of the violence there.
  • In the Kivus, he examined the allegations of massacres carried out in the context of the Kimia II offensive. Nothing new to the usual sad litany of abuses reported by NGOs and the press (he confirms that over 1,000 people have been killed since January and thousands more raped), except this: He looked at the Shalio massacre of 27 April 2009, when newly integrated Congolese troops attacked a refugee camp close to an FDLR base, killing at least 50 refugees. “A small group of 10 who escaped described being gang raped and had severe injuries; some had chunks of their breasts hacked off.” A few days later, in retaliation for this attack, the FDLR attacked an FARDC camp, killing 96 civilians. The Shalio massacre is interesting because it reveals the ethnic tensions within the FARDC – the commander of the unit was Colonel Innocent Zimurinda, a Tutsi ex-CNDP officer, while the victims were all Hutu. I spoke to a deserter from Zimurinda’s unit, a Hutu who had been in the FDLR, then returned to Rwanda, was “recycled” and came back to the Congo for the CNDP, and was close by when the massacre happened. He was furious and said, “we can’t tolerate these kinds of things.” On the other hand, some prominent Hutu commanders in the Congolese army such as Colonel David Rugayi have business links with the FDLR until today.
  • His remarks with regards to MONUC are also notable: “the Security Council’s mandate has transformed MONUC into a party to the conflict in the Kivus.” This comment and the recent calls by NGOs to have MONUC withdraw its support to Kimia II will stir up debate when the Security Council debates MONUC’s mandate renewal in December this year

It is surprising the Congolese government invited Alston in the first place. I don’t see his report prompting any immediate action, but it will add to calls (including those on my own humble blog) to rethink MONUC strategy in the Kivus. You can’t be providing food, transport and medical support to the armed group that is most guilty of rape and that was involved in massacres like the one in Shalio. On the other hand, Kimia II has had an impact on the FDLR, who remain a serious threat.

How do you square this circle? Step back, reflect and renegotiate the terms of your engagement with the FARDC. Today, for all its support, MONUC is not involved in operational planning, not deployed with FARDC offensives on the ground and has little intelligence of command and control with the Congolese army. No wonder they have a hard time preventing these kinds of abuses.