Congo: Thugs Will Be Thugs

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

March 16, 2010: Attacks on civilians by the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) receive condemnation from the UN and a fair amount of press coverage. However, aid workers and UN monitors frequently criticize the Congolese Army (FARDC) for committing the same kind of atrocities on civilians (kidnapping, rape, and other sexual violence). The record is abysmal. It's estimated that half of the rapes committed in North Kivu province in the first seven months of 2009 were committed by Congolese Army troops. That's right, crimes and in some cases war crimes committed against the very people they are supposed to be protecting. The government calls it criminal behavior by individuals and says the soldiers will be punished, but this rarely happens. The documented cases of gang rape by soldiers indicates that it's an organized crime. UN trainers working with the Congolese Army talk about command problems in the FARDC. One of the major problems is the number of militia groups that have been integrated into the military in terms of pay, but still operate as if they were rebel militias. The justice system in the Congo is ineffective, to say the least, and the military justice system weak and often corrupt.

March 10, 2010: Former rebel officers in the National Congress for Defense of the People (CNDP) of running crime rackets. The former rebel officers (several of them now serving as officers in the Congolese Army) are extorting money from civilian miners who work in the region's numerous mines. The military force charged with protecting the mines charges the miners a fee to work at the mine. This is the same racket the militias ran. Now the militiamen are part of the army and they run the same scam. The CNDP was run by General Laurent Nkunda (who is now under arrest in Rwanda.)

March 8, 2010: The government has begun another weapons turn in program. This one is nicknamed “a firearm for 50 dollars.” The program is designed to reduce the number of firearms in the eastern Congo. The government expects between 20,000 and 30,000 weapons will be traded for the cash. The program is being implemented in North Kivu province.

March 4, 2010: The UN is once again talking about withdrawing its peacekeeping contingent. Withdrawals from MONUC (UN Mission in the Congo) could begin as early as this June. The withdrawal discussion has taken several interesting political twists and the June date is completely political. The government plans to celebrate the Congo's 50th anniversary of independence from Belgium in June. The Congo, however, is not stable and war continues to plague the eastern Congo. MONUC has indicated the June withdrawals (if they actually occur) will involve troops deployed in the western Congo.

March 3, 2010: Eighteen army battalions began a new operation against the FDLR in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. UN peacekeepers are supporting this very large Congolese operation.

 February 25, 2010: A U.S. Marine Corps task force (assigned to AFRICOM) has begun training Congolese Army soldiers, with 30 Marine trainers in the town of Kisangani. For the next eight months the Marines will instruct a battalion of 1,000 Congolese soldiers. The AFRICOM statement said that the Marines will focus on military skills but also emphasize human rights standards. The Congolese Army desperately needs reliable units. It appears that AFRICOM intends to help create a skilled battalion, a “building block” unit that can be used as an example for other Congolese military units.

 

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