Congo: Searching For The Exit

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

 

December 21, 2009: The UN has sent peacekeepers, and promises of protection, to thousands of villagers in the northeast. There is great fear that LRA (Lords Resistance Army) raiders will stage raids similar to those they carried out a year ago (and killed nearly a thousand civilians). The LRA are rebels and slavers from Uganda, who are being chased by the military from several countries. This has been going on for years, and the LRA keeps escaping, and marauding.

December 19, 2009: The rumors continue, but this time there appears to be action behind the rumors. The government has once again asked the UN to come up with a plan to end MONUC, the UN's Congo peacekeeping mission. The date is hazy but next year is the 50th anniversary of Congo's independence from Belgium. To many Congolese, the UN peacekeeping force looks a lot like an imperial force –albeit one employing a lot of soldiers from developing nations. So MONUC is putting together some sort of “exit strategy.” Don't bet that MONUC will go, however. The plan will likely have “phases” and “benchmarks.” One of the benchmarks has to be an effective Congolese Army. Achieving that goal, unfortunately, is many years away. There is also the simple logistical problem of withdrawing soldiers and civilian support personnel. That could take up to two years.

December 18, 2009: A major battle between the Congolese Army and an “insurgent force” near the town of Dongo (Equateur province) took place earlier this week. The army claimed  47 rebels dead, and 32 soldiers were wounded. The UN has beefed up its own troop presence in the region. MONUC said it has around 500 soldiers deployed to help the Congolese Army with logistics (both supply and transportation). The UN force in Dongo draws on Ghanaian, Tunisian and Egyptian contingents. It also has a small contingent of Guatemalan Special Forces. The UN force will be supported by armored personnel carriers. Part of the force will deploy to Dongo, part to the town of Bozene, and part near the Ubangui River.

December 17, 2009: MONUC is participating in the Kimia II “joint operation” with the Congolese Army (FARDC), which will conclude by the end of 2009. The operation has drawn criticism, mainly because Congolese soldiers have killed hundreds of civilians during the operation. Kimia II is an operation against the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), a predominantly Rwandan Hutu militia but one that over the years has attracted some support in eastern Congo. Why? The FDLR has money, allegedly from selling and smuggling valuable minerals. For example, smuggled Congolese gold moves through Burundi and Rwanda to the United Arab Emirates.

December 15, 2009: The Congolese Army is “intensifying” operations against the FDLR in the Walikale, Masisi and Rutshuru regions of North Kivu province. One Congolese soldier was killed in an operation in the province.

December 14, 2009: Government forces have retaken the town of Dongo (Equateur province). A “large Congolese Army force” entered Dongo on December 13 and engaged a militia force. Several rebel fighters died in the battle.

December 11, 2009: The Congo government has rejected a UN report on the failure of the Kimia II peacekeeping operation. The government claims that the FDLR has been substantially damaged by the operation. Specifically, the government said that as of December 4th 1,279 FDLR have been killed in the offensive and 1,247 militia fighters and supporters have been repatriated to Rwanda. The government also denied reports that the Congolese Army had massacred civilians in eastern Congo. The UN committee that put together the report said that the FDLR has recruited more militiamen.

December 10, 2009: There are more reports of fighting near the town of Dongo. A group called the “Resistance Patriots of Dongo” (PRD) claims it is recruiting Congolese to fight “foreign forces” who are deployed against them. The UN did deploy a small force from Ghana in the area and it reportedly sending more troops. The PRD claimed that its fighters had engaged soldiers from the Rwandan Army. This is propaganda.

November 26, 2009: Militiamen near the town of Dongo (Equateur province) fired on a UN helicopter. The helicopter was on a supply mission. A contingent of 20 Ghanian troops serving with MONUC is deployed in the area where Lobala and Boba tribesmen have been fighting.

November 25, 2009: A report for the UN Security Council claimed that the Congolese Army and MONUC have failed to cut-off the FDLR's supply lines in North and South Kivu provinces (eastern Congo). The FDLR has also increased in strength. The latest public estimates are that the FDLR has between 6000 and 8000 militiamen under arms.

 

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