Congo Watch: May 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

DRC: Update Report on the Security Council Mission to Africa

How strange that urgent news reports have quietened down to such an extent that I have not needed to file any reports here at Congo Watch since 8 May.

Email just in from UN Security Council announcing that on 28 May the Council is expecting a briefing on the recent mission by Council members to four African countries:
The visit to the AU in Addis Ababa was led jointly by UK Ambassador John Sawers and Ugandan Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda, both of whom also co-led the visit to Rwanda. The visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took place under the leadership of French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert while US Ambassador Susan Rice led the visit to Liberia. All four permanent representatives are expected to participate in briefing the Council.
Excerpt from Update Report on the Security Council Mission to Africa dated 27 May:
On 28 May the Council is expecting a briefing on the recent mission by Council members to Africa. The five-day, four-country trip had four leaders who led or co-led the delegation at different destinations.

The 16 May visit to Addis Ababa, whose main focus was enhancing the UN partnership with the African Union on issues of common interest to the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), was led jointly by the UK Ambassador John Sawers and the Ugandan Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda. They also co-led the 17 May visit to Rwanda.

The 18-19 May visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took place under the leadership of French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert.

US Ambassador Susan Rice led the 20 May visit to Liberia.

All four permanent representatives are expected to participate in briefing the Council. [...]

DRC
The two day trip to the DRC began in Goma, in the North Kivu region of the country. In addition to expressing the Council’s overall support for the Rwanda-Congolese rapprochement, the goals of the trip included: a better grasp of the functioning of the largest UN peacekeeping operation, MONUC (UN Mission in the DRC); a briefing on the prospects for MONUC’s strengthening in the immediate future (some 3,000 personnel are expected by June or July); plans for MONUC’s eventual drawdown (expected by 2011); an update on the joint operations (Kimia II and Rubia II) undertaken by MONUC and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) against FDLR and the Lord’s Resistance Army, respectively.

While in Goma Council members met with victims of sexual violence and travelled by helicopter to a displaced persons camp at Kiwanja, where they also visited a headquarters for the operation Kimia II.

Council members explored possible ways to improve the protection of civilians’ aspect of MONUC’s mandate and raised concerns about reports of abuses of civilians perpetrated by remnants of the rebel forces as well as FARDC. (The FARDC has absorbed former rebel combatants. Resolution 1856 called on the Congolese leadership to create a vetting mechanism “to take into account when they select candidates for official positions, including key posts in the armed forces, national police and other security services, the candidates’ past actions in terms of respect for international humanitarian law and human rights.” Civil society representatives who met Council members in Goma reported that several known perpetrators have not been screened out. The DRC Group of Experts in its 14 May report recommended that “the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo implement a vetting mechanism to screen the human rights records of FARDC officers within the wider context of security sector reform.”)

In its meetings with top DRC leaders, including the prime minister and the president, the delegation brought up five specific names of former rebel commanders who had been absorbed into the FARDC despite their documented abuses against civilian population. MONUC had first brought the names to the DRC judicial authorities’ attention in early 2008, in letters sent by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General. The delegation received assurances that the matter will be addressed.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Lord’s Resistance Army attack villages nr Yambio, S. Sudan

From Sudan Tribune 07 May 2009:
LRA strike again while Southern parliament speaker visits Yambio
May 6, 2009 (LONDON) – Guerrillas of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) struck villages just 15 miles from Yambio town during the two day visit of the Speaker of South Sudan Legislature Assembly and Deputy Chairman of SPLM, James Wani Igga, who arrived Monday before returning today to Juba.

Hon. Wani Igga was quoted by the Western Equatoria state (WES) Ministry of Communications as saying that “the insecurity of WES is deplorable and condemnable.” He reportedly also described the insecurity in WES as perpetuated by irresponsible individuals.

The LRA are reported by WES defence groups and confirmed by WES officials as attacking a village called Bureangburu where the LRA abducted a man and his wife, said Charles Kisanga, a leader of the region’s Azande community living in the United Kingdom.

Formation of defence groups, sometimes referred to as “arrow boys” for their primitive outfitting, has been encouraged by the state governor in recent months.

“A chase was given by self-defence arrow boys and girls who caught up with the LRA and thereby clashing with them and one LRA terrorist was killed. The dead LRA was soon torn to pieces by an angry mob but the arrow boys managed to bring the torn hand of the dead LRA rebel to Yambio town for authorities to see and hopefully maybe let Hon. Wani Igga also to get a glimpse of it to see for himself the brutality of the LRA war in Western Equatoria,” said Kisanga.

LRA also struck at a place called Nasoro, near Gangura and looted food and abducted an unknown number people. Two days ago another attack was reported in Sakure where two boys aged 12 and 15 years were abducted by the LRA.

Continued LRA attacks and looting have emptied the villages of Bureangburu, Nasoro and Bakiwiri, from which residents fled to Yambio seeking protection. According to Kisanga, the displacement puts strain on all those who had relatives in the villages. Bureangburu is not far from Bakiwiri with only river Yubu separating the villages.

“Most people in Yambio have households with members swelling to over 20 to 50 and some reaching a hundred as relatives seek refuge from LRA,” described Kisanga.

Leaders of the state government of WES largely ignored a regional disarmament campaign last year, preferring that the populace remain armed against the LRA fighters who have crossed over from northeast Democratic Republic of Congo. However, unlike other parts of southern Sudan, WES never developed large-scale militias during the 22-year civil war that began in 1983.

LRA, which is one of the oldest guerrilla groups in east Africa, replenishes its ranks through abduction and indoctrination. Though they have been hunted by the armies of DR Congo, Uganda, and Guatemalan special forces serving with the UN, the LRA forces survive through looting, jungle skills and external patronage.

Kisanga, head the new SPLM Patriotic Organisation for change, recommended that the current government of the semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan be dismissed to be replaced with “a caretaker government mostly made of some SPLA military officers and technocrats” who would use maximum force to protect the south ahead of elections.