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UN Peacekeepers Can't Contrain Congo Army Abuses, NGO Says, Split on Speaking with Nkunda

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 11 -- In the Congo, UN Peacekeepers despite a mandate to protect civilians are not authorized to engage with the Congolese Army, even if these troops described as rampaging kill civilians right in front of the UN, Oxfam's Juliette Prodham Tuesday told the Press by phone from Goma.

   Oxfam along with fellow non-governmental organizations Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group are together calling for an additional 3000 UN Peacekeepers for North Kivu. But on some issues they are taking different views, for example on whether President Joseph Kabila should speak with rebel general Laurent Nkunda. Steve Crewshaw of Human Rights Watch said this should probably take place, while Fabienne Hara says ICG believes that since Nkunda was part of the so-called Nairobi and Goma Processes, he should not be given a new and separate chance to negotiate. Whether ignoring the people with the guns is the best way to protect civilians is another question.

  Inner City Press asked HRW's Crenshaw to relate his groups damning reports about peacekeepers in the Congo being involved in trading gold and guns, and sexual abuse of minors, to his call for 3000 more peacekeepers. Crewshaw went to great pains to say that the critique, in the gold and guns case, was of the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services, headed by Inga-Britt Ahlenius. But when one calls for more and more peacekeepers, to support a national army accused of human rights abuses, shouldn't some warning bells be rung?


Peacekeepers in Congo, gold and guns not shown

The groups' main call seemed to be that European countries should be faster with with support. This must primarily be directed at the UK, because HRW's Crewshaw went on to praise Belgium, at least for its votes in the Security Council, and ICG's Hara agreed that France is not the right country to led a peacekeeping mission in North Kivu, given its rising tensions with Rwanda. Who does that leave -- Spain? Whose general Diaz fled the Congo less than a month after arriving?

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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