In Congo, Civilians Bear the
Brunt as UN Attacks NGOs and Whistleblowing General
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 25 -- In
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is said that Rwandan troops
today, to be followed by the end of the week by Ugandan forces involved
hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army that resulted
LRA killings of 900 civilians. But questions have arisen whether all of
Rwandans are leaving, and if the Ugandans will leave at all.
DRC President Joseph Kabila is trying to remove the
head of the National
Assembly, who has raised questions about Kabila's invitation of
onto Congolese soil. Local leaders in Dungu in north Congo, where the
still on the loose, are demanding that either the Ugandans or Congo's
army stay and finish off the LRA, which they liken to a wounded lion.
Despite the claim that the UN Mission in the Congo,
MONUC, is most
focused on protecting civilians, they did almost nothing when the LRA
wave of killing on Christmas of last year. Tuesday at UN Headquarters,
Rights Watch's Congo expert Anneke Van Woudenberg told the Press that
wasn't even informed of the assault on the LRA until hours before it
Inner City Press asked Ms. Van Woudenberg for HRW's
view on whether the
United States, as a Permanent Five member of the Security Council which
provided funding and planning to the Ugandan army, had a duty to give
advance warning to MONUC, so that civilians could be protected. Ms. Van Woudenberg responded that it was
perhaps understandable that only a few people not involved in the
be told before the action started. But can it be that the U.S. doesn't
the head of MONUC, Alan Doss?
Doss in recent weeks has adopted a combative
approach, not to warlords
but to the press and NGOs. His new communications chief, Kevin Kennedy,
a stinging rebuke of a Medecins Sans
Frontieres report about the north Congo
killings. While the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping
Le Roy upon his return from Afghanistan urged a more detailed response,
letter to MSF was given little publicity.
On February 23, Inner City Press asked MSF's
Sophie Delaunay if the group has any second-thoughts about the report,
UN called it "unfounded." No, she said, the report is what happened
in norther Congo, it was "outrageous" and it had to be said. MONUC is known to dispute even the
titles of NGOs' reports on the Congo.
MONUC will let no insult stand, it seems.
This applies equally to the damning report by
Spanish General Diaz, who
left MONUC after he found a less than friendly reception by Alan Doss.
City Press has asked for the UN's comments on Diaz's end of mission
and the response has been to vilify Diaz as a quitter, even as having
nervous breakdown. But Inner City Press
has heard that Doss never wanted Diaz, preferring instead an African
MONUC didn't even pick Diaz up from the airport when he arrived.
mission in Kinshasa had to do it, at the eleventh hour. It was hardly
auspicious beginning. Peacekeeping, indeed.
UN's Alan Doss in Congo, Diaz report and letter to
MSF not shown
While the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes, when
Inner City Press asked
him about HRW's report this month of 100 killings of civilians by the
FDLR military said "I hope it's not true," Ms. Van Woudenberg said
that it's that the UN couldn't go out and do their own count for two
expects that Holmes will now confirm the report. We'll see -- Holmes
to New York on Friday, from Colombia and a controversial
trip to Sri Lanka.
When the International Criminal Court screened its
statements again Thomas Lubanga in his old stomping grounds in Bunia,
Woudenberg was there. She told Inner City Press that the room chosen
small, and that students outside, some supportive of Lubanga and the
militia, began to make noise. The ICC cancelled the afternoon's
which was Lubanga's lawyers' chance to speak. The ICC ended up
appearing to be
one-sided. Ms. Van Woudenberg suggested they increase their outreach.
While Amnesty International has called on the UN
Mission in Sudan,
UNMIS, to refrain from helping transfer two of the LRA's leaders, both
by the ICC, to Uganda, HRW has yet to take a formal position on this.
Woudenberg recounted her meetings with warlords from Laurent Nkunda to
Ntaganda. The latter, she said, began with Rwandan forces of Paul
in 1991. In a uniquely Congolese trajectory, Bosco passed to the AFDL
overthrew Mobutu and tried the same with Desire Kabila, pere,
then moved on to the UPC in Ituri before joining the CNDP, at
first under and now over Laurent Nkunda.
Ms. Van Woudenberg
Press that the Congolese government in May 2007 asked MONUC to help
Bosco, who has been indicted by the ICC. Inner City Press asked if this
has been rescinded, now that Kabila's government wants to work with the
CNDP. Ms. Van Woudenberg said it has not
been revoked, and provides an opportunity.
But with the UN system
so invested in the regime of Kabila, to the point
where only his opponents are indicted and delivered to the ICC,
it's hard to
imagine MONUC seeking to use a request that has been politically
order to apprehend Bosco.
In fact, as Ms. Van Woudenberg confirmed, warlord Peter
Kerim who killed
and kidnapped UN peacekeepers in 2006 is now a colonel in the Congolese
and the UN says little to nothing about it. Ms. Van Woudenberg said
Congolese government, at a minimum, was involved in brokering an
with Kerim. But was the UN also
In the course of Ms. Van Woudenberg travels in Congo
-- she is there
seven months a year, she says -- she recently met Ugandan General
the town on Dungu. Gen. Patrick was involved in the UPDF's bloody
disarmament campaign in Uganda's Karamoja region, in which the UN
Program was involved. Gen. Patrick told her, I know Human Rights Watch,
the ones who criticized us in Karamoja. And that is to HRW's credit.
Ms. Van Woudenberg's presentation was keyed to Ban
Ki-moon's travel this
week to the Congo. She said that Ban should "bang his hand on the
table" on several of these issues. Somehow that's hard to imagine.
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