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UN Urges "Reduction" of Hutu Rebels in Congo, More Gem Trading Charges

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 19 -- As tensions flare up in the eastern Congo, the head of UN Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno on Thursday told reporters of not one threat but at least three. Beyond the forces of "General" Nkunda, the only rebels mentioned by Mr. Guehenno in his opening statement, questioning led Guehenno to mention the Mai-mai and the FDLR (Forces democratiques de liberation du Rwanda), and to call on their "reduction" by the Congolese army.

            This was a strange answer for two reasons. First, regarding the Nkunda-led forces, Mr. Guehenno said that no violence should be used, only a political process. Asked by Inner City Press what that meant, Guehenno said that if Nkunda had been able to garner support, it is because there are unresolved issues around the distribution of resources. Meanwhile, Guehenno using the phrase "reduction" called for a forceful confrontation with the FDLR -- perhaps because Rwanda is calling for that as well.

            But Rwanda has also called for an investigation of UN peacekeepers, some of whom stand accused of sharing intelligence with the FDLR in exchange for gold.  Given the UN's record during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, this most recent charge is particularly troubling. Whether it will be addressed in the Security Council Presidential Statement that is being negotiated following Mr. Guehenno's briefing is not at press time known.

MONUC's Swing cuts the red ribbon, management review not shown

            Inner City Press' continued inquiries into the UN Mission in the Congo has uncovered a complaint filed against a former MONUC chief engineer. Among the many charges, the complaint states that the engineer's wife "started gem trading with illegal gem trader in Kinshasa and elsewhere. We spend much time taking his wife around to do gem trading."

            This charge resonates with the more recent charges of intelligence-for-gold trading with the FDLR, and the now-upheld charge of facilitating gold trade by a Pakistani UN peacekeeper. We will continue to endeavor to find what inquiry was conducted into the gem charges. What we can say of the engineer, also accused in the complaint, is that he was brought back to UN Headquarters, with Peacekeeping and now, reportedly, Facilities Management. Only at the UN...

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540