JRS Grands Lacs: War and human rights violations in South Kivu, DR of Congo
The agreements of Sun City (South Africa) signed on April 2nd, 2003 by the RCD Goma (Congolese Rally for Democracy) among others opened up a scenario of hope for the pacification of the province of South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). JRS Grands Lacs, however, wants to express its concern on the present political and humanitarian situation in this area. Human rights violations and fighting have lasted too long for peace to arrive without some strong help from the international community.
A spiral of violence and a culture of anarchy has taken root in the region at the expense of the local population of the South Kivu and the East of the DR Congo. During the last weeks, several NGOs have denounced the return of Rwandan troops to South Kivu. JRS Grands Lacs joins in this denouncement. According to information received by JRS, Rwandan elements are reportedly present in the territory of Uvira and in particular in the commune of Luvungi, plain of the Rusizi. Burundian troops are also reportedly back in the plain of the Rusizi and even also in the south of Uvira.
These possible violations of the agreement of Pretoria of July 2002 and of the agreement of principles signed between the Burundian government and the DRC on October 13th , 2002 can only generate a continuation of war and an even stronger destabilisation of South Kivu. Combats causing about ten deaths on April 6th, 2003 in Bukavu between RCD Goma and the militia Mudundu 40 are an alarming sign in this respect.
Groups hostile to RCD Goma and foreign troops also seem to have increased pressure in the area. Information about a meeting at Minembwe (South Kivu) at the end of February between Mai Mai and Banyamulenge groups seems to show an increased will of collaboration among these groups.
The international community thus witnesses a toughening of different positions in contradiction with the agreements of peace signed in Pretoria on July 30th 2002, December 17th , 2002 and, very recently, April 2nd , 2002 at Sun City.
Parallel to the unceasing rise of destructive political antagonism, violations of human rights in South Kivu have reached an unacceptable level. In a general manner, impunity has become the rule. The South Kivu is a lawless area where whoever is armed, either the soldiers of the RCD Goma/ANC (military component of the RCD Goma), or various groups such as the Mai Mai, Burundian Hutu armed groups -- FDD (Forces for the Defense of Democracy) and FNL (National Liberation Front)-, Banyamulenge soldiers of the FRF (Republican Federalist Forces), Interahamwe and ex-FAR (Rwandan Armed Forces), or any citizen having a weapon, can carry out acts of violence in total impunity.
Violations of human rights are thus a daily affair of very wide scope. In spite of the efforts of many local Human Rights NGOs, these violations remain largely unknown. Beyond some massacres, like the one of Kiliba (South Kivu) commune located in the plain of the Rusizi, on December 07, 2002, many daily exactions stay hidden: murders, rapes, taking of hostages, arbitrary detentions, detentions in private jails, acts of torture or humiliation, and lootings. Without witnesses, whole territories are forsaken by international organisations due to legitimate security concerns. The High Plateaus, the territories of Fizi and Mwenga are dramatic examples.
Facing such circumstances, and following the opinion already expressed by other humanitarian and international actors, such as ICG (International Crisis Group) (24/01/03), Refugees International (07/04/03) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) (08/04/03), JRS Grands Lacs appeals to a reinforcement of the mission of the United Nations in the DR Congo (MONUC). Since it was created in November 1999, MONUC has not been able to fulfil completely its mission of cease-fire monitoring and demobilisation, disarmament, regrouping, repatriation, reintegration (2R-3R) of all armed groups, reaffirmed on February 24th 2000 by the Security Council resolution 1291.
The reinforcement of the MONUC inevitably asks for a change of mandate, under chapter VII, in order to become a force of interposition as well. The change of mandate is a vital measure in order to bring a lasting peace to an area devastated by war.
Far from being an organ merely in charge of registering human rights and ceasefire violations, this measure would empower MONUC to fully assure the ultimate goals it has been entrusted to fulfil. This would also fill the existing lack of authority following the official withdrawal of foreign forces in October 2002 and will create a favourable climate for voluntary demobilisation.
This reinforcement of the MONUC would also require an additional number of troops. The reinforcement approved by the 1445 Council Resolution of December 4, 2002 has not been a sufficient measure, and it has not affected the South Kivu in a significant way. Whole zones of South Kivu, like the territory of Fizi, remain still largely unknown to MONUC.