DR Congo

Troop deployment to DR Congo good first step; immediate action still needed

Washington, DC - Refugees International welcomed the passage of today's UN Security Council Resolution authorizing the temporary deployment of 3,000 new peacekeepers and police for the DR Congo. However, the organization continued to express concern that the people in eastern Congo who lack access to services or protection from harm could not wait three to six months before any troops would be deployed. Refugees International continued to call for the European Union to immediately deploy a short-term rapid reaction force that can defend strategic towns until UN reinforcements arrive, and allow the UN peacekeeping mission to reorganize itself.

"The UN Security Council is finally taking a concrete action in response to the growing crisis in eastern Congo, but this is not enough to end the violence or protect the Congolese people," said Erin Weir, Refugees International's peacekeeping advocate who was in eastern Congo when rebels launched a new offensive on October 26. "This is only a first step. The crisis will deteriorate if no immediate action is taken while we wait for months for more troops to arrive on the ground. The European Union is capable of providing the type of short-term force that is needed right now, but EU leaders are dragging their feet."

On October 3, Alan Doss, the head of the UN mission in the DR Congo, known by the French acronym MONUC, requested additional resources for the peacekeeping force. The UN Security Council did not respond until after a renewed conflict was under way, saying on October 29 that it would "study expeditiously" the request for reinforcements. Nearly one month later, the Council has finally authorized more troops, but it is not clear where those troops will come from.

"Governments need to commit troops for the Congo immediately. There are a finite number of peacekeepers in the world, and we can't pull 3,000 additional forces out of thin air," said Michelle Brown, Senior Advocate and UN Representative in New York. "The UN Security Council and world leaders have been acting like the situation will just stabilize by itself. It has been clear for years that UN peacekeepers were given a complex set of tasks that they could not reasonably accomplish with the resources at their disposal, but no one has been willing to address this."

Since fighting reignited in North Kivu in August of this year, an estimated 250,000 people have been displaced, bringing the total number of internally displaced people in North Kivu alone to over one million people. Many of these people are out of reach of humanitarian assistance. Refugees International welcomed steps taken by the UN and the African Union to address the political roots of the conflict, and urged the U.S., UK and other key nations to support efforts towards a political resolution.

"More troops alone will not end the war in eastern Congo," said Ms. Weir. "The U.S., UK, and other key member states will have to give the UN the support necessary to broker a lasting peace."

Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Staff members recently returned from the DR Congo where they assessed the capacity of the UN peacekeeping mission to protect civilians, the organization's tenth mission to the country in four years. Read our recent field report at http://www.refugeesinternational.org/congo/NovReport.

CONTACT: Megan Fowler, +1-202-828-0110x214;

Michelle Brown, UN Representative, +1-212-209-3132