Goma, DR Congo - The UN Security Council has a responsibility to provide the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) with enough resources to properly fulfill its mandate to protect civilians and to regain the confidence of the Congolese people, Refugees International charged today. The advocacy organization pointed out that MONUC was already stretched thin before renewed fighting by rebel forces displaced 20,000 more Congolese civilians in the last two days, bringing the total displaced by the recent round of fighting to more than 200,000 people. At the same time, violent protests by civilians in Goma have targeted peacekeepers and other UN agencies, further showing that the force needs international support to do its job.
"MONUC forces have been betrayed by all parties to the conflict, as well as the international community," said Peacekeeping Advocate Erin A. Weir, currently in Goma. "The UN Security Council handed MONUC an exceptionally complex set of tasks to accomplish, but never came through with the resources or the political support to get the job done."
This recent eruption of violence illustrates the difficult conditions and conflicting responsibilities that MONUC is asked to navigate from day to day. Deployed with the challenging mandate to protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, MONUC has also been charged with the supervision and enforcement of the buffer zones between the Congolese national army (the FARDC) and the rebel group CNDP led by self-proclaimed 'General' Laurent Nkunda. Contradicting this role as neutral intermediary is MONUC's responsibility for working alongside the FARDC in operations against the FDLR, the rebel movement led by the remnants of the Rwanda genocidaires who fled into DRC in 1994. These conflicting roles, coupled with a lack of military and civilian resources, and a shameful lack of political support, have placed MONUC in an impossible situation.
"If we ever hope to bring an end to the violence in eastern DR Congo, the international community will have to demonstrate a genuine, sustained commitment to resolving the political deadlock that underpins the violence," continued Weir. "Diplomatic engagement is essential to convey to all parties the necessity of respecting prior peace agreements and international humanitarian law and human rights norms."
Refugees International is also concerned that the Congolese government is manipulating conditions on the ground such that MONUC is forced to fight battles on behalf of a weak FARDC. The FARDC has been accused of breaching ceasefire agreements and, on several occasions, firing on the CNDP from beside -- and even inside -- MONUC positions, secure in the knowledge that MONUC won't fire on the government forces. This, however, erodes MONUC's status as neutral party. MONUC's position has been further eroded by the inflammatory rhetoric of Government and local authorities, who claim that MONUC is not doing enough to support the FARDC. This adds to the confusion surrounding the MONUC mandate and turns public opinion against the peacekeepers. In recent weeks, MONUC patrols and vehicles have been stoned, and in one case, even lit on fire by angry mobs.
"MONUC military operations are far from perfect, but troops have been exposed to extremely difficult, dangerous conditions," concluded Weir. "They are routinely targeted by all sides, including the civilians that they have been sent to protect. The UN Security Council and governments who are working towards rebuilding this country need to reprioritize their efforts to bring stability to the eastern DR Congo."
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Staff members are currently in the DR Congo to assess the capacity of the UN peacekeeping mission to protect civilians, the organization's tenth mission to the country in four years. For more information, please visit www.refugeesinternational.org.
Contact: Vanessa Parra, +1-202-828-0110