24 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: UN Under Pressure Over DR Congo

Photo: Eddie Ssejjoba/New Vision
DRC President Joseph Kabila, left, with South Sudan minister of commerce and investments, Garanga Dung Akwang in Kampala.

The Secretary-General vaguely called "on all relevant States to use their influence on the M23 to bring about an end to the attacks"

On Nov. 18, amid reports that the Congolese army had attacked then fled in the face of the advance of the M23 rebels, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke by telephone with the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, but only succeeded in speaking to DR Congo Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda. The question then was why Mr Ban had failed to get to Kabila.

When Ban's head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, first announced the communication with President Kagame, he refused to answer questions about it and why he had failed to get Kabila although journalists shouted the question at him several times. He was speaking at the UN headquarters in New York.

He also refused to answer a question on whether it was the M23 rebels or the DR Congo forces that broke a three-month long ceasefire and whether the UN Peacekeepers in DR Congo had provided any protection at all to the town of Pinga when the M23 rebels attacked.

The UN mission, MONUSCO, has 19,000 uniformed personnel in the DR Congo, comprising the largest and most costly UN peacekeeping missions in the world.

Ladsous said, in line with its mandate to protect civilians, MONUSCO responded to the M23 attacks by deploying its peacekeepers between the towns of Kibumba and Kibati and carried out 10 missions using attack helicopters.

But Ladsous has become a sensitive figure in the DR Congo conflict because, as then-Deputy Permanent Representative for France at the UN in 1994 when the Rwanda genocide, he issued statements that have been criticised.

On the same day, a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the DR Congo vaguely called "on all relevant States to use their influence on the M23 to bring about an immediate end to the attacks".

As The Independent has reported before (See, "Museveni's DR Congo Mision" The Independent, Nov.2), when the M23 threatened to take over Goma in July sparking fear within the country's top leadership, President Yoweri Museveni received request for help from the UN Secretary General and DR Congo President Joseph Kabila.

Since then, a confidential report that surfaced in news stories by Reuters has reportedly said Rwanda and Uganda, despite their strong denials, have been and continue to support M23 rebels.

"Both Rwanda and Uganda have been supporting M23," Reuters quoted from the 44-page report, "While Rwandan officials co-ordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations, Uganda's more subtle support to M23 allowed the rebel group's political branch to operate from within Kampala and boost its external relations," it said.

Uganda has sent a firm denial to the UN and a government envoy to the UN, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda who delivered the message told reporters in New York that the UN has "stabbed Uganda in the back".

However, the UN has refused to comment on the Ugandan denial amid accusations that it is involved in "propaganda".

For example, the governor of the volatile eastern province, Julien Paluku on Nov. 17 reported that 113 rebels were killed and few soldiers injured. A few hours earlier, a Kinshasa government spokesman, Lambert Mende, had said at least 51 rebels were killed. "The bodies that were recovered were wearing Rwandan army uniforms," he said adding that a M23 leader was killed, without specifying the identity, and that a large quantity of weapons was captured.

There is growing concern about the situation in the Goma area which has a potential for "devastating humanitarian consequences".

By Nov. 18, according to the UN, fighting had led to the displacement of at least 60,000 people, many of whom are fleeing toward Goma and the Secretary-General accused M23 rebels of "grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law". He called for dialogue.

After an urgent meeting on Nov. 17, the UN Security Council President Hardeep Singh Puri of India issued a statement that called for an immediate ceasefire. He also in a veiled reference to Uganda and Rwanda demanded that "any and all outside support and supply of equipment to the M23 cease immediately" and warned of targeted sanctions against those acting in violation of the sanctions regime and the arms embargo.

"The members of the Security Council call on all relevant States to use their influence on the M23 to bring about an end to attacks," he said, and added: "The members of the Security Council reiterate the importance of the efforts of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to resolve the conflict and find a durable political solution".

President Museveni is the chairman of ICGLR.

In the past he has invited M23 rebel leaders to Kampala for secret talks and hosted several heads of state meeting on the issue.

However, it remain unclear if the Uganda government will continue pursuing this process if the UN refuses to address it concerns over the critical leaked report.

Maman Gogo, the chairperson of CAFED, a collective of women's associations in the region said Uganda's decision to unilaterally close the border with DR cOngo at Bunagana is complicating the transit of provisions. "Kitumba is crossed by a road, the only accessible by trucks transporting food to Goma.

If the clashes should resume the circulation will be blocked and this would mean that nothing will arrive anymore, and we are always more numerous", she told a local news agency.

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