A history of rape and murder


Latest news reported new mass rapes in the area of Walikale, a former stronghold of Nkunda’s CNDP militia in Eastern DR Congo. Some 20 months ago, a lot of hope was expressed after the detention of renegade General Laurent Nkunda by Rwandan military. In the meantime, several joint missions have been carried out by FARDC (DR Congo army) and the Rwandan troops, namely “Amani leo (peace today)” and “Kimia II (net)”. The country’s UN peacekeeping mission MONUC (which has been relabeled MONUSCO not long ago as the forces have been reduced) provided logistic assistance in several FARDC operations. After the virtual breakdown of CNDP most efforts were concentrated in combatting one of its main opponents, FDLR hutu militia. Like CNDP (and most probably the FARDC as well) this army could be identified as another of the major threats to human security in the provinces of North and South Kivu. Although internationally branded they managed to uphold a tight net of international support (similar to most larger armed groups in the zone). Substantial contributions to the FDLR part of Congolese war economy could be retraced to Europe as different panels of experts reported to the UN secretary-general. Consequently the efforts to fight FDLR have been multiplied. This has mainly been in 2009.

As to various information sources the intensive measures carried out against FDLR and other rebel groups (such as the different so-called Mai-Mai insurgencies) have had some success. An analysis of media reports (based on intraorganisational press reviews) in the past twelve months did not mystify the fact that the situation was far from something that could be called peace or relative stability. But still the frequency and intensity of ambushes and armed assaults diminished noticeably. The picture began to change again in March/April 2010. This coincided with the UN mission being scaled down following demands by DRC president Joseph Kabila. In the frame of 50th anniversary of independence on 30th of June a new sovereignty agenda was pushed forward in the country. Kabila was able to put pressure on his UN ‘partners’ since the blue helmets do not enjoy huge popularity among the population. Several scandals and examples of non-interference in issues like rape and others have been responsible for their negative standing. Furthermore, the military part of the mission consists of troops provided by India, Pakistan and other member states that are not that famous for the intercultural training of soldiers.

The reduction of MONUC or now, MONUSCO, has not proven to be the right decision so far. Last year’s riots in Mbandaka (Equateur province) are still not really under control and they would have been worse if blue helmets had not engaged vitally to secure government institutions and the local population. In the far north-east (Orientale province) the constant threat of LRA interventions coming from Uganda or Central African Republic has been absent for some time though it remains a major security threat. Recently some uprising has been reported from the diamond-rich Kasai provinces. Not impossible this can emerge into a new fire source in the months to come.

And finally the Kivu provinces. One month ago, some UN peacekeepers have been slaughtered by Mai Mai fighters. Those fighters are generally small, lightly armed and quite splintered groups emerging from local bases and ideologically loose constituencies that have one characteristic feature in common: They experienced ongoing civil war for at least 15 years that seriously affected their livelihoods and living conditions. In the curse of opportunity they engage and disengage alternately with different stronger groups (i.e. CNDP, FDLR or even FARDC) in order to pursue some of their mostly local interests.

Then, a couple of weeks ago several rumours came up alleging a new wave of mass rape had occurred. Most media informations were blurry or even contradictory but apparently the evidence got clear during the last days. According to UN sources the number of victims and casualties is still unknown and up to now, the UN do reject the accusations that MONUSCO peacekeepers have simply observed the atrocities committed by (most probably) FDLR fighters. Of course they will have to lead proper investigations, since this accusation is indeed one of crucial impact, especially when taking into account UN Security Council resolution 1888 on sexual violence in DRC. The mandate of MONUSCO has not been enforced compared to its predecessor mission, but still it includes some sort of active engagement in the case of massive attacks on civilians. One could even argue this being the mandate’s very core.

So what is going to be the UN answer to a complex emergency that is actually not ending, even if top officials from various bodies may wish to pretend from time to time. It is most likely that the Kabila government is interested in pulling out MONUSCO before presidential elections will take place in late 2011. At the same time money and moderate success of MONUC is putting pressure on the UN as well. Actually Ban Ki-moon and the DPKO of UN find themselves in a well-known dilemma position. They shall spread peace and end war in DRC but both at a domestic and the international level they are trapped in the responsibility loop due to their strong (and self-imposed) accountability pressures. On the domestic level this results from a classic sovereignty dilemma that is tackled by UN intervention by generally limiting its own mandate. On the international level it is the accountability to member states, especially those providing most of the troops and most of the financial resources. At the end of the day the UN again risks to lose the blame-game although its motives a rather altruistic than those of its member states.

Even if neither MONUC nor MONUSCO really achieve to sustain an atmosphere of relative or basic stability, their presence does have an impact on the emergency situation in DRC. As long as the blue helmets and their civilian and political superstructure remain in place, the national army (FARDC) will face some ‘controlling mechanism’ restraining their own criminal activities. Although MONUC’s engagement with the FARDC has been viewed very critically at some point of time it can be argued that it has a continously moderating effect. Same applies for the other warring factions over time (CNDP, FDLR, the older RCD groups, Mai Mai militia and so on..). An analysis of major incidences that occurred in the Kivu provinces between 2006 and 2010 will lead to the result that atrocities against civil population have been numerous but widespread and hidden. Remember that for example the newest case of rape was discovered considerable time after the event had actually taken place. The withdraw of peacekeeping forces might thus allow other powers to enlarge and upscale massacres and similar.

Nevertheless it has to be discussed how MONUC and MONUSCO did fail in securing different parts of DRC. The most obvious reasons are a restrained mandate and the incredibly vast operational environment covered by troops that do not entirely received the best-suited training given the difficulties of this civil war. But even within the mandate the peacekeepers do for some reason not succeed in making use of their operational radius. In parallel to what is called aid effectiveness in the domain of development aid and ‘do no harm’ in humanitarian aid, the discussions of how to lead military intervention with surgical efficiency and how to operate in the continuum of mandate and terrain constraints have to be reintroduced at the concerned levels of decision and implementation.

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