The Congolese permanent crisis as reflected by the UN

by Stanislas Bucyalimwe Mararo

A UN expert report from 2021 lists further serious atrocities against the civilian population in eastern Congo. They have completely lost their trust in the government and the international community.

A new UN expert report1 dated 10 June 2021 describes with all the necessary clarity the suffering that large parts of the population of the Democratic Republic of Congo are still facing daily as a result of the war and the illegal exploitation of its resources – all this despite the fact that they are in view of 20,000 UN officials whose mandate is to ensure the security of the civilian population. The wording of the introduction to this report could not be more accurate, where, among other things, the following sentences, which are heavy in content, are written: “[During the reporting period], the civilian population in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been subjected to constant violence; they have firmly expressed their despair about this to the United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), to the international community and to the Congolese government, partly through uprisings and demonstrations, especially since March 2021. During the reporting period, armed groups have been able to operate unhindered in the east of the DRC, apparently with impunity.”
  The reporting area covered the eastern Congolese provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu; the first two have been under a state of military emergency since 6 May 2021. Six months later, the initial situation has not only worsened, the number of massacres committed there has even increased by leaps and bounds, as independent reporters confirm: “Attacks over and over again, violations of human rights, corruption” – these are the terms used to describe the situation in eastern Congo, and this time they come from the mouths of Congolese members of parliament. The of the Congolese National Assembly has just submitted a devastating report.”2 Although many organisations point to the disastrous conclusions of this report, which justifies their identical complaints, the government in Kinshasa remains unmoved. This means nothing else than that the government is shirking its responsibility and that there is no pressure on parliament to change this. In reality, everyone is content with the status quo, thus proving their complicity with those responsible for the drama unfolding in the east of the country. The few energetic interpellations by a few deputies who come from the Eastern territories do not find a hearing or any manifest interest in the Council Chamber. It is indeed the case, and this is confirmed by deputies who are disgusted by the immobility of the parliament, that this body is filled with people who are in cahoots with the president (Félix Tshisekedi) and his predecessor and string-puller Joseph Kabila, the current “senator for life” [and thus protected from any prosecution!]. Their role is to carry out their instructions and not, as it should be the case in a democratic parliament, to co-sponsor good legislative work and exercise parliamentary control over the executive.
  The armed formations that the expert group mentions by name in this context are the following: In the Ituri region and the territories of Irumu and Djugu, these are the Front de résistance patriotique de l’Ituri (FRPI), the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO), the Force patriotique et intégrationniste du Congo (FPIC); in the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru, Walikale and the south of Lubero, it is the Nduma défense du Congo-Rénové (NDC-R) and the Collectif des mouvements pour le changement (CMC); in the Beni region, the Alliance démocratique de la libération (ADL); in the high plateau of the territories of Fizi, Uvira and Mwnga, the Maï-Maï with the groups Maï-Maï Yakutumba and Maï-Maï Apa Na Pale as well as the groups Gumino, Twirwaneho, the RED-Tabara and the Front national de libération (FNL); as well as the regular Congolese army, the (FARCD).

Too narrow, too one-sided optics

The report documents battles, massacres of civilians as well as frequent mass deportations of entire populations (expulsion from their ancestral settlements, massing in homeless camps, one should better say concentration camps, which are secretly set up). These misdeeds go hand in hand with illegal arms trafficking, illegal trade with minerals (cassiterite, coltan, tin, tungsten, tantalite, gold, diamonds and other valuable raw materials) – and cocoa.
  However, the expert group is guilty of a significant omission. It does not say a word about the devastating role played in this area for many years by the Ugandan, Rwandan, South Sudanese and Burundian army components, who run their own businesses. Thus, the insecurity in this whole area appears in the report to be entirely locally generated. The report does not say a word about its national, regional and international dimensions. The government’s appeal to Rwanda and Uganda to help the Democratic Republic of Congo to finally put a stop to this insecurity, which follows this report, sounds like a mockery. It not only proves the powerlessness of the Congolese national army or, better, of the government in Kinshasa (an admission of its defeat, its uselessness), but suggests that the two aforementioned states that militarily attacked the Democratic Republic of Congo [in the two Congo wars of 1996 and 1998 with the deceptive labels AFDL and RCD, and thereafter via a multitude of remote-controlled guerrilla groups with changing names] could be pursuing common interests of their population with the Congolese government. This is ludicrous in view of the real situation.

The rule of lies

Because the fact is: The Rwandan and Ugandan armed forces never left Congolese territory at all, even though the Pretoria Global and Inclusive Agreement of 17 December 2002 (Accord global et inclusif, AGI) required them to do so. Allowing the Rwandan and Ugandan armed forces to officially re-establish themselves on Congolese territory out of this situation3 meant that they can concentrate even more forces in the areas that the two states want to take for themselves. In other words, they want to use force to restore the situation that prevailed in the days from January 1999 - June 2003 (we have terrible memories of them!) of the unrestricted rule of the RCD (Rassemblement congolais pour la Démocratie). The Second Congo War (1998-2003) resulted in the division of Eastern Congo by the Rwandan-Ugandan-Burundian aggressors into two militarily occupied zones of influence, one Ugandan and one Rwandan, with Kanyabayonga as the demarcation point, with Uganda controlling the Great North (Grand Nord) area and the former Nande territory with the Ituri area, and Rwanda controlling the rest of North Kivu as well as South Kivu. This is exactly what the recent intensified militarisation of these areas achieves, for it is an absurdity that the small armed resistance groups of Rwandan provenance (FDLR, FOCA) and Ugandan-origin militants (ADF4, LRA, NALU) are picked out as the only ones and the main sources of insecurity in eastern Congo and are seen as having the power to pose serious threats to the dictatorial regimes of Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (Uganda). So far, these groups have (since 1999) never attacked Rwandan or Ugandan territory and generally nothing has changed, namely that it is the Rwandan and Ugandan army that rules freely in eastern Congo (thanks to their autonomous brigades and their additional militias) and that it is their figures who sit at the levers of power in Kinshasa. What military strength do these small groups represent that they could challenge the combined military might of FARDC, MONUSCO, AFRICOM and the armies of Rwanda and Uganda? None at all! Why then Rwanda’s and Uganda’s call for Kenya to join their side as well in the fight against the armed gangs, simultaneously with the repeated declarations by Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo and his palace guards who never tire of proclaiming that the state of emergency has produced its fruits? These small armed groups from abroad only offer Kigali and Kampala the pretext to justify their interventions in consultation with the big multinational raw material consortia and their permanent occupation of Congolese territory, all this while Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo lies to the Congolese people like a trooper.

It is indispensable to look behind the scenes

All those who care about the real situation, including the UN Security Council, know perfectly well that Uganda and Rwanda finance and supply arms to the following groups (and we quote only a few of them): the CODECO, URDPC, FPIC, CMC, ADF, the M23; the NDC, NDC-R, the Raïa Mutumboki, the CNPSC, the Gumino, Twigwaneho, RED-Tabara and the FNL. Do they want to refrain from doing so under the given circumstances? That would be naivety taken to the extreme, for they have other trump cards in the contested territory, as the UN report confirms (see maps). It is even more likely that everything will remain as it is because the profits that some of these groups make from the illegal trade in stolen valuable raw materials are not enough to provide them with all the ammunition they need. It is an open secret that they act as intermediaries between the two neighbouring countries and Western mineral multinationals.
  One must try to see clearly in this deliberately created confusion. The following excerpt from the report of an impartial observer, who sees things in the context of the overarching cold war which by now takes place between the former comrades-in-arms Rwanda and Uganda, can help: “On the night of 30 November 2021, the surprising [Ugandan] raid with aerial bombardments, accompanied by artillery fire, inflicted heavy casualties on the Rwandan forces of the RDF [Rwandan Defence Forces, official name of the Rwandan army since 2002]. They had been operating covertly in the border zones of Beni and the Ituri, disguising themselves as ADF groups [...] In the area of Nobili, Kamango and Semliki, almost the entire ADF infrastructure was destroyed. It had been built by Rwanda. The Rwandan survivors of the attack, as well as the injured, were rescued by Ugandan military personnel, who in return received important military indications from them. The injured were cared for in army hospitals of the UPDF [Ugandan People’s Defence Forces, Ugandan army] and now continue to be available to the Ugandan army as informants. [...] Paul Kagame, wounded in his pride by the destruction of the military bases he built in the Beni and the Ituri area, now wants to take revenge on Uganda by terrorising eastern Congo with waves of assassinations. The Ugandan newspaper confirms that Rwanda is now also recruiting splinter groups of the FDLR opposed to Kagame, which are surprisingly attacking units of the Ugandan army.”5
  Kinshasa (especially Joseph Kabila and Félix Tshisekedi), AFRICOM [NATO’s headquarters for Africa], MONUSCO [the UN Security Mission for Congo] and certain circles of the Nande elite (including Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, Julien Paluku Kahongya and other members of the PPRD [Parti Populaire pour la Réconstruction et la Démocratie, Kagame-friendly party in North Kivu]), who have good relations with Kigali, are likely to be well informed about these activities of the Rwandan army in the above-mentioned heavily affected areas in eastern Congo.
  The Congolese are stunned to see their country going down this hellish ride.6 They feel abandoned by their political leaders and the international “community”, of which they are not really a part. On the contrary, Rwanda and MONUSCO often pass the ball to each other, one using the other as an excuse for its apparent inability to do its part to restore peace and protect civilians. It sounds like washing one’s hands of the matter when the UN envoy stresses in a report on MONUSCO’s effectiveness that “the challenges faced by the government in implementing the state of emergency in Ituri and North Kivu provinces highlight the limitations of a purely military solution for the protection of civilians and the neutralisation of armed groups”. This was said by the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Bintou Keita, during a report on the situation in Congo at the Security Council in December 2021, stressing that the period of the state of emergency declared in May 2021 has led to a 10 % increase in human rights violations and abuses in the country compared to the previous situation, as well as crimes in Ituri and North Kivu provinces, most of which are attributable to both armed groups and the security forces themselves. The UN-authorised observer said: “A sustainable solution to the problem of violence requires a broader political commitment to address the root causes of the conflicts. For stability to return to eastern Congo, the state must be able to regain and maintain the confidence of the population in its ability to protect, administer and enforce law and justice and to meet their immediate needs.”7 This in a situation where many Congolese and honest observers of the situation believe that MONUSCO is really there to protect the interests of a Western world controlled by the US and those of its two tributary states, Rwanda and Uganda: “In the DRC, the strategic priorities are not to ensure the protection of the population in the east of the country from the threat of terrorist attacks by the ADF/NALU (see graphic), but to isolate and defeat them,” as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has pointed out.

MONUSCO does not do what it was created for

On the contrary, MONUSCO has been playing a completely different, highly questionable role in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2006, which consists of providing a security guarantee exclusively to the Tutsi population in North Kivu (on the background of the Hutu-Tutsi problem in eastern Congo, see also Küpfer, Peter. The delusion of supremacy sabotages the dialogue of peoples. On the contribution of Prof. Dr. Stanislas Bucyalimwe Mararo at the annual conference Mut zur Ethik 2021. In: Currrent Concerns Special Supplement No. 25/26, 2021). Thus, the United Nations and with it the international community have clearly taken the side of one (war) party in this conflict: They only support Rwanda and thus not the Congolese patriotic forces, their local communities and civil society actors in their struggle against the prevailing insecurity in eastern Congo. This one-sidedness also includes Washington's support according to the “Tripartite Plus 1” formula, which is entirely in line with US strategic objectives. Under his leadership, an alliance of the three main regional military actors was created, initially consisting of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda [all under the political rule of the Tutsi and Hima ethnic minorities in Uganda], until it was expanded to include Uganda, an alliance often referred to as “Tripartite Plus 1”. The aim of this alliance was to guarantee the security of this predominance. If the international press is to be believed, in particular the German “Tageszeitung” in its edition of 3 November 2007, the American scenario contains various proposals deposited by the Washington diplomats in the Great African Lakes region with all their interlocutors. One of these concepts was that the American presence was a guarantee for the Tutsis in North Kivu. This is indeed an elegant version of “giving this ethnic community a special statute and thus opposing it to other ethnic groups in the DRC”.8

Where is the solution?

So once again the Congolese are left in the lurch. To seek salvation within themselves is certainly not wrong. But the main effort is still to ensure that the Congolese people produce leaders who, from the bottom of their hearts, hold high the flag of the country’s real liberation, which consists precisely in freeing themselves from the current rulers at the top. They have no real democratic legitimacy and are driven by everything but love for their country and its people.  •

 



1 United Nations, Security Council. Rapport du Groupe d’experts sur la République démocratique du Congo (S/2021/560) New York, 10 June 2021; Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo. (https://www.undocs.org/en/S/2021/560). See also, same source: Rapport du Secrétaire général; S/2021/987
2 “RD Congo; rapport accablant sur l’état de siège” (TV5 Monde, 31 October 2021).
3 “The Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi authorised the Ugandan army on 29 November 2021 to cross the border into the Congo to fight the group responsible for the massacres in eastern Congo (the ADF, Allied Democratic Forces) [...] Many of the Congolese themselves do not agree with this and point to the sad role that Ugandan and Rwandan combat units from the two neighbouring states have played in destabilising eastern Congo over the last 30 years. (see “L'armée ougandaise procède à des frappes aériennes sur des positions ADF en RDC”, France 24, 30/11/ 2021) Worse still, Félix Tshisekedi Tschilombo also authorised the Rwandan police units to be active in Goma, at the very time when the airline Rwanda Air has chosen Goma as its hub for international flights. (see on this: “Police Rwandaise à Goma, la souveraineté de la RdCongo bafouée?”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tax3mD8SPdA)
4 Behind the ADF designation are covert Rwandan combat units as well as certain disaffiliations of the FDLR [Front Démocratique pour la Libération du Rwanda, armed Hutu opposition with the original aim of overthrowing the Kagame regime in Rwanda, today parts have broken away from this objective and are pursuing their own interests].
5 Pascal Masumbko. “SOS: RDC/OUGANDA/RWANDA. Les ingrédients d'une guerre froide Kampal-Kigali”; https://benilubero.com/s-o-s-rdc-ouganda-rwanda-les-ingredients-dune-guerre-froide-kampala-kigali/
6 In this context, the former Rwandan ambassador Jean-Marie Vianney Ndagijimana (now emigrated and a weighty voice among those who have the courage to call the crimes of the Kagame dictatorship by name) testifies to the following particularly oppressive circumstance: According to him, 250 inmates were taken by night from the prison in Cyangugu [Rwandan border town opposite Bukavu] to North Kivu, where they had to fill up the thinned ranks of the ADF. The witness further states that this type of operation is carried out regularly. Finally, he testifies that the ADF today is nothing more than the extended arm of the Rwandan army in eastern Congo. (Cf. Vague d'arrestations. Paul Kagame a peur et intensifie les crimes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rw9LbZeVZg. visited 20/10/2021)
  The fact that the state of emergency imposed on the territory favours such events fits the sad role played so far by the incumbent Congolese president, Félix Tshisekedi. Other witnesses report that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) takes prisoners from Rwandan prisons to the above-mentioned areas of eastern Congo, has them killed there and then passes them off as members of the FDLR killed in fighting. Source Iryavuzwe riratashye - RPF mu marembera, Isinijuru tv. [Rwandan opposition TV station] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pug_P7qPZk, (visited by author on 15/12/2021)
7 “For stability to return to eastern DRC, civilian confidence must first be regained, UN envoy says.” In: ONU-Info (fr.) of 06/12/2021.
8 ee “Sharing DRC: MONUSCO, a security guarantee for the ‘Tutsis in North Kivu’”, in: La Prunelle DRC, /12/2021. For more details see Bucyalimwe Mararo Stanislas: ‘Prévention du génocide des Tutsi en RDC: une politique très dangereuse’, in: Masisi et Rutshru dans la dynamique nationale et régionale (1993–2009). Editions Universitaires Européennes, 2009.

(Translation Current Concerns)

pk. Grown up as a simple farmer’s son in the hilly region of North Kivu, Stanislas Bucyalimwe Mararo overcame, still in Mobutu times, all the hurdles of a then extremely difficult university career. After graduation, this was interrupted by doctorate and post-doctorate semesters at American universities. During his many years of teaching at higher education institutes of the Kivu, Stanislas Bucyalimwe Mararo continued his research on the subject to which his dissertation was already dedicated: the harmful influences of foreign interests on his homeland. His clear language created for him an increasingly brazen opponency.
  When, in autumn 1996, the murderous mercenary hordes of AFDL under the straw man Laurent Desiré Kabila first captured Goma, then Bukavu and specifically detained the Congolese patriots or killed them on open streets (such as the courageous Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa, revered by the people of Kivu), it was reported to Bucyalimwe that his name was the second (next to the archbishop) on their death lists. This was followed by six months hiding in the AFDL occupied Bukavu, then a long escape, which finally led him to Antwerp. Here he worked at the Research Institute of the Great African Lakes Region (University of Antwerp) where he built up his second scientific existence.
  Numerous studies, research reports and analyses are proof of his now worldwide respected (and feared by his opponents) publications on the current state of the suffering of his homeland.

 

Sober language – unbearable reality. Remedy remains urgent.

Even if such things have difficulty penetrating our consciousness, especially in view of today’s predominant focus on just one war theatre in our war-ravaged world: Another UN expert report on the desperate situation of the civilian population in war-torn Eastern Congo has been published, ordered by the Security Council, compiled by proven experts to the best of their knowledge and conscience and delivered on schedule. It lists in sober, factual language what the populations living there have been subjected to for almost three decades now: They are men, women, children, defencelessly at the mercy of a mostly anonymous soldiery that robs, murders, sets fires, rapes and tortures, and this for 26 years now, depending on the territory practically permanently, and above all with impunity, as the report already states in the first sentences. And this under the eyes of the world’s largest UN mission, which since the precarious “peace” agreements of Lusaka and Sun City (almost 20 years ago!) has had the task of protecting the civilian population from precisely such conditions. Furthermore, members of the UN troops, as well as elements of the Congolese army and its gendarmerie are, as the report testifies, directly or indirectly involved in some of these atrocities. In this context, Stanislas Bucyalimwe Mararo insistently points out that this report is also too narrowly focused. Although by now it is known and witnessed that clients, profiteers and also actors of the apparently never-ending atrocities sit at the top of the governments of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda (also in Western executive floors and circles of power) and orchestrate them, this report also misses the true realities and confines itself to soberly and statistically listing the human victims they claim. Nevertheless, the red carpet is still rolled out for the real perpetrators by Western governments, especially by those who want to loudly defend threatened human rights everywhere in the world. How long should this active turning a blind eye last, this failure of every right, this disgrace of humanity? How many more reports will it take? They do not reduce the despair of the population affected. It has become routine. So has the shrugging of shoulders at a few sober six- or ten-liners in our major leading media. The delusion of the supremacy of so-called world powers has been an impact here for decades and disturbs the non-violent relations of peoples and states, as Professor Bucyalimwe once again impressively testified in his contribution to last year’s conference “Mut zur Ethik” (cf. on this and on the world political background Current Concerns Special Supplement No. 25/26, 2021).

Peter Küpfer

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