Before we discuss the President of Congo's call for peace before justice, consider this. Eastern Congo is a mess. The military situation is so complex that spreadsheets are necessary to keep militias, commanders and alliances in perspective. The names are unpronounceable, unreadable, often misspelled, and it is no wonder writers are forced to simplify. In that regard, let's review. The situation in Congo since the December 2009 passage by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution 1906 has changed considerably. Rwandan rebels (FDLR), ex-CNDP troops, uncontrolled Congolese Army (FARDC) cadres and other renegade armed groups continue to be accused of armed ambush, robbery and illegal tax collections, kidnapping for ransom, looting of vehicles, rape, torture, mutilation and other crimes against what one internal UN document terms "the downtrodden locals." New alliances among war criminals have coalesced, desertions have increased from all armies, and foreign influences are ramping up. Rwandan police uniforms are being shipped to rebels and there is also reason to believe that Ugandan General Gadi Ngabo is ready to move against Kinshasa.
A reliable UN source today said, "General Gadi claims to control 10,000 troops in Petit-Nord. Neither Bosco Ntaganda's forces (FARDC) will stop nor will they fight against Gad's men, Bosco confirmed." The source added, "Only a go-ahead is being awaited to jointly fight Kabila's government." This would be a stunning turn of events, since Kabila's government has allowed Ntaganda to operate with impunity in the Kivus.
There is also word that Gadi has moved his headquarters from Runyoni to Virunga Park and that Ntaganda will do the same.
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There has been no mainstream follow-up on a recent Voice of America broadcast, in which, as the self-proclaimed leader of the newly formed Patriotic Front for the Liberation of Congo, General Gadi Ngabo said he would pick up the mantle of former Congolese renegade army general Laurent Nkunda. Nkunda was ousted from his leadership position in the CNDP during a coup orchestrated by Bosco Ntaganda in January 2010--a coup accomplished with significant support from former enemies President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Kabila. Gadi was based in Kampala, Uganda, is Ntaganda's cousin, and has reportedly joined forces with Emmanuel Msengiyumva who deserted from the Congolese army (FARDC) in anticipation of new fighting. At issue is anger at Kabila, who has not delivered on anything, including paying his army.
This all began with Kimia II. In a nutshell, the much-maligned 2009 Kimia II operation ended after nine months of criticism and investigations by human rights groups. United Nations troops had been complicit in the targeting of civilians by rebel forces and the regular Congolese army. The lists of atrocities are too numerous and sickening to mention here, but suffice it to say it has been documented here on the Huffington Post's Congo Page. The new year offered an opportunity for a new set of military ops, dubbed Amani Leo, that generated hope for a fresh start.
That hope has been pummeled into oblivion with a statement by Congolese president Joseph Kabila, as reported by the UK Guardian, explaining why the government of DRC has placed Bosco Ntaganda, a war criminal wanted by the Hague, in charge of troops in eastern Congo. "Because we want peace now, Kabila said. "In Congo, peace must come before justice."
The Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies en RÃ©publique DÃ©mocratique du Congo (MONUC's) Alan Doss has said that the UN wants nothing to do with Ntaganda and is not working with him. Human Rights Watch has said that MONUC has allowed Ntaganda to operate with impunity and has stood by while civilians became soft targets. In a briefing to the Security Council in December, Doss seemed to be saying his hands are tied.
The Council is aware, however, of the dilemma faced by MONUC, which is inherent in the mandate that enjoins us to give the highest priority to the protection of civilians, while at the same time working with the FARDC, which includes elements that have been responsible for human right violations, to disarm groups such as the FDLR that have been a constant threat to the people of Eastern Congo for over a decade. There is no easy answer to this dilemma and we are looking towards the Council for clear guidance in this respect.
Kabila's form of "peace" has come at the expense of untold thousands of rape, torture and murder victims, while FARDC's Ntaganda lives in luxury with a parallel government administration, smuggling precious timber from Virunga's forests, exacting illegal taxes, and running his own petrol stations in Goma. For simplicity, we will refer to Ntaganda as "Bosco." His other nickname is the "Terminator."
The promise was that Amani Leo would reduce and or limit the influence of Bosco, who has established his own government administration in Masisi territory.
So, where, really, is the UN in all of this? Formal United Nations resolutions are a curious mix of verbiage. The resolutions will "request," "decide," "determine," take note," "recognize," and, in a burst of hubris, "demand" actions.
In that regard, the UN "decided" to extend the deployment of MONUC until May 31, 2010. It seems that Kabila is insistent that MONUC leave the country so he can get on with a big party he has planned for a June celebration of Congo's independence from Belgium. The UN left itself some wiggle room and stated that it "intends" to authorize the extension of the world's largest peacekeeping force of 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers, 391 police personnel and 1,050 personnel of formed police units for an additional twelve months in May.
In the meantime, the UN "demands:"
That all armed groups, in particular the Forces DÃ©mocratiques de LibÃ©ration du Rwanda (FDLR) and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), immediately cease all forms of violence and human rights abuse against the civilian population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual abuse; and Demands that the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in furtherance of resolution 1888 (2009), immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and children, from violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses, including all forms of sexual violence.
No wonder Kabila wants MONUC out. I believe Hillary Clinton "demanded" the same civilian protection from Kabila as she stood toe to toe with him in August 2010. Let's be reasonable here. The President of Congo has his motorcycle collection to protect--a collection that was described by the New York Times.
What's the rape and torture and burning alive of many thousands of women and children got to do with anything? What has JUSTICE got to do with anything, for God's sake? Kabila wants "peace," after all. A stray bullet might mar the finish on one of his bikes.