United Nations Aids Congolese Army as Civilians are Bombed
By Georgianne Nienaber
Congolese villagers in Kivu province provide vivid photographic evidence that United Nations is responsible for civilian casualties and that Congolese army is using UN ammunition and artillery
Note: Complete list of victims provided in hyperlinks
On Monday, Roger Meece, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) in DRCongo said that Congolese troops (FARDC) had abandoned towns and villages to the rebel political movement, M23. The rebellion began in late April, when soldiers integrated into FARDC demanded an implementation of the March 23, 2009 Goma Peace Accord. Meece, speaking to the Security Council by video conference, told members that FARDC was suffering from lack of ammunition. Locals tell a different story, but we will get to that after we examine the official statements.
On Wednesday, Eduardo del Buey, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said that MONUSCO and FARDC attacked the advancing M23 using UN attack helicopters.
The Washington Post reported that Commandant Thibaut De Lacoste, a spokesman for the U.N. military mission, said the helicopters are used "first as a projection of force." He said the helicopters generally make two passes before resorting to live fire. On the third pass, they can open fire after the second pass fires rocket flares that tell the enemy they are the target.
But who is really the target?
No one is reporting casualties in the M23.
Villagers are sending photos and testimony that demonstrate that MONUSCO and FARDC are bombing, shooting, robbing and killing civilians. This is completely contrary to international media and United Nations reports that it is the M23 rebels inflicting this damage.
These locals are not protected diplomats, one runs an NGO in Goma, and some are village elders that cannot be compromised. There is also testimony from the M23 that may or may not be biased. When the reader examines the photos presented below, he/she can decide.
(Face blurred to protect person in photo)
According to the testimony of M23 military there was a close collaboration between FARDC and MONUSCO which supported FARDC on all fronts. They literally " fought side by side" as MONUSCO helicopters supported the ground troops.
The UN only says that MONUSCO "supported" the FARDC.
Village witnesses say the tanks were shelling M23 positions but were hitting civilians, killing many (list provided below), and destroying houses and schools. Villagers insist that several were killed either by MONUSCO bombing or by ammunition used by FARDC that was supplied by MONUSCO. A three-year-old was decapitated in Kazuba. Recall Meece's statement to the Security Council that FARDC was running out of ammunition.
According to a Great Lakes security expert and military arms experts here, the 60mm mortars (seen in Boxes) and 37mm guns were extensively used by MONUSCO during the recent attack on Rutshuru.
This is also the public face of the UN in spokesman Eduardo del Buey's statement that "MONUSCO is working on protecting civilian populations" and has been "moving troops around." There has been absolutely no admission by the UN of civilian casualties caused by their munitions.
(Face blurred to protect person in photo)
Ground reports from M23 and villagers express concern that the shell casings left by the MONUSCO tank assaults are used by the villagers to carry water. The toxic residue presents a health hazard.
These are Russian made shell casings. The UN Ammo Box was left behind by the fleeing FARDC.
A meeting was held between M23 and a religious chief (Mwami). the Mwami told the M23 that "FARDC was the major source of insecurity."They looted and raped before they fled." The other village leaders said there was some problems with the M23 who were drunk on Liquor from Uganda.
There is another report that alleges FARDC Colonel Yav killed 40 people and threw their bodies into the river because they spoke Kinyarwanda. Two people were found next to the river, along with a pile of clothing and women's makeup. There is a photo of a man lying in a ravine with his hands tied behind his back and riddled with bullets, but its location is unconfirmed. This website confirms, in part, what information we have received on that alleged atrocity.
With all of this somewhat overwhelming information about the civilian cost, perhaps this brutal video depicting the suffering of a child hit by shrapnel from From MONUSCO/FARDC collaboration will drive it home.
On his blog, Emmanuel DeMerode, Chief Ranger of Virunga Park, graphically explains what happens when war comes to your doorstep. A World Heritage site and home to the last remaining mountain gorillas, Virunga Park is the neutral Switzerland of the conflict, but is experiencing tremendous pressure and is ill-equipped to handle collateral civilian damage.
The park's small clinic isn't equipped for this level of trauma. It became clear that the teacher would not make it without proper surgery, so we used our small aircraft to fly him to Goma, a 20-minute flight. The road is closed, and Rumangabo is completely cut off from the rest of the world, except for the aircraft. Upon returning to the park, more injured people lined up at the clinic. A baby girl dead on arrival killed by a mortar explosion, and a man in a coma with a bullet lodged in his skull just above his left eye. Staff, most of them untrained for medical emergencies, will be working through the night doing what they can to help.
Surprisingly De Merode reports, "Despite the violence, and the chaos of battle, both sides have been remarkably respectful of the parks' staff and our installations."
It is a different story in the villages.
(Face blurred to protect person in photo)
This man's daughter-in-law was taken to a local hospital for her injuries.
The Gisigari group in Rutshuru territory was especially hard hit. A complete list of victims, towns and atrocities provided by tribal chiefs and local leaders can be found in French and in English.
The governor of Congo's North Kivu province,Julien Paluku Kahongya, said on Monday that "an assessment of how the accord (Goma Peace Accord) has been carried out is needed so that the people of Congo know the truth about the various phases in the agreement," according to a report in the Calgary Herald.
This is what the M23 political rebellion has been asking for.
For the sake of the girl in the video and the decapitated baby, the world had better wake up. President Obama needs to get his head out of the sand and evaluate why his advisors have deliberately ramped up tensions in this area by encouraging and accepting leaks of sensitive information by UN staffers who are protecting a failed and expensive mission.
Your administration has thrown Rwanda, Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice under the bus and has used back-door policy to do so.
Mr.President, your administration has become known known for its controversial leaks and is under investigation for the same. Your advisors are inexperienced and incompetent and running policy by Chicago politics (I grew up there and reported on same) is dangerous gamesmanship. The children in Congo are leaking their blood while you try to maneuver your failed African policy to uplift a corrupt regime in DRCongo and get re-elected on the basis of ant-Rwanda sentiment that is based on rumor and innuendo.
I wrote years ago that a black taxi-driver in New Orleans said you were not really black in terms of your world view. You say you have roots in Kenya. Perhaps you should go back and nourish them. Now, the failed government of DRCongo is being nourished with the blood of it children.
Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, The Ugandan Independent, Rwanda's New Times, India's TerraGreen, COA News, ZNET, OpEdNews, Glide Magazine, The Journal of the International Primate Protection League, Africa Front, The United Nations Publication, A Civil Society Observer, Bitch Magazine, and Zimbabwe's The Daily Mirror. Her fiction expos- of insurance fraud in the horse industry, Horse Sense, was re-released in early 2006. Gorilla Dreams: The Legacy of Dian Fossey was also released in 2006. Nienaber spent much of 2007 doing research in South Africa, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was in DRC as a MONUC-accredited journalist, and has been living Southern Louisiana investigating hurricane reconstruction and getting to know the people there since late 2007. Nienaber is currently developing a documentary on the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, and continuing "to explore the magic of the Deep South." She is a member of the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.