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Eastern DR Congo still faces security, humanitarian challenges - Ban Ki-moon

UN News - July 8, 2009
Ban Ki-moon

The security and humanitarian situation in the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to crumble, despite the recent signing of a peace pact between the Government and a key militia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in a new report.

On 23 March, the Government and the National Congress for People’s Defence (CNDP), one of the main combatants in the fighting, signed a peace accord.

But the report made public today, which covers the period since the end of March, points to new challenges, “which further increase the fragility and volatility of the situation” in the area.

The obstacles include the capacity and conduct of the newly-integrated units of the DRC forces, known as FARDC, in North and South Kivu provinces, it said, with many troops being unpaid, poorly trained and badly equipped.

Command and control of FARDC units is also fragile, resulting in stepped up desertions, mutinies and “a surge in unacceptable abuses against the very populations that these forces are expected to protect,” Mr. Ban wrote.

There are some 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in eastern DRC, with 500,000 having been uprooted since this January due to clashes between the FARDC and the rebel Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR).

But he pointed out that 350,000 displaced have been able to return to their homes in North Kivu.

Notwithstanding this positive development, the Secretary-General said that the human rights situation is still cause for grave concern.

Members of the FARDC and the Congolese National Police are responsible for rape and torture, among other abuses, while members of foreign armed groups such as the FDLR and the notorious Ugandan group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are responsible for massacres of civilians, sexual violence and arbitrary executions.

Another major obstacle continues to be addressing impunity, requiring the efforts of the highest levels of Government to bring those behind human rights and other abuses to justice, the report said.

To this end, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, is creating an action plan to ensure that the Government agrees on a strategy to combat sexual violence.

Also made public today was a report by the Security Council mission which visited the African Union (AU) at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Rwanda, the DRC and Liberia from 14-21 April.

The Council called on the Governments in the region, especially the DRC and Rwanda, “to continue to build on the positive momentum created by their recent improved relations and to continue to take measures aimed at building confidence between them and laying the foundations for sustainable regional cooperation.”

The body also welcomed the appointment of a Rwandan ambassador to the DRC, urging the DRC in turn to expedite its appointment of an ambassador to Rwanda.

On sexual and gender-based violence, the Government must take decisive action to address confirmed abuses by FARDC soldiers, the report said, including following on the list of five officers in commanding positions assessed to have carried out such crimes.

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