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A New Attempt to Stabilise Eastern DRC


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On 31 December 2009 the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (MONUC) and the Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) announced that Operation Kamina II, launched earlier the year against the rebels of the Forces démocratique de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) would be terminated and replaced by a new operation, Operation Amani Leo (Peace Today). A number of international non-governmental organisations had made strong criticisms of Operation Kimia II because of the gross human rights violations against the local population committed by the FARDC during the operation's execution, which was supported by MONUC. One of the consequences of this outcry was MONUC's withdrawal of assistance to certain FARDC units in the North Kivu province.
There was also debate about the relative success of Operation Kimia II. According to FARDC spokesperson, Major Ekenge, ‘Kimia II' had achieved its goals since ‘all the FDLR strongholds have been dismantled, their commands and means of communication disrupted, their leadership driven away from the areas under their control where they were getting most of their revenues.' Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and the Institute for Security Studies, however, were very critical of the conduct of the operation and its outcomes. As Koen Vlassenroot of the Conflict Research Group, University of Ghent, and Egmont Institute, Brussels stated:

Rather than reducing the security threat coming from the FDLR, however, Kimia II further complicated the local political and military situation and had a dramatic humanitarian impact. Even more worrisome was the conduct of the new integrated Congolese army brigades, which were reported to be increasingly involved in gross human rights violations, including random killings of civilians in the new territories of control. Also, even if considerable numbers of FDLR combatants were disarmed and repatriated to Rwanda, reports of new recruitment among the Congolese Hutu populations and in Rwanda suggest that the number of FDLR combatants has hardly decreased as a consequence of Kimia II.

This raises the question of how Operation Amani Leo will change the situation in Eastern DRC. Will the mistakes of Kimia II be repeated? Analysts say more time and hundreds of millions more dollars are required to carry out the scale of army reform needed to improve Kinshasa's ability to tackle rebel groups and reduce the government's reliance on UN assistance. Guillaume Lacaille, Central Africa analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, warned that at least a year of training was needed to train only eight Congolese battalions, and anticipated that events 2010 would resemble those of 2009. He was of the opinion that as long as the Congolese army was not professionalised, launching offensive operations would lead to the same problems.

Alan Doss, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for the DRC presented the outlines of Operation Amani Leo to the Security Council on 16 December. The Operation's principal objectives are to:
• protect civilian populations,
• clear strategic areas of negative forces,
• hold territory liberated from FDLR control,
• assist in restoring state authority in these zones, and
• preventive interventions aimed at stopping the FDLR from regrouping and attacking civilian populations and re-occupying major mining areas.
It seems that MONUC is eager that there should be no repetition of the negative criticism it suffered following Operation Kimia II. According to the FARDC Chief of Staff, General Didier Etumba and the MONUC Force Commander, Lt General Babacar Gaye, Amani Leo aims to create conditions in which the east of the country can be stabilised and state authority re-established. It will be essential, therefore, to enhance the coordination between civilian and military components to stabilise these areas and create conditions for the safe return of civilian populations. At the request of the FARDC, MONUC will provide rations and other essential support to those FARDC units carrying out protection and preventive operations. For its part, MONUC has made support conditional upon all operations being jointly planned and conducted in accordance with international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, as required by Security Council resolution 1906 of 2009.

At the operational level FARDC and MONUC military commanders have also agreed to several measures such as the deployment of military police at the battalion level to prevent and puish violations of human rights or international humanitarian and refugee law by their own forces. A zero tolerance policy for human rights violations will be strictly enforced. The question remains, however, whether FARDC military police will be able to perform such duties or whether it would be better to deploy MONUC civilian protection units or military observers with FARDC units. Other practical measures implemented by MONUC include the sensitisation of military commanders and personnel to discipline and the moral obligations and the responsibilities of the military hierarchy. Procedures are in place for approving and executing tactical support from MONUC, including fire support for jointly planned operations.

Operation Amani Leo must not been seen in isolation but must form part of the bigger United Nations Security and Stabilization Support Strategy (UNSSSS) and the Congolese government's programme for the stabilisation and reconstruction of areas emerging from conflict (STAREC). These plans make provision for:
• Emergency strengthening of FARDC capacities.
• Support for disengagement of armed groups.
• Enhanced protection of civilians in conflict areas and disengagement zones
If coordination between MONUC, FARDC and the international community are effective and address and implement these plans there is a possibility that Operation Amani Leo can succeed.

To conclude, Alan Doss has also made a very important point by remarking that effective action against the FDLR on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo also requires commitment from UN member states from whose territory expatriate leaders of the rebels provide financial, strategic and moral support to hard-core FDLR commanders on the ground. Action is needed by states to fulfill their obligation to take appropriate legal and political measures to cut off the expatriate leadership from its base, and to prevent arms trafficking and the illicit trade in natural resources, as well as the movements of funds that aid armed groups in the DRC, in particular the FDLR.


Written by: Henri Boshoff, Head Peace Missions Programme, ISS Pretoria Office




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