Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The pitfalls of supporting the Congolese army

Believe it or not, despite the headlines of UN failures, there have been some modest gains within the UN on the issue of protection of civilians. The UN Policy Committee, (which is presided by the Secretary-General and composed of UN Under-Secretaries-General and leaders of UN agencies) agreed last month that any form of UN support to non-UN security forces shall be conditional to respect for human rights international and international humanitarian law. That means anywhere in the world.

This is a result of the Congo fiascoes, but also of the growing criticism of the conduct of AMISOM troops in Somalia - see for instance this, as well as the investigations into the World Food Program’s contracts with Somali businesses linked to Al Shabaab.

The impact of this policy will be far-reaching. It also applies to development aid, and requires every UN entity to develop its own operational directive to be in compliance with fundamental principles of international law. This also includes sanctions, and MONUSCO is expressly requested not to provide any support to the individuals included in the Security Council black list, including our man Bosco Ntaganda.

Although an important step, the policy is at an early development stage. The Policy Committee agreed to set up a panel of senior UN officials to draft a framework policy.

As for the Congo, MONUSCO has begun - at last hesitantly - to show its teeth. It has been refusing logistic support to a number of FARDC requests due to the presence of problematic commanders, and also stopped a few FARDC commanders for boarding their planes, including Baudouin Ngaruye, who the UN Group of Experts has implicated in the massacre of Shalio in 2009, as well as other officers. A cell within MONUSCO has also begun to put together a list of the most serious human rights offenders within the Congolese security forces to serve as a reference for the UN and donors.

However, MONUSCO still has a relatively vague policy on how to support the FARDC in the Kivus, especially as much of the aid it provides - water, food, medicine, fuel and perhaps even ammunition - is fungible and the real capacity to monitor both the troops behavior and the distribution chain is very limited as the Mission's resources are overstretched. Conditionality is also easily circumvented, in light of the chaos which reigns among FARDC deployments and parallel chains of command. This is compounded by blue helmets who are unfamiliar with their surroundings and the FARDC units they deal with.

So far MONUSCO have just laid out the ground rules of their cooperation with the FARDC. They have an elaborate set of conditions that their collaboration with FARDC units is based on. Has it had an impact? Hard to say. Reported word is spreading – albeit slowly – among FARDC troops that human rights violations are no longer a free ride and that their conduct towards the civilian population is "being monitored by the international community".

We need to make sure, however, that the policy is not just a means for the UN to avoid complicity. The real aim of the policy should be to pressure the FARDC into much-needed reforms. Abusive units could thus be marginalized, sending a clear message.

For this to happen, conditionality alone isn’t enough. It should be linked to security sector reform – the chimerical beast – and support to the justice sector. Then there is the issue of taking more aggressive action, such as arresting Bosco Ntaganda and pressuring the government to suspend or prosecute officials who are well-documented criminal records (Innocent Zimurinda comes to mind, as does Lt Col “Shetani,” a Munyamulenge commander reportedly involved in the 1998 Kasika massacre).

This will ruffle some feathers – MONUSCO has spoiled the Congolese by providing free services to the Congolese government for the last 10 years with few string attached, and the international community is ever fearful of rocking the boat.


Anonymous said...

In your article you rightly point out the concern of crimes committed by or under the leadership of Congolese Army officers, and you cite only Tutsi, Munyamulenge and Hema officers by name.
While not denying that these officers may be responsable for those crimes, and only a court should determine their culpability if we stand for rule of law and justice, as an expert on the DRC you are aware that crimes have been committed by Congolese Army officers of different ethnic backgrounds, and not only by nilotic ethnic officers (Tutsi, Munyamulenge, Hema).
In citing only Tutsi, Munyamulenge and Hema officers by name, are you not taking the risk of painting a biased picture of the situation, one which risks catering to the xenophobic politics manipulated by unscrupulous politicians in the DRC - even when this was never your intention?
As a respected analyst, I would encourage you to be careful to remain objective in your analyses.
Thank you.

Rich said...

I know for fact that there are many examples, on this blog, where names and ethnic groups of 'non-nilotic' officers were cited and their wrong doings denounced.

Yes it is biased to pin point a one of example, take it out of context in order to blackmail or protect. Such practice can also lead to painting a, "biased picture of the situation, one which risks catering to the xenophobic politics manipulated by unscrupulous politicians in the DRC - even when this was never your intention"; if I may say.

Why worry about what manipulated and unscrupulous politicians would do with Jason's comments? They are already MANIPULATED AND UNSCRUPULOUS so any excuse would do for them!

To me, Jason is doing a great job and we should be encouraging him rather than posting snide if not derogatory comments that are completely out of context.

Unknown said...

@ massivejean: thank you for pointing out this en Français on dit" On ne chasse pas le naturel il revient au galop"...You can't change Jason' tusti xenophoby il est tombé dedans quand il était petit.

Nkunda said...


Your comment is quite unfair. You accuse Jason of being xenophobia, yet Jason does not even mention the ethnic background of the rouge officers. He leaves the speculation to the reader--which actually bothers me.

Exposing the ethnic background of the main actors is necessary so as to bring the atrocities in their proper context.

BTW, Since when are the Hema, Tutsi, Munyamulenge nilotes? Sounds like you just made a new discovery!

Rich said...


My message is between the lines!

Jason Stearns said...

I appreciate the point - Zimurinda, Bosco and "Shetani" are indeed Tutsi and Munyamulenge, respectively. And anti-Tutsi ideology is indeed alive and well in the region, unfortunately.

However, many of the officers who have been integrated into the FARDC recently with known records of human rights abuse come from the CNDP and many of them are Tutsi. Just take a look at the list presented by the 2009 Group of Experts - 16 of the 21 officers they mention are ex-CNDP. This is not because Tutsi are more likely to be abusive, but probably for more complicated reasons linked to the kind of operations they are carrying out (they are at the forefront of operations against the FDLR) and the organizational culture of the CNDP, which was pretty violent.

Having said this, there are many others within the FARDC, but also in the Mai-Mai and especially the FDLR who are extremely abusive. Col. Gwigwi, for example, is ex-PARECO, Hutu allegedly responsible for torture and child recruitment; Col Biyoyo is ex-CNDP, Shi, also guilty of child recruitment; Col. Mayele, recently arrested for mass rape, is Mai-Mai and Nyanga. The list is long.

Post a Comment