DR Congo: UN reports clashes and abuses in east despite overall calm

31 January 2007

Certain army elements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continue to harass and terrorize civilians in the east of the vast country while renegade forces who refuse to join in the demobilization and reintegration process have engaged in rape and other “intolerable violations,” the United Nations mission reported today.

But the overall situation remains calm. “No major event has occurred to threaten the stability and security despite some isolated incidents in the east,” UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) spokesman Kemal Saiki told the weekly briefing in Kinshasa, the capital.

“MONUC remains worried by the behaviour of certain elements of the Congolese armed forces who, despite calls for discipline, continue to harass and terrorize the civilian populations,” he said.

MONUC’s main military concern is the strife-torn eastern province of Ituri, due to the slow progress of demobilization and the activities of a local warlord, Peter Karim, and his militia, the Front des Nationalistes and Intégrationnistes (FNI).

“Incapable of evolving towards peace, he is a vestige of the past,” MONUC military spokesman Lt.-Col. Didier Rancher said, calling Mr. Karim “a veritable dinosaur” whose FNI has reneged on all promises of joining in the demobilization process, most recently on Sunday while Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in the country.

“Instead, incidents with civilians around Fataki took place, including rape and other intolerable violations. All outstretched hands, all offers of dialogue from the Government, helped by MONUC, have failed with Peter Karim, who resembles a museum piece in his refusal to join the demobilization process,” he added.

MONUC has overseen the DRC’s transition from a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives in fighting and attendant hunger and disease, widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II, to gradual stabilization, culminating in the first democratic elections in over four decades last year, the largest and most complex polls the UN has ever helped to organize.

In South Kivu province during the past week, clashes occurred between army troops and a hundred partisans of the so-called Moramvia Group, in which five people are believed to have been killed and 15 wounded on both sides. MONUC forces are patrolling the area to stop the violence from spreading and unleashing a new flood of refugees.

The confrontations have prevented humanitarian workers from reaching the area, MONUC’s assistant spokesman, Jean-Tobie Okala said. Together with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other partners MONUC will send an assessment as soon as security allows.

In North Kivu province, skirmishes occurred last week near the villages of Myurambi and Luke between army troops and deserters refusing to reintegrate due to unfounded fears over their families. “A MONUC mobile operation bases has been set up in Luke to follow the situation closely and prevent a resumption of fire,” Lt.-Col. Rancher said.


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