Global Policy Forum

UN Peace Force Rejects Congo President’s Criticism


By Joe Bavier

June 25, 2007

The United Nations rejected Congolese President Joseph Kabila's criticism of its 17,000-strong peace force on Wednesday, saying Kabila's government was primarily responsible for protecting civilians. Kabila said in an interview published this week that the U.N. mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) risked losing relevance unless it achieved better results on the ground in the fight to bring peace to Congo's conflict-torn east. "When you see what is happening in the east of the country, where 80 percent of their forces are concentrated, you ask yourself a thousand and one questions," Kabila told French-language news magazine Jeune Afrique. "Already, the population in the east sometimes wonders what (MONUC) is doing there," he said.

Force spokesman Kemal Saiki hit back on Wednesday saying its peacekeepers were ready to assist the army but Congolese authorities, elected in landmark polls last year, needed to fulfil their obligations to protect the people. "Defence of the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation and that of its people is firstly, principally, primordially, crucially, and incontrovertibly the responsibility of the state and that brings us to the question of the 'raison d'etre' of the state and of its authority," Saiki told a weekly news briefing. Despite the official end of a 1998-2003 war and Congo's first democratic polls in over 40 years, armed militias control swathes of eastern Congo and violence is increasing in North and South Kivu provinces, bordering Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.


In North Kivu, clashes between predominantly Hutu Rwandan rebels and Tutsi-dominated Congolese army brigades have forced more than 130,000 people from their homes since January. Catholic Church leaders have warned that unless the Congo army and its U.N. allies take firmer action, the volatile region could slide back into all-out conflict. Last month the U.N. Security Council voted to prolong, at least until the end of the year, MONUC's peacekeeping mandate, which allows it to carry out joint military operations with the Congolese army and protect civilians. Initially mandated in 1999, MONUC became the U.N.'s biggest peacekeeping force and played a major role in pacifying Congo's troubled Ituri district, which erupted into inter-ethnic fighting after the broader five-year war had officially ended. Saiki said he knew of no Congolese government request for MONUC's help against armed groups in the Kivus this year.

Security Council members have called for Rwandan involvement in a diplomatic solution to the growing crisis in the Kivus, which grew out of a failed attempt to integrate soldiers loyal to dissident Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda into the army. In one of its most decisive operations, U.N. troops in helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles killed hundreds of Nkunda soldiers who seized Sake town, North Kivu, in December. "I don't think the dissident Nkunda troops who tried to take Sake, at least those who survived, are asking themselves what the MONUC forces are doing," Saiki said.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on the Democratic Republic of Congo
More Information on UN Peacekeeping


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