Global Policy Forum

UN Peacekeepers Are Reportedly Spying


By James Munyaneza

New Times
July 15, 2007

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) is embroiled in allegations that it is spying for Rwandan militias holed up the vast African nation.New reports indicate that the UN peacekeepers are being investigated over allegations that they trade weapons and military intelligence with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in return for gold.According to Reuters, officials on Friday said that the UN's Office for Internal Oversight Services [OIOS], New York-based internal watchdog, was investigating the matter. The office is also probing accusations that MONUC members also provide food to the rebels in return for gold.

FDLR is largely composed of Hutu extremists who participated in the 1994 Genocide before fleeing to DRC. Kemal Saiki, spokesman for the UN mission in Congo, confirmed that accusations had been made against a number of Indian peacekeepers in eastern Congo's troubled North Kivu province. "We acknowledge there were accusations," he told the agency. "Following these allegations, our procedures kicked in and an investigation by the Office for Internal Oversight Services was launched." Kemal said. In New York, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, announced that UN was sending a "management audit team" to Kinshasa to obtain a full picture of various recent allegations of serious misconduct against UN personnel".

The rebels have been at the centre of a decade of instability in the Great Lakes Region and is partly the reason why the UN deployed its largest peacekeeping force worldwide in the vast nation. The problems are greater in the east of the country, with large areas of North Kivu along the border with Rwanda controlled by FDLR. Earlier this month, an OIOS report on similar allegations against Pakistani peacekeepers in DRC's northeastern Ituri district found out that the troops had indeed worked with a local armed group to smuggle gold out of the country.

Anneke Van Woudenberg, a researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, said that while she could not confirm the latest allegations of misconduct, ongoing abuses in Congo were hurting UN efforts worldwide. "These guys should be held up to the highest standards, if international peacekeeping is to work," she said.

The UN maintains a 17,000-strong peacekeeping force in DRC. Punishment of peacekeepers found to have committed crimes while serving with the UN is left at the discretion of their home countries. Human rights campaigners say national armies have a poor record of disciplining their troops. The reports threaten to erode the already highly tainted image of the world body among Rwandans, whose memories of the UN's failure to stop the Genocide remain fresh.

The UN has previously been accused of not doing enough to end the FDLR problem, which saw Rwanda deploying troops in DRC twice - in 1996 and 1998 - to pre-empt the rebel attacks. The country withdrew her troops in 2002 after the international community, particularly the UN, pledged to address the matter, but five years on, nothing much has been done save for isolated cases of voluntary repatriation of some fighters. FDLR is referred to as a 'negative force' under the Tripartite Plus Joint Commission (TPJC) - a regional diplomatic framework composed of Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Uganda - and dozens of its leaders are already on a common list of most wanted persons agreed upon by all TPJC members. Kigali says the militias are still bent on carrying on with their Genocide ideology, which they have reportedly continued to exhibit even against a section of Congolese nationals.

Rwandan government officials with authority to comment on the latest reports could not be reached by press time. But the government has already expressed concern over the initial arms-for-gold accusations (against MONUC) with President Paul Kagame calling for a thorough investigation into the allegations. The accusations follow other related reports which implicated the UN peacekeepers in DRC sexual abuse crimes.

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


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.