For several weeks now, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (namely in the North Kivu province), hundreds of people have been displaced due to heavy fighting between the Tutsi pro-Rwanda rebel group lead by Laurent Nkundabatware. Many have also been left dead, among them women and children. Reports from the ground state that mothers and their daughters, regardless their ages, are raped by rebels as well as the government forces.
On September 12th, 280 male students were kidnapped by Nkundabatware rebels from Rushinge, Kagura and Burungu schools in Massi territory.
It is customary for rebel groups to recruit by force, and kidnapping is one of the ways armies bring young fighters into their ranks.
Last week, Nkunda armed forces sabotaged the Mundo Gusto Hydroelectic installation on the Rutshuru River in the Rutshuru territory. This caused an electricity outage in the surrounding towns, resulting in devastation at the Rutshuru hospital where daily operations depend on hydroelectric power. All infants in incubators perished and medicines such as vaccines that require refrigeration were ruined.
After heavy fighting on several fronts in North Kivu province, a cease fire was reached between the rebel group of Ngundabatware and the government on September 6th. It was facilitated by the UN peace keeping mission for the Congo (MONUC). However, the cease fire is extremely volatile because Nkundabatware vowed to continue to fight as long as the Hutu rebel group based in the Congo is a threat to the return of the Congolese Tutsi, all of whom are currently refugees in Rwanda. The question of the Hutu rebel presence in the Congo is what the government of Rwanda always brings forth to justify its involvement in the conflicts that have devastated the Congolese since 1996. In fact, Rwanda is a major obstacle to peace in the Congo. As Rwanda launched a war against Congo in 1996 under the pretext of removing former president of the D.R. Congo Mr. Mobutu Sese Seko, today Rwanda is using Nkundabatware to continue to fight his enemy, the Democratic Liberation Forces Rwanda (FDLR), on the Congolese territory. This is the only way he can save face before the international community against the allegation of destabilizing the Congo.
From September 16th to the 17th in Kampala, Uganda, the foreign ministers of the D.R Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi have been discussing the question of security in the Great Lakes Region. It was organized by the United States. Mr. William Swing, the head of MONUC, was also in attendance. Their focus was to find solutions to the chaos caused by the many rebel groups of the region that have found a safe heaven in the eastern D.R. Congo. These rebel groups include from Uganda the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and People’s Redemption Army (PRA); from Rwanda the FDLR; from Burundi the National Liberation Forces (FNL); and from the Congo the pro-Rwanda rebel group lead by Laurent Nkundabatware. No major steps toward a solution was made because Rwanda and Congo could not find a common ground on the issue of Nkundabatware and the FDLR.
Meanwhile, in Kinshasa, the capital of the D.R. Congo, 15 days of work on security reform began on September 17th. Among the many questions being discussed is how the Congolese army will take over the task of securing the nation when the MONUC mission ends in 2009. Present are representatives from the Congolese armed forces, MONUC, the European Union, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Tanzania, Angola and the Netherlands. Nationally and internationally, the Congolese army is known as unprofessional, under-equipped, underpaid and undisciplined. Also a round table on the reform of security in the D.R. Congo is expected to begin in October. How long are we to wait for peace come to this land of Congo?
This Congolese story is a heartbreaking one for many people particularly those who cannot wait to see the end of pain in that part of Africa. Congo Global Action, a coalition of several non profit and humanitarian organizations is hosting a conference from November 11-13, 2007 to offer an opportunity to better understand the issue and find a lasting solution to the ongoing, terrifying and devastating situation of “Women and Children: The Civilian Victims Most Forgotten.”