This AP file photo shows a freshly uniformed government soldier walking in the fields around Goma, with its active volcano smoldering in the background. Government soldiers of the FARDC, or DRC Armed Forces, are the product of a long and expensive process of security sector reform, in which all former combatants (including rebels, ethnic militias, and popular defense forces) are disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated (DDR) either into civilian or military life, depending on their capacities.
Human Rights Watch recently released a report documenting a well known but troubling reality about the success of the country's DDR program : troops
from the 'new', reformed government army are responsible for massive human rights abuses, in particular the abduction of civilians for manual labor. Digging and sifting in open mines for coltan, diamonds and gold is one such activity, ostensibly to offset the lack of salary received from their superiors in Kinshasa.
"Congolese government soldiers were sent to Ituri to protect civilians against abuses by local militias, but they themselves are devastating the area," writes Alison Des Forges, Africa adviser at Human Rights Watch.
I will be in the DRC for the next six weeks, so expect more blogging from there. Especially as the 29 October elections approach. My camera was stolen on my last visit in June. I haven't replaced it, so will have to crib others' photos, alas.