Saturday, October 31, 2009

Under the Sun of Kimia II

Four different military operations are being pursued on Congolese soil today. The largest, the UN peacekeeping operation, is a patchwork of contingents from around the world, very few of whom are francophone. Most of the UN’s troop contributing nations are developing countries themselves. Their armies are poorly trained and equipped, and are hungry for the cash injection of a UN contract. The result is a purely symbolic peacekeeping force, where actual deterrence (protection of civilians) is hoped for but rarely demonstrated. Several UN contingents--Moroccans, Pakistanis and Indians among others--have been investigated for sexual abuse, arms and mineral trafficking. Like the country's national army and police, foreign troops under the UN banner are largely above the law.

Supported by Congo’s national army (FARDC), Uganda is pursuing remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army who've adopted Orientale Province as their base arrière. The LRA continue their attacks and abductions of civilians, having been reduced to survival mode. In October, Angola ‘invaded’ the Bas Congo province, sparking a diplomatic row, to liberate the Cabinda enclave from long-standing rebel control. If successful, these operations will create a more peaceful neighborhood. Routing rebel forces on neighboring terrain is the only way to end years of mutual suspicion and accusations of ‘supporting the enemy’. Most Congolese pay little attention to these operations, or the civilian abuses they entail. One reads security conditions like weather patterns, and adapts accordingly.

Prominent in the public eye is Operation Kimia II, underway in the Kivus. After years of pressure from the Congolese government, the UN joined forces with the FARDC and Rwandan troops to capture, kill or route FDLR forces involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide that have since disappeared into South Kivu’s remote western forests. Ostensibly a counter-terrorism operation, Operation Kimia II is producing mixed results. Local populations have lived for years under FDLR control, subject to a parallel administration widely reported as preferable to the Congolese administration. An absence of forced displaced from FDLR areas over the years attests to pacific relations between FDLR masters and local populations.

But as Kimia II advances into occupied territory, FDLR retaliations are frequent and civilians pay dearly. Recent travels into these areas have been fascinating, and infuriating. Typical of FARDC behavior around the country, soldiers assume control of local taxation structures (roads, markets), local mining operations, and pocket the money. Civilian authorities are shunted aside; local populations ignored or abused for having ‘cohabited with the enemy’. Congolese security culture retains the old Mobutu model: bapopulation baza bilanga ya bino (the population is your revenue source), dark sunglasses, macho pomp and hushed secrecy are de rigueur. No appreciation for classic counter-insurgency approaches, or the need to win the support and trust of civilians. Moreover, there seems a deliberate absence of planning for the transfer of power to civilian authorities, or a return to rule of law. Under FDLR, farmers farmed and miners mined in a climate of moderate prosperity. Now ‘liberated’ by Congolese forces, locals are subject to battering, forced labor, illegal taxation, rape and displacement. The gap between the objectives and methods of Kimia II could not be greater.

The premise of reconstituting eastern Congo by routing rebel forces and their parallel administrations, allowing the country’s civilian authorities to resume basic services and restore rule of law, is a farce. Under Kimia II there is no evidence that Congolese authorities, military or civilian, want or are able to provide those services. Even the modest first steps on Congo's long road towards modern statehood have yet be taken.

4 comments:

Karana said...

Edward

The number of rapes and fistulas treated at the South Kivu hospitals, long before Kimia II was penned, attest to another type of relationship between residents and their FDLR masters.

Forced to stay and serve their every need and subject their daughters to sexual slavery, South Kivu residents were happy to welcome the FARDC and relieved when it looked like the national government would be taking over and finally assuming its role as protector and provider of basic needs.

Unfortunately, the current mission of the FARDC is purely punitive. The chaos they are spreading throughout the area is nothing less than criminal. And if some commanders and soldiers can line their pockets and take out their frustrations on some civilians in the process, so be it. That is, I believe, closer to the mark.

Life under the FDLR was abusive, repressive and included forced servitude of all kinds at the hands of turn coat local Congolese administrators and Rwandan refugees. The current firestorm comes with many of the same attributes but it is being waged by people with no ties to the region, little respect for the rights of civilians, and with unlimited resources to wage a war that has the approval of the UN and the Congolese government.

Kimia II is an abomination but life under the FDLR was no picnic.

edward b. rackley, phd said...

the great majority of the abductions, killings and rapes occurring now are by former CNDP who're now FARDC leaders and their squatties. bizarrely we were told repeatedly that many squatties among FARDC rwandaphone troops are actually hutu, even former FDLR. hard to imagine, but we were told this with great regularity.

so these killings and rapes by FARDC are some sort of revenge on local pops for having 'collaborated' with their FDLR occupiers. in some areas Mai Mai persist in numbers but are not directly engaging the now heavily rwandaphone FARDC. they are refusing to integrate (brassage), however -- groups like FRF and yakatumba--and so still remain a force to be reckoned with, and are very anti-Kinshasa, their former backers. the simba are still active in northern maniema, only because there is nothing to resist them, no state presence at all.

the new HRW report makes the very unfortunate case that all this carnage is due to MONUC, and does not attribute sufficient blame to the former CNDP folks leading the FARDC under Kimia II. continuing to blame MONUC is no solution at all.

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