After coming under intense criticism for backing a disastrous Congolese military operation against rebel groups in eastern Congo, the United Nations decided in early November to suspend all logistical and operational support to the FARDC (Congolese Armed Forces). Responsible for committing widespread atrocities in the months following the military operation, the Congolese army has “clearly targeted” civilians, according to UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy. A reckless and dangerous armed force, the FARDC has become an impediment to achieving peace and security in the region.
The UN’s decision to withdraw its support only now from the FARDC is especially striking given newly released information about the Congolese army’s recent behavior. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, vaccination sites — where thousands of civilians including many children had gathered — were used as bait during attacks three weeks ago by the FARDC on the rebels. MSF described:
All parties to the conflict had given security guarantees to MSF to vaccinate at these [seven] locations at those times. However, the Congolese national army launched attacks on each of the vaccination sites. All the people who had come to get their children vaccinated were forced to flee the heavy fighting… The attack was an unacceptable abuse of humanitarian action to fulfill military objectives.
MSF explained that it had decided to pull its staff from the area before publicizing the incident and expressed concern over increasing attacks against humanitarian organizations by the various armed groups in the region.