JOHN PRENDERGAST: All right, Paul Simo. Paul first parachuted into the Congo in November of 2000, in those turbulent months just before Laurent Kabila was assassinated, when the Kinshasa pro dailies were still promoting the anti-Rwanda, anti-RCD, and anti-Tutsi messages, when the AFDL alliance was crumbling. Those were happy days, Paul, and I’m sure you really miss them.
Paul is now program director for the International Human Rights Law Group, and they’re doing very excellent work there in the Congo. It’d be good to hear more about that. But today, you’re going to talk about the politics and where we got to go from here.
PAUL SIMO: Thank you very much, John. I think when I first looked at the title of this panel discussion, “Sequel to Genocide,” the first thing that came to mind was that word “sequel,” and almost the feeling that one has. If I read this right, it may have meant sequel to the Rwandan genocide as sort of the reading of the Congolese conflict.
The reality that genocide is supposed to evoke this clarion call of “never again,” and so there should not be a sequel. I think the very fact that Ituri has degenerated to where it is today and that we’re having this discussion is a testimony to the fact that the responses that were required at the time or that should have followed haven’t necessarily done so.
I also think that it’s a little bit of a misnomer to suggest that what is currently going in Ituri is a sequel to the Rwandan genocide. There are connections to the two, but I think it is important to point out that at the roots of the current crisis in Ituri is a grand and ultimately disastrous scheme by the Ugandan government to create and foment and to shape a rebellion in Northeastern DRC.
I think if the Museveni regime has any foreign policy blot on its record, definitely its attempt like Rwanda to orchestrate and create a rebellion in Eastern Congo and its ultimate inability to do so as a result of the dense web of alliances created with opportunistic politicians, with political groups that built upon ethnic loyalties that recruited massively youths, children along specific ethnic groups; these things really lie at the heart of what we’re seeing in Ituri today.
I think it is also critical in thinking about the framework for response and what other elements should be included in international response, to address the one parallel that I certainly have observed and picked up on between what’s going on, the violence at least, the militia aspect of the violence between Hema and allied Gegere and Lendu and Ngiti, et cetera, in parts of Ituri. I think it’s the rather polluted and almost nauseating use of what could be called a preemption doctrine.
As some of you who’ve observed what transpired in Northeastern DRC between these two ethnic groups, just to simplify the issue, there have been conflicts over time between Hema and Lendu. There have been mechanisms for dealing with these. There have been conflicts over land, there have been conflicts over fishing rights, there have been conflicts about security of land titles, et cetera.
However, as a result of this Rwandan scheme to build a rebel movement in Northeastern Congo, a credible rebel movement, the splinters and the little factions that generated as a result of this scheme were all built around ethnic loyalties. They weren’t political movements in reality. So, you know, pick a letter of the alphabet, attach RCD to it, you have something called a rebel movement. But in reality, these things do not have a political agenda of their own and were in some cases not even formed with the objective of becoming a political entity.
Now for many of these groups when, as had occurred in the past, there was a resurgence of conflict between Hema and Lendu, what was their approach? They had actively recruited youths within their own communities to receive military training in Beni, in Bunia; some went to Uganda to receive military training. They were not being conscripted to serve in any organized, disciplined military force. Then they were sort of discarded and left out there in Ituri.
So what happened when the Hema and Lendu conflict resurged in 2000, in ’99, in 2001, well, the people who had power on the ground were these warlords, and I think it’s reasonable to call them that. What they played on was, to come back to that what I call nauseating theory of preemption, was this notion that the way to protect group security for us as an ethnic group, as a tribe, is to attack.
It’s basically playing on the notion that there is another ethnic group that is securing power, securing patronage, is protected by the Ugandans, or is grooming it’s own army. So how do we deal with that? Well, we’re too nice to attack them first, aren’t we? But how do we deal with it? Let’s mobilize. What should we do if they’re going to extinguish us, if they want us to be extinct? Let’s respond and let’s respond by attacking first.
I think that if we look at the stories and the narratives behind mass killings of this sort, we will always see the strand and how to respond to that very legitimate instinct of group security, but to do so in a framework that does not sort of lend itself to this preemptive action, as some people will call it, I think is a critical question.
In passing, I also wanted to point out that while a lot of the reflection over the last few weeks has sort of isolated Ituri or talked about Ituri as one of the conflicts provoked by the broader conflict in the DRC or a focused conflict that has spun off from the conflict in the DRC, I think a more accurate reading is that what is going on in Ituri is the conflict in the DRC. It has metamorphosed into that.
The war is being fought through proxies, and all of the key Congolese belligerents have their dog in the fight in Ituri. The RCD is linked with one party. The MLC has its dog in the fight, the RCD Nationale. The Kinshasa government has its own dog in the fight. So this is the conflict in the DRC. The level of response required to Ituri has to be the level of response required to the conflict in the DRC.
I think I will wrap up my comments by focusing on one question that John raised specifically, which was the point of impunity, of how do we deal with those who’ve committed these actions? How do we deal with the perpetrators of mass crimes, of war crimes, of crimes against humanity, and who are known, by the way? I will just point out two anecdotes.
In May of 2002, in the city of Kisangani, which is in Orientale Province to the west of Ituri, there was a mutiny within the RCD army. As a result of that mutiny, there was specific targeting of soldiers within the alleged group that participated in the mutiny. There were then reprisal killings of civilians. There was enormous outrage at the really gory and horrid stories that we saw about what happened in Kisangani.
The individuals responsible, several of them, were named, both by investigators of the U.N. or several human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch. Some of those individuals, their names are public, they’re out there: Gabriel Amisi, who was deputy chief of staff of the RCD; that was May of 2002. There were firm words from the Security Council about the need to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for these actions.
Well, in November of 2002, this specific individual was promoted to a two- or three-star general within the RCD. So negotiations are taking place today about what type of Congolese army we’ll have in the future, but evidently, these are the individuals who will populate that army.
There’s several levels at which the response to the question of impunity can be dealt with. The Congolese parties themselves have talked about the need for a special or specialized mechanism. It’s interesting we’re addressing this issue the same week when Charles Taylor, a sitting head of state, has been indicted in Liberia.
But the Congolese have spoken about the need for creating some kind of special mechanism, a court that would bring together both the Congolese judiciary, but also the power of the international community to try to apprehend some of the persons responsible for these crimes.
As some of you may know as well, the DRC has ratified the Rome statute of the ICC. Since July of 2002, the International Criminal Court, therefore, has potential jurisdiction over crimes in the Congo.
But just I’ll end on this little anecdote, and it’s something which was brought to my attention during my last trip to Congo in March in Bukavu. It’s that when we think about the response to impunity and how to deal with these war crimes and crimes against humanity, we often think about the very big mechanisms, but there are practical, operative ways as well in which these things can be dealt with.
The anecdote I’ll give you is from an organization that deals with women who’ve been either raped or sexually assaulted that works in Eastern Congo in Bukavu. They have noticed a phenomenon whereby the DDR, the demobilization and demilitarization process being conducted currently by MONUC, is touching certain individuals. So there are certain individuals who are coming into these reception centers who are supposed to either go back to Rwanda or who are Congolese nationals who can’t go back so will have to be recirculated into society.
But some of the people who were presenting themselves to these receptions centers were subsequently identified by women who had been raped, had been sexually assaulted, had been abducted, and had stayed for 2, 3 years in the bush by these actors.
Now there is a DDR process. We understand it’s a complex process, it’s voluntary, it’s very difficult to effect. But there you have it. I mean, there are people within a reception center, set up under this U.N.-sponsored demobilization process, who are being pointed at as having been responsible for committing some of these graves crimes.
I think until we have this sort of holistic approach where we look at all of the little pieces of the puzzle and think about how dealing with impunity, for instance, can fit into the various aspects we won’t necessarily make too much progress.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Great. Thank you so much, Paul. I’m hoping also that on this point of impunity, that the Martha Stewart case can also provide an important precedent for our work here. Really, Paul, next time, please, tell us what you really think, okay?
Now we turn to Herb Weiss. Now Herb has the most incredible story of all. I don’t even know if I can begin to tell it, but I’ll tell you, I’ll give you some of the highlights and the lowlights. The upshot is he was drafted in the U.S. Army roughly 1955, and for highly questionable reasons got a certificate in African studies from the University of Paris so he could cut down his time of service. He served; he didn’t do anything wrong or illegal. He got hired, logically, by the State Department then to help them predict Africa’s future, a not entirely successful operation. He ended up in the Congo in 1959 to be an observer and, as he says, a sentimental participant in the independent struggle; all this before I was born, pretty remarkable guy. So he’s done a few things since then. He’s now affiliated with CUNY, with Columbia, and with pretty much every serious project going on in the Congo today.
HERB WEISS: There are a lot of places where one can place emphasis, and we are all, I am sure, quite frustrated in not having enough time to fully expose our ideas. I would like to focus, first, on the ongoing violence in Eastern Congo. Second, specifically on the parameters of the possible, because there are many things that one might wish for which are simply not going to happen. But, I would also like to talk a little of why these things have not been done. And, finally, since we are in Washington and since we are a superpower, I would like to focus on U.S. policy in the Congo.
It is important to emphasize the fact that violence in the Congo is clearly limited to the East. It is present not only in Ituri – an area which has been in the news lately – but, in Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu. But it is by far not the whole country. Three-quarters of the country living under miserable economic and social conditions is, in fact, free of political violence, military violence, and, in fact, is relatively free even of criminal violence.
Massive violence and war has been an ongoing curse for the Congolese since 1994 in large part as a result of the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda. The First Congo War ended with the defeat of the Mobutu regime and the victory of a Rwanda, Uganda, Angola backed invasion and uprising. The Second Congo War resulted from the expulsion of Rwandan forces by the new president of the DRC, Laurent Kabila and the breakup of the alliance which had put him in power. Rwanda and Uganda “re-invaded” the Congo, but, Angola supported Kabila. This Second War fought itself to a stalemate by 1999 and the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement resulted. I personally believe that this was an excellent agreement because -- and this is rare in international relations -- it combines dealing with the interests of the foreign as well as the internal political and military forces. In summary, this agreement has three pillars. First, that foreign forces would withdraw on both sides of the struggle. Secondly, that foreign militias would be demobilized, disarmed, and return to their country of origin or somewhere else. Third, that there would be an internal dialogue which would place all the Congolese parties, whether armed or not armed, whether government or not government, on an equal footing in a dialogue that would produce both the modalities for an ultimate legitimate government and an interim governmental arrangement.
There was only one real weakness in this agreement; the guerilla movements that had sprung up in Eastern Congo which were fighting against the Rwandan and, to a lesser extent, the Ugandan occupation, were not represented at the Lusaka meeting. These movements are the so called Mai Mai. Needless to say, the Mai Mai not only fought the Rwandans and the Ugandans but also the rebel movements which these two states backed in Eastern Congo, the RCD/Goma and the RCD/ML.
I think it’s to the great credit of the United States that at that time, our diplomats worked hard to bring this agreement about despite tremendous resistance from all kinds of parties and interests involved. But, then, almost immediately afterwards, a problem arose with U.S. policy – a strong bias developed in favor of the “official” government, in other words, the political/military faction which controlled Kinshasa.
Now, here US policy makers faced a choice. Should the US treat all the signatories to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement more or less equally or pursue a policy of “backing the government in place.” There was a government in Kinshasa. It was, at the time, headed by Laurent Kabila. He was a very difficult man. He had a revolutionary Marxist background. He was anti-American, a deeply ingrained bias which can be traced to his past in the 1960s when he saw US policy plot against Patrice Lumumba and strongly support the forces which defeated the revolutionary movement of which he was a part. Despite this background, the US, naturally, had “normal” diplomatic relations with that government.
But, this government only controlled half the country. And, it had signed a cease-fire agreement that recognized the forces that controlled the other half of the country. The U.N. had agreed to send a mission – MONUC – to observe the cease-fire lines created by that agreement. On matters dealing with the internal conflict, the Agreement specified that the government, the rebel movements and other groups were to negotiate as equal partners.
I think it’s fair to say that the policy of the State Department at that time was to seduce Laurent Kabila. That was not an easily attainable goal because he was such a difficult president. So, we did things like inviting him to participate in a Security Council meeting when, we totally neglected his internal opponents. That was the beginning of a policy of paying attention to Kinshasa. Whoever was dominant in Kinshasa, whoever represented that sovereignty, was the person we dealt with.
I would like to refer back to something that Al Eastham said, namely that there is a tendency to focus on only one factor. Well, we focused on only one factor, and that was Kinshasa. I would say that is just not good enough. That is the reason why we have been largely uninvolved with the real players in the East. Therefore, we had almost no influence on a situation which has increasingly descended into a hellish anarchy for the people there. We had no assigned representatives there. The few people who had some contact with the East were not listened to. The same thing happened within the U.N. The U.N. has an incredibly elaborate structure in Kinshasa and it gets along with the government in Kinshasa. But, it took years for it to establish a real presence in the East.
Actually it was very difficult, both for the U.N. and the U.S., to get along with Kinshasa so long as Laurent Kabila was the president. But every attempt was made because he was the president, the argument being that we had to do this because we have bilateral relations with sovereign states. There is also a tradition of diplomats trying their hardest to get along with the governments to which they are assigned. But when a country is split into two approximately equal parts, and one half is descending into greater and greater violence, one may question such a policy.
Laurent Kabila was assassinated by some of his own people, as you know, and replaced by his son. His son made a 180-degree turn in policy towards the outside world. His father had absolutely resisted the calling together of the internal dialogue which was supposed to create an interim government and then lead to elections and a legitimate government. Well, his son allowed that process to go forward with a little proviso: The talks go forward, but he remains president, a proviso which was not in the Lusaka agreement. So of course, it took time to cajole his opponents into accepting that condition, but it was done successfully with the application of a lot of US pressure.
In the meantime, this cajoling allowed the violence in the East to simmer and grow. The violence in the East was to the very great advantage of the politicians in Kinshasa. They weren’t particularly good administering their own area. They had not been elected. There were ethnic differences. But, there was this violence in the East against their opponents, the leaders in Goma and the leaders in Bunia and the leaders in Gbadolite. That was their ace of spades and they were genuinely successful in mobilizing public opinion against the Rwandan/Ugandan invasion. So they poured oil on that fire. They supported the Mai Mai materially and morally. They named some of the Mai Mai leaders as generals in the new Congolese army. They even claimed officially that the Mai Mai were really part of the Congolese army. And, the Mai Mai were often in alliance with the Rwandan and other insurgency militia based in Eastern Congo. The key reason why the Rwandans had signed the Lusaka Agreement - disarming and repatriating the Rwandan Hutu insurgency militia in the DRC - was not only unfulfilled but Kinshasa was mobilizing and supporting these militia.
Here you have a cease-fire agreement and you have forces allied and supported by one of the signatories fighting every night. But, in fact, they are not only allied but the signatory in question – the Kinshasa regime – claims them as part of its military establishment. Did the U.S. Government say, hey, this is a cease-fire violation? No. Did MONUC say this is a cease-fire violation? No. So the violence got more and more intense.
One must connect this to the question: Why did the Rwandans sign the cease-fire agreement? Why did they sign Lusaka? I believe they signed Lusaka because it included, as one of its major pillars, the disarming, demobilization and reintegration of the Rwandan Hutu militia in the Congo whose presence, you will remember, was one of the principal causes of the First Congo War. You may like the Rwandan regime or not. It is an authoritarian regime, which is currently tightening the screws on opposition parties within Rwanda. It has attempted to dominate Congo politics – initially the whole country, and after the failure to overthrow Laurent Kabila in 1998, limited to Eastern Congo. Rwanda’s occupation of Eastern Congo has been very heavy handed and unsuccessful in gaining popular support for itself or the RCD/Goma. Rwanda has clearly drawn substantial economic advantage from its presence in Eastern Congo. There are all kinds of nasty things one can say about the Rwandans in the Congo, but they are there and they are going to remain there, directly or via proxies, at least so long as the Rwandan Hutu militia are not dealt with. I think they have made that very clear.
If this summary analysis is correct, we must look at what the international community , and the US, could do, and could have done, to stop the ongoing violence. And, what are the realistic limitations regarding the means at hand. It seems to me clear that we are not going to send any troops to impose a solution, and the U.N. is not going to have enough troops to impose a solution. So what should be done?
Given these limitations, the only path is to act as an impartial intermediary in negotiations especially between the forces which are causing the violence. Unfortunately, both at the U.N. and at the State Department, in my opinion, that has not been the ongoing policy or a priority. On the contrary, a constant bias in favor of “state to state” relations can be discerned. In practical terms that means that we are siding with the Kinshasa authorities, but without giving them the means to impose a military solution. The net effect is to tease the peace process along without having any substantial effect on the violence.
So getting along with Kinshasa was the policy aim and that meant adopting some of Kinshasa’s goals and ignoring both Kinshasa originated cease fire violations and the violence in the East. But, just as there was a CNN effect in Bunia so the researched finding by the International Rescue Committee that there had been over three million deaths forced policy makers to focus some attention on the East. Well, the way to solve violence in the East , they concluded, is to get this interim government going in Kinshasa and then this new government is going to be able to solve the major outstanding problems. That is the current position. It is my view, that this will not solve the most important issue, the fact that thousands of people are being killed and raped in the East every month and more and more militia groups are being formed making it ever more difficult to stop the violence. There will be an interim government in Kinshasa and since it is promised huge sums of foreign aid support and since its formation is widely approved in the Congo it will survive. But, how much power or commitment will it have to deal with violence in the East? I doubt very much that it will be able to do very much in this critical arena.
What could, especially from an American point of view, help the situation? Let me make a few suggestions:
First, it seems to me we need leadership which by-passes the domination of US policy by the American Embassy in Kinshasa. The Embassy is almost exclusively focused on supporting and dealing with the government in Kinshasa. That is not an adequate policy for a super-power especially one with the responsibilities of the US in the DRC during the last forty some years. We do not have such leadership in Washington.
Secondly, we have to focus efforts to create cease-fires there where there is war and violence. We do not need to focus on monitoring a cease-fire where there has not been a serious shot fired in over two years. Therefore, we need to undertake proactive mediation action at the local level in the East. That means, and I can tell you from personal experience that this is not pie-in-the-sky, you need to negotiate cease-fires between the Mai Mai and the RCD. The RCD has an army which has been strengthened since we persuaded the Rwandans to withdraw their forces. It may be totally unpopular; in fact that is the case, but it has Rwandan backing and that means it is a fact on the ground as are the Mai Mai, FDLR (Rwandan Hutu insurgency forces) and the FDD (Burundian insurgency forces). But on both sides, they are very tired of the struggle. On both sides, they are willing to negotiate. But, for such negotiations to succeed minimally two elements are necessary; first, skillful mediators, and second, international pressure on both Kinshasa and on Kigali to allow such negotiations to mature.
Third, in Ituri, a mechanism of mediation was in the last minute created, not that that was not suggested two years ago, it was. I was on a UNDP mission at the time and that is what we suggested, but of course, nothing was done and so we had to wait for massacres reported by CNN before the UN Security Council acted. This mechanism is the so called Ituri Pacification Commission. It is a very, very positive initiative with real prospects for success, except that in Ituri it came too late. But, the Ituri situation has deteriorated far more than other parts of the East and, as a model, the Ituri Pacification Commission is eminently usable in other areas.
Fourth, we have to engage the leadership of the Mai Mai, the RCD/Goma, the Rwandan government and the Kinshasa authorities in seeking not only a cease-fire, but also in a power sharing arrangement in the East. Such a development would, in my view, bring pressure to bear on the Rwandan and Burundian Hutu insurgency militia since their alliance with the Mai Mai would surely end. Indeed, the Mai Mai as a nationalist anti-foreign movement, have only made an alliance of convenience with these militia. They cannot be expected to give it up so long as their war with the RCD/Goma and Rwanda continues, but once a cease-fire, power sharing process between Mai Mai and RCD/Goma is established, I suspect the Mai Mai would be the first to press these militia to return to Rwanda and Burundi. Indeed, they are the only force which could realistically do this since MONUC is limited to voluntary demobilization of the FDRL/FDD which are commanded by leaders who are unwilling to disarm or return to Rwanda or Burundi.
If we are to engage in such a process to attain an end of violence in the East, we must understand that it is complicated and requires the participation of serious, well informed, knowledgeable, and hard- working mediators. It will also require detailed negotiations and the application of pressure in Kinshasa and Kigali. It does not mean a day trip by the members of the Security Council supplemented by pious resolutions.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: I used to be a point guard, Herb, in my high school basketball team, and one of my downfalls was terrible clock management. And I don’t think things have changed, Jerry. Sorry about that, but I couldn’t stop you, it was too good.
Finally, Alison des Forges on Central Africa. I think Alison is the embodiment of the phrase “needs no introduction.” If you don’t know her work, you’re probably in the wrong room today. So Alison, just go ahead and give us the last 10 or 15 minutes for this panel. Thank you.
ALISON DES FORGES: Thank you, John. The conflict that we’ve been hearing about is complicated because it is three layers of conflicts. It is the international conflict, which is DRC, Ugandan-Rwandan conflict most recently; earlier it involved others. It is internal political conflict where you have rebel movements with national aspirations, like the RCD/ML or the MLC, in opposition to the DRC government and attempting to get the maximum it can out of any peace settlement. Then there is the local conflict.
In some cases, with this very complex interweaving what you have is the international or let’s say the national governmental actors -- DRC, Uganda, Rwanda -- directly related to the local groups in assisting and supporting them. In other cases, you have their assistance passing through the middle layer of these rebel movements, who have in turn adopted various local groups. The description of this being a war fought by surrogates or proxy has become so general that even Patrick Mazimhaka, the advisor to the Rwandan president, was describing it in exactly those terms. So I think we can say this is now an accepted conclusion.
The emphasis on peace treaties and arrangements and dividing the pie in Kinshasa cannot work unless the war is settled at the local level. Here, I agree with some of the other speakers who say basically this is the war, it is continuing. All of the promising signs of peace accords and so on, which appeared to represent advancement, really perhaps represent simply a displacement of the conflict onto the local level. Why? Because that way you can get the benefits that accrue, the $120 million, the benefits that accrue from signing the peace accords, from creating the national government, and yet you can continue to slug it out at the local level.
Until this is fully recognized and dealt with, all of the diplomatic negotiations and pressure at the governmental levels is not going to accomplish anything; as Herb said, the ridiculous prospect of a U.N. force monitoring a cease-fire line where there hadn’t been a shot fired, while meanwhile, in the eastern part of the country, thousands of people are being killed.
A word about the economic context, because this is something that we haven’t developed in any detail, but surely, this plays an important role as well in stimulating the appetites of those people who continue this conflict. Eastern Congo is extremely rich, not only in natural resources, but also in trade. Ituri in the Northeast, which is this region that is now so much the focus of conflict, is also a very wealthy point for trade back and forth.
The attempt to acquire territory or to terrorize populations into accepting your authority is a very powerful part of the conflict. What has this meant for the civilians, not just the 3.3 million or however -- the 50,000 if we limit it to Ituri alone that have died recently, but to the other people who attempt to stay alive day by day?
We recently had a mission to Ituri and we collected the testimony of a 15-year-old girl named Elise. Elise was the daughter of a Hema father and Nande mother. In Komanda, in August, the Ngiti, an opposing group, attacked the town. Her family was killed. She survived heavily wounded; she was left for dead. She went 6 miles to a hospital on foot where she spent a month. She was transferred to another hospital, a bigger hospital at Nyankunde, which was then attacked by another force of Ngiti, Lendu, and soldiers from the force of the RCD/ML.
There, she hid in the operating room with other Hema people and was discovered and managed to escape by persuading the assailants that she was Nande. There, she then went 200 miles on foot to Mambasa, seeking security and arranged to have treatment in a hospital there. Mambasa was attacked and so she fled to Miombo, 20 miles away, again on foot, and there the MLC soldiers reached, too. So then she went to Teturi where they were attacked, and then on to Byakato, and finally she reached Mangina.
Her conclusion to this narrative of her hundreds of miles on foot in search of security was the question: Will this killing ever stop?
The impact of these brutal killings, the continuous threat to human life in this region, have produced some extraordinary stresses on society. If you look at the more gruesome details of how people are killed and what is happening on the ground, you can see evidence of the extraordinary impact that this is having on the combatants as well as on the people whom they’re attacking.
You perhaps have heard the accounts of cannibalism, deliberate mutilations of bodies, sexual violence, extraordinary accounts of torture and sexual violence against women, as has been the case also in the Kivus. What does this indicate? This doesn’t indicate that these are a group of barbarians, but what it indicates is a society which is under such severe stress, even the fear of death is no longer enough to terrorize people. So you have to add to that, you have to ratchet it up a notch and take it beyond simple fear of death to fear of mutilation or fear of torture before death or fear of actually cannibalism.
These accounts are documented as having been committed by many different groups. This is not a single group. There was a great deal of publicity attached to Bemba’s soldiers of the MLC because the U.N. published a report talking about it. But what we found is that this was not unique to Bemba’s group and that indicates the extent to which this has touched the lives of many people.
The similarity, one of the similarities here between what is happening in Northeastern Congo and what happened in Rwanda is the development of the discourse of hate and fear. As Paul mentioned and Herb mentioned, also, this emphasis on preventive violence, of attacking someone before that person attacks you becomes a very powerful motivator; the use of the radio, in this case particularly by the Hema, but the other side using just the spreading of myths and rumors where one side accuses the other of intending to exterminate.
Here, we get to the whole reference to genocide, because there is that accusation being made by the Hema against the Lendu, by the Lendu against the Hema. What is the ultimate effect of this kind of discourse but to raise that whole level of fear and to make it much more difficult.
Now Herb, perhaps being a little more pessimistic than I, believes it’s too late for the Ituri Pacification Commission, and in a sense it is because with the thousands of people killed in Ituri, their efforts certainly can’t remedy that situation. But this is a small group of struggling people who are trying to put some order in their community. They have no resources. So if there is an intention here to try to quell this conflict, in addition to the contributions of the French, and we have to pay tribute to that and to other countries that are willing to put their troops at risk, we also need to think about, exactly as Herb said, the action at the local level to attempt to establish or reestablish connections which existed among people.
Please remember that this is not a case of an age-old tribal hatred, a phrase which we became so familiar with in the Rwandan genocide as an excuse for inaction. Because if it’s age-old and if it’s going to go on forever and ever, what is the point of doing anything? Hema and Lendu had their problems. Of course, they did, but they also intermarried. The problems they did have, they generally found a way to resolve until the arrival of these powerful external actors who saw benefit in manipulating and heightening the tensions between them.
There are now at least 10 armed political groups operating in the Ituri. A significant number of them have enjoyed Ugandan support during at least some point, some of the a shorter period, some of them a longer period. The major group in control of Bunia now, the UPC, a Hema-dominated group, is clearly receiving enormous support from the RCD/Goma and through them from Rwanda, probably also directly from Rwanda, but in any case certainly through the intermediary of RCD/Goma. These powerful actors, these patrons need to be called to account.
If there is any success to be hoped for from military action on the ground, it will come only if there is simultaneously an effort to insist among the people at the top that this kind of manipulation of hatred and arming of militia. Sixty percent of the UPC militia is reportedly children under the age of 15 and they’re now very well-armed, and for this, I was extremely happy to hear Al say that -- to strongly condemn this question of the continued delivery of arms supplies into this region.
The connection between the violence in Ituri and what is happening in Kivu is extremely important. Herb suggests that the model which could have worked in Ituri could perhaps now be applied in the Kivus. Maybe so, but the same kinds of penetration of hatred and fear exist in many parts of the Kivus as well as the organization of very significant paramilitary groups: Some 40,000 reportedly linked to the governor of North Kivu, perhaps a more important force than the actual army of RCD/Goma. That indicates the importance of moving relatively quickly on this issue.
The question of the ex-FAR and the threat that they purportedly pose to Rwanda, these are the groups that are accused of having participated, some of them, in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, it’s fairly clear from the information that many have gathered on the ground that RCD and Rwandan troops are able to live quite nicely with the ex-FAR and Interahamwe, engage in commercial exchanges with them, for example.
In any case, even if they were to regard them as a disastrously serious threat, the number of ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia is of the order of 10- to 15,000 by most estimations, and the Rwandan army is well in excess of 50,000, perhaps 60,000, plus tens of thousands of local defense force people.
It’s an army which is extremely well-armed, recently bought a number of tanks, Israeli tanks, through Tanzania, I believe. It’s not an army which really needs to fear this supposed threat from the ex-FAR and Interahamwe.
But one further comment to make that’s important in that regard is the demobilization scheme which was supposed to follow from the Lusaka Accords isn’t working. It cost an enormous amount of money and it’s going nowhere. Why is that? Because those people who are part of this group are unwilling to go home, some of them certainly because they’re afraid of being brought to justice for what they did.
But others who have left to join the group since the time of the genocide refuse to go home because the internal political situation, which Herb referred to, is not conducive to any expression of dissent, so they prefer to stay in the DRC. One of the important objectives here would be to attempt to create a sense of security so that the discourse of hate and fear would have less effect on people.
Now we look to the expeditionary force to do that in the town of Bunia, and they may well succeed. Let’s remember that the town of Bunia now has very few civilians left in it. Most of the people of Bunia are no longer there. The few -- the thousands who are there, I think it’s now 17-18,000, are mostly grouped in displaced persons camps. The rest of the population of Bunia is out in the bush outside of town, so that establishing a zone of control and restoring order to Bunia could be a very useful step for those people still in town, but it’s not going to address the problems of the people beyond town.
What worries me here is the fear that we may create a sense of false expectation, not for us, but for the people in the surrounding area who will see this force arriving and celebrate and then attempt to make their way into town, only to be lopped off systematically and regularly by the militia which controlled the roads into town.
Here, it’s important to note that the cantonment zones that the UPC in control of the town has proposed for its forces are the main axis leading into town. So this is -- this issue of how far the mandate is going to go and it may become a major issue for this expeditionary force and one that the rest of us as concerned observers will have to pay attention to. If the killing continues beyond the town limits, what good then is the U.N. mandate? Will it have to be changed?
Related to that is what will happen on September 1st, when the international force, the expeditionary force leaves. Unless the MONUC mandate is strengthened, unless some effective and well-equipped troops are put in place there, again the expectation of security that will have been generated will be a false expectation and people will suffer more than ever. So this is an important issue for the Security Council to address.
One further point on the whole question of justice. Given the hatred and fear that has been so successfully heightened in this area, some assurance of justice is essential. The MONUC force which is there has a small human rights unit. That unit should be increased. The U.N. commissioner for human rights, high commissioner for human rights, has a small office in Kinshasa and a couple people in Goma. They should have a branch office in Bunia.
These crimes should be documented because only if they’re documented now will prosecution be successful later on. That will be another issue to address once the question of attempting to provide some security to the people on the ground is dealt with. But it’s an issue which has enormous long-term implications because if there is no justice, certainly there will be no security.