In contrast to recent U.N. statements downplaying insecurity in eastern Congo, local civil society and humanitarian groups continue to be alarmed by violence by numerous armed groups operating in the region. The number of displaced civilians remains unconscionably high, and fighting along key roads frequently cuts off access for aid groups.
Reporting from Uvira, the capital of South Kivu province, Enough’s Congo researcher Fidel Bafilemba described some of the most recent sources of instability and the resulting backlash against the U.N. peacekeeping force there, which continues to struggle to carry out its civilian protection mandate.
Caught between an abusive Congolese army and predatory rebel groups including the FDLR and an array of other militias, many Congolese continue to be confused about the role of U.N. peacekeepers in civilian protection.
Most recently, at least 70 women have been raped near the town of Fizi allegedly by forces commanded by Colonel Kifaru, after he deserted the army with more than 150 fighters. Some troops under Kifaru’s command were convicted of crimes against humanity for raping 50 women in the same town on New Year's Day. Although the BBC subsequently reported that Kifaru had “surrendered” to the Congolese army, subsequent comments by Congolese army officials indicate that Kifaru was welcomed back into the army with open arms, and is unlikely to face prosecution.
FLDR attacks are also on the rise in North Kivu. Speaking to local press in Goma, Congo‘s Minister of Higher Education Professor Mashako Mamba, who barely escaped FDLR attack in May in Katwiguru, 15 miles from Kiwanja town in northern Goma, said, “What we have seen is what the population goes through on a daily basis. The security situation in the east must be of concern to everybody, and authorities must join forces and reinforce existing efforts to better protect the populations and secure security throughout the country.”
Read Bafilemba’s latest, Field Dispatch: Insecurity Across the Kivus
Photo: Congolese soldiers march in a military parade (Enough/Laura Heaton)