As discussions over the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo continue to brew, the various parties involved have begun speaking out.
Yesterday, the Congolese ambassador threatened to expel the leadership of the peacekeeping force, known as MONUC, in response to the possibility that the Security Council may demand the Congolese army to take immediate measures to protect civilians. Some of the measures discussed were enhanced training, enforcement of military discipline, and preventing the promotion of individuals involved with abuses.
In an interview quoted in Bloomberg, Ambassador Atoki Ileka said, “The Security Council has no right to do this. This is totally unacceptable. We will reject this resolution and we will have a crisis. We can expel the leadership [of MONUC].”
Ileka also said the Security Council could not demand the Congolese army to stop recruiting and using children as it would be a violation of Congo’s status-of-forces agreement with the U.N.
Objections were also raised by the Congolese government over a Human Rights Watch report that documents the Congolese army committing severe abuses against civilians. "We condemn this as disproportionate and an attempt to delegitimize the Congolese state," a Congolese government minister said to AFP. "[It is] an attempt to distort the truth".
Offering condemnations of his own, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Phillip Alston today called on MONUC to end support for operations commanded by known war criminals. He said in a press release, “It is a contradiction of basic UN principles for UN peacekeepers to cooperate with a military operation led by individuals who stand accused of war crimes and grave human rights abuses.”
Alston noted, in particular, that the U.N. still has not implemented a conditionality policy that would prevent it from supporting operations led by war criminals Innocent Zimurinda and Bosco Ntaganda.
According to the special rapporteur, civilian protection must be the top priority:
“Civilian protection must be at the centre of both the planning and carrying out of military operations in the Kivus. Strong conditionality, especially with respect to the removal of war criminal commanders from Congolese army leadership positions, must underpin MONUC support for military operations."
We could not agree more.
Photo: Fighting in Congo. (AP)