Alan Doss, the head of the MONUC peacekeeping mission to the DR Congo, told reporters a couple of interesting things last week:
- First, the integration of CNDP forces formerly under the command of Laurent Nkunda into the national army (FARDC) has caused a rise in the number of human rights violations committed by FARDC troops.
- Second, even though the UN's own reports suggest that new CNDP commander/accused war criminal Bosco Ntaganda is commanding FARDC troops who are working with MONUC forces in the Kivus, that can't possibly be the case because "'commanders on the ground are under strict orders' not to get involved with him."
However, none of what has happened in the Kivus since the integration of CNDP forces into the FARDC is the least bit surprising. It should have been more than obvious to MONUC when the CNDP surrendered that they were integrating yet another bunch of accused war criminals into the FARDC's already-infested ranks. Almost all of the armed groups in the eastern Congo commit war crimes on a regular basis. The only difference with the CNDP is their competence; Nkunda's men are well-trained, disciplined human rights violators, which makes their presence in the FARDC all the worse for the Congolese.
As for Monsieur Ntaganda, it doesn't matter that MONUC commanders aren't supposed to get involved with him. MONUC commanders don't have control over what the FARDC does or who they allow to lead their units. (If they did, things wouldn't be such a mess in many places.) It is utterly inconceivable that Ntaganda would have agreed to the integration without ensuring that he would have a leadership role that makes it easy to access resources for his personal benefit, and, presumably, some guarantee of FARDC protection if and when MONUC ever decides to arrest and hand him over to the ICC.
Thus it is entirely likely that Ntaganda is busily directing troops to do goodness knows what under direct orders from Kigali or simply of his own volition - and there's not a darn thing MONUC can do about it. As Marcel Stoessel, head of Oxfam in the DR Congo, points out:
"The UN is operating within some contradictions," said Stoessel. "On the one hand, MONUC has the prime mandate to protect civilians. On the other hand, MONUC is supposed to support the Congolese army, which is by itself abusing human rights."That's putting it mildly. The idea that MONUC should support an army full of war criminals while ensuring the safety of civilians was madness to begin with, and it didn't take the CNDP integration to prove it. A Congo-based human rights researcher told me in 2006 that it was possible to trace a rise in the number of human rights violations based on the integration of new rebel movements into the FARDC alongside a concurrent decline in the number of violations committed by other armed groups. It turns out that the only change effected by giving uniforms to people who were doing horrible things to other people is that now the horrible things are being committed by the same people in uniform. Why anyone thought the case would be different with the CNDP is beyond me.
The integration aspect of the DDR process was always a bad idea. Problem is, it's a bad idea that has a direct, negative impact on civilian welfare. The best thing Doss and the Congolese government could do is stop the DDR integration insanity. Instead, they should focus on much-needed security reforms like soldier pay and prosecution of members of the FARDC who have committed war crimes. Doss should also make a more forceful argument that it's going to take a lot more than 3,000 new peacekeepers to fix this mess.