Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretariat
New York, New York
Your choice of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for inclusion in your first major trip as secretary-general is encouraging as well as timely. While peace has returned to many parts of the east, pockets of insecurity, abuse, displacement, and need persist. MONUC, the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission, has played a crucial role in the DRC’s progress, but now needs to evolve to help consolidate peace while leading efforts to rebuild.
To the west of Bukavu, on the borders of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, atrocities against civilians are increasing. Armed men loosely associated with the remnants of the Hutu force responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, the FDLR, emerge from hiding to take hostages, raping the women and torturing the men to gain ransom and terrorize the population; some villages are already deserted, as residents flee in search of safety. Similar displacement also occurs in areas controlled by the new Congolese national army, where undisciplined and untrained troops extort food, money, and sex from the population. Joint operations between MONUC and the FARDC were the biggest cause of displacement in 2006, however, requiring a change in strategy.
Return and reintegration of the displaced is also a major issue in the DRC in 2007. In South Kivu, efforts to rebuild roads, schools, and health clinics for Congolese refugees returning from Tanzania have improved, but are insufficient given the hundreds of thousands still waiting to return home. Former frontline communities, displaced in the center of the country during the 1998-2002 war, have fared far worse: although the displaced returned home two years ago, they have received almost no help in rebuilding their lives.
The United Nations is in a unique position to provide leadership and continuity in dealing with these issues, not the least through MONUC. While ensuring sustained troop levels through 2007 is crucial, the use of those troops also needs to be considered: the deployment of peacekeepers specifically to protect civilians, executed so successfully by MONUC in central Katanga in 2006, should be a priority.
In addition, United Nations agencies are leaders in the new Cluster Leadership Approach in responding to humanitarian crises, including internal displacement. Unfortunately, one of the weakest clusters is that related to early recovery, a key component in the safe return and reintegration of the displaced. UNDP is the lead agency for the Early Recovery Cluster in the DRC, and yet has neither the internal capacity nor the confidence of other actors to play its role. Rather than being dismissed, both UNDP and the Early Recovery Cluster must be supported.
During your time in the DRC, I would ask you to consider the following actions:
- Sharpen the focus of MONUC to stop attacks on civilians, promoting especially the immediate deployment of peacekeepers to Nindja, on the border to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kivu.
- Follow up on efforts to revise MONUC strategy in the east in order to mitigate the humanitarian consequences of joint operations with the FARDC and balance military action with negotiations, focusing particularly on durable solutions for FDLR fighters who wish to surrender.
- Work with the government and relevant parties to set a deadline in the immediate future for establishing a coordinating mechanism for security sector reform, particularly in order to standardize training.
- Press the government of the DRC to prosecute quickly and impartially commanders whose troops commit abuses against civilians, especially in cases of rape.
- Urge UNDP, donors, and other UN agencies to take immediate steps to strengthen UNDP and the Early Recovery Cluster.
In addition, during your trip to Africa and beyond, I would urge forceful engagement with Rwanda and Uganda to honor their commitments to prevent destabilization and insecurity in the region. In particular, they must enforce the United Nations arms embargo and take all necessary action to choke off support for armed groups in the DRC.
Thank you again for your attention to the DRC.
Kenneth H. Bacon