On 4-21-11 I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a MONUSCO official in Uvira. I asked him some questions about MONUSCO response to incidents such as the recent mass rape in Kikoze. The MONUSCO official gave me a detailed plan of how MONUSCO reacts according to their mandate to intervene, support, prevent, and provide follow-up.
When the Kikoze mass rape was first reported, MONUSCO immediately sent troops from the Pakistani Battalion (PAKBATT) to Kikoze via helicopter for a fact-finding mission. Once the PAKBATT unit confirmed the abuse of human rights in the area, a special force of Egyptian troops was sent to Kikoze in order to show a UN presence, to protect the villagers from further harassment. All during this time, MONUSCO prepared a mission to Kikoze, with a joint protection team from Civil Affairs, Human Rights, Political Affairs, UN Police (UNPOL), and PAKBATT. This mission also included several local partners, such as Arche d’Alliance and AMCAV.
In addition to their own investigation, MONUSCO assists in legal proceedings against the perpetrators, providing impetus and support to the Congolese military justice division that will prosecute the soldiers allegedly responsible for the attacks. It should be noted that the commanding officers of the FARDC unit in question deny that their soldiers committed any wrongdoing.
Currently, the MONUSCO mission is investigating the Kikoze incident and meeting with the FARDC battalion commander in Murambia over the allegations. Then, a military tribunal is supposed to form to bring the perpetrators to justice. This echoes the same response that occurred after the New Years Day mass rape in Fizi Town: MONUSCO sent a mission to Fizi to investigate and provide stability, then they provided transportation and other support to the Congolese military court in Baraka that tried and convicted Col. Kibibi and his men.
The official also told me that MONUSCO is using an ongoing proactive approach at all levels (national as well as territorial) to prevent human rights abuses by the FARDC. MONUSCO is also involved in training officials in human rights, supporting the justice system, and disseminating the law among Congolese citizens.
There is a lot of discussion as to how effective MONUSCO is at maintaining peace and stability in eastern Congo, especially since incidents such as the one in Kikoze continue to occur. However, one must remember that the tangle of conflict in eastern Congo is complicated and involves much more than just MONUSCO. To be sure, local civil society organizations, such as SOS FED and Arche d’Alliance, remain at the front lines in terms of providing assistance to vulnerable persons and monitoring the human rights situation.
I will have more information on this situation, as well as commentary, as I find out more on the local, national, and international response to the Kikoze incident.
Posted By WALTER JAMES
Posted Apr 23rd, 2011