25 Nov 2009

Bleak UN picture of Congo's humanitarian crisis

9:29 pm on 25 November 2009

A strongly worded United Nations report suggests that the military offensive in eastern Congo has failed, creating a new humanitarian crisis.

The report, seen by the BBC, says hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes and the region's rich mineral resources are being plundered with impunity.

The report is by the Group of Experts, mandated by the UN to probe violations of the arms embargo in Congo.

It states that the UN-backed military operation against Rwandan Hutu rebels has failed to dismantle the organisation's political and military structure.

Instead, the rebels - some of whose leaders were involved in the Rwandan genocide - have been able to use networks in Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and in Europe and North America to bolster their supply of arms and to recruit extra soldiers.

Commander known as 'the Terminator'

The report says the rebels continue to enjoy support from senior members of the Congolese military who are supposed to be opposing them.

It adds that they have expanded their influence throughout the region under the command of General Bosco Ntaganda, known as "the Terminator", who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged forced recruitment of child soldiers in 2002-03.

The report says that significant amounts of gold are being trafficked throughout the region, particularly through Uganda and Burundi, and then sold to individuals in the United Arab Emirates.

The Group of Experts recognises that there may well be a contradiction in the mandate of Monuc, the UN peacekeeping force, which has to both protect civilians as well as back a military operation.