US Unveils Comprehensive Response to Crisis in Eastern Congo

Responding to the devastating crisis in eastern Congo, the United States of America today unvield its comprehensive response to the crisis in the African country.

In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights in Washington DC, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson says the

security and humanitarian situation in the Congo is the most volatile in Africa today.

Mr. Carson reports that an estimated five million people have died in the years since the second regional war began in 1998, and millions more have been forced to flee their homes.

A staff member of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)’s Public Information team films a peacekeeper colleague atop strategic Mount Goma in eastern DR Congo. Armed rebels known as the M23 (March 23 Movement) occupied Goma, a city of 1 million people, for nearly two weeks before withdrawing 1 December. UN Photo

“The D.R.C. is also the site of one of the world’s longest-running and most expensive peacekeeping operations. “ – Mr. Carson

He cites the people of North and South Kivu provinces in particular have faced repeated cycles of conflict, atrocities, and displacement.

An unthinkable number of women, men, and children have experienced sexual violence or rape at the hands of soldiers and armed groups, he noted.

To respond to the devastating crisis engulfing the country, Mr. Carson the US government is taking a number of other steps, in concert with our international partners, as part of its comprehensive response to the current crisis.

“First and foremost, we are monitoring humanitarian needs and mobilizing a response.” – Mr. Carson

The humanitarian situation in the eastern Congo remains deplorable, as it has been for years, with more than two million Congolese currently displaced internally or to neighboring countries, Mr. Carson underlined.

He says the recent attacks by M23 and other armed groups have displaced some 500,000 more.

The reopening of the Goma airport on December 5 was an important step toward ensuring that vulnerable populations receive the emergency assistance they need, Mr. Carson added.

He notes that he United States provided more than $110 million in humanitarian assistance for Congolese refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict-affected civilians in Fiscal Year 2012, including a $5 million supplemental contribution for the increased needs in the D.R.C., Uganda, and Rwanda as a result of displacements caused by the M23 rebellion.

At the UN, the US has urged donors to respond to the UN’s consolidated appeal for the D.R.C.

“Second, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, or ICGLR, the African Union, and the Security Council have all demanded that the M23 refrain from further offensives and stay out of Goma.” – Mr. Carson

He says in the ICGLR talks, the Congolese Government agreed to hear the grievances of the M23.

The Us renews call on the D.R.C., neighboring governments, and the broader international community to ensure accountability for M23 leaders who have committed serious human rights abuses.

“Third, we believe that Presidents Kabila, Kagame, and Museveni must continue to engage in direct talks to address the underlying causes of instability in the region.” – Mr. Carson

Mr. Carson cites that direct talks may include conflict over land, tensions in areas where refugees have returned or may seek to return, armed rebel groups and their support networks, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources.

The Governments of the D.R.C., Rwanda, and Uganda also have opportunities to discuss potential drivers of progress, including new agreements and concrete initiatives on economic integration and peace and security issues, Mr. Carson noted.

The US encourages the UN Secretary-General to appoint a UN Special Envoy to engage on a sustained basis to facilitate ongoing discussions toward a long-term solution of these long-standing problems.

According to Mr. Carson, there is a need for such a high-level Special Envoy to be dedicated to the hard work of helping develop this long-term solution with all of the relevant stakeholders and to ensure that the solution is implemented over the long run.

The US intends to continue working with our European, African, and UN partners to support this dialogue.

“Fourth, we appreciate the brave service of peacekeepers from several dozen countries operating in very difficult, often dangerous conditions.” – Mr. Carson

Mr. Carson pointed out that more must be done to protect civilians in the eastern D.R.C.

The US and Security Council members and troop contributing countries are reviewing options for improving the UN’s ability to protect civilians and help implement defined aspects of a potential regional political settlement.

“We must remain realistic about what MONUSCO can be expected to achieve to protect civilians across a large expanse of D.R.C. territory.” – Mr. Carson

The United States is strongly encouraging its partners to ensure these efforts are coordinated with, and perhaps even integrated into, UN peacekeeping efforts.

Finally, Mr. Carson notes that the D.R.C. Government has the primary responsibility for protecting its territory and all its citizens.

The US government is urging President Kabila to undertake a credible effort to professionalize and reform the Congolese security forces. ]

The US government is making clear that the Congolese Government must accelerate its efforts to deploy and strengthen state institutions and provide needed public services in the Kivus.

The US believes that the time has come for the region’s leaders and the international community to break the cycle of violence and impunity in the region.

“As Secretary Clinton noted when she visited Goma in 2009, the Congolese people are courageous and resilient.” – Mr. Carson

He adds there are reasons for hope in the D.R.C.

Mr. Carson says the Congolese army has begun implementing a program to pay its soldiers through electronic and mobile banking and has committed to removing the last vestiges of the use of child soldiers.

Thousands of combatants and dependents from the genocidaire militias have been demobilized and returned to civilian society, he reported.

And for the first time, Mr. Carson reports that a horrific mass rape in January 2011 was followed with swift criminal justice for the perpetrators and the officers who directed them.

Mr. Carson stresses that if the world aims to stop the recurring lethal violence, rape, humanitarian emergencies, and cross-border conflict in the eastern D.R.C. that have cost millions of lives and billions of dollars, we must move beyond short-term fixes.

“Today’s crisis is a tragedy, but it also offers a real opportunity to help the Congolese people set a more sustainable course toward peace.” – Mr. Carson

He adds that the framework for action at the national, regional, and international levels that he has outlined today could help enable the peoples of the region to escape the recurring cycles of conflict.

Violence has once again plagued the eastern part Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where armed groups have targeted civilians in the area.

Massacres of civilians have made headlined beginning early in August.

According to UN, the deterioration of the overall security situation in North Kivu following the M23 mutiny and related ruthless attacks against civilians is extremely alarming.

The M23 has clashed with national army troops and peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), which has caused massive displacement of local residents.

The M23’s activities have led to condemnation from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Security Council as well.

According to UN, more than 45 attacks on some 30 villages and towns in the Ufamandu I and II areas, in Masisi territory, in North Kivu province since May this year.

In May this year, fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, dissident groups and militia, causing new inflows of refugees enter Rwanda and Uganda.

Reports say 30,000 refugees have arrived in Uganda this month. In addition, Uganda was already host to 175,127 refugees, including 97,424 from DRC.

According to UNHCR, more than 8,200 refugees have crossed from DRC into Rwanda since 27 April. These are in addition to the 55,000 Congolese refugees that Rwanda is already hosting.

The conflict was coupled with very limited access for humanitarian workers means that many thousands of people are without protection and help.

There were an estimated 1.7 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as of July 2011, the vast majority of them in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu. This included over 128,000 people newly displaced in the first quarter of 2011.

A peace agreement in 2003 formally brought years of war to a close, but fighting flared again in North Kivu that same year. An estimated 1.3 million IDPs remain in the DRC, while 350,000 Congolese have fled to other countries.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.