Congo (DRC): Peace process at risk if tensions in North Kivu are not addressed

In the report North-Kivu: Civilians pay the price for political and military rivalry Amnesty documents how supposed partners in the DRC's transitional power-sharing government have contributed to a deterioration in the situation in North-Kivu, including the inflammation of ethnic tensions, in order to advance their own factional political, economic or military interests.

The neighbouring powers of Rwanda and Uganda have also continued to have a detrimental effect on events in the province.

Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme, said:

"North-Kivu is currently the stage on which national and regional political and military antagonisms are being played out, and the end result is looking increasingly tragic for the people of the region."

The DRC's transitional government is tasked with improving security and leading the country to national elections, now delayed until at least early 2006.

However, major reforms are still needed to move the country to a position of stability where elections can take place, including urgently needed reform of the army.

There is a lack of political commitment to this process, and Amnesty International is especially concerned that no effort has been made to exclude individuals suspected of committing grave human rights abuses from the unified national army.

Kolawole Olaniyan continued:

"Former belligerents are showing extreme reluctance to dismantle their military structures in favour of a unified national army, as these structures are the basis of their power."

The uncertain outcome of army reform is adding considerably to the dangerous mix of tensions in the east.

It was one of the causes of a large-scale military confrontation in December 2004, in which hundreds of civilians were victims of killings, torture, rape and other abuses.

The alleged perpetrators of the abuses have not been brought to justice and some are being integrated into the new national army.

Amnesty International is calling on the DRC authorities and the international community to:

  • bring to justice individuals responsible for crimes under international human rights and humanitarian law
  • curb the proliferation of arms
  • defuse ethnic tensions in North Kivu

Background

North-Kivu is among the most strategic of the DRC's provinces, situated on the DRC's border with Uganda and Rwanda, whose security concerns, as well as economic and political interests, have twice tipped the DRC into disastrous armed conflicts since 1996.

The province contains the intersecting zones of control of different, largely ethnic-based, Congolese armed political groups, each sponsored at one time or another by the three governments and their national armies.

The province is home to a mix of ethnic groups with historically troubled relations, focused particularly on the issue of land tenure. North-Kivu also is of prime economic importance, with lucrative customs revenues from the Uganda and Rwanda border-crossings, substantial mineral deposits and valuable agricultural and cattle-rearing concerns.

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