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Posted by r2d2 03/26/2009 @ 09:14

Tags : monuc, united nations, international organizations, world

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UN Endorses Controversial Peacekeeping Plan for DRC - Voice of America
This penchant for violence in the DRC's resource-rich Kivu region is why it is home to the United Nations' largest peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MONUC. Last February, after years of massacres such as the one at Kiwanja, the Security...
Rwanda's chief prosecutor seeks more trials for genocide suspects - The Guardian - Nigeria
Community leaders and victims say the FDLR is apparently retaliating against the attacks by the United Nations Mission in Congo, MONUC, and the Congolese and Rwandan armies. MONUC and the Congolese army are currently involved in a joint military...
North Kivu: MONUC hands over weapons to the FARDC - MONUC
Kinshasa, 15 May 2009 - Within the framework of the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (PNDDR) process, MONUC/Goma's Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration unit (DDRRR) made an official handover of...
UN Council Assesses DRC, Liberia Peacekeeping Operations - Voice of America
The 17000 strong force known as MONUC is currently engaged in joint military operations with the Congolese army, which is accused of war crimes against civilians. Ambassadors met DRC President Joseph Kabila and Prime Minister Adolf Muzito to present a...
Rwanda: ICG Calls for Fresh Action Against FDLR -
The ICG also calls for the suspension of the ongoing joint offensive against the FDLR mounted by the Congolese armed forces FARDC and MONUC--the UN mission in the country. "Suspend Operation Kimya II and plan new joint military operations against the...
UNDP and MONUC assist Equateur province with its first development ... - MONUC
Organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) through its Support Project to Decentralization and Local development (PADDL) and MONUC, this seminar constitutes the official launch of the development process of the Provincial Development Plan (PDP)....
MONUC reinforces the capacities of media professionals in Mbandaka - MONUC
Kinshasa, 15 May 2009 - Within the framework of its support to the media, MONUC's Public Information section, in collaboration with the Congolese Media Observatory has organised a two day seminar on 14-15 May 2009, to reinforce the capacities of media...
MONUC continues to support joint operations against rebels in ... - MONUC
Kinshasa 6 May 2009 – At its weekly press conference today, MONUC said that it was reinforcing its military manpower in Haut Uele, Ituri and North Kivu in eastern DRC, in order to support the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) in their efforts to put an end to...
Elections: MONUC sensitizes non-state actors - MONUC
Kinshasa, 5 May 2009 - The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and MONUC today organized sensitizing meetings for Non-State Actors and journalists on the revision of the electoral register. This activity, which takes place in Kinshasa from 4-6 May...
DRC: Attacks against civilians and aid workers increase in the east -
The soldiers have been deployed in preparation for a joint anti-FLDR operation with the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC). The soldiers are engaging in looting and rape during their foot patrols and are contributing to a new wave of population displacement...

United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Coat of arms of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg

MONUC, a French acronym for Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies en République démocratique du Congo (English: Mission of the United Nations Organisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)), is a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which was established on February 24, 2000, by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1291 of the United Nations Security Council to monitor the peace process of the Second Congo War, though much of its focus subsequently turned to the Ituri conflict and the Kivu conflict.

The initial UN presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, before the passing of Resolution 1291, was a force of military observers to observe and report on the compliance on factions with the peace accords, a deployment authorised by the earlier Resolution 1258 (1999).

The origin of this second United Nations military presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is found in the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement on the 17th of July 1999 and the following United Nations Security Council Resolution 1258 of August 6, 1999, authorizing the deployment of a maximum of 90 officers.

The first liaison officers arrived in the DRC on September 3, 1999. In November 1999 the number of liaison officers totaled 39, distributed in the capitals of the warring countries (Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia) including 24 who were stationed in Kinshasa. In January 2000 they reached the number of 79 and they were spread over the whole territory of DRC. Their mission was to liaise with all the warring factions, give a technical assistance and prepare the deployment of military observers.

On February 24, 2000 with the resolution 1291, the U.N. Security Council authorized the deployment of a maximum of 5537 military personnel in the DRC, including 500 military observers. On April 4, 2000 the Senegalese Major General Mountago Diallo was appointed as the commander of MONUC’s military force. The mandate is to monitor the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement and the redeployment of belligerent forces, to develop an action plan for the overall implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement, to work with the parties to obtain the release of all prisoners of war, military captives and the return of the remains, to facilitate humanitarian assistance and to assist the Facilitator of the National Dialogue.

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations the U.N. Security Council authorized MONUC to take the necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its infantry battalions, to protect UN personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel, and to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.

In December 2000 there were 224 military personnel deployed, including 148 observers in 13 points around the country. The observers could only record the non-application of the Ceasefire, the violent fighting at Kisangani and in the Equateur and Katanga provinces as well as the presence of foreign troops in the DRC. The deployment of UN troops was impossible due to the security situation and the reluctance of the Congolese government.

Even though the beginning of 2001 was still hampered by sporadic combat, the military observers could fulfill their mission in regards with the disengagement of forces and the withdrawal of some of the Rwandan and Ugandan forces.

On the March 29, 2001 the first Uruguayan guard unit arrived in Kalemie. The force was deployed in four sectors at Kananga, Kisangani, Kalemie and Mbandaka. In July 2001, the force strength was of 2366 soldiers, including 363 military observers distributed in 22 cities and 28 teams monitoring the disengagement of forces. The contingent soldiers totaled 1869. They came from South Africa, Uruguay, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia. Guard units protected MONUC installations in Kinshasa, Kananga, Kisangani, Kalemie, Goma and Mbandaka. A Uruguayan riverine unit and a South African air medical evacuation team were also deployed. The deployed troops were only to protect the sites against looting and theft, the force had neither the mandate nor the strength to protect the civilian population, or even to extract MONUC personnel. Following the Security Council resolution 1355, the military observers, within their capacities, could also contribute to the voluntary disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration process of the armed groups.

With the resolution 1376, the Security Council launched the third phase of the deployment of MONUC troops, in the East of DRC. The site for the logistical base was planned to be Kindu.

In 2002 the 450 military observers, split in 95 teams, continued to monitor the Ceasefire along the ex-frontlines. The teams also investigated violations of the Ceasefire. Foreign troops continued to leave the country. The riverine units escorted the first ships on the Congo river, which was again open to commercial traffic. In June 2002 the blue helmets' total number was 3804. Contingents from Ghana and Bolivia joined the force, of which more than a third of the soldiers were Uruguayan. More than a thousand soldiers were deployed in Kisangani. On May 14, 2002, a military observer died near Ikela following the explosion of a mine under his vehicle.

On the 30th of July 2002, the different parties signed the Pretoria agreement. The nature of the mission of the peacekeepers changed. The military observers monitored the withdrawal of 20 000 Rwandan soldiers, but they also noted the rise of ethnic violence in Ituri. At the end of 2002 there were a total of 4200 UN soldiers in the DRC. By Resolution 1445 the Security Council authorized the increase of military personnel to 8500. The principle of two independent intervention forces was also approved. MONUC had to support the voluntary disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and resettlement (DDRRR) process, but without using force.

Numerous DDRRR operations in collaboration with the civilian component were conducted in the beginning of 2003. Before the start of the transition, UN soldiers were deployed along the front lines. A vast redeployment to the East started. The four coordination centers and 22 bases in the western part of the country were shut down. Over a hundred observers were redeployed and Uruguayan contingents arrived in Bukavu and Lubero. Observer teams monitored serious combat and human rights violations in Ituri. In April 2003 800 Uruguayan soldiers were deployed in Bunia. In the same month an observer died in a mine explosion. In May 2003 two military observers were savagely killed by a militia.

The withdrawal of 7000 Ugandan troops in April 2003 led to a deteriorating security situation in the Ituri region endangering the peace process. The U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called for establishing and deploying a temporary multi-national force to the area until the weakened MONUC mission could be reinforced. In his second special report to the Security Council, the U.N. Secretary General proposed a reorientation of MONUC missions: to provide support to the transition and to maintain security in key areas of the country. Accordingly he proposed the creation of a brigade in Ituri to support the peace process.

On May 30, 2003 the Security Council by its Resolution 1493 authorized the deployment of interim emergency multinational force in Bunia with a task to secure the airport, protect internally displaced persons in camps and the civilians in the town. Resolution 1493 authorized an increase of military personnel to 10 800, imposed and arms embargo and authorized MONUC to use all necessary means to fulfill its mandate in the Ituri district and, as it deemed it to be within its capabilities, also in North and South Kivu.

The French Government had already shown interest in leading the operation. It soon broadened to an EU-led mission with France as the framework nation providing the bulk of the personnel and complemented by contributions from both EU and non-EU nations. The total force consisted of about 1800 personnel and was supported by French aircraft based at N'Djamena and Entebbe airfields. A small 80 man Swedish Special Forces group (SSG) was also added.

The operation called Operation Artemis was launched on June 12 and the IMEF completed its deployment in the following three weeks. The force was successful in stabilising the situation in Bunia and enforcing the UN presence in the DRC. In September 2003, responsibility for the security of the region was handed over to the MONUC mission.

In September 2003 the Ituri brigade was in place, including soldiers from Uruguay, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia, India and Morocco. In November 2003 a total of 10 415 peacekeepers were in the DRC, comprising infantry units, engineer units, helicopter units, logistic units, medical units and riverine units.

Deploying the Ituri brigade conducting cordon and search operations improved the security conditions in Ituri, but at the same time the peacekeepers became the target of the militias. On February 12, 2004 a military observer was killed in Ituri.

With the arrival of the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which included members of rebel movements, more than 900 Tunisian and Ghanaian blue helmets contributed to the security of Kinshasa.

It was decided that the troops present in the Kivus will be assembled under the unified command of a brigade. In March the Nigerain General Sumaila Ilya took over the command of the force.

In June 2004 Bukavu was occupied by rebel general Laurent Nkunda. A military observer was killed. The 1000 MONUC troops could only protect their own installations. Demonstrations were held all over the country, forcing blue helmets to open fire on looters in Kinshasa. MONUC soldiers were again targeted by Ituri militia at the end of 2004.

The Force reached the strength of more than 16,000 peacekeepers, split between the Western Brigade installed on the January 24, 2005 and the Eastern Division installed on the 24 February, 2005.

In February 2005 the mission deplores the deaths of 9 Bangladeshi blue helmets killed during an ambush in Ituri. The actions of the Ituri and Kivu Brigades become more robust and the pressure rises on all armed groups. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, and other militia leaders were arrested by Congolese authorities and imprisoned in Makala, Kinshasa. Lubanga was accused of having ordered the killing of the peacekeepers in February 2005 and of being behind continuous insecurity in the area. On 10 February 2006, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Lubanga for the war crime of "conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities". The Congolese national authorities transferred Lubanga to ICC custody on 17 March 2006.

On March 1, 2005 a vast cordon and search operation in Ituri was conducted by Nepalese, Pakistani and South African Infantry elements with the support of Indian attack helicopters, between 50 and 60 militiamen were killed.

Senegalese General Babacar Gaye was appointed force commander in March 2005 after Spanish General Vincente Diaz de Villegas resigned for personal reasons.

In May 2005 the U.N. Secretary General asked for a supplementary brigade for Katanga. Joint operations were conducted by the newly arrived integrated brigades of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). Blue helmets were tasked with the support of the electoral process, contributing protection and transport. In Ituri over 15000 militiamen were disarmed.

In October 2005 by Resolution 1635, the U.N. Security Council authorized a temporary increase of 300 military personnel to permit a deployment to Katanga.

On April 25, 2006, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1671, authorising the temporary deployment of a European Union force to support MONUC during the period encompassing the general elections in the DR Congo, which began on July 30, 2006.

This mission came to an end on November 30, 2006.

On October 26, 2008 Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) forces of Laurent Nkunda seized a major military camp, along with Virunga National Park for use as a base to launch attacks from. This occurred after a peace treaty failed, with the resultant fighting displacing thousands. The park was taken due to its strategic location on a main road leading to the city of Goma.

On October 27, 2008 riots began around the United Nations compound in Goma, and civilians pelted the building with rocks and threw Molotov cocktails, claiming that the UN forces had done nothing to prevent the RCD advance. The Congolese national army also retreated under pressure from the rebel army in a "major retreat".

Indian troops were asked to deploy themselves from Goma to adjoining North Kivu province, after the Uruguayan battalion deployed in the region fled. However, after that several Uruguayan battalions were playing a crucial role in the buffer zone between the retreating government soldiers and the advancing rebels.

On 29 October 2008 a French request for an EU reinforcement of 1,500 troops was refused by several countries and appeared unlikely to materialize; however, the UN forces stated they would act to prevent takeovers of population centers.

On November 18, a draft resolution spearheaded by the French Foreign Ministry was presented before the United Nations Security Council. The resolution, signed by 44 different organizations and with the backing of the British Foreign Office minister Mark Malloch Brown, asked the UN to send 3,000 more peacekeepers to reinforce the 17,000-strong garrison in the Congo, which is the largest garrison of its kind. This was similar to the pleas of Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian aid groups in the region, who were also asking for reinforcements to bring stability to the area. In a shared statement, the coalition of organizations stated that " would help to prevent the atrocities that continue to be committed against civilians on an ever greater scale here in North Kivu , on the border of Rwanda and Uganda... Since August 28, fighting has intensified in many areas, causing deaths, rapes, lootings, forced recruitment and further displacements of civilian populations. The population has thus been immersed in unspeakable suffering. In the last few days, fighting has drawn closer to large populated areas, such as the town of Goma. Fighting has also invaded and torn apart the region of Rutshuru, particularly in the town of Kiwanja, where hundreds of civilian deaths have now been recorded." Local groups in the Congo also requested help from the European Union, as they would be able to deploy soldiers sooner, working as a "bridging force" until the UN reinforcements arrived. British EU spokeswoman Catriona Little stated that they were "not ruling in or out EU forces".

On November 20 the UN voted unanimously to send 3,085 more peacekeepers, citing "extreme concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation and in particular the targeted attacks against civilian population, sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers and summary executions." However, it did not extend MONUC's mandate in the Congo, which expires at the end of 2008. The decision was made despite the rebel commitment to pulling back from the front lines and allowing aid to reach the thousands of people still isolated, according to aid groups.

On the 17th of February Egypt announced that it will send around 1,325 soldiers from the Egyptian Army to support the UN mission in Congo. Egypt also announced that it will send a police force to help in protecting the UN mission in Congo.

The Egyptian armed force will work to give support and technical advice to the Congo Army beside operating armed mission in the conflict zones and medical assistant and support.

According to the Foreign affairs in Cairo, Egypt will send a Mechanized Unit, Special Forces, Field Engineers, and Paratroops.

Egypt already has a small unit in Congo consisting of 13 policemen and 23 observers.

The headquarters of the mission are in Kinshasa, DRC. The mission views the DRC as consisting of 6 sectors, each with its own staff headquarters. In 2005-6 the Eastern Division however was formed at Kisangani and took over brigades in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri, along with two or three of the Sector HQs.

The approved budget for MONUC, from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, is US$1,166.72 million, the largest for any current UN peacekeeping operation.

In July 2004 there were 10,531 UN soldiers under MONUC's command. On October 1, 2004, the UN Security Council decided to deploy 5,900 more soldiers to Congo, although UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had asked for some 12,000.

On 25 February 2005, nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers were killed by members of the Nationalist and Integrationist Front militia in Ituri province. The FNI killed another Nepali peacekeeper and took seven captive in May 2006. Two of the seven were released in late June and the UN was trying to secure the release of the remaining five. By November 2005, MONUC consisted of 16,561 uniformed troops. MONUC's mandate has been extended to September 30, 2006. On July 30, 2006, MONUC forces were charged with keeping the 2006 general election —the first multiparty election in the DRC since 1960— peaceful and orderly. MONUC troops began patrolling areas of eastern DRC after armed clashes broke on August 5 following the chaotic collection of election results.

Total strength, on 31 October 2007 was 18,407 uniformed personnel, including 16,661 troops, 735 military observers, 1,011 police, who were supported by 931 international civilian personnel, 2,062 local civilian staff and 585 United Nations Volunteers.

The UN has recorded a total of 116 fatalities among MONUC personnel, up to the end of 2007, as follows: 76 military personnel, 9 military observers, 2 UN police, 10 international civilians, and 19 local civilians.

As of 31 October 2007 MONUC had a total of 18,407 uniformed personnel, including 16,661 troops, 735 military observers, 1,011 police, who were supported by 931 international civilian personnel, 2,062 local civilian staff and 585 United Nations Volunteers. Major troop contributors are Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa and Uruguay (nearly 10,000).

On November 20, 2008, the United Nations security council voted unanimously to reinforce MONUC with 3,085 more peacekeepers to deal with trouble in the 2008 Nord-Kivu conflict. They voted after 44 organizations, led by the French Foreign Ministry, petitioned the council to send reinforcements to stabilize the region.

Numerous criticisms have been alleged against several national contingents of MONUC.

The BBC alleges that in 2005, the Pakistani MONUC peacekeepers in Mongbwalu entered in a trading relationship for gold with Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) militia leaders, eventually drawing Congolese army officers and Indian traders from Kenya into the deal.

It is further alleged that these peacekeepers returned weapons taken from the FNI as part of demobilization efforts to FNI leaders known for human rights violations.

A UN investigation team arrived in Mongbwalu in August 2006 in order to investigate these allegations. At first the Pakistani battalion there cooperated with them. But when they attempted to seize a computer with apparently incriminating documents on it a stand-off ensued. The Pakistanis surrounded the UN police accompanying the investigators with barbed wire and put two armoured personnel carriers outside their living quarters at a nearby Christian mission. Thoroughly intimidated, the investigators were airlifted out of Mongbwalu.

A UN official connected with the inquiry told the BBC there seems to have been a plan to bury the investigation to avoid alienating Pakistan - the largest contributor of troops to the UN.

Africa Confidential reported in May 2008 that Indian Army UN MONUC troops had had six of 44 allegations of improper relations with the FDLR.

The source of the allegations was reported as internal United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) documents.

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Second Congo War

DRC Rwanda line.jpg

The Second Congo War, also known as Africa's World War and the Great War of Africa, began in August 1998 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly called Zaire), and officially ended in July 2003 when the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took power (though hostilities continue to this day). The largest war in modern African history, it directly involved eight African nations, as well as about 25 armed groups. By 2008 the war and its aftermath had killed 5.4 million people, mostly from disease and starvation, making the Second Congo War the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II. Millions more were displaced from their homes or sought asylum in neighboring countries.

Despite a formal end to the war in July 2003 and an agreement by the former belligerents to create a government of national unity, 1,000 people died daily in 2004 from easily preventable cases of malnutrition and disease.

Given the fluid nature of the war, there have been numerous exceptions and caveats to the categorization below, and groups within a single category have violently clashed in the past over resources and territory.

Kinshasa-aligned forces included the Congolese national army under President Laurent-Désiré Kabila and later his son Joseph Kabila, various anti foreigner Mai-Mai groups, and allied nations such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan and Namibia. They control the west and south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The main goal is the creation of a strong state in control of its territory and borders, and thus regaining control of the natural resources.

Rwandan Patriotic Front-aligned forces included the national armies of the Tutsi-dominated governments of Rwanda and Burundi, the militia groups created by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge residing in the DRC and the Banyamulenge-dominated Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) rebel forces based in Goma. Tutsi-aligned forces inside the DRC are most active in North and South Kivu provinces, and have territory extending westward toward Kinshasa. Goals include protecting the national security of Rwanda and Burundi, defending Tutsis in the DRC, checking the influence of Uganda and exploiting natural resources.

Hutu-aligned forces included Rwandan Hutus responsible for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Burundian rebels seeking to overthrow their government, Congolese Hutus and affiliated Mai-Mai militias. The major Hutu group currently is the Forces Démocratiques de la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) operating in the Kivus. Goals include expelling foreign Tutsi forces, ethnic cleansing of the Banyamulenge, overthrowing the governments of Rwanda and Burundi, and gaining control of resources.

Uganda-aligned forces included Uganda's national army and various Uganda-backed rebel groups, such as the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, in control of much of the northeast and central north of the DRC. Stated goals include protecting the borders of Uganda from invasion by DRC-based armed groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces and People's Redemption Army, which may not exist, and destroying rebel bases in the DRC; Uganda had previously claimed that Joseph Kabila's government had failed to take action against these rebels. The United Nations has named Uganda as one country that illegally extracted natural resources from the DRC.

The First Congo War began in 1996 as Rwanda grew increasingly concerned that members of Rassemblement Démocratique pour le Rwanda militias, who were carrying out cross-border raids from Zaire, were planning an invasion. The new Tutsi-dominated government of Rwanda protested this violation of their territorial integrity and began to give arms to the ethnically Tutsi Banyamulenge of eastern Zaire. This intervention was vigorously denounced by the Mobutu government of Zaire, but he did not have any military capability to oppose, and little political capital to spend.

With active support from Rwanda, Uganda and Angola, Laurent-Désiré Kabila's rebel forces moved methodically down the Congo River, encountering only light resistance from Mobutu's crumbling regime based in Kinshasa. The bulk of Kabila's fighters were Tutsis and many were veterans from conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Kabila himself had credibility because he had been a longtime political opponent of Mobutu, and had been a follower of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent Congo who was murdered and overthrown from power by a combination of internal and external forces, to be replaced by the then-Lieutenant General Mobutu in 1965. Kabila had declared himself a Marxist and an admirer of Mao Zedong. He had been waging armed rebellion in eastern Zaire for nearly two decades, though, according to Che Guevara's account of the early years of the conflict, he was an uncommitted and uninspirational leader.

Kabila's army began a slow movement westward in December 1996 near the end of the Great Lakes refugee crisis, taking control of border towns and mines and solidifying control. There were reports of massacres and brutal repression by the rebel army. A UN human rights investigator published statements from witnesses claiming that Kabila's ADFLC engaged in massacres, and that as many as 60,000 civilians were killed by the advancing army (a claim strenuously denied by the ADFLC). Roberto Garreton stated that his investigation in Goma turned up allegations of disappearances, torture and killings. He quoted Moese Nyarugabo, an aide to Mobutu, as saying that killings and disappearances should be expected in wartime.

Kabila's forces launched an offensive in March 1997 and demanded the government surrender. On March 27 the rebels took Kasenga. The governments denied the rebel's success, starting a long pattern of false statements from the Defense Minister as to the progress and conduct of the war.

Negotiations were proposed in late March and on April 2 a new Prime Minister was installed, Etienne Tshisekedi, a long time rival of Mobutu. Kabila, by this point in rough control of one quarter of the country, dismissed this as irrelevant, and warned Tshisekedi that he would have no part in a new government if he accepted the post.

Throughout the month of April the ADFLC made consistent progress down the river, and by May were on the outskirts of Kinshasa. On May 16, 1997 the multinational army headed by Kabila battled to secure Lubumbashi airport after peace talks broke down and Mobutu fled the country. He died on September 7, 1997 in Morocco. After securing victory, Kabila controlled Kinshasa. He proclaimed himself President on the same day and immediately ordered a violent crackdown to restore order. He then began an attempt at reorganization of the nation.

When Kabila gained control of the capital in May 1997, he faced substantial obstacles to governing the country that he renamed "the Democratic Republic of Congo" (DRC). Beyond political jostling among various groups to gain power and an enormous external debt, his foreign backers proved unwilling to leave when asked. The conspicuous Rwandan presence in the capital also rankled many Congolese, who were beginning to see Kabila as a pawn of foreign powers.

Tensions reached new heights on 14 July 1998, when Kabila dismissed his Rwandan chief of staff, James Kabarebe, and replaced him with a native Congolese, Celestin Kifwa. Apparently Kabila felt that he had solidified his Congolese political base enough to put some distance between himself and the nations who had put him into power. Although the move chilled what was already a troubled relationship with Rwanda, he softened the blow by making Kabarebe the military advisor to his successor.

Two weeks later Kabila abandoned such diplomatic steps. He thanked Rwanda for their help, and ordered all Rwandan and Ugandan military forces to leave the country. Within 24 hours Rwandan military advisors living in Kinshasa were unceremoniously flown out. The people most alarmed by this order were the Banyamulenge of eastern Congo. Their tensions with neighboring ethnic groups had been a contributing factor in the genesis of the First Congo War and they were also utilized by Rwanda to affect events across the border in the DRC. The Banyamulenge would again prove to be the spark of another conflagration.

The initial rebel offensive threatened the Kabila government in a matter of weeks. The government was only saved through the rapid intervention of a number of other African states. For a time it looked as if, as the rebel forces were forced back, an escalation in the conflict to a conventional war between multiple national armies loomed. Such an outcome was avoided as battle lines stabilized in 1999. After that, the conflict was fought for much of the time by irregular proxy forces with little change in the territories held by the various parties.

The Rwandan government also claimed a substantial part of eastern Congo as "historically Rwandan". The Rwandans alleged that Kabila was organizing a genocide against their Tutsi brethren in the Kivu region. The degree to which Rwandan intervention was motivated by a desire to protect the Banyamulenge, as opposed to using them as a smokescreen for its own regional aspirations, remains in question.

In a bold move, RCD rebels hijacked a plane and flew it to the government base of Kitona on the Atlantic coast, where other mutinous government soldiers joined them. More towns in the east and around Kitona fell in rapid succession as the combined RCD, Rwandan, Burundian and Ugandan soldiers overwhelmed the government forces amid a flurry of ineffectual diplomatic efforts by various African nations. By 13 August, less than two weeks after the revolt began, the rebels held the Inga hydroelectric station that provided power to Kinshasa as well as the port of Matadi through which most of the Kinshasa's food passed. The diamond center of Kisangani fell into rebel hands on 23 August and forces advancing from the east had begun to threaten Kinshasa by late August. Uganda, while retaining joint support of the RCD with Rwanda, also created a rebel group that it supported exclusively, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC).

Despite the movement of the front lines, fighting continued throughout the country. Even as rebel forces advanced on Kinshasa, government forces continued to battle for control of towns in the east of the country. The Hutu militants with which Kabila was cooperating were also a significant force in the east. Nevertheless, the fall of the capital and Kabila, who had spent the previous weeks desperately seeking support from various African nations and Cuba, seemed increasingly certain.

The rebel offensive was abruptly reversed as Kabila's efforts at diplomacy bore fruit. Congolese in the east and west showed a strong nationalistic sense and rejection of the second invasion of Rwandan and Ugandan forces in two years. The first African countries to respond to Kabila's request for help were fellow members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). While officially the SADC members are bound to a mutual defense treaty in the case of outside aggression, many member nations took a neutral stance to the conflict. However, the governments of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola supported the Kabila government after a meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe on 19 August. Several more nations joined the conflict for Kabila in the following weeks: Chad, Libya and Sudan.

A multisided war thus began. In September 1998, Zimbabwean forces flown into Kinshasa held off a rebel advance that reached the outskirts of the capital city while Angolan units attacked northward from its borders and eastward from the Angolan territory of Cabinda, against the besieging rebel forces. This intervention by various nations saved the Kabila government, and pushed the rebel front lines away from the capital. However, it was unable to defeat the rebel forces, and the advance threatened to escalate into direct conflict with the national armies of Uganda and Rwanda that formed part of the rebel movement.

In November 1998 a new Ugandan-backed rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo was reported in the north of the country. On 6 November Rwandan President Paul Kagame admitted for the first time that Rwandan forces were assisting the RCD rebels for security reasons, apparently after a request by Nelson Mandela to advance peace talks. On January 18, 1999 Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe agreed on a ceasefire at a summit at Windhoek, Namibia but the RCD was not invited. Fighting thus continued.

Outside of Africa, most states remained neutral, but urged an end to the violence. Non-African states were extremely reluctant to send troops to the region. A number of Western mining and diamond companies, most notably from the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan supported the Kabila government in exchange for business deals in both wars. These actions attracted substantial criticism from human rights groups.

The Zimbabwean government sent troops to assist Kabila in 1998. President Robert Mugabe, lured by Congo's rich natural resources and a desire to increase his own power and prestige in Africa, was the most ardent supporter of intervention on Kabila's behalf. Kabila and Mugabe had signed a US$200 million contract involving corporations owned by Mugabe and his family, and there were several reports in 1998 of numerous mining contracts being negotiated with companies under the control of the Mugabe family. Mugabe resented being displaced by South African Nelson Mandela as the premier statesman of southern Africa. The war was a chance to confront another prominent African president, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. As the head of the SADC's Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Mugabe believed he could reclaim his position as southern Africa's premiere statesmen by aiding Kabila. Mugabe pitched the war as an effort to shore up a "democratically elected government." Involvement in the war triggered a precipitous decline in Zimbabwe's economic performance and the value of the Zimbabwean dollar. In addition, it caused severe shortages of hard currency.

The Angolan government had fought against Mobutu Sésé Seko in the First Congo War because of his support for rebel UNITA in the Angolan Civil War. The Angolan government wanted to eliminate UNITA operations in southern Congo, which exchanged diamonds extracted from rebel-held Angola for foreign weapons. Angola had no confidence that a new president would be more effective than Kabila, and feared that continued fighting would lead to a power vacuum that could only help UNITA. The intervention of the experienced Angolan forces was essential to decide the outcomes of both wars.

President Sam Nujoma had interests in Congo similar to that of Mugabe, with several family members deeply involved in Congolese mining. Namibia itself had few issues of national interest at stake in the war and the Namibian intervention was greeted with dismay and outrage by citizens and opposition politicians.

Kabila had originally discounted the possibility of support from Francophone Africa but after a summit meeting in Libreville, Gabon on 24 September, Chad agreed to send two thousand troops. France had encouraged Chad to join as a means of regaining influence in a region where the French had retreated in disgrace after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Nevertheless Chadian intervention resulted in a real fiasco. Chadian forces were accused of serious human right violations and looting since the very beginning. Therefore they withdrew very quickly under international and national pressure and shame.

The government of Muammar al-Gaddafi provided the planes transporting the soldiers from Chad, which is surprising taking into consideration the uneasy relations between both countries. Qaddafi may have seen a way to profit financially, but is also likely to have been strongly influenced by a desire to break out of the international isolation imposed on Libya by the United States after the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Unconfirmed reports in September indicated that Sudanese government forces were fighting rebels in Orientale province close to the Sudanese and Ugandan borders. However, Sudan did not establish a significant military presence inside the DRC, though it continued to offer extensive support to three Ugandan rebel groups—the Lord's Resistance Army, the Uganda National Rescue Front II and the Allied Democratic Forces—in retaliation for Ugandan support for the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

On 5 April 1999 tensions within the RCD about the dominance of the Banyamulenge reached a peak when RCD leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba moved his base from Goma to Uganda-controlled Kisangani to head a breakaway faction named Forces for Renewal. A further sign of a break occurred when Museveni of Uganda and Kabila signed a ceasefire accord on 18 April in Sirte, Libya following the mediation of Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi, and both the RCD and Rwanda refused to take part. On 16 May, Wamba was ousted as head of the RCD in favor of a pro-Rwanda figure. Seven days later the various factions of the RCD clashed over control of Kisangani. On 8 June rebel factions met to try and create a common front against Kabila. Despite these efforts, the creation by Uganda of the new province of Ituri sparked the ethnic clash of the Ituri conflict, sometimes referred to as a "war within a war".

Nevertheless, the diplomatic circumstances contributed to the first ceasefire of the war. In July 1999 the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement was signed by the six warring countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Uganda) and, on 1 August, the MLC. The RCD refused to sign. Under the agreement, forces from all sides, under a Joint Military Commission, would cooperate in tracking, disarming and documenting all armed groups in the Congo, especially those forces identified with the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Few provisions were made to actually disarm the militias.

The United Nations Security Council deployed about 90 liaison personnel in August 1999 to support the ceasefire. However, in the following months all sides accused the others of repeatedly breaking the cease-fire, and it became clear that small incidents could trigger attacks.

The tension between Uganda and Rwanda reached a breaking point in early August as units of the Uganda People’s Defense Force and the Rwandan Patriotic Army clashed in Kisangani. In November, government-controlled television in Kinshasa claimed that Kabila's army had been rebuilt and was now prepared to fulfill its "mission to liberate" the country. Rwandan forces launched a large offensive and approached Kinshasa before being repelled.

By February 24, 2000, the UN authorized a force of 5,537 troops, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known by the French acronym, MONUC), to monitor the cease-fire. However, fighting continued between rebels and government forces, and between Rwandan and Ugandan forces. Numerous clashes and offensives occurred throughout the country, most notably heavy fighting between Uganda and Rwanda in Kisangani in May and June 2000. On 9 August 2000, a government offensive in Equateur Province was stopped along the Ubangui River near Libenge by MLC forces. Despite the failure of military operations, diplomatic efforts made bilaterally or through the United Nations, African Union and Southern African Development Community failed to make any headway.

A bodyguard shot and wounded Laurent Kabila in an assassination attempt on 16 January 2001 in Zimbabwe. Two days later Kabila died from his injuries. It is unknown who ordered the killing but most feel Kabila's allies were to blame as they were tired of his duplicity, in particular his failure to implement a detailed timetable for the introduction of a new democratic constitution leading to free and fair elections. Angolan troops were highly visible at Kabila's funeral cortege in Kinshasa.

By unanimous vote of the Congolese parliament, his son, Joseph Kabila, was sworn in as president to replace him. This was largely as a result of Robert Mugabe's backing and the fact that most parliamentarians had been handpicked by the elder Kabila. In February, the new president met Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the United States. Rwanda, Uganda, and the rebels agreed to a UN pullout plan. Uganda and Rwanda began pulling troops back from the front line.

In April 2001 a UN panel of experts investigated the illegal exploitation of diamonds, cobalt, coltan, gold and other lucrative resources in the Congo. The report accused Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe of systematically exploiting Congolese resources and recommended the Security Council impose sanctions.

Despite frequent accusations of misdeeds in the Congo, the Rwandan government continued to receive substantially more international aid than went to the vastly larger Congo. Rwandan President Paul Kagame was also still respected internationally for his leadership in ending the Rwandan Genocide and for his efforts to rebuild and reunite Rwanda.

A number of attempts to end the violence were made, but these were not successful. In 2002 Rwanda's situation began to worsen. Many members of the RCD either gave up fighting or decided to join Kabila's government. Moreover, the Banyamulenge, the backbone of Rwanda's militia forces, became increasingly tired of control from Kigali and the unending conflict. A number of them mutinied, leading to violent clashes between them and Rwandan forces. At the same time the western Congo was becoming increasingly secure under the younger Kabila. International aid was resumed as inflation was brought under control.

The Sun City Agreement was formalized on 19 April 2002. It was a framework for providing the Congo with a unified, multipartite government and democratic elections; however, critics noted that there were no stipulations regarding the unification of the army, which weakened the effectiveness of the agreement. There have been several reported breaches of the Sun City agreement, but it has seen a reduction in the fighting.

On 30 July 2002 Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a peace deal known as the Pretoria Accord after five days of talks in Pretoria, South Africa. The talks centered on two issues. One was the withdrawal of the estimated 20,000 Rwandan soldiers in the Congo. The other was the rounding up of the ex-Rwandan soldiers and the dismantling of the Hutu militia known as Interahamwe, which took part in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and continues to operate out of eastern Congo. Rwanda had previously refused to withdraw until the Hutu militias were dealt with.

Signed on 6 September, the Luanda Agreement formalized peace between Congo and Uganda. The treaty aimed to get Uganda to withdraw their troops from Bunia and to improve the relationship between the two countries, but implementation proved troublesome. Eleven days later the first Rwandan soldiers were withdrawn from the eastern DRC. On 5 October Rwanda announced the completion of its withdrawal; MONUC confirmed the departure of over 20,000 Rwandan soldiers.

On 21 October the UN published its Expert Panel's Report of the pillage of natural resources by armed groups. Both Rwanda and Uganda rejected accusations that senior political and military figures were involved in illicit trafficking of plundered resources. Zimbabwe Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi says the Zimbabwean military withdrew from the DRC in October 2002, but in June 2006 reporters said a 50 man troop force had stayed in the DRC to protect Kabila.

On 17 December 2002 the Congolese parties of the Inter Congolese Dialogue, namely: the national government, the MLC, the RCD, the RCD-ML, the RCD-N, the domestic political opposition, representatives of civil society and the Mai Mai, signed the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement. The Agreement described a plan for transitional governance that should have resulted in legislative and presidential election within two years of its signing and marked the formal end of the Second Congo War.

On 18 July 2003, the Transitional Government came into being as specified in the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement out of the warring parties. The Agreement obliges the parties to carry out a plan to reunify the country, disarm and integrate the warring parties and hold elections. There have been numerous problems, resulting in continued instability in much of the country and a delay in the scheduled national elections from June 2005 to July 2006.

The main cause for the continued weakness of the Transitional Government is the refusal by the former warring parties to give up power to a centralized and neutral national administration. Some belligerents maintained administrative and military command-and-control structures separate from that of the Transitional Government, but as the International Crisis Group has reported, these have gradually been reduced. A high level of official corruption siphoning money away from civil servants, soldiers and infrastructure projects causes further instability.

On 30 July 2006 the first elections were held in the DRC after the populace approved a new constitution. A second round was held on 30 October.

The ethnic violence between Hutu- and Tutsi-aligned forces has been a driving impetus for much of the conflict, with people on both sides fearing their annihilation as a race. The Kinshasa- and Hutu-aligned forces enjoyed close relations as their interests in expelling the armies and proxy forces of Uganda and Rwanda dovetail. While the Uganda- and Rwanda-aligned forces worked closely together to gain territory at the expense of Kinshasa, competition over access to resources created a fissure in their relationship. There were reports that Uganda permitted Kinshasa to send arms to the Hutu FDLR via territory held by Uganda-backed rebels as Uganda, Kinshasa and the Hutus are all seeking, in varying degrees, to check the influence of Rwanda and its affiliates.

Rwanda wanted the DR Congo to stamp out the FDLR operating from its territory and has offered to send troops to help. The Kinshasa government was suspicious of Kigali's influence over the region and its forces seem unable to deal with the FDLR. Consequently Rwanda supports the continuing rebellion of General Nkunda. Final resolution will only happen when Rwanda feels its border is no longer threatened by Hutu rebels, and can stop supporting Nkunda: the two issues go hand in hand.

The Congo War has largely been one without large battles or clearly defined front lines. While significant numbers of trained soldiers from national armies have been involved, the rulers of those nations have been extremely loath to risk their forces in open combat. The equipment and training of the national armies represents a major investment for the poor states of the region and losses would be difficult to replace. The vast area of Congo dwarfs the armed groups, so military units have been based around strategically important strongholds such as ports, airfields, mining centers and the few passable roads, rather than guarding strictly defined areas of control.

As a result the war has largely been fought by loosely organized militia groups. These untrained and undisciplined forces have greatly contributed to the violence of the conflict by frequent looting, rape and ethnic cleansing. It has also made peace far harder to enforce as the militias continue operating despite cease-fires between their patrons. These uncontrolled militias and their government allies have killed many Congolese. Many more have died from disease and starvation brought about by the chaos in the region.

Much of the conflict has focused on gaining control of the abundant natural resources of the Congo. The African Great Lakes states have largely paid their military expenses by extracting minerals, diamonds, and timber from the eastern Congo. These efforts have been directed by officers from the Rwandan and Ugandan armies who have grown wealthy as a result. Over time, the Rwandan national army has become far less interested in hunting down those responsible for the genocide and more concerned with protecting their sphere of control in eastern Congo. The occupying forces have levied high taxes on the local population and confiscated almost all of the livestock and much of the food in the region.

Competition for control of resources between the anti-Kabila forces has also resulted in conflict. In 1999, Ugandan and Rwandan troops clashed in the city of Kisangani. The RCD also split into two factions, greatly weakening the anti-Kabila rebel forces and limiting their operation to the eastern portion of the country. However, the forces loyal to and allied with Kabila were too depleted and exhausted to take advantage of this.

In eastern Congo, the prevalence and intensity of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. In October 2004 the human rights group Amnesty International reported that 40,000 cases of rape had been reported over the previous six years, the majority occurring in South Kivu. This is an incomplete count as the humanitarian and international organizations compiling the figures do not have access to much of the conflict area and only women who have reported for treatment are included. The actual number of women raped is thus assumed to be much higher. All armed forces in the conflict are guilty of rape, though the militia and various insurgent groups have been most culpable. Of particular medical concern is the abnormally high proportion of women suffering vaginal fistulae, usually as a result of being gang raped. The nature of rape in the conflict has, beyond the physical and psychological trauma to the individual women, contributed to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, in the region.

Effects within the DRC include the displacement of some 3.4 million people, as well as the impoverishment of hundreds of thousands. The majority of the displaced are from the eastern section of the country. Nearly 2 million others have been displaced in the neighboring countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Pygmies are believed to be the original inhabitants of the vast equatorial forests of Central Africa. During the war, Pygmies were hunted down like game animals and eaten. Both sides of the war regarded them as "subhuman" and some say their flesh can confer magical powers. In neighbouring North Kivu province there has been cannibalism by a group known as Les Effacers (The Erasers) who wanted to clear the land of people to open it up for mineral exploitation. UN human rights activists reported in 2003 that rebels had carried out acts of cannibalism. Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, has asked the UN Security Council to recognise cannibalism as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide. According to Minority Rights Group International there is great evidence of mass killings, cannibalism and rape of Pygmies and have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate a campaign of extermination against pygmies. Although, they have been targeted by virtually all the armed groups, much of the violence against Pygmies is attributed to the rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, which is part of the transitional government and still controls much of the north, and their allies.

The devastating effects on the economy and social institutions have led to serious impacts on the wildlife of the region. In September 2005 a survey reported by the World Wide Fund for Nature showed the population of hippopotamuses in Virunga National Park's Lake Edward has plummeted to less than 900 individuals from an estimated 29,000 thirty years previously. The decline is attributed to poaching for meat as well as the teeth, which are used to produce illegal ivory. Additionally, about half of the world's 700 wild mountain gorillas live in the same park.

On 19 December 2005 the United Nations International Court of Justice ruled that the DRC's sovereignty had been violated by Uganda, and that Uganda had looted billions of dollars worth of resources. The DRC government has asked for $10 billion in compensation.

Even though as the war ended many years ago, people in the Congo are still dying at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month; 2,700,000 people have died since 2004. This death toll is due to widespread disease and famine; reports indicate that almost half of the individuals killed are children under the age of 5. This death rate has been prevalent since sincere efforts at rebuilding the nation began in 2004.

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Kivu conflict


The Kivu conflict is an armed conflict between the military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and rebel forces under the command of Laurent Nkunda (National Congress for the Defence of the People, CNDP), taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Also involved is the genocidal Hutu Power Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo also became involved in the conflict.

Nkunda's CNDP is sympathetic to the Banyamulenge in Eastern Congo, an ethnic Tutsi group, and to the Tutsi-dominated government of Rwanda. He is opposed by the largely Hutu FDLR, by the DRC's army, and by United Nations forces.

Laurent Nkunda was an officer in the rebel Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), Goma faction, in the Second Congo War (1998-2002). In 2003, with the official end of that war, Nkunda joined the new integrated national army of the transitional government as a colonel and was promoted to general in 2004. He soon rejected the authority of the government and retreated with some of RCD-Goma troops to the Masisi forests in Nord Kivu.

Later in 2004, Nkunda's forces began clashing with the DRC army in Sud-Kivu and by May 2004, occupied Bukavu where he was accused of committing war crimes. Nkunda claimed he was attempting to prevent genocide against the Banyamulenge, who are ethnic Tutsis resident in the eastern DRC, a claim rejected by the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), and denied the claim that he was following orders from Rwanda. Following UN negotiations which secured the withdrawal of Nkunda's troops from Bukavu back to the Masisi forests, part of his army split, and led by Colonel Jules Mutebusi left for Rwanda. About 150,000 Kinyarwanda-speaking people (Nkunda's own language) were reported to have fled from Sud-Kivu to Nord-Kivu in fear of reprisal attacks by DRC army.

In 2005, Nkunda called for the overthrow of the government due to its corruption and increasing numbers of RCD-Goma soldiers deserted the DRC army to join his forces.

In January 2006, his troops clashed with DRC army forces, also accused of war crimes by the MONUC. Further clashes took place during August 2006 around the town of Sake. MONUC, however, refused to arrest Nkunda after an international arrest warrant was issued against him, stating that: "Mr Laurent Nkunda does not present a threat to the local population, thus we cannot justify any action against him." As late as June 2006, Nkunda became subject to United Nations Security Council restrictions.

During both the first and second rounds of the contested and violent 2006 general election, Nkunda had said that he will respect the results. On November 25, however, nearly a day before the Supreme Court ruled that Joseph Kabila had won the presidential election's second round, Nkunda's forces undertook a sizable offensive in Sake against the DRC army 11th Brigade, also clashing with MONUC peacekeepers. The attack may not have been related to the election but due to the "killing of a Tutsi civilian who was close to one of the commanders in this group." The UN has called on the DRC government to negotiate with Nkunda and DRC Interior Minister, General Denis Kalume, was sent to eastern DRC to begin negotiations.

On 2006-12-07, RCD-Goma troops attacked DRC army positions in Nord Kivu. With military assistance from MONUC, the DRC army was reported to have regained their positions, with about 150 RCD-Goma forces having been killed. Approximately 12,000 Congolese civilians have fled the DRC to Kisoro District, Uganda. Also on that day, a rocket fired from the DRC to the Kisoro District killed seven people.

In early 2007, the central DRC government attempted to reduce the threat posed by Nkunda by trying to integrate his troops further into the FARDC, the national armed forces, in what was called a 'mixage' process. However, this backfired and it now appears that from about January to August Nkunda controlled five brigades of troops rather than two (see FARDC#Land Forces).

In early September, Nkunda's forces had a smaller DRC force under siege in Masisi, and MONUC helicopters were ferrying government soldiers to relieve the town. Scores of men were reported killed, and another major conflict was in prospect.

In September, Nkunda's men "raided ten secondary schools and four primary schools where they took the children by force in order to make them join their ranks". According to United Nations officials, girls are taken as sex slaves, boys are used as fighters, in violation of international law. Following the date of the UN report, thousands more Congolese fled their homes for displaced persons camps.

The government set a 15 October 2007 deadline for Nkunda's troops to begin disarming. This deadline passed without action and, on 17 October, President Joseph Kabila ordered the military to prepare to disarm Nkunda's forces forcibly. Government forces advanced on the Nkunda stronghold of Kichanga. Thousands of civilians fleeing the fighting between Nkunda and government-allied Mai-Mai around Bunagana arrived in Rutshuru several days later. There were separate reports of government troops engaging units under Nkunda around Bukima, near Bunagana, as well as some refugees fleeing across the border into Uganda. The number of people displaced by the fighting since the beginning of the year was estimated at over 370,000.

In early November 2007, Nkunda's troops captured the town of Nyanzale, about 100 kilometres (62 mi) north of Goma. Three neighboring villages were also reported captured, and the army outpost abandoned. A government offensive in early December resulted in the capture by the 82nd Brigade of the town of Mushake, overlooking a key road. (However, Reuters reports a FARDC integrated brigade, the 14th, took the town.) This followed a statement by the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo that it would be willing to offer artillery support to the government offensive. In a regional conference held in Addis Ababa, the United States, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda pledged to support the Congolese government and not support "negative forces", widely seen as code for Nkunda's forces.

Nkunda stated on December 14, 2007 that he was open to peace talks. The government called such talks on December 20 to be held from December 27, 2007 to January 5, 2008. These talks were then postponed to be held from January 6 to January 14, 2008.

Nkunda's group did attend the talks, but walked out on January 10, 2008, after an alleged attempted arrest of one of their members. They later returned to the talks.

The talks' schedule was extended to last until 21 January 2008, and then to 22 January 2008 as an agreement appeared to be within reach. It was further extended to 23 January 2008 over final disagreements regarding war crimes cases. The peace deal was signed on 23 January 2008 and included provisions for an immediate ceasefire, the phased withdrawal of all rebel forces in North Kivu province, the resettlement of thousands of villagers, and immunity for Nkunda's forces.

Neither the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda nor the Rwandan government took part in the talks, a fact which may hurt the stability of the agreement.

The agreement encouraged FARDC and the United Nations to remove FDLR forces from Kivu. Dissatisfaction with progress and lack of resettlement of refugees caused the CNDP forces to declare war on the FDLR and hostilities to resume, including civilian atrocities.

On October 26, 2008 Nkunda's rebels seized a major military camp, along with Virunga National Park for use as a base to launch attacks from. This occurred after the peace treaty failed, with the resultant fighting displacing thousands. The park was taken due to its strategic location on a main road leading to the city of Goma. On October 27 riots began around the United Nations compound in Goma, and civilians pelted the building with rocks and threw Molotov cocktails, claiming that the UN forces had done nothing to prevent the rebel advance. The Congolese national army also retreated under pressure from the rebel army in a "major retreat".

On October 28, rebels and combined government-MONUC troops battled between the Kibumba refugee camp and Rutshuru. Five rockets were fired at a convoy of UN vehicles protecting a road to the territorial capital of Rutshuru, hitting two armoured personnel carriers. The APCs, which contained Indian Army troops, were relatively undamaged, though a Lieutenant Colonel and two other personnel were injured. Rebel forces later captured the town. Meanwhile, civilians continued to riot, at some points pelting retreating Congolese troops with rocks, though UN spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg stated that the UN has "reinforced presence" in the region.

On October 29 the rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire as they approached Goma, though they still intended to take the city. That same day a French request for an EU reinforcement of 1,500 troops was refused by several countries and appeared unlikely to materialize; however, the UN forces in place stated they would act to prevent takeovers of population centers. Throughout the day the streets of the city were filled with refugees and fleeing troops, including their tanks and other military vehicles. There were also reports of looting and commandeering of cars by Congolese troops. That night the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution which condemned the recent rebel advance and demanded it be halted.

Despite the ceasefire, the situation remains volatile; according to World Vision spokesman Michael Arunga, World Vision workers had to flee to the Rwandan border in order to work, and shots were still being fired. The United States Department of State reported sending Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer as an envoy to the region.

On October 31 Nkunda declared that he would create a "humanitarian aid corridor", a no-fire zone where displaced persons would be allowed back to their homes, given the consent of the United Nations task force in the Congo. Working with the UN forces around Goma, Nkunda hopes to relocate victims of the recent fighting between his CNDP forces and UN peacekeepers. MONUC spokesman Kevin Kennedy stated that MONUC's forces are stretched thin trying to keep peace within and around the city; recent looting by Congolese soldiers has made it harder to do so as incidents arise both within city limits and outside. According to Anneke Van Woudenberg, a Human Rights Watch researcher, more than 20 people were killed overnight in Goma alone. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice contacted Rwandan President Paul Kagame to discuss a long-term solution.

Also on October 31 British Foreign Minister David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner flew to the region, with the intention of stopping in Kinhasa, Goma, and possibly Kigali.

On November 6 rebels broke the ceasefire and wrested control of another town in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in clashes with government forces on the eve of a regional summit on the crisis. National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels seized control of the centre of Nyanzale, an important army base in Nord-Kivu province after government forces fled. Residents report that rebels have shot dead civilians suspected of supporting pro-government militia.

In November 2008, during the clashes around Goma, a UN source reported that Angolan troops were seen taking part in combat operations alongside government forces. Kinshasa repeatedly denied that foreign troops are on its soil -- an assertion echoed by the UN mission, which has 17,000 blue-helmeted peacekeepers on the ground. There is "military cooperation" between Congo and Angola, and that "there are perhaps Angolan (military) instructors in country", according to the UN.

Angola, a former Portuguese colony, sided with Kinshasa in the 1998-2003 Second Congo War that erupted when Democratic Republic of Congo was in a massive rebellion.

On 22 January 2009, the Rwandan military, during a joint operation with the Congolese Army, captured Nkunda as he fled from DR Congo into neighboring Rwanda. Rwandan officials have yet to say if he will be handed over to DR Congo, which has issued an international warrant for his arrest. A military spokesperson said he had been seized after sending three battalions to repel an advance by a joint Congolese-Rwandan force. The force was part of a joint Congolese-Rwandan operation which was launched to hunt Rwandan Hutu militiamen operating in DR Congo. Nkunda is currently being held at an undisclosed location in Rwanda. A Rwandan military spokesman has claimed, however, that Nkunda is being held at Gisenyi, a city in Rubavu district in the West Province of Rwanda. DR Congo's government suggested his capture would end the activities of one of the country's most feared rebel groups, recently split by a leadership dispute.

With the ending of the joint Rwandan-DROC offensive against Hutu militiamen responsible for the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, that has decreased the number of the Interhamwa from over 6,000 to less than 1,000 men. The Kivu conflict has therefore effectively been ended. On March 23, 2009, the NCDP signed a peace treaty with the government, in which it agreed to become a political party in exchange for the excarcelation of its members.

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2008 Nord-Kivu campaign


The 2008 Nord-Kivu campaign is an ongoing armed conflict in the eastern Nord-Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The upsurge of violence in the Kivu conflict saw heavy battles between the Democratic Republic of Congo's army, supported by the United Nations, and Tutsi militia under General Laurent Nkunda.

The fighting, which began on October 25, uprooted 250,000 civilians — bringing the total of people displaced by the Kivu conflict to more than 2 million. The campaign caused widespread civil unrest, large food shortages and what the United Nations called “a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic dimensions.” After a week, a ceasefire was ordered by rebel forces amongst civil and military unrest in Goma. The rebel capture of all territory around Goma created a very fragile atmosphere of peace, caused enormous political damage, and called to question the efficacy of the peacekeepers stationed there. After a short cease-fire ordered by rebel general Nkunda, fighting broke out on November 17, after which a second ceasefire was called into effect on November 19. A buffer zone between rebel and government lines, referred to as a "humanitarian aid corridor", was created on November 23 to allow the transportation of aid to isolated civilian centers. On December 9, bilateral peace talks started between delegations from the Congolese government and Nkunda's rebels.

The continuous state of conflict affecting DR Congo since 1997 has been referred to as the deadliest since World War II, with aid agencies estimating a death rate of 1,200 to 1,400 civilians a day.

Nkunda's rebels had been active in Nord-Kivu, a province bordering Lake Kivu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, since 2004, when they occupied Bukavu and allegedly committed war crimes. The aim of Nkunda's troops was to protect the Tutsi minority, which they believed not well-enough protected against further genocide from the Hutus, believed by Nkunda to have had government support during the Second Congo War. Earlier, in January 2008, Nkunda's rebels had participated in peace talks; at one point they walked out, saying that other parties had attempted to arrest a member, but later returned. The talks ended with the rebels being granted immunity in exchange for withdrawing troops and allowing civilians to resettle.

On October 26, Nkunda's rebels seized a major military camp, along with the strategically-located Virunga National Park, situated on a main road leading to the city of Goma, for use as staging points. This occurred after a peace treaty failed, with the resultant fighting displacing thousands.

On October 27, riots began around the United Nations compound in Goma. Civilians pelted the building with rocks and threw Molotov cocktails, claiming that the UN forces had done nothing to prevent the CNDP advance. The Congolese national army also carried out a "major retreat" due to pressure from the CNDP forces. Meanwhile, United Nations gunships and armoured vehicles were used in an effort to halt the advance of the CNDP, who claimed to be within 7 miles (11 kilometers) of Goma. Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Alan Doss explained the necessity of engaging the CNDP, stating that "... can't allow population centers to be threatened... had to engage." During the riots, there was at least one death due to a stampeding crowd.

On October 28, five rocket-propelled grenades were fired at a convoy of UN vehicles protecting a road to the territorial capital of Rutshuru, hitting two armoured personnel carriers. The APCs, which contained Indian Army troops, were relatively undamaged, though a Lieutenant Colonel and two other personnel were injured. CNDP forces later captured Rutshuru. Meanwhile, civilians continued to riot, at some points pelting retreating Congolese troops with rocks, though UN spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg stated that the UN has "reinforced presence" in the region.

On October 29 the CNDP declared a unilateral ceasefire as they approached Goma, though they still intended to take the city. That same day a French request for an EU reinforcement of 1,500 troops was refused by several countries and appeared unlikely to materialize; however, the UN forces in place stated they would act to prevent takeovers of population centers. Throughout the day the streets of the city were filled with refugees and fleeing troops, including their tanks and other military vehicles. There were also reports of looting and commandeering of cars by Congolese troops. That night the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution which condemned the recent CNDP advance and demanded it be halted. According to analysts, the ceasefire was called to preserve Nkunda's reputation, as was his later order of creating an aid corridor.

Despite the ceasefire, the situation remained volatile; according to World Vision spokesman Michael Arunga, World Vision workers had to flee to the Rwandan border in order to survive, and shots were still being fired. The United States Department of State reported sending Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer as an envoy to the region.

On October 31 Nkunda declared that he would create a "humanitarian aid corridor", a no-fire zone where displaced persons would be allowed back to their homes, given the consent of the United Nations task force in the Congo. Working with the UN forces around Goma, Nkunda hoped to relocate victims of the recent fighting between his CNDP forces and UN peacekeepers (MONUC). MONUC spokesman Kevin Kennedy stated that MONUC's forces were stretched thin trying to keep peace within and around the city; recent looting by Congolese soldiers had made it harder to do so as incidents arose both within city limits and outside. According to Anneke Van Woudenberg, a Human Rights Watch researcher, more than 20 people were killed overnight in Goma alone. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice contacted Rwandan President Paul Kagame to discuss a long-term solution.

Also on October 31, British Foreign Minister David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner flew to the region, with the intention of stopping in Kinhasa, Goma, and possibly Kigali. Miliband said that the United Kingdom was providing £42 million in humanitarian aid to the area.

On November 17 Nkunda met with UN special envoy and former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo to discuss the ceasefire amongst reports of scattered fighting in the Congo. While he backed the ceasefire, rebel troops were still reported to be active, and would later capture a village by force.

On November 5, fighting erupted for the control of the town of Kiwanja, 45 miles north of Goma. The main opponents of the rebels during the battle were Mai-Mai and Hutu Rwandan militias, who were aligned with the government. During the fighting, Congo's army was firing mortars toward rebel positions from behind militia lines. On November 6, in the nearby village of Mabenga, a Belgian journalist working for a German newspaper was kidnapped by the Mai-Mai along with his assistant and three rebel fighters. Also, Congolese journalist Alfred Nzonzo Bitwahiki Munyamariza was reported to have been shot and killed in Rutshuru during a stampede that followed the attack on Kiwanja. However, it was later confirmed that he, along with his family, escaped after rebels destroyed his house with a rocket. The battle had ended by the end of the second day of fighting, with rebel forces wresting control of Kiwanja from the Mai-Mai.

When the civilian population started to return to the town on November 7, they reported finding more than a dozen bodies in the town. The villagers said rebels had killed unarmed civilians suspected of supporting the Mai-Mai, but the rebels said the dead were militia fighters who had been armed. A U.N. official said there were two rounds of executions in the town. First the Mai-Mai arrived and killed those they accused of supporting the rebels, then the rebels stormed in, killing men they charged were loyal to the Mai-Mai. Human Rights Watch said at least 20 people were killed and another 33 wounded during the battle for the town. Rebel Capt. John Imani said about 60 people had been killed in the fighting, mostly Mai-Mai.

The Human Rights Watch would later find that "at least" 150 had been "summarily executed" by both sides at Kiwanja. HRW also criticized MONUC peacekeeping forces, who had been only 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) away at the time.

On November 6, fighting erupted after pro-Congolese government forces came in contact with CNDP forces near the town of Nyanzale. Nkunda reported that soldiers under his command had been attacked three times by government troops supported by Mai-Mai militia on the morning of November 6. After the attacks the CNDP responded by assaulting government positions around Kikuku and Nyanzale, which is the site of a provincial army base. The government positions in those areas were quickly overrun, allowing both towns to fall into the control of the CNDP. Thousands of civilians fled the fighting.

However, in the afternoon, government troops counter-attacked and took the centre of Nyanzale, with the CNDP forces retreating into the hills around the town.

Despite the pledges of peace by rebel leader Nkunda, fighting broke out on November 17, leading to the capture of Rwindi by rebel forces, which advanced throughout the region. Meanwhile, speculation of war crimes increased with UN reports of the death of 26 non-combatants in the village of Kiwanja, who were said to have been killed by rebels for working with government troops. The killings at Kiwanja were later confirmed at 150 or more deaths by the Human Rights Watch. Amongst brutalities was a roadblock formed of two dead Congolese army soldiers, serving as a warning to approaching forces. Recent fighting brought the death toll to approximately 100 civilians, with 200 wounded.

On November 17, after a few days of heavy artillery and mortar fire exchanges between the rebels and the military, the rebels took control of Rwindi, the headquarters of Virunga National Park. Soldiers were reported to be in full retreat and disarray while the rebels marched into the town and continued further north toward Kanyabayonga in a single-file organised column. During the bombardments, prior to the fall of the town, an Indian peacekeeper was wounded in the head by shrapnel while taking shelter in a trench.

On November 18, rebel forces stopped their advance on Kanyabayonga and withdrew, as to create a buffer zone between them and government forces and give a chance for peace talks. Following the halt in fighting between the rebels and the Army, government soldiers started looting the towns of Kirumba and Kayna, but were attacked by the local Mai-Mai group Pareco. The Mai-Mai had been helping the government forces since the start of the conflict in their fight against the rebels. The fighting left five Mai-Mai militiamen and one government soldier dead. The Army said the conflict was the fault of the Mai-Mai, who were attempting to hamper a routine deployment. Following the fighting government soldiers laid out two charred bodies of militiamen on a dirt track in Kirumba.

On November 19, Mai-Mai militia fighters calling themselves Resistance Congolese Patriots fired on APCs carrying UN peacekeepers. The militia fighters had asked for food and money, but engaged the international force after being denied. At least one of the approximately five fighters was killed, though more were reported to be in the forest. According to Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, "It was a rather small incident, but it disturbing because the second time in a week," referring to the November 18 incident.

On November 18, Nkunda ordered rebel troops to pull back 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the town of Kabasha, citing the need to avoid clashes, get humanitarian aid to the region and create "separation zones" between the government and rebel forces, which would be patrolled by UN peacekeepers; this was amongst the sacking of General Dieudonne Kayembe, armed forces chief of the Congolese army, after a chain of defeats. His replacement was cited as a bid to bolster military strength. According to MONUC commanders the town had been captured on Sunday, though they could not confirm whether withdrawal had begun. Meanwhile, the French Foreign Ministry circulated a draft asking the UN to reinforce the MONUC garrison in the Congo by 3,000. This move was stated as a possible measure of stability, but not one of peace. UN spokesman Alan Doss said that "Reinforcements are not going to resolve all the problems... Reinforcements will allow us to do something about the situation, which has deteriorated fast, help us to stabilize the situation a bit, and allow the political and diplomatic process to go forward." While the United Nations Security Council voted on Wednesday, Doss acknowledged that it could take months to get reinforcements in, but wanted to speed the process. Doss also stated that he believed the humanitarian effort was improving.

On November 19, hundreds of rebel fighters retreated from the front lines to encourage peace talks. Monitored by UN aerial and ground patrols, the troops were confirmed to be retreating "from Kanyabayonga toward Kibirizi, from Kanyabayonga toward Nyanzale and from Rwindi south," according to Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich. Witnesses stated that the rebels had moved 33 kilometers (20 miles) south from Kanyabayonga. The retreat was ordered by leader Nkunda, who arranged it after speaking with former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, where they agreed on another cease-fire. The rebels still held strategic positions near places such as the town of Kibati, facing off with "demoralized" government troops.

On November 20, dozens of Mai-Mai fighters entered Rwindi, which the rebels had abandoned a few days earlier. The Mai-Mai also attacked rebel forces at the villages of Katoro and Nyongera, in an attempt to advance toward Kiwanja. The rebels stopped them and reported that government and Rwandan Hutu forces from the FDLR were also involved in the fighting.

On November 18, a draft resolution spearheaded by the French Foreign Ministry was presented before the United Nations Security Council. The resolution, signed by 44 different organizations and with the backing of the British Foreign Office minister Mark Malloch Brown, asked the UN to send 3,000 more peacekeepers to reinforce the 17,000-strong garrison in the Congo, which is the largest garrison of its kind. This was similar to the pleas of the Human Rights Watch and humanitarian aid groups in the region, who were also asking for reinforcements to bring stability to the area. In a shared statement, the coalition of organizations stated that " would help to prevent the atrocities that continue to be committed against civilians on an ever greater scale here in North Kivu , on the border of Rwanda and Uganda... Since August 28, fighting has intensified in many areas, causing deaths, rapes, lootings, forced recruitment and further displacements of civilian populations. The population has thus been immersed in unspeakable suffering. In the last few days, fighting has drawn closer to large populated areas, such as the town of Goma. Fighting has also invaded and torn apart the region of Rutshuru, particularly in the town of Kiwanja, where hundreds of civilian deaths have now been recorded." Local groups in the Congo also requested help from the European Union, as they would be able to deploy soldiers sooner, working as a "bridging force" until the UN reinforcements arrived. British EU spokeswoman Catriona Little stated that they were "not ruling in or out EU forces".

On November 20 the UN voted unanimously to send 3,085 more peacekeepers, citing "extreme concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation and in particular the targeted attacks against civilian population, sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers and summary executions." However, it did not extend MONUC's mandate in the Congo, which expires at the end of 2008. The decision was made despite the rebel commitment to pulling back from the front lines and allowing aid to reach the thousands of people still isolated, according to aid groups.

On November 23, government soldiers intercepted a UN convoy 2 kilometers north of Goma which was carrying 25 suspected Mai-Mai militants, unbeknownst to the government, and removed them, relocating them to Goma on the grounds of suspecting them to be rebel soldiers. The UN, which was transporting the militiamen as an "ongoing disarmament and rehabilitation process", refused to give the militants to the government troops, but eventually let them go; some witness reports stated that the government's troops forcibly removed the militiamen from the UN vehicles while an onlooking crowd insulted and threw stones at the peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, aid convoys were able to distribute medicinal supplies throughout the "humanitarian aid corridor", created by the rebel withdrawal. The corridor, patrolled by MONUC troops, allowed aid groups such as Merlin to access Kanyabayonga and Kirumba, which had gone for 10 days without supplies and were nearly depleted. While not nominal, the situation was referred to as "much better." "We're really pleased that we've gotten here," stated spokeswoman Louise Orton.

On November 24, Nkunda expressed a desire to merge his rebel troops with the government's forces, reuniting the two. According to negotiator Olusegun Obasanjo talks were progressing. Obasanjo stated that Nkunda had made "demands that I do not consider outrageous and demands that the government of Congo can meet." Ideally, the talks would protect the Congo's ethnic minorities (such as the Tutsis and Hutus) and quell negotiation. The talks were slated to be held on November 28.

On November 26, rebel forces engaged Mai-Mai militia near the towns of Kinyando and Kwwenda despite the ceasefire, sending civilians "fleeing along highways". The UN condemned this breach of the ceasefire while calling on the Congolese government to discipline government troops, who were caught looting the village of Bulotwa. Meanwhile, a crowd of 100,000 displaced persons gathered in the rebel-held town of Rutshuru, where the United Nations were distributing supplies and medicine, intended to help combat cholera, which was reported to be affecting hundreds of people, having spread through unsanitary refugee camps.

On November 29, Nkunda stated that unless the Congolese government entered into direct talks he would re-initiate the conflict. After meeting with UN special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo Nkunda stated that, "If there is no negotiation, let us say then there is war. I think the good way is negotiation. I know have no capacity to fight so they have only one choice, negotiation." Obasanjo affirmed that the "course of peace been advanced," with the Congolese government agreeing to talks but not where to hold them.

Tensions later heightened as Nkunda's rebels announced that they would walk out on the talks if other groups were included, while pro-government Mai-Mai rebels stated they would pull out of negotiations if the CDNP got their own separate talks that were not under the banner of earlier "Amani" peace talks from January 2008 which aimed to unite all of the armed groups in the Congo in peace talks. "To proceed in this way is to incite us to quit the Amani programme, the government should not forget this," claimed Mai-Mai leaders. "We are not a negligible group, we have arms... We want the CNDP to rejoin Amani. It seems that by quitting Amani, they have become more important than the other groups. We don't understand the decision by the government to go and negotiate with the CNDP... We are disappointed, it's a flagrant violation of Amani's terms." CNDP spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa stated that the rebels "are going to Nairobi to discuss only with the government outside of the Amani programme... If the government insists on staying in Amani, we'll pack our bags." CNDP representatives, led by deputy executive secretary Serge Kambasu Ngeve, had arrived in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi believing that they would be participating in bilateral discussions with the Congolese government alone. The government representatives, led by Congolese Minister for International and Regional Cooperation Raymond Tshibanda, did not express concern, with Information Minister Lambert Mende claiming that if the CNDP wanted to walk out "that's their problem not ours. It's their problem if they don't want peace. They'll be held accountable for their acts." Meanwhile, Alan Le Roy, Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, pressed for more action to be taken to intervene in the situation.

Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in Kinshasa, Congo, offered to help mediate the talks, having sent envoy Guojin Liu to the region the previous day to discuss a peace deal, according to ambassador Wu Zexian.

On December 10, after CNDP and Congolese government representatives had met, UN envoy Olusegun Obasanjo stated that " have made progress in their talks" and that they would have future, substantive discussions, though no date or location was decided. The invitation to the other 20 rebel groups was still standing, according to Obasanjo, though none had shown up, allowing for bilateral talks, which were the only thing the CNDP would accept.

At the same time, allegations had surfaced that both the Congolese and Rwandan governments were fighting a proxy war by funding respectively-sided rebel groups, which included supporting the recruitment of child soldiers, a war crime. The United Nations Security Council agreed with this on December 12. However, Rwandan Foreign Minister Rosemary Museminali denied this, saying that "We are not supporting CNDP. We are not sending forces, we are not sending arms," while Nkunda stated that rebels "would already be in Kinshasa" if they had Rwanda's support. In response to these allegations the Netherlands suspended their financial support for the Rwandan government, canceling a roughly United States dollar|(USD)]] $4 million transfer by the end of 2008 and another $5.32 million in 2009. Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation Bert Koenders stated this was due to the "strong evidence" produced tying Rwanda to Congolese militants. However, the Dutch government would continue humanitarian aid support for Rwandan civilians.

In the meantime, the Human Rights Watch reported that 150 people had been killed in a crossfire between Nkunda's rebels and Mai-Mai militia on November 5. The killings, described as a "summary execution", took place half of a mile (roughly 0.8 kilometers) away from a MONUC peacekeeping force, leading to criticism of the peacekeepers for not keeping guard over the area. "Due to the importance of these two towns as centers for humanitarian assistance, MONUC considered them a priority protection zone, yet the peacekeepers did not protect the towns from a rebel takeover or halt the destruction of displacement camps. Nor did they stop the mass killing of civilians in Kiwanja where they had an important field base," said the group. Earlier death estimates were around 20, and had been explained by spokesman Alan Le Roy as a consequence of the lack of peacekeeping troops to cover the whole area, with 10 peacekeepers for every 10,000 civilians. Later at 0100 local time a shootout between government and rebel troops took place in displaced-persons camp Kibati, killing a five-year-old girl and severely injuring another 7-year-old one. According to UN spokesman Ron Redmond "It does not appear they were targeted." Earlier on December 11 a woman had been raped by armed men outside of the same camp. Said a UN statement, "We remain extremely concerned for the safety of the displaced Congolese population in Kibati as the civilian character of these two UNHCR-run camps north of Goma is continually violated." The UN has been working to relocate people sheltering in the troubled camp, according to the organization.

A breakaway faction of the CNDP led by Bosco Ntaganda declared on 17 January 2009 that it would disband and join the Congolese army, thus putting increased pressure on Nkunda and his main faction.

The 17,000-strong MONUC peacekeeping force was regarded as failing to protect civilians and halt the progress of the rebels, who captured multiple U.N. field bases. MONUC's head, Alan Doss, stated that the U.N. troops were "certainly stretched... there’s only so much we can do." The European Union was in the midst of talks related to sending reinforcements. Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers approximately 250,000 people were displaced by the conflict, bringing the total displaced person count to 2 million. The forces were also stated to be ineffective in keeping civilians safe from the rebel and government forces. This was hoped to be improved by deploying reinforcements consisting of 3,000 peacekeepers.

The government's forces were criticized as well, with UN forces being stated to be protecting civilians from both rebels and Congolese troops. The soldiers were stated to be raping, looting, and were poorly fed, trained, paid and medicated; 11 soldiers were sentenced to life in prison for raping and looting while retreating from rebel forces. Another 12 faced court martial, with one allegedly having killed a family of 6 in Goma. They also were said to distrust armed forces commander, General Gabriel Amisi, due to his alliance with Nkunda during a 1998 - 2003 conflict.

On December 7, UN officials claimed that the $7.1 billion budget (USD) for peacekeeping troops was insufficient even before planned reinforcements of MONUC could be fulfilled; even the troop and equipment requirements may not be met, as Western countries declined support, citing the conflict not as "strategically vital" as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. International Crisis Group vice-president Fabienne Hara stated that, "Contributions of U.N. members states will probably not grow at the very least, if not diminish... may not be funded properly due to a crisis in terms of resources." An anonymous UN official claimed that the Security Council could "drop the ball, move on to another issue and we're the ones at fault. We've seen before that is a recipe for failure." Reuters reported that a senior Western Security Council diplomat claimed that, while criticism was not invalid, other countries with reserves of troops should aid failing peacekeeping missions. The official stated that "We're not the only ones who can do this. Where are the Russians, the Ukrainians? Where are the developing countries who want to have seats on the Security Council? Where is Brazil? It doesn't always have to be us." The lack of peacekeeping resources was cited as counterproductive by political analyst Max Bergmann of the National Security Network. "UN forces ... do fail, but this is often the result of either too few troops or too little money. Our reliance on the United Nations to address trouble spots and to prevent them from worsening has only increased. Shorting the U.N. on peacekeeping funding is therefore akin to shooting ourselves in the foot." European Union nations declined to intervene.

The UN's foremost peacekeeping official, Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Alan Le Roy, claimed that a "humanitarian tragedy" was unfolding in the Congo. Despite the organization's largest peacekeeping force being situated there, he claimed that "compared to the enormity of the tasks it is assigned and the vast expanse of the DRC – roughly the size of the United States east of the Mississippi and virtually without infrastructure – this number is actually rather small. Civilians have suffered from intense and often chaotic fighting, driven from their homes, caught in the crossfire and subjected to direct attacks and reprisals by armed groups and undisciplined elements of the national army. MONUC forces cannot serve as a substitute for the Congolese army to fight a war or impose peace; are not an expeditionary or counterinsurgency force. With so much at stake, the international community simply cannot afford to let the Congo slide into the abyss, the time to act is, and indeed must be, now." Le Roy reaffirmed that more action should be taken until agreements could be reached by the opposing sides. At a conference on December 9 EU ministers remained divided on the issue of sending a "bridging force", citing the stabilizing situation.

On December 12, EU ministers remained divided on the issue of sending reinforcements; current president and French president Nicolas Sarkozy questioned the request, saying that it would be a better decision to draw troops from neighbouring countries instead of the distant EU. He declared, "It is not that from Europe we don't wish to participate, but ... isn't it better to draw on regional forces first of all, who are all pretty well ready to go?" Sarkozy cited the example of Angola, a regional power, who had earlier declared that they would support the Congolese government, and who the UN had alleged were already involved. Sarkozy also questioned the decision to reinforce MONUC peacekeepers, asking whether the extra 3,000 soldiers requested would be able to stop the conflict, saying "There are 17,000 UN soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the biggest ever operation and only 800 are doing a useful job. Why send another 3,000?" High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana will meet with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on December 15 at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the issue further. Sweden, Spain and Belgium were the only members of the 27-member committee to support the motion. Solana will also bring humanitarian, political and military proposals in front of the EU ministers to help bring peace and stability to the region. Solana's previous proposals included a separate EU military force, European troops in the region, and require troops to make roads and airports safe.

The humanitarian effort was reported to be far underfunded, as thousands of refugees returned to rebel-held territory rather than stayed in the U.N.-governed camps. This was reported to be due to the lack of food, water and hygiene facilities.

The UN-operated World Food Program began delivering hundreds of tons of food to the Congo on November 14, along with medical supplies and water purification kits. Congo Red Cross Secretary-General Jacques Katshitshi reported the situation as extremely impoverished, with "Displaced people in extremely difficult conditions" and "a lack of food and water, and hygiene conditions." He stated that cases of malnutrition had been reported even within UN refugee camps. The rations were said to cover approximately 50,000 people, providing them with one-month rations consisting of maize meal, peas, cooking oil and salt. The main obstacle to getting food to displaced persons was stated to be the upheaval in the region.

As of December 10, Red Cross efforts had resulted in the reuniting of 15 families in the Congo, most who had separated from children in the confusion. Four radio stations were tasked with broadcasting the information of missing children, while Red Cross members posted pictures of lost children in displaced-person centers. The registered number of lost children was at 134, but according to the organization the number could be much higher.

On December 12, at 0100 local time, a firefight between government and rebel troops raged in the displaced-persons camp near Kibati. A five-year-old girl was killed in the crossfire, while a 7-year-old girl was severely injured. UN spokesman Ron Redmond stated that "It does not appear they were targeted." A woman had been raped by armed men outside of the same camp the previous day. The UN released a statement, saying that "We remain extremely concerned for the safety of the displaced Congolese population in Kibati as the civilian character of these two UNHCR-run camps north of Goma is continually violated." MONUC peacekeepers were said to be working on relocating internal refugees at the camp, according to the organization.

Animals have also felt the impact, with 200 of the world's 700 Mountain gorillas living in a rebel-held park. A spokeswoman for the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stated that the gorillas were "threatened" due to the gorillas' tendencies not to avoid gunfire or loud sounds, putting the nearly-extinct animals at risk. Also, the inability of park rangers to get to the gorillas due to the rebel occupation was cited as dangerous, as the gorillas could not receive aid. On November 25, park rangers were allowed back into the park due to terms of the peace treaty, and plan to spend a month surveying the gorillas to assess their condition.

On November 23, aid efforts improved as the planned humanitarian aid corridor opened and convoys were allowed access to several previously-isolated cities to begin distributing supplies. Meanwhile, vendors in a local market in Goma were arrested for trying to sell UN food supplies compromising about 1% of the UN stockpile. World Food Program spokeswoman Caroline Hutford stated that this was an expected outcome.

Nkunda's motivations for the conflict were stated as a desire to protect Tutsi people from persecution by Hutus, some of whom had participated in killing Tutsis in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and had fled to Congo to be supported by the government. Nkunda's aspirations included fragmenting the Congo into ethnically-divided states. As of November 4, 2008, tensions remained high as commentators speculated about the involvement of Rwanda, who is said to be affiliated to Nkunda by Congolese officials. Unofficial reports by civilians stated the presence of uniformed Rwandan soldiers fighting alongside rebel forces, though Rwanda officially denied these reports. The Congolese government, meanwhile, asked allied Angola to supply reinforcements in anticipation of Rwandan activity. The conflict has displaced almost a million people since it started, estimate some aid groups.

Neighbouring locales, such as the town of Dungu in the Orientale province, had also been struck by violence, with as many as 70,000 people estimated in need of help by the World Food Program. Mustapha Darboe, the agency's regional director for East, Central and Southern Africa, claimed that "The suffering in Dungu has been overlooked as events further south in Goma and North Kivu have taken centre stage in recent weeks. Many thousands have been displaced and are living in fear of their children being abducted. Their situation could hardly be any worse." The UN had begun airlifting relief supplies in as of December 9.

While specific casualties have not been released, various sources have reported that an estimated 45,000 people die a month in the Congo, mostly of malnutrition and disease. Congo's monthly death rate of 2.2 deaths for each 1,000 people – essentially unchanged from the last survey in 2004 – is nearly 60 percent higher than the average for sub-Saharan Africa.

After the October 29th ceasefire, looting in Goma by Congolese soldiers was said to have caused at least 20 deaths and another 50 civilians were killed during the battle for Kiwanja. Death tolls as of November 7 were reported to be in the hundreds for civilians, though an estimated 1,400 die every day.

Speculation of war crimes began when a UN team reported the deaths of 26 non-combatants in the village of Kiwanja, said to have been killed by rebels working with government troops. Nkunda denied these claims, stating that the 'non-combatants' were Mai-Mai militia dressed in civilian clothing.

On November 19, child soldiers were confirmed to have been used by multiple factions, including rebel, government and militia forces. According to Save the Children spokesman George Graham 3,000 children were being used in various combat roles in the Congo; most were forced in by threats of bodily harm or harm to loved ones. UNICEF stated that the Congo was the "worst place in the world to be for a child".

On November 26 the United Nations began investigations on war crimes in the conflict, stating "alarming" evidence of "target killings and possibly massacres of civilians". This was raised by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in a report that recommended lengthening MONUC's mission through 2009, where it was originally supposed to end at the conclusion of 2008. According to DR Congo Special Representative Alan Doss MONUC had opened "several investigations into alleged massacres and extra-judicial executions," stating that "All belligerents have committed serious atrocities against civilians... Women and children have suffered most from the recurrent fighting. Sexual violence is rampant and many armed groups continue to recruit children into their ranks." The previous killing of 26 innocents in Kiwanja by rebels was a factor in the proposal. Ban also cited the International Criminal Court's warrant for the arrest of CNDP chief of staff Bosco Ntaganda, wanted for allegedly conscripting children into service in the Ituri region of eastern Congo in 2003.

On December 12, a United Nations Security Council panel reported finding conclusive evidence of Rwandan government assistance in recruiting soldiers for rebel causes, including the recruitment of child soldiers. Amnesty International, meanwhile, stated that both the rebel and government sides had condoned rape in the conflict, and said that the failure to stop the crimes "suggests that, at the very least, they systematically condone the crime and thereby implicitly encourage its persistence on a mass scale." The organization said that some victims had been threatened with death if they asked for medical attention from others.

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Human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

In all areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the human rights record remained poor, and numerous serious abuses were committed. Unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, rape, and arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces increased during the year, and the transitional government took few actions to punish violators. Harsh and life-threatening conditions in prison and detention facilities; prolonged pretrial detention; lack of an independent and effective judiciary; and arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home also remained serious problems. Security forces continued to recruit and retain child soldiers and to compel forced labor by adults and children. They also continued to abuse freedom of the press, particularly during the election campaign. Also during the campaign, broadcast stations owned by Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba promoted ethnic hatred. The transitional government continued to restrict freedoms of assembly and movement; government corruption remained pervasive; and security forces restricted Non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In addition, societal discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, trafficking in persons, child labor, and lack of protection for workers' rights continued to be pervasive throughout the country.

Armed groups continued to commit numerous, serious abuses--some of which may constitute war crimes—including unlawful killings, disappearances, and torture. They also recruited and retained child soldiers, compelled forced labor, and committed serious sexual abuses and other possible war crimes.

There was major improvement in one area: the country held its first democratic national elections in more than 40 years. More than 70 percent of registered voters participated in the first round of elections, and more than 65 percent participated in the second round. A freely elected National Assembly took office September 24. In addition, during the year the transitional government supported prosecution of serious human rights abuses. It transferred a former militia leader to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges of recruitment of child soldiers, and a military court sentenced seven soldiers to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

Transitional government security forces committed numerous unlawful killings with impunity. According to MONUC, the FARDC and the national police (PNC) committed two-thirds of all unlawful killings in the country. During the first six months of the year, members of the FARDC allegedly killed more than 50 civilians, and PNC officers allegedly killed at least 10.

Transitional government security forces arbitrarily and summarily executed civilians, often for failing to surrender their possessions or to submit to rape.

On January 22, in Kagaba, Ituri District, FARDC soldiers of the Fourth and Sixth Integrated Brigades allegedly shot several civilians, killing thirteen, including four women and two children, and wounding two others as they attended Sunday mass. No action was taken against the soldiers.

On June 26, a FARDC commandant in Kongolo, Katanga Province, allegedly killed a member of the Federation of Congolese Enterprises after the victim refused to pay money demanded by the commandant to buy a motorbike.

In Butembo, North Kivu Province, on July 18, FARDC soldiers of the Second Integrated Brigade allegedly killed a civilian who attempted, with others, to stop soldiers from extorting money from them.

In Fataki, Ituri District, a drunken FARDC soldier shot and killed two election workers during vote counting on October 30. The families of the victims destroyed part of nine polling centers in retribution. A military court sentenced the soldier to death.

Transitional government security forces killed suspects during apprehension or while holding them in custody.

For example, a FARDC commander in the Ituri District town of Dii arrested 19 suspects in a murder case and detained them at a military camp on January 22. One detainee allegedly died of severe mistreatment while in detention.

An elderly man in the North Kivu Province town of Kilindera died in custody on March 22, one day after military prosecutors arrested him in an attempt to force him to pay a fine. The soldiers in charge of the jail allegedly kicked him, beat him with truncheons and ropes, and forced him to march 32 miles until he died.

On September 26, guards at Kinshasa's main prison allegedly opened fire on prisoners while attempting to force them to return to their cells, killing five and wounding several others. The prisoners had rioted in reaction to a prohibition on visits by family members. There were no reports of authorities taking action against the guards involved.

Transitional government security forces killed demonstrators while attempting to disperse them (see section 2.b.).

Transitional government security forces committed other killings, including some involving beatings and excessive force, killings during election-related clashes, and accidental killings.

For example, in the South Kivu Province town of Panzi, three FARDC soldiers allegedly attempting to intimidate a civilian by firing into the air accidentally shot him in the chest, killing him on June 8.

In the Equateur Province town of Bumba, a mob burned 32 polling stations on October 29 after bullets fired by security forces attempting to restore order accidentally killed a 15-year-old boy and wounded another person. The incident occurred after security forces responded to a crowd beating the president of a voting center, who they believed had stuffed ballot boxes. There were no reports of authorities taking action against the security personnel involved.

From August 19-22, fighting in Kinshasa between guard forces loyal to Vice President Bemba and security forces loyal to President Laurent Kabila resulted in the deaths of 23 people, including several civilians. Renewed clashes on November 11 resulted in the deaths of four people, including three civilians.

Fighting in the east between armed groups and the army displaced thousands of civilians, limited humanitarian access to vulnerable populations, and resulted in or contributed to hundreds of civilian deaths, many from illness and starvation (see section 1.g.).

Colonel Simba Hussein, who was sentenced to death for killing a civilian who refused to change the colonel's tire in July 2005, was transferred to a prison in another province, from which he was paroled during the year. There were unconfirmed reports that he had returned to active service by year's end.

Unidentified armed men killed a journalist and may have been politically motivated (see section 2.a).

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that unidentified armed men in uniform forcibly entered personal residences in Kinshasa at night to harass civilians, loot personal belongings, or kill persons involved in personal feuds.

Armed groups operating outside government control committed killings of civilians, and summary executions (see section 1.g.).

During the year mob violence resulted in deaths; crowds that gathered in public places killed civilians and soldiers.

For example, on July 27, participants in a Kinshasa campaign rally for Vice President and Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) presidential candidate Bemba killed a civilian, two soldiers, and three police officers, including one by burning him alive. The mob injured 20 other police officers, looted the offices of the High Authority for Media (HAM) and the National Observatory for Human Rights (ONDH), gang raped at least one woman, and destroyed two churches and several houses. Subsequent investigation by the ONDH assigned full blame to the MLC for the incident. An MLC spokesman alleged the police victims had died in a car accident.

Civilians killed members of the security forces for allegedly committing serious crimes during the year. A mob in Mbuji Mayi, in Eastern Kasai Province, burned a policeman to death on March 21 for allegedly shooting and stabbing a civilian while attempting to rob the civilian as part of an armed gang.

On August 2, a mob of 2,000 persons in the North Kivu Province town of Katwiguru burned alive a police officer who allegedly killed a civilian while attempting to extort money from him.

During the year parents and relatives, as well as other adults, killed children accused of sorcery.

A father in the Equateur Province town of Zongo threw his five-month-old baby into a river in September for alleged sorcery. Days earlier adults in the provincial capital of Mbandaka threw a 15-year-old boy in the river for sorcery. Police made arrests in both cases.

By year's end no prosecutions had taken place against individuals who burned to death children accused of sorcery in Mbuji Mayi, Eastern Kasai Province in 2005.

There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances by government forces; however, security forces allegedly abducted civilians during the year. For example, according to MONUC, FARDC soldiers abducted four civilians from Kagaba, Ituri District in early March and later killed them. The soldiers also raped several women and dragged a 74-year-old woman more than 100 yards along the ground. There were no reports of authorities taking action against the soldiers involved.

Armed groups operating outside government control kidnapped numerous persons, often for forced labor, military service, or sexual services. Many of the victims disappeared (see section 1.g.).

On June 12, the transitional government promulgated a new law criminalizing torture; however, during the year security services continued to torture civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. There were unconfirmed reports that members of the security services tortured or abused civilians to settle personal disputes. Authorities had taken no known action against the soldiers who committed the abuses described below by year's end.

FARDC soldiers allegedly tortured a diamond digger in Mbuji Mayi, Eastern Kasai Province on March 13. Three soldiers took the digger to a cell, suspended him upside down from an electrified post, and beat him for two hours to extract the names of ex-military groups illegally working in the concession of the Mine of Bakwanga (MIBA) diamond parastatal.

Republican Guard (GR) troops arbitrarily arrested and tortured 84 fishermen in Equateur Province on August 24. The soldiers allegedly stripped, trampled, and beat the men before locking them in an underground cell in inhuman conditions for three days. They also confiscated the fishermen's voting cards.

In Kahorohoro, South Kivu Province, FARDC soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Mutupeke allegedly arrested, beat, whipped 60 times, and tortured an eighteen-year-old male on September 1 to extract confession of a crime.

Security services employed cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.

On March 28, GR Lieutenant Mukalayi accused a man in Kinshasa of denouncing the head of state and demanded $50 (26,500 Congolese francs) as a "fine." When the man failed to pay, soldiers took him to a military camp, demanded to know if he supported opposition groups, and reportedly struck him fifty times until he began to hemorrhage internally.

On May 21, a police officer in Kindu, Maniema Province arbitrarily arrested a civilian working on the political campaign of the minister of the interior. They allegedly beat the civilian seriously on his face and genitals. The officer worked for the governor, a political opponent of the minister. No known action had been taken against the soldiers by year's end.

During the year security forces killed some demonstrators and injured others while attempting to disperse them (see section 2.b.).

Human rights organizations reported that police and soldiers commonly abused homeless children, stole their possessions, and paid for sex or raped them. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), police extorted bribes from gangs of street youths to prevent harassment and colluded with them in crime and prostitution. Political groups encouraged and paid homeless children and youth gangs to disrupt public order.

At year's end there were no reports of any action taken against a FARDC officer responsible for the November 2005 arrest, whipping, and beating of a woman in Kambabma-Kaboneke.

Members of transitional government security forces raped civilians with impunity.

Members of the naval and police forces committed mass rape in the Equateur province towns of Ganda, Likako, and Likundju on March 18. They allegedly raped 34 women and three girls, attempted to rape nine others, tortured 50 civilians, and looted 120 houses.

PNC agents in the Equateur Province town of Bolongo committed mass rape during the night of August 5-6 allegedly in retaliation for opposition by the town's residents to enforcement of an arrest warrant. The agents raped 60 women, including two girls, and looted houses and buildings.

Members of transitional government security forces and of armed groups operating outside government control committed torture, rape, and otherwise physically abused numerous persons as a consequence of conflict during the year (see section 1.g.).

Conditions in most large prisons were harsh and life threatening. During the year an unknown number of persons died in prisons due to neglect; MONUC reports indicated that at least one person died each month in prisons in the country. The penal system continued to suffer from severe shortages of funds, and most prisons were severely overcrowded, in poor a state of repair, lacked sanitation facilities, or were not designed to be used as detention facilities. Health care and medical attention remained inadequate and infectious diseases were rampant. In rare cases, prison doctors provided care; however, they often lacked medicines and supplies.

In several prisons, the government has not provided food for many years. Many prisoners starved to death; food remained inadequate and malnutrition widespread. In general, prisoners' families and friends were the only source of food and other necessities. Prisoners with no one to provide food were particularly at risk. Local NGOs reported that authorities sometimes moved prisoners without telling families, making the provision of food difficult or impossible. Prison staff often forced family members to pay bribes to bring food to prisoners.

According to MONUC, two civilian detainees charged with armed robbery died in April from infected foot wounds caused by leg irons in Kongolo prison, Katanga Province.

Larger prisons sometimes had separate facilities for women and juveniles, but others generally did not. Male prisoners raped other prisoners, including men, women, and children, according to numerous credible reports. Prison officials held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners and treated both groups the same. They generally held individuals detained on state security grounds in special sections. Government security services often clandestinely transferred such prisoners to secret prisons. Civilian and military prisons and detention facilities held soldiers and civilians alike.

Harsher conditions existed in small detention facilities. These facilities were overcrowded and generally intended for short-term pretrial detention; in practice they were often used for lengthy stays. Detention center authorities often arbitrarily beat or tortured detainees. These facilities usually had no toilets, mattresses, or medical care, and detainees often received insufficient amounts of light, air, and water. The centers generally operated without dedicated funding and with minimal regulation or oversight. Detention center authorities or influential individuals frequently barred visitors or severely mistreated detainees. Guards frequently extorted bribes from family members and NGOs to visit detainees or provide food and other necessities.

The security services, particularly the intelligence services and the GR, continued to operate numerous illegal detention facilities characterized by extremely harsh and life-threatening conditions. Members of government security services regularly abused, beat, and tortured detainees incarcerated there, sometimes fatally (see sections 1.a and 1.g). Authorities routinely denied access to family members, friends, and lawyers.

According to MONUC, military jails had makeshift cells, including some that were located underground, that held military and sometimes civilian detainees. MONUC confirmed multiple cases of torture in detention centers run by security services. These facilities lacked adequate food and water, toilets, mattresses, and medical care, and authorities routinely denied prisoners access to their families, friends, and lawyers.

According to a March 16 MONUC report on arrests and detentions in prisons, government security forces and prison officials routinely violated prisoners' and detainees' rights. Security forces lacking legal detention authority often arrested and detained individuals. Despite a presidential decision to close illegal jails operated by the military or other security forces, none were closed during the year. The report found that 70 to 80 percent of detained persons did not see a judge for months or years, if ever.

According to the law, minors should be detained only as a last resort; however, in part due to the absence of juvenile justice or education centers, detention of minors was common. Many children endured pretrial detention as delinquents without seeing a judge, lawyer, or social worker; for orphaned children, pretrial detention often continued for months or years.

In March Amnesty International (AI) visited the Provincial Inspectorship of Kinshasa, one of the main police detention centers in the city. Out of 100 prisoners visited by AI, more than 20 showed signs of ill-treatment, including open—and sometimes fresh—wounds on legs, arms, and heads; cigarette burns; and friction burns on wrists. These prisoners had received no medical care. They allegedly were daily tied to pillars, beaten with sticks and bricks, and kicked. Those inflicting the abuse regularly demanded money. Prison officials refused AI access to the room where the abuses allegedly occurred. The deputy commander of the prison claimed no knowledge of the abuse.

Armed groups sometimes detained civilians, often for ransom (see section 1.d.), but little information was available concerning the conditions of detention.

In general, the government allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), MONUC, and some NGOs access to all official detention facilities; however, it did not allow these organizations access to illegal detention facilities.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, government security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, including journalists.

The security forces consist of the PNC, including the Rapid Intervention Police unit and the Integrated Police Unit, which has primary responsibility for law enforcement and maintaining public order and is part of the Ministry of Interior; the immigration service, also in the Ministry of the Interior; the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), which is overseen by the president's national security advisor and is responsible for internal and external security; the military intelligence service of the Ministry of Defense; the director general of migrations, responsible for border control; the GR, which reports directly to the presidency; and the FARDC, which is part of the Ministry of Defense and is generally responsible for external security, but also has limited internal security responsibilities.

The overall level of police professionalism increased noticeably during the year; for example, recently trained police showed considerable restraint during the July 27 violence in Kinshasa that resulted in the death of several members of the security forces (see section 1.a). However, military forces generally remained ineffective, lacked training, received little pay, and were vulnerable to corruption.

During the year members of the police, military, and other security forces attacked, detained, robbed, and extorted money from civilians. According to HRW, some police officers colluded with petty criminals and prostitutes for a share of their earnings. The transitional government prosecuted and disciplined some violators; however, the vast majority acted with impunity. Although mechanisms existed to investigate violations by police, the police used them only sporadically.

There continued to be instances where police failed to prevent or respond to societal violence (see section 1.a.); however, during the year the transitional government continued to cooperate with MONUC and members of the international community on police training programs.

Under the law, certain police officers and senior security officers are authorized to order arrests. Offenses punishable by more than six months' imprisonment require warrants. Detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours. Those arrested must be informed of their rights, must be told why they were arrested, and must not be arrested in place of a family member. They may not be arrested for nonpenal offenses, such as debt and civil offenses. Arrested individuals must also be allowed to contact their families and consult with attorneys. In practice, security officials routinely violated all of these requirements.

Police often arbitrarily arrested and detained persons without filing charges, often to extort money from family members. Authorities rarely pressed charges in a timely manner and often created contrived or overly vague charges. No functioning bail system existed, and detainees had little access to legal counsel if unable to pay. Incommunicado detention was common; security forces regularly held suspects before acknowledging their detention or allowing them contact with family or counsel.

Police arrested persons during the year for criticizing the government.

Government security forces used the pretext of state security to arbitrarily arrest individuals. They arrested and detained individuals in the name of state security and frequently held them without charge, presentation of evidence, access to a lawyer, or due process.

A March 16 MONUC report found widespread illegal arrest and detention of minors, particularly street children and children associated with armed groups. Although the recruitment or retention of child soldiers is illegal, military authorities sometimes arrested demobilized child soldiers on charges of desertion and tried them in military courts. Civilian courts on occasion tried child soldiers for possessing illegal arms, even though they had been illegally recruited as combatants.

In June security forces in Mbuji Mayi, Eastern Kasai Province arrested for arms possession and arbitrarily detained 12 supporters of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) political party (see section 3).

PNC agents in Equateur Province allegedly arrested, beat, and wounded a civilian found with ripped up posters of the president on July 15.

GR soldiers arrested two aides to presidential candidate Mbuyi Kalala Alfuele on July 30. The soldiers allegedly blindfolded, handcuffed, and detained the aides at an unknown location until releasing them without charge the following day.

On September 20, police apprehended 600 adults whom they accused of participating in politically inspired gang violence in Kinshasa. They also detained 180 minors, including 20 younger than five years old apprehended with their mothers. According to MONUC, the police held them without adequate shelter, food, or water. Human rights organizations arranged for children under 15 to be released to their parents. At least 130 people, including women and children, remained in custody for more than a month without charge. Authorities released all the remaining detainees by year's end on the order of a Kinshasa judge.

On November 12, police in Kinshasa detained without charge 250 homeless adults and 87 minors, all alleged street gang members, following a gun battle between security forces and Vice President Bemba's troops the day before. The adults were transported to rural areas for forced agricultural work under a national service program; the children were released to local NGOs.

Security forces arbitrarily arrested union leaders (see section 6.a.).

Many individuals arrested experienced prolonged pretrial detention, often ranging from months to years. MONUC reported that 70 to 80 percent of detainees nationwide were in pretrial detention. Prison officials often held individuals long after their sentences had expired due to disorganization, judicial inefficiency, or corruption. In several instances when NGOs or MONUC brought cases to the attention of the government, prison officials released them. Armed groups operating outside government control in parts of the east sometimes detained civilians, often for ransom.

In November 2005 the National Assembly passed a law granting amnesty to individuals accused of war crimes and political offenses committed between August 1996 and June 2003. A December 2005 Supreme Court ruling excluded amnesty for individuals allegedly involved in the assassination of then president Laurent Kabila, which the ruling identified as a criminal, rather than political, act.

Annie Kalumbu, jailed since 2001 for allegedly plotting against Laurent Kabila, left prison under amnesty February 15. According to African Association for the Defense of Human Rights (ASADHO), she began receiving death threats February 22 and went into hiding. Her whereabouts were unknown. MONUC and the local NGO VSV alleged that at least one other individual accused of plotting against Laurent Kabila long before his assassination continued in detention.

The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary remained poorly paid, ineffective, subject to influence by government officials, and corrupt.

The civilian judicial system, including lower courts, appellate courts, the Supreme Court, and the Court of State Security, continued to be largely dysfunctional. Corruption remained pervasive, particularly among magistrates, who were paid poorly and intermittently.

Military courts, which had broad discretion in sentencing and no appeal process, tried military as well as civilian defendants during the year. Although the government permitted, and in some cases provided, legal counsel, lawyers often did not have free access to defendants. The public could attend trials only at the discretion of the presiding judge.

Civil and criminal legal codes, based on Belgian and customary law, provide for the right to a speedy public trial, the presumption of innocence, and legal counsel. However, these rights were not respected in practice. While some judges allowed public access to trials, other judges, notably those presiding in rape trials, did not. There are no juries. Defendants have the right to appeal most cases except those involving national security, armed robbery, and smuggling, which the Court of State Security generally adjudicates. In some instances special military tribunals, whose jurisdiction is ill defined, adjudicate national security cases. The law provides for court-appointed counsel at state expense in certain cases, but the government often did not provide such counsel.

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees but no reliable estimates of the number. The government sometimes permitted access to political prisoners by international groups.

According to AI, on June 16, a military tribunal sentenced Fernando Kutino and two colleagues to 20 years following a brief trial. Kutino was originally charged with incitement to hatred after a May speech critical of the president; following the speech, broadcast by a radio station owned by Kutino's church, armed assailants in civilian clothes destroyed and looted the station's equipment on May 22, forcing it off the air. Press freedom NGO Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) alleged that the assailants were police officers. The court changed the charge to illegal possession of firearms, criminal conspiracy, and attempted murder (although the alleged victim refused to implicate Kutino). AI claimed that the court used evidence extracted from Kutino's codefendants under torture, and defense lawyers walked out nine days before the guilty verdict to protest the conduct of the trial. Kutino remained incarcerated at the end of the year.

On February 1, the Court of State Security sentenced Jeannete Abidje to 12 months in prison for offenses against the head of state. She claimed the president fathered her five-year-old daughter by raping her during his time as a soldier. Abidje remained in prison at year's end.

Civil courts exist for lawsuits and other disputes, but the public widely viewed them as corrupt. Magistrates were poorly paid, and the party willing to pay them the most money was generally believed to receive decisions in its favor. Most individuals could not afford the often prohibitive fees associated with filing a civil case. No civil court exists to address human rights violations. Military courts had effective jurisdiction over most human rights violations, since government security forces were the primary violators.

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence; however, security forces routinely ignored these provisions. Soldiers, deserters, and police continued to harass and rob civilians. Security forces routinely ignored legal requirements for search warrants and entered and searched homes or vehicles at will. In general those responsible for such acts remained unidentified and unpunished. Police sometimes looted homes, businesses, and schools.

FARDC soldiers occupied a school in Bulungera, North Kivu Province following a February campaign against the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda. They remained at the school for three months before a visiting minister negotiated with the regional military commander to have them relocated to an integration center.

FARDC 891st Battalion soldiers who were allied with renegade General Laurent Nkunda and not under central command authority occupied a primary school, which had served 1,388 pupils in the North Kivu Province town of Mbau, on March 30 and made it their military camp. They used doors and desks as firewood, converted classrooms to toilets, and looted the school's supplies. Military authorities did not investigate. A new regional military commander promised to remove the soldiers, but they remained in place at year's end.

Unlike in 2005, there were no reports that ANR security agents monitored mail passing through private express delivery companies and the state mail service. The government was widely believed to monitor some telephone communications.

Throughout the country authorities sometimes arrested or beat a relative or associate of a person they were seeking to arrest.

For example, on April 1, in the South Kivu Province town of Uvira, PNC officers searching unsuccessfully for a man apprehended his wife and their infant child instead. The woman claimed the officers beat her with a club. No known action was taken against the officers.

On August 12, ANR agents in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province arrested two civilians in place of their employer who was accused of theft. The agents allegedly tied up and beat one of them before a senior officer intervened.

The officer who ordered the 2005 beating by Lubumbashi police of Mimi Mbayo in place of her husband remained unpunished.

Armed groups operating outside government control in the east routinely subjected civilians to arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence (see section 1.g.).

Internal conflict continued in rural and mineral-rich parts of the east, particularly in Ituri District, northern Katanga province, and the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu. Unlike in the previous year, there was no confirmation of reports of Rwanda or Uganda providing material support to armed groups that operated and committed human rights abuses in the country, or of the presence of Rwandan soldiers in the country.

Security forces and numerous armed groups continued to kill abduct, torture, and rape civilians, and burn and destroy villages. The security forces and armed groups continued to use mass rape and sexual violence with impunity as weapons of war and to humiliate and punish victims, families, and communities. There were also sporadic reports of death or injury from landmines laid during the 1998-2003 war.

Fighting between the FARDC and armed groups continued to cause population displacements and limited access to conflict areas by humanitarian groups. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), fighting between armed groups and the FARDC displaced more than 100,000 civilians in Katanga Province and at least 37,000 civilians in North Kivu Province during the year.

Security forces and armed groups continued to recruit and maintain child soldiers in their ranks. A June 13 report of the UN secretary general on children and armed conflict in the country, which covered the period July 2005 to May, found continued recruitment and use of children in security forces and armed groups. Perpetrators included transitional government security forces, FARDC forces allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority, Mai Mai militia, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

At year's end more than 20,000 children, including nearly 3,000 girls, had been demobilized from government security services and armed groups. NGOs estimated that as many as 30,000 children were once associated with armed groups. Although there were no reliable statistics, most credible sources, including the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), estimated that at least 3,000 children had yet to be demobilized and remained in the ranks of or held by armed groups. According to an October AI report, girls accounted for 15 to 40 percent of the child soldiers, but in some areas they constituted less that 2 percent of child soldiers demobilized. AI attributed the discrepancy to a belief by NGOs working with child soldiers that girls among armed groups were either dependents or "wives" of adult fighters.

Recruitment of children began as young as age six, according to AI. Some children were forcibly recruited, while others enrolled for food, protection, or to escape poverty. Child soldiers faced violence from older soldiers and armed conflict. They were also exploited as porters or sex slaves.

At times, verification of reported abuses in the east was difficult due to geographical remoteness and hazardous security conditions; however, MONUC's presence allowed observers to gather more information than would have otherwise been possible, and according to local NGOs, helped decrease human rights violations by armed groups during the year.

Government forces arbitrarily arrested, raped, tortured, and summarily executed or otherwise killed civilians and looted villages during military actions against armed groups during the year. During the year the government conducted some trials for abuses committed in the context of internal conflicts in the east. In general, the trials were flawed, and sentences were not always enforced.

Clashes between FARDC troops and the FDLR in Nyamilima, North Kivu Province in June resulted in the deaths of eight civilians. FARDC soldiers allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority allegedly shot and killed three children at close range.

On November 4, a military court sentenced a FARDC army captain to 20 years in prison for ordering the killing of five children in Ituri District in 2005. According to MONUC he and his officers had ordered the children to carry goods looted from their village after the FARDC conducted an operation against Ituri militia. The captain then claimed the children were militiamen and ordered his men to kill them.

Rape by security forces remained a serious problem. Civilian officials prosecuted rape more frequently than military justice courts; military perpetrators enjoyed almost total impunity. Police, army and navy personnel, and ex-soldiers allegedly raped 32 women and two girls and systematically looted 120 homesteads in Waka, Equateur Province on March 19. Three suspects were arrested in June; the rest remained at large.

During the year MONUC reported increased sexual violence by FARDC soldiers near Uvira, South Kivu Province against girls as young as 10 years old. The commanding officer of the battalion refused to hand over accused soldiers, although judicial authorities had issued warrants for their arrest.

On April 12 a military court in Songo Mboyo, Equateur Province sentenced seven former MLC militia members to life in prison for crimes against humanity, including the December 2003 mass rape of more than 119 women. This ruling was the first judicial action against military personnel accused of crimes against humanity. The judge also found the transitional government responsible for the acts of the MLC soldiers. He ordered it to pay $10,000 (5.3 million Congolese francs) to the family of each woman who died as a result of the sexual assaults, $5,000 (2.65 million Congolese francs) to each survivor of sexual assault, and $3,000 (1.59 million Congolese francs) to each business owner whose shop was looted. On October 21, five of the former militia members escaped from Mbandaka military prison and had not been found by year's end.

On June 20, a military court in Mbandaka, Equateur Province convicted 42 FARDC soldiers for murders and rapes committed in 2005, which it considered crimes against humanity.

Security forces recruited children and used them as soldiers during the year although the exact number was not known. In March MONUC identified 22 children among soldiers of the Fifth Integrated FARDC Brigade in Katanga Province. It found that FARDC Captain Mulenga in South Kivu Province had eight children in his ranks. He and his troops had also allegedly abducted five girls that month. Authorities later replaced the brigade's commanding officer.

Unlike in 2005, there were no reports that local authorities attempted to recruit child soldiers for armed groups.

Security forces arbitrarily arrested former (demobilized) child soldiers (see section 1.d.).

Renegade General Nkunda, a former officer of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebel group and later of the FARDC, remained subject to a September 2005 international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2002. Based in a location in North Kivu Province well known to and monitored by the transitional government security forces and MONUC, General Nkunda continued to control an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 FARDC soldiers who operated outside the transitional government's central command authority, although the government continued to pay their salaries, at least periodically.

FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority killed civilians during the year. Three soldiers of the FARDC 811th Battalion, under the command of Major Claude in Kauma, North Kivu Province, attacked and looted a farm and forced the residents to transport the looted possessions. The soldiers summarily executed a civilian who refused to comply.

FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority killed demobilized soldiers during the year. Soldiers of the 83rd Brigade beat a demobilized soldier to death on January 25 and then crucified him on a tree, allegedly for deserting the army and leaving the RCD political party.

In Bwiza, North Kivu Province, 20 demobilized soldiers died in an underground holding cell in April and May after allegedly suffering cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by soldiers of the 83rd Brigade allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority.

FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority raped civilians during the year. Soldiers of the Nkunda-allied FARDC 83rd Brigade raped up to 90 women during a conflict in Kibirizi, North Kivu Province in January. MONUC interviewed victims who claimed to have been raped by three or four soldiers, often in front of family members, including children.

FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority recruited children into the military.

FARDC brigades not under central command authority recruited children for General Nkunda in North Kivu Province during the year. Soldiers ordered new child recruits to recruit other children, sometimes at gunpoint. At least 70 children were recruited in this way. MONUC reported an additional 170 children present in the 84th Brigade under Colonel Akilimali and the 85th Brigade under Colonel Samy.

FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority also re-recruited children. For example, according to MONUC, soldiers of the 835th Battalion abducted 13 demobilized children near Kitchange in Masisi (North Kivu Province) on June 22. On July 30, these soldiers traced two ex-child soldiers to their homes and tried to persuade them to return. Child protection NGOs stopped reunifying children with families in Masisi due to the risk of re-recruitment.

Armed groups outside government control committed numerous serious abuses, especially in rural areas of North and South Kivu provinces, northern Katanga Province, and Ituri District.

During the year armed groups raped, tortured, and killed civilians often as retribution for alleged collaboration with government forces. They sometimes threatened and harassed humanitarian workers. Armed groups killed nine UN peacekeepers during the year. Unlike in 2005, there were no reports of armed groups imposing travel restrictions on humanitarian aid organizations, human rights NGOs, or journalists. Unlike in 2005, there were no reports of armed groups killing or kidnapping humanitarian workers.

Armed groups continued to use mass rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. Gang rapes were common and were often committed in front of victims' families. Rapes were often extremely violent and were generally accompanied by threats and beatings. These rapes sometimes resulted in vaginal fistula, a rupture of vaginal tissue that left women unable to control bodily functions and vulnerable to ostracism.

In some cases sexual abuses committed by various armed groups in the east were limited in time or perpetrated sporadically, by multiple individuals. Other girls and women were subjected to repeated rape over longer periods by a single perpetrator; some were forcibly abducted. These girls and women were commonly referred to as war wives, who often served both as fighters and sex slaves for their commanders.

Armed groups, including Mai Mai, continued to abduct and forcibly recruit children to serve as forced laborers, porters, combatants, war wives, and sex slaves. Credible estimates of the total number of children associated with armed groups, many of whom were between the ages of 14 and 16, varied widely from 15,000 to 30,000 in 2005. Credible sources estimated that at least 3,000 child soldiers had not yet been demobilized countrywide by year's end.

Girls associated with armed groups were often assaulted, raped, and infected with HIV/AIDS.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of uniformed armed men recruiting Congolese children in two Rwandan refugee camps for use as soldiers.

Armed groups continued to loot, extort, and illegally tax civilians in areas they occupied.

There were no credible attempts by armed groups to investigate abuses allegedly committed by their fighters since 2003 or to punish those responsible.

The FDLR, largely made up of Rwandan Hutus who fled to the DRC in 1994 after the Rwandan genocide, continued to be led by individuals responsible for executing and fomenting the genocide. Between 8,000 and 10,000 FDLR fighters and their families remained in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu. Several hundred opted to voluntarily demobilize and return to Rwanda during the year.

FDLR fighters continued to commit abuses against civilians, including killings, abductions, rapes, and recruitment of child soldiers.

On January 19, MONUC issued a report on the July 2005 attack on the South Kivu Province village of Kabingu by FDLR fighters under Commander Kyombe in reprisal for alleged collaboration by residents with the FARDC and MONUC. The report concluded that the troops killed more than 50 civilians, including more than 40 women and children burned alive or hacked to death. The troops raped 11 women and abducted four girls, killing three and compelling the fourth to become a "war wife." More than 10,000 civilians were displaced as a result of the action.

A group of FDLR fighters allegedly killed a civilian in Burugoya, South Kivu Province on May 3 and forced five local boys to transport the stolen items from his house. Only one boy returned to the village; the whereabouts of the others were unknown at year's end.

According to the Congolese Initiative for Justice and Peace, on July 23 in South Kivu Province, unidentified armed men believed to be FDLR killed and cannibalized the body of Alphonsine Nahabatabunga, one of several abductees.

The FDLR forcibly recruited children in North Kivu Province in April and allegedly gave them weapons to forcibly recruit others. One 15-year-old boy recruited in Masisi said he had recruited 20 children, and claimed 70 children already belonged to the FDLR when he joined it.

The FDLR took no known credible action to investigate or address human rights abuses by its members.

Militias in the Ituri District of Orientale Province, notably the Front for National Integration (FNI), the Congolese Revolutionary Movement (MRC), and the Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FPRI) continued to commit abuses against civilians, including killings, abductions, rapes, and child soldier recruitment.

Unlike the previous year, there were no reports that the Lendu-dominated FNI and other Lendu groups in Ituri District committed killings or rapes against civilians.

During the year more than 4,800 former combatants in Ituri District voluntarily disarmed and joined the UN demobilization process. The National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reinsertion (CONADER), set up several transit sites in Ituri but was able to fund reintegration programs for only a small number of those who had disarmed.

According to MONUC, there were reports through August that the FNI, MRC, and FPRI were continuing to recruit new militia fighters by force. On October 10, the FARDC offered colonels' commissions to militia leaders Peter Karim (FNI) and Mathieu Ngonjolo (MRC) after their surrender in July; the transitional government promised to grant their fighters amnesty, except for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and promised military command positions to Karim and Ngonjolo. On November 28, "Cobra" Matata (FPRI) signed a similar disarmament agreement in exchange for amnesty.

There were no reports of Ituri militia taking any credible actions to investigate or address human rights abuses by its members.

On March 17, the transitional government transferred custody of Thomas Lubanga of the Ituri militia Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) to the ICC, which had indicted him in February for war crimes and crimes against humanity for conscription and recruitment of child soldiers. It did not indict him for massacres, tortures, and rapes that human rights groups alleged he ordered.

In August a military tribunal in Ituri convicted Yves Kawa Panga Mandro of the UPC for crimes against humanity committed in November 2002. These included setting fire to clinics, schools, and churches, many of which were occupied.

Mai Mai militia groups in the provinces of Katanga, South Kivu, and North Kivu continued to commit abuses against civilians, including killings, abductions, rapes, and child soldier recruitment.

On May 12, Kyungu Mutanga Gedeon, a Mai Mai militia leader, surrendered to MONUC in Katanga with 150 combatants, mostly child soldiers. According to MONUC, the transitional government offered Gedeon a command position and officer's rank with integration into the army. He and his forces stood accused of at least a dozen summary executions of civilians and the destruction of numerous electoral identification cards, but at year's end he remained in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province and neither he nor his forces had been charged with any crime.

On July 6, MONUC issued a special report on human rights abuses committed in the territory of Mitwaba, Katanga Province during fighting between the FARDC and Mai Mai militia. MONUC found that between January 2005 and March, the FARDC summarily executed 33 civilians, and Mai Mai militia summarily executed 31. At least 15 civilians suspected of being Mai Mai disappeared and were allegedly executed by the FARDC after detention in Mitwaba Prison in March 2005. Between 2003 and the end of December, Mai Mai militia and the FARDC had looted and burned 24 villages in the area.

According to MONUC, Mai Mai-FARDC conflicts led to the displacement of more than 150,000 persons in Katanga during the year.

Mai Mai militias took no known credible actions to investigate or address human rights abuses by their members.

During the year there were a few allegations of sexual abuse committed by MONUC's civilian and military personnel. MONUC reported that less that 0.1 percent of all military and fewer than 2 percent of all civilian personnel were accused of sexual exploitation and abuse during the year.

There was only one serious incident potentially involving MONUC peacekeepers during the year. In August media outlets reported the existence of a child prostitution ring in South Kivu Province involving peacekeepers and FARDC soldiers. Investigations by MONUC found that most patrons were Congolese soldiers. The MONUC force commander declared brothels off-limits and reinforced military police. The allegations were referred to the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, and investigations were ongoing at year's end.

The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the transitional government restricted these rights in practice and continued to violate press freedom during the year. There were several reports of security forces attacking, arresting, detaining, threatening, or harassing journalists. Authorities ordered several radio and television stations to temporarily cease operations for violating the media code of conduct, particularly during the election campaign.

Individuals could privately criticize the transitional government, its officials, and private citizens without being subject to official reprisals, and during the year such criticism frequently appeared in the media; however, security forces arrested, detained, and harassed politicians and other high-profile figures for criticizing the president or other members of the transitional government (see sections 1.d., 3, and 6.a.).

Unlike in 2005 there were no reports of human rights activists self-censoring their reports of human rights abuses because of fear of arrest.

On September 25, the Kindu ANR arrested Shakodi Fazili, president of a civil society organization in Maniema Province, on the order of the province's governor, Koloso Sumaili. Sumaili had accused Fazili of exhorting the population to withhold taxes after Vice Governor Boniface Yemba claimed the governor was stealing from the provincial treasury. The ANR released Fazili 12 hours later following the personal intervention of the president.

Theodore Ngoy, charged with insulting the head of state in December 2005, remained in detention until March, when he escaped from a court hearing and found refuge in the South African Embassy. The court in which he was charged became defunct with the promulgation of the new constitution on February 18, and all charges against him were dropped by July 30. He remained free at year's end.

A large and active private press functioned throughout the country, and a large number of daily newspapers were licensed to publish. The transitional government required every newspaper to pay a $500 (265,000 Congolese francs) license fee and complete several administrative requirements before publishing. Many journalists lacked professional training, received little if any salary, and were vulnerable to manipulation by wealthy individuals, government officials, and politicians who provided cash or other benefits to encourage certain types of articles. While many newspapers remained critical of the transitional government, many showed bias toward it or particular political parties. Although there was no official newspaper, the government press agency published the Daily Bulletin, which included news reports, decrees, and official statements.

Radio remained the most important medium of public information due to limited literacy and the relatively high cost of newspapers and television. Numerous privately owned radio and television stations operated, in addition to two state-owned radio stations and one state-owned television station. The president's family and one vice president owned and operated their own television stations. Political parties represented in the transitional government could generally gain access to state radio and television.

Foreign journalists sometimes could not operate freely in the country due to actions by security forces or other individuals.

Security forces arrested, harassed, intimidated, and beat journalists because of their reporting. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of security forces killing or kidnapping journalists.

The GR in Kisangani assaulted and beat Anselme Masua of MONUC's Radio Okapi after he entered an army camp on April 24, although he had clearly identified himself as a journalist before doing so. By year's end there were no reports of authorities taking action against the GR soldiers responsible for the beating.

On June 10, a FARDC officer in the eastern town of Kabambare, Captain Kengo Lengo, destroyed the broadcast equipment of Tujenge Kabambare, a community radio station, temporarily knocking it off the air after it had alleged abuses by the FARDC. The officer later defended his action by claiming that the station's director had failed to answer a summons.

According to MONUC and Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), GR soldiers arrested a journalist in Kinshasa on June 25 and handcuffed him, beat him with cords, and subjected him to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment for five hours. They then detained him for three days at a military camp, Camp Tshatshi, and accused him of possessing an inflammatory photo showing President Kabila with Rwandan President Kagame. There were no reports of authorities taking any action against the soldiers.

On July 3, the transitional government expelled from the country Radio France International journalist Ghislaine Dupont. According to CPJ, Dupont was known to be critical of the president.

PNC officers detained two foreign journalists, Arnaud Zajtman of the BBC and Marlene Rabaud of Reuters, pointed a machine gun at them, and held them in a police car for three hours and then in a jail overnight on October 26 before releasing them. The journalists were covering a prison riot in Kinshasa.

Police arrested two journalists in Kinshasa between November 21 and 25 following the destruction of the Supreme Court building by a pro-Bemba mob: Clement Nku, a cameraman for Vice President Bemba's Canal Congo Television (CCTV), and Mbaka Bosange, a reporter for the weekly newspaper Mambenga. Police arrested Nku after he filmed police officers abandoning their uniforms and equipment to flee the mob. By year's end, Nku was released but Bosange remained in jail.

The trial of three FARDC soldiers accused of committing the November 2005 killings of journalist Frank Ngyke and his wife in Kinshasa was repeatedly postponed on technical grounds, and no verdict had been delivered by year's end. Two members of press freedom NGO Journalist in Danger (JED) claimed they received death threats in January after publishing the results of their investigation of the killings.

The 2005 robbing and attempted killing of Radio Okapi journalist Jean Ngandu by uniformed soldiers remained under investigation at year's end.

There was no additional information available on Jean-Marie Kanku, who was released on bail in 2005 after being charged with disseminating false information.

No action was taken against security forces who beat or harassed journalists in 2005, including the PNC officers who beat radio editor Kawanda Bakiman Nkorabishen, or in 2004.

The HAM, a quasi-governmental organization mandated by the transitional constitution, imposed sanctions on both privately owned and state-owned media during the year, particularly during the election campaign, for inciting ethnic hatred or violence and for violating media regulations intended to ensure balanced electoral reporting. The sanctions included broadcast suspensions of several days or weeks.

On July 19, the HAM suspended six television stations, including government-owned outlets, for 72 hours for violating regulations on electoral reporting.

On August 16, the HAM placed 24-hour sanctions on Vice President Bemba's CCTV, state-owned National Radio-Television (RTNC-1), and the pro-Kabila Radio TV Armee de l'Eternel (RTAE) for inciting violence. The suspensions were a result of RTAE's presentation of footage of the lynching and torture of police officers at a July 27 campaign rally for Vice President Bemba in Kinshasa (see section 1.a.); RTNC-1's extensive coverage of the police officers' funeral, during which the minister of the interior blamed the killings on Vice President Bemba's MLC party; and CCTV's presentation of footage of a 1998 bombing by then president Laurent Kabila's forces in Equateur Province.

The HAM limited the number of print and broadcast media that could cover the official electoral campaign to those specifically accredited to do so by the HAM.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of police seizing newspapers from street vendors.

The transitional government used criminal libel laws to suppress criticism of political leaders, usually the head of state, and limit press freedom.

On June 8, authorities in Tshikapa, Western Kasai Province arrested Pierre-Sosthene Kambidi, a journalist for radio station Concorde FM, after he allegedly defamed a police commander during a June 7 broadcast by accusing him of committing police brutality. On June 10, a court convicted Kambidi of defamation and sentenced him to three months in jail. Pending appeal of his conviction, the court released Kambidi on June 14 after he posted $50 (26,500 Congolese francs) bail. Community radio stations throughout the country stopped broadcasting on June 17 to protest the conviction and other press freedom cases. No further information was available at year's end.

On May 30, the Court of State Security found Patrice Booto, the editor of Le Journal arrested in November 2005, guilty of insulting the head of state and sentenced him to six months in prison and a $500 (265,000 Congolese francs) fine. The charge stemmed from an article that Booto published claiming--without evidence--that the president gave $30 million to Tanzania for its education budget while the transitional government remained in a payment dispute with teachers. On July 27, after Booto paid the fine and spent nine months in jail, an appeals court found him guilty of reporting false information but acquitted him of insulting the head of state, resulting in his release on August 3.

During the year there were reports of unidentified persons killing a journalist; kidnapping, beating, threatening, and harassing other journalists; and forcing at least one radio station to temporarily close.

For example, Kabeya Pindi Pasi, a television journalist and president of the Congolese National Press Union, received anonymous death threats on May 16 after he reported alleged human rights abuses by Vice President Bemba and the MLC. He fled the country but returned shortly thereafter.

On July 8, unidentified armed persons killed freelance newspaper journalist Louis Bapuwa Mwamba after forcibly entering his Kinshasa home. The day before his death, daily newspaper Le Phare had published a commentary by Mwamba criticizing authorities and the international community for what he deemed to be the failure of the country's political transition. It was not clear whether the killing was politically motivated; local sources said the attackers took only Mwamba's cell phone. On July 25, authorities in the southwestern port city of Matadi arrested and detained a former soldier, Vungu Mbembe, and two civilians, Mangenele Lowawi and Kunku Makwala Sekula, and charged them with Mwamba's murder. No trial date had been set by year's end.

On October 12, unidentified armed men destroyed broadcast antennas at a private television station owned by Vice President Bemba in the Katanga province town of Lubumbashi, according to JED.

The transitional government did not restrict access to the Internet or monitor e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail. Private entrepreneurs made Internet access available at moderate prices through Internet cafes in large cities throughout the country. Poor infrastructure and high prices limited the ability of all but the wealthiest to have Internet access in their homes.

Unlike in the previous year, the transitional government did not restrict academic freedom or cultural events.

In October the HAM ordered radio stations not to broadcast campaign songs that called for violence; no stations were sanctioned during the year.

The constitution provides for the right of freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the transitional government restricted this right in practice. The transitional government treated the right to assemble as subordinate to maintenance of public order and continued to require all organizers of public events to inform local authorities before holding a public event. According to the law, organizers are authorized to hold an event unless the local government denies authorization in writing within five days of notification. Security forces often dispersed unregistered protests, marches, or meetings and sometimes dispersed authorized protests and marches.

Security forces restricted the rights of several political party members to organize, hold protests, campaign, and publicize their views (see section 3). Some domestic human rights NGOs claimed to have been harassed and monitored by members of the security forces (see section 4).

During the year transitional government security forces killed demonstrators while dispersing crowds. There were no reports of authorities taking action to address these killings.

On May 4, FARDC soldiers in Bukavu, South Kivu Province fired on a crowd protesting insecurity in the city. A child, Noelle Buhendwa, was killed by shots fired by a FARDC captain.

On July 11, police dispersed a peaceful demonstration in Kinshasa. Although organizers had informed local authorities as required, the governor of Kinshasa had not authorized the demonstration and ordered police to halt it. One civilian lost most of his fingers to a tear gas canister explosion, and another fell into a coma after breathing tear gas.

On June 30, heavily armed FARDC soldiers in the Bas-Congo Province town of Matadi fired indiscriminately at a demonstration by Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) separatists after a BDK member attacked and killed a soldier. The soldiers killed 13 civilians and injured 20. The ONDH issued a report assigning responsibility for the deaths to the commander of the Second Military Region who, believing the protesters were armed, had deployed FARDC troops. ONDH also blamed the BDK for violating the law requiring advance notification of rallies.

The transitional government took no known action against security forces responsible for using excessive force against demonstrators in 2005.

During the year police occasionally arrested demonstrators.

On September 11, police arrested 10 civilians in Tshikapa, Western Kasai Province, during a peaceful demonstration about which they had informed the local administration 48 hours before. Authorities detained the 10 for 24 hours and released them the next day.

The constitution provides for freedom of association; however, in practice the transitional government sometimes restricted this right. During the year the transitional government sometimes harassed political parties, including party leaders, and restricted the registration of at least one political party (see section 3).

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice, provided that worshipers did not disturb public order or contradict commonly held morals.

The law provides for the establishment and operation of religious institutions and requires practicing religious groups to register with the government; registration requirements were simple and implemented in a nondiscriminatory manner. In practice unregistered religious groups operated unhindered.

In June FARDC soldiers fired on a demonstration by the separatist group BDK after adherents attacked and killed a soldier (see section 2.b.). The BDK, an ethnically based spiritual and political movement that continued to call for the establishment of an "ethnically pure" kingdom of the Bakongo people, remained outlawed for its separatist, political goals and its implication in acts of violence.

Unlike the previous year, there were no reports of violence against missionaries.

During the year the government banned all religious radio and television stations from broadcasting political and news programs because these were not consistent with their licenses. In practice the stations did not comply with the ban and were not sanctioned.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of the HAM suspending a religious broadcast station.

The country has a very small Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

The law provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; however, the transitional government occasionally restricted these rights.

Security forces established barriers and checkpoints on roads, at ports, airports, and markets, ostensibly for security reasons, and routinely harassed and extorted money from civilians for supposed violations, sometimes detaining them until a relative paid. The transitional government forced travelers to pass through immigration procedures during domestic travel at airports, lake ports, and when entering and leaving towns.

Local authorities in North and South Kivu Provinces routinely required travelers to present official travel orders from an employer or transitional government official.

The significant risk of rape perpetrated by uniformed men restricted freedom of movement by women in many areas.

Armed groups in the east restricted or prevented freedom of movement during the year. They also harassed travelers and often raped women.

Passport issuance was irregular and often required payment of significant bribes. The law requires married women to have their husband's permission in order to travel outside the country; however, there were no reports that the transitional government prevented particular groups from acquiring passports.

Dissident politician Joseph Olenghankoy, whose passport was temporarily confiscated in 2005 and who subsequently left the country, returned and ran for president and subsequently managed Vice President Bemba's second-round presidential campaign.

The law prohibits forced exile, and there were no reports that the transitional government used forced exile.

The government did not restrict emigration or prohibit the return of citizens who had left the country.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of mistreatment of repatriated asylum seekers.

As of June 30, MONUC estimated there were approximately 1.1 million IDPs, concentrated in the east, particularly in North Kivu Province (see section 1.g.).

Military operations conducted by the FARDC with MONUC support against armed groups outside government control led to internal displacement of many persons during the year. Attacks on local populations by armed groups also caused significant displacements (see section 1.g).

The transitional government did not provide protection or assistance to IDPs, who continued to rely exclusively on humanitarian organizations for assistance. The transitional government generally allowed domestic and international humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to IDPs. Fighting between the FARDC and armed groups sometimes restricted the ability of humanitarian organizations to assist IDPs (see section 1.g.). The transitional government did not attack or target IDPs, nor did it forcibly return or resettle IDPs under dangerous conditions. However, in April MONUC reported that FARDC soldiers had subjected numerous IDPs to forced labor in cassiterite mines in Mitwaba, Katanga Province.

On several occasions, armed groups denied access to IDPs by humanitarian organizations or obstructed their ability to deliver supplies (see section 1.g.).

The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the transitional government had established a rudimentary system for providing protection to refugees. In practice, it granted refugee and asylum status and provided protection against refoulement, the return to a country where individuals feared persecution.

The transitional government provided temporary protection to an undetermined number of individuals who may not have qualified as refugees under the 1951 convention and its 1967 protocol.

The transitional government cooperated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.

Two Sudanese claiming to be refugees accused the border patrol of arbitrarily detaining them. They were released the same day. A MONUC investigation was unable to verify their status as refugees.

Transitional government authorities did not provide adequate security to refugees.

Unlike in the previous year there were no reports that uniformed armed men recruited children in refugee camps for use as soldiers.

The constitution provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through credible presidential, parliamentary, and provincial elections based on universal suffrage.

Nearly 18 million of 25 million registered voters participated in the July 30 presidential and parliamentary elections. More than 15 million voters participated in the October 29 presidential run-off and provincial elections. Voters elected Kabila president on October 29 with 58 percent of the run-off vote; his opponent, Vice President Bemba, received 42 percent. The top three vote-receiving parties in the national legislative elections were the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy, allied with President Kabila; Vice President Bemba's MLC party; and Gizenga's United Lumumbist Party, which subsequently entered into coalition with the AMP. Parties affiliated with President Kabila's AMP coalition won majorities in eight of the 11 provincial assemblies.

The Carter Center identified deficiencies in voting and ballot collection procedures in the first round of voting. The Carter Center and the EU noted substantial progress in correcting these deficiencies prior to the second round.

The Supreme Court dismissed claims by Vice President Bemba that massive fraud had occurred during the October 29 vote and subsequent count. Both the Carter Center and the EU confirmed that irregularities had occurred and involved both sides but that those irregularities were not of a magnitude to change the presidential election's outcome.

African election observers also judged the July 30 and October 29 elections credible. The African Union found that any irregularities were not serious enough to undermine the credibility of the elections. The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum said the elections conformed to regional electoral norms and standards. The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa both stated that voters were able to express their democratic choices without hindrance.

There were reports of isolated cases of violence, including two accidental killings by security forces, but there was no evidence to suggest that the violence was intended to prevent, or that it prevented, citizens from voting. However, there were also reports of interference with voting rights. For example, some members of the security forces in the provinces of Katanga and North Kivu allegedly confiscated electoral cards and demanded cash for their return before the July 30 elections.

In July participants in a Kinshasa campaign rally for MLC presidential candidate Bemba killed a civilian and members of security forces, destroyed property, and committed rape (see section 1.a.).

On October 29, a crowd burned down several polling stations in Equateur Province after security forces accidentally killed a bystander (see section 1.a.).

MONUC reported that on October 29, FARDC soldiers stopped a group of more than 200 citizens on their way to vote and subjected them to physical abuse in Aveba, Ituri District. In Nizi, also in Ituri District, FARDC soldiers established a checkpoint and demanded money from travelers, including citizens on their way to vote. In both cases, the FARDC regional military commander arrested several soldiers for their actions. No additional information was available at year's end.

On November 21, after Vice President Bemba's attorneys formally contested the provisional election results, Bemba's supporters set the Supreme Court building on fire. UN forces restored order after riot police fled the scene. Bemba supporters beat one police officer. The Supreme Court confirmed the election results on November 27, and Vice President Bemba agreed to abide by the results.

Some privately owned and state broadcast stations provided overtly biased, unbalanced, or false election coverage favoring certain candidates. The HAM sanctioned state and privately owned broadcast stations during the campaign for inciting ethnic hatred or violence and for violating media regulations intended to ensure balanced electoral reporting. The HAM sanctioned stations favoring Vice President Bemba more frequently than stations favoring President Kabila, and most observers said they believed that pro-Kabila stations also violated the media code of conduct and were sanctioned, but they did not commit as many infractions as pro-Bemba stations did (see section 2.a.). On numerous occasions during the campaign, broadcast stations owned by Bemba or his supporters promoted ethnic hatred. Vice President Bemba's campaign used ethnic slurs in reference to President Kabila and alleged that Kabila, who spent part of his youth outside the country, was a foreigner.

Candidates standing for election who already held positions in the transitional government--particularly those who owned private broadcast stations--had considerably more access to media than those who did not.

Individuals could freely declare their candidacies and stand for election as long as they legally registered. During the year the CEI disallowed the registration of five political parties for technical reasons, but registered more than 200 other political parties.

Unlike in previous years, the government did not require political parties to apply for permits to hold press conferences.

Security forces restricted the rights of several politicians, including members of the transitional government, to organize, protest, campaign, and publicize their views.

On May 24, security forces surrounded the homes of 11 presidential candidates prior to a planned protest, allegedly for their security. Security forces denied entry and exit of all persons throughout the day.

On June 27, the ANR arrested 12 UDPS party members for arms possession and arbitrarily detained them in a military camp in Mbuji Mayi, Eastern Kasai Province. Four were released on June 29, four on July 1, and four on July 29. No charges were ever brought against those arrested. The UDPS boycotted the electoral process and some of its members initiated and threatened violence against would-be voters in the Kasai provinces before and during the first round of voting.

MONUC reported that ANR officers in Kalemie and Lubumbashi, Katanga Province, and Uvira, South Kivu Province, made more than 30 arrests for political reasons and mistreated and tortured some of the detainees who were members or supporters of political parties. There were no reports of authorities taking action against those responsible for these actions.

A North Kivu local administrator and PNC officers allegedly prevented a delegation of the Christian Federalist Democracy-Convention of Federalists for Christian Democracy alliance from campaigning after 6 p.m. on July 18. The officers allegedly tried to extort money from the delegation and banned them from campaigning in the area of Luofu, North Kivu Province.

AMP candidates and campaigners alleged that the FARDC 83rd Brigade, which was allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority, threatened them with violence and prevented them from campaigning on July 18. A later agreement between Nkunda, MONUC, and the CEI to allow AMP campaigning for the second round of presidential elections was not consistently respected by Nkunda's forces (see section 1.g).

On July 30, GR soldiers reportedly arrested two aides to a presidential candidate and kept them blindfolded at an unknown location for a day (see section 1.d.).

Five of 36 appointed cabinet ministers and three of 24 appointed vice ministers in the transitional government were women. Women held 60 of the 620 appointed seats in the transitional parliament and 42 of 500 seats in the newly elected National Assembly.

During the year one Tutsi, from North Kivu Province, was elected to the National Assembly.

Corruption remained endemic throughout the transitional government and security forces. The public perceived the transitional government to be widely corrupt at all levels. According to NGO Transparency International (TI), both resident and nonresident experts perceived corruption among the country's public officials to be "rampant," the most severe assessment designation used by TI.

Weak financial controls and lack of a functioning judicial system encouraged officials to engage in corruption with impunity. Many civil servants, police, and soldiers had not been paid in years, received irregular salaries, or did not earn enough to support their families, all of which encouraged corruption. For example, local authorities continued to extort "taxes" and "fees" from boats traveling on many parts of the Congo River.

The mining sector lost millions of dollars to widespread theft, corruption, and fraud involving government officials. According to a July report by Global Witness, transitional government officials actively colluded with trading companies to circumvent control procedures and payment of taxes, extorting large sums of money in a system of institutionalized corruption. HRW reported that armed groups, government officials and, increasingly, military officers continued to profit from the illegal exploitation of the country's mineral resources, often in collusion with foreign interests.

The government took some steps to combat corruption. For example, in February, the National Assembly's Lutundula Commission, named for its chairman, released a report detailing corruption in the awarding of 60 wartime mining and business contracts. The report implicated many senior politicians, some of whom were fired from high-ranking positions as a result. The report was funded by the World Bank and was widely available on the Internet, but its findings and recommendations were not debated by the Assembly. According to HRW, some commission members said they received death threats.

The law requires the post-transition president and ministers to disclose their assets. The president did so following his December inauguration.

There continued to be an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, but it had little impact during the year and lacked resources, independence, and credibility.

Through the use of defamation laws that carry criminal punishments, transitional government authorities and wealthy individuals sometimes restricted the freedom of press and speech on occasions when the media investigated or made accusations of government corruption.

The law does not provide for public access to government-held information, and in practice the government did not grant access to government documents for citizens or noncitizens, including foreign media, although there were no reports of requests for access.

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights organizations investigated and published findings on human rights cases. The Human Rights Ministry and the ONDH worked with NGOs and MONUC during the year and responded to their requests and recommendations. However, security forces harassed and arrested domestic human rights advocates, and prison officials sometimes obstructed NGO access to detainees.

The main Kinshasa-based domestic human rights organizations included ASADHO, VSV, Groupe Jeremie, the Committee of Human Rights Observers, and the Christian Network of Human Rights and Civic Education Organizations. Prominent organizations operating in areas outside Kinshasa included Heirs of Justice in Bukavu, South Kivu Province; Lotus Group and Justice and Liberation in Kisangani, Orientale Province; and Justice Plus in Bunia, Ituri District. The transitional government's human rights bodies met with domestic NGOs and sometimes responded to their inquiries but took no known actions.

For example, according to MONUC, armed men, who were believed to be soldiers of the FARDC 813th battalion allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority, abducted and killed a local NGO member in the North Kivu Province town of Masisi; the person was reportedly killed for calling on soldiers to join the demobilization process.

VSV President Floribert Chebeya Bahizire and Vice President Dolly Mbunga alleged that the ANR placed them under continuous surveillance after they disseminated a posters intended to persuade citizens not to vote in the general elections. VSV alleged that the ANR monitored visitors and members at the VSV office. On July 26, VSV closed its Kinshasa office, and both leaders went into hiding. By year's end, they had resumed their positions.

The case of two FARDC soldiers arrested for killing human rights activist Pascal Kabungula Kibembi in Bukavu, South Kivu Province in July 2005 remained unresolved, and neither soldier remained in custody.

There were reports that local NGOs which did not pay bribes to local officials were subjected to lengthy registration requirements.

Unlike in 2005, there were no reports of domestic NGOs censoring their own reports about human rights abuses or corruption by authorities.

During the year unidentified armed men threatened and harassed NGO members, particularly in the east.

For example, according to HRW, two domestic human rights activists in the North Kivu town of Goma, Richard Bayunda and Sheldon Hangi, received threatening telephone calls in January and February. Unidentified armed men also came to their homes at night on one occasion in February but were unable to gain entry. The two activists had returned after fleeing the country in 2005 following death threats.

On March 18, a member of the National Union of Federalists of the Congo political party threatened Hubert Tshiswaka, director of Action against Impunity for Human Rights, after he issued a press release calling on citizens not to vote for human rights violators. On April 1, he received a death threat via an anonymous phone call, according to AI.

According to MONUC, a domestic human rights activist in Ituri District received anonymous death threats between July 5 and July 10, allegedly because of his cooperation with MONUC and the ICC in the Thomas Lubanga case.

The transitional government generally cooperated with international NGOs, which published several reports on human rights and humanitarian issues, and permitted them access to conflict areas. However, there were some exceptions.

For example, in September the ANR detained the head of the Bukavu office of the International Rescue Committee, Sylvie Louchez, and demanded to see several identification and registration papers before releasing her. In October the ANR detained the head of the Bukavu office of the NGO War Child for seven hours. The NGO paid a bribe to secure her release.

During the year unidentified persons threatened members of international NGOs. For example, a senior researcher for HRW reported that she and other staff members regularly received anonymous death threats following the publication of reports on human rights violations during the year.

The transitional government cooperated with multilateral organizations and permitted international humanitarian agencies access to conflict areas. A number of senior UN officials visited the country during the year, including Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno and Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari.

On June 13, the UN Security Council received a report of the UN secretary general on children and armed conflict in the country (see section 1.g.).

On March 16, MONUC issued reports on the detention of children and justice for minors (see section 5) and on arrests and detentions in prisons (see section 1.d.).

MONUC also issued special reports on human rights violations and abuses committed in the territory of Mitwaba, Katanga in 2005 and on the attack on Kabingu village in South Kivu Province in July 2005 (see section 1.g).

UN officials freely criticized actions by the transitional government during the year.

Armed groups killed nine UN peacekeepers during the year (see section 1.g.).

Unlike in 2005, there were no reports of armed groups in the east imposing travel restrictions on humanitarian aid workers or local NGOs.

The transitional constitution mandated an independent ONDH and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Both entities lacked resources and were generally regarded as ineffective. Although the transitional government did not actively interfere with their investigations, neither did it cooperate with them.

On August 8, the ONDH reported its findings on two incidents: the transitional government's use of force against BDK adherents in June (see section 2.b.) and mob violence associated with an election rally in Kinshasa on July 27 (see section 1.a.).

During the year, the transitional government cooperated with the ICC, which continued conducting investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the country since July 2002. In March the government transferred to the ICC custody of an Ituri militia leader indicted for recruitment of child soldiers (see section 1.g.).

The government continued to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). ICTR investigators operated freely in areas under government control, seeking a number of individuals indicted for involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide whom they believed might be in the DRC.

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on ethnicity, sex, or religious affiliation; however, the government did not enforce these prohibitions effectively, in part because it lacked appropriate institutions.

Domestic violence against women occurred throughout the country; however, there were no statistics available regarding its extent. Although the law considers assault a crime, it does not specifically address spousal abuse, and police rarely intervened in domestic disputes. Judges set the penalties for those convicted of assault, and the laws establish minimum penalties. There were no reports of judicial authorities taking action in cases of domestic or spousal abuse.

The law criminalizes rape, but the government did not effectively enforce this law. On June 22, the transitional parliament approved a new sexual violence law, which broadened the definition of rape to include male victims, and which addressed sexual slavery, sexual harassment, forced pregnancy, and other sexual crimes not previously covered by law. It also increased penalties for sexual violence, prohibited compromise fines, allowed victims of sexual violence to waive appearance in court, and permitted closed hearings to protect confidentiality. The law neither mentions sexual violence in marriage nor prohibits spousal rape.

Rape was common throughout the country; however, there were no available statistics regarding its prevalence. The minimum penalty prescribed for rape was a prison sentence of five to 12 years. Prosecutions for rape and other types of sexual violence remained rare. It was common for family members to instruct a rape victim to keep quiet about the incident, even to health care professionals, to safeguard the reputations of the victim and her family. The press rarely reported incidents of violence against women or children; press reports of rape generally appeared only if it occurred in conjunction with another crime, or if NGOs reported on the subject.

Girls and women who had been raped often found it difficult to find husbands, and married women who were raped were often abandoned by their husbands.

Some families forced rape victims to marry the men who raped them or to forego prosecution in exchange for money or goods from the rapist.

Transitional government security forces, armed groups, and civilians perpetrated widespread rape against women and girls (see section 1.g).

Victims and experts cited widespread impunity as the main reason sexual violence continued. A small number of sexual violence cases, mostly committed by civilians, have been brought to court. In general, however, most victims did not have sufficient confidence in the justice system to pursue formal legal action for fear of subjecting themselves to further humiliation and possible reprisal.

The law does not prohibit female genital mutilation (FGM), and FGM was rarely practiced.

The constitution prohibits forced prostitution and bans prostitution of children under age 18. Although there were no available statistics regarding its prevalence, adult and child prostitution occurred throughout the country, and there were reports of women and girls pressured or forced to engage in prostitution by their families. Security forces encouraged prostitution and used prostitutes, and there were unconfirmed reports that security forces harassed and raped prostitutes.

There were reports that women were trafficked (see section 5, Trafficking).

Sexual harassment occurred throughout the country; however, no statistics existed regarding its prevalence. The new sexual violence law prohibits sexual harassment, and the minimum penalty prescribed by law is a prison sentence of one to 20 years; however, by year's end judicial authorities had yet to bring charges in a single case.

Women experienced economic discrimination. The law forbids women from working at night or accepting employment without their husband's consent. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), women often received less pay in the private sector than men doing the same job and rarely occupied positions of authority or high responsibility.

The government budgeted little for children's welfare and did not make it a priority. Primary school education was not compulsory, free, or universal, and very few functioning government-funded schools existed. Most schooling was provided by religious organizations. Public and private schools expected--but did not require--parents to pay fees as contributions to teachers' salaries. In practice, parents funded 80 to 90 percent of school expenses. These expected contributions, plus the loss of labor while the child was in school, meant that many parents could not afford to enroll their children. According to the United Nations Development Program, approximately 3.5 million primary school-age children and more than six million adolescents did not attend school during the year. Attendance rates for girls were lower because many parents with meager financial resources preferred to send their sons to school. Barely half of all children reached grade five, and less than 1 percent of primary school children went on to complete secondary education.

The law prohibits all forms of child abuse. Its extent was unknown and had not been investigated. The constitution prohibits parental abandonment of children due to the children's alleged practice of sorcery; such accusations led to cases of child abandonment, child abuse, and killings (see section 1.a.). Although authorities made a few arrests related to child abandonment and abuse during the year, no cases had been prosecuted by year's end. NGOs concluded that that 60 to 70 percent of the country's more than 50,000 homeless children were abandoned by their families after being accused of sorcery. Many churches in the capital, Kinshasa, conducted exorcisms of children involving isolation, beating and whipping, starvation, and forced ingestion of purgatives.

FGM was rarely practiced.

The law prohibits marriage of girls under age 15 and boys under 18; however, marriages of girls younger than 15 sometimes took place, some involving girls under 13. Dowry payments greatly contributed to underage marriage. In some cases parents married off a daughter against her will to collect a dowry or to finance a dowry for a son to give to his future wife. The newly enacted sexual violence law criminalizes forced marriage. It subjects parents to up to 12 years' hard labor and a fine of $185 (98,050 Congolese francs) for forcing children to marry. The penalty doubles when the victim is a minor. There were no reports of convictions for forced marriage by year's end.

Child prostitution occurred throughout the country; however, there were no statistics available regarding its prevalence. Many homeless children engaged in prostitution without third-party involvement, although some were forced to do so (see sections 1.g. and 5, Trafficking). In Kinshasa, police allegedly extorted sexual services from child prostitutes. Security forces and armed groups trafficked children as soldiers, porters, and for sexual services (see section 5, Trafficking).

Security forces and armed groups continued to maintain child soldiers in their ranks (see section 1.g.).

Child labor, including forced labor, was widespread throughout the country (see sections 1.g. and 6.d.).

The country's more than 50,000 street children included many accused of sorcery, child refugees, and war orphans, although some would return to their families at day's end. The transitional government was ill-equipped to deal with large numbers of homeless youth and children. Citizens generally regarded them as thugs engaged in petty crime, begging, and prostitution and tolerated their marginalization. Security forces abused and arbitrarily arrested street children (see sections 1.c. and 1.d.).

There were numerous reports of collusion between police and street children, including street children paying police officers to allow them to sleep in vacant buildings, and others turning over to police a percentage of goods they stole from large markets. In addition, there were reports that different groups and individuals regularly paid groups of homeless youths to disrupt public order.

There were several active and effective local and international NGO groups working with MONUC and UNICEF to promote children's rights throughout the country, and with CONADER, the national disarmament agency.

No specific laws prohibited trafficking in persons, and trafficking occurred, particularly in the east. Laws that could be used by the government to prosecute cases against traffickers include the newly enacted law on sexual violence, which includes prohibitions against forced prostitution and sexual slavery, as well as other laws prohibiting slavery, rape, and child prostitution.

The country is a source and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked internally for forced labor and sexual exploitation.

Domestic and foreign armed groups operating outside government control in the east were responsible for the majority of reported cases of trafficking. Armed groups, and to a lesser extent transitional government security forces, continued to kidnap men, women, and children and force them to serve as porters, domestic laborers, and sex slaves (see section 1.g.). In addition, armed groups and security forces abducted children to serve as combatants in areas under their control (see section 1.g.).

There were reports of child prostitutes working in brothels. No statistical information existed on the extent of adult or child prostitution in the country. Some families pressured or forced girls to engage in prostitution.

The Ministry of Justice was primarily responsible for combating trafficking. Local law enforcement authorities were rarely able to enforce existing laws due to lack of personnel, funding, and the inaccessibility of eastern areas of the country; however, during the year the government prosecuted and cooperated in at least three cases against traffickers.

For example, in March judicial authorities sentenced Jean Pierre Biyoyo, a FARDC soldier not under central command authority, to five years' imprisonment for war crimes, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, committed in South Kivu Province in April 2004.

Also in March the government gave the ICC custody of a former Ituri militia leader accused of recruiting and using children under the age of 15 as combatants (see section 1.g.).

The government operated several programs to prevent trafficking. CONADER used media, posters, and brochures to campaign against child soldiering. The transitional government coordinated with other countries on trafficking issues and attended regional meetings on trafficking. However, government efforts to combat trafficking were limited by a lack of resources and information. The government had few resources for training, although it permitted training of officials by foreign governments and NGOs. It provided no funding for protection services.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities; however, persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in employment, education, and the provision of other government services.

The law does not mandate accessibility to buildings or government services for persons with disabilities. Some schools for persons with disabilities used private funds and limited public support to provide education and vocational training, including for blind students.

Societal discrimination on the basis of ethnicity was practiced by members of virtually all of the country's approximately 400 ethnic groups and was evident in hiring patterns in some cities. There were no reports of government efforts intended to address this discrimination.

The constitution allows citizens to hold only Congolese nationality. The president of the Tutsi community in Goma, North Kivu Province, Dunia Bakarani, claimed this provision was biased and discriminated against the Tutsi ethnic group, some of whom held Rwandan citizenship. However, many citizens, including senior government officials, were widely believed to hold dual nationality.

The FARDC and other security forces sometimes harassed, arbitrarily arrested, and threatened Tutsis--including the Banyamulenge, a Tutsi subgroup--in North and South Kivu provinces.

The country had a population of fewer than 10,000 Pygmies (Batwa), who were believed to have been the country's original inhabitants; during the year societal discrimination against them continued. Although they were citizens, most Pygmies took no part in the political process as they continued to live in remote areas. During the year fighting between armed groups and government security forces in North Kivu Province caused significant population displacement of Pygmies.

Judicial authorities did not file charges in the 2005 case of a Katanga provincial leader attempting via local media to incite discrimination against the Luba ethnic group from Western and Eastern Kasai.

During the election campaign, broadcast stations owned by Vice President Bemba or his supporters promoted ethnic hatred and suggested that President Kabila was not sufficiently "Congolese" (see sections 2.a. and 3).

The constitution provides all workers--except for magistrates, high-ranking government officials, private sector managers, and members of the security forces--the right to form and join trade unions without prior authorization. Workers formed unions in practice; however, the Ministry of Labor, which had responsibility for ensuring the right of association, conducted no inspections and exercised no oversight during the year. Of an estimated 24 million adults of working age, 128,000 (0.5 percent) belonged to unions, according to the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center). The informal sector, including subsistence agriculture, constituted at least 90 percent of the economy.

The law provides for union elections every five years; however, the transitional government did not allow them in the public sector, with the exception of parastatal industries.

According to MONUC, security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained the head of the trade union Prosperity on January 27 following a meeting in which he denounced irregularities in public sector salary payments. No additional information was available by year's end.

The law prohibits discrimination against unions, although this regulation was not enforced effectively. The law also requires employers to reinstate workers fired for union activities. The Interunion Committee, composed of public and private sector unions, is not legally mandated. However, it was generally recognized by the transitional government to negotiate with it and employers on labor issues of policy and law, although the transitional government did not meet with it during the year.

Private companies often registered bogus unions to discourage real ones from organizing and create confusion among workers. According to the Solidarity Center, many of the nearly 400 unions in the private sector had no membership and had been established by management, particularly in the natural resources sector.

The law provides for the right of unions to conduct activities without interference and the right to bargain collectively. However, in practice the transitional government did not protect these rights.

Collective bargaining was ineffective in practice. In the public sector, the government set wages by decree, and unions were permitted by law to act only in an advisory capacity. Most unions in the private sector collected dues from workers but did not succeed in engaging in collective bargaining on their behalf.

The constitution provides for the right to strike, and workers sometimes exercised it. In small and medium-sized businesses, workers effectively did not have the ability to strike. With an enormous unemployed labor pool, companies could immediately replace any workers attempting to unionize, collectively bargain, or strike, and companies reportedly did so during the year. The law requires unions to have prior consent and to adhere to lengthy mandatory arbitration and appeal procedures before striking. The law prohibits employers and the government from retaliating against strikers; however, the transitional government did not enforce this law in practice and sometimes jailed striking public sector employees.

During the year union leaders attempted to organize a strike at the diamond concession MIBA in Eastern Kasai Province; they were all fired, according to the Solidarity Center.

There were no export processing zones in the country.

The constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children; however, both were practiced throughout the country, although no statistics were available.

Security forces used forced labor during the year, including forced labor by IDPs (see sections 2.d. and 5).

According to MONUC, in February FARDC soldiers in North Kivu Province allegedly detained five civilians at a military camp in Muhangi and forced them to build shelters, clean the camp, transport water, and cook. No additional information was available by year's end.

On August 11, FARDC soldiers abducted 20 civilians from Gethy, Ituri District, and forced them to harvest and transport manioc, according to HRW. No additional information was available by year's end.

Armed groups, and to a lesser extent transitional government security forces, continued to kidnap men, women, and children and force them to serve as porters, domestic laborers, and sex slaves. For example, HRW reported multiple incidents in August and September of soldiers in Ituri District abducting civilians for forced labor, including as personal attendants, miners, and crop harvesters and transporters.

In the mining sector, dealers who purchased raw ore from unlicensed miners provided them with tools, food, and other products in exchange for a certain amount of ore. Miners who failed to provide ore, however, accumulated significant debts and became debt slaves, forced to continue working to pay off their debts. The transitional government did not attempt to regulate this practice.

Armed groups operating outside government control subjected civilians to forced labor. Many armed groups routinely forced civilians to transport looted goods for long distances without pay, and abducted men, women, and children for forced labor. On occasion, armed groups also forced civilians to mine, particularly in Ituri District. Armed groups forced women and children to provide household labor or sexual services for periods ranging from several days to several months (see section 1.g.).

On July 4, Rwandan Hutu militia in the South Kivu Province town of Tshifunzi allegedly abducted four men and three children. The attackers stole livestock, utensils, and clothes and forced the men to carry the looted goods. No additional information was available at year's end.

Forced or compulsory labor by children occurred (see sections 1.g. and 6.d.).

There were laws to protect children from exploitation in the workplace; however, neither the Ministry of Labor, responsible for enforcement, nor labor unions effectively enforced child labor laws. Child labor was a problem throughout the country and was common in the informal sector, particularly in mining and subsistence agriculture, and was often the only way for a child or family to earn money.

Although the minimum age for full-time employment without parental consent is 18 years, employers may legally hire minors between the ages of 15 and 18 with the consent of a parent or guardian. Those under age 16 may work a maximum of four hours per day. All minors are restricted from transporting heavy items. There were no reports of large enterprises using child labor.

An ILO report released during the year estimated that nearly 40 percent of boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were working in the informal sector.

There continued to be reports of forced child labor. There were credible reports that security forces and armed groups used forced child labor in Ituri District and South Kivu Province, including the use of girls for sexual slavery and boys and girls as soldiers (see section 1.g.). Security forces and armed groups also used children, including re-recruited child soldiers, as forced mine workers.

Some parents forced their children to leave school and beg in the streets, hunt or fish, or engage in prostitution to earn money for their families.

FDLR soldiers forced children to perform labor after the soldiers killed a civilian (see section 1.g.).

Prostitution, including forced child prostitution, was practiced throughout the country (see section 1.g. and 5, Trafficking).

In several mining regions, including the provinces of Katanga, Western and Eastern Kasai, and North and South Kivu, children performed dangerous, often underground, mine work. Children in the mining sector often received less than 10 percent of the pay adults received for the same production, according to the Solidarity Center.

Parents often used children for dangerous and difficult agricultural labor. Children sent to relatives by parents who could not feed them sometimes effectively became the property of those families, who subjected them to physical and sexual abuse and required them to perform household labor.

Transitional government agencies assigned to prevent child labor included the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Women and Youth, and the Ministry of Social Affairs. These agencies had no budgets for inspections and conducted no investigations during the year.

Employers often did not respect the minimum wage law of $1.00 per day. The average monthly wage did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family in the formal economy. Government salaries remained low, ranging from $50 to $110 (26,500 to 58,300 Congolese francs) per month, and salary arrears were common throughout the public sector. More than 90 percent of laborers worked in subsistence agriculture or informal commerce. Many relied on extended family for support. The Ministry of Labor was responsible for enforcing the minimum wage but did not do so effectively.

The law defines different standard workweeks for different jobs, ranging from 45 to 72 hours per week. The law also prescribed rest periods and premium pay for overtime, but this was often not respected in practice. The law established no monitoring or enforcement mechanism, and businesses often ignored these standards in practice.

The law specifies health and safety standards; however, the Ministry of Labor did not effectively enforce them. No provisions of the law enable workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their employment.

According to Global Witness, workers in the formal mining sector, as well as illegal diggers, faced particular risks. Most worked with no protective clothing, equipment, or training. Scores died during the year, usually in mineshaft collapses, and companies provided no compensation upon death. It is estimated that there were more than one million miners working outside the formal sector nationwide. Many suffered violence from guards and security forces for illegally entering mining concessions.

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