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Congo: More troops will bring more problems

The War Resisters' International Council meeting in Bilbao (29-31 October) was extremely concerned about the situation of war and general insecurity in eastern Congo (Kivu provinces and Ituri region), and warns against the deployment of more troops in the area.

Since August 2008, the situation has been worsening as a result of the renewed activity of different armed militias and daily military confrontations with the FADRC (governmental armed forces) and the UN force MONUC. The suffering of the local population is extremely hard, and at least 200,000 people have been displaced. Human rights abuses are widespread, and rape is a war strategy. The MONUC, the largest and most expensive UN 'peace force', is itself contributing to the problem through its own involvement in illegal trade and its human rights abuses, including rape.

This conflict is being fuelled and funded by the contest for control of mineral resources, as has been pointed out repeatedly by various bodies including WRI's own programme monitoring War Profiteering. This is what maintains the militias and the governmental army, and also what explains the support of President Kagame of Rwanda for the militia of General Nkunda.

WRI, an international pacifist organisation with 82 affiliates in 43 countries, is critical of the existing role of the European Union and its members. The EU is looking for military 'solutions' that do not exist: member states are training the Congolese army, giving huge amounts of development aid (including military aid) to the Rwandese regime, and now -- with the usual 'humanitarian' rhetoric -- are contemplating sending heavily armed forces to protect European interests.

The lesson of history is clear: sending European troops is not the way to reduce suffering in Africa.

WRI has warned previously about the militarisation of the European Union -- a rather neglected aspect of the EU's evolution. An EU force in the Congo would not be there to address the needs of the people but rather to serve the interests of European states and businesses. What Congo needs is not more soldiers and arms, but the means to meet the needs of the population -- food, medical services, infrastructure, education. What peace requires is not military intervention, but two very different courses of action:

  • on the one hand, public campaigns and international measures against those whose pursuit of profits causes wars and stokes conflict.
  • on the other hand, attention to those inside the Congo who are working for human rights, who promote nonviolence and who seek an end of the suffering.