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Congo army accused of multiple abuses

UN report exposes corruption and misdeeds of Democratic Republic of Congo's armed forces.

The world was horrified this summer when several hundred were raped in just a few days close to the mines of Walikale. The group responsible, Mai Mai Sheka, was one of more than 20 armed groups created in the last year alone, according to Van Woudenberg’s research.

The U.N. experts discovered that Mai Mai Sheka “is a creation of a criminal network within FARDC.” The FARDC officers responsible were ousted from their control of the Walikale mines, and so set-up Mai Mai Sheka to sow insecurity and undermine the new military controllers of the mines in order to justify their own re-deployment to the area.

The rape of more than 300 people was then collateral in an internal battle, within the national army, over who controls the Walikale mines.

Soldiers and officers are described as fighting amongst themselves for the lucrative deployments to mineral-rich zones. Operations to dislodge armed groups from mining areas are legitimate but are driven by the desire to take over those areas for themselves, so when the army moves in the civilians remain under threat by a new group of rapacious armed men. The displaced rebels are often allowed to remain nearby and undefeated to justify the army’s presence.

According to the investigators, high-ranking officers jostle for the right to deploy more junior “enfants cheris” (favored ones) to profitable locations where they are expected to set up rackets such as illegal taxation, protection and security or theft in order to repay the largesse of their patrons.

The U.N. experts name FARDC head of land forces, Gen. Gabriel Amisi and Ntaganda as well as the top regional army commanders in North and South Kivu and their deputies as being involved in illegal mining.

Fixing Congo’s dysfunctional army is the long-term solution and the United States and other foreign donors are generously funding what is known as “security sector reform.” But in the short-term activists say that simply making sure soldiers receive their paltry $45 monthly wage will help.

Van Woudenberg adds that senior officers must be brought to justice for human rights abuses and involvement in illegal mining. She says that should start with Ntaganda.