INTRO: Nearly a year and a half after rebels in the
Democratic Republic of Congo took up arms to oust
President Laurent Kabila, a small United Nations
peacekeeping mission has started deploying across the
country. Todd Pitman has more on the story from rebel
headquarters in the eastern border town of Goma.
TEXT: Dressed in blue-berets and green military
fatigues, four-officers from the United Nations
Observer Mission in the Congo - or MONUC, as it is
called - study a map of the vast country spread across
a table in a Goma hotel.
The officers - from India, Senegal, Romania and
Bangladesh - are here as part of a peace accord signed
in the Zambian capital Lusaka last August.
The peace deal called for a ceasefire and
international observers to monitor it, but
implementation has been slow. So far, only a few
dozen U-N military liaison officers, or M-L-Os, have
Indian Lieutenant Colonel Ravi Kumar Nair is the head
of a four-man team that has been positioned in the
eastern border town of Goma since last month.
/// NAIR ACT ONE ///
At least now we've established a close link with
the military headquarters of the various groups,
the various signatory parties and to that extent
at least now we're getting a lot of information
a lot of reports at the MONUC headquarters which
has been corroborated there and such reports are
going to the concerned authorities. So to that
extent, yes at least now our ears and eyes are
open all across Congo.
/// END ACT ///
But these officers are not actually authorized to
monitor cease-fire violations. For the time being,
they are here only to maintain contact between the
warring parties and provide assistance to a handful of
observers from the Organization of African Unity, who
are already positioned in three towns. Again,
Lieutenant Colonel Nair.
/// NAIR ACT TWO ///
As we get more of our M-L-O teams positioned at
various locations we would thereafter in the
subsequent phase deploy observers and they would
actually verify the ground situation. Meanwhile
we've already got certain O-A-U observers
deployed at Lisala, Boende, and Kabinda.
/// END ACT ///
The Security Council will vote in mid-January on
whether to send 500 U-N observers to join the mission
as possible forerunners of a major peacekeeping
operation that could number up to 25 thousand.
But a major peacekeeping operation seems doubtful.
The international community, which has invested large
amounts of money and men recently in Kosovo and East
Timor, has shown little interest in getting caught up
in Congo's complex war - which has drawn in at least
six foreign armies since it began and divided Africa's
third largest country in two.
Already the United Nations Observer Mission faces
tremendous obstacles in the Congo, where it is
hampered by a lack of funds, huge bureaucracies and
rebel officials who doubt its effectiveness. Kin-Kiey
Mulumba is a spokesman for a wing of the main rebel
group, the Congolese Rally for Democracy.
/// MULUMBA ACT ONE IN FRENCH, ESTABLISH AND FADE ///
Mr. Mulumba says it's a good thing the United Nations
has sent observers to the Congo, but the rebels have
no illusions about the ability of the U-N to find a
solution to the crisis, given its failure to solve
other conflicts on the continent.
The U-S Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard
Holbrooke, ended a tour last week of Africa, where he
met regional heads of state involved in the war, as
well as leaders of the three main rebel groups.
Mr. Holbrooke said the United States would donate one
million dollars to a commission struggling to
implement the peace accord, and he urged other
international donors to do the same.
/// HOLBROOKE ACT ONE ///
We reaffirmed the United States' desire to
support U-N peacekeeping efforts in Congo while
stressing again that after the great calamities
that the United Nations suffered in the early
90s in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda, that we had
to get it right this time around.
/// END ACT ///
Ambassador Holbrooke said implementation of the Lusaka
accord had been slow, and said Washington would not
support a peacekeeping mission in the Congo until the
warring parties agreed on a neutral facilitator to
mediate the conflict.
Most civilians caught up in the war just want foreign
troops to leave. Bindu Lubao is a 23-year-old trader
at the central market in Goma.
/// LUBAO ACT ONE IN FRENCH, ESTABLISH AND FADE ///
Mr. Lubao says as long as the ceasefire is not
respected, the United Nations will not send
peacekeepers. And the ceasefire, he says, is being
violated by the government in Kinshasa and by the
Most people in Goma have little faith in the United
Nations and do not think it will be able to bring
about a solution to the conflict. Lieutenant Colonel
Nair says only the warring parties themselves can
create an environment in which the mission can operate
/// NAIR ACT ///
Now you'll understand that it's very important
that the primary responsibility for the
successful implementation of the Lusaka
agreement lies entirely with the signatory
parties and the United Nations is just committed
to providing its good offices to help implement
and expedite this peace process.
/// END ACT ///
But with fighting continuing and both sides saying
they have little faith in each other to implement the
accord, peace in the Congo still seems a distant
15-Dec-1999 08:29 AM EDT (15-Dec-1999 1329 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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