DR Congo: Letter to the Special Envoy for the Africa Great Lakes

Howard Wolpe
Secretary’s Special Envoy for the Africa Great Lakes
United States Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

October 8, 2009

Dear Ambassador Wolpe:

I am writing in advance of the October 14 and 15 meeting of the Contact Group in Washington, DC.

As you know, Refugees International has been advocating on the situation in the DRC for over a decade.  At the moment, we are particularly concerned about the impact of the Kimia II military operations in eastern DRC, which have led to large-scale displacements and human rights violations, including an increase in the number of cases of sexual violence against women and girls.

While we believe an immediate end to the operations against armed groups such as the FDLR and support for non-military solutions is the best way to improve the security situation for Congolese civilians in the short term, we recognize the challenges to bringing long-lasting peace to the DRC. 

The U.S. continues to be a lead donor to the emergency response in the DRC and to the MONUC peacekeeping mission. However, neither humanitarian assistance, including to survivors of gender-based violence, nor the minimal physical protection that MONUC is able to provide address the root causes of the conflict.  As you are aware, in order to deal with the underlying issues, longer-term commitments by international donors will be needed to support strategies such as reform of the Congolese armed forces and the strengthening of the justice system. 

As donors, including the U.S. and EU, meet next week to discuss in particular security sector reform in the DRC, we would like to urge you, as the Special Envoy for the Africa Great Lakes region, to take the following recommendations into account:

•    The U.S. and other donors should pressure the Congolese government to ensure that the military enforces its zero-tolerance policy and prosecutes all those within its ranks, including senior commanders, who have perpetrated or tolerated abuses against civilians;
•    The U.S. and other donors should continue to support MONUC financially and politically, and encourage the mission to apply its conditionality policy to all assistance it gives to the Congolese military;
•    The U.S. and other donors should increase funding for longer-term stabilization activities in the Kivus, in particular road reconstruction to increase ease of access to and within rural areas and improve security.

Ultimately, reforming the Congolese military and improving the security and humanitarian situation in eastern DRC will rely not only on support from donors such as the U.S., but also on the political will of the Congolese government itself.  We would encourage you during your discussions on October 14 and 15 to work towards a coordinated donor strategy that will pave the way for the Congolese government to take greater responsibility for improving the security of its own citizens.

We currently have a team in eastern DRC looking in particular at the protection role of MONUC in advance of their mandate renewal in December.  We look forward to sharing their findings with you once they return in early November.

We appreciate your long-standing commitment to peace in the Great Lakes region and know that you have the interests of the people at heart. Please do not hesitate to call on Refugees International if we can assist your work in any way.

Sincerely yours,

Joel R. Charny
Acting President