In November, our Local Correspondent Flory Kazingufu travelled to the little-known Fizi region of DR Congo. His report writes of a fearful region at risk of further violence:
Another unnecessary war is slowly but surely taking shape in the Fizi territory, in the South-East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. An increasing number of troops are entering the region, and if nothing is done, things may get worse in a short period. The situation is reminiscent of how the conflict started in North Kivu.
A recently leaked report by the UN Group of Experts on the DR Congo appears to support Flory's gloomy prognosis. The report expresses serious doubts about the ability of the DR Congo army (FARDC), backed by the UN mission in DR Congo (MONUC), to succeed in their offensive against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), as well as concerns over the conduct of the Congolese army, which has already been much criticised by rights groups. The leaked report has attracted a large degree of international attention, with reports in the New York Times, BBC, and the Huffington Post amongst others.
The report confirms the reports that Flory received about the arming of the FDLR:
Four FDLR ex-combatants interviewed separately by the Group have confirmed several deliveries of weapons and ammunition to FDLR units based in the Uvira and Fizi areas of South Kivu since November 2008.
The report also highlighted the fears he heard over the government forces and their links with the CNDP (Congress for the Defence of the People):
The most aggressive operations against the FDLR have been conducted by FARDC units spearheaded by ex-CNDP commanders, notably in the territories of Masisi and Walikale, in North Kivu, and Kalehe, Shabunda, Fizi and Uvira in South Kivu.
The CNDP have been suspected of operating as a proxy for Rwandan forces, as well as committing serious atrocities and using child soldiers. As Flory notes, their presence is likely to prompt in turn responses from other forces in the area, including Mai Mai groups.
The report is due to be used by the UN in discussions over the future of MONUC. President Kabila of DR Congo said yesterday that he expects that the MONUC mandate to be extended for 6 months this month, but with a pull-out plan in place by June 2010.
Caught between the various armed forces operating in Fizi, it is little wonder that Flory found the local population to be living in fear. With or without MONUC, they continue to face huge dangers years after the official ending of the war. If there is any glimmer of hope in this situation, it is that local people continue to try and find solutions to the violence. As well as the threats of the armed groups, Flory found local groups such as ACODIF working to resolve conflicts. Local groups, such as those we feature on this site, must be central to any peacebuilding in DR Congo if genuine peace is to be achieved.