Friday, March 23, 2007

Congo's Unresolved Security

Fighting has continued for a second straight day in Kinshasa, the Capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The fighting is taking place mainly between the security forces of Jean Pierre Bemba, current senator and leader of the parliamentary opposition, and former vice president and rebel leader and the armed forces of the Congo (FARDC in French).

The Congo’s state prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant of high treason for Jean-Pierre Bemba, accusing him of killings and rape. Former vice president and rebel leader Azarias Ruberwa was whisked off to an undisclosed location. Bemba is hold up in the South African embassy in Kinshasa and is calling for calm and a cease-fire.

Fighting is still taking place in the heart of the Capital. United Nations reports that Bemba’s troops have suffered heavy casualty, running out of ammunition and surrendering. The scope of the casualties and injuries is unclear, however many civilians are believed to have been caught in the cross-fire.

The recent spark of the violence resulted from a request by the Kabila government for both Jean Pierre Bemba and Azarias Ruberwa to disarm their security forces and be guarded by a smaller security detail. Both men refused and the government subsequently issued an order for them to be disarmed by force if necessary.

The source of the problem however goes back to the failure of the transition process and the organizing of the recent elections. The peace accords that lead to the transition process (2003 – 2006) called for the disarming of all rebel movements and the integration of the military. Unfortunately, this did not occur, neither during the transition process nor before the elections. The integration of the military remains a major stumbling block for peace, stability and reconciliation in the Congo.