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Congolese Mixed Forces Blamed in North Kivu Attacks

VOA News - May 10, 2007

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.N. officials say they are working on improving the conduct of so-called mixed military brigades that include former rebel forces. The former rebel and militia fighters have been accused of abusing civilians and escalating violence in the region of North Kivu. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Human rights observers say mixed brigades in North Kivu, near the Rwandan border, are responsible for attacks on civilians. The brigades are accused of killing, raping and forcing many people from their homes. The United Nations reports that in the past few months, more than 100,000 people in the region have been displaced.

A spokesman for MONUC, the U.N. mission in the Congo, Kemal Saiki says North Kivu is an example of where the plan to mix government forces with rebel fighters as part of a peace plan has not gone well.

"Very often, and we have been denouncing that on several occasions, they have been perpetuating some of the worst human rights violations against their own populations," he said.

While the intent of the brigades is to bring peace to violence-torn areas, Saiki says results have been mixed. He says the success of integrating units has a lot to do with their leadership and where they are located.

"Throughout the country you have various groups with different political affiliations related to politics or warlords, or what have you. Then it was agreed that in order to build up the new national army all these various groups which were at sometime fighting against each other would be brought together, put together to go through a period of training," he said.

After the training, Saiki says the units are no longer called mixed brigades, but are given the title integrated brigade.

Normally, following the U.N. training, the forces are fully integrated and are dispatched to another region of the country than where they are from.

Saiki says in North Kivu an agreement was made with rebel leaders there allowing the brigades to mix, but to stay in their region.

Further complicating the situation, notorious rebel leader in eastern Congo, Laurent Nkunda has recently threatened to pull his troops, currently operating in mixed brigades, out of the unified army.


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