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Democratic Republic of Congo

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 7 April 2010

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of how many people have been (a) killed, (b) raped, and (c) internally or externally displaced, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo since operation Amani Leo was launched. [HL3105]

I visited the east of the country where operation Amani Leo is being carried out when I was in DRC in February. I met people who are living their daily lives amidst the conflict and heard first hand about the dangers they face. When I spoke to MONUC and FARDC commanders who are planning operation Amani Leo I reiterated that human rights abuses will not be tolerated and that conditionality must be applied by MONUC in cases where they are committed. This means that MONUC support will be removed from FARDC battalions that are involved in human rights abuses. I was assured that this message is being delivered to the troops in the field. We remain extremely concerned at the effect this conflict is taking on innocent people. We are monitoring developments and will continue pushing for human rights abuses to be investigated as well as conditionality to be applied.

The FDLR continue to kidnap, kill and rape—particularly in South Kivu which is why the military operations to remove them as a source of instability are necessary. With closer MONUC involvement and a more organised FARDC, Amani Leo is better planned than its predecessor, Kimia II. However, people are still being displaced as a result of military operations. Congolese army troops (FARDC) continue to commit human rights violations. I told President Kabila that the issue of impunity must be addressed and perpetrators of human rights abuses held to account when I met him in February. FARDC has made efforts to implement President Kabila’s “zero tolerance” policy, by bringing some offenders to justice. MONUC is demanding that human rights violators are removed from military units that they are supporting. FARDC is being more transparent and is now reporting to MONUC cases of human rights abuse as they occur. We understand FARDC has provided figures to MONUC detailing the number of personnel tried in military courts between February 09 and February 10 for human rights crimes including rape, murder and armed robbery. Reporting from our post in DRC and MONUC sources suggests that the situation has improved over the last year.

MONUC also carries out disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR) work with foreign armed groups, principally the FDLR and Lord’s Resistance Army. In 2009 the combination of enhanced DDRRR work and military operations resulted in a threefold increase over 2008 in successful repatriations of FDLR fighters back to Rwanda. The UK continues to fund DDRRR work and I visited one of the UK-funded radio transmitters used for DDRRR communications when I was in DRC seeing how UK money is being put to good use.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the comments of the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Karel De Gucht, that “Congolese leaders are inappropriate partners and the aid given by the international community to the Democratic Republic of Congo is a total waste”. [HL3106]

The UK is one of the largest donors to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), spending £105 million in 2009-10. The UK works closely with the Government of the DRC, though we recognise the Government’s weak capacity and the high risks of our engagement. Implementation of UK programmes is managed by international organisations, including the World Bank and United Nations agencies. This helps us to ensure that UK taxpayers’ money is managed properly and put to good use.

UK aid is yielding results in the DRC. Our health programme is reaching 2 million people with basic services and has provided 3 million mosquito nets to prevent malaria, a major cause of death in DRC. We also work with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Belgian Technical Co-operation and the DRC Ministry of Energy and Water to provide safer water and sanitation facilities for some 4 million people.

We have made no specific assessment of Mr de Gucht's remarks.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the security situation in (a) the Kivus provinces, (b) Katanga, (c) Bas-Congo, and (d) Dungu, in the Orientale province in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. [HL3156]

The security situation across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a serious concern for the UK and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

(a) I visited the Kivus where Operation Amani Leo is currently under way when I was in DRC at the end of February. In Bunyakari I spoke to UN peacekeeping mission to DRC (MONUC) troops and the Congolese army (FARDC) 8th brigade who told me that while operations had opened up the main road and improved trade and communications insecurity was still high with FDLR attacks including rape, looting, house burning a daily occurrence. My meetings with local people confirmed the dangers and difficulties they face. I reiterated to MONUC and FARDC commanders that there must not be a repeat of the human rights abuses of Kimia II and that conditionality, whereby support offered by MONUC to FARDC battalions will be withdrawn where human rights abuses are committed, must be applied and acted upon where warranted. They assured me that this message is being delivered to troops and battalions in the field.

In the North of North Kivu the main threats come from kidnappings by the Allied Democratic Forces/National Liberation Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU) and banditry committed by the PNC (Congolese Police Force), elements of FARDC, and the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) being pushed north by the military operations.

(b) The FDLR has a presence in the north of Katanga, with some moving south as they are pushed out of their bases in the Kivus. Exploitation of minerals remains a source of insecurity as various armed actors and criminal elements seek to profit from mines.

(c) There are border issues with Angola in Bas Congo, and the Angolans are also in dispute with DRC over access to oil in the ocean.

The Government clampdown of the Bundia Dia Kongo group in 2008 has left a lingering tension in Bas Congo. The activities of Bundia Dia Kongo and the DRC Government remain concerning. Underlying tensions do not seem to have been resolved, though there have been no recent signs of violence.

(d) The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is present and terrorising the local population in Dungu. Human Rights Watch released a report recently which says that 321 civilians were killed by the LRA during a four day rampage in the Makombo district in December 2009. Fear of LRA attacks is preventing the local population from leaving the relative security of the towns and villages meaning fields are left uncultivated. Roads in the region are in a poor state and there are no mobile phone networks outside of Dungu; early warnings and a rapid response to attacks are nearly impossible. As I stated on 30 March “The LRA continues to pose a serious threat to civilians. They also put at risk both the conduct of humanitarian operations and the stability of the region”.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ask the World Trade Organisation to establish a study group on the protection of workers, with particular reference to allegations of slavery, forced labour and the exploitation of children in the Congo. [HL3157]

The exploitation of civilians, use of forced labour and exploitation of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are of serious concern to the UK.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) January 2010 report highlighted the natural resource sector as a particular area where armed groups use forced labour. I spoke to Prime Minister Muzito when I was in DRC about the importance for the country of mineral sector reform. We are working with the International Community to help the Government of DRC reform their natural resource sector.

I also spoke to President Kabila about ending impunity for all human rights abuses including the use of child soldiers. We support the work of UN peacekeeping mission to DRC (MONUC) in reintegrating militia groups which has led to children being released into the care of child protection organisations. Through the EU advisory and assistance mission for security reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo (EUSEC) we are funding a biometric census project which provides accurate personnel figures for FARDC regiments and allows child soldiers to be successfully identified and removed.

Alongside abduction one of the major factors that persuades children to join militia groups is the lack of access to education. As part of our work to address this, the Department for International Development provides £500,000 funding to projects improving access to primary education.

We do not have any plans to ask the World Trade Organisation to establish a study group on the protection of workers.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda, and at the United Nations, on Rwanda and Uganda's alleged role in the conflict and humanitarian situation in the Congo; and with what results. [HL3158]

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has made recent rapprochements with both Rwanda and Uganda, the UK Government welcome these and strongly support the greater regional co-operation they signify. DRC and Rwanda have now exchanged ambassadors. The DRC-Uganda rapprochement has led President Kabila and President Museveni to publicly pledge co-operation across the board.

Our embassies and High Commissions in the Great Lakes region of Africa remain in constant contact with host governments over the best means to end political violence and promote stability and development in the DRC and more widely in the region.

We have raised the issue of regional co-operation amongst Great Lakes countries at all levels in the UN. Most recently when I was in New York in March I spoke to the UN Secretary-General Ban Kin Moon about the region. During my recent visits to DRC and Uganda, and in a meeting last month with the Rwandan Foreign Minister I have urged the importance of regional co-operation.