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November 1, 2009

During a press conference on Thursday in Kinshasa, Government spokesman Lambert Mende blasted what he called an “avalanche of corrosive reports being poured lately” by NGOs about the situation in eastern Congo.

He said in a statement that, in response to these reports, he has written a booklet to put in context the situation in eastern Congo, stressing its history, people, resources, but also its social and security problems which are fueling “the fertile imagination of some humanitarians and members of the media looking for catastrophes and sensational stories to sell”.

Lambert Mende said that, historically, massive violations of human rights in Democratic Republic of Congo began in the early 90s, with the arrival of Rwandan Hutu refugees in the North-East of the country after the Rwandan genocide. This influx heightened insecurity at the DR Congo-Rwanda border.

He said that, after 5.400.000 deaths due to war and its consequences during the last decade, some NGOs are only focused on its immediate effects and not on solving its causes, at the risk of letting the same effects occur over and over again.

“Those who are always telling others what to do, as if they know the Democratic Republic of Congo better than the Congolese themselves”, are suffering from “the illusion of immediate knowledge” that usually affects “amateur ethnologists”, he said.

He said that these NGOs have drastically changed their position since January 2008. First, they called on the government to sign the Goma peace accords with armed groups to stop the fighting and protect the population. Now, he said, they are claiming that these populations are suffering even more than when they were living under the control of these armed groups.

He reminded the NGOs that the Goma peace accords called for all armed groups to disarm and for those who refused to be disarmed by force.

“Today, the Government, with the support of MONUC, is busy restoring State authority throughout the national territory, particularly in the East and North-East”, he said.

He added that the NGOs that are now calling on the government to stop its military operation (Kimia II) against Rwandan Hutu militiamen (FDLR) are the same ones who have documented the numerous atrocities committed by the FDLR against the local population since they crossed the border from Rwanda in the 90s.

It is “nonsensical” for these NGOs to call for a return to the “status quo”, he said.

He also said that several headquarters of the FDLR have been destroyed during Kimia II and the militiamen have been forced to abandon regions rich in mineral resources which they occupied and used to fund their operations.

“The remaining FDLR are now cut off from all their sources of income, tens of thousands of displaced people in North and South Kivu have been able to return home. The military structure of the FDLR has been permanently destabilized. More than 10,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees, who were the FDLR recruitment base, have been repatriated. Relations between Rwanda and the DRC have improved. The CNDP and other armed groups have integrated the FARDC”, he said.

He also said that, “It is legitimate for the Government to question the intentions of NGOs that, regardless of this progress, constantly strive to produce ultra-negative reviews of FARDC operations”.

He said that, even though some members of the FARDC have been involved in acts of violence against civilians, it’s an “exaggeration” to put the FARDC in the same basket as these “armed terrorist groups”.

“The reform of the judiciary initiated in DR Congo is a priority for the ruling majority. Who can say otherwise after the decrees on the Judiciary by the Head of State and the ongoing recruitment of 1,000 new judges by competition?”, he asked.

“Operation Zero Tolerance against corruption and other anti-values continues “, he said.

He also said that, “Just for the year 2008, 3453 police and soldiers were detained in our country, either as convicts or as defendants”. He added that, “It should be noted that these soldiers and police officers were prosecuted or convicted for crimes related mainly to cases of murder, sexual assault, and robbery with violence”.

“Why does Human Rights Watch choose to ignore this data?”, he asked.

“In an army of around 130,000 soldiers, these figures represent around 2% of the FARDC.
Can a government honestly be accused of condoning impunity when it imprisons 2% of its soldiers in time of war?”

“The minimization of the successes of Operation Kimia II, as well as the omission of the cost in lives made by FARDC soldiers killed in this operation (55 until October 14), captured by the FDLR (7) or wounded (20), gives an idea of the true ideological predispositions of the authors of Human Rights Watch report”, he said.

He said at the end that, “it is useful to note that despite all of this; the human rights NGOs are not the enemies of the Congolese Government, which in any event does not consider them as such. The Government continues to believe that the work of these support structures, when properly done, can help the Government to improve services to the population”.