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DR Congo: Letter to UN Special Representative Alan Doss

Mr. Alan Doss
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
United Nations Organization Mission in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Dear Mr. Doss,

I would like to thank you for your letter dated September 22. My colleagues and I appreciate the time that you took to respond to our latest DRC field report in detail. I want to stress at the outset that in the case of MONUC Refugees International’s basic approach is critical support --- we may point out problems and deficiencies, but always from a core perspective of appreciating the work that you do and the vital role that MONUC plays in developing a stable Congo where its people can live in safety and dignity.

With this perspective in mind, I would like to respond to a number of the issues that you raised. Regarding the weakened collaboration between humanitarians and MONUC, we would like to clarify that this was less a criticism of MONUC’s role in the Protection Cluster than a statement on the failure of some in the humanitarian community to work constructively with MONUC as a crucial protection actor. Based on our recent mission, however, we cannot agree with you that the present relationship between MONUC and the humanitarian community can be characterized as a matter of “occasional strains.” Our team encountered high levels of animosity directed at the Mission from several humanitarian actors we interviewed. Both sides are frustrated and therefore the overall protection response has not been as comprehensive as it could be.

On the issue of the leadership of the Protection Cluster, we hope that pointing out the challenges resulting from the change in co-leadership and the need for better information sharing and coordination between the humanitarian community and MONUC will spur UNHCR to take on a stronger leadership role. UNHCR needs to ensure that all actors focusing on protection work productively together.

On returns, we also welcome the news that increasing numbers of displaced people are returning home, but we do not believe that these returns can be linked to the military offensive against the FDLR. We were told by the staff of UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations that we interviewed that the majority of returns from the camps around Goma are to Rutshuru territory, an area formerly controlled by the CNDP, not the FDLR. Therefore, we do not see any definitive link between the Kimia II operations and the increase in the numbers of returns from the Goma area.

Furthermore, while there have certainly been more returns following the arrest of former CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda and the rapid integration of the CNDP into the FARDC, it is important to note, as we did in our report, that many displaced people we met with in and around Goma still fear the presence of the former CNDP in their home areas.

We agree that it is important to encourage donors to support stabilization strategies in the Kivus and our team did meet with the UNSSSS representative in Bukavu on our recent mission. In particular we would like to stress the importance of road reconstruction, which would clearly benefit isolated communities and help improve the humanitarian response. However, we are concerned that a focus on stabilization may lead to a rapid shift in funding away from the emergency needs of those who continue to be displaced.

Our one fundamental disagreement is over the success of the military operations. Our team did not see any tangible evidence to suggest that the operations had been a success. In your letter you cite the figure of 13,314 FDLR combatants and dependents repatriated since the start of the operations in January 2009. According to MONUC’s own figures, however, as of August 2009 only 947 of these were combatants. The remaining were civilians and dependents. While this is a start, the numbers of those giving up the fight must be weighed against the much higher figures of Congolese civilians displaced by the military campaigns. Further, based on our interviews among displaced Congolese, there is a strong desire for the fighting to stop.

We continue to receive reports from various sources in the DRC that the FDLR are retaking a number of their old positions and that there is an ongoing re-recruitment of their foot soldiers. While the operations may have been disruptive to the FDLR, we have not seen any evidence of long-term meaningful damage to the FDLR leadership. The information we received from MONUC was that, as of August, the highest ranking FDLR officer to be repatriated was a major. If there is updated information on this matter, we would welcome receiving it.

As in previous years, a Refugees International team will be traveling to the DRC in October to focus specifically on MONUC’s implementation of its civilian protection mandate and make recommendations in advance of the United Nations Security Council mandate renewal in December. We hope that you will be available to meet with our team when they are in Kinshasa (October 7th to 12th and 28th to 31st) in order to further discuss the points you raise in your letter.

With respect for your efforts in the face of immense challenges,

Sincerely yours,
Joel R. Charny
Acting President