By Keith Harmon Snow
Keith Harmon Snow is a war correspondent, photographer and independent investigator, and a four time (2003, 2006, 2007, 2010) Project Censored award winner. He is also the 2009 Regent's Lecturer in Law & Society at the
Dongo war not connected to Eastern Congo?
“The fighting is not related to the simmering conflict in the mineral-rich eastern borderlands,” Reuters wrote, “where the army – backed by thousands of peacekeepers – are attempting to stamp out local, Rwandan, and Ugandan rebels.” 24
On Dec. 3, 2009, Belgian newspapers La Libre Belgique and RTLM reported that Belgium’s Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere and Defense Minister Pieter De Crem had responded to the communiqué of the Resistance Patriots of Dongo, circulated on the Internet on Dec. 1, which warned Belgium and Kinshasa that the resistance knew of the secret plan to dispatch paratroopers to Kisangani. The two Belgian ministries issued a joint communiqué denying the operation “with the biggest firmness.” 25
According to Kinshasa sources, the MONUC-uniformed Belgians would be flown from Kisangani, Orientale Province, to Equateur Province’s northwestern frontier city of Gbadolite, the stronghold of former President Mobutu and the Bemba family, Jean-Pierre and father Saolona (1942-2009), and then to Gemena airport near Dongo.26
Soon after the Resistance Patriots of Dongo forces occupied the frontier city of Libenge, President Kabila dispatched 600 elite FARDC commandos trained by 60 Belgian Armed Forces instructors in Kindu Province. As of Dec.5, Libenge remained under siege, with civilians fleeing to escape the massive battle.27
Sources in Kinshasa on Dec. 5 report “massive violent fighting in Libenge and Gemena areas,” involving 1,000 Congolese National Police (PNC) and 100 Ghanaian MONUC troops and two MONUC helicopter gunships. MONUC sources in Kisangani indicate that two additional MONUC helicopter gunships are “standing by” for possible immediate deployment to Equateur.
The MONUC “peacekeeping” in Congo is a $1 billion a year operation.
The recently “leaked” United Nations Group of Experts Report provides evidence of direct PNC involvement in contraband activities involving Rwandan Defense Forces in Eastern Congo. The U.N. experts investigated the frequent and suspicious undocumented flights of a white Mi-8 helicopter leased on Jan. 27, 2009, to the Congolese National Police through John Numbi, the head of the PNC. Numbi managed the joint RDF-MONUC-FARDC military operations (“Umoja Wetu”) in Eastern DRC begun in January 2009, along with Maj. Gen. James Kaberebe, the army chief of Rwanda. 28
On December 14, 2009, the Spanish Press Agency SAPA and Agence France-Presse reported that DRC government troops fighting against ‘tribal forces’ had taken back the town of Dongo. Now the conflict was not only tribal however, it was anti-Christian, with the tribal forces being “led by the animist priest Udjani.” 29
The refugee count by December 14 had risen to more than 115,000 Congolese villagers left homeless and forced to flee. Reports from Kinshasa indicated that ‘white’ mercenary forces were fighting alongside of FARDC and MONUC troops with helicopter gun-ships; the mercenaries were reportedly Algerian. While reports filtering out of the bush indicated very high civilian casualties, the United Nations was reporting nothing.
The SAPA- AFP article continued to maintain the ongoing silence about high casualties, falsely reporting "the violence has claimed about 100 lives, mostly around Dongo where the clashes began." However, western press reports of 100 dead have not changed for over a month.
The AFP and United Nations continued to hide the involvement of foreign RDC troops from Rwanda, and mercenaries from North Africa, and they did not discriminate between loyalist Congolese troops (Congolese FARDC) who defected and fought for the resistance and Rwandan CNDP-FARDC loyal to Congo President Kabila and Rwanda dictator Paul Kagame.
The international news media was completely silent after government forces that had reentered Dongo by December 14 suffered a crushing defeat when resistance forces that had 'withdrawn' from Dongo sprang a trap. According to regional sources in Congo, troops aligned with the Kabila government in Kinshasa—MONUC, RDF, CNDP, Rwandan-FARDC and/or North African mercenaries—were massacred by the scores.
On December 16, 2009, the MONUC spokesman in Kinshasa DRC announced that "the first MONUC military troops were deployed in Dongo in Equateur province" along with a temporary operational base. There was no mention of MONUC forces previously involved in combat operations in Dongo. MONUC claimed they took the decision "to sustain the joint PNC/FARDC operations aimed at re-establishing order [sic] and state authority [sic] in Dongo, Imesse and their surroundings." 30
MONUC transferred some 500 regular MONUC Ghanaian, Tunisian and Egyptian "peacekeepers" to Equateur province from the eastern Congo's conflict areas in Orientale and the Kivus, along with Armored Personnel Carriers, weapons, and transport and combat helicopters. MONUC also deployed Guatemalan Special Forces to the Equateur region.
Continuing to downplay the violence and hide the context of the rebellion, the MONUC Public Information Office briefing mentioned only in passing that 15 wounded MONUC soldiers were also being transferred from the front. However, MONUC was silent about high casualties (massacres) of government FARDC-MONUC-RDF aligned troops over the previous days.
MONUC's deployment of ‘peacekeeping’ forces in open combat operations are in direct violation of its ‘peacekeeping‘charter and in violation of the spirit and intent of the United Nations.
"MONUC is sending more troops because they know the truth about the real situation in Dongo," reports one Congolese intelligence source. "The resistance is gaining more space. At this time, they are fighting near Mbandaka. And they know, if Mbandaka falls, it will be the beginning of the end of Kabila.
"Rwandan Defense Forces are killing civilians," he adds, "and MONUC doesn't say anything. It's just unbelievable."
Information from Kinshasa on December 23 indicated that the Kabila government has issued orders that no news agencies be allowed to report what is happening in Dongo, and all Congolese newspapers have been silenced.
Morale amongst government forces is very low. Hospitals in Gemena are full of wounded soldiers and civilians. It is reported that possibly one full battalion of Police Nationale Congolaise has been wiped out by resistance forces.
24 Joe Bavier, “Congo gunmen fire at U.N. helicopter, five wounded,” Reuters, Nov. 26, 2009.
25 Belga, “La Belgique dément tout projet d’envoi de troupes en RDC,” RTBF, Dec. 3, 2009. [“Belgium denies all project of sending of troops to DRC.”]
26 Bemba Saolona’s company, Scibe CMMJ, was implicated by the U.N. in smuggling weapons to UNITA during the Angolan Civil War: Johan Peleman, “The logistics of sanctions busting: the airborne component,”
http://www.iss.co.za/Pubs/BOOKS/Angola/15Peleman.pdf (PDFfile), page 303.
27 In 2006-07, Police Nationale Congolaise were outfitted with high-tech radio communications, funded by the United Nations Development Program, purchased from New Zealand,
28 United Nations: Letter dated Nov. 9, 2009, from the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo addressed to the chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 1533 (2004), “leaked” November 2009.
29 “DR Congo troops take back town from tribal forces: Govt.” December 14, 2009, SAPA-AFP.
30 “Equateur [DRC]: An extra 500 MONUC troops being deployed to Dongo,” MONUC Press Briefing, December 16,2009.