Weapons still coming into DRC 'too easily'

The continuing flow of arms from neighbouring countries into the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) threatens the fragile peace in that region, Amnesty International said this week.

“The authorities in Rwanda and powerful interests in Uganda, while denying any actions aimed at destabilising the DRC transition, have maintained close links with, and are alleged to provide continued covert military support to armed groups or factions opposed to the transitional government,” the report finds.

Also this week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague began hearing a case brought by the DRC, accusing Rwanda of armed aggression between 1998 and the present.
Rwanda has rejected the allegations.

Henri Boshoff, an analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said arms embargoes on rebel groups in the DRC need to be toughened. “Weapons are coming in too easily.”

The release of Amnesty’s report, Democratic Republic of Congo: Arming the East, coincided with a security clampdown on protests. Seven protesters were allegedly killed and hundreds arrested as police fired on demonstrators in Kinshasa and other cities. In eastern city of Goma, two children died in fighting between rival army factions.

Human Rights Watch has called on the Congolese army to “prevent further violence among its rival factions that has caused unnecessary civilian casualties”. It accused the Congolese authorities of using “unnecessary force” in their response to protests over the passing of the original deadline for elections (June 30) and dismantling the transitional government.

Boshoff remained hopeful that the unrest would not pose a threat to the peace process. “We are at a stage where the spoilers are struggling,” he said, adding that the delayed election plan would remain on track “unless we see an upsurge of violence and total chaos, which is not likely”.

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