The United Nations may have to reassess its role “on the ground” following the August War between Russia and Georgia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message delivered to a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“Recent events in your region have riveted the world’s attention and challenged existing arrangements for peace and security,” he told the 16th OSCE Ministerial Council in a message delivered by his Special Representative for Georgia Johan Verbeke in Helsinki.
“Indeed, following the tragic fighting in Georgia and the South Caucasus in August, and in light of persistent instability in the area, we may have to re-think our respective roles on the ground.
“The conflict also demonstrated that the lack of a meaningful political process over an extended period of time can lead to conflict. This lesson should be borne in mind when considering all protracted conflicts…,” Verbeke said in Ban`s stead.
In the Congo…
Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) intend to press fighters from the DRC-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a mainly Hutu rebel group, to leave a town they recently entered near the Ugandan border.
The UN Mission for the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC, disputed information in some news reports that FDLR had systematically redeployed to “fill in” positions vacated by another rebel group, the National Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP), although they had entered the town of Ishasha in the northeastern part of strife-torn North Kivu province, the UN News Centre reports.
“UN peacekeepers, meanwhile, will be redeploying in the Ishasha region until later this month,” UN spokesperson Michele Montas told a news briefing in New York. “The peacekeepers are patrolling the region, and they intend to press the FDLR forces to leave.”
Deadly fighting between Government forces, the CNDP and Mayi Mayi militia in North Kivu province in recent months has some 250 000 people to flee their homes.
In another development, with security improving in Orientale, another eastern DRC province, UN peacekeepers are helping to redeploy aid agencies there. The first group of aid workers from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) arrived there on Tuesday to assist some 6,000 internally displaced persons.
The region has suffered repeated raids by the Ugandan rebel Lord`s Resistance Army, which has killed at least 20 people and abducted more than 150 children since September.
MONUC also says that it is continuing to reinforce its presence in North Kivu, with French-speaking blue helmets having arrived in the provincial capital Goma to protect civilians.
The mission noted that its combat helicopters in Goma and in neighbouring provinces are on alert and ready to respond to respond to any threat of attack.
… and in Darfur
In Sudan two gunmen equipped with AK-47 assault rifles and a hand grenade stopped a humanitarian convoy, beat up aid workers and stole money in the latest of a long series of such assaults that are impeding relief operations.
The non-governmental organization (NGO) convoy of three vehicles with six local staff was stopped yesterday morning in South Darfur on its way from Nyala, the provincial capital, to Kalma internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said in a statement. The gunmen forced it to drive down to a nearby gully.
“Although the workers complied without resistance to demands for money, the attackers assaulted them up before leaving the scene,” it added. “Three out of the six workers were reportedly severely beaten and taken to the local hospital, where their condition is listed as stable and non life-threatening.”
Initial reports suggest that the assailants were informed of the workers` movements and that they were transporting cash intended for the payment of salaries for the Kalma camp staff.
“If proven right, these suspicions would point to an act of banditry,” UNAMID added.
Just Wednesday, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told the Security Council that 261 vehicles had been hijacked and 172 compounds broken into so far this year.
Rebel movements, or those linked to them, appear primarily responsible for the majority of “these terrifying incidents” in rural areas, but many also occur in main towns in Government control, he said.
UNAMID, slated to reach 26 000 personnel but now only 10 500-strong, is being deployed throughout Darfur in an effort to bring peace to a region where more than five years of fighting between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militia and rebel groups have killed an estimated 300 000 people and driven another 2.7 million from their homes.
The force includes 600 South African National Defence Force personnel and 165 SA Police officers.