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Useful treaties and conventions to use for World Order essays

June 15, 2016 Leave a comment

treatyThis blog post is written with a HSC Legal Studies audience in mind, and more specifically those who do ‘World Order’ as an option in Legal Studies in NSW.

There are many treaties and conventions that you can choose from in a world order essays.  However, there are certain treaties and conventions are particularly useful, because of their explicit links with many useful talking points.  I would recommend that you familiarise with them.

  1. Genocide Convention 1951 (The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG))
    • Adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. This demonstrates how international law and convention can work.  Genocide Convention was NOT a UNSC resolution.  it was a UNGA resolution, hence not directly binding.  Yet because it established a persuasive legal norm, it became a binding international law, even on those who did not sign.  (The very definition of jus cogens is that it is law whether you agree or not.  See Professor Shirley V Scott, International Law in World Politics, p.5)
    • It defined genocide, and that the prohibition of genocide reinforced as a jus cogen.
    • It prescribes this as a crime against international community that must be punishable by “a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal“.  (Article 6)  This is the basis of subsequent Ad Hoc tribunals as well as the ICC in 1998.
    • Under Article 8 of the convention, signatories may “may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide“.  This provides the rationale for a possible chapter 7 intervention in the face of credible evidence of genocide.  In fact, it arguably imposes a responsibility to protect in the face of such evidence.
    • The convention also underlines the potentially persuasive roles of lobbying and NGOs in encouraging cooperation and compliance, or in particular the role of a one-man NGO in the person of Raphael Lembkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer and professor of international law in Rutgers University NY, who kept campaigning for a formal convention against genocide throughout the inter-war years (1919-1939).  His persistence and refusal to give up meant that the world came face to face with the fateful atrocities of the Holocaust, Lembkin’s campaign finally found a receptive audience among world leaders.  Thus, the story of Genocide Convention illustrates that
      • It is sometimes hard to evaluate the impact of NGO lobbying.  Certainly, during the inter-war years, it appeared Lembkhin’s lobbying fell on deaf ears.  (See Dr Sarah Ellen Merry, NYU)
      • But long term persistence can sometimes pay off, especially when historical and political opportunities arise.  This is the story of Lemkhin.  
  2. Ottawa Treaty 1997 (also known as ‘Mine Ban Treaty‘, or the ‘Treaty on the Prohibition of Land Mines‘)
    • Signatory states agreed to stop using anti-personnel land mines within ten years.
    • This treaty is excellent for illustrating the issue of compliance, because 38 nations have not signed it, and these being some of the powerful military powers in the world (e.g. USA, Russia, China etc.)
    • Because of this, the treaty has been recognised as jus cogens.  It simply has not yet established the prohibition of land mines as legal norm in international law yet.  Needless to say, it also demonstrates how the interests of major sovereign powers can frustrates and limits the effectiveness of legal instrument.
    • The treaty is also great, again, for illustrating the powerful persuasive role of long-term campaigns and lobbying by NGOs in encouraging compliance, cooperation and promoting law reform in response to increasing global awareness of the humanitarian danger of anti-personnel land mines.  This included:
      • Mine Action Canada, which lobbied the Canadian government to lead the diplomatic effort
      • Celebrities like the late Diana, Princess of Wales
      • International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  3. Rome Statute 1998
    • The fact some major sovereign nations have not signed or ratified the Rome Statute obviously undermines the strength of the treaty.
    • Some of the non-signatories are P5 powers.  This is an even bigger problem:
      • ICC Prosecutor may initiate investigations and issue arrest warrants against individuals in member-states.
      • However, if the suspects are citizens of non-signatory nation-states (e.g. Sudan), then ICC could only initiate investigations and issue arrest warrants against such suspects if the UNSC refers such suspects to the ICC.
      • Obviously, this gives the P5 powers enormous influence, and it ensures that soldiers and officials from non signatory states like China, US and Russia would never face ICC justice.  This leads to accusations of unfairness, and that ICC is captive to the interests of powerful sovereign powers.
      • Refer to China being unwilling initially to refer President Omar Bashir to the ICC, due to its strong economic ties with Sudan.
      • Refer to China deciding to allow UNSC to refer Bashir to the ICC after heavy diplomatic pressures, as well as mounting unavoidable evidence of atrocities committed by Sudan against the people of Darfur.  
        • Make the point that in diplomacy, credibility is often seen as important asset.  This explained China’s changing stance.
    • Its lack of direct arrest mechanism means that it relies on the cooperation and compliance of member-states to assist.  This can lead to problems.
      •  Refer to the incident of Zuma and Bashir.  
  4. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1968
    • The treaty establishes non-proliferation as a legal norm.
    • It establishes the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) as a verification agency.  This clarity underlines its effectiveness.
    • It relies on the UNSC for enforcement.  This does give P5 enormous powers again.  However, keep in mind that P5 are legally allowed to possess nuclear weapons under NPT.  So, it was in their interests to support the NPT legal regime.
      • This demonstrates that treaty regimes can be quite effective if they are aligned with the political interests of powerful member states.
    • However, the enforcement abilities of NPT can be ineffective if
      • Violating states are willing to pay the diplomatic and economic costs of violations (e.g. sanctions against North Korea has not stopped North Korean nuclear weapons programs.
  5. Fourth Geneva Conventions 1949
    • This is an excellent treaty to demonstrate compliance.
    • This is with particular reference to the role of ICRC in demanding access to Prisoners of War as well as monitoring violations of international criminal law in conflict situations.
    • This is because ICRC is a neutral NGO.  This gives it credibility.
    • Refer to the Guantanomo Bay case.

 

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Categories: world order

‘Think Again: War’ (Foreign Policy, 7 October 2011)

October 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I will not comment on this link too much at this point.  I have a things waiting for me to attend to.  But this article is really useful for students who want to develop a critical approach to their legal studies essays in the ‘World Order’ section of the HSC examination.

‘Think Again: War’ (Foreign Policy, 7 October 2011)

The author of the article is Joshua Goldstein.  He is an professor emeritus of international relations at American University and author of Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide.  In the article, he goes through six commonly held assumptions about global conflicts, and critically re-evaluates.  Students are encouraged to go through the flow of argument, and use them to challenge what you might have learnt in textbooks and from teachers.  Alternatively, you may set out to argue some of the relevant points by Goldstein.

But remember, develop a critical approach to legal studies essays is the key to exam performance.

Categories: world order

‘ICC Outlines Kenya Probe Plan’ (Al-Jazeera, 1 April 2010)

April 3, 2010 Leave a comment

This media report deals with the evolving role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in achieving world order as it seeks to deal with political violence that took place in Kenya after the election in 2007.  (‘ICC Outlines Kenya Probe Plan’ (Al-Jazeera, 1 April 2010))  But in order to deal with that, we must get a brief historical overview, especially since Kenya is not well-known among most students in Australia, despite that the fact the current US President, Barack Obama, can trace his heritage back to this country .  First, let us look at the map of Kenya. 

Kenya is an East African country that borders Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.  At least four of its neighbours are embroiled in widespread political violence.  To the northwest, the Sudanese government has been fighting a civil war against rebels in the south that led to accusations of war crimes and genocide, and the ICC currently has an arrest warrant for one of its government minister (Minister for Humanitarian Affairs) for Crime Against Humanity.  To the east, in Somalia civil war is continuing between the internationally recognised government in Mogadishu and the Islamist rebels.  On top of that, there are major piracy problems off the coast of Somalia that has drawn much international attention.  Recent media reports suggest that the Islamist rebels (Al-Shabaab) have actually been quite effective in restoring some semblance of law and order and civic governance, but is still currently shunned by the world community due to its alleged links with Al-Qaeda.   To the north, the Ethiopian government has been sending troops into Somalia to fight against the Islamist rebel government in Somalia, and there has been accusations of war crimes levelled against its troops.  Situation has been settling down in Uganda following decades of civil war and political violence after the rule of the violent dictator, Idi Amin.  Multi-party elections was successfully held in 2005, and there are continuing discusssions on the establishment of a war crimes court to with the legacy of its violent past.  The ICC actually has issued arrest warrants for five war crimes suspects from Uganda in 2005, but four of them are still at large, most notably that of Joseph Kony, leader of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army.  Finally, an oasis of relative stability resides in Tanzania.  In fact, Tanzania has in recent years been an elected member-state of the UN Security Council, a clear sign of its relative political and economic stability.  In a nutshell,

  • Kenya resides in a part of Africa that has experienced major political upheavals.  This must have repurcussions for the political stability for Kenya, considering the porous nature of its borders.  A good example of would be the recent report of skirmishes between the Kenyan army and Al-Shabaab militias from Somalia, which points to poorly demarcated border between Kenya and Somalia being a factor in the tension between the two countries.  (Stratfor report, dated 1 April, 2010)
  • Despite its best effort, many wanted war crimes suspects by the ICC still remain at large.  This appears to indicate the continuing limit of its effectiveness.  However, ICC arrest warrants are often part of the overall discussions in conflict resolutions in that region, as evidenced by Joseph Kony’s specific requests for the rescinding of arrest warrants by the ICC as part of his conditions for ceasefire.  This suggests that in an organic way, the ICC is actually more effective than meets it first appears. 

Let us turn our attention to the post-election violence in 2007 in Kenya that has since drawn the direct attention of the ICC.  This is how IRIN summarises the events.  (IRIN is the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA.) 

Kenya suffered its worst humanitarian crisis since independence following the December 30 results of a hotly-contested presidential election. Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters rejected the declared victory of incumbent Mwai Kibaki, alleging it was the result of rampant rigging. Protests degenerated into widespread violence as decades of economic frustration and ethnic rivalry spiraled out of control. In the days immediately after the results were announced, gangs of youths blocked Kenya’s main roads and set fire to hundreds of homes of perceived ‘outsiders’. In all, more than 1,200 people were killed and some 350,000 displaced into temporary camps, with an equal number seeking refuge with friends or relatives. Agricultural activity was seriously hampered as farmers moved away from their fields, posing long-terms risks for the country’s food security – already threatened by drought and soaring fertiliser prices. The education and health sectors were also compromised by the large-scale displacement of professionals.

This wasn’t the kind of post-election violence that one might witness in Baghdad, where hundreds of people might die from a terrorist strike in a supermarket, but a fullscale upsurge of political violence that has led to the large scale displacement of people in hundreds of thousands (i.e. refugee camps) plus major disturbance to the civic institutions of the country.  This included key civic sectors such as health, education and judiciary.  (Note: Usahidi.com gives a really good map overview of the spread of violence in the country in 2007-2008.  (http://legacy.ushahidi.com/))  This has meant, among other things, the inability of the current judicial system in Kenya to deal with the scale of criminal cases that resulted from the post-election violence, particularly the ones that falls under the definition of ‘Crimes Against Humanity’. 

Let us quickly revisit the definition of ‘Crimes Against Humanity’.  According to the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court, ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ can be defined as

particularly odious offences (that) constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. Murder; extermination; torture; rape and political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Isolated inhumane acts of this nature may constitute grave infringements of human rights, or depending on the circumstances, war crimes, but may fall short of falling into the category of crimes under discussion.

Note that I have underlined parts that apply particularly to Kenya.  What separates violent crimes from ‘crimes against humanity’ are the questions of scale and the question of policy.  The post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-2008 was of such a large and systematic scale that credible allegations of crimes against humanity arose.  As it happens, ‘crimes against humanity’ falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

The International Criminal Court prosecutor has pledged to focus on victims as he prepares to begin an investigation into Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Al Jazeera on Thursday that he assures protection to the victims and witnesses of the violence…

Moreno-Ocampo said he has a list of 20 possible suspects made up of political and business leaders and that he will prosecute “those most responsible”

Louis Moreno-Campo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, is making impressive promises during his interview with Al-Jazeera.  However, the International Criminal Court will be facing some very difficult challenges in fulfilling its promises.  Some of its twenty suspects are members of the current Kenyan government.  The ICC will face a lot of difficulties in its investigations if it does not receive the cooperation of the Kenyan government.  Questions must also arise as to the ability of the International Criminal Court to protect its own witnesses.  Moreno-Campo has stated he will not rely on Kenyan government to protect its own witnesses.  This means it will need to be careful in how it distributes its limited financial resources as it grants witness protection. 

ICC’s track record in Sudan and Uganda has been questionable.  Let’s hope that Moreno-Campo will be able to do better in Kenya. 

‘Congo troops ‘massacred refugees” (BBC News, 16 October 2009)

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

united nationsThe latest development from the Democratic Republic of Congo underlies the enormous dilemma facing the current UN peacekeeping operation there, the MONUC (Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en RD Congo).  It shows the difficulties facing a UN peacekeeping command tasked with keeping an impossible ceasefire agreement.  In particular, it shows the impossible choices facing the United Nations, one being a neutral observer where offensive action is clearly needed, or participating in a conflict where there are no innocent faction.

First of all, let us familiarise ourselves with the geography of Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Democratic Republic of Congo is a large country in the centre of Africa.  The conflict zone in question is in a province called North Kivu.  See map below.

Map of North Kivu (with MSF camps indicated)

Click here for my earlier post on the hellish humanitarian disaster in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  (‘LRA accused of DR Congo massacre’ (Al-Jazeera, 26 June 2009))

Congo troops ‘massacred refugees’‘ (BBC News, 16 October, 2009)

Army troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo shot and beat to death about 50 Rwandans in April and burnt their refugee camp, a UN investigator says.
Philip Alston said about 40 women were also abducted and it prompted a revenge massacre by Rwandan Hutu militia.
His report said military operations this year carried out by the army supported by UN peacekeepers in the east had produced catastrophic results.

Army troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo shot and beat to death about 50 Rwandans in April and burnt their refugee camp, a UN investigator says.

Philip Alston said about 40 women were also abducted and it prompted a revenge massacre by Rwandan Hutu militia.

His report said military operations this year carried out by the army supported by UN peacekeepers in the east had produced catastrophic results.

The exact details of these human rights violations by the government soldiers of DRC is pretty hallowing.

Some 40 women were abducted from the camp. A small group of 10 who escaped described being gang-raped, and had severe injuries – some had chunks of their breasts hacked off,” AFP news agency quotes him as saying.

How did the MONUC get into this morally dubious situation?  The truth is that the rebel factions in North Kivu are a major source of instability in the region.  One of these rebel factions is the FDLR (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda), consisting of Hutu extremists who perpetrated the Rwandan genocide in 1994.  Ever since they were kicked out of Rwanda by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, they have committed numerous atrocities in North and South Kivu, including the systematic use of rape as a weapon.  Several key FDLR leaders are wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for crimes against humanity committed during 1994.  The International Criminal Court also has arrest warrants for several FDLR leaders for recent war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a nutshell, they are no saints.  However, in a country that has known no peace for the last three decades, the violations by the government soldiers against Hutu civilians in refugee camps in North Kivu province should come as no surprise.  It is notable that the current Rwandan government, many of whom consider themselves victims of the 1994 genocide, have already decided that the DRC government is preferable to the FDLR, and have cooperated jointly with the DRC army to dismantle the FDLR faction.

Critics of the United Nations Mission in Congo  need to at least empathise with the fact that the MONUC is caught between a rock and a hard place.

‘Gacaca Justice – Rwanda’ (Journeyman Pictures, October 2009)

October 11, 2009 Leave a comment

united nationsThis is a youtube clip of a documentary about the Gacaca communal tribunals that have been used as a complementary alternative to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Gacaca Justice – Rwanda‘ (Journeyman Pictures, October 2009)

In the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the United Nations set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to deal with alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.  The ICTR has been criticised for its inefficiency and prolonged process.  As President Kagame argued, if the ICTR is used exclusively to deal with alleged perpetrators, it would take one hundred years to sort out all the alleged offence committed during the Rwandan genocide.

This is not to say that the ICTR has not achieved anything.  In fact the ICTR has been relatively effective in dealing the major alleged perpetrators.  A most recent example of this would be the arrest of Idelphonse Nizeyimana, an intelligence officer in the former Rwandan Army and second in command of an elite military school in Rwanda before the country exploded in genocide in 1994, who allegedly orchestrated the massacre of civilians during the 1994 genocide.  (See ‘Major Suspect in Genocide of Rwandans Is Captured‘ (New York Times, 6 October 2009).)

However, it became obvious to many in Rwanda that a complementary alternative is needed to deal with the numerous minor participant in the genocide.  It needs to be cost-effective, and serve as a vehicle of national reconciliation.  The Gacaca communal tribunal was set up with such purposes in mind.

This documentary film, distributed by Journeyman Pictures in October 2009, gives a positive portrayal of the Gacaca communal tribunal.  It allows the audience the chance to see how a Gacaca communal tribunal session operates.  In the screened session, the tribunal is held outdoor.  The accused can plead for forgiveness from the victims and thus receive reduced sentence.  The focus is much more than about punishment.  It is as much about communal reconciliation.

Critics would be right to point out that the Gacaca communal tribunal, as portrayed in this documentary, violates many principles of due process.  However, when you consider the lack of resources within post-genocide Rwanda, the Gacaca communal tribunal has been quite an achievement.

‘Khmer Rouge case judge ‘biased” (BBC News, 10 October 2009)

October 11, 2009 Leave a comment

united nationsThis timely news article highlights the challenges involved in trying war crimes and crimes against humanity in a courtroom.  The case involves the special hybrid court in Cambodia, which was set up after the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Cambodia in the 90s.

Khmer Rouge case judge ‘biased’‘ (BBC News, 10 October 2009)

Lawyers for Cambodia’s former foreign minister have called for the removal of the judge investigating his role in the Khmer Rouge era.
Ieng Sary is charged with crimes against humanity for his part in the deaths of as many as two million people in the late 1970s.
His defence team claims the judge at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, Marcel Lemonde, is biased.
The controversy is the latest in a series of problems to hit the tribunal.

Lawyers for Cambodia’s former foreign minister have called for the removal of the judge investigating his role in the Khmer Rouge era.

Ieng Sary is charged with crimes against humanity for his part in the deaths of as many as two million people in the late 1970s.

His defence team claims the judge at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, Marcel Lemonde, is biased.

The controversy is the latest in a series of problems to hit the tribunal.

One of the characteristic of natural justice is that the accused is given a fair trial and is seen to be given a fair trial, by a judge that is seen to be unbiased.  While it might be possible that the defendant’s legal team is simply trying to discredit the international criminal tribunal in Cambodia, it does highlight the inherent difficulty of trying alleged war criminals in a hostile environment.  There is an understandable amount of public pressure on the judges to convict the defendants in these types of cases.  This is partly due to the horrendous nature of the alleged offence.  Adding to that is the enormous amount of public expectations on the court to redeem the country from its traumatized past.  In such context, it is quite a challenging task to provide defendants in international criminal tribunals a fair trial.

‘LRA accused of DR Congo massacre’ (Al-Jazeera, 26 June 2009)

June 28, 2009 2 comments

It is almost an indictment of the western media that one of the most serious, intractable and tragic conflict is also one of the most neglected conflict.  I am referring to the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, also known as ‘Congo-Kinshasa’, also formerly known as Zaire.  In fact, the country has been labelled by the United Nations as the worst failed state.  Here are some startling statistics that illustrate the point.  (See Sexual Warfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo, SMH 26 June 2009)

  • According to the latest World Bank report in 2008, out of 151 countries, DRC ranks dead last in terms of stability.
  • According to an Amnesty International Report in 2004, 40000 rapes have occurred in DRC during the previous six years of fighting.  Rapes were committed against civilians by armed militias.
  • 5.4 million people have already died in this ongoing conflict.
  • During the latest round of fighting in recent months in North Kivu province, 250000 people have been displaced, not to mention thousands of death as well as countless of number of rape victims.  This has brought the total human casualties to over a million.
  • This is a conflict where rape has been used systemically as a weapon on an unprecedented scale.  (See The rape of a nation‘, The Age, 7 December 2008)
  • Coupled with this has been the rise in the recruitment and abuse of child soldiers, along with the psychological scares that will remain for generations.
  • There has also been a recent outbreak of cholera, which is increasing burden on the already stretched medical resources from NGOs.

Pictures tell a thousand words.

To really understand the roots of the conflict, one really should go deeper into the tragic history of the region, with particular focus on the historic complicity of Belgian colonialism.  I would recommend those interested to do some elementary research.

Onto the latest development of this conflict.  Much of the fighting and humanitarian disasters take place in a province called North Kivu.  A map of North Kivu (provincial capital city: Goma) provided by Médecins Sans Frontières should tell part of the story.

Map of North Kivu (with MSF camps indicated)

As you can see on this map, the province of North Kivu borders three countries with some very troubled past.  Ugandan government has, for many years, been fighting a bloody civil war against a rebel army called the Lord’s Resistance Army.  This rebel militia is widely known to be responsible for the use of child soldiers, as well as the systemic killing, rape and mutilation of civilians.  The leader of the LRA is Joseph Kony, who has already been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, but thus far is unable to be captured.  For its part, the Ugandan army has adopted counter-insurgency tactics that has made it complicit in war crimes and human rights violations.  To the south of Uganda is Rwanda, which in 1994 saw Hutu militias (Interhamwe), backed by government forces, went on a killing spree against the Tutsi minority.  The Interhamwe and Rwandan government forces were subsequently kicked out of the Rwanda by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which has since been in power in Rwanda.  The defeated Hutu extremist rebels however have taken advantage of the political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and set up their bases in North Kivu.  Less of a problem but still noteworthy is the neighbouring country of Burundi, which also saw inter-ethnic violence between Hutus and Tutsis for more than a decade, and only began to implement, with comparable success, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement 2000.

Keeping in mind the the porous nature of the borders in Central African region, you can begin to appreciate the security problems that beset the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in particular North Kivu.  The recent fighting concerns the infiltration of the LRA rebels from Uganda into North Kivu, wrecking havoc and destruction upon the already traumatised civilians in that province.  This extract from a news report by Al-Jazeera (‘LRA accused of DR Congo massacre’ (Al-Jazeera, 26 June 2009)) tells part of the story.

About 1,200 Congolese civilians have been killed and around 1,500 abducted by Ugandan rebels over the last six months, a UN official says.
Ross Mountain, the UN secretary general’s deputy special representative, said on Friday that the violence had taken place in the remote Haut-Uele region in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He said that most of the people who had been abducted were children.
The Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, is believed to have taken as many as 20,000 children for use as soldiers, porters and “wives” since it launched its war against the Ugandan government in the early 1990s.
“The LRA has traditionally recruited children in Uganda and its presence in Congo, in the past, has been as a kind of back base,” Mountain told Al Jazeera.
“Unfortunately they have now taken up actions against the civilian population and they are spreading through a very large area in small numbers, they are not a large force.”

About 1,200 Congolese civilians have been killed and around 1,500 abducted by Ugandan rebels over the last six months, a UN official says.

Ross Mountain, the UN secretary general’s deputy special representative, said on Friday that the violence had taken place in the remote Haut-Uele region in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He said that most of the people who had been abducted were children.

The Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, is believed to have taken as many as 20,000 children for use as soldiers, porters and “wives” since it launched its war against the Ugandan government in the early 1990s.

The LRA has traditionally recruited children in Uganda and its presence in Congo, in the past, has been as a kind of back base,” Mountain told Al Jazeera.

Unfortunately they have now taken up actions against the civilian population and they are spreading through a very large area in small numbers, they are not a large force.”

This latest spate of violence came about due to a breakdown of peace talk in Uganda between the LRA and Ugandan government forces.  According to the report,

The LRA declared a unilateral ceasefire in August 2006 and a truce was agreed later the same month.

However, as negotiations for a lasting peace dragged on LRA fighters began to drift away from two designated assembly points and the talks broke down.

Ironically, a possible reason for the breakdown in peace talk between the LRA and Ugandan government forces has been the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for LRA leader Joseph Kony.  Fearful of a possible capture and arrest in the event of a successful peace talk, Joseph Kony has thus far been very cagey about the signing any peace agreement.  There are now people within the Ugandan government calling on the International Criminal Court to rescind its arrest warrant for Joseph Kony in the interests of a prospective peace agreement.  (See ‘Looking for justice in Uganda’, TIME, 18 June 2007)

There is a UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The MONUC (Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en République démocratique du Congo), founded under UN Security Council Resolution 1291 (2000), it has a current strength of 5537 personnel including 500 observers, making it the largest peacekeeping mission on earth.  Originally mandated to monitor the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and the end of the Second Congolese War (also known as the African World War), its mission has since been refocused to adapt to the changing nature of the conflict in DRC.  Despite being the largest peacekeeping operation in UN history, it has struggled to deal with the challenges of the conflict.  When you consider the size of the country alone, this is not surprising.  Aside from suffering from inadequate number of personnel, the MONUC has also been accused of corruption and incompetence.  Members of the Indian peacekeeping contingent, for example, has been accused of engaging in narcotic trade with members of the Hutu rebels.  It has also been accused of criminal complacency in weapon seizures of rebel forces, in return for illicit material gains. (Pointers: Congo-Kinshasa: Under Cover, Africa Confidential, 9 May 2008, Vol. 49, No.10, p.12)  Attempts to investigate this by UN internal investigation team has stalled, due to fear that it might alienate the Indian government which is the second largest contributing country in the MONUC.  (“UN troops ‘traded gold for guns'” by Martin Plaut, BBC News, 22 May 2007)  There has been call for increase troop contribution from European nations, particularly by France, but thus far the European reinforcement has not materialised.

The good news is that it simply cannot get much worse.  Africa’s World War is officially over.  However the road to peace is still fraught with dangers and unforseeable pitfalls.