Image via WikipediaA Nov 23 AP report carried by WaPo says that an unidentified female U.S. embassy official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has accused an Uruguayan army major stationed in the country with assault.
The report which quotes an Uruguayan official was filed from Montevideo and there does not appear to be any other source on this at this time. Note that approximately 1300 U.N. peacekeeping troops from Uruguay are posted in the DRC. Although the news report did not indicate where the alleged assault took place, US presence in the country includes the embassy in Kinshasa and a small office in Goma, the center of the UN presence in the east.
The most recent OIG report we could find for the US Embassy in the DRC is dated 2009. At that time, U.S. Embassy Kinshasa has 63 American direct-hire employees plus 11 personal services contract positions. The official presence in the country includes the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Defense, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) located on three compounds. It is entirely possible that the staffing number is no longer accurate due to mission expansion in the last couple of years.
The OIG report also note that “Steady mission growth since 2007 has resulted in a lack of office space, and more growth is projected. Recent plans to begin construction of a NEC have now been pushed back to 2014 because of the inability to find a suitable site.”
Through the U.S. presence in the city of Goma in the conflictive eastern Congo, Embassy Kinshasa is successfully advancing U.S. foreign policy interests through political and humanitarian representation, reporting, and delivery of humanitarian assistance.
The Embassy has carried out an impressive effort to establish and provide administrative and security support for the U.S. presence in Goma, a presence that is likely to be necessary for the next three to five years.
There is an important need to regularize the status of the Goma location as a small, medium-term presence in order to assure the security and proper functioning of the U.S. personnel there.
As U.S. engagement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo has grown, and U.S. development assistance has resumed, the size of the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa has increased greatly and is scheduled for further growth in the next several years. Future growth of embassy program staff needs to be adjusted to the embassy’s ability to provide security and administrative services.
The Ambassador and the DCM recognize the importance of security in Embassy Kinshasa, and support the strong security program of the regional security officer. Because of the poor maintenance record of local airlines, the Ambassador has prohibited Embassy employees from using local carriers with resultant difficulties in getting around this large country.
U.S. PRESENCE IN GOMA
The city of Goma in eastern Congo is located a 2.5 hour flight by UN aircraft and is unreachable by any other safe transport from Kinshasa. Goma is on the border with Rwanda and close to military clashes and consequent population flights in that region. The United States has been present in Goma with temporary duty (TDY) political and humanitarian representation since October 2007 in response to the request of Democratic Republic of the Congo President Kabila to the U.S. Government. USAID humanitarian officers, a political officer, and rotating diplomatic security officers have been based full-time in Goma since November 2008. In order to diminish costs and provide a safer location, the Embassy leased, furnished, and helped secure, with Department support, a residence and small compound for these permanent officers and frequent TDY visitors.
THE STAKES AND THE TIMEFRAME
Although Goma would not be the U.S. Government’s first choice for a consulate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the situation in the Goma area encompasses the most significant U.S. interests and objectives in the Congo: regional and domestic stability and conflict, humanitarian assistance to the war-affected population, human rights and movements of refugees and internally displaced people. In addition to being the city closest to ongoing Rwanda/Congo military operations, Goma is the center of the UN presence in the east, and provides access through the United Nations to areas and populations affected by Ugandan operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army in the remote northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo. Goma is also a frequent stop for visiting congressional and congressional staff delegations. The Embassy estimates, and the OIG team agrees, that the United States will need a political and humanitarian presence in Goma for the next three to five years.
The OIG team that visited Goma confirmed the excellent work being done by personnel there in representing U.S. interests with the UN peacekeeping mission, other diplomatic missions, local authorities and the many humanitarian nongovernmental organizations and the voluminous reporting that keeps an avid Washington and regional readership informed. The OIG team also confirmed the outstanding management and security support provided by Embassy Kinshasa in leasing, equipping, and securing a compound of two houses for the political officer and TDY personnel. The position of political officer in Goma is currently filled on a permanent basis by an officer officially assigned to Kinshasa, who receives full meals and incidental expenses in Goma. The regional security office in Kinshasa and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in Washington support Goma with TDY security officers and the FY 2011 MSP proposes a new assistant regional security officer position for Goma.
During the inspection, OIG personnel traveled to Goma, met with the Goma political officer and accompanied him to a number of meetings. The officer, experienced in Africa, is Embassy Kinshasa’s senior representative vis-à-vis Congolese and international authorities in Goma. He serves as the primary reporting officer on the regional conflicts in the eastern Congo. As the eyes and ears of the U.S. Government in a conflict-torn region, he sends in daily reports to the political section in Kinshasa, which then adds its own input, puts the reports into cable format, and transmits them to Washington, thus providing hungry Washington consumers with conflict-related reporting from this extremely isolated part of the Congo. He also reports by telephone to offices in the Departments of State and Defense, as well as to other embassies in the region.
The Goma officer has forged strong bonds with UN officials, European governments, nongovernmental and religious organizations, international media, and civil authorities. He attends the UN forces daily military briefing to remain current on UN operations and has accompanied UN officials to visit conflict zones throughout eastern and northern Congo. He has provided invaluable assistance to visiting Members of Congress and Congressional staff with interest in issues related to the conflict, humanitarian assistance, refugee affairs, sexual and gender-based violence, child soldiers, and trafficking in persons. The U.S Government presence in Goma is successfully advancing U.S. foreign policy interests in the region.
OIG Report No. ISP-I-09-36A, Inspection of Embassy Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo – May 2009(pdf)