DR Congo

DR Congo: MONUC evaluates its operations in Kiwanja

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The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Leila Zerrougui, has carred out a visit to Kiwanja 70 kilometres north of Goma.

Kiwanja was the scene of heavy fighting between Mayi-Mayi forces and members of the CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple) on the 4th and 5th of November. The aim of the visit was to asess MONUC's ability on the ground to protect civilian populations in the context of strengthening its capacity.

In Kiwanja Ms Zerrougui had meetings with MONUC's military, civil society representatives and several humanitarian workers. She also heard testimony from people who found refuge around the MONUC base. A large number of them had to leave the base hurriedly. According to evidence from the refugees, five thousand people who had taken shelter close to MONUC's base, were prevented from leaving their refuge and returning to their homes, by the CNDP, under the threat of reprisals. A hundred people who stayed in the camp have not yet been helped, though the World Food Programme is planning to distribute aid from Friday.

From the different meetings with local people and civil society representatives, it was clear there were some misunderstandings about MONUC's mandate. Ms Zerrougui was keen to adddress these. She explained that MONUC is there to "protect the population and not to fight Congolese military elements. "That's not its mission, that's not its mandate", she clarified. "Our military have clear orders; they know they have to protect the people, even with limited means. They will do all they can to bring the necessary assistance to the people", she said.

She denounced the manipulation of the people, often against the peacekeepers. "If people don't show a friendly face to MONUC soldiers, they risk creating misunderstandings. MONUC must be allowed to protect the population so it can have good relations with them', she told civil society organisations.

To allow for better communication and stronger links with the population, MONUC intends establishing a civilian section in the area.

Despite, a relative calm there, the humanitarian and security situation is still worrying, Ms Zerrougui said. "The humanitarian situation is very difficult. It's encouraging that the charity MSF and some doctors are here. OCHA is organising aid because at the moment, as there's no fighting, it's easier to do".

On the issue of health, Rutshuru Hospital said there was a cholera epidemic, with 60 to 70 cases identified every week.