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DR Congo: MONUC presence builds confidence in vulnerable areas

News and Press Release
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Kinshasa, 28 December 2009 - Expanded MONUC patrols in some of the most vulnerable areas of Equateur and Orientale provinces and the Kivus during the Christmas holiday season will be extended into the New Year. Fears have been expressed in each of the provinces that public gatherings in churches and elsewhere could provide easy targets for the LRA in Orientale, the FDLR in the Kivus and insurgents in Equateur. The areas patrolled jointly by MONUC and Congolese security forces have mostly remained peaceful.

In Orientale, MONUC has increased night patrols in the town of Dungu and local people have been advised to restrict their movements after 10 o'clock at night. The presence of MONUC and FARDC troops has also been strengthened in Niangara, Duru, Ngilima, Kiliwa, and Bitima. There have been no reported LRA exactions since patrols were expanded. Twelve suspected LRA rebels have been arrested by the FARDC and Moroccan peacekeepers since 23rd December and on Christmas Day, a joint FARDC/MONUC patrol shot dead an LRA combatant two kilometres from Nglima. MONUC's Child Protection, Civil Affairs and Human Rights sections have established a permanent presence in Dungu. To bolster civilian protection in Orientale, MONUC is supplying 1900 FARDC soldiers with food and fuel.

In South Kivu, joint patrols by Pakistani peacekeepers, the FARDC and National Police have focused on major churches and congregations, and surveillance has been expanded in Bukavu and Uvira. Quick reaction forces and helicopters have been put on standby in a number of locations. MONUC's South Kivu Brigade carried out 84 patrols in one 48 - hour period. There were no reported incidents in the patrolled areas over Christmas.

In North Kivu, a MONUC assessment team visited Rutshuru (72 km north of Goma) and Kiwanja on 23 December to assess the political and security situation. The team was advised by local authorities and the FARDC that the situation in these communities was tense. Following an accord between the CNDP and the Government last week, MONUC transported 130 wounded ex-CNDP rebels from Kilolirwe to the Military Hospital in Goma in keeping with the 23 March Agreements. Care for the wounded will be supported under a programme funded by UNDP and the Congolese Government.

In Equateur, MONUC has established a significant presence to help Government forces protect civIlians and respond to attacks by armed groups that surfaced with an inter-tribal dispute in Dongo in late October, displacing large numbers of people and threatening communities. MONUC has concentrated its support in the South Ubangui District and has its operations hub in Gemena. MONUC is providing transportation, rations, fuel, and has provided medical evacuation for 42 wounded FARDC soldiers. With the arrival shortly of Egyptian forces, there will be some 700 Blue Helmets in the district, including Tunisians and Guatemalans at Bozene and Ghanaians, Tunisians and Bangladeshi peacekeepers in Dongo. MONUC Civil Affairs and Human Rights sections have also deployed staff in the area.

MONUC's presence has helped to stabilize the situation in Equateur and in communities like Bozene, displaced families have reacted to the presence of a temporary operating base by returning home in growing numbers.