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DR Congo/North Kivu: Progressive return of security in the Otobora-Hombo region

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Goma, 8 December 2009 - Three months after the deployment of the MONUC contingent in Otobora, some 150km west of Goma in Walikale territory in North Kivu province, normal life is returning slowly to the region, and the population is pleased with the progressive return of security.

The inhabitants who fled the region because of insecurity are returning little by little to their respective zones. The markets are held regularly and without hitch, and all commercial activity have recommenced between Hombo-Otobora and Walikale-Centre.

The children have returned to school, to the relief of parents. For the chiefs of Otobora, the improvement of the security situation is due to the presence of MONUC's Blue Helmets in the region.

"MONUC's contingent represents a sign of peace for us, and we live because of this sign of peace, because if MONUC was not here, Otobora would be a desert," underlined one man.

But the populations are still fearful of FDLR elements, who although driven back by operation Kimia II, are entrenched again in the hills surrounding Otobora. The users of the Walikale-Hombo road complain of much harassment from the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) and the Mai Mai along the road.

Last week, at the time of the security meeting, attended by a protective joint mission from MONUC, the chiefs of Otobora revealed the existence of about ten illegal barriers on the Musenge-Hombo road.

They asked the military authorities to deploy regular forces on the Hombo-Otobora-Walikale-Centre roads, and demanded that the Mai Mai Kifuafua group be retuned for integration training.

They demanded of MONUC to intensify its sensitization campaign towards the FDLR, so that they can be demobilized and repatriated to Rwanda.

1,772 Rwandan combatants (of which 1,367 are FDLR) and 2,016 dependents have been repatriated to Rwanda so far this year, thanks to an intense campaign of sensitization from MONUC's DDRRR unit. In addition, the UNHCR has repatriated 14,469 Rwandan civilians in 2009.