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MONUC protecting civilians over holiday season in Equateur and Eastern DRC

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Kinshasa, 28 December 2009 - In Equateur Province, MONUC, the Congolese Army, FARDC and the Congolese Police have been carrying out joint patrols to reassure people in Mbandaka that they are safe. Dozens of displaced people have been arriving in the city, fleeing violence elsewhere in the territory. The joint patrols ensured that civilians were able to celebrate Christmas in peace.

MONUC now has a growing military presence in the area. It has concentrated its force in the South Ubangui District.

There are around 700 Blue Helmets there, including Tunisians at Bozene and Ghanaians, Tunisians and Bangladeshi peacekeepers in Dongo. Peacekeepers from Guatemala and Egypt are expected in the next few days. Civil Affairs and Human Rights Sections have also deployed staff in the area.

To counter possible threats from the FDLR, LRA and other armed groups, MONUC has also carried out extensive patrolling and measures to protect civilian populations in North Kivu, South Kivu and Province Orientale over the holiday season.

In South Kivu, Pakistani peacekeepers focused on major churches and congregations in their joint patrols with the FARDC and National Police. Enhanced surveillance was carried out in Bukavu and Uvira. Quick reaction forces and helicopters were put on standby in a number of locations. MONUC's South Kivu Brigade carried out 84 patrols including 25 at night in a period of 48 hours. As a result, there were no reported incidents across the territory.

In Province Orientale, following threats of renewed attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) which struck twice at Nglima, 45 kilometres north of Dungu, the week before Christmas., MONUC and FARDC have established a plan to expand their actions to protect civilian populations. The plan sees increased military patrols at night in the town of Dungu. Local people have been advised to restrict their movements after 10 o'clock at night. This is to avoid military confusing attackers with Dungu's inhabitants. Local communities are being made aware of the presence of military forces. MONUC's and FARDC's presence is being strengthened in four communities - Niangara, Duru, Ngilima, Kiliwa, and Bitima. Since the plan was put into effect, there have been no reported LRA exactions, although several LRA elements have been apprehended. On Christmas Day, a joint FARDC/MONUC patrol shot dead an LRA combatant combatant two kilometres from Nglima. In all 12 suspected LRA rebels have been arrested by the FARDC and Moroccan UN peacekeepers since 23rd December.

A number of MONUC sections including Child Protection, Civil Affairs and Human Rights have established a permanent presence in Dungu. In addition, MONUC is supplying 1900 FARDC soldiers with food and fuel. In December 30,000 ration packs were distributed along with 1200 litres of fuel.

Following an accord between the CNDP and the Government last week, MONUC transported 180 wounded ex-CNDP rebels from Kilolirwe to the Military Hospital in Goma as part of the implementation of the 23 March Agreements. Care for these wounded will now be supported under a programme funded by the UNDP and the Congolese Government.

In North Kivu, a MONUC assessment mission visited Rutshuru (72 km north of Goma) and Kiwanja on December 23rd, 2009 to examine the political and security situation. The team had several meetings with local authorities and the FARDC. The team was told by local authorities and the FARDC that the situation remains tense, in regard to FARDC operations and increased ethnic tension.