Troops from the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), backed by hundreds of United Nations peacekeepers with armoured vehicle and helicopter support, have regained control of parts of the South Kivu region in the east of the strife-torn country that were occupied by rebels from neighbouring Rwanda.
The UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) said that the two-week army-led operation, which ended at the weekend, had regained control of three areas approximately 60 kilometres from Bukavu, the main city of the South Kivu region.
MONUC said that while its logistic support to the army had ended, its South Kivu brigade continues to provide other support to the Congolese forces, including “intensive patrolling in the zone,” aimed at preventing Rwandan rebels from resettling and harassing the local population.
Elsewhere, MONUC said that another operation aimed at removing militia members was ongoing southeast of the town of Bunia, in the Ituri district. In and around Bunia, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says almost 2,000 internally displaced families have been registered since the end of last month and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is helping with food needs.
These military operations are the latest in recent months in which MONUC has played a more active role in seeking to bring stability to the eastern DRC as the vast country prepares to hold elections in June to consolidate stability following a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives through fighting and the attendant humanitarian catastrophe – the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II.
The head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno, currently on a 10-day working visit to the country, met with President Joseph Kabila to discuss, among other things, the current electoral process and security issues.
Mr. Guéhenno reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to support the electoral process in the DRC and stressed that “the elections must be carried out in a calm and peaceful environment.”
During his stay, Mr. Guéhenno also plans to visit the east of the country to see how UN peacekeepers are helping to promote stability, and will have other meetings with officials, including the DRC’s four vice-presidents.
In a related development, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sent a letter to the President of the Security Council appointing five people to comprise a Group of Experts monitoring illicit arms imports, as well as travel bans and asset freezes, on all violators of the weapons ban against the DRC. The five are specialists in such areas as arms trafficking, border control, finance and aviation.