UN Force Commander in DR Congo urges peaceful resolution to clashes in east
The Force Commander of the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) today urged a peaceful resolution of clashes in the country’s troubled eastern region, but said his troops stood ready to support Government efforts to resolve the problem militarily if necessary.
“Always the best option is a peaceful solution,” General Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye said when asked what MONUC was doing in support of the Government’s plan for a major military operation in the east, where forces loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda have been clashing with the DRC’s army (FARDC).
Speaking to reporters following a closed-door meeting of the Security Council, General Gaye recalled that MONUC had recently obtained the surrender of a commander loyal to General Nkunda as well as 14 troops through negotiation. “We hope this trend will continue,” he said.
At the same time, the Force Commander said the UN had provided support to the FARDC and would continue to do so. “During the operation what we are going to do is to focus on the security of the population,” he said, ensuring that there will be no retaliation against the civilian population.
The UN would also provide logistical support, helping with transport, including evacuations of the wounded and bringing in reinforcements.
He said Gen. Nkunda’s forces “are in a crisis,” numbering some 3,000 troops compared to the 20,000 the FARDC has in North Kivu.
Also briefing the press was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s outgoing Special Representative Process for DRC, William Lacy Swing, who pointed to the progress that has been achieved in recent years. “For the first time in half a century the country has legitimate institutions that came out of an electoral process,” he said.
“There are however, many leftovers from the past,” he added, urging action in response to the rebel forces not participating in the peace process.
“There are great achievements, including historic elections, as well as enormous challenges,” said the envoy. “I leave very encouraged by the process – there is nothing externally or internally which could in the long term derail it,” he said.
Mr. Swing, whose term ends next month, will be replaced by Alan Doss, currently the senior UN envoy to Liberia, who will start work in the DRC in January.