The top United Nations envoy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has formally accepted an invitation by the nation’s Government to support the joint DRC/Rwanda military operation targeting ethnic Rwandan Hutu militias.
“We are going to bring our support so that this process can succeed as soon as possible,” Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said following talks with DRC authorities yesterday in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
The UN will contribute a planning and liaison team, and the Goma talks focused on protecting civilians during the upcoming operations against the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), based in eastern DRC.
Also discussed was speeding up the integration of North Kivu armed groups through the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR) programme of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUC).
A task force comprising MONUC and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) was also set up to follow up the process of integrating armed groups into FARDC as soon as possible.
“We want to prevent negative repercussions on the civilian population, and we insist on the protection of civilians in such operations,” Mr. Doss said today in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province. He and Deputy Special Representative Ross Mountain have been visiting the eastern DRC since 25 January.
MONUC will send a group of six to eight staff military officers, whose mandate is limited to planning and liaising, to the DRC/Rwanda operation’s headquarters in Goma. Their goal is to boost the presence and gradual inclusion of UN civilian staff in planning the operation, as well as work on issues such as humanitarian coordination and the demobilization of former Congolese or ethnic Rwandan Hutu fighters.
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet said that their task is to work with the joint operation to ensure that international humanitarian laws are respected and that civilians are protected.
“We will be monitoring this very closely,” he told reporters today, after briefing the Security Council in a closed-door meeting on the DRC.
Mr. Mulet noted that the cooperation between Kinshasa and Kigali is a “very positive development,” as was the recent arrest of Laurent Nkunda, the head of the National Congress in Defense of the People (CNDP), which has been waging a separate battle with Government forces in eastern DRC.
He added that there is much work to be done on the political front in “addressing some of the fundamental questions of the crisis in the Kivus, which also has economic roots and other implications.”