UN envoy in DR Congo defends efforts to protect civilians

6 February 2009
Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the DRC Alan Doss

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has fulfilled its duties in regard to protecting civilians against the deadly rampage of a notorious Ugandan rebel group over the past few months, the head of the mission, known as MONUC, said today.

Responding to a harsh denunciation by the medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative Alan Doss said that MONUC has been supporting the Congolese army (FARDC) to meet the Government's primary responsibility to protect its civilians against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The LRA has been terrorizing the Haut Uélé area of Orientale province in north-east DRC in recent months, leaving some 900 people dead and uprooting 130,000 others, according to rough estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Médecins Sans Frontières describes scenes of horror that are all too familiar in the wake of the Lord's Resistance Army in Haut-Uélé, but your organization's Press Release of 4 February 2009 seriously misrepresents MONUC responsibilities and actions to protect civilians in the territory,” Mr. Doss said in a letter to Laurence Gaubert, MSF's Head of Mission in the DRC.

He said that MONUC operations in the area have been limited to the town of Dungu to ensure logistical support to the FARDC – including aerial reconnaissance, transportation, rations, fuel and medical evacuations – and to defend the area's only airstrip capable of handling heavy military and humanitarian shipments.

MONUC also maintains a quick reaction force in Dungu for special operations, he said, and had planned Operation Rudia in conjunction with the FARDC to help the Government contain the LRA and deter attacks on civilians.

Operation Rudia also provides protection for a humanitarian team in Dungu and, whenever possible, has provided assistance directly to civilians or through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), although it had never had a request from MSF on humanitarian grounds, he added.

MONUC recognizes that it will never have the capacity to meet emergencies everywhere at all times, given its mandate and limited resources in a country the size of Western Europe, and so it is obliged to maintain “a fluid presence on the ground and adjust to shifting priorities,” Mr. Doss explained.

 

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