Hundreds of newly trained national police officers are being deployed to the strife-torn eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of a stabilization plan backed by the United Nations, the world body’s mission there said today.
About 332 Congolese police officers from the Kapalata training centre in Kisangani are being deployed, with the support of the UN mission (MONUC), police and the UN Office for Projects Support (UNOPS), the mission said.
Sixty of these officers will provide security for major road work between the towns of Sake and Masisi, which employs some 1,200 people living along the road.
Road construction was suspended in late August 2008, due to fighting between the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and the Congolese army, known as the FARDC.
MONUC was originally set up in 1999 to help enforce a ceasefire after years of civil war that cost four million lives, and it has taken on such tasks as election assistance to help with peace consolidation.
The Security Council has asked MONUC to prioritize the stabilization of the eastern provinces and the protection of civilians there, particularly after the fierce fighting of recent months involving various militia groups displaced some 250,000 civilians, on top of 800,000 uprooted in earlier violence.
In a press conference today, Alan Doss, Special Representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the DRC, said that despite recent positive developments in the peace process in the east, “there is still much to be done, particularly in the areas of humanitarian action, protection of civilians, and extension of State authority.”
He said that, for those purposes, joint patrols and other operations of MONUC and the Congolese army had been launched.
In addition, the number of multidisciplinary teams for the protection of civilians has been increased, he said, while some 900 children had been separated from armed groups.
In the effort to reduce tensions in the east, some 1,380 Rwandans connected to militias have been repatriated, including 550 ex-combatants and 830 dependents, while the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has returned some 4,279 Rwandan civilians since the beginning of this year.
Mr. Doss said he remained concerned over reports indicating that the notorious Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was still attacking isolated areas.
In response, MONUC was in the process of progressively beefing up its support for the Congolese army in vulnerable areas, he said.