Lack of much needed aircraft that UN member states were meant to donate has hampered the ability of a Congo peacekeeping force to protect civilians, the UN’s head of peacekeeping said.
“We are still lacking, I think, 16 military helicopters. And we are still lacking a C-130. We are requesting that from many member states,” Alain Le Roy told Reuters during a visit to the central African nation.
“When we don’t have them yet, we are disappointed. But we will keep trying,” he added.
The Security Council voted last December to send 3000 extra soldiers and additional air assets to Democratic Republic of Congo, where peacekeepers are backing army efforts to stamp out Rwandan rebels seen as a root cause of a decade of conflict.
After repeated delays, troop reinforcements began arriving last month, but there has been little progress toward securing helicopters and a cargo plane.
Congo launched an offensive in January against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), some of whom participated in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
The anti-rebel drive was part of a deal aimed at improving relations between Kinshasa and Kigali, enemies during a brutal 1998-2003 war.
However, the disarmament of more than 1000 of the estimated 6000 FDLR rebels has come at a cost of nearly 900 000 people displaced, 1000 dead, and 7000 rapes of women and girls.
“We know that civilians are at risk due to that operation. In the protection of civilians, the key is mobility. And mobility in this country, where there are no roads, is by air,” Le Roy said.
Despite criticism of the operation from humanitarians, the Security Council last month voted unanimously to continue its support, while urging Congo’s UN mission, MONUC, to take steps to better protect civilians caught up in the fighting.
Pic: A UN Mil Mi8 “Hip” about to land