MONUSCO exits second eastern DRC base

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Twenty years after first being a mobile operating base (MOB) and subsequently a permanent MONUSCO operating base, Bunyakiri in South Kivu has been handed to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) armed forces in line with the mission’s drawdown.

The base is in the eastern DRC province adjacent to Uganda and part of the area of operations/responsibility taken on by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to the central African country, which started deploying in December.

Bunyakiri follows the February handover of the MONUSCO Kamanyola base in South Kivu to the Congolese National Police (Police Nationale Congolaise). Both handovers are in line with the UN mission exit from the two Kivu provinces by mid-year with a complete withdrawal set down for December.

“We are honoured to mark this historic moment as Bunyakiri becomes the first base to be handed over to the Armed Forces of the DRC, as part of our orderly, responsible and phased withdrawal from South Kivu. This signifies a pivotal step in our disengagement efforts and reflects the Congolese army’s commitment to simultaneously strengthening its presence as MONUSCO withdraws from South Kivu,” MONUSCO Force Commander, Major General Khar Diouf, said at the handover.

When the UN mission was known as MONUC, a foothold as set up in Bunyakiri, 80 km from Bukava, in 2004 became a mobile operating base to protect locals from attacks and human rights violations. Continued insecurity caused by what a MONUSCO statement said was “a range of armed groups” saw the base gain permanent status in 2016. Working from Bunyakiri, UN peacekeepers conducted operations and patrols as well as supporting community dialogues and engagement initiatives.

“The MONUSCO withdrawal from South Kivu is not synonymous with the UN leaving the DRC. Rather, it is a reconfiguration of the UN presence in support of the people and government of the DRC. After MONUSCO’s departure, UN agencies, funds, and programmes will continue to provide support in accordance with their respective mandates. Responsibility for protection of civilians and security will lie exclusively with the Congolese government,” according to the statement.