An indication of the work MONUSCO, the largest United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission with a sizeable South African contingent, does in its “adopted” home territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo comes in numbers tabled at the Security Council by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The latest report is for the period 1 December 2021 to 16 March this year and shows, among others, blue helmets conducted over thirteen thousand four hundred patrols across a 24/7 timeframe over 16 weeks.
A hundred and eighteen aerial reconnaissance operations were conducted over the same period. These, Guterres’ report states, “assisted in locating armed groups and facilitated conduct of offensive operations to restrict their movements”.
In a sub-section of the mission performance component of his report, Guterres writes: “MONUSCO intensified operations in Ituri that targeted armed groups. Three operations were launched in the areas of Uzi hill and Dheja, aimed at improving protection of civilians and resulting in recovery of weapons and ammunition”.
On the addition of quick reaction forces (QRFs) to the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), Guterres said one from Nepal deployed in February with “an advance party and main body of the latest QRF from South Africa expected to deploy in March and April”.
North Kivu with its capital Goma is familiar territory to the South African contingent, currently 21 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion, attached to the FIB.
North Kivu on the country’s eastern border sees regular incursions from armed rebel groups, including M23 and ADF (Allied Democratic Forces).
Guterres’ report has it “insecurity persisted in the area notwithstanding joint Congolese and Ugandan military operation against ADF”.
“Between 1 December and 7 March, ADF conducted at least 72 attacks against civilians and FARDC positions concentrated in the northern and south-eastern parts of Beni territory. The attacks resulted in the killing of 145 civilians, including 21 women and three children and the injury of 27 civilians, including two women and six children.
“Attacks involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continued. Seven incidents were reported between 1 December and 7 March, including one involving a person-borne improvised explosive device on a bar in Beni, a detonation at a market in Oicha and another at a market in Beni town.
“On 10 January, Islamic State Central Africa Province claimed responsibility for a 25 December attack on its social media channels. The attacks revealed greater sophistication in the use of IEDs, with concomitantly heightened risks to civilians. Consequently, MONUSCO, through the Mine Action Service (MAS), organised awareness-raising sessions on IED threat prevention for UN military and civilian personnel, State security actors, non-governmental organisation (NGO) personnel and the local population,” according to Guterres’ report.
In Ituri province, also on DR Congo’s eastern border, the security situation deteriorated owing to an escalation of violence by armed groups.
“Attacks by the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO), the armed group Zaire in Djugu and Mahagi territories and the Front patriotique et intégrationniste du Congo (FPIC) in Irumu territory appeared to target members of specific ethnic groups, local and traditional authorities, internally displaced persons and FARDC. ADF remained the primary threat to civilians in Irumu and southern Mambasa territory. Between 1 December and 7 March, 458 civilians, including 82 women and 48 children, were killed and 142 civilians, including nine women and 24 children, were injured. The number of internally displaced persons in Ituri Province reached an estimated 1.97 million.
“CODECO attacks in Ituri killed 196 civilians (143 men, 30 women and 23 children). Four attacks, three in Djugu territory and one in Irumu territory, targeted internally displaced persons sites. On 1 February, at the Plaine Savo site, CODECO killed 62 civilians, including 27 women and 19 children and injured another 34. These dynamics prompted further mobilisation by Zaire factions in mostly Hema-inhabited areas of Djugu territory, as well as retaliatory attacks by Zaire in the mining area of Mongbwalu. Competition over control of mining sites in western Djugu increasingly triggered conflict between CODECO factions and Zaire, which in turn heightened the risk of retaliatory attacks and human rights abuses targeting the Hema, Lendu, Nyali, Bira and Alur communities,” the Security Council heard.
Violence in DRC flared up again with resurgent M23 activity in the border area close to Rwanda and Uganda. A Pakistani Puma helicopter crashed on 29 March while on a reconnaissance area in North Kivu, killing all eight on board. While not confirmed the helicopter is suspected to have been shot down by M23 rebels, who have been active in the area the helicopter came down.