Chinese sappers exit DR Congo after 20 years

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Over twenty years of service in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) providing essential engineering support to the United Nations (UN) mission MONUSCO has ended for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) peacekeeping engineer contingent.

A final farewell parade for the final contingent was held this week (Tuesday, 9 April) in Bukavu, South Kivu, home base for the Chinese military engineers.

A MONUSCO statement has it: “Since 2003, the Chinese contingent has contributed to strengthening the province’s infrastructure with a range of projects including completing more than 580 engineering projects, repairing 1 800 km of road, rehabilitating more than 80 bridges and constructing 20 helipads”.

The withdrawal is in line with drawdown plans for the longstanding mission to wrap active operations in DRC by year-end.

This has to date seen a number of bases handed to DRC authorities, including FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo), the first being Kamanyola in South Kivu. The base is now under the control of the Congolese National Police (Police Nationale Congolaise).

Bintou Keita, Special Representative of Secretary-General (SRSG) Antonio Guterres and MONUSCO Head, told the PLA farewell parade the mission’s “disengagement from South Kivu does not equal the UN departure from DRC”. She went on to say it was “a reconfiguration of the UN presence to support the people and DRC government”.

Once MONUSCO has exited, UN agencies, funds and programmes will pursue support as per their mandates, while the Congolese government will assume responsibility for civilian protection and security, she said.