The outgoing commander of the lone United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission with an offensively mandated component, Malawian general Enoch Ntonya, leaves his post with pride in the soldiers serving in the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
“Contrary to what some people think we do a lot every day and even outside the Beni region, for peace to return to eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo),” he said in a farewell message to the brigade.
“We have achieved a great deal. Our troops don’t sleep. Day and night they are always in the field. As I speak, our troops have been operating in Ituri province for three or four weeks. They are there to track down armed groups. The population is unaware of this unless they are told. And yet, in our profession, not everything can be told, so as not to aid the enemy,” he said ahead of standing down for South African colonel Johannes Moraka, currently FIB deputy commander, who will be acting commander until a new appointment is made. Moraka is, according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) RSABATT Public Information Officer, Lieutenant Rammilane Rekkie Letsoalo, SA Army Artillery Formation Chief of Staff (CoS).
The FIB was authorised by the UN Security Council in March 2013. Personnel and materiel came from three Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries – Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania – with Kenya and Nepal later additions via quick reaction forces (QRFs) with South Africa also contributing to the QRF component.
After 14 months at the helm of the FIB, Ntonya told those who served under him he was proud of his mandate as well as the support from FARDC (DR Congo Armed Forces) and that shown to the brigade by Congolese interacted with. He indicated this type of collaboration made it possible “to win the war against armed groups roaming the region”.
Joint FARDC/FIB operations included a number against ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) in Beni and Ituri provinces doing “a great deal to advance the cause of peace”.
He urged Congolese not to lose heart in the face of criticism by some related to armed rebel groups asking them to communicate “alerts in real time” rather than collaborate with “the enemy”.
“Give us the support we want and we’ll defend you better. I believe if we continue working closely together: communities, chiefs, authorities, FARDC, MONUSCO everything will be easy because information is power. Give us the right information, not the wrong information, so we can plan operations to neutralise armed groups,” a MONUSCO statement quotes him saying.