The senior civilian UN representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) denounces “fanciful rumours” the UN mission is providing logistic support to armed groups in the volatile eastern part of the central African country.
Leila Zerrouguii, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ special representative in DRC and head of MONUSCO, reportedly told s journalist: :To say we provide logistics to armed groups is totally irresponsible”. She was speaking at s UN conference earlier this month.
“We are here to support FARDC (DRC armed forces), to support authorities putting an end to the threat posed by armed groups. We are conducting inquiries and investigations with the judiciary, police, military and political authorities. If we were a threat to the DRC, do you think government would let us carry on? Do you think it makes sense that we can provide logistics to armed groups against the Congolese army and the Congolese army still gets on our planes, accompanies us and works with us, prepares operational plans with us? ’’ she questioned her questioner during a regularly weekly UN conference.
The top MONUSCO official condemned militia for attacks against schools in South Kivu, denying children the right to write exams.
“I hope these criminals will be identified and brought to justice. This is clearly unacceptable, neither does it have any legitimacy. How can you pretend to take up arms to defend a community and then kill children or prevent them from taking exams?” she asked.
In the face of this type of crime by armed groups, Zerrougui said she cannot understand accusations against MONUSCO.
“I spend my time saying, ‘They must not be integrated into the army, even when they lay down arms. It is necessary not to accept the amnesty. It is important to carry on fighting so people will ask for forgiveness and be held accountable. It has been 20 years these people survived because they are rewarded. This must stop.”
Zerrougui pointed to progress in what she termed an ongoing fight against armed groups.
“Today, these groups are dispersed but they are not defeated. They are far from areas where they operated before. There is an area where these people were farming, doing business, once known as Mwalika. These areas are now controlled by the FARDC. We are together in these areas, we work together, we often operate in these areas with the FARDC,” she said.
Part of problems facing the UN mission in DR Congo, the world body’s largest and the only one with an offensive mandate to protect civilians via its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), is armed groups operating in communities – villages, towns and cities where Congolese people live and work.
“It is difficult to target people when you can kill civilians. It’s important to have the technological capacity to identify these people, to target them, to isolate them and to protect the population”.