Lubero, the first MONUSCO base in North Kivu and operational since 2002, will be among the first to close in line with the United Nations (UN) plan to “consolidate” and eventually exit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Since operationalisation, the base has protected civilians and deterred attacks by armed groups in what MONUSCO staffer Jean-Tobie Okala termed “volatile security conditions”. The base initially provided protection against Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP rebels and later the same group when it allied with FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda) as the first MONUSCO base in what is called “Grand Nord-Kivu” (Beni/Butembo/Lubero).
“MONUSCO’s presence initially served as a deterrent to militiamen, who attacked civilians along national road four. With MONUSCO’s daily patrols these militiamen were often routed,” recalled a Lubero resident of a time in which movement was limited.
Lubero Mayor Joseph Balukwicha shared a similar sentiment saying; “MONUSCO supported our army in the fight against the rebel groups who controlled the area at the time. The population was happy with this support. The impact of MONUSCO’s presence was palpable as peace returned and the country was even reunited, remembering that Lubero was under the domination of the RCD/KML (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie-Kisangani/Mouvement de Liberation)”.
To ensure a responsible drawdown and exit from Lubero, 100 km south of Beni, a joint committee will work with the DRC’s armed forces (FARDC) and the Congolese police for continuity of operations.
Colonel Alain Kiwewa, Lubero Territory Administrator, called the coming closure “a painful separation” adding he would maintain the collaboration between territorial authorities and the UN mission – “it’s one we value”.