Outgoing MONUSCO force commander believes DRC is better today than in 1999

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Summing up his tenure as MONUSCO force commander, Lieutenant General Marcos da Costa maintains much was done under his watch, with more work needed to guarantee peace in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

When the Brazilian officer finishes his United Nations (UN) tour at the end of this month (February) he will have been in the troubled central African country for a year and nine months.

Taking stock of achievements during his period of command in Bunia, Da Costa welcomed protection of civilians in Ituri province, according to the MONUSCO website.

He told a media briefing: “Taking stock of the overall security situation since MONUSCO’s arrival in 1999, the country is more stable today than it was 20 years ago.

On lasting peace in the DRC, he pointed to Ituri in particular where CODECO, Zaire militias and other groups keep committing abuses against civilians. Da Costa sees the deployment of more troops as the right response.

As far as manpower and materiel available to him was concerned, Da Costa noted the MONUSCO force was reinforced with an additional battalion – from Indonesia. Guatemalan Special forces were deployed at times to secure specific areas, working with FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo) and Congolese police to protect civilians.

In what will seemingly be his final press briefing before departure, the Brazilian two-star said troops will be deployed to Mahagi, Niya Mama and Mungwalu as massacres were reported from these areas. “We must be there and Special Forces should also be there.”

On M23 and its activities in eastern DRC, particularly South Kivu, Da Costa said he saw “political means as achieving demobilisation of these armed groups”.

“All is planned with the P-DDRCS (demobilisation, disarmament, community recovery and stabilisation programme). I believe there are also efforts at international level. The dynamic is different in other provinces, such as north and south Kivu, with M23 raising several concerns,” he is reported as saying of “intense fighting” and over two thousand civilians under protection at one MONUSCO base.

Another plus during his tour of duty was the introduction of a community alert system in Ituri. “The system works well. We prevented massacres by way of alerts received from communities.”