The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC has stepped up patrols and is now also using helicopters to protect civilians in the eastern part of the country following continued clashes between armed groups.
MONUSCO has also activated its contingency plan for the area, a UN spokesman said in New York, with UN peacekeepers currently providing security to at least 1 000 civilians around the stabilisation mission’s base at Pinga in North Kivu.
Combatants from four armed groups exchanged fire near the base with three mortar bombs dropping close to it this week.
There was no indication from MONUSCO on what type of helicopters had been deployed. South Africa currently has a pair of Oryx medium transport helicopters in the DRC based at Goma and there are indications the SA Air Force (SAAF) could find itself sending at least two Rooivalk combat support helicopters to the strife-torn country. It is not clear if the home-grown rotary-winged aircraft will be deployed as part of the UN intervention brigade or be based at Goma.
Over the past year, the M23, along with other armed groups have clashed repeatedly with government forces (FARDC) in the eastern DRC. The rebels briefly occupied Goma in November 2012. Fighting resumed in recent weeks, this time dragging in a group of Ugandan-based rebels, and displaced more than 100 000 people, exacerbating the region’s ongoing humanitarian crisis, which includes 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.