With reports of widespread rape and other atrocities pouring in from the eastern Kivu provinces of the DRC, the UN mission there has sent some 40 teams to the region over the past six months to bolster the protection of civilians.
By identifying early warning signs of potential threats to civilians the joint UN teams, which include child protection, civil affairs and public information officers, allow peacekeepers to react rapidly to counter them, the mission known as MONUC said.
The teams were set up earlier this year to help stem abuses in North and South Kivu provinces where Rwandan rebels have been active since the 1994 genocide in the small neighbouring country where an estimated 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists, UN News Centre reports.
In his most recent report to the Security Council on sexual violence in armed conflict, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted last month that at least 200 000 cases of such abuse had been recorded in eastern DRC since 1996.
MONUC has also sent an evaluation mission to look into strengthening preventive measures against sexual exploitation and abuse involving UN peacekeepers. The evaluation is expected to produce a report soon.
The Secretary-General`s Special Representative in DRC Alan Doss visited Rwanda over the weekend for talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on disarmament, the UN-DRC joint operations against illegal armed groups in eastern DRC, and voluntary repatriation of Rwandan nationals living there.
On the latter, the MONUC said 1284 former Rwandan rebels and their dependents have returned home since January while the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has helped repatriate some 11 500 Rwandan civilians in the same period.
The latest bout of fighting between DRC troops and the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and their local allies uprooted a further 35 000 people in South Kivu last month, bringing the total displaced there since January to 536 000, according to UNHCR. More than 1.8 million people are now internally displaced in the DRC`s east.
Pic: FDLR rebel from DRC