Top UN official tours conflict-hit eastern DR Congo provinces

Thursday March 02 2023
M23 soldiers leave Rumangabo camp

M23 soldiers leave Rumangabo camp after a meeting with EACRF officials on January 6, 2023. UN's top official in DR Congo has sought to rally local support for the agency's troubled peacekeeping mission to the country. PHOTO | GUERCHOM NDEBO | AFP


The United Nations' top official in Democratic Republic of Congo has sought to rally local support for the agency's troubled peacekeeping mission to the country, touring its conflict-hit eastern provinces for the first time in months.

Bintou Keïta arrived ahead of a planned visit this month by members of the UN Security Council and amid sharply deteriorating public support for the mission, known as Monusco, and sporadic violent attacks against its peacekeepers.

An offensive by the M23 rebel group has displaced over 600,000 people since last year and plunged the turbulent region into a fresh crisis that has fuelled local frustration at the mission's perceived ineffectiveness.

Security situation

Her earlier planned visits "could not materialise due to the continuing deterioration of the security situation," Keïta said after meeting the military governor, Lieutenant-General Constant Ndima on Monday in Goma.

The city is one of the main bases for the some 18,270 Monusco personnel in Congo. UN-branded vehicles were once ubiquitous here, but its staff now appear to be keeping a much lower profile now.


Keïta said the closed-door talks with Ndima had focused on prospects for cooperation and implementing an existing ceasefire deal with the M23, but gave no details. Ndima declined to comment.

Violent demonstrations

Last year, four Monusco peacekeepers and 32 protesters were killed when violent demonstrations broke out in several eastern towns, demanding the mission's departure. The government requested in November that the operation end before 2024 although no agreement was reached.

On Tuesday, Keïta visited Bushagara, a camp housing 15,000 displaced people outside Goma — an apparent goodwill gesture after an attack on a peacekeeper convoy at another camp in February.

After speaking to some residents, she urged the government to do more to support the country's internal refugees "because each time we ask them who has contacted them, they tell us the NGOs or the humanitarian agencies".

The government did not respond to a request for comment.

Basic goods

On Monday, provincial authorities said they had 13 tonnes of basic goods to distribute to some of the displaced people.

Camp resident Augustin Manzabayo Semapfa said he was disappointed in both government and UN peacekeeping efforts.

"The problem is, instead of having a peace that was promised to us, we have quite the opposite," said Semapfa, who said he had been forced out of his home by fighting four times since the late 1990s.