Congo: UN peacekeepers patrol conflict-hit Goma

Thursday, December 13, 2012
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Goma, Congo: The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) is patrolling the city of Goma - the capital of North Kivu province - to protect civilians after the M23 rebels' retreat, and continues to secure the airport until an anticipated regional 'neutral force' takes over.

Goma was occupied for eleven days by fighters of the M23 rebel group, composed of soldiers who mutinied from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)'s national army in April. Last week the M23 withdrew in accordance with requirements laid out in a communiqué issued by the regional intergovernmental group known as the International Conference on the Geat Lakes Region (ICGLR).

Goma airport resumed its work on 4 December and since then planes have been landing and taking off normally. Waiting for the neutral force to be sent by the countries of the ICGLR, MONUSCO is in charge of continuing to protect it until further notice.

The mission's North Kivu Brigade Commander, General Bansi Ponnappa stressed that UN peacekeepers will continue securing airport and maintain the "status quo" until such time.

Congolese police officers returned to work last week, but their capabilities to control law and order in the city are limited, so MONUSCO peacekeepers also continue protecting civilians in and around Goma.

Commander Ponnappa said that at this point the security of Goma is shared between the police deployment, the formed police of MONUSCO and the MONUSCO military.  A "coordination cell" was established to ensure that in case there are any security situations within Goma, military or policy force can respond.

MONUSCO has some 1,500 'blue helmets' in Goma. During the M23 occupation, the UN peacekeepers held the city's airport and conducted regular patrols, in line with their mandate to provide protection for civilians.

The withdrawal is in line with an ICGLR communiqué issued on 25 November, which, in addition to the establishment of the so-called neutral zone, also urged the rebel group to stop the violence and threats to depose the DRC Government. The communiqué was issued after a meeting of the regional grouping - attended by several African heads of State - in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

UN humanitarian agencies and their partners have been working to provide assistance, including food, water and shelter, to around 140,000 people uprooted in North Kivu province – of which Goma is the capital – over the last week.

The situation arose within the context of an existing humanitarian crisis in eastern DRC – there were already 2.4 million internally displaced persons in the country, including more than 1.6 million in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu. -UNifeed
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