Kinshasa, 27 November 2012 – During a meeting with local and international media this Tuesday morning at the headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in Kinshasa, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Roger Meece, stated that the mission which he heads is doing remarkable work in response to the recent political and military events resulting from the M23 offensive in eastern DRC. “Our soldiers are doing remarkable work often under difficult conditions,” MONUSCO chief said.
Since the M23 rebels seized Goma on 20 November 2012, MONUSCO has been criticized by a segment of the Congolese population for failing to protect civilians as provided by its mandate, despite the fact that 95% of its peacekeepers are deployed in eastern DRC.
According to the leadership of MONUSCO, the Blue Helmets fought hard alongside the FARDC who repelled the attack for a few days before retreating under the strong pressure of the M23 offensive. MONUSCO was therefore left alone on the battlefield. “On 17 November, our helicopters subjected the M23 to a barrage of fire, all day,” said MONUSCO Force Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Patrick de Grammont. In all, the force of the UN Mission made 10 sorties, launched more than 100 rockets, and fired 200 cannon shots and 1500 machine-gun shots. “When the FARDC retreated, we were left alone in Kibati,” added the General.
Fighting could have continued into Goma, but “we decided not to engage in combat inside the city to avoid collateral damage,” he further said.
On the humanitarian side, the capture of Goma by the rebels has led to considerable hardship for the local population. According to the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator (DSRSG/RC/HC), Moustapha Soumaré, 330 000 displaced persons have been forced to flee settlements around Goma. These persons are moving in different directions thereby further complicating the humanitarian response. A three-point strategy has been adopted to address this challenge. It entails bringing immediate response to the needs of the displaced persons in spontaneous settlements, providing assistance to displaced persons who choose to return voluntarily, and identifying new sites for settlement.
As a result of recent hostilities, water and electricity supply has been interrupted in the city of Goma for several days now. MONUSCO chief reassured that significant efforts have been made to restore these services as quickly as possible to avert a worsening of the humanitarian situation.
To members of the M23 rebel group who might be tempted to commit atrocities against the civilian population, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General reminded that they bear a heavy responsibility under International Humanitarian Law. “We will like to remind the leadership of the M23 that they bear responsibility for human rights violations committed and will, therefore, be liable for criminal prosecution,” Mr. Meece said.
Penangnini Toure/ MONUSCO