General Marcos De Sa Affonso Da Costa: "We have had Successes, but more Work is Needed to Guarantee Peace in the DRC"
MONUSCO Force Commander, Brazilian Lieutenant General Marcos Sa Affonso Da Costa, has wrapped up his tenure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after one year and nine months of service. The Mission’s Force Commander was appointed on April 24, 2021 by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Taking stock of his achievements on Thursday, February 2, in a ceremony marking the end of his mission in Bunia, Ituri, the outgoing UN Force commander welcomed the results achieved so far in terms of the protection of civilians, particularly in the Ituri province.
Addressing journalists, the outgoing MONUSCO Force Commander also praised the DRC's pacification effort. General Affonso Da Costa held as an example the reunification of the country as well as its gradual stabilization over the years. "If you take stock the overall security situation in the DRC since the Mission’s arrival in 1999, you will clearly see that the country is more stable today than it was twenty years ago".
Marcos Affonso Da Costa also said he was satisfied with the results achieved since the establishment of the community alert system in Ituri, further indicating, this system, which involves communities in the search for peace, has saved and protected thousands of civilians and disrupted the enemy’s plans. “This system has worked very well. We have prevented massacres of several thousand people whenever alerts were received from local communities. It is a success ".
More efforts to be made!
Despite all these achievements, he says he is aware that much remains to be done to guarantee lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. " I am aware; we need to be even more efficient and focused on our mission”.
Speaking of the efforts to be made for lasting peace, he alluded to the situation in the Ituri province, in particular, with the Codeco, Zaire militias and other groups that keep committing abuses against civilian populations. He further said, “the Force must respond to this challenge with more troops on the ground”.
Referring to the issue of troops on the ground, the General said the Force has been reinforced with an additional battalion, the Indonesian battalion. Before adding: “Sometimes the Guatemalan special forces are also deployed to help secure the area with our partners the FARDC and the national police and protect civilians”.
“We will also be deploying troops in the coming days to Mahagi, Niya Mama and Mungwalu, as massacres were reported there. And we must be there. Special forces should also be there,” he further said.
General Marcos assures that MONUSCO uses all the human resources available within the Force to support the peace effort in Ituri, although the resources are limited. “In terms of the staffing, we have around 2,000 soldiers here in Ituri. Our intention is to have 3,000. Efforts are underway,’’ he confirmed.
MONUSCO Force Commander also alluded to the issue of the M23 that continue to conquer more territories and localities in eastern DRC, but also the situation in the South Kivu.
“I remain optimistic. I believe in the political means to achieve the demobilization of all these armed groups. Everything is already planned with the P-DDRCS (Demobilization, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program). I believe there is also efforts at the international level. In other provinces where we are deployed, such as North and South Kivus, the dynamic is different with the issue of the M23 which raises several concerns: there is intense fighting today in Kitshanga. We have around our base more than 2,000 civilians whom we are protecting”.
Recollections about the DRC
“The major recollection I am taking with me is the warm welcome given me by members of the population. DR Congo is a wonderful land for farming and mining activities; it has wonderful youth; the country is young. This implies it has a bright future ahead. It reminds me of the natural landscape of my own country. DR Congo is blessed by God”. Lieutenant General Marcos Sa Alfonso Da Costa is succeeded by his fellow Brazilian Otavio Rodrigues de Miranda, appointed on January 4, 2023 by the UN Secretary General.