General Thierry Lion in Beni: '' We are amidst sovereign and unilateral operations, prepared by the FARDC '' (Interview)
MONUSCO Force acting Commander, General Thierry Lion, gave an interview to Radio Okapi on 18 November, in which he clarified the role played by MONUSCO in the ongoing operations conducted by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) against the ADF in Beni. He says in accordance with MONUSCO mandate, UN Force has responded in a timely manner to FARDC’s request in providing support in terms of Intelligence and evacuation of the wounded troops.
Question: General Thierry Lion, ten days ago, FARDC launched wide-scale operations against armed groups including ADF in eastern DRC. What is MONUSCO Force contribution to these operations?
General Thierry LION: Those are national and sovereign operations launched and led by the FARDC, as reported by General Kasonga, the spokesperson of the Congolese Armed Forces. The indicated operations were not subjected to any joint planning. They are indeed sovereign and unilateral operations planned by FARDC, which benefits from our support. In compliance with its mandate, UN Force has promptly responded to FARDC’s request for support. Two kind of supports are provided: 1st Support in terms of intelligence with several reconnaissance flights in the zones to enable FARDC to assess the situation on the ground; 2nd Support in terms of military evacuations of the wounded troops in combat. It should be noted that the extracting operations in combat zones are high risk operations both for the troops and the helicopter crews. Altogether, we have conducted three extractions thus far. MONUSCO is currently reinforcing its support system, depending on the extent of the ADF activities, especially at the rear bases of the FARDC lines.
Speaking of the FARDC operations, are there any coordinated actions between FARDC and the UN Force, even if UN troops do not intervene directly on the ground?
General Thierry LION: Coordination is key, because there are both FARDC and MONUSCO troops on the ground. The main challenge is that ADFs are using uniforms from different countries; which complicates our task. However, there is good coordination through our liaison officers; This is very essential for it helps us to have a better understanding of the actions conducted by FARDC, to know where their troops are positioned and how to operate our support system.
How can you explain the fact that since FARDC has launched its military operations against the ADF, this armed group has increased attacks against civilian populations?
General Thierry LION: ADF uses asymmetrical modes of action. Such modes of action are likened to terrorist actions. As a result, they avoid direct confrontation with FARDC who are performing remarkably well on the ground. ADFs are aiming the easy targets who are unfortunately civilians living in the vicinity of the combat zones.
What message do you have for those who would like to see FIB (MONUSCO Intervention Brigade) and its military aviation carry out actions such as shelling ADF positions?
General Thierry LION: Things are not so easy. First, we are in a jungle fight. In a jungle fight with combat helicopters, it is very difficult to identify the target. In the jungle, it is very difficult to make a distinction between the friendly units and the ADF, the latter operating in small groups, which explains the difficulty faced in using helicopters during the combats.
Can you brief us on the collaboration between UN Force and FARDC considering the technical memorandum signed between MONUSCO and the Congolese Defense Ministry? How is it playing out?
General Thierry LION: This technical arrangement is just an agreement between FARDC and MONUSCO authorities for coordinated actions and a better evaluation of our assistance to the FARDC both in terms of training, and in terms of operations, as is the case currently. Those are rules established and countersigned for a better coordination of actions at a strategic level.