Ituri: MONUSCO-FARDC Joint Military Operation Codenamed “Spider Web” Has Facilitated Populations’ Return to Masikini
In recent weeks, MONUSCO Force in collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo launched and intensified offensives against armed groups resisting to the peace process in Ituri.
For two weeks, MONUSCO and its partner FARDC conducted the operation codenamed “Spider web” in Djugu territory to protect civilians against possible armed attacks.
“These operations have yielded results,” said the Force’s military spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Byabato from the Tanzanian contingent, in Goma on Friday, October 6, in an interview with Radio Okapi, the UN radio. “As a result of the offensive, eight CODECO fighters were neutralized, and their camp was stormed.”
Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Byabato recalled that CODECO combatants have been using used the Mbau mountain chain as a fortress, launching attacks against FARDC positions and checkpoints from this location: “They use women and children as human shields, which is considered a war crime by the Geneva Convention,” he told journalists.
These operations are seen as lifesaving for the population. Since October 5, 2023, movements of the people displaced by the fighting have been reported. It should be recalled that the operation “Spider Web” is aimed to thwart all enemy actions and allow civilian populations to return to normal life.
“Its planning and execution were successful and demonstrates the importance of cooperation between MONUSCO and FARDC with the aim of protecting civilians and creating a protective environment in Djugu territory,” said Major Hassan Kheira from the office of the Force military spokesperson.
The carefully planned offensives were carried out in the areas of Djugu center, Pimbo, and Masikini in the Djatsi sector. After the preparatory phase consisting in the deployment of logistics and troops, decisive actions began on September 29 and focused on the locality of Masikini. From this position, militiamen regularly carried out attacks along national road 27. Last September, FARDC neutralized four CODECO militiamen there.
Militiamen have been routed
Peacekeepers and FARDC have destroyed CODECO camp in Masikini, thus forcing the militiamen to retreat into the bush, towards the Likopi village in the Budhu grouping, Walendu Djatsi sector.
On the FARDC side, like on MONUSCO’s, Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, spokesperson for the FARDC in Ituri, is also delighted with these joint offensives conducted by the two partner Forces: “They are part of the pooling of Forces at tactical and operational levels, with a view to protecting the local populations against all attempts from armed groups still hostile to the peace process.
The Congolese military officer has recalled that it is essential to put out of harm's way the militias who do not want to join the peace process initiated by the authorities and for which some are dragging their feet. He regretted, however, that "the militiamen seem to have acquired a taste for attacking peaceful populations, displaced people's sites, setting ambushes and carrying out survival operations to the detriment of the population."
MONUSCO North-Kivu chief of security sector co-leading the operations there, Lieutenant-Colonel Saifur Rahma, highlighted that the offensives involved three MONUSCO contingents and sent a clear message to the armed groups: “They are not allowed to operate as if they were on conquered ground, and without risk to their lives.”
Local population’s Involvement
If the “Spider Web” operation has yielded such results, it is also partially due to local communities’ involvement, support, and collaboration. Lieutenant Colonel Saifur Rahma applauded this patriotic momentum.
The chief of the Walendu Djatsi sector, Justin Gudza, personally participated in the awareness raising on the ground to encourage the return of families to their original environment. In addition, the local authority launched an SOS for humanitarian assistance for some displaced persons who no longer have any means of survival. His dearest wish: the definitive return of peace in his sector and throughout the Ituri province.