Jean-Pierre Lacroix on official visit to the DRC: "The United Nations remain committed alongside the Congolese people"
On a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from December 13 to 18, 2020, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General in charge of peacekeeping operations, visited Kinshasa, as well as Ituri and North Kivu provinces, located in the eastern part of the country. He was notably accompanied by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).
How to help the Congolese people meet the various challenges facing them? The question was addressed during his meeting with the Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.
Insecurity in the east of the country, the challenging socio-economic situation and humanitarian issues were at the center of the talks between the two personalities, who also addressed the way in which the UN intends to continue its partnership with the DRC and to assist the Congolese populations.
They further discussed the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Félix Tshisekedi also presented to his interlocutor his perception of the current political situation and how he intends to change it.
After meeting in Kinshasa the highest national authorities and representatives of the major political parties and platforms as well as members of the civil society organizations, including women's associations, Mr. Lacroix visited Ituri and North Kivu, both provinces facing persistent violence due to the activism of the various armed groups there.
The population in Pinga have shown their gratitude for the peace efforts
On Wednesday December 16, 2020, Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Carly Nzanzu Kasivita, the Governor of the North Kivu province travelled by helicopter to the city of Pinga (Walikale territory).
Last July, this territory was the scene of clashes between two factions of the armed group Nduma Defense of Congo Rénové (NDC-R), factions led respectively by Guidon Shimiray and Gilbert Bwira. More than 500 NDC-R combatants, Gilbert Bwira’s wing, had surrendered to the FARDC (Congolese armed forces) and are currently stationed in Rumangabo (Rutshuru territory) while the tracking operations against those of the Guidon Shimiray’s wing are continuing in Walikale territory.
On the spot, in Pinga, Mr. Lacroix noted a return to peace after these hard clashes. "We were warmly welcomed by the population who showed us their gratitude for the efforts made which have brought back security and created better conditions for more progress. We told them, the Governor, myself and the whole MONUSCO team are determined to continue working with them to improve the lives of the population, to strengthen security but for all that to be achieved, we are counting on their own initiative and commitment, ” said Jean-Pierre Lacroix.
The next day, Thursday December 17, 2020, Jean-Pierre Lacroix flew to Ituri where he was received in Bunia by the provincial Governor, Jean Bamanisa Saidi. The two personalities reviewed the security challenges with a view to exploring the means to strengthen the partnership between MONUSCO and the provincial authorities and put an end to the armed groups in this province.
"We took stock of the perspectives of our priorities, of the main areas of activities where we need to continue pursuing efforts based on the policies, the initiatives and the actions undertaken by the political and local authorities, since we are here to provide support", said Mr. Lacroix.
"There is still a huge work to do in Ituri which requires MONUSCOs support, presence and involvement alongside the national security forces," said Jean Baminisa Saidi for his part.
In Ituri, Jean-Pierre Lacroix also visited the locality of Roe in the territory of Djugu, the epicenter of violence from armed groups in the province. "I have seen populations who are suffering from violence and who need the help provided by MONUSCO as well as by other partners to whom I pay tribute," he further said.
Finally, on Friday December 18, 2020, Mr. Lacroix visited MONUSCO military base located in Mubambiro, not far from Sake on the shores of Lake Kivu. This camp, located 26 km west of Goma, is home to all MONUSCO troops coming to replace those leaving. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, military personnel are quarantined at this camp before returning to their base.
"It is an important MONUSCO base that is home to both rapid reaction companies, I mean the companies on alert for rapid intervention to assist civilian population when faced with imminent threats and dangers from armed groups. I was able to see on the ground a deployment of some of these units that protect the population, namely in Pinga, " said Lacroix.
Prior to wrapping up his visit to DR Congo and joining N'djili airport in Kinshasa on Friday December 18, 2020, the UN Under-Secretary-General said he listened with keen interest to all the interlocutors he met during his stay in the DR Congo. Regarding MONUSCO’s future, he referred to a "gradual exit strategy", depending on the situation on the ground.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix's visit came in amidst renewal of MONUSCO’s mandate by the United Nations Security Council. Indeed, on December 18, 2020, the United Nations Security Council approved the extension of MONUSCO's mandate for an additional year.
According to the Resolution adopted by the Security Council, MONUSCO's priorities are to protect civilians and support the stabilization and strengthening of the public institutions in the DRC as well as the major reforms on governance and security.