Komanda: Gradual Resumption of Activities Thanks to Joint Action FARDC and MONUSCO
A little over a year ago, Komanda, the administrative capital of the Basili chiefdom, 80 km from Bunia, in the territory of Irumu, Ituri, came under attacks from the ADF, the Mai-Mai and the FPIC, Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo. Today, although the scars of this insecurity are still visible, this shopping center is gradually coming back to life. The military operations within the framework of the state of siege in force since May 2021, combined with the robust actions by MONUSCO explain the gradual resumption of activities in this part of the national territory.
It was 2:50 p.m. that afternoon, the sun was at its zenith. You need a mask to protect yourself from the dust raised by the motorcycles and especially those few cars that make the traffic between Komanda and Luna. We are in Beyi, a small town located 3 km from Komanda center. Like Kipeyayo, also located 3 km from the center of Komanda, Beyi has almost been emptied of all its inhabitants. Some headed for Bunia, others Mambasa or Komanda-centre.
A year earlier, the ADF had carried out several attacks against these localities. Many inhabitants had to flee the area to take refuge in more secure villages such as Bavonkutu, Bamende, Mungamba or towards Bunia. On September 26, 2021, the armed group Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC), in coalition with these ADF, again spread terror in this environment, by burning down the FARDC military camp in Makayanga, 72 km from Bunia, as well as shops of merchants, and pushing still other inhabitants to leave the area, including Komanda.
Act of commitment with facilitation from MONUSCO
In June 2022, with facilitation from MONUSCO, FPIC signed a unilateral act of commitment for the cessation of hostilities with the Congolese government. Since then, a precarious calm has prevailed in the area, despite sporadic incursions by the ADF.
Although many displaced people are still reluctant to return to their places of origin, some have taken the risk and returned to Makayanga, Mangiva and Komanda-centre in the Bandiamusu grouping.
However, many homes remain desperately empty, outlying markets as well. The case of that of Beyi where we met that afternoon two vendors, all displaced from Lolwa.
Alongside the FARDC, the Bangladeshi blue helmets of MONUSCO carry out daily patrols to secure and reassure the few inhabitants who have remained on the spot or who have returned thanks to the large-scale military operations carried out jointly by the FARDC and MONUSCO in Mont Hoyo, about 25 km from Komanda. It was from there that the ADF planned and launched their attacks against the population.
MONUSCO on all fronts
Currently, a precarious calm prevails in the Basili chiefdom. Komanda is resuming its habits: bunches of plantain, bags of embers, second-hand clothes and other products are once again present in the local market. Motorcycle taxi drivers have also resumed service. In short, business is picking up timidly but surely.
Local populations and blue helmets are continuing their collaboration. Some residents we met at the Komanda public market are asking peacekeepers to “do more” to help them get rid of the ADF threat. Others welcome the support of these same blue helmets to the FARDC, which today allows them to timidly resume a normal life.
“I remember, a few months ago, there was hardly anyone here. Only ten of us remained, we spent our time here, fear in our stomachs. MONUSCO and the FARDC have done an excellent job”, testified a resident.
And to conclude: “We ask our brothers and sisters who had fled to return, the security situation has improved a lot during this period of the state of siege in our entities. We call on the military authorities and its partner, MONUSCO, to double their efforts to ensure that all of our territory in Irumu is secure”
Strengthen social cohesion
To enhance collaboration between civilian populations and MONUSCO, as well as social cohesion between communities, the Mission organized a meeting on October 6 with different sections of the population in the brand-new conference room of the Basili chiefdom.
Some 200 participants responded to the invitation, including some twenty women, militiamen who had come out of the bush to resume a normal life, representatives of the local Youth Councils of the chiefdoms of Walese Vonkutu and the Basili, members of the various faiths’ churches, associations of road haulers or motorbike taxis.
The participants were satisfied with the explanations received on the work done by MONUSCO. They were also sensitized on misinformation and its corollary, hate speech.
"We are very happy and thank MONUSCO for this initiative which has allowed many of us to finally understand what the UN Mission is, what it does, why it is here and not elsewhere... We understood that we, young leaders, must be role models in our communities, that we must adopt behaviors in such a way as to banish hatred and rejection of others; because it is because of hatred that our country is in a situation of war and that we do not have peace in our communities", declared Jacques Kapalata, one of the representatives of the Catholic Church at the end of the activity.
To strengthen the ties between MONUSCO and the local populations, the participants made five proposals, namely:
The installation of MONUSCO military bases in “hot spots”, with its patrols where there are ADF and armed groups;
- Funding by MONUSCO of small projects to reduce community violence and give a job to young people to be remembered when they leave Congo, but also to plead with the government for the acceleration of the DDRC-S program;
- Rehabilitation of the Komanda-Luna road between Komanda and Bunia as well as the construction of social infrastructure such as youth centers, women's centers, markets, water fountains...
- To conduct large-scale operations to eradicate armed groups and make the word stabilization a reality;
- To organize mobile court hearings in Komanda to bring justice to the victims of atrocities committed by armed groups.
A football match between a team of ex-militiamen (Amani Kwetu) and that of Bunia veterans, all communities combined, wrapped up this meeting.