DRC:UN Mission deploys ‘Quick Reaction Force’

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has deployed its quick reaction force to combat banditry in the restive North Kivu capital, Goma.

MONUSCO’s military spokesman, Colonel Felix Basse, says there is growing tension in the camps of internally displaced persons following attacks by armed groups.

He says banditry has been on the rise after violent criminals broke out of jail during fighting between the DRC’s national army and the M23 rebels.

“We have observed some banditry in the area and we have also observed mob justice from the population who try to participate in securing the environment,” said Basse.

He said several bandits were captured by residents during robbery attempts. The bandits, he said, attack the camps to steal humanitarian aid from the IDPs (internally displaced persons).

“This is unacceptable,” said Basse. “That is why we are deploying all the time and the provincial authorities are putting in place the humanitarian police within the IDP camps to take charge of security in the IDP camps.”

The bandits, Basse says, are mainly members of armed gangs as well as the convicts who broke out of jail.

“They are creating some threats to the population in Goma and the surrounding areas,” continued Basse, “MONUSCO is taking all necessary measures to tackle that. MONUSCO continues to conduct is day and night patrols. We have our quick reaction forces in the IDP camps, particularly in Mugunga one, two and three.”

He says the U.N. peacekeepers are monitoring the security situation in Goma and are ready to protect the civilians.

“We are conducting patrols. Some are joint patrols with the national Congolese police, but most of them are also unilateral patrols conducted by MONUSCO in the area in order to [provide better] security to the population,” said Basse.

Some residents have expressed concern that the refusal of the M23 rebels to withdraw to about 20 kilometers outside Goma, as demanded by regional leaders at a recent conference, is creating tension and fear.

“What we are observing is that such a situation is of course creating some kind of panic around … Goma, because M23 is just close to the town,” said Basse.

Basse says he is hopeful the talks between the DRC government and representatives of the M23 will come up with solutions to resolve the crisis.

“We expect that in the future maybe everything would be set up, because the population in this country need[s] more peace and more security, and this is what MONUSCO is doing on a daily basis,” said Basse.

Peter Clottey