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G. Gaye: "Ensuring an atmosphere of calm and security for the elections is our priority"

Monuc - August 28, 2006

As calm returned to Kinshasa, we questioned MONUC force commander General Babacar Gaye, on the events which occurred in the capital from August 20 to 22. He gives his account of the events of which he was an actor and witness, and describes the measures taken to restore the situation.


What measures have been taken by MONUC to guarantee security in Kinshasa?
In view of the recent serious hostilities between the Republican Guard and the security elements of vice President Bemba, many measures have been taken. As well as patrols and static guard posts, the most important measures consist in bringing the two sides together. This constitutes of mixed verification teams, which are designed to reestablish confidence among these elements which are, in the end, all part of the FARDC.

Preventative measures have also been taken, in relation to reinforcing the security of the residence of vice president Bemba. We also take part in joint patrols with the Congolese National Police to give enhanced security to the Congolese population. In this measure we also keep informed of what is happening to prevent any future dramatic events.

Is EUFOR also involved in this regard?
Absolutely, and this needs to be underlined. EUFOR commander General Damay and I are in constant liason with one another. During the unrest, EUFOR came to our assistance rapidly and effectively on the ground, which helped us in securing Boulevard 30 Juin.

What was your impression of the confrontations which occurred earlier in the week?
What I saw on the ground was that the Republican Guard were present on the Boulevard of 30 Juin, up to the Mandela roundabout. They had a lot of force including one mechanised unit and some bigger guns, which were accompanied by infantry units and landrovers.

They began firing from here towards the security elements of vice president Bemba, who were placed further up the Boulevard. They were essentially armed with RPG’s and assault rifles, and they returned fire, which obviously created quite a lot of insecurity.

Bemba’s forces were relatively far from his residence, but at same time some there was a lot of rounds being fired and some nearby residences received some damage. Therefore it was important that the Presidential Guard didn’t advance any further up the Boulevard. I spoke to General Kisempia on the ground, and we agreed that all the firing must stop immediately.

He gave the order to the Republican Guard to stop firing. I then crossed the line to the Bemba security forces to urge them to do the same. I then arrived at vice president Bemba’s residence, to inform the SRSG of the situation, and to organise the departure of the ambassadors.

This is a confidence building measure in assuring his security.

The Uruguayan battalion were entrusted with the security of the Bemba residence, and the batallion chief even spent the night there as a confidence building measure in assuring his security.

Were there any MONUC casualties?
There weren’t any casualties or injuries, thank God.

Did the FARDC intervene during the confrontations?
I can only state what I saw, along with the information I received from MONUC reports. The only elements we saw on the ground were elements of the Republican Guard, and on the other hand, the elements charged with the security of Jean Pierre Bemba, which are all part of the FARDC. The 7th integrated Kinshasa brigade of the FARDC was not present.

When will the disarmament of the Kabila and Bemba militias start?
It is not a question of militias, and we must be careful about the terms that we employ. On the basis of the Sun City Accords, it was agreed that President Kabila and Vice president Bemba would have personal security forces. The parliament could not clearly define the size of these different security elements.

This decision is the responsibility of the Supreme Defense Council, and it is probable, as time went on, that eyes were closed as their numbers increased. Certainly the composition of these elements can draw attention because they are perhaps too restricted in terms of geographical origin. But all these armed elements belong to the FARDC.

It is the responsibility of the Congolese authorities to measure the risks associated with the proliferation of these elements.

MONUC is also now protecting Mr. Bemba. Is this not a double protection?
It must be known that we have done this since Monday August 21, because the situation demanded that we take this measure of confidence. Because of this reason we thought that the presence of MONUC elements would contribute to discourage any further attacks on Monday night. Our presence is a measure of consolidation, and is not just a military consideration, as the elections are the priority.

It is important to restore a climate of normality, so that everyone can focus once again on the elections, on the fundamental will of the Congolese people. This is bigger than the person of President, as it affects the future of the country.
The most important is to return to normality, and progress to the second round of presidential elections, and the provincial elections.

What is most important is to rapidly return to normality, and progress to the second round of presidential elections, and the provincial elections.

A working group has now been established, which is calling for the brassage* of the troops involved in the unrest. When will this process start?
This working group cannot make political decisions. It was created so that those which were involved in the fighting will be put under the authority of their legal bosses, who are the Defense and Interior Department Ministers. Within this framework, all the after-effects of these confrontations are being regulated.

The reduction of military manpower in Kinshasa forms only one part of the risk of confrontations, which begins with the re-establishment of confidence. And to restore confidence implies that everyone adheres to precise rules. This problem cannot be dealt with through the working group. It implies higher level decisions, which the Special Representative is working towards.

Do you think calm will prevail in the run up to the second round?
The elections are the priority. It is important to implement as many measures as possible so that the elections can take place in a protected and calm environment.
We showed in the last few days what MONUC can do.

The question - “What is MONUC doing?”- was asked a lot over the last few days following the confrontations. What is your response?
This question shows that the Congolese expect a lot of the international community. Our presence explains this engagement. We showed in the last few days what MONUC could do. We cannot protect the population by putting a blue helmet in front of every Kinshasa citizen. But each time the situation becomes difficult we can use our abilities to intercede, make a call to reason and create a framework where people can discuss their problems.
This is what we did. We had sufficient weight with the assistance of the EUFOR so that the city returned to a calm and normal life on Wednesday following a situation which could have degenerated. This is what MONUC does.

*Brassage is a post conflict process whereby ex combatants from the various militia groups in the DRC are demobilized and retrained to form part of the DRC national armed forces - the FARDC.

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