The situation in eastern DRC, particularly in North Kivu, was marked by several confrontations in the last week, between the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) and the troops of ex General Laurent Nkunda. We interviewed MONUC force commander General Babacar Gaye who explained the situation on the ground, and the measures taken by MONUC to protect the population.
What’s the current situation in North Kivu?
It’s a situation characterised by a humanitarian drama, something we should never have to talk about with nearly 700,000 displaced people in the province. It’s also a situation characterised by confrontations, which in certain places are simple skirmishes, but more particularly in the zones of Karuba and Mushake they are serious confrontations.
A hundred deaths have been announced, and these confrontations translate into some territorial gains by the FARDC, and a small restoration of state authority. Finally it is a situation characterised by the appeal that Laurent Nkunda made yesterday for a cease fire, an appeal which we hope will be followed by the entry into brassage* for some of his troops.
What is MONUC doing to protect the population and to maintain peace?
MONUC is very conscious in this situation of the consequences for the population. Thus we are coordinating with the humanitarians, and we give our support in terms of security in the displaced persons zones, but we are also very attentive to what the FARDC does on the ground.
We give the FARDC a certain support, in particular in the medical evacuation of their wounded, to transport their reinforcements and their ammunition. But our number one concern really remains that a fast solution is found to a situation which risks becoming a drama of a bigger scale.
Did the FARDC call upon MONUC to engage in a joint operation?
It is clear that the FARDC are waiting for very important support from MONUC. I already said during the last crisis that our support is conditional on joint planning. Joint planning means firstly that all non aggressive means must be explored to solve the crisis before taking an extreme solution.
Joint planning means that we support the FARDC, because it is in our mandate to do so, but also to support the peace process which is ongoing. But I can assure you we remain a peacekeeping force that is very attentive to the suffering of the population, and we are on a permanent search for a peaceful solution to the problems.
If Laurent Nkunda is ready to send some of his men into brassage, is MONUC ready?
We deployed a Mobile Operating Base at Mushake for this scenario. The decision to send 500 men for brassage was made by Nkunda, but unfortunately it has not been carried out on the ground.
We are ready to fully engage in this process. We are monitoring all FARDC troops deployed in relation to the security of the minorities in this area, and we are ready to do all within our means to apply our mandate.
* Brassage is a retraining programme for ex combatants in the DRC to form part of the integrated brigades of the FARDC- the DRC Armed Forces.