On 9 December 2019, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations asked Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz to lead an independent assessment of MONUSCO's response to the high number of attacks against civilians allegedly committed by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Beni territory, North Kivu Province, and attacks against the Ebola response in Mambasa territory in Ituri Province, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
The independent assessment team, which included political, military and logistics specialists, aimed to establish the circumstances leading to the attacks, evaluate the ability of the MONUSCO Force to effectively deliver on the Mission's mandate to ensure the protection of civilians under threat of physical violence and neutralize armed groups in the Beni area, as well as provide a secure environment for the Ebola response, and make practical recommendations on how to enhance the Force's performance. The scope of the assessment was limited to the events that occurred between 30 October and 31 December 2019.
The independent assessment found that in the months of November and December alone, over 260 civilians, mainly women and children, were killed, by presumed ADF combatants in brutal attacks, mostly at night. The high number of civilian casualties was one of the main triggers of violent demonstrations against MONUSCO in North Kivu, including the destruction and looting of a MONUSCO Office in Beni on 25 November. The attacks against civilians occurred against the backdrop of a major offensive that the Congolese Army launched against the ADF on 30 October 2019. Since 2014, the ADF have systematically retaliated against civilians to thwart the Congolese army's operations against them.
The independent assessment concluded that protecting civilians in Beni territory requires a comprehensive response, involving all components of MONUSCO and the UN Country Team, as well as external partners. The team recommended that MONUSCO, UNHQ and troop-contributing countries coordinate their actions to improve the mindset, capabilities and mobility of the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade to better address the unconventional threat posed by the ADF, in a particularly challenging environment. The independent assessment noted that strengthened cooperation between MONUSCO and the Congolese Army and Police is critical to sustain the gains made by the Congolese army during this latest offensive against the ADF. Beyond military operations, the assessment recommended the development of a comprehensive, joint strategy between the Government and MONUSCO, including at the political level, to counter the ADF and sustainably address insecurity in the Beni area.
The Department of Peace Operations is developing an Action Plan to implement the key recommendations of the assessment.