"What we have seen and heard is just unacceptable." It was a visibly shocked David Gressly speaking on Friday April 17, 2020 from Bunia airport before flying to Goma, wrapping up a 24-hour visit to Ituri.
Upon arriving the day before, accompanied by MONUSCO Force Commander, the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in charge of Operations and Protection in DRC, condemned the indiscriminate violence suffered by civilian populations in the territories of Djugu and Mahagi.
David Gressly warned the perpetrators of the violence in Ituri that sooner or later they will be brought to justice for impunity shall not be tolerated: "Impunity for such acts of violence and human rights abuse shall not indeed be tolerated; we will see how to assist the Justice sector for if we need lasting peace, it cannot be achieved without Justice. Therefore, those perpetrating such crimes shall not go unpunished."
Aware of the threat hanging over some categories of civilian population, David Gressly said MONUSCO also intends to focus its efforts on the security of the internally displaced persons who are very vulnerable. MONUSCO will further strengthen its security on the national highway 27 which facilitates the transport of food from the hinterland to Bunia. "We will also help protect large cities such as Bunia. But it is not the sole responsibility of MONUSCO," said the deputy chief of MONUSCO.
On a purely operational and military level, the chief of MONUSCO peacekeepers provided details on some of the measures the Mission intends to take to help authorities stop the violence in Ituri. MONUSCO will enhance robust day and night patrols and dispatch additional troops and armored vehicles to the Province. Strengthening collaboration with the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC), maintaining or even increasing support for the FARDC, are among the measures envisaged by General Costa Neves. "I have encouraged the civilian population to continue to use the alert systems in place to allow us to respond quickly and most effectively to any threat against civilians," he said.
MONUSCO does support any armed group, we are here to support the people whom we urge not to trust the false rumours.
Furthermore, in response to the false information which aim to discredit the Mission's activities on the ground, MONUSCO Force Commander reassured the population of Ituri in these terms: "These are false rumours intended to pit the populations against MONUSCO," said the Force Commander, further indicating that there should be no doubt whatsoever as to MONUSCO's engagement alongside the authorities and the population. "MONUSCO does not support any armed group, we are here to support the population whom we urge not to trust the false rumours".
General Costa Neves believes putting an end to the violence would require good cooperation from the population. "The alert system in place allows people to call directly and report any incident happening, it allows us to react as soon as possible to respond to the threats, to the situations taking place".
During their visit to Ituri, David Gressly and General Costa Neves met FARDC officers, the provincial Governor, representatives of the Federation of DRC Enterprises FEC and especially the local populations in Bayoo, Roe and Fataki for they had to listen first in order to better understand what people experience on a daily basis and see together how to better respond.