During a working session with MONUSO's substantive sections in Uvira, South Kivu Province, on 6th August, some 20 women leaders from the region assessed the critical and worrying situation in the territories of Fizi, Mwenga and Uvira. While recognizing MONUSCO's efforts to protect civilians, they suggest that the UN Mission must do more to gain the confidence of the affected populations.
These women leaders note that the recurrence of security incidents affects the protection of civilians in the three territories as well as social cohesion, the peace implementation process and stabilization efforts. They call for the strengthening of mechanisms for the protection of civilians in these territories.
These female leaders, among them politicians, human rights defenders and media executives, expressed their concern at the recent incidents in Kipupu and Sange. On 16th July, clashes between two armed groups from local communities left 15 people dead, many injured, more than 200 reported missing, as well as property damage in Kipupu.
On 30th July, the MONUSCO base in Sange was attacked by an angry crowd after a drunken Congolese army soldier shot more than a dozen people in the Rutanga neighbourhood of the town of Sange.
Doing more to improve confidence
These women leaders think that the State should redouble its efforts to find a lasting solution to the security problems and inter-communal tensions. Their spokesperson, Ms. Abigaël Bitondo, recognized MONUSCO's contribution peace restoration. However, she thought that more needs to be done to improve confidence.
"When one comes in support, it is like a stranger in a house. Although MONUSCO may be willing to do something, if it is interfered with, hampered or stopped by the owner of the house, it cannot do anything. It is up to us, the population, to try to analyze more deeply what is happening in order to apportion responsibility, and to ask ourselves whether MONUSCO is really not fulfilling its mandate, or whether there is a force preventing the UN Mission from acting properly. It is up to us to ask ourselves these questions," said Abigaël Bitondo, who also heads the NGO Genre Actif pour le Développement et la Paix (GAD).
Ms. Furaha Mangala Jeannette shares the same view. This political actress, in her late forties, appeals to her political base in these terms: "I will ask our population to cool down and stay calm. MONUSCO is working in our interest. But our population must have the courage to denounce criminals, bandits wherever they are, even if there is a plot somewhere to destabilize our country. Instead of pointing the finger at MONUSCO again, the population must be ready to inform civil society and political societie organizations. If we do not work hand in hand with MONUSCO, we will always remain in a state of confusion. »
The head of the MONUSCO sub-office, Ganda Abdourahamane, reassured these women leaders of the UN Mission's commitment to fulfilling its protection of civilians mandate in support of the national security forces.
"I think we will work towards redoubling our efforts, hand in hand with the FARDC and the PNC. Currently we have a civil society mission working on the ground in Sange. It is composed of civil society from Uvira and Bukavu. Tomorrow we will sit down together, do the debriefing and see what strategy to adopt to improve our communication but also to improve our service on the ground because nobody is perfect", he said.
For his part, the head of MONUSCO's Civil Affairs Section, Oi Tano Tano, explained to these women the UN Mission's efforts that resulted, among other things, in the signing of a ceasefire agreement between local armed groups and self-defense groups on 13 March 2020. Between November 2019 and March 2020, the Mission deployed eight operating bases on the Hauts Plateaux.
Among the key recommendations, the women leaders of Uvira called for the organization of sensitization campaigns to build confidence and help improve relations, collaboration and information-sharing among all stakeholders. To MONUSCO, the participants recommend supporting the organization of a crisis resolution and analysis workshop for women leaders.