The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Leila Zerrougui, emphatically denounced fanciful rumors that MONUSCO would be involved in providing logistics to armed groups in the east of the country.
During the weekly United Nations conference held on 2 September 2020 in Kinshasa, in responding to a question from a journalist in this regard, the Head of MONUSCO was firm. "To say that we provide logistics to armed groups, I think it is totally irresponsible," she said.
For the Head of MONUSCO, there is no logic in thinking that MONUSCO could provide support to armed groups. "We are here to support the FARDC, to support the authorities [...] in putting an end to the threat posed by armed groups. We are conducting inquiries and investigations together with the judicial, police, military and political authorities. If we were a threat to the DRC, do you think the government would let us carry on? Do you think it makes sense that we can provide [logistics] to the armed groups against the Congolese army, and still the Congolese army gets on our planes, accompanies us and works with us, prepares operational plans with us? ".
Leila Zerrougui was keen to point out that peacekeeping soldiers are paying a heavy price in the face of these armed groups." Some of our Malawian, Tanzanian, South African, and Pakistani peacekeepers have died. Recently, as you know, four Indonesian engineers were attacked while they were building a road. One died, three were evacuated to their country. So how can one say that we support groups that are killing our people? How can we possibly do that?" she asked.
In the same vein, the Head of MONUSCO condemned militiamen for the attacks carried out against schools in South Kivu, denying children the right to take their exams.
"I hope that these criminals will be identified and brought to justice, because this is clearly unacceptable, neither does this have any legitimacy. How can you pretend to take up arms to defend a community and then kill children or prevent them from taking exams?" she said indignantly.
In the face of this type of crime committed by armed groups, Leila Zerrougui said she cannot understand the accusations against MONUSCO. "I spend my time saying, 'They must not be integrated into the army, even when they lay down their arms. It is necessary not to accept the amnesty. It is important to carry on fighting so that these people will ask for forgiveness and be held accountable. It has been twenty years that these people have survived because they are rewarded. This must stop," insisted the Head of MONUSCO.
Progress in the fight against rebel groups
Leila Zerrougui stressed that in the fight against armed groups, there is much progress that must not be underestimated. "Today, these groups are certainly dispersed, they have not been defeated, but they are far from the areas where they operated before. There is a whole area where these people were farming, doing business, in this area once known as Mwalika. These areas are controlled by the FARDC. We are together in these areas, we work together, we also often operate in these areas with the FARDC," she said.
MONUSCO is using the maximum of the means at its disposal to support the national security forces in the fight against armed groups.
In order to facilitate the hunt for rebels by national security forces, MONUSCO is using drones. When asked by a journalist about the usefulness of these drones, Leila Zerrougui said: "Drones cost us a lot of money, but we use them because they help give more capacity to the FARDC operating in these areas, to know where these people are, to be able to target them and to identify where they are".
She added: "You are aware of the difficulty you have when you have armed groups operating where there are populations. It is very difficult to target people when you can also kill civilian populations. So, it is very important to have the technological capacity to identify these people, to be able to target them, to be able to isolate them from the population, and to protect the population".
The Head of MONUSCO also informed journalists that the UN Mission is in the process of demilitarizing and closing offices, in view of its withdrawal from the DRC. "We have had an evaluation and we are preparing for the transition, because this year we will also have to present a report on the transition, and further reduce our presence in areas where the Congolese authorities are able to assume responsibility for security without our intervention," she said.
Currently, MONUSCO is present in only 6 of the 26 provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.