Ituri: Jean-Pierre Lacroix arrives in Bunia, the first stop on a three-day visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, arrived on Tuesday, February 22 in Bunia, the provincial capital of Ituri, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is the first stop on his three-day visit to the DRC that will take him to Goma and Kinshasa.
It was 12 h 50 pm (Eastern time) when his plane came to a halt on the tarmac at Murongo airport in Bunia. After being welcomed by the head of the UN Mission in Congo and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the DRC, Bintou Keita, and by the acting Governor of Ituri, Benjamin Alongabony, Jean-Pierre Lacroix was joined by the Congolese Minister of Defence, Gilbert Kabanda, who had come specially from Kinshasa.
Together, they reviewed the security and humanitarian challenges facing Ituri province, which has been under a state of siege since May 2021, due to the activities of both local and foreign armed groups, and therefore the support that the UN could provide for the Congolese government to address these challenges.
Pleas from civil society
The UN peace operations chief then met with representatives of local communities whose expectations vis-à-vis this visit are enormous.
For example, for women's organisations, the UN needs to get involved in pushing for the effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. As well as in helping women regain their dignity in the face of the serious violations of their rights committed by armed groups, including murders and rapes.
Elisabeth Buve, president of the Collectif des Femmes de l'Ituri, also asked the UN to “get involved so that women are represented in the disarmament, demobilisation and community reintegration programme”.
For their part, human rights NGOs are asking the UN to get involved in supporting the government in the fight against impunity for perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Ituri.
In the heart of the IDP site
In the early afternoon, Jean-Pierre Lacroix and his delegation flew to Roe, 80 km from Bunia, in the territory of Djugu. Here, some 65,000 to 70,000 internally displaced persons live in the largest IDP camp in Ituri.
Besides counting on MONUSCO peacekeepers, the displaced people in Roe can also count on the humanitarian community, whose action they welcome.
Proving assistance ranging from health care to water and sanitation, education, shelter construction, etc., national and international NGOs as well as UN agencies remain actively engaged with these vulnerable people to help them maintain some hope for a return to a normal life, thanks to a newfound peace.
In Roe, where he spent the afternoon, Jean-Pierre Lacroix met with local authorities and representatives of those displaced by the conflict. He also expressed his solidarity with the men, women and children who continue to be deeply affected by the violence from armed groups in the region.
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations left Bunia and Ituri late Tuesday afternoon for Goma, North Kivu. He will then fly to Kinshasa where he will meet, among others, the Head of State Felix Tshisekedi.
Nearly 19,000 patrols in 2021
The province of Ituri, in the east eastern DRC, has been plagued by almost chronic insecurity, marked by a lull between 2003 and 2017. Since then, atrocities by various armed groups have led to massive population displacement. An estimated 1.8 million people have fled their homes in the province.
The United Nations Mission has several military bases, mainly in the territory of Djugu, the epicentre of the violence, and also in Irumu. The ADF rebels, being hunted down by the Congolese (and recently Ugandan) army and MONUSCO in North Kivu, have been fleeing and seeking refuge in Ituri.
In 2021, MONUSCO peacekeepers carried out more than 16,700 motorised patrols and nearly 1,000 foot and air patrols in Ituri, thus helping to save civilian lives.
In support of the national army (FARDC), UN peacekeepers escorted more than 10,000 civilian vehicles along the various roads in the province between July 2021 and January 2022, thus preventing the suffocating blockade of the major urban centres, which is what these armed groups are aiming for.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Mission de l’Organisation des Nations unies en République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO).