The United Nations Stabilization Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) will soon complete a security fence around the airport in Goma, in the North Kivu province, according to the group’s spokesman.
“This is to prevent the local population and animals from crossing from one end of the runway to the other to go and fetch water or something, which caused accidents in the past,” said MONUSCO regional spokesman, Alexander Essome.
“For us it is a priority of security. We really want to ensure that we upgrade the security in terms of our flight landing, and the civilian flights landing safely. We also want to win the hearts and minds of Congolese for them to see that we also conduct humanitarian assistance to improve their living conditions,” he added.
Essome says MONUSCO undertook the fence project following a request by Congo’s Civil Aviation Authority.
He says the fence will help save lives as well as prevent aviation interruptions during conflicts. MONUSCO helped prevent the M23 rebels from overrunning the Goma airport during the recent conflict with the Congolese national army.
“This time around, it will be very difficult for anybody [including the rebels] to get easy access to the airport,” said Essome.
The U.N. group is investing about $1.6 million to build an eight kilometer barbed wire fence to protect the airport, which the Congolese government considers a strategic asset. The construction is being supervised by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Critics have questioned whether the construction of the fence is a good investment.
“It is a wonderful investment for MONUSCO,” said Essome. “Investing for the security of our flights for civilian flights … goes to the heart of MONUSCO’s mandate, which is the protection of the population,” he concluded.