The spokesman for the United Nations Stabilization Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), says the group intends to set up a security zone to prevent the M23 rebels from launching long-range attacks on North Kivu’s capital, Goma. The city has a population of over one million.
“MONUSCO has decided to put in place a security zone. The main objective of the security zone is to prohibit the M23 from reaching with its weapons the densely populated capital, of Goma, and this way to protect the population,” said MONUSCO spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai. “This is one of our main objectives of our mandate.”
He says Martin Kobler, the U.N. special representative who heads MONUSCO, issued instructions to the troops to use any means necessary to protect civilians after the M23 launched missiles into the population.
“This means we have to dislodge M23 from [their positions] where its long range artillery can still reach the town of Goma,” said Mounoubai. “The FARDC [Congo’s national army] has launched an operation to dislodge the M23 from their [base] on the hill, and in accordance to the instruction and order from the special representative, our force of course joined in that operation.”
The conflict between the combined forces of the FARDC and the UN peacekeeping troops on one side and the rebels on the other began on August 21 in North Kivu province.
Mounoubai accused the M23 rebels of indiscriminately shooting rockets into Goma as well as MONUSCO’s base. He says an officer from Tanzania was killed and eight other peacekeepers injured as a result of the shelling.
The rebels denied the accusation saying, both the FARDC and the UN peacekeepers are to blame for the shelling.
“For the M23 to be saying the MONUCO force or the FARDC is behind the new fighting I think is just not correct,” said Mounoubai. “As far as we are concerned, our main objective so far is to push M23 to a position where their long-range artillery can no longer reach the town of Goma.”
He says officials of the Congolese government are looking at several options.
“As far as we are concerned, we don’t look at the military perspective as the only solution. President [Joseph] Kabila said that he is looking at all options: diplomatic, political and military,” said Mounoubai. “There is talk between the government of the DRC and M23 in Kampala.”
Mounoubai says the U.N. peacekeepers will continue to work closely with the FARD to prevent civilian casualties from the rebel shelling.
“We stand by and support any military operation that the national army, the FARDC will take. This is our commitment and we have this mandate, we will do everything in our disposal to make sure that there is security for the population of Goma,” said Mounoubai.