U.N. forces have launched a one-week offensive in North Kivu province. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) is taking action after attacks by rebel groups.
The goal of the offensive is to ensure peace and stability in the area before the general elections in November, said Lieutenant Colonel Felix Basse, military spokesman for MONUSCO.
“We have seen some activities by various armed groups in that area,” said Basse, “so that’s why we have launched another operation in order to [show] the dominance of MONUSCO [and] to increase protection of the population.”
He said the offensive in the Grand Nord area of the province will prevent armed groups from reuniting to attack unarmed civilians.
The groups are accused of a number of crimes, including ambushing civilians, looting, kidnapping and rape.
Both the government and MONUSCO blame rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) for the assaults in North Kivu.
Residents say the rebels often wait until MONUSCO’s military operations end before attacking civilians.
But Basse said as part of its mandate, MONUSCO will continue to conduct routine military offensives to re-assert control over the area.
“This is why we are always launching operation after another operation,” said Basse, “because we are trying to execute our mandate,”
He said MONUSCO will temporarily replace government soldiers in North Kivu as they undergo 45 days of retraining. Then the U.N. mission is expected to help stabilize the town of Rutshuru and the surrounding areas.
Basse said MONUSCO will continue to work with the army (FARDC) in future operations to, in his words, serve as a deterrent to armed groups.
“We conduct joint military operation[s] with FARDC whenever possible in order to reassure the population and try to get the security situation in the country better in those areas left by the FARDC,” said Basse.