There is mixed reaction after residents in the restive town of Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province heard announcement that Rwandan forces are in the country to fight rebels. This comes after Kinshasa invited Kigali troops to chase down the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda rebels after a recent agreement last year between Congo President Joseph Kabila and Rwanda President Paul Kagame. Hundreds of Rwandan troops reportedly crossed into north eastern DRC yesterday (Tuesday) with the aim of rooting out FDLR rebels who are accused of perpetuating Rwanda's 1994 genocide. But while some residents hailed the move, others fear of an escalation of violence, which they said would increase the numbers of displaced people.
Madnodje Mounoubai is the spokesman for the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC). He tells reporter Peter Clottey that MONUC would help Kinshasa protect the lives of ordinary Congolese.
"The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (Alan Doss) in the DRC is following closely those developments in the eastern part of the DRC. We think that whatever is taking place now is in line with recent agreement between the DRC and Rwanda during their meeting in Goma last year when they signed an accord last December to get a joint force against the FDLR, and I think that is what is taking place now," Mounoubai noted.
He said MONUC hopes the joint military operation would not adversely affect residents in the eastern part of the country.
"We are calling on all those parties involved in this military operation to above all make sure that the civilians are protected and that the international humanitarian laws are respected and applied as they are. And of course we are worried when there is going to be a military operation and so far we don't have many details about how and when the operation itself will begin," he said.
Mounoubai denied claims by Kinshasa that the United Nations mission in DRC is involved in the military operation.
"MONUC is not being part of the preparatory meeting that is leading to the military operation. So, what I can tell you is that yes the war is there and we are calling on all the parties to make sure that the civilians are not the innocent victims during this military offensive," Mounoubai pointed out.
He said MONUC is mandated to help protect the lives of innocent Congolese.
"The last resolution 1856 gives us a firmer mandate to do everything in our capacity to protect civilians. But now the minister of communication and the media was on different media outlets today talking about the difficulty in informing Congolese about the joint military operation. So, I think the government is aware of the current situation about the mix reaction that greeted the Rwandan forces. So, the minister is trying to take some actions in order to inform people about the operation," he said.
Mounoubai said it behooves Kinshasa to protect its citizens although MONUC would provide assistance.
"The first thing you must be aware of is that it is not MONUC's responsibility to protect the population or the civilians, this is the government's responsibility. We are assisting the government of this country to provide protection to the civilians. And as far as MONUC is concerned this is our mandate and we are in contact and working closely with the humanitarian communities and we are following developments on the ground and bracing ourselves to intervene whenever it is necessary to protect the civilians and bring them assistance if that is what is needed," Mounoubai noted.
Some political analysts say the joint military offensive between Kigali and Kinshasa could potentially change the security landscape. The presence of the FDLR rebels is believed to have contributed immensely to the instability in the eastern part of the DRC.