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Peacekeepers Begin Sensitization Outreach in DRC

Government soldiers heading to strike rebel-held positions near Rutshuru, DRC, May 20, 2012.
A spokesman for the UN Peacekeeping Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) said peacekeepers have begun a sensitization program aimed at reassuring the public they will continue to protect them from attacks by armed groups.

Alexander Essome, MONUSCO’s regional spokesman, called on humanitarian agencies to keep up efforts to provide relief assistance to citizens internally displaced by conflict between the rebel group M23 and the Congolese national army (FARDC).

He said officials of the UN mission toured parts of the restive North Kivu province, including the stronghold of M23, to assess the situation and conditions of residents affected by the ongoing conflict.

“Our aim was to go on the ground and see firsthand what is happening there; how people are living, how the population is coping with all the guns sounding all around them, the IDP camps, what their needs are… so that we can inform our humanitarian partners and see what they can [also] do on the ground, eventually,” said Essome.

He underscored the importance of the strong working relationship between MONUSCO and soldiers of the national army to bolster security in the North Kivu province.

“Things are going very well and the IDP’s are camping right now in the schools… But, eventually, if something is not done [with] having 5, 10,000 IDP’s in one school, it can be very difficult in coming days to manage,” he said.

Essome said MONUSCO’s assessment will help the group compile a report, which he said will be used by its senior officials, peacekeepers as well as its humanitarian partners.

“We are already providing protection in the entire North Kivu province; the sensitization will continue next week,” said Essome. “Next week, we are going to take a tour of Katoyi, Remeka towards the southern part of Masisi. We want to assure those IDPs that were displaced in those areas… so that we can touch base with them and see what is exactly going on there.”

According to humanitarian agencies, growing insecurity in the restive North Kivu province has increased the number of internally displaced people to 218,000 over the past two months.

But, the UN Security Council tasked MONUSCO with protecting unarmed civilians from attacks from insurgent rebel groups in the country.

Essome said MONUSCO will continue to keep up its mandate, which he said is to protect unarmed civilians.

“We want to build up the confidence of the people of North Kivu. We want to ensure that they understand that the protection is there and that the efforts taken by the FARDC, supported by MONUSCO, are meant to bring them peace,” he said.

Clottey interview with Alexander Essome, MONUSCO’s regional spokesman
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