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UN Increases Troop Strength in DRC’s North Kivu Province

Soldiers with the UN peacekeeping force sit on top of an armored personnel carrier in the center of Goma, Eastern DRC, December 6, 2008.
An official of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) says the group has sharply increased the number of peacekeeping troops in North Kivu province and its capital, Goma.

Alexander Essome, a regional spokesman, said MONUSCO will continue to implement its mandate, which he said is to protect unarmed civilian residents.

His comments follow growing clashes between the M23 rebels and the Congolese national army (FARDC), especially in the eastern part of the country.

“I can confirm that we have increased our troop levels in the North Kivu area and that we have also increased our patrol within Goma town and outside Goma town as well,” said Essome.

“We are also undertaking right now [a joint] patrol with FARDC on the outskirts of Goma town to ensure that the five thousand plus [there] and the [internally displaced] people [IDP’s] living in Goma are protected in the upcoming days,” added Essome.

According to humanitarian agencies, growing insecurity in North Kivu has increased the number of IDP’s living in the province to 218,000 over the past two months.

Essome says MONUSCO is working closely with humanitarian organizations to provide them with aid.

The commander of the U.N. peacekeepers and his FARDC counterpart inspected the joint positions of their forces following clashes with the rebels.

“Our commander went to Kibumba and Rubare with FARDC commander to view the level of deployment, how the operations are going on the ground, and [the effectiveness of] the protection mechanism put in place by both units…,” Essome said.

Essome said MONUSCO’s increased security has sharply reduced attacks by armed groups in the area.

“What I can tell you right now is that things are looking good. People are going about their business and are very friendly toward MONUSCO,” said Essome.

“They are accepting the plan put in place by MONUSCO together with FARDC," he added. "The plan can only be effective if we have the full cooperation of the population and of the security apparatus in the province.”

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