GOMA, D.R.C. - The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s army has launched an offensive in Beni territory against Ugandan Islamist ADF rebels, who have stepped up attacks on army positions.
The U.N.-supported Radio Okapi, said the large-scale offensive, launched Thursday, was backed by the intervention brigade of the U.N. mission, MONUSCO. But an army spokesman, Lieutenant Mike Azukai, preferred not to comment on MONUSCO’s contribution.
“People in Beni do not need to know who is working to restore peace there,” he said. “It’s as if you were thirsty and asked me for a drink, and I bought you a Fanta, and then you ask me, 'Where did you get the money to buy that?'”
Formal collaboration between the Congolese army and the approximately 17,000 peacekeepers in MONUSCO was suspended in February over U.N. objections to the appointment of two suspected human rights abusers to command a joint operation.
Since then, the army’s collaboration with MONUSCO against the ADF has been limited, says Jason Stearns, Director of the Usalama Project, a research program on Congolese armed groups at the Rift Valley Institute.
Speaking on Wednesday, before the latest operation, he said, “[Against] the ADF, there’s some collaboration, but it’s largely the provision of logistical support, water, health care and things like that, and there’s no joint planning of operations."
Some 450 civilians have been killed by the ADF and other forces in Beni territory in dozens of incidents since last October.
The MONUSCO force commander, General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, called Wednesday for a new approach to security in Beni territory. He said there needed to be an evolution in the way MONUSCO worked with the Congolese army because the classic approach was not possible against these "bandits."
Cruz added that he didn't know exactly who was behind the massacres and crimes in Beni territory because many criminals were trying to profit from the situation there.
The U.N. human rights office has said some local authorities were allegedly complicit in some of the massacres in the territory.