Monday, February 28, 2005

Murder of nine United Nations peacekeepers in the DRC

Here is a copy of a February 26, 2005, report by the United Nations Mission for Democratic Republic of Congo (Monuc) about the murder of nine UN peacekeepers in the DRC.

What happened?
During the morning of 25 February, 20 peacekeepers belonging to the Bangladeshi contingent of MONUC, and their UN civilian national staff interpreter, were ambushed 5 kilometers west of Kafe, in the district of Ituri, DRC by one of the armed groups that refused to participate in the international community sponsored Disarmament and Community based Reintegration process. During this ambush, nine MONUC peacekeepers lost their lives.

What were the peacekeepers doing?
The peacekeepers were on a mission to secure the immediate surrounding areas of an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp at Kafe, in order to protect its population of 8000 IDPs against the exactions by militias
of which they were the victims a few weeks before.

What was MONUC's reaction?
The commander of the Ituri Brigade immediately launched a helicopter operation composed of transport and attack helicopters providing air support to two additional platoons of troops engaged in securing the zone in order to evacuate causalities and recover the bodies. Some of these troops were also engaged by fire from remaining militias when arriving on the site. Peacekeepers sustained no additional casualties.

Who is responsible?
MONUC holds responsible for these assassinations the armed groups' political and military leaders, who continue to refuse the disarmament and reintegration process - put in place by the National Commission for Disarmament and Reintegration (CONADER), UNDP, UNICEF, MONUC and other international donors. MONUC calls for their immediate arrest.

Why did they do it?
This premeditated attack comes in the wake of several actions conducted by MONUC (including the arrest of 30 militia members on 24 February) in Ituri aimed at neutralizing the militias who prey on, and terrorize the local population.

What are the next steps?
MONUC is undertaking a series of robust military measures including on-going reinforcement in the area (adding two additional companies and a tactical HQ); intensification of cordon and search operations in the area of the attack; and disarmament actions. MONUC is continuing its activities aimed at neutralizing criminal groups and protecting the civilian population. The Secretary-General has called on the Transitional Government of the DRC to make every effort to find and hold accountable those responsible for this reprehensible and criminal attack.

Photo (Rachel Eklou-Assogbavi/Monuc) Memorial service for the nine deceased peacekeepers in Bunia.