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Ituri: The populations of Iga-Barrière in Djugu territory pledge to cooperate with MONUSCO henceforth

MONUSCO has raised awareness of the tangible impact of its work alongside the FARDC in the fight against armed groups. Photo MONUSCO/Civil Affairs Section

"We are now married to MONUSCO and ready to welcome any UN delegation here. So said the population of Iga-Barrière, 25 km north of Bunia in Djugu territory, on 17 May 2022, at the end of a two-day workshop organised by the MONUSCO Civil Affairs section in this locality. This meeting with the local population, especially the young people of the area, aimed to build confidence between the two parties, and also to present MONUSCO’s mandate and its Transition Plan. Sixty-one participants, including twelve women, attended the workshop: a representative of the military administrator of Djugu territory, members of the local security committee, traditional chiefs, youth and women leaders, as well as community elders from the village groupings of Gina, Lopa and Iga-Barrière. For some participants, "this activity comes at the right time", as relations between MONUSCO and the inhabitants of this locality had considerably deteriorated. This was due to ignorance of MONUSCO's role, but above all to misinformation that had led some young people to develop anti-MONUSCO (and generally anti-United Nations) sentiment. Others even went so far as to speak of collusion between the United Nations Mission in Congo and armed groups. As a result, almost every time a MONUSCO team or patrol passed through toward Iga-Barrière: 

- Vehicles were pelted with stones by some youths 

- A trench had even been dug by them on the road leading to Djugu-centre in order to prevent any movement of MONUSCO vehicles or UN agencies leaving or coming from Djugu to provide assistance to vulnerable populations 

- Blocks of stones had been placed at the entrance and exit of Iga-Barrière 

- All of this was accompanied by anti-MONUSCO slogans 

“Don't pick the wrong target” 

The representative of the administrator of Djugu territory (who is also a security officer) began by stressing at length the role of MONUSCO, a key partner of the government; he went on to strongly condemn the attitude of certain members of the community for their "unjustified hostility" towards MONUSCO peacekeepers during their patrols in the area. Finally, he presented to the public the "operational plan for peace and stability in Djugu" which is supported by MONUSCO's Civil Affairs section. 

Combating misinformation and rumours 

Another presentation, this time by MONUSCO, was on UN Security Council Resolution 2612 on the DRC (MONUSCO's mandate) and MONUSCO's exit strategy. This offered an opportunity to raise awareness of the tangible impact of MONUSCO's work alongside the FARDC in the fight against armed groups. It was also an opportunity to dispel the anti-MONUSCO rumours that were spreading in Ituri province and sometimes preventing the UN mission from fulfilling its civilian protection mandate. As it was the case recently in Mambasa territory, 170 km from Bunia, where young people from this locality wanted to attack Malawian peacekeepers who came there to secure certain roads and local populations. Among the recommendations made by the community to seal the marriage and strengthen collaboration with MONUSCO, the traditional leaders asked the peacekeepers to resume and intensify security patrols in Iga-Barrière, Lopa, Nizi and Gina, and they so after apologising for previous incidents during which MONUSCO patrols had been blocked. All of them - youth, elders, women, civil society - insisted that they needed peace and that the DRC government should work to restore peace and security by neutralising armed groups and addressing the root causes of community violence in Ituri.  

"We are very happy with this workshop because we need peace here. We regret very much what some young people in the village did before against MONUSCO. This was due more to lack of information and to rumours. This meeting has given us a better understanding of what you are doing. We are now on good terms with MONUSCO, we will start to alert MONUSCO whenever we are disturbed by armed men who often come from Mbau. We have confidence in MONUSCO, we must be with MONUSCO and fight together against these armed groups. We commit ourselves to collaborate better with MONUSCO so that we are better protected. We have become allies and, going forward, we will work together hand in hand to fight against insecurity in our area," said Charly Nzelu Dyukpa, a notable from Gina. 

Street lighting to fight insecurity in Gina and Iga-Barrière 

A relationship nourished by mutual trust and small gifts, to celebrate this reconciliation, MONUSCO took advantage of this meeting to hand over two CVR (Community Violence Reduction) projects to the local communities: public lighting projects for Iga-Barrière and Gina (40 km north-east of Bunia, still in Djugu territory). These projects were a source of great satisfaction for the population, who pledged to maintain them in the public’s best interest and, above all, to combat night-time crime in these regions.