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Force Commander recalling MONUSCO's commitment to working with FARDC to protect civilians from armed groups in accordance with its mandate. / Photos Alain Wandimoyi

“Our main objective is to stop any desire by the M23 to invade Sake or Goma. Our troops are deployed throughout the region and if armed groups ever approach these towns, MONUSCO and FARDC will defend the civilian population.”

MONUSCO Force Commander, General Otávio Rodrigues de Miranda Filho, made this statement in a joint MONUSCO-FARDC press briefing on Friday, November 3 in Goma.

For months, clashes between armed groups have been taking place in the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru and Nyiragongo. These recent fighting have caused the displacement of around 300,000 people. The United Nations estimates that in total, to date, nearly one million people in North Kivu have been displaced by the ongoing conflicts.

“These conflicts represent a major threat to access for humanitarian aid and to displaced persons who have found refuge in sites located on the outskirts of Goma,” underscored General Otávio Rodrigues de Miranda Filho.

During the joint meeting with media professionals attended by the Governor's military spokesperson, Force Commander recalled that rebels are currently advancing towards the south, along the national road 2 (RN2) and from the provincial road 1030 towards Sake, a city which is intended to be an essential stronghold in the defense of Goma.

General Otávio Rodrigues de Miranda Filho recalled MONUSCO's commitment to working with the Congolese national army to protect civilians from armed groups in accordance with its mandate.

Pooling of efforts

“The objective of this operation is to protect Goma and Sake,” the UN military officer told journalists. “We decided, first of all, to establish a solid line of defense at the entrance to Goma and Sake. This is a defensive approach for the moment, but if illegal armed groups try to attack Sake and Goma, we will move from a defensive to an offensive position.”

The General, however, stressed that other measures are already planned. These include political and diplomatic solutions, to resolve this problem peacefully. “We must also try to use the other methods to find a peaceful solution to these conflicts.”

The spokesperson for the North-Kivu military Governor, also spokesperson for the 34th military region, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Njike Kaiko highlighted the importance of collaboration between MONUSCO and FARDC for a successful Springbok Operation.

“With this partnership, we will be able to maximize our chances of success,” he confided, further indicating: “FARDC believes the decision made by MONUSCO is a really important and thoughtful decision because MONUSCO knows well the enemy facing us, the M23. This enemy has already caused a lot of harm to the population in this region and others in the DRC.”

Lieutenant Colonel Njike Kaiko insisted on the need to collaborate in order to maximize all chances for a successful operation: “What is important here for us is this way of carrying out operations in a joint manner, for we suppose we have a common enemy.”

Offensives in the era of transition

Responding to a question on why this is happening at this very moment when the Mission is requested to leave the DRC that the Mission decides to carry out potentially offensive operations, the Brigadier General reassured, stressing that MONUSCO is carrying out this operation because it is its duty and this falls within its mandate to protect civilians in the DRC. “This year alone, we have carried out more than twenty offensive operations against illegal armed groups. In the Ituri province, we save hundreds of innocent lives everyday thanks to our presence.”

He further said: “We have always worked hard to fulfill our mandate. This is not a favor done to the population, but a duty. I cannot deny that we have sometimes failed in the past, but I believe the public must remember the times when we have succeeded.”

The UN officer concluded his remarks by declaring that the Mission does not act with the aim of convincing people of the importance of its presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it acts because it is responsible: “We will continue to do this until our last day in the DRC.”