- The UN peacekeeping missions in Burundi and Congo Kinshasa (DRC) are working to tighten security along the border to prevent a repeat of the recent slaughter of refugees at Gatumba camp. The UN is also responding to repeated threats of Burundian and Rwandan military actions within the Congo if security is not improved.
The new military spokesman of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo (MONUC), Major François Ouedraogo, told journalists yesterday that security has been reinforced along the Congolese-Burundian border in the wake of the killing of some 160 Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) refugees at the Burundian transit centre at Gatumba during the night of 13 August.
MONUC's Force Commander, Genenral Iliya Samaila, had toured eastern DRC and visited Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, to talk with UN troops and Congolese officers and to explore, with his counterpart of the UN peacekeepers in Burundi (ONUB), further joint activities on the ground.
The new demonstration of force and determination by the UN peacekeepers in the Great Lakes region comes after heavy criticism by civilians here, which do not feel protected by the UN. The UN forces have a flawed credibility in the Great Lakes region after the UN withdrawal from Rwanda immediately before the 1994 genocide, the alleged unwillingness to stop inter-ethnic violence in Congo's Ituri province in mid-2003 and the latest massacre of refugees in Burundi.
Immediately after the 13 August refugee massacre in Burundi, civilians demonstrated their distrust towards the UN by holding up posters saying "ONUB go home". Also after the Ituri disaster last year, civilians all over Congo rioted against UN installations. Since that, the UN has seemed determined to improve its record and provide real security to civilians.
MONUC spokeswoman Patricia Tomé at the press conference therefore welcomed a request by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council, asking that MONUC strength be more than doubled to 23,900 troops from the current 10,800. The objective of this deployment strategy is to make MONUC's presence more effective in the main areas plagued by instability, since "MONUC cannot be omnipresent in the Congo," Ms Tomé declared.
In the framework of the disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration process, meanwhile, a high-level Ugandan delegation has arranged for the repatriation of the remaining 100 troops from Congo's Kananga Province, according to the MONUC spokeswoman. The mission had repatriated the majority of them to Entebbe, Uganda, last December, Ms Tomé said.
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