On February 17, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) closed its base in Mutwanga, located about fifty km south-east of the city of Beni in North Kivu. The shutdown is part of its transition plan which requires a gradual, orderly, and responsible withdrawal of MONUSCO from the DRC, particularly following the truce observed in the area for several months.
The decision, though it marks a significant improvement in the security situation in this part of the province, did not necessarily please the local populations used to the presence of MONUSCO blue helmets. A presence that weighed heavily in deterring negative forces.
These populations fear a possible flare-up of attacks on civilians by armed groups, as was the case two years before the establishment of the Mission base in this area.
It should be recalled that MONUSCO had set up this base in this locality in 2021 to fight these armed groups and thus secure the populations, alongside the Congolese armed forces FARDC.
On Thursday, February 16, during the official closing ceremony of this military base, local authorities as well as representatives of the population of the Ruwenzori sector applauded the work carried out by the United Nations peacekeepers, which enabled the community to regain the peace and normal life it had lost for many years.
For MONUSCO, the fact of withdrawing from Mutwanga is a sign that “the mission has been accomplished and that security has returned to the area“.
Joy, but also fear
During the official ceremony, Sifa Mbahingana Kanyere, a member of the Gender Activities Unit in Mutwanga, voiced her satisfaction with the progress made by MONUSCO in terms of restoring peace. “Security is there, but young people do not understand MONUSCO’s mandate.”
Sifa Kanyere brought up the logistical support the Mission provides to the FARDC: “MONUSCO helps us supply the FARDC with fuel. MONUSCO has brought us security, but some young people are not aware of what it provides for us. With MONUSCO, security is there”.
She went on to say: “It is with regret that we welcomed this decision to close the Mutwanga base. The population agreed that MONUSCO could remain in Mutwanga. 70% of the population in Mutwanga, I may allow myself to say regrets their departure”.
Reacting to the concerns of the population regarding this departure, MONUSCO said it has kept another of its bases in the Ruwenzori sector; it is Kilya basis. It has handed over to the FARDC the base of Mutwanga, with part of its facilities and equipment.
MONUSCO reassures: “We are not leaving the area definitively; we are not abandoning you. However, it must be remembered that the protection of civilians is first and foremost the responsibility of the Government. The other structures are in place and capacity- building will continue,” said MONUSCO Civil Affairs Coordinator for Beni-Butembo-Lubero region.
Merault Ahouangansi also urged the population to strengthen the link with the national security forces to perpetuate the achievements of these two years of presence which have made it possible to achieve the results unanimously welcomed today.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Mission de l’Organisation des Nations unies en République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO).