A new contingent of Kenyan forces arrived in Beni in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo this week to join the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The exact number of the new arrivals has not been made public.
However, the increase in the number of UN forces in the country with this new contingent “inspires very little confidence” among the populations of Beni.
“We have no confidence in the United Nations and we are doubting whether these Kenyans will have any impact and make a difference within the very passive UN forces in the country,” said Adriel Tsongo, a 30-year-old resident of Beni.
Beni with a population of 200,000 inhabitants situated to the north of North Kivu province, is in the heart of the territory where the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed gang, considered the most murderous of the armed groups that have been operating in the Eastern DR Congo for over 25 years, has been carrying out most of its atrocities.
United Nations Blue Helmets have been deployed in the country for the past 20 years and they currently number up to 16,000, sustained on an annual budget of one billion US dollars.
Since 2013, a Rapid Intervention Brigade (RIB) with a more intensive mandate than the rest of the other UN forces in the country, has been deployed in Beni composed of Tanzanian, South African, and Malawian soldiers.
In the past few years, the efficacy of the UN mission has been called into question by the local populations and in 2019 there were violent demonstrations in Beni targeting UN installations there.
According to Major Ari Foukory, spokesperson of the RIB, “to meet up with the presence of the forces on the ground for the protection of the populations, it was decided to reinforce the RIB forces with four organic rapid intervention units.”
The UN spokesperson revealed that a contingent of Tanzanian soldiers arrived in Beni some months ago and the Kenyan forces joined them on Monday while contingents from Nepal and South Africa are still being awaited.
He did not reveal the numerical strength of the various troops but said they are mostly specialised forces.
Despite these reinforcements, the local populations are still skeptical as to the effectiveness of the UN forces on the ground, given the fact that violence and the harassment of the people by various armed groups still continues unabated.
“They are just Blue Helmet tourists. Why is it that after 20 years of failure by the UN Blue Helmets, they are adding more troops? Do they think they will fight better than the others?,” asks Benjamin Sivanzire, a student who considers the UN soldiers as lazy individuals.
He said the Kenyans cannot do anything better than the other UN forces already in the area.
Taxi driver, Kambale Musavuli deplored the fact that the presence of UN forces on the ground has not stopped the ADF forces from slaughtering people.
He thinks things have instead worsened since the arrival of more UN troops and said the Blue Helmets should leave the area.
For Adriel Tsongo, “if the newly-arrived Kenyan troops want to earn the confidence of the people, they must immediately carry out palpable operations with visible results.”
“If they don’t do something worthy, we will still rise up against them and demand their departure since they have not been helping us in any way,” he added.
The Youth President of the Bungulu Council in Beni said what matters most is the results on the ground.
“I must salute the presence of the international community in our country through MONUSCO but I must say we are disappointed with them,” the youth president declared.
“We are told the Kenyans are experienced in fighting jihadists. We welcome them but let them not come with the helmets of tourists,” Jimmy Kighoma, another youth leader added.
“We understand that after living within a context of killings, barbarity and the violation of human rights, the population is exasperated. However, the UN did not come to the region to replace the army. Their principal mission is to ensure the protection of civilians,” Major Ari Foukory, spokesperson of the RIB declared.
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