Following the cancelation of trips due to firing, Nepal Army Peace Keepers finally drove armed vehicles to supply food and other stuffs to Eringiti Post, almost 60 kilometers west of MONUSCO Nepali Battalion headquarter in Beni on July 22 when this scribe was in a trip there.
Just three weeks after returning home, it is reported in international media that the suspected armed rebels, ADF, carried out a massacre on 13 August in the Beni area killing 17 innocent people. However, MONUSCO sources have confirmed a total of 47 deaths, as well as injuries to three civilians and one FARDC soldier.
However, local politicians said in their report that over 90 people were killed on 13 August. Investigations by MONUSCO continues, with a Joint Evidence Gathering Team (JET).
In Ituri, on 15 August, suspected FRPI looted Ndrigi and Mandje and FARDC troops intervened and exchanged fire with the combatants.
On 15 August, five FARDC soldiers were evacuated to Mavivi by MONUSCO and handed over to an FARDC medical team. The area is now reportedly under FARDC control.
As there is a schedule to hold the elections for president in September, escalation of violence among various groups is likely. In Ituri, on 17 August, suspected FRPI cadres dressed in civilian attire attacked and looted the area of Chanda (7km N of Gety), injuring three civilians. Several women on their way to Koga market (3km E of Zitono) were robbed by suspected FRPI elements.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was appalled by the attacks, and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
The situation in Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) is getting worse. Even two MONUSCO APCs and a MONUSCO-contracted food supply truck were blocked at the main roundabout in Beni and surrounded by protestors. PNC reinforcements were able to free the convoy, which returned safely to the NEPBATT Boikene base.
“We encounter frequent firing in these areas by anti government rebels. As we are deployed to protect the civilians nearby, we always need to be vigilant,” said commander of Nepal Battalion Lt. Col Ratna Godar Thapa. “Beni and surrounding areas are more sensitive and highly volatile; our peacekeepers need to be more vigilant.”
Peacekeeping in DRC is a very tough job for Nepal Army. With hostile physical environment, Nepali peacekeepers have to rush to villages whenever the local civilians require protection.
“During our stay in DRC, the coming days will be going to be more violent given the growing political disputes among the local political actors,” said Lt. Colonel Chakra Bahadur Shah, who returned following his one year assignment. “Nepalese peacekeepers have been protecting civilians, other UN Convoys maintaining peace," said Lt. Col Shah.
As it was indicated during the visit in July, it seems almost certain that the coming days will be more difficult and challenging for Nepali UN Peacekeepers as the government and opposition parties are contesting to hold the elections for president.
“Our battalion will continue to work to improve the road access protecting the civilians,” said Major Hari Bohara, who has been promoted to Lt. Colonel serving engineering unit in Bunia.
On 16 August, the UN Security Council had expressed “deep concern regarding the persistence of violence in the region” and called on the Government to conduct a thorough and prompt investigation into the attacks.
Council members also reiterated support to MONUSCO and called on all parties to cooperate fully with the Mission. In a press statement that same day, the G7 opposition platform called on the Government to reinforce FARDC capabilities, including through enhanced cooperation with MONUSCO, to create the conditions for FIB intervention in the Beni area.
As Nepal Army has been saving people, establishing peace in faraway places, and receiving applause for their work, bureaucracy, politicians and constitutional bodies are trying to encroach Nepal Army Affairs.
The recent move of Public Service Commission to bring Nepal Army’s appointment and promotion procedures is highly unprofessional and motivated to politicize the Army institution.
Nepal Army is fighting battles in several fronts. They are trying to control and contain the situation in Congo. However, the battle back home with saboteurs in disguise may be very difficult.