Kinshasa, MONUSCO differ over reduction of peacekeepers and UN radio


Talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) government and the United Nations over the future of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) have stalled due to disagreements regarding reduction of the number of peacekeepers and the independence of Radio Okapi.


Radio Okapi is a radio station broadcasting in DR Congo and jointly owned by the United Nations and Hirondelle Foundation, a Swiss based organization of journalists.
The talks between both sides began on April 8, 2015 but a month later, none of the parties seems to have changed position.
On the military front, Kinshasa continues to reject any cooperation between the DR Congo Armed Forces (FARDC) and MONUSCO to track down Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda rebels (FDLR) in the east of the country.
“At the moment, the Congolese government does not want to create conditions that will enable us to aid FARDC in joint operations,” the UN Under-Secretary in charge of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous told the UN Security Council members on May 7 in New York.
Ladsous who recently visited DR Congo, was concerned about the persistence of insecurity in eastern DR Congo due to the presence of armed groups, at a time when “talks between the government and the UN had also broken down.”
According to MONUSCO, it is particularly important that FARDC cooperates with MONUSCO in tracking down the rebel movements such as the Ugandan rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
On Tuesday this week, MONUSCO’s deputy commander Gen. Jean Baillaud called for cooperation between the two forces to prevent ADF rebels from killing civilians in Beni territory in the east of the country.
“What the people want here in Beni is that we stop the killings. In terms of the security of the population, we insist that our forces support FARDC and that we should be very close to the population so that we can lessen their suffering, not in a post- massacre intervention but in a preventive manner,” Baillaud said.
MONUSCO has continued to use Radio Okapi to report on the massacres carried out in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces by the FDLR rebels, something that has created a confidence crisis between the UN mission and the Congolese government.
The independence of this radio station which was established in 2001 is also part of the strategic dialogue between MONUSCO and the Congolese government.
“Radio Okapi is a very important media for the Congolese people because it is the only national radio that exists in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is very important to maintain the radio in this country,” MONUSCO boss Martin Kobler told the media on April 7, a day after meeting the government to discuss the UN radio’s mission.
“We discussed how Radio Okapi can be maintained here because one day MONUSCO will leave, but what will happen to Radio Okapi,” Kobler posed, noting that Kinshasa was calling for “less activism” from this radio which broadcasts to the whole country.
The Congolese government has insisted that Radio Okapi had gone beyond its mandate and had become a general radio station, something that MONUSCO boss refuses to accept.
Discussions between MONUSCO and the government on the broadcasts by Radio Okapi have resulted in diverse interpretations.
“Strategic dialogue on this issue has not yielded much. According to the government, Radio Okapi should cease its general broadcasts and remain a radio that uniquely broadcasts issues affecting the UN, without engaging itself in national politics,” a Western diplomat based in Kinshasa who requested anonymity told Xinhua.
“This means the government does not want Congolese people to listen to this radio,” the diplomat added.
However, Kobler insists that Radio Okapi should continue broadcasting in DR Congo, especially at this time when the country is preparing for its elections. Enditem


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