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UN chief vows continued support for DR Congo’s army

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres (C) arrives in Beni, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on September 1, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pledged continued support for the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s army fighting an array of militias.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo MONUSCO, the Congolese army, and national police “will continue to work together to return peace and security to the region. We will do everything to bring an end to the scourge of insecurity in this region,” the UN chief said on Sunday after arriving in the DR Congo’s troubled eastern city of Beni.

Beni, home to up to 300,000 people, is under threat from the so-called Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a shadowy armed group rooted in Ugandan extremism that has killed hundreds of people since 2014.

The region is also battling an Ebola outbreak, which has claimed hundreds of civilian lives.

“It is important that the population of Beni knows that we have heard their cries of distress,” Guterres said.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo is the largest in the world, with about 16,000 troops and an annual budget of over one billion dollars.

Some 130 militia and armed groups roam the North and South Kivu provinces of the DR Congo.

The UN chief is scheduled to discuss the insecurity with President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa on Monday.

​A Congolese guard of honor waits to welcome Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres (unseen) on his arrival in Beni, on the second day of his visit to the DR Congo, on September 1, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Tshisekedi won elections in December last year, which marked the first peaceful transition of power in the DR Congo since the mineral-rich country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

But politics in the country remain overshadowed by former president Joseph Kabila, who despite stepping down voluntarily after 18 years in power last year still wields extensive clout.

He had come to office in January 2001, less than two weeks after the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila, while the armies of at least six regional countries waged war on Congolese soil.

Swathes of the eastern provinces are still unstable, a haven for rebel militias regularly accused of atrocities against civilians.

Moreover, an Ebola epidemic has claimed almost 2,000 lives in the troubled provinces of North and South Kivu in one year.

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