MONUC, known as the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is now focusing its troop deployment in the eastern regions of the vast central African country following improved security conditions elsewhere, the head of the mission, William Swing, told reporters on Wednesday.
"The situation has improved to such a degree that today the frontline that once separated former belligerents is now a part of history," he said. "MONUC will, therefore, adapt the deployment of its troops to areas where they are most needed."
Swing said most of the 10,800-strong MONUC force was currently deployed throughout a zone ranging from Ituri District in the northeast of the country, southward through provinces of North and South Kivu, down to northern part of Katanga Province in the southeast - roughly the same area where the majority of armed elements from neighbouring Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda remain.
"The second brigade, known as the Kindu [the main city of Maniema Province, eastern DRC] Brigade, which will ultimately consist of some 4,000 soldiers, is currently being deployed, while the Ituri Brigade, comprising 4,700 peacekeepers, is already deployed in Ituri," Swing said.
He added that the Kindu Brigade would be involved in the disarmament of Congolese armed groups and in enforcing an arms embargo throughout east of the country.
"We have already proposed deploying our boats on the lakes in order to support the arms embargo," Swing said. "To this end, we are working together with all of the countries in the region and in the world who have called for an end to arms entering the Congo."
However, he said, ensuring the embargo would be a major undertaking, given the size of the territory. The country is roughly the size of Western Europe.
"We are going to deploy on the lakes, but there are also more than 300 airstrips to control, so the task will be difficult," he said.
MONUC has already deployed a contingent of 2,500 South African soldiers in Kindu, charged with making contact with foreign-armed groups in an effort to promote their voluntary repatriation under its disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, reintegration and resettlement programme.
MONUC said it hoped to have repatriated 10,000 foreign combatants by the end of March. So far, some 9,079 have already been repatriated.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions