The Institute for Peace in Partnership had the opportunity of interviewing Arsene Tungali, a Congolese citizen living in Goma (DRC). Arsene is a local entrepreneur running an NGO, Rudi International and a business, Smart Service Sarl. In his book, Goma sous les feux du groupe rebelle M-23, Arsene gives the point of view of a citizen in a city under fire.
Goma (Nord Kivu) is one of the cities where the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the D.R.Congo (MONUSCO) is taking place. This United Nations peacekeeping force was first established by the United Nations Security Council in resolutions 1279 (1999) and 1291 (2000) as United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to monitor the peace process of the Second Congo War, though much of its focus subsequently turned to the Ituri conflict and the Kivu conflict. MONUC was then changed to MONUSCO by the Security Council resolution 1925 on July 1st, 2010. MONUSCO which was approved to have 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers, 391 police personnel and 1,050 members of formed police units was authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, this includes the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence.
IPP: Could you please tell us how long you have been living in Goma?
AT: I have been living in Goma since 2012 when my family moved there from Bukavu for work reasons. I then stayed in Goma as I was attending school and then started working there.
IPP: How was your personal experience with the never ending war in the DRC? Could you walk us through the daily routine of a citizen in a city under fire?
AT: I recently published a book (in French) talking about how I personally witnessed Goma city being invaded by the M-23 rebel group in 2012. In that book, I talk with many details on how each day looked like, how painful it was to feel powerless and insecure when you see those who are supposed to secure the city being kicked out by a rebel group. You also feel bad because you know there is nothing you can personally do to solve the issue.
I have lived in the Eastern Congo for almost all my life and as per our history, we haven’t experienced stability or any lasting peace. The way you live in those conditions is that you just behave as if everything was okay because if you keep on thinking about the possibility of fire to start, then you will not live, you will never achieve anything.
There are times when you hear gunshots here and there and you are no longer disturbed because you already know and are used to the sound of every kind of guns. Another thing you will always see in places under conflict is soldiers everywhere, with all their equipments as if there is war going on. This used to be normal and even young kids will no longer fear seeing soldiers heavily charged.
But there is hope because things are changing slowly, less gunshots, fewer killings, less troubles. Everyone believe that we are on the right direction and our prayer as citizens of Congo is to see this situation continue to improve for better, we need no more killings, no more invasion by external parties.
IPP: Regarding the UN Peacekeeping mission, how does the population, you included, feels about it?
AT: The feeling is mixed when it is about the UN Peacekeeping mission, well known as MONUSCO. So many people believe they are doing nothing because when they came, they probably didn’t communicate very well about their role and their mission alongside Congolese troops. So many people in the DRC believe MONUSCO is responsible of instability, others believe they have failed to their mission of “bringing peace in Congo”. When they came, everyone was happy because we thought they came to fight for us and bring lasting peace.
I personally think there is need for better communication from the DRC government on the actual role of MONUSCO in the DRC so that the normal guy on the corner is aware of what MONUSCO is allowed to and what they are not allowed to. Such approach can help the Congolese citizens to maybe lower their expectations on the mission.
I would say only those who are educated enough know what the UN Peacekeeping mission is all about and what their mandate really is. They have been accused of incapacity and some kinds of violations which sometimes make people believe they came for their own interests. On a side note, the Mission is also giving a lot of jobs to Congolese citizens and other internationals who work here, which is something I consider as positive. So many people will not agree with this.
IPP: On September 2nd, the UN Secretary General published: The future of United Nations peace operations: implementation of the recommendations of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations” : Paragraph 64 the SG says: “I intend to explore with relevant host Governments the establishment of compacts as a way to ensure understanding of our mandates and status-of-mission agreements and, as appropriate, support coordinated international engagement. However, the support of local populations is essential for effective action. United Nations peace operations must foster public support immediately on deployment, and strategic communication and community engagement are essential.”
So far would you say that the MONUSCO mission is clear and well explained to the general population?
AT: Based on what I previously said, there is a need for better communication from MONUSCO itself as well as from the Congolese government. This should be considered as an important part of their work to gain more credibility from the general population.
Arsene was interviewed by Bora Kamwanya
“M23 Rebels Attack Congo Troops near Goma.” The Guardian. Associated Press in Goma, 27 Aug. 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/27/m23-rebels-congo-troops-goma>
“MONUSCO Background – United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2016. <http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/monusco/background.shtml>.
Kavanagh, A. A child saluting and thanking a MONUSCO peacekeeper https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MONUSCO#/media/File:A_child_saluting_and_thanking_a_MONUSCO_peacekeeper.jpg