Last Friday’s attack on “an aircraft bearing the United Nations (UN) emblem” – to whit, a SA Air Force (SAAF) Oryx medium transport helicopter – in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was “strongly condemned” by MONUSCO Head Bintou Keita.
In a statement she noted the attack, apparently by the M23 rebel group, came “almost exactly a year after a similar incident resulted in the death of a South African peacekeeper”. He was Flight Sergeant Vusimusi Mabena of 17 Squadron, killed by what is believed to be a sniper’s bullet while on a routine flight from Beni to Goma in the eastern DRC.
In last Friday’s incident, the Oryx, manned by Air Force Base (AFB) Ysterplaat’s 22 Squadron, was reportedly hit over 40 times while working a medevac sortie in Rwindi. The pilot and commander of the aircraft (Major Jannie Augustyn) suffered a gunshot wound on his finger and the Ops Medic on the flight suffered a chest injury but is in a stable condition.
The helicopter landed safely in Goma where the wounded South Africans were treated, with Keita wishing them a speedy recovery.
The Mission Head, also Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the central African country, repeated her call to M23 to cease hostilities and “unconditionally disarm” in compliance with a November 2022 MONUSCO communiqué.
Reacting to M23 threats against MONUSCO personnel, including peacekeepers, Keita pointed out attacking peacekeepers “can constitute a war crime” and urged DRC authorities to “to bring the perpetrators of this unacceptable act to justice”.
“The UN Mission calls urgently for an end to such attacks, which hampers its ability to protect civilians and implement its mandate,” the MONUSCO statement has her saying.