Two members of the Irish Defence Forces have been extracted from the Democratic Republic of Congo due to what has been described as “security concerns”.
wo Irish officers, one male and female, were successfully removed from the state in the last 24-hours, with the help of the Air Corps and input from unnamed “international partners”.
The Defence Forces has three armed Officers working as staff officers in the United Nation Peacekeeping MONUSCO Force Headquarters in the DRC city Goma, which is the capital of its north-eastern province.
Ireland has deployed unarmed staff as part of the UN’s mission in the Congo since 2001, while armed staff were re-located to Goma in 2013.
Until yesterday afternoon, two armed Officers were present at the mission in Goma, while another officer was on leave in Ireland and his planned return to the Congo has been suspended.
A Defence Forces Spokesperson said the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney was informed of the volatile situation on the ground earlier this week and he was advised of the threat posed to the Irish Officers as a result.
“Following recent civil disturbance in and around Goma (DRC) which gave rise to multiple killings including UN personnel, the Minister received military advice on foot of which he concluded that the risk to such a small deployment could not be sustained in the current circumstances. While the civil disturbance appears to have abated, the Minister agreed to use this quieter period to effect the withdrawal of the Officers from the mission area,” a Defence Forces spokesperson said.
“Air Corps assets were used to transport personnel and equipment from Goma (DRC) to Entebbe (Uganda), personnel will continue home from Entebbe by commercial airlines and the Air Corps will transport the equipment home.”
The evacuation was planned for Thursday but was later delayed yesterday due to a delay in “receiving diplomatic clearances for flights”.
The Defence Forces has confirmed that Minister Coveney maintained “close personal contact” with the planning arrangements at all times, “as the safety and security of personnel were foremost of his concerns”.
The Defence Forces Spokesperson added: “He [Minister Coveney] acknowledges the significant and collaborative work undertaken by Department of Defence and military officials over the last number of weeks supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The UN had been informed of this withdrawal of personnel. This withdrawal will allow for a period of reflection on our continued participation in the Mission.
“The Minister wishes to express his thanks to other troop contributing countries in MONUSCO who provided practical support to the two Irish Officers.”