The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo has announced the closure of four military bases in the restive north east of the country.
The bases, which will be closed next week, are in Bukiringi, Geti, Mambasa and Bogoro, all in Ituri province.
Bogoro was the scene of a high-profile massacre in 2003 that left some 200 villagers dead and led to a war crimes trial at The Hague, which resulted in militia leader Germain Katanga being sentenced to 12 years in prison.
“We have been forced to make a big budget cut while the work expected from us is enormous on the ground. That’s why we are obliged to reduce the number of bases without reducing our operational capacity,” said Julius Fondong, a spokesman for the UN mission, known by its acronym MONUSCO.
Many local people in Bogoro have publicly opposed the closure of the base due to continuing concerns over security, with some even considering leaving the village and following the peacekeepers.
“Our troops will be stationed at three operational bases: Komanda, Aveba and Bunia,” Fondong said.
The decision follows a number of other UN military base closures in the DRC. In July, the UN announced the closure of five bases in neighbouring North Kivu province despite the presence of several militia groups.
The announcement comes after UN peacekeepers suffered their worst attack in nearly a quarter of a century when on December 7, 14 peacekeepers were killed and 53 wounded in an ambush by several hundred militiamen, whose weaponry included rocket-propelled grenades.
The United Nations has some 19,000 soldiers, police and military observers deployed in DR Congo, its biggest and costliest peacekeeping mission, with an annual budget of more than $1 billion.