Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou has returned home after spending Christmas in Congo with troops from his country stationed there on a UN peacekeeping mission.
Lacalle chose to celebrate Christmas with the 800 peacekeepers from his country deployed in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where they carry out different peacekeeping missions in that part of the world.
”The Uruguayan president arrived in Goma to spend Christmas with troops from his country who are (deployed) here in Goma, in Beni (North Kivu, east) and part in Bukavu, said Amadu Ba, an official from the Office of Communication of the UN Mission in the DRC.
During his first hours in the country, Lacalle was also in Bukavu, capital of the neighboring province of South Kivu. The visit of a head of state to the peacekeepers deployed in the DRC is rare.
Lacalle Pou thanked the soldiers for the quality of their work in the stabilization process of the DRC under the UN flag. The troops are mainly deployed in the east of the African country.
Uruguay contributes with just over 800 blue helmets to the peacekeeping mission the DRC and the protection of its civilian population, which for more than 25 years has been exposed to frequent massacres and assaults by armed groups operating in the area.
Defense Minister Javier García, who traveled with Lacalle, said without a doubt, it was a different Christmas.” The delegation is already back in Montevideo.
Despite the presence of the 14,000 strong UN peacekeeping mission the DRC has for years been mired in conflicts fueled by rebel militias and by Congolese Army attacks. Last Monday, the UN Security Council extended the mission for yet another year.
North Kivu and Ituri have been under siege since the beginning of May, an exceptional measure that gives full powers to the military, but which has so far failed to stop abuses by armed groups.
In these two provinces, the Congolese and Ugandan armies have been carrying out joint military operations since November 30 against the positions of the Ugandan insurgents of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). This group is considered the most bloodthirsty in the DRC.
The ADF is accused by Kampala of being responsible for recent attacks on its territory claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).