By Linda Bordoni
The Pope’s telegram came as the bodies of Ambassador Luca Attanasio and his bodyguard arrived back in Rome on Tuesday aboard a military aircraft, a day after they were shot dead following an ambush in eastern DRC.
The Ambassador, his bodyguard Vittorio Antonacci, and World Food Programme driver Mustapha Milambo, fell prey to an ambush by armed men as they travelled to visit a WFP school feeding project near Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu in DRC.
No rebel group has claimed responsibility for the attack but monitors say 122 armed groups are active in the four eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika, and the United Nations’ refugee agency says more than 2,000 civilians were killed in the region last year.
Congolese President, Felix Tshisekedi, dispatched his top diplomatic adviser to Goma to support an investigation by local authorities, and Italian police investigators have flown into Congo for a mission to liaise with police there.
But the scenario is complex and chronic violence persists in the DRC's east despite a huge commitment by the UN.
With around 15,000 personnel and a budget close to a billion dollars, MONUSCO is the UN's biggest peacekeeping mission.
DRC should be one of the richest nations on earth
The region is fertile and so rich in copper, gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, coltan and oil, it should be one of the world's richest nations. However almost 60 years of Belgian dominion, followed by instability, political upheaval and corruption, have led to widespread poverty and youth unemployment, and ignited numerous conflicts. It is estimated that millions of civilians have lost their lives in the fight over raw materials.
In January 2019, President Tshisekedi took office pledging to make security in the east the cornerstone of his tenure.
But analysts say his promises to transfer the army's headquarters, to improve understanding of tactics and strategy in the region, have not borne fruit, while his diplomatic attempts to weave together a regional solution, bringing in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, whose relations are historically tense, seem similarly to have come to a dead end.
Meanwhile, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to pay the highest price as ethnic narratives fuel fear and distrust and the legacy of colonialism and its struggles over power and resources continue to stoke violent conflict.