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Congo: Foreign Ministry, the request to bolster security limited to the presidential elections

“Two officers representing our country, the Ambassador to Kinshasa Luca Attanasio and the Carabiniere police officer Vittorio Iacovacci, lost their lives on 22 February near Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, about 2,500 kilometres from the capital. This region had been classified as a high security risk area by the Foreign Ministry, also on the basis of the evaluations by Ambassador Attanasio himself, who, like all Heads of Diplomatic Missions, was fully authorised to decide for himself where and how to travel within the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Some newspaper articles today allege failures and shortcomings of the Foreign Ministry, raising doubts as to the adequacy of the security measures put in place to protect Ambassador Attanasio.

While fully respecting the judicial prerogatives of the Rome Public Prosecutor investigating into the incident and reserving to provide further information following the conclusion of the internal inquiry underway, we can share the information available to date.

First of all, the measures in place at the time of the incident were the responsibility of the World Food Programme (WFP), which had organised the mission to the Goma region and specified, in its statement of 22 February, that the route “had been authorised without armed security”. On 24 February, in response to a formal request submitted on behalf of the Italian Government by our Permanent Representations to the United Nations in New York and Rome, the UN Security Department formally announced that it had launched an investigation – jointly with the WFP and the MONUSCO Mission – into the tragic events of 22 February and that this investigation should be concluded on 9 March, assuring that the results would be shared with the Italian authorities.

It should be noted that in all foreign contexts where our personnel are engaged in missions organised by the United Nations or other international organisations, the responsibility for security lies with the latter. In fact, the WFP has stated that the mission to the Goma region, where Ambassador Attanasio and Carabiniere Iacovacci had arrived on board a United Nations aircraft, was carried out in World Food Programme vehicles. The WFP has formally expressed its willingness to assist the Italian investigative authorities.

As for Kinshasa, which is about 2,500 kilometres from Goma, it is emphasised that the Italian Embassy has two armoured vehicles, one of which is being replaced with a new one. Therefore, the news reported in recent days that the Embassy has no armoured vehicles is untrue. Furthermore, at the Embassy there is a security unit of 4 Carabinieri: two assigned to protect Ambassador Attanasio (including Carabiniere Iacovacci) and two performing general surveillance and security duties.

Regarding the request to bolster the contingent of Carabinieri assigned to protect Ambassador Attanasio, he had made the request in November 2018 due to the imminent presidential and national elections, scheduled for 30 December of the same year, which were taking place in a climate of great political and social tensions. And security was, indeed, strengthened during that period, as requested.

The Foreign Ministry hopes that the information provided – which Minister Di Maio had already illustrated in his statement to Parliament on 24 February – will help focus attention on the search for the perpetrators of this tragic incident. To this end, the Foreign Ministry confirms that it has called on the authorities in Kinshasa to assist with their utmost cooperation and that it is providing full assistance to the Italian investigators, also by sending shortly a diplomatic official to the DRC to support the Embassy staff.”