Security ‘one of the most significant challenges’ in DR Congo, Security Council hears
New York: Despite the resilience of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), security is “one of the most significant challenges” it faces, the head of the UN mission in the country, MONUSCO, told the Security Council on Friday.
“Over the past weeks, the security situation in eastern DRC has deteriorated dramatically”, said Special Representative Bintou Keita, noting that since October, the M23 rebel group had resumed hostilities and extended its control in North Kivu province.
In response, MONUSCO has continued to provide operational, logistical, and tactical support both to the Congolese armed forces and national police in confronting M23 and other armed groups.
Robust patrols have been conducted in and around Goma to protect civilians and deter M23 from advancing further towards the city, she said.
And the Mission added more community alert networks in vulnerable areas.
The MONUSCO chief described “gravely concerning” allegations of human rights abuses by M23 combatants in Kishishe and Bambo, Rutshuru territory, and in North Kivu, in which at least 102 men, 17 women and 12 children were “either shot dead or killed by bladed weapons”.
Moreover, she continued, M23 combatants raped at least 22 women, destroyed four schools and occupied two others.
“I call on this Council to condemn these crimes with the utmost severity…[and] demand the immediate release of the survivors that were prevented from leaving the area by the M23”, she underscored.
“Those responsible for these and other atrocities against the civilian population must be prosecuted nationally or internationally”.
Crimes impact UN operations
The deteriorating security situation also poses risks for MONUSCO operations.
The senior UN official referred to an armed attack on the Mission’s base in Minembwe, South Kivu, that took the life of a peacekeeper in September.
“I condemn this attack, the perpetrators of which must be prosecuted with the greatest firmness”, she spelled out.
Ongoing humanitarian crisis
Ms. Keita cited armed groups as a major reason why DRC hosts the highest number of internally displaced persons in Africa.
“An estimated additional 370,000 people have been uprooted and forced from their homes in the latest round of hostilities, involving the M23”, she continued, adding that inter-communal violence in the western provinces have also led to the displacement of over 50,000, mostly women and children.
“In this dangerous environment, and despite persistent access constraints…humanitarian actors continue to deliver indispensable aid and lifesaving services”, the MONUSCO chief continued, urging partners to “actively continue supporting” the Humanitarian Response and North Kivu response plans.
Diplomacy at work
The senior UN official updated on intensified regional initiatives supporting the Luanda Roadmap as well as progress made in the context of the Nairobi Process.
“Since April 2022, the Mission has provided political, technical, and logistical support to the joint DRC-Kenya Secretariat” to hold consultations between the Government and Congolese armed groups, she said.
Ms. Keita informed the ambassadors of a Mini Summit held last month in Luanda, during which an agreement was made on measures to address the situation in eastern DRC that envisions an operational role for MONUSCO, in coordination with the East African Community (EAC) Regional Force and the ad hoc verification mechanism.
“First and foremost, the M23 must cease all hostilities and withdraw from occupied areas in accordance with the roadmap set out in the Final Communiqué of the Luanda Mini Summit”, she said, adding that the DRC Government had formally requested MONUSCO’s involvement in implementing the communiqué.
“I reiterate the Mission’s readiness to leverage the capabilities at its disposal in support of the regional peace initiatives underway…[and] look forward to engaging further with the DRC Government and regional partners to define the Mission’s role in efforts to translate the decisions taken in the framework of the Luanda and Nairobi into reality on the ground”, she concluded.