The deteriorating security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a source of major concern while violence and threats to civilians are no longer concentrated in the east of the country.

That was the message delivered to the UN Security Council by the Secretary General’s Special Representative and head of the Peacekeeping mission to that country, who warned that the uncertain political situation was exacerbating a resurgence of violence, often along ethnic lines.

The implementation of a December 31 political agreement on a transitional government ahead of elections by the end of 2017 had also stalled.

A political agreement signed between the major parties late last year envisioned a period of transition followed by elections before the end of 2017, allowing incumbent President Joseph Kabila to stay in power.

But the UN’s Maman Sidikou has warned that bottlenecks have developed in the implementation of that deal that given the escalating tensions in the country, needed to be unblocked expeditiously.

“The resurgence of violence in certain areas in the rest of the country has been exacerbated by the uncertain political situation, as well as the manipulation of grievances for political ends, and the provision of support to armed militias by some political actors. The increasing use of self-defense militia, acting along ethnic lines, points to a growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty.”

Kabila’s failure to step down when his mandate expired has seen a spike in violence with hundreds of deaths reported across the country.

Mass graves, filled with rebel fighters, have been identified in Congo’s Kasai-Central Province, as the UN warns that human rights violations have increased 30% in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Sidikou says, “I am particularly concerned by reports of the excessive use of force, human rights violations and the presence of mass graves in the Kasai provinces. I have encouraged the Government of the DRC to conduct thorough investigations and to ensure that the perpetrators of these acts are held to full account. MONUSCO stands ready to provide its full support to the conduct of these investigations.”

The Special Representative says the UN’s main strategic objective would now be to support the establishment of timely, peaceful and credible elections in the months ahead.

The Secretary General has appealed to the Security Council to deploy two additional police units to the country as a result.

Council President for the month of March, the UK’s Matthew Rycroft says, “The members of the Council reiterated their full support for the 31st of December political agreement and its pursuit of peaceful, credible, free, fair and inclusive elections by December 2017. Secondly, we expressed our concern regarding the slow progress of the implementation of the agreement and urged all parties to work constructively to pursuit of full implementation of that agreement.”

Given the evolving political and security dynamics, the Council will announce any mandate changes to the MONUSCO mission, to which SANDF is a party, before the end of the month.

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– By Sherwin Bryce-Pease