Members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will arrive in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday on a three-day visit to assess the effectiveness of the peacekeeping mission operating in the country. The visit comes amid a deteriorating security situation in the east of the country that has sparked one of the largest displacement crises in Africa and continues to pose a threat to peace and stability in the entire region.
Fighting in the east of the country has continued unabated despite regional efforts to quell the activities of armed insurgents, particularly from groups like the M23.
It is just days after the UN Secretary General welcomed the announcement of a ceasefire agreed by the rebel M23 group after engagements led by Angola’s President João Lourenço, who is also the African Union’s Champion for Peace and Reconciliation.
The ceasefire was due to take effect on 7 March, but fighting has continued with Congolese armed forces accusing the M23 of violating the agreement.
“More than 20 000 people have been displaced in North Kivu, in the east of the country, amid recent clashes between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group. Residents in the Kibirizi area, which is about 120 kilometres from Goma, were forced to flee due to fighting in surrounding villages. Over the past year, more than 800 000 people have been affected by renewed fighting between Congolese forces and the M23, according to authorities and our humanitarian colleagues. We call on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, protect the civilian population and secure access to populations in need of humanitarian assistance,” says United Nations spokesperson Farhan Haq.
Council members are expected to reiterate demands that the M23 withdraw from all occupied areas in line with regional decision which include both the Nairobi and Luanda processes while calling for an end to all external support to armed groups operating in the DRC.
A matter the Secretary General’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, addressed earlier this week.
“The Secretary-General urges the M23 to respect the ceasefire in order to create conditions for its full and effective withdrawal from all occupied areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in line with the decisions of the Luanda Mini-Summit held on the 23rd of November 2023. The Secretary-General condemns all violence against civilians and renews his call on all Congolese and foreign armed groups to lay down their weapons and disarm unconditionally. He urges all parties to the conflict to ensure an immediate and unfettered humanitarian access to the affected population and to ensure protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law. He calls on all actors to refrain from hate speech and incitement to violence. The Secretary-General reaffirms the continued support of the United Nations to the Luanda and Nairobi processes.”
Another key focus of the Council’s visit will be the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country and the upcoming national election scheduled to take place in December. Council members are also expected to express their solidarity with the efforts of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission to which South Africa is a key troop contributor, while paying tribute to those blue helmets who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
SANDF Sergeant Vusi Mabena was killed by a sniper bullet in February when the Oryx helicopter he and his crew were traveling in came under fire from rebels.
MONUSCO has also been implementing a transition plan with the Congolese government to facilitate a phased, gradual and responsible drawdown of the mission, a timeline that remains unclear given the continued insecurity on the ground.