Violence and armed groups continue to take a heavy toll on the civilian population in several provincial territories in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). That was the message from senior United Nations officials in a briefing to the Security Council after a resurgence of the M23 rebel movement and its hostile actions against the DRC Army, the F.A.R.D.C. and the MONUSCO peacekeepers. The meeting was called by the three African council members – Kenya, Gabon and Ghana after the African Union (AU) Chairperson, President Macky Sall at the weekend expressed grave concern over rising tensions including between Rwanda and the DRC.
The Council heard that urgent action was required to de-escalate the current situation while the resumption of hostilities by the M23 have been roundly condemned with calls for the group and other armed formation to lay down their arms and join the disarmament process in the region.
“We cannot lose sight of the fact that armed violence remains widespread throughout the Eastern DRC. Whether in Ituri, South Kivu or other parts of North Kivu, a multitude of armed groups continue to prey on the civilian population, undermining efforts to achieve lasting peace, stability and development in the DRC and, indeed, the region. The two-track process launched at the Second Heads of State Conclave in Nairobi on 21 April has provided fresh impetus to find durable solutions to the continued presence of foreign armed groups on Congolese soil,” Assistant Secretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Martha Pobee explains.
Pobee also addressed rising tensions between Rwanda and the DRC over allegations that Kigali is supporting the M23, a Tutsi Congolese rebel group while Rwanda has accused the FDLR, a Hutu rebel formation in eastern Congo of abducting two of its soldiers along the border. Kigali believes this group enjoys support from the DRC army. With concerns that recent tensions risk reversing the political and security progress that had been achieved over the last decade.
“I am encouraged by the fact that Rwanda and the DRC have decided to refer to the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), to investigate reported instances of human and material damage caused by explosive ordinance originating from across their respective borders on 23 May. I am also encouraged by the calls that the Chairperson of the African Union, President Macky Sall of Senegal has made to Presidents Tshisekedi and Kagame to urge for calm and a peaceful resolution of any disagreements,” Pobee reiterates.
The Council urged to lend its full weight to ongoing regional efforts to defuse the situation and bring an end to the M23 insurgency once and for all. Kenya’s Ambassador Martin Kimani spoke on behalf of the three African members.
“Armed groups, including a resurgent M23 continue to exact a heavy toll on civilian and civilian objects. Last week, at least 35 were killed in jungle Ituri Province and Beni, North Kivu province. Terrorist groups are also operating in eastern DRC, including those affiliated to ISIS. These groups regard eastern DRC as a fertile ground for recruitment and generating wealth to undertake their operations around the world. We reiterate our call on all armed groups to participate unconditionally in the inter-Congolese peace dialogue to resolve their grievances and embrace the call for peace,” says Kimani.
DRC Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’apala called for greater involvement of the Council in facilitating a frank dialogue with Rwanda, while Kigali’s envoy rejected the labelling of M23 “as Rwandans” calling it an internal matter for the DRC to resolve, adding that they value a strong relationship with Kinshasa.