There are growing calls for the warring parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to lay down their weapons.
Eastern DRC has for years been plagued by widespread violence that has included killings and rapes by armed insurgents from various groups like M23 and the Allied Democratic Forces.
The East African Community Regional Force and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) standby force are working together to restore peace and security in the eastern areas of the DRC.
The eastern DRC is on the verge of a catastrophe. The DRC is accusing neighbouring Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, which are made up of mostly ethnic Tutsis. But Kigali has denied the accusation. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the cessation of hostilities and warned the rebels that their presence is causing a humanitarian tragedy.
“I renew my call for de-escalation, appeasement and restraint of armed groups, whether local or foreign must lay down their arms in the DRC. The tireless efforts of the leaders of the region particularly within the framework of the Luanda and Nairobi peace processes have made it possible to contain the escalation of tension and to create the conditions for dialogue between the stakeholders.”
Rape has been widely documented as a weapon of war used by armed militia groups in the DRC. Mitch Rhyner from Doctors Without Borders says the situation is also dire on the ground.
“Unfortunately, much of the humanitarian response has been slow to arrive. Although in recent weeks, we have seen a mobilisation of some activities and some actors. Among the biggest challenges facing the camp is the issue of sexual violence, there are many people here without livelihoods, without means to provide for their families which leads many people, many women to engage in risk taking behaviour in order to provide for their families.”
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki says the central government in Kinshasa must resolve this issue.
“The origin of the problem in the eastern DRC conflict comes from Mobutu years, when Mobutu regime refused to recognize the Rwandan speaking people of the eastern DRC as Congolese. Then you have the militia formed into Rwanda as long as central authority in Kinshasa doesn’t recognize it is not external, it’s internal. As you know, the country is very big, where you have government collapse, local population formed militia and attacked people, it has to be solved by the DRC government and take responsibility saying we are Congolese and together anyone who makes threats will be dealt with.”
Meanwhile, the mandate of the East African Community regional force, set up to tackle militia violence in the DRC, has been extended to September.
Calls for warring parties in DRC to lay down their weapons: