The United Nations top peacekeeping official today appealed for a political – and not a military – solution to diffuse tensions in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The Security Council today met to discuss the situation, which Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno characterised as having the “potential to really jeopardize the enormous investment that the international community has made” in the vast Central African nation.
The concentration of armed forces – those of the Government and those of rebels led by General Nkunda – in a “very volatile area where there are a number of unresolved issues” has resulted in a “very dangerous situation,” Mr. Guéhenno said, speaking to reporters after briefing the Council.
His message, he told the 15-member body, to the Congolese parties is to “move away from the brink; don’t play with fire.”
Responding to reporters’ questions, Mr. Guéhenno noted that Mr. Nkunda’s forces pose “the single most serious threat to the stabilization of the DRC at this stage.”
UN agencies this month have been assisting over 10,000 people who have fled fighting, pillaging, rape and other atrocities in North Kivu province in north-eastern DRC, and warned that the situation could deteriorate amid military manoeuvres threatening even greater instability.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has described conditions in North Kivu as the worst displacement situation in three years, with 163,000 people newly displaced since January – bringing to a total 650,000 people internally displaced in the province.
“We are increasingly concerned by the spiralling displacement and atrocities in eastern DRC,” Jennifer Pagonis, the agency’s spokesperson, said last week in Geneva. “With heightened tensions and the build-up of military forces, the situation risks turning into humanitarian and human rights disaster.”
Last year, the DRC held its first democratic elections in more than four decades, the largest and most complex polls that the UN has ever helped to organize. The process crowned a seven-year UN effort to bring peace and democracy to the vast country after a brutal six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives through fighting and attendant hunger and disease, widely considered the most lethal conflict anywhere since the Second World War.