The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is concerned by the security situation in the country’s east, where a rebel group of former solders – known as M23 – has made advances in recent days, a UN spokesperson said today.
“MONUSCO has noted reports of M23 pulling out of some of these areas and are seeking confirmation in this regard,” a UN spokesperson told reporters at UN Headquarters today.
Peacekeepers serving with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) have been aiding national army soldiers in recent weeks, supporting the latter’s efforts to halt the
M23, which is composed of renegade soldiers who mutinied in April and are led by Bosco Ntaganda, an army general wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes for recruiting and using children in combat in the DRC’s north-east in 2002-2003.
Along with the province of South Kivu, North Kivu has witnessed increased fighting between Government troops – known by the French acronym FARDC – and the M23, which has displaced more than 100,000 people, including many who have fled to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.
Last Friday, an Indian ‘blue helmet’ was killed in a cross-fire amidst clashes between the FARDC and M23 fighters in the town of Bunagana and other nearby locations in North Kivu.
The spokesperson added that MONUSCO has also received unconfirmed reports of human rights violations and other crimes committed in areas where the M23 are present, including an alleged attack on the prison at Rutshuru, apparently leading to the liberation of detainees.
“MONUSCO underscores that the M23 leadership and others responsible are accountable for human rights violations and other crimes committed in areas where the M23 elements are present,” the spokesperson said.
The Mission has provided operational planning and logistical support to the FARDC to help counter the M23 offensive. In close coordination with the FARDC, its armed helicopters have been used for civilian protection purposes, with the aim of impeding the M23 advance. In addition, the Mission is redeploying its assets to ensure it is present in key forward bases in the area.
MONUSCO is also working with other parts of the UN system and humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to the thousands of people displaced by the fighting.
Last week, both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council expressed concern over the activities of M23. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has previously described the M23 group as being led by a “particularly notorious group of human rights violators.”