United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today renewed his call for the Great Lakes regional grouping to help resolve the security crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“I reiterate my call to key international stakeholders to provide enhanced and sustained support to the Congolese authorities for Security Sector Reform and other key endeavours,” Mr. Ban said in a message to a meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) focused on the situation in the eastern DRC.
“I also call on the members of the Great Lakes Conference to renew their efforts to implement the Pact on Peace, Security and Development aimed at ensuring regional stability, integration and socio-economic development,” Mr. Ban added in his message.
Agreed on in 2007 by the leaders of 11 countries, the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region sets out four areas of cooperation to help consolidate peace in Central Africa’s war–ravaged Great Lakes area: security, democracy and governance, economic development, and humanitarian and social welfare.
According to the ICGLR, as part of efforts aimed at find a lasting solution to conflicts in the region, it convened the so-called Extraordinary Summit, starting today and ending on Wednesday, to discuss the security situation in the eastern DRC.
The eastern DRC – particularly its provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu – has been plagued by violence over the past few months as a group of renegade soldiers known as the 23 March Movement (M23) has been active in the area.
“I am deeply concerned about the security conditions in eastern DRC, particularly caused by the violent activities of the 23 March group of mutineers and other national and foreign armed groups,” Mr. Ban said. “The humanitarian consequences for civilians have been grave.”
The M23 has clashed with national army troops, which have been supported by peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and has caused massive displacement of local residents, in addition to raising concerns about the region’s stability, especially in light of reports that the M23 has received outside support.
The fighting in eastern DRC has uprooted nearly half a million people over the past four months, including some 220,000 people in North Kivu province, 200,000 in South Kivu province, and more than 51,000 who have fled to neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. “The worsening situation also poses a threat to stability in the wider Great Lakes region,” Mr. Ban noted.
While noting a decrease in M23 military operations since late July, the UN chief called for the armed group’s immediate and complete cessation of all destabilizing activities.
“I condemn the violence and serious human rights violations committed by the M23, as well as other armed groups, against civilians, including acts of sexual violence, summary executions, and the recruitment of children as combatants,” Mr. Ban added. “Such grave crimes need to be investigated by relevant institutions and all persons responsible must be held accountable.”
Last week, the Security Council reiterated its condemnation of the M23 and its demand that its fighters cease efforts to destabilize the eastern DRC. Council members also voiced their deep concern at the worsening humanitarian situation in the region, and demanded that all support to the armed group, including from outside the country, cease immediately – a view echoed by the Secretary-General.
“I am also deeply concerned at the continuing reports of external support to the M23, and I call for an end to all such support without delay,” Mr. Ban said. “Military deterrence alone will not resolve the current crisis. I strongly encourage continued and strengthened high-level dialogue at the bilateral and regional level, aimed at ending the conflict.”
In his message to the ICGLR meeting, the Secretary-General also noted that the underlying issues involved in the situation in the eastern DRC are “deeply intertwined,” and include the extension of state authority, the neutralization of the armed groups, the return of refugees, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the strengthening of military, police and other security institutions.