The United Nations Security Council today reiterated its condemnation of and demand for an end to all external support being provided to armed groups – in particular the group known as the March 23 Movement (M23) – which have been destabilizing the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over recent months.
“In this regard, the Security Council expresses deep concern at reports indicating that such support continues to be provided to the M23 by neighbouring countries. The Security Council demands that any and all outside support to the M23 as well as other armed groups cease immediately,” Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala, which holds the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of October, said in a presidential statement.
“The Security Council calls upon all countries in the region to condemn the M23, as well as other armed groups, and to cooperate actively with the Congolese authorities in disarming and demobilizing the M23 as well as other armed groups and dismantling the M23 parallel administration,” the statement added.
The DRC’s eastern provinces of North and South Kivu have witnessed increased fighting over recent months between Government troops and the M23, which is composed of soldiers from the DRC’s national army who mutinied in April.
In addition to the violence leading to an alarming humanitarian situation, marked by rape, murder and pillaging, the fighting has displaced more than 300,000 people, including many who have fled to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, as well as within DRC.
Peacekeepers from the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) have been aiding the DRC’s Government troops in their efforts to deal with the M23. Earlier this week, six UN peacekeepers and a local interpreter were wounded in an overnight ambush while returning from a patrol with 12 other peacekeepers near Buganza in North Kivu province after finding the bodies of four civilians.
As well as expressing deep concern regarding the deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis in the eastern DRC – caused by the M23 as well as other armed groups – the Council also condemned the M23’s attacks on civilians, humanitarian actors and UN peacekeepers, and its abuses of human rights, including summary executions, sexual and gender based violence and large-scale recruitment and use of child soldiers.
It called for perpetrators, including individuals responsible for violence against children and acts of sexual violence, to be apprehended, brought to justice and held accountable for violations of applicable international law.
“The Security Council expresses its intention to apply targeted sanctions against the leadership of the M23 and those acting in violation of the sanctions regime and the arms embargo and calls on all Member States to submit, as a matter of urgency, listing proposals to the 1533 Committee,” according to the Council’s presidential statement.
The Council’s 1533 Committee deals with an arms embargo which applies to non-governmental entities and individuals operating in eastern DRC, as well as targeted travel and financial sanctions.
In the presidential statement, the Security Council stressed the urgency of constructive engagement and dialogue between the DRC and its neighbours, especially Rwanda, and the need to address the underlying causes of the conflict in eastern DRC.
It welcomed the efforts of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), to restore peace and security to the area.
The ICGLR held a meeting at which it discussed the issue of eastern DRC in Kampala, Uganda, last week.
“The Security Council takes note of the decisions by the ICGLR and the AU regarding the deployment of a ‘Neutral International Force’ in eastern DRC and takes note of the ongoing coordination efforts between these organizations and the United Nations to clarify the objectives, modalities and means of the proposed Force in relation to MONUSCO,” according to the Council statement.
In September, the ICGLR launched, in the eastern DRC town of Goma, the so-called Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM). First discussed in June, the mechanism is a technical body, comprising experts from both DRC and Rwanda and those of the UN and AU, to address DRC-Rwanda border security issues.
“It further welcomes,” the Council statement read, “the support provided by MONUSCO to the EJVM and encourages, in coordination with ICGLR members, the participation of MONUSCO, as appropriate and within the limits of its capacities and mandate, in the activities of the EJVM and the reporting on any flow of arms and related materiel across borders of eastern DRC.”
The Council also called on the Secretary General to continue his ‘good offices’ and to explore, when appropriate, further high-level diplomatic mechanisms to facilitate dialogue between relevant parties, including on the underlying causes of the conflict in the African country’s east.
In addition to other methods, the UN chief uses his ‘good offices’ – steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his independence, impartiality and integrity – to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
MONUSCO, with 19,000 uniformed personnel, is the latest iteration of UN peacekeeping missions that have helped to bring stability and civilian elections to the vast nation after it was torn apart by civil wars and rebel movements. Outside of the east, much of the country has achieved a measure of stability.