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DR Congo: amid military gains, root causes of violence must be addressed, says UN official

Peacekeepers serving with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) on patrol.
UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti
Peacekeepers serving with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) on patrol.

DR Congo: amid military gains, root causes of violence must be addressed, says UN official

An action plan to stabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has made important progress thanks to the support United Nations peacekeepers have given the Congolese army in the fight against rebel groups, but military means alone are not the solution, a top UN official said today.

“We must pursue a comprehensive strategy that addresses the root causes of the violence,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a meeting of regional leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, citing the “urgent priority” of extending State authority to the areas retaken from rebels and security sector reforms.

“The answer to instability in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo cannot be purely military,” he said, noting the “critical” need to swiftly adopt an amnesty law and launch a comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process for the rebels, repatriating those who are in neighbouring countries.

Mr. Eliasson was addressing the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region, sometimes nicknamed “the framework of hope,” on the margins of an African Union (AU) summit meeting.

Eleven countries – Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic (CAR), DRC, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia – signed the Framework in Addis Ababa last February, and Kenya and Sudan joined at the current session.

Mr. Eliasson said military developments on the ground have prompted many members of armed groups, primarily M23, to surrender, following the UN Security Council’s decision in March that the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO) deploy an intervention brigade over 3,000-strong, for offensive operations, with or without the national army, against armed groups threatening peace.

“The FARDC (national army), supported by MONUSCO, have also begun operations against other armed groups, notably the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF),” he added. “These are important and positive developments.”

The DRC has been torn apart by civil wars and factional fighting since it became independent from Belgium in 1960, but with the support of a series of UN missions a measure of stability has been restored to much of the vast country over the past decade. But fighting between the Government and a variety of rebel and sectarian groups has continued to devastate the eastern regions, particularly North and South Kivu provinces.

“At the regional level, I invite you, the signatories, to renew your commitment to the Framework and accelerate the implementation of all commitments,” Mr. Eliasson stressed. “In the past, too many agreements were signed but not honoured. The Action Plan’s priority projects contain concrete steps for taking the process forward. We now need a collective effort to promote dialogue and build trust among the leaders of the region.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region Mary Robinson noted that much still remains to be accomplished, including consolidating gains made in North Kivu following the end of the M23 rebellion, restoring state authority, tackling the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and promoting sustainable dialogue among the signatories.

“It will further require the involvement of the widest possible participating constituency and new thinking around livelihoods,” she told the meeting, urging the signatories to the Framework to “give renewed impetus to all their commitments in order to generate the required peace dividends and effect the promised changes in the Great Lakes region.”

Meanwhile yesterday, the UN Security Council renewed until 1 February 2015 the arms embargo and related sanctions imposed on the DRC, also requesting the Secretary-General to extend the mandate of the Group of Experts monitoring the implementation of those measures.

Unanimously adopting a new resolution, the Council further defined the criteria for the application of targeted travel and financial measures, deciding to review them no later than 1 February 2015, with a view to adjusting them as appropriate.

Strongly condemning all armed groups operating in the region, the Council demanded, by the text, that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and various Mayi Mayi groups immediately cease all violence, disband permanently and demobilize children from their ranks.

By other terms, the Council called on all States, especially those in the region, to take steps to ensure there was no support within or from their territories for armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It demanded that the Congolese Government, per its commitments contained in the 12 December 2013 Nairobi declarations, accelerate implementation of its disarmament demobilization and reintegration programme.

The Council requested the UN and others urgently to address the situation of former combatants of the M23 in their territories, stressing the importance of ensuring that M23 did not regroup and resume its military activities.