Despite the best efforts of the United Nations Stabilization Mission, the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is worsening, with pervasive violence and armed groups killing civilians in the eastern region of the country, the Special Representative and Head of the Mission warned the Security Council today.
Bintou Keita, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), stressed that the security situation in the eastern region has deteriorated dramatically. Since 20 October, the March 23 Movement, also known as M23, has resumed hostilities and extended its control over Rutshuru territory in North Kivu. MONUSCO has continued to provide operational, logistical and tactical support to the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Congolese National Police in their efforts to confront armed groups in the east, also setting up additional community alert networks in areas vulnerable to M23 attacks in Rutshuru and Masisi territories. Reports of atrocities and other crimes committed by M23 and other armed groups are gravely concerning, she said, adding that, with an exacerbated humanitarian crisis resulting from such offenses, the country has the highest number of internally displaced persons anywhere in Africa.
Since April, MONUSCO has provided political, technical, and logistical support to the joint Democratic Republic of the Congo-Kenya Secretariat for the holding of consultations between the “GoDRC” and Congolese armed groups, she said in her intervention of the Mission’s activities. However, it continues to operate in a hostile environment in the east, fuelled by disappointment, frustration and despair among the population in view of the deterioration of the security situation. Nonetheless, the Mission has also undertaken numerous efforts to re-establish bonds of trust with the Congolese people, in particular the youth, and with the Congolese authorities, and will pursue them relentlessly, she stressed
Lilly Stella Ngyema Ndong (Gabon), speaking on behalf of Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon), Chair for the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recalled Mr. Biang’s visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda between 7 and 18 November — in a challenging political and security context linked to the actions of M23 and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. The deliberations in Kinshasa also touched upon the security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and armed group activities, among other things. On numerous occasions, the Government repeated its call for the complete lifting of the notification requirement for the transfer of military equipment and the provision of military training to the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a call also echoed by some civil society organizations. In response, Mr. Biang clarified that the arms embargo only applied to armed groups, not the Government, she noted.
Peter Mutuku Mathuki, Secretary-General of the East African Community, emphasized that its Heads of State are committed to reconciliation and lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and have held three consultative meetings towards that — deciding that there should be two simultaneous processes, with Kinshasa’s full ownership: the political track, and the military track. Urging the Council to take note of the East African Community’s request to the United Nations Secretary-General for financial support in this regard, he said that the process’ two tracks will require $358 million over the next 24 months. He called on the Council to review MONUSCO’s mandate to create synergy between the Mission and the East African Community’s regional force.
Rebecca Kabuo, Activist of Lutte Pour le Changement — Fight for Change — said that resumed hostilities between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and M23 has worsened regional tensions and compounded the human rights crisis. Through its President, Rwanda is providing military support to M23. In recent attacks, those rebels killed 102 men, 17 women and 12 children during reprisal attacks against civilians. The Council can lead by example by using the sanctions regime; however, no individuals or groups have been designated since 2020, she pointed out. People’s resentment at MONUSCO has grown amid frustration that after 20 years, the Mission has failed to stop the violence or protect civilians as per its mandate. “Today more than ever, the Congolese people are dealing with challenges that seem insurmountable, but it is in times like these that we should not despair,” she said, adding that while people hope peace will come, that peace can only succeed with international support, including from the Council.
In the ensuing debate, Council members called for all parties to cease hostilities, combat rising hate speech and work towards a lasting ceasefire while also urging international support toward mechanisms aimed at bringing peace to the country. Others questioned the existing arms embargo, pointing out the need for the Congolese Government to be as well-equipped as the armed groups.
The representative of Kenya, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, voiced concern over heightened tensions between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, imploring both countries to use the available regional mechanisms to normalize relations. Condemning all forms of social, cultural and political manipulation that contribute to mistrust and animosity, she urged all parties to the conflict to put a definitive end to the armed conflict and historical cycles of violence, with an immediate ceasefire, withdrawal from recently taken positions and inter-Congolese peace dialogue. She also urged international partners to support the Government’s efforts to establish a transitional justice system.
China’s representative noted that the Kinshasha Government is enhancing its governance — but the security situation in the east has not improved. Calling on the international community to support Africans seeking African solutions to African problems, he warned that armed groups such as M23 possess more sophisticated weapons than Government security forces. This demonstrates the negative impact of the Council’s arms embargo, he said, adding that he supports lifting the requirement for the Government to give notification of its arms imports. He further voiced support for a one-year renewal of MONUSCO’s mandate.
Nonetheless, Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen'apala, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo stressed that Rwanda and M23 have “always, arrogantly and defiantly” rejected the recommendations of international bodies, calling on the Council to condemn M23’s recent massacre of 200 people. The Council must also address the ambiguity surrounding MONUSCO’s mandate to help his Government rescale expectations, better outline the Mission’s scope of action and avoid misunderstandings. More so, the Council must lift the unjustified and humiliating obligation to notify the Sanctions Committee on the acquisition of certain types of weapons. The Democratic Republic of the Congo cannot reorganize its forces as a post-conflict country and address terrorism without the freedom to equip its defence and security forces.
However, Rwanda’s delegate stressed that the conflict between M23 and the Congolese Government is an internal matter. Still, peace in one country in the Great Lakes region depends on peace in another. He condemned unhelpful external interference by some members of the international community — shielding the Kinshasha from accountability for its unresponsiveness to commitments. In addition, with hate speech against Rwandans and Kinyarwanda-speaking communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo rising, he stressed the Council must never again repeat its silence of 28 years ago when it passively looked on as the genocide in Rwanda claimed more than 1 million lives.
Burundi’s delegate reiterated that his country will always support regional or multilateral initiatives designed to achieve peace, security and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He welcomed the outcome of the Luanda and Nairobi processes, further urging a rethinking of MONUSCO’s mandate, to coordinate military efforts between the forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, East African Community and the Mission. Peace and stability are possible in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but on one condition — all countries in the region and the international community must support regional processes that seek to neutralize those forces sowing destruction in that country.
Also speaking were the representatives of France, United States, Norway, Russian Federation, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, United Kingdom, Albania, Mexico and India.
The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and ended at 1:37 p.m.