The UN issued a statement on Saturday calling for attacks on civilians by multiple armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to “immediately cease”.
Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the UN was “concerned over the deteriorating security situation…and the increase of attacks against civilians by the Cooperative for Development of the Congo (CODECO) and the M23 as well as the on-going presence of other foreign armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Red Tabara and the Forces Démocratique pour la libération de Rwanda (FDLR), which continue to pose a threat to regional stability.”
The FDLR is a largely Rwandan Hutu armed group operating inside DRC, some of whose members took part in the 1994 genocide, and Rwanda has reportedly alleged that the Congolese army has been collaborating with it, in the border area.
The violence must end, he said, urging armed militants to begin participating “unconditionally” in the Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program (P-DDRCS), and called on “foreign armed groups to immediately disarm and return to their countries of origin.”
“We reaffirm our strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the DRC and strongly condemn the use of proxies”, Mr. Dujarric added.
The increase in attacks across the volatile region was the focus of a Security Council meeting at the end of last month. The brutal M23 rebel group – which began as a renegade force of army mutineers in 2012 committing many atrocities and war crimes – have launched their biggest offensive against Government forces in a decade, according to news reports.
Assistant Secretary-General for political affairs and peace operations, Martha Pobee, said it was “imperative” for the Council to throw its full weight behind efforts to defuse the uptick in violence, in particular by the M23 group, which as seen thousands displaced, many fleeing across the border to Uganda.
Support for peace
“We welcome and support ongoing national and regional political efforts to accompany the disarmament of armed groups, including by President Félix Tshisekedi of the DRC and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya through the Nairobi process”, said Mr. Dujarric.
He stressed that the UN peacekeeping Mission in DRC, MONUSCO was also working closely with the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, to promote non-military measures for the disarmament of foreign armed groups.
The Spokesperson also welcomed the nomination of President João Lourenço of Angola by the African Union (AU), “to defuse tensions” between the DRC and Rwanda. “The UN fully supports these political efforts.”
He noted that in the restive provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, MONUSCO was “impartially and robustly protecting civilians and helping to neutralize armed groups, as mandated by the Security Council.”
In delivering on its protection of civilians mandate, MONUSCO is continuing to continues to maintain its support to the Congolese armed forces, while ensuring that it is in strict compliance with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
“This is to ensure that the Mission’s support to non-United Nations security forces is consistent with the Organization’s purposes and principles as set out in the Charter of the United Nations and obligations under international law”, Mr. Dujarric said.
End hate speech
“We are deeply concerned about reports of increased hate speech in the country against some particular communities, including in the context of the M23’s resurgence. Hate speech must be confronted proactively.”
He noted MONUSCO and the UN Country Team in DRC, have consistently and unconditionally condemned hate speech in the public square.
Working closely with the UN rights office (OHCHR) and the UN Special Adviser for Genocide Prevention, the United Nations Country Team contributes to combatting hate speech by engaging with authorities at the local, provincial and national levels as well as with journalists and civil society, “to condemn such discourse and supports the prosecution of those who propagate it.”
MONUSCO and the United Nations continues to mobilize opinion leaders and influencers to speak against hate speech, including on the Mission’s Radio Okapi, and on social media.