Violence and access constraints in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continue to hamper humanitarian operations in a context where one in three people need assistance, the senior UN official in the country told the Security Council on Tuesday.
For Bintou Keita, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), food insecurity and cyclical epidemics are major concerns.
Attacks on schools and hospitals have also exacerbated humanitarian challenges in several parts of the east, particularly Ituri.
With over 5 million internally displaced people, the country has the highest number of internally displaced people on the African continent. More than 26 million Congolese also suffer from food insecurity, about 29 percent of the population.
Addressing the Council Members, Ms. Keita urged them to increase their contributions to the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan, that asks for $1.98 billion. To date, just over a quarter of the plan is funded.
The Special Representative highlighted two main challenges: the security and protection of civilians in the east, and the process of democratic consolidation in DRC.
On the security front, she informed that, since the declaration of a state of siege by the Government, in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, MONUSCO has redoubled its efforts to support the Congolese authorities.
Ms. Keita warned, though, that “much remains to be done, including to ensure that the human rights of the population are systematically respected in the fight against armed groups.”
For her, the promulgation on July 5 of the Ordinance on the Programme for Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization, represents “a great opportunity.”
She informed that joint military operations against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), had dismantled several of the rebel group’s strongholds, but human rights violations perpetrated by state and non-State actors “remain worrying.”
According to her, between June and August, 367 people were victims of arbitrary and extrajudicial executions. About 203 people, mostly women and children, suffered sexual violence.
She also informed that in some regions, particularly in South Kivu, inter-community conflicts are fuelled by hate speech.
“These populist and belligerent speeches are a danger to the stability of the country and should be the subject of exemplary judicial sanctions”, she argued.
On democratic consolidation, she said the formation of a new Government in April “has provided an opportunity to advance on critical reforms.”
For now, the focus is the 2023 elections. Pointing to a “context of political suspicions”, Ms. Keita reiterated the need for “an inclusive and peaceful electoral process founded on dialogue, trust, and transparency.”
She pointed to the renewal of MONUSCO’s mandate, saying that a joint transition plan has been developed and constitutes “a roadmap that can help guide the work of the Mission in the coming years and prepare the ground for its orderly and responsible withdrawal.”
She concluded asking the Council to continue providing its full backing to MONUSCO, by endorsing the joint transition plan, providing financial resources, and having an active role in making it a reality.