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Security in eastern DR Congo continues to worsen – UN

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Ms Martha Pobee says the security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has continued to deteriorate over the past three months.

Pobee told the Security Council on Monday at the UN headquarters that the security situation had worsened in that part of the country in spite of a lull in the  fighting between M23 rebels and the national army (FARDC)

“So far, the ceasefire between the M23 and the FARDC has held up relatively well and has contributed to some security gains.

“The relative calm in Rutshuru territory, for example, allowed more than 45,000 people from the Bishusha group to return home,” the UN top official said.

She noted, however, that M23’s withdrawal from the territory has been “piecemeal, tactical, and political”, while the armed group still controls much of Masisi and Rutshuru, together with the movement of people and goods in these areas.

She added that its “offensive repositioning in recent weeks” had raised fears that hostilities could resume at any time.

Pobee applauded the regional leaders  engagement of the parties concerned in implementing the decisions of the Luanda Road Map and the Nairobi process.

She reiterated the readiness of the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO), to back up Congolese authorities with the “pre-cantonment and disarmament” of the powerful rebel force.

The top UN official said she was pleased to note that last week, MONUSCO, the East African Community Regional Force and the expanded Joint Verification Mechanism had undertaken a reconnaissance mission to the Rumangabo base, to assess the conditions for beginning the disarmament and demobilization process of M23 in earnest.

“For these efforts to bear fruit, it is urgent that the M23 withdraw completely from the occupied territories, lay down its arms unconditionally and join the Demobilization, Disarmament, Recovery and Community Stabilisation Programme,” she added.

According to her, the security gains in North Kivu are fragile and have been overshadowed by the deteriorating situation in Ituri province, which has suffered from the security vacuum created by the redeployment of FARDC to North Kivu.

More than 600 people have been killed by armed groups in the past three months, with CODECO, the Zairean militia and the ADF, being the main perpetrators of these atrocities.

The senior UN official, therefore, urged all armed groups to cease hostilities and called for the redeployment of national security forces, particularly in Ituri, to restore state authority.

In response to the insecurity in eastern DRC, she said that MONUSCO had continued to do everything possible to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians.

In Beni, Bunia, Bukavu, and Goma, mission-supported workshops eased tensions and strengthened local capacity to better respond to security challenges, including disinformation.

At the same time, the mission provided direct physical protection for civilians.

Till date, between 50.000 and 70.000 displaced people are being protected by MONUSCO forces in the Roe site, located in the Djugu territory of Ituri.

An estimated 6.3 million people have been displaced within the country and since March 2022, more than 2.8 million have fled their homes in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces due to insecurity.

At the moment, around 28 per cent of the population in North Kivu and 39 per cent of Ituri’s regular population are displaced.

This situation has been further aggravated by inflation, epidemics and natural disasters, including last month’s floods in Kahele territory in South Kivu, which killed more than 470 people and left thousands missing.

At the same time, nearly 26 million people, more than a quarter of the population, face food insecurity in the DRC.

The top Africa official expressed particular concern about the increasing number of women and girls who are becoming victims of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.

Gender-based violence increased by 2.3 per cent across the country and by 73 per cent in North Kivu province alone, compared to the same period last year.

She said the humanitarian response falls far short of the unprecedented level of need, welcoming the start of a system-

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Written by Tom Chiahemen

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