The UN ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bintou Keita, on Wednesday warned the Security Council against a conflagration that could get out of hand in the east of the country where armed groups are proliferating.
“If the (rebel movement) M23 continues its well-coordinated attacks against the FARDC (Congolese armed forces) and Monusco with increasing conventional capabilities, the Mission could find itself facing a threat that exceeds its current capabilities,” she spoke at a Security Council meeting.
“The ongoing activities of the M23 and armed groups in eastern DRC threaten to reverse the hard-won gains in security and stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region,” Bintou Keita added.
The envoy thus called for the Security Council’s help in turning the tide and pushing the DRC and Rwanda to find a middle ground in their division.
“It is imperative that the Council redouble its efforts for a rapid de-escalation of the situation, and the unconditional disarmament of the M23,” she said.
“I urge the DRC and Rwanda to seize the upcoming summit to be hosted by President Joao Lourenço in Luanda as an opportunity to resolve their differences through dialogue,” she said.
Questioned at a press conference after the meeting about the regional force that several East African countries want to deploy in eastern DRC, Bintou Keita emphasised the importance of “coordination” with Monusco and “clarification of roles and responsibilities” regarding the protection of civilians and respect for human rights during future operations of this new force.
She clarified that initial deployments of the new force were expected before the end of July in eastern DRC, with the bulk of the troops on the ground set for August.
As reported earlier, on June 20, East African leaders agreed to set up a regional force to try to end the conflict in eastern DRC.
A Tutsi-dominated rebellion defeated in 2013, the M23 took up arms late last year in eastern DRC, a region that has been plagued by violence from multiple other armed groups for nearly 30 years.
The resurgence of the M23 has started a new crisis between the DRC and Rwanda, with Kinshasa accusing Kigali of supporting the rebels, something Rwanda denies.
In May and June, M23 attacks took place in a coordinated manner on several axes in Rutshuru, resulting in the death of several dozen civilians. Over 170,000 people have been displaced.
The mineral-rich DRC is plagued by dozens of armed groups in the east, most of which are a legacy of two regional wars a 25 years ago.