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Fighting in Eastern DR Congo “worrisome” -UN

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Fighting between M23 and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) armed forces (FARDC – Forces Armees de la Republic Democratique du Congo) in the east of the country where a Southern African regional force is deploying, has “further compounded a dire humanitarian situation” the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) heard this week.

Speaking from Kinshasa, Bintou Keita, who heads the UN mission MONUSCO in the troubled central African country, urged “ambassadors to do all they can to prevent the fighting in North Kivu province from spreading beyond the border”.

The situation in eastern DRC is among the most complex, prolonged and protracted crises in the world, lasting some three decades, the United Nations (UN) said when reporting on Keita’s Security Council address. “The latest violence is occurring against a backdrop of the eventual drawdown of MONUSCO this year and at a time when historic flooding is affecting some two million people.”

Escalating hostilities since expiry of a December ceasefire, led to a “deeply worrisome situation” around the Sake and provincial capital, Goma Keita said.

Fighting intensified in several areas in recent weeks with M23 moving further south, sparking more displacement towards Goma and neighbouring South Kivu province.

She told the top UN decision making body conditions in already over-crowded displacement sites in and around Goma are desperate.

“More than 400 000 displaced persons have now sought refuge in the city [Goma], including 65 000 in the past two weeks, triggering a dramatic increase in cases of cholera due to a lack of safe drinking water, adequate hygiene, and sanitation.” Added to this, restricted access to M23-controlled territory is isolating Goma from inland territories, disrupting food production and supply.

Keita expressed her deep concern over “serious violations” committed in areas controlled by M23, with human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society representatives targeted. At least 150 people have been killed since November, 77 in January alone.

Meanwhile, MONUSCO continues to confront mis and disinformation surrounding its role in the ongoing clashes, mainly through online campaigns carried out by accounts mostly located outside of the DRC.

“This has resulted in hostile acts against UN peacekeepers and restrictions of movement by local armed groups and government soldiers,” Keita said. Violent protests against the UN and the diplomatic community erupted in Kinshasa on 10 February, “fuelled by a perception of the international community’s inaction and inefficiency over the situation in the eastern DRC.”

UN entities and MONUSCO were targeted in 11 incidents and 32 staff members had to either be extracted or rescued by peacekeepers. Two UN vehicles were burnt and eight were severely damaged by stoning.

The UN envoy also voiced concern over the security situation in other areas of North Kivu, Ituri and South Kivu provinces.

She said there has been a significant escalation of violence in Djugu territory in Ituri, where MONUSCO continues to ensure the protection of more than 100 000 people displaced last week due to deadly fighting between the Zaïre and CODECO factions.

The ADF continues to kill and kidnap civilians in both Ituri and North Kivu. The group has also started to attack military targets after nearly a year of avoiding direct clashes with the security forces, and at time when a joint operation by the Ugandan and Congolese armies has been suspended.

Clashes have also broken out between Twirwaneho militia and Mai-Mai groups in South Kivu, where MONUSCO is preparing to withdraw within the coming months.

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