Crisis in eastern Congo

The situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) is tense. Members of the M23 rebel group have entered the provincial capital of Goma. In a resolution adopted on 20 November, the UN Security Council called on the rebels to withdraw immediately and lay down their arms. Many people have fled their homes. Foreign Minister Westerwelle has likewise called on the rebels to halt their military offensive and respect the territorial integrity of the Congo. “Any further destabilization of the east and the country as a whole must be prevented,” Westerwelle warned on 22 November.

An estimated further 60,000 people have been driven from their homes by the latest violence. The UN puts the number of displaced people in the country at over 2.4 million. To alleviate their suffering, the German Government has in 2012 made 7.3 million euros available in humanitarian aid. Hervé Ladsous, the head of the UN blue helmet mission in DR Congo, has voiced concern over the humanitarian situation in the region. Besides the large numbers of refugees, grave human rights violations such as mass executions and the recruitment of children have been reported. Those responsible for such crimes would be held to account, Ladsous warned on 21 November.

International appeals to the rebels

Both UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon and the Security Council have condemned the offensive by the M23 rebel group – named after what was actually a peace accord concluded on 23 March 2009 – and demanded an immediate end to the fighting. Soldiers from the UN blue helmet mission MONUSCO are endeavouring to protect the civilian population. On 20 November the Security Council adopted resolution 2076 (2012) on the situation in the DR Congo.

Security Council resolution

Refugees in eastern Congo

Refugees in eastern Congo
© UN Photo

Bild vergrößern
Refugees in eastern Congo

Refugees in eastern Congo

Refugees in eastern Congo

The resolution strongly condemns the rebel attacks and calls for the rebel forces to withdraw immediately and lay down their arms. It likewise demands that any and all external support for the M23 cease immediately.

The UN Secretary General is requested, moreover, to report in conjunction with the African Union (AU) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) on the allegations that the M23 is receiving external support. The rebels are suspected of receiving support from neighbouring countries, an assumption shared by the group of experts of the UN sanctions committee for DR Congo.

United nations Security Council Resolution 2076 (2012)

In resolution 2078 (2012) adopted on 28 November the Security Council renewed its call for an end to acts of violence and external support for the rebels and reaffirmed the sanctions and arms embargo in force since 2008.

UN Security Council Resolution 2078 (2012) (PDF, 45 KB)

At their extraordinary summit held on 24 November in Kampala, the heads of state and government of the Great Lakes region expressed their concern over the deteriorating security situation, which they viewed as a serious threat to the peace, security and stability of the entire region. They urged the M23 to refrain from further acts of violence and withdraw from Goma. UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon welcomed the summit outcome and called on the M23 to implement what had been agreed. He encouraged all sides to enter into a dialogue aimed at addressing the causes of the conflict, a spokesperson of the Secretary General explained.

Confidence building and cooperation key to solution

In the same vein Foreign Minister Westerwelle noted on 22 November that “building confidence and cooperating in earnest are – especially between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – the key to a sustainable solution.” He welcomed the talks taking place between Presidents Kabila of the Congo, Kagame of Rwanda and Museveni of Uganda. “Their aim must be to prevent military conflicts, end the violence in eastern Congo and find political solutions to the region’s many problems,” Westerwelle continued. All parties were called upon to respect human rights and protect the civilian population.

At their meeting in Brussels on 19 November EU Foreign Ministers likewise strongly condemned the M23 offensive.

Making headway on reform

In their Council Conclusions on the DR Congo, EU Foreign Ministers have also called on the Congolese Government to make effective efforts to establish the rule of law and a functioning administration and to ensure the security and protection of the civilian population. To this end it was vital, they note, to accelerate the reform of the security sector, which the EU was supporting.

For this purpose the EU has established two missions, EUSEC RD Congo and EUPOL RD Congo, operating under Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) auspices. The aim of both missions is to assist the Congolese Government in its efforts to take forward the reform of the security sector now under way. The main focus of EUSEC is the Congolese army, while the main focus of EUPOL is the work of the Congolese police force.

Protecting the civilian population

On 20 November Foreign Minister Westerwelle urged the need for “all sides” to enable the UN peace mission MONUSCO to fulfil its mandate to protect civilians. The Congolese Government was duty-bound to do everything possible to bring the situation under control and launch a political process.

The United Nations has had a peace mission in DR Congo since 1999. In 2010 the mission’s name was changed from MONUC to MONUSCO. With more than 17,000 military personnel, it is the largest and most expensive peace mission anywhere in the world. To help it fulfil its mandate, MONUSCO has an annual budget of some 1.3 billion US dollars.

Last updated 30.11.2012

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