Image: UNICEF/Guy Hubbard
New York: Amid deteriorating security in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the top UN envoy in the country has called for a comprehensive political strategy that includes measures to address the structural causes of the conflicts.
Bintou Keita, who heads the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), was briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, on recent developments there.
She said that only three months into this year, nearly 2,300 civilian deaths had been recorded in the country’s eastern provinces. “This is proof of the inherent limits of only having security operations to resolve conflicts,” she said.
Ms. Keita said the security situation in the country’s east has deteriorated despite the joint military operations against armed groups by the national security forces, known as the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), which was joined by the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
She said civilian losses and displacement of populations have increased because of bloody reprisals by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militants.
In the past three months, there has been an alarming increase in activities by the M23 rebel movement in North Kivu. On Monday, M23 elements carried out horrific attacks, targeting civilians in communities near Rutshuru.
In North Kivu, the situation has worsened because of the use of improvised explosive devices by the ADF. On 11 March, its leadership renewed its allegiance to Da’esh. MONUSCO has also documented a 10 per cent increase in human rights violations and attacks, since last December.
Helicopter crash: Investigation launched
Earlier on Tuesday, the mission reported that a search and rescue operation was underway, after a Puma helicopter lost contact with MONUSCO and crashed in the restive North Kivu region.
Speaking at the regular noon briefing, UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said there had been eight people on board, including six crew members – all from the Pakistani military – and two military personnel – one from Russia, and another from Serbia.
They had been on a reconnaissance mission in the area of Tshanzu, south-east of Rutshuru – the scene of recent clashes between Congolese forces and M23.
“An investigation is underway. We will update you as soon as more information becomes available”, Mr. Dujarric said.
“Our thoughts are obviously with the families and friends of those onboard the helicopter, and all of our colleagues of the UN Mission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
Civilians increasingly vulnerable
Ms. Keita sounded the alarm in the Security Council over the considerable erosion of the protection of sites for displaced persons as well as frequent attacks against medical services and other civilian infrastructure.
In the face of these security changes, MONUSCO has redoubled its efforts to better protect civilians in Ituri, working jointly with FARDC/UPDF, deploying support units for FARDC to increase the deterrent effect against M23 in North Kivu.
The Mission is also pursuing mobile deployments to protect displaced persons in South Kivu, she said.
However, without a combined approach addressing both the causes and the symptoms, the efforts of both the United Nations and Congolese forces will remain insufficient, she emphasized, adding that in Tanganyika province, the Mission is closely monitoring the evolution of the security dynamics ahead of its scheduled withdrawal in June.
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