A rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis plaguing hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be brought to a swift end with intensified help from the international community, the United Nations' top official in that country told the Security Council today.
Recent advances of the 23 March Movement (M23) posed grave risks of increased human rights violations, including reports of killings and the forced recruitment of civilians, and had triggered violent demonstrations throughout the country, said Roger Meece, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).
Introducing the Secretary-General's report (see Background), Mr. Meece said most worrisome was the M23 rebellion, its new offensive operations, its occupation of Goma and North Kivu and, most of all, its appearance as a strong, disciplined, established military force with sophisticated weapons and tactics. The United Nations Mission had worked closely with the Congolese forces and authorities to confront the escalating security threats in North Kivu, including at times "very robust engagement" by MONUSCO ground and air elements to help defend population centres against attacks by the M23.
As for reports of external involvement, he said MONUSCO had neither the mandate nor the means to investigate or verify sources by which those impressive capabilities had been achieved, including surprising weaponry and signs of external support. That was the work of the Group of Experts.
The rebellion, he said, "is not by any standard an answer to grievances, real or imagined and, in fact, greatly works against the well-being of all in the region". "The killings and other human rights abuses being committed heighten the crime, and those responsible for those acts must be held accountable."
In sum, he said, "we can most definitely state that the M23 rebellion has put into question all the efforts to achieve progress for a stable and successful North Kivu province providing for peaceful co-existence of all groups and ethnicities for the common benefit of all." The Movement had been unresponsive to the Council demands to withdraw and cease attacks, he added.
In its many efforts to reverse the setback, the Mission, he said, had worked with regional and international partners to develop a strategy to confront the M23 and other negative armed forces and to find a durable resolution leading to lasting peace. Its "stretched" civilian and military elements had sought to respond effectively to reported events and threats in North Kivu, including dismantling the zone of M23 occupation and administration, and renewing the interrupted programme of pressure on other armed groups and pursuing related stabilization programmes.
Addressing those threats, the Mission had also focused on attacks against civilians elsewhere, including by Lord's Resistance Army attacks in the north-eastern region, by the Front for Patriotic Resistance for Ituri in Ituri district and by the militia led by the escaped military leader Gedeon in Katanga province. To counter the current instability, intensified efforts were needed in effecting broad military reform and in ensuring that the current electoral cycle resulted in democratic, transparent and credible provincial and local elections that maintained a path towards a more secure and durable democratic future.
Stressing that the Mission's stabilization mandate remained a "critical priority, essential for Congolese future development and security", he said that despite the setbacks, it was important to remember that much had been accomplished over the years in addressing a "wide array of major and daunting issues".
Those gains included military and electoral reform, he said, acknowledging, however, that many aspects of progress had been reversed in recent months as a result of the M23 uprising. While it was difficult, if not impossible, to enhance State authority and governance with an active and strong armed movement under way, it was "clearly essential" to resolve the crisis, roll back the reversals and resume forward movement.
"This can be done, I believe, but only with a strong commitment from the international community," he said, underscoring the responsibility of all States concerned to contribute to a positive and peaceful outcome. Any resolution must be reinforced through comprehensive security sector reform policies and programmes. The Mission, he added, had established a strong partnership with the Congolese authorities on a range of security matters.
"It is our determination," he said, "to do our part, to do all we can within our mandate to continue that partnership and achieve results to enable the Congolese people to achieve as rapidly as possible the conditions of security and prospects for social and economic development to which they have a right, and most certainly deserve."
The meeting began at 10:27 a.m. and ended at 10:54 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document S/2012/838) which, responding to Council requests, reports on progress on the ground in that country, covering the period between 23 May and 31 October 2012, and on recommended benchmarks for measuring the progress and the impact of the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration process for foreign armed groups. It also includes two thematic annexes, one assessing the electoral process and the other on possible new approaches in security sector reform.
In the report, the Secretary-General expresses deep concern over the consequences and threats of the 23 March (M23) mutiny in the eastern portion of the country, condemning the violence and human rights abuses committed by it and other armed groups. He calls for accountability and further cooperation with the Great Lakes Conference and stresses that the mutiny further highlights the need for security sector reform in the country. He also encourages the Government to work closely with the Stabilization Mission, known as MONUSCO, and the United Nations country team to rapidly adopt the finalized Peace Consolidation Programme and begin its implementation as soon as possible.