Ahead of a new peace deal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to be signed this weekend, the top United Nations official there warned today that the security situation is unstable, and urged the Security Council to provide the necessary support and authorization for an additional military brigade force within the current UN peacekeeping force.
"The overall situation is volatile and precarious, and could break down at any time into large-scale conflict without much if any prior warning," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Roger Meece, said in his briefing to the Council.
In the south-eastern province of Katanga, the situation has reached "alarming proportions," Mr. Meece said, with a major humanitarian crisis that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates to include 316,000 displaced people.
The security deterioration in Katanga is related to the stepped-up activities of Mayi Mayi leader Gédéon, who escaped from prison in 2011, and associated militias such as Kata Katangais and others, Mr. Meece explained.
Meanwhile, while there has been a general pause in the offensive operations of the 23 March Movement (M23) since their temporary occupation late last year of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, Mr. Meece said, but there is also no evidence that the forces are pulling back or changing their military posture.
Clashes between the fighters from the M23 and the DRC's national army (FARDC) have displaced nearly a million people in North Kivu.
Mr. Meece, who heads the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), told the Council that while the civilian and police components, and UN specialized agencies, have worked to respond to the broad and growing range of security and humanitarian problems, "our forces and our resources are stretched very thin over a broad area."
To improve the protection of civilians in North and South Kivu provinces, the UN has proposed using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to collect information for the UN Force Commander and to promote deterrence.
"I would like to express my personal thanks and appreciation to the Council for its support of this proposal," Mr. Meece said, adding that the UN is working to deploy the UAVs at the earliest possible time.
He also spoke about the possibility of an additional military force or brigade within MONUSCO equipped with peace enforcement authorities beyond a traditional UN peacekeeping mandate.
"I am convinced that a peace enforcement capability on the ground is a necessary component to achieve the conditions necessary to obtain the engagement and commitments needed by all parties," Mr. Meece said, urging the 15-member Council to authorize such a force.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to attend the signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region, scheduled to take place on 24 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, his spokesperson said.
The agreement had been expected to be signed at the African Union summit in Addis on 28 January but was delayed over what Mr. Ban called "procedural issues" and not over any fundamental differences in the agreement.