NEW YORK- UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Huang Xia has said that after months of fighting and rising tensions across the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the region is enjoying “a fragile ceasefire”.
Huang told the UN Security Council on Wednesday in New York that the region had been enjoying “fragile ceasefire” including an improvement in relations between the DRC and neighbouring Rwanda.
The region is plagued by violence emanating largely from multiple armed groups, including the rebel M23 force, which has been fighting a major campaign against Government troops, who are backed by the UN Mission (MONUSCO) as part of its vital protection-of-civilians mandate.
According to him, hundreds of civilians have been killed at the hands of armed groups, which “continue to sow terror”.
Diplomatic relations have soured between Kinshasa and Kigali, over whether the resurgent M23 rebel movement, which originally grew out of a faction of former DRC army officers, is being supported by Rwanda – a charge vehemently denied in Kigali.
Cross border incidents earlier this year led to a serious risk of escalation and confrontation, the Council heard last month.
“On the military front, a fragile lull has settled in eastern DRC. Days pass without major clashes.
“Between the DRC army and the March 23 Movement, a fragile ceasefire seems to be holding.
“The deployment of the East African Community Regional Force continues. Undiplomatic exchanges between Kigali and Kinshasa have decreased,” the UN envoy said.
However, he stressed that “serious risks remain” and the withdrawal of M23 fighters from areas it has recently occupied in the east, “remains partial.”
He highlighted the important role of two diplomatic tracks that are working to produce a negotiated settlement inside and outside the borders of the DRC, the so-called Luanda Process and the Nairobi Process.
“A negotiated political solution, which is being called for by more and more voices, has been slow to materialize,” Xia said.
“The risk of renewed fighting remains real” he added, while local and foreign armed groups in the restive east, “spread terror and fuel instability.”
He reiterated that the “social and humanitarian consequences of this situation are disastrous”, fuelling a seemingly endless cycle of tensions between communities in the region, and proliferation of hate speech.
Some 600,000 are displaced in North Kivu alone, while 38,000 more Congolese became refugees between October last year and this February.
“Tensions persist between Rwanda and the DRC. Trust between the two countries seems to be at an all-time low,” he told ambassadors.
He said the volatile mix across the Great Lakes region, required the Security Council and all partners working for peace in the region to “renew and strengthen our efforts.”
“We need to take advantage of the small window of opportunity that has opened right now. We must promote a real reduction in tensions. We must support the region’s efforts to end the crisis.”
He said the full implementation of commitments made under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region, was a necessity.
“This agreement remains more relevant than ever, provided that it is given back its full vigour through concrete actions driven by a strong political will,” he said.
“The Great Lakes region, let us repeat, does not need a new war.’’
In this context, he said regional peace initiatives should be welcomed and supported, adding that the Luanda Process was focused on restoring peace between the DRC and Rwanda, while in Nairobi, led by the East African Community, efforts continued to combine political consultation, with “military efforts”.
“These two vital initiatives need our stronger unanimous support,” he told ambassadors.
“They are the two complementary paths towards the resolution of the current crisis. (NAN)