Bintou Keita, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC, said further progress towards peace and stability are prerequisites for the mission, known as MONUSCO, to is withdrawing responsibly, in accordance with its intended withdrawal.
Crisis in the East
The security and humanitarian situation in the provinces of eastern Congo, Ituri, North and South Kivu, continues to be a source of serious concern for the international community.
Amid continued violence from armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo on May 22 resulted in large-scale population movements, exacerbating existing challenges posed by the COVID-pandemic. 19 and the resurgence of Ebola cases.
Recent bombings have also been recorded in the town of Beni, and inter-communal tensions are escalating in Ituri and South Kivu.
“Civilians remain under serious threat from attacks by armed groups and in the broader security context,” Keita warned.
Describing recent political developments, Ms. Keita said that a new coalition government, the Sacred Union of the Nation, has recently taken power, with the inauguration of Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge on April 26.
Fifteen women hold ministerial positions, which represents an increase of almost 30% compared to the last government.
Noting also the recent declaration of a “state of siege” in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu – where violence by armed groups has been among the worst in the country – she welcomed the new government’s commitments to improve the protection of civilians, to fight those who commit crimes against and to organize national and local elections in 2023.
In particular, Ms. Keita drew the Council’s attention to a recently released action plan by the new government, which aims to neutralize violent armed groups.
It also includes a new program for the disarmament, demobilization, community reintegration and stabilization of ex-combatants.
The withdrawal of MONUSCO
As previously requested by the Council, Ms. Keita announced the creation of a joint working group through which MONUSCO and the Congolese government will serve together, to advance the promising new action plan.
Launched on July 5, its first task will be to develop a plan for the transition and gradual withdrawal of MONUSCO, including milestones and concrete indicators, which will be submitted to the Council in September.
Discussions on the withdrawal of MONUSCO have been underway since 2018, when a long-awaited peaceful handover brought President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo to power.
A common strategy for the withdrawal of the Mission, defined in 2020, gradually consolidates the UN’s footprint in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.
MONUSCO’s operations in the Kasais ended in June and, according to the joint strategy, the Mission will also withdraw from Tanganyika province by mid-2022, conditions permitting.