Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), warned of
the country’s heightened political tensions, including ruling coalition fissures and the presidential threat of the national assembly’s dissolution.
The leadership of the mission has met with various members, including civil society leaders, over the past
month to disseminate “further provocations” that endanger security and economic stability, encouraging them to “resolve their differences through dialogue”, she explained, assuring that the UN would continue “to facilitate an expeditious and peaceful resolution”.
The Special Representative highlighted the recent trial and prosecution of Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka for war crimes, including rape,
sexual exploitation and the recruitment of children, noting the importance of accountability for perpetrators of atrocities, saying the resolution “represents an important step forward for the Congolese military justice in combating impunity”.
The UN official expressed his concern about the situation in Eastern Congo, where “insecurity,
serious human rights violations and displacement continue to affect civilians, particularly women and children.”
“She noted that in the territories of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, domestic and foreign armed group violence persists,
which serves to highlight the crucial role” of the MONUSCO force in expanding state authority and “deterring violence against civilians.
Other serious problems include the exploitation of natural resources by armed groups,
which needs “regional and international efforts” to be resolved, according to Ms. Zerrougi.
At the same time, she welcomed the efforts of the Congolese authorities “to engage constructively with
neighbors in order to resolve their differences, promote regional economic cooperation and strengthen regional peace and stability.”
The UN envoy also acknowledged that MONUSCO would continue to work closely with the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes to support the government and to work closely with the African Union, the
International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) “to ensure synergies and to ensure that our joint investment in support of regional stability brings about synergies
‘The security of civilians remains a crucial
priority for MONUSCO,’ asserted the Special Representative.
“In the context of a deteriorating humanitarian situation in conflict-affected provinces, she pointed out that while MONUSCO continues to use a
“whole-of-mission strategy” to protect civilians, including civilian, military and police components, “it is highly dependent on unimpeded access to those in need.
Ms. Zerrougui strongly condemned recent attacks against humanitarian workers who continue
to assist vulnerable civilian communities amid various organizational and security challenges.
“The ability of humanitarian workers to support the Congolese authorities is absolutely essential to relieve the suffering of victims of conflict and was key to ending the 11th Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province”, she stressed.
The effect of COVID-19 is making it increasingly more difficult
as the UN pledges to sustain support for its security obligations.
The task chief announced that 173 staff tested positive for COVID-19 to demonstrate
the effect of the coronavirus on MONUSCO, six of whom died after contracting it.
She testified that all necessary steps were placed
in place to mitigate the spread and handle cases.
To date, MONUSCO has been involved in
Kinshasa, the capital, and six other provinces.
The Special Representative told the Council of new negotiations with the Government of the DRC to promote the phase-out of the
mission by envisaging targeted ‘province-specific strategies’ to consolidate its presence in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, the most conflict-affected territories.
She concluded that MONUSCO supports the Government’s national police reform strategy, advocates for new disarmament, demobilization and community reintegration mechanisms for ex-combatants, and
stands ready to step up international cooperation efforts to help security sector reform efforts, as State authorities are ultimately responsible for civilian defense.