RAPAPORT… United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are on high alert and prepared to use force in order to protect civilians in Goma from an advancing rebellion by the March 23 movement (M23). The top UN official in the country urged all parties to exercise restraint.
The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) expressed “deep concerns” about the latest bout of fighting, which broke out after a significant group of the M23 attacked the national forces (FARDC) on July 14 in Mutaho, eight kilometers northwest of Goma, in eastern DRC. According to the Mission, heavy artillery and a battle tank were used in the attack.
MONUSCO warned that any attempt by the M23 to advance toward Goma will be considered a direct threat to civilians and it will authorize the UN blue helmets to take any necessary measures, including the use of lethal force, in order to protect residents.
“I call on all to abide by the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement and to allow the political process toward peace to move forward,” said the acting special representative for the UN, Moustapha Soumaré. In February, with the support of 11 nations and four international organizations, the framework was presented and agreed to in an effort to end conflict in the eastern DRC and to build peace in the long-troubled Great Lakes region.
“I urge all signatories of the framework to exercise their influence in order to avoid an escalation of the situation,” he added.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mary Robinson, the UN Special Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes Region, along with World Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, visited the DRC in May to bolster support for the framework, which Robinson dubbed a “framework for hope.”
Robinson had also urged both sides to resume peace talks this past month under the direction of the chairperson of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.