RAPAPORT… After a unanimous vote, the United Nations (UN) Security Council extended its peacekeeping operations in Côte d’Ivoire until June 30, 2014 with the intention of protecting citizens, facilitating disarmament, reforming security and demobilizing and reintegrating former combatants. Rough diamonds also remain embargoed from Cote d’Ivoire, pending the success of these reforms.
Council members agreed that by the 2014 date, the peacekeeping mission (UNOCI) should have up to 7,137 military personnel as per Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest recommendations, outlined in a report presented early this month by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous.
UNOCI should assist the government more in protecting civilians and maintaining security by reconfiguring its military and putting them in high-risk areas, according to the Council. If ground security improves and the government can take over UNOCI’s security role, a reduction of military personnel by June 2015 might be possible. Peacekeeping missions were also extended in Dafur and Cyprus.
The mission’s extension comes at the same time new statistics were released by the UN refugee agency, showing an alarming rise in rapes and violence against women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu province. There are no global restrictions on rough diamonds from the DRC.
“Our protection monitoring teams have registered 705 cases of sexual violence in the region since January, including 619 cases of rape,” said a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “During the same period in 2012, our staff had registered 108 cases. The survivors of SGBV [sexual and gender-based violence] included 288 minors and 43 men.”
In just the past two weeks, fighting around Goma between the army and the March 23 Movement (M23) displaced approximately 7,000 people and 14,000 civilians fled skirmishes between the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan-based rebel group and the army in North Kivu’s Kamango area.
UNHCR said it is alarmed by human rights violation reports in Kamango, including the murder of at least 15 civilians, abductions, forced labor, beatings and illegal taxation.
In addition, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC gave M32 rebels in the North Kivu province, which includes Goma and Sake, 48 hours to disarm or face an intervention brigade to enforce a security zone.
According to the statement, any individuals in the area who are not members of national security forces will have the brief grace period to hand in their weapons to a MONUSCO base and join the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement process.
The ultimatum was issued following the arrival of MONUSCO force commander, Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, in the province who said that the mission will support the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) to establish a security zone around the area of Goma and its northern suburbs.
After 16:00 on Thursday, August 1, those rebels will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and MONUSCO will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force. The new security zone will push indirect armed threats out of range of Goma and the zone will be expanded and repeated elsewhere if and where it is needed.
Moustapha Soumaré, the acting head of MONUSCO, called upon all parties to find a political solution to the conflict. “In the meantime, we will do everything in our power to protect civilians against the threat posed by any armed groups,” he said.