The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be the subject of disinformation, as speculation about its withdrawal intensifies.
Special Representative Bintou Keita informed the Security Council in New York that the ongoing attacks on local communities, roadblocks, and refusal of humanitarian aid are contributing to the ongoing suffering in Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces.
She stated that currently, there are more than six million displaced individuals in [these places]. She urged for ongoing assistance for relief efforts that lack adequate funding.
Referring to the intended, yet uncertain, withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from the DRC, Ms. Keita urged the Council to clearly address the recommendations outlined in the Secretary-General’s August report regarding the future of her mission, MONUSCO.
Ms. Keita mentioned during a press stakeout that later in the day, there will be in-depth discussions with authorities and an action plan will be agreed upon, including important benchmarks, in the spirit of partnership.
During the General Assembly, the President of the DRC urged the UN mission to expedite its withdrawal and move the deadline up by one year, changing it from December 2024 to December 2023.
Video: SRSG Keita speaks at a press stakeout after the Security Council meeting
Ms. Keita stated that a worrisome issue within the crisis is the high occurrence of gender-based and sexual violence. In June and July, over 10,000 individuals who experienced such violence sought help from MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission, in three provinces.
To address the high risk of sexual violence in areas where people have been displaced, the UN Mission has increased their patrols, including working with the Congolese armed forces.
Political solutions needed
Ms. Keita emphasized the ongoing importance of humanitarian and security efforts. She also highlighted the necessity for political and regional resolutions to combat the threat posed by armed groups in eastern DRC.
She showed support for the recent trip made by former President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is helping facilitate the peace process, to Goma. She stressed the significance of putting confidence-building measures into action.
She pointed out that the extension of the mandate for the East African Community’s regional force for three months and the promise from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to send a peace mission to eastern DRC demonstrate continued involvement from the surrounding regions.
The Special Representative Keita emphasized that for these efforts to be successful, it is necessary to adopt, fund, and carry out essential reforms in the security sector.
She stated that the hiring of 13,000 police officers before the 2023 elections will contribute to expanding State power and reinforcing the legal system.
The upcoming December elections are a significant event for the nation, she noted, praising the country’s efforts to meet the deadline specified in the constitution.
She emphasized the significance of the Government securing the protection of the democratic space and ensuring the guarantee of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and respect for human rights.
Conducive environment for MONUSCO
To sum up, Ms. Keita emphasized the significance of creating a favorable environment that aligns with MONUSCO’s main purpose in order to facilitate their withdrawal.
“Unfortunately, the mission is still facing deliberate spread of false information, as well as threats and violent acts,” she stated, while denouncing the recent casualties caused by national security forces in Goma on August 30.
I am optimistic that the ongoing trials will bring closure to the grieving families of the victims, including a police officer, and reveal more information about the circumstances surrounding this heartbreaking incident.