A top United Nations official has voiced her concern about the latest wave of fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), especially in areas that have previously witnessed sexual violence committed against civilians by members of armed groups.
“I call on all parties to immediately refrain from any acts of violence and urge the Government of DRC to restore state authority and ensure the protection of civilians, including from sexual violence,” the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, said in a statement issued last night.
“Those responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice. I remind all parties to the conflict that the world is watching, and that the fight against impunity will continue," she said.
Fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, dissident groups and militia. Ms. Wallström noted that the situation is causing immense suffering for civilians who are experiencing displacement, human rights violations, and loss of property.
“Once again, a new wave of violence is being perpetrated by actors such as the Mai Mai leader Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi and Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, both of whom have been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council for various violations including sexual violence crimes,” she said. Mr. Ntaganda has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.
The envoy voiced particular concern about the volatile security situation in several villages in Walikale territory, in the province of North Kivu, which were besieged by armed militia, including the Mai Mai Sheka.
These villages were the scenes of horrendous crimes in July and August 2010, when at least 387 women, men and children were the targets of acts of sexual violence by the same group.
“The protection of civilians remains a challenge despite the concerted efforts of the Government of DRC and the United Nations to secure vulnerable populations, including through the deployment of a police presence in Luvungi, Walikale territory and the establishment of Community Alert Networks,” said Ms. Wallström.
The Security Council, which received a closed-door briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, on the situation in DRC, today voiced its serious concern over the recent attacks by armed groups in the eastern part of the country, particularly by forces loyal to Mr. Ntaganda, and called for an immediate end to the rebellion.
It reiterated its demand that all armed groups “immediately cease all forms of violence, including sexual violence, and human rights abuses against the civilian population…, lay down their arms and demobilize,” in a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev of Azerbaijan, which holds the rotating Council presidency for this month.
Council members also voiced deep concern over the worsening security and humanitarian situation in eastern DRC, and recalled the need for all crimes, including crimes against women and children, to be expeditiously investigated and for all perpetrators, particularly Mr. Ntaganda, to be brought to justice.