In December, the situation in the DRC’s North Kivu province worsened, heightening the risk of a direct military confrontation between the two countries, potentially involving Burundi, as stated by Keita, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for the DRC, during a briefing to the Security Council.
Tensions between the DRC and Rwanda are currently at a critical point, with a significant risk of military escalation despite ongoing regional and international efforts to ease tensions, according to Keita. The UN secretary-general’s latest report to the Security Council highlights increased cross-border incidents and mutual accusations of supporting armed groups in eastern DRC.
Rwanda denies the allegations and accuses the DRC of collaborating with the FDLR, a terrorist group responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
In the south of the North Kivu province, security, humanitarian, and human rights conditions have deteriorated due to hostilities between the DRC military and the M23 rebel movement.
At the request of the DRC government, the mandate of the East African Community Force has not been extended beyond Dec. 8 and the force has begun its withdrawal. At the same time, the Southern African Development Community is preparing for the deployment in the coming weeks of a new force in the DRC.
Keita emphasized the importance of continuous investment by the Congolese government in regional, national, and local political processes for conflict resolution in the east, alongside the reform of the Congolese security sector and the implementation of a disarmament and community reintegration program.
The ongoing insecurity has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, with over 6.3 million internally displaced people in the DRC, and more than 500,000 people fleeing their homes since October.
Cholera and measles outbreaks, along with alarming levels of gender-based violence, have further worsened the situation.
Keita urged donors to provide the necessary resources, emphasizing that as of November, the UN humanitarian response plan for the DRC for 2023 remained significantly underfunded.
With the planned drawdown and withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, Keita highlighted the critical juncture in relations between the United Nations and the DRC, particularly in the lead-up to presidential, national, provincial, and local elections.
She stressed the need to consider the complex security, humanitarian, and regional tensions in redefining the partnership between the UN and the DRC.
Keita and DRC Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula signed a Joint Disengagement Plan on Nov. 21, outlining the initiation of the mission’s drawdown by the end of 2023 following extensive consultations between the DRC government and the UN peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO.