Eastern DR Congo violence is an EU concern

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The military build-up and use of advanced surface-to-air missiles and drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) by M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are causes for extreme concern according to European Union (EU) High Representative Josep Borrell.

He points out Goma, the North Kivu capital, and Sake 23 km away as areas where escalating violence is worsening the humanitarian situation, adding the crisis can only be solved politically. “This must be reached through an inclusive dialogue between DRC and Rwanda to address the root causes of conflict, aimed at implementing decisions taken within the regional peace initiatives and ensuring the respect of the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of all the countries in the region. Existing roadmaps must be implemented; existing verification mechanisms must be reactivated,” his statement reads.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has set up a regional mission and force known as SAMIDRC for, at this stage, a year-long deployment to the eastern DRC in the wake of an East African Community (EAC) regional force withdrawal. The United Nations (UN) mission in DRC – MONUSCO – has started withdrawing and is set to exit the troubled central African country by year-end.

Speaking for the European bloc, Borrell condemned offensives by the Rwanda-based M23 group as well as those executed by “other armed groups in eastern DRC”.

“These groups must cease all hostilities, withdraw from the areas they occupy and disarm in accordance with decisions taken within the Luanda and Nairobi processes.

“The EU underscores the obligation for all states to stop any support to these armed groups. In particular the EU condemns Rwanda’s support for M23 and military presence on Congolese territory.

“It strongly urges Rwanda to immediately withdraw all its military personnel from the DRC as well as to terminate all support to and co-operation with M23. It strongly urges the DRC and all regional players to terminate all support and co-operation with the FDLR (Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda), who have their roots in the genocide against the Tutsi.”

In closing, Borrell’s statement makes clear the European bloc is committed to support peace, stabilisation and sustainable development of eastern DRC and the region as a whole. This included addressing the root causes of insecurity and regional instability, listing them as poor governance, corruption, lack of inclusive institution, entrenched impunity, abuse of power and “violent competition for access to and control of land” and using illicit networks to traffic natural resources.