Eastern DRC a remains tinderbox

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Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a tinderbox with the United Nations (UN) reporting at least 131 civilian deaths from M23 rebel attacks in late November.

The attacks were on Kishishe and Bambo villages in Rutshuru territory of North Kivu.

Preliminary investigation by MONUSCO has 17 women and 12 children in the fatality list with a further eight children among those wounded.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres via spokesman Stéphane Dujarric expressed condolences to the families of victims and wished a swift recovery to those injured or wounded.  He welcomed the Congolese authorities’ decision to investigate the incidents with a view to bringing those responsible to justice. The UN Joint Human Rights Office of MONUSCO will support Congolese authorities in these efforts.

Guterres urged M23 and other armed groups to immediately cease hostilities and disarm unconditionally. He wants all parties to facilitate humanitarian access to affected populations and ensure protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law.

At the same time Bintou Keita, Guterres’ special representative in DRC and MONUSCO, said the security situation in DRC has “deteriorated dramatically”.

Since October, M23 resumed hostilities and extended its control over Rutshuru territory.  MONUSCO continued to provide operational, logistical and tactical support to the DRC armed forces and the Congolese National Police in their efforts to confront armed groups in the east, also setting up additional community alert networks in areas vulnerable to M23 attacks in Rutshuru and Masisi territories.  Reports of atrocities and other crimes committed by M23 and other armed groups are “gravely concerning”, she said adding with an exacerbated humanitarian crisis the outcome of the attack and atrocities, the country has the highest number of internally displaced persons anywhere in Africa.