Eastern DRC remains flashpoint

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A weekend attempt to shoot down a South African military transport helicopter in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a further example of what the senior United Nations (UN) representative in the country called “a dramatic deterioration” in security.

The words were used by MONUSCO head and UN Special Representative to DRC, Bintou Keita, when addressing the Security Council (SC) in December.

A weekend East African Community (EAC) heads of state summit in Bujumbura, Burundi, was informed the security situation in eastern DRC is a regional issue which “can only be resolved through a political process”. It pointed out “enhanced dialogue” among all involved was essential.

Seven heads of state or their representatives at the summit called for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all foreign armed groups “accompanied by dialogue”.

Additionally, the EAC summit directed all countries contributing troops to DRC to deploy manpower to the East African Regional Force. The deployment, according to an EAC communique, should include South Sudanese and Ugandan troops.

The eastern DRC ceasefire call was noted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a statement on the death of an SA Air Force (SAAF) flight engineer at the weekend. He noted Kinshasa “accused” Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel group, a charge “categorically denied” by Kigali.

The UN statement has it M23 seized “many areas” of North Kivu and is “threatening” to advance on the provincial capital Goma. Over half a million people have reportedly been displaced by fighting in the province in the last 11 months.