US lambasts M23, Rwanda for destabilising DRC

752

The United States has criticised the M23 rebels and their Rwandan backers for recent attacks in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Ambassador Robert Wood, Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs, on 20 February told a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation Concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the international community must take immediate steps to end the fighting in the eastern DRC and de-escalate tensions between the DRC and Rwanda.

“Millions of people are already exposed to a grave humanitarian crisis. The scale of displacement, human rights abuses, gender-based violence, and suffering is appalling,” Wood said.

He added that the recent attacks by the UN-sanctioned, Rwanda-backed M23 armed group on Sake and near Goma are “unacceptable. M23 must immediately cease hostilities and withdraw from the area, as it committed to regional leaders that it would do.”

“Rwanda must end its support to M23. It must also withdraw Rwandan forces from Congolese territory and immediately remove any and all of its surface-to-air missile systems, which credible reporting indicates have been responsible for intentionally firing on the aerial assets of MONUSCO.

“The fact that Rwanda, a major troop contributor to UN peacekeeping, would take such hostile action against a UN mission is deeply unsettling and cause for serious evaluation by the international community.

“We also call on the DRC government to ensure necessary deconfliction measures are in place between FARDC air operations and humanitarian delivery efforts in conflict zones. Urgent steps must be taken to reduce the risk of collision in the air and at landing sites so humanitarian actors can safely provide relief to affected communities,” Wood continued.

“The United States has been consistent in denouncing the collaboration between elements of the Congolese armed forces and UN- and US-sanctioned armed actors, including the FDLR. The DRC must immediately cease its support to, and coordination with, the FDLR. We condemn any group that espouses genocide ideology and recognize that the FDLR remains a significant security threat to Rwanda.

“Rwanda and the DRC must renew their commitment to the confidence-building measures agreed in December, return to a ceasefire, and take swift, thorough, and systematic steps to promote accountability for those responsible for human rights abuses in this conflict.

“The United States is ready to provide intelligence and diplomatic resources to assist in the monitoring of any agreed pause in the fighting.”

The growing violence and threats to civilians only raise the stakes for MONUSCO’s disengagement from the DRC, Wood said.

“Rwanda and the DRC must walk back from the brink of war. Parties to the conflict and regional actors should immediately resume the Nairobi and Luanda processes. These regional diplomatic efforts—not military conflict—are the only path toward a negotiated solution and sustainable peace,” Wood concluded.