The Democratic Republic of Congo has told the United Nations a re-emergence of the M23 rebellion in the east is endangering a deal with the opposition intended to lead to a presidential election this year.
President Joseph Kabila is meant to step down after the election under the agreement, which defused unrest prompted by his failure to step down as his mandate ended in December.
In a letter to the president of the UN Security Council, Congo’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ignace Gata Mavita, detailed a series of M23 incursions that began in November and accelerated last month.
“It goes without saying this situation risks diverting the attention of the government, which would have to devote available financial means to face this war,” he wrote to Sweden’s Olof Skoog, the council’s president for January, in a letter dated January 27 and seen by Reuters.
He said the fiscal strain would imperil the political agreement and “perturb the electoral process itself”.
Lack of money was one reasons ited by Kabila’s government for its failure to hold elections last year as scheduled.
M23 was eastern Congo’s most powerful rebel group until its defeat by Congolese and UN forces in 2013. Many of its fighters fled into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, where they have been kept in camps.
The rebels accuse Kinshasa of dragging its feet on promises to repatriate them under the terms of a peace deal.
The Congolese army this week said M23 fighters captured four of the crew of a crashed military helicopter and three of the crew died after being tortured.
Gata Mavita asked the Security Council to condemn what he said was M23’s violation of the peace agreement. He also asked it to request Rwanda and Uganda facilitate the return of rebels remaining on their territory to Congo for disarmament.
An M23 resurgence could spark wider conflict in a mineral-rich region seen as an ethnic tinderbox straddling national regional borders and which has seen decades of war.
But any delay to this year’s election timetable could also reignite unrest in Kinshasa, where dozens died last year during violent protests against Kabila.
The Catholic bishops who brokered the election agreement said last month it could unravel unless politicians quickly reached compromises on its implementation and the death of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi on Wednesday adds a further element of uncertainty.