The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) told the Security Council today that there have been significant improvements in security in the central African country, but many challenges remain before stability is restored in conflict-affected areas.
“There has been significant progress regarding the security situation in recent years in eastern DRC,” said Roger Meece, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), in a briefing to the Council, UN News Service reports.
“The security environment and the related threat to the civilian population, our highest priority concern, must be viewed on a localized basis to obtain a full understanding of the remaining threats,” he added.
In the country’s Orientale province in the north, members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continue to threaten civilians using brutal tactics during cross-border movements between the DRC, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Southern Sudan. Their numbers have, however, fallen and they have tended to be poorly equipped, Mr. Meece told the Council.
“I believe the only strategy that will significantly reduce or eliminate the LRA as an ongoing threat in the region is one that focuses on the LRA leadership, three of whom are under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC). That strategy, however, requires a broad effort that goes beyond MONUSCO’s scope and mandate, but which we are ready to support to the maximum extent possible,” he said.
In the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, Mr. Meece said the Rwandan rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), has been weakened, a development that has led to encouraging numbers of combatants, some of them senior figures in the group, being repatriated.
Former rebel fighters who have not been integrated into the DRC’s national army also continue to pose a threat to civilians in the two Kivu provinces, Mr. Meece told the Council, adding the MONUSCO was in dialogue with the Government to address the issue.
He noted that MONUSCO’s military operations are being negatively affected by a shortage of helicopters and voiced appreciation for South Africa’s pledge to provide additional choppers. The mission is in discussions with other Member States in an effort to acquire more helicopters, he added.
On the illegal exploitation of mineral resources in the east, Mr. Meece said MONUSCO and the Government are continuing with their “Trading Centres” programme that involves establishing areas where such minerals can be certified as originating from legitimate mining.
“For tackling illegal exploitation of mineral resources, as with all regional security issues, the greatly improved dialogue and ongoing contacts between countries of the region are of critical importance,” Mr. Meece told the Council.
On the preparations for the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November, he said that MONUSCO has been supporting the process, transporting thousands of tons of poll materials and providing other forms of technical support. He said the mission will need additional funding for its electoral support activities.
“I know of no reason at this point why Congolese elections for the next election cycle cannot represent the kind of democratic and successful exercise that the Congolese nation and the people both deserve and need, and I would call on all parties to take the necessary steps to ensure that the upcoming elections are conducted in a peaceful democratic and successful manner. I strongly urge this Council’s continued support for the process, and for MONUSCO’s essential support,” he said.
Mr. Meece called for further support to strengthen the capacity of the Congolese national police, as well as the country’s judicial and military institutions.
DRC’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ileka Atoki, told the Council that his country was taking measures, both military and non-military, to re-establish security in the entire country and to ensure good governance, while strengthening the rule of law and economic development.