22 May 2012
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY Special Representative for Democratic Republic of the Congo

The security situation in North and South Kivu remained generally volatile and with several armed groups operating in the region, continued fighting had resulted in significant displacement of civilians, both within Congo and across the border into Rwanda and Uganda, Roger Meece, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo said.

Addressing a Headquarters press conference via video link from Kinshasa today, Mr. Meece said the fighting had produced an opportunity for armed groups operating in the Kivus — Mai-Mai Cheka, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group known as “Raia Mutomboki” in South Kivu province and others — to capitalize on the prevailing state of insecurity in pursuit of their own interests.

Reviewing the general security situation in the east, particularly in north Kivu province, Mr. Meece said the present situation had its genesis in early April with a mutiny of troops by fugitive Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda.  The troops were ostensibly integrated into the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, FARDC, although many, including Mr. Ntaganda himself, had never fully accepted central government authority.  The mutiny was believed to have been provoked by fear that the net was closing in on Mr. Ntaganda.

(Mr. Ntaganda was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2006 in connection with war crimes committed in the country in 2002 and 2003). 

Mr. Meece explained the mutiny started by Mr. Ntaganda did not get the kind of numbers he was looking for to support his aims.  Also, his capacity had been reduced by swift and firm Congolese reaction, both by the imposition of military pressure on him and his forces, and the effective action taken to induce a large number of troops that had defected with him back to their positions in FARDC.

Nonetheless, Mr. Ntaganda did have significant support and, thus, posed a threat to the area, Mr. Meece said.  However, FARDC successfully moved his forces out of their base in North Kivu, pushing him and his troops to the northeast of the Runga Park and the area south of Rutshuru.

At about the same time, said Mr. Meece, an apparently rival mutinous group — the “M23” — was established under the leadership of Sultani Makenga, another senior officer and rival of Mr. Ntaganda, who might have been making a bid to replace him as the de facto head of the faction that he had been leading for some time.  The result was concentrated fighting with mutinous forces now centred in a pocket adjacent to the town of Bunagana, overlapping with the northern part of Virunga Park and on the Ugandan-Rwandan border with Congo.

He said the principle force concentrated there was under Mr. Makenga’s command, likely in affiliation with some other senior commanders who had deserted their posts with Mr. Ntaganda.  Although there were conflicting reports of Mr. Ntaganda’s present location and the size of his forces, he was believed to be within a 100 square kilometre pocket of confinement.  “The total size of the mutinous forces in that region is now difficult to estimate, but it is safe to say that they are in the hundreds,” Mr. Meece said, adding that a substantially larger FARDC force had basically encircled that area and, thus, put military pressure on the rebel forces.  With their heavier weapons, the Congolese armed forces were continuing to apply pressure.

Mr. Meece noted that, throughout, forces of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) had been actively engaged, including in the protection of vulnerable areas.  “We are working to protect civilians throughout the region where there is fighting going on,” he added.  Further, the Mission was working to facilitate as much humanitarian access to those in need as possible, which was problematic with fighting going on.

The Mission was also maintaining close contacts with FARDC and Congolese authorities regarding the immediate area of the fighting, he said.  It had also had taken measures to protect the town of Bunagana, following concern that the mutinous forces might attempt a strike to gain control of that town.  MONUSCO had now established a presence there and was confident that, barring an unforeseen event, the mutinous forces would be unable to seize full control of the town.

In answer to a question, he said he did not believe any of the mutinous forces posed a direct security threat to neighbouring countries — Uganda or Rwanda, and that none of the current fighting was taking place in the vicinity of Burundi.  However, there was always a concern in the area of fighting, including because that caused displacement of civilians, some of whom had crossed the borders and, thus, had the status of refugees in Uganda and Rwanda.  That posed a concern for those Governments, as well as United Nations agencies.  At the same time, he noted that armed groups from Uganda and Rwanda continued to operate in the Kivus.

To another question, Mr. Meece said he did not believe there was any link between the hunt for Uganda’s Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army and the hunt for Mr. Ntaganda, or the impact of one on the other.  Collaboration with the African Union in that effort was still awaited.  There was currently a full sharing of information and coordination between MONUSCO, other United Nations missions, and authorities in the region, including in Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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For information media • not an official record