|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Foreign Minister of Democratic Republic of Congo
A “neutral international force” under the auspices of a strengthened United Nations peacekeeping mission was needed to police the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the latter’s Foreign Minister said at a Headquarters press conference today, as he accused the neighbouring State of providing assistance to a “terrorist” organization in his country.
Recent tensions between the Congolese Government and the armed M23 militia were “reopening wounds which had been healing”, said Raymond Tshibanda N'tungamulongo, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Francophonie Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That country had long suffered from internal conflict, which he said had abated in recent years. However, what had seemed like a “simple mutiny” led by General Bosco Ntaganda — and which had initially been all but put down by Government forces — had recently regrouped and increased its numbers. “We’re in a situation of war, that is clear,” said Mr. Tshibanda N'tungamulongo.
Since mid-May, M23 had been threatening to take over the city of Goma, capital of North Kivu Province, he said. To that end, it had undertaken forced recruitment, including of children, and cut off supply routes into the province, making the prices of food and medicine inaccessible to most residents. The group was also terrorizing the population and committing “untold abuses”, including the rape of women and girls. The situation had resulted in mass displacement from North and South Kivu, both internally and into neighbouring countries, the Minister said.
Moreover, the Congolese Government suspected that neighbouring Rwanda had been providing M23 with assistance in the form of weapons and other supplies, he continued. While Rwanda denied such allegations, “every day there is more evidence that something abnormal is happening”. In recent weeks, for example, several M23 fighters claiming to have been recruited by the militia in Rwanda had approached the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).
Mr. Tshibanda N'tungamulongo said that in response to the recruitment allegations, and to the continued activities of M23 — a “terrorist” group no different from the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), according to the Minister — Heads of State from countries of the Great Lakes region had held several summits on the matter. The Congolese and Rwandan Governments had also met, but had made little progress. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground was worsening, with serious violations of international law, and of the United Nations Charter, being committed.
It was in that context that regional Heads of State had signed a declaration proposing the strengthening of MONUSCO’s mandate to establish the Mission as a “neutral international force” charged with policing the porous border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, and with “neutralizing and eradicating” M23. The proposal had been brought before the Security Council Sanctions Committee on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Tshibanda N'tungamulongo said, calling for universal condemnation of M23 and any party that supported it. Indeed, the United Nations and the international community as a whole must step up to shoulder its responsibility over the situation in the Kivus, he added.
Despite the calls for action, however, “the door of dialogue is always open”, he stressed. “We cannot exist in an endless cycle of rebellion and conflict”.
Asked for further details about the proposed changes to MONUSCO’s mandate, in particular, whether the amendments would necessitate a larger force, the Minister said the size of the force need not change, but it required a more “robust” mandate. There was “an evolution in the right direction” among Security Council members on the matter, he added.
When asked about another armed group in his country, the Mai Mai militia — a correspondent recalled that the United Nations had admitted to flying Government officials to meet with the militia in recent weeks — Mr. Tshibanda N'tungamulongo said “no armed group is authorized to exist”, and that the Government did not, in fact, cooperate with any such group.
* *** *For information media • not an official record