Recognizing that the security and humanitarian situation in the D.R.C. is the most volatile and violent in Africa, the United States of America reiterated today its commitment to helping the D.R.C. and its neighbors end the cycle of violence and instability.
In his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee
in Washington DC, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson reports that an estimated five million people have lost their lives since 1998, and millions more have been uprooted and displaced due to cycle of violence in DRC.
He says the people of North and South Kivu provinces in particular have faced repeated cycles of conflict, atrocities, and displacement, with the current crisis simply being the latest iteration.
“The highest levels of the U.S. Government are committed to helping the D.R.C. and the region achieve a sustainable peace.” – Mr. Carson
Mr. Carson says he traveled to the region last month with my British and French counterparts to press the Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan Governments to work together to stop the crisis and to address the underlying causes of instability.
He cites all three governments reiterated to us their commitment to these shared goals.
In the UN Security Council, they have taken action to ensure that five of the most senior and most abusive M23commanders are now under targeted sanctions, and we have placed those same individuals under U.S. sanctions, he added.
According to Mr. Carson, talks between the D.R.C. Government and the M23 began on December 9 in Kampala, and are being mediated by Uganda as the chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, known as the ICGLR.
He adds that while the sides have yet to begin substantive talks, the current ceasefire is holding and the parties continue to express commitment to a dialogue.
The US government continues to urge the Ugandan Government to ensure that supplies to the M23 do not originate in or transit through Ugandan territory.
Mr. Carson reports that as required by the FY 2012 Appropriations Act, Secretary Clinton suspended Foreign Military Financing, or FMF, to Rwanda in FY 2012 because of its support to the M23.
The Department continues to closely monitor reports of external support, and will continue to respond appropriately, including by reviewing our assistance, to deter this support if it should develops, Mr. Carson highlighted.
He adds that even President Obama spoke with President Kagame and underscored that any support to M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace in the region.
He cites that President Obama emphasized to President Kagame the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the D.R.C., abiding by the recent communications he made in Kampala along with Presidents Kabila and Museveni, and reaching a transparent and credible political agreement that includes an end to impunity for M23 commanders and others who have committed serious human rights abuses.
Mr. Carson underlines that the US government is using all the tools at our disposal to help address and end this crisis.
“We are monitoring humanitarian needs and working to mobilize resources to ensure continued emergency assistance to civilians in need.” – Mr. Carson
The US renews call upon everyone involved in the conflict to maintain the current cease-fire, to permit humanitarian access, and to pursue a sustainable political resolution through honest and meaningful dialogue.
In addition, Mr. Carson says throughout this peacebuilding process, civilian protection is and must remain a priority.
He says the UN peacekeeping mission in the D.R.C., MONUSCO, has come under very heavy scrutiny in recent weeks.
He says while the believe that MONUSCO’s performance has been acceptable given the very difficult circumstances, there is always room for improvement.
“We and our fellow UN Security Council members and troop contributing countries are reviewing the proposals on the table to improve MONUSCO’s capacity to protect civilians and counter armed groups.” – Mr. Carson
He adds that in the meantime, the US remains committed to supporting MONUSCO’s robust implementation of its current mandate.
Mr. Carson pointed out that the primary responsibility for protecting the D.R.C. and the Congolese people rests with the D.R.C. Government itself.
He says the crisis over the past few months has demonstrated to devastating effect the critical need for a professional and capable Congolese army that can protect the country’s citizens.
He underlines that to reach a sustainable peace, the D.R.C. Government must accelerate its efforts towards comprehensive security sector reform.
The US will continue to work with the D.R.C. Government to professionalize its military, including continuing our training to army officers and support to the armed forces’ military justice capacities.
“Along with military reform, the D.R.C. Government must expand governance across the country.” – Mr. Carson
He explains thatt he governance vacuum that exists in parts of the country has allowed armed groups to set up parallel civil administrations and to exploit the population.
Efforts to expand governance must include electoral reform, holding long-delayed provincial and local elections, and strengthening state institutions to provide much needed public services, he added.
“We believe that the time has come for the D.R.C. and the international community to permanently break the cycle of violence and impunity that exists in the region.” – Mr. Carson
He says today’s crisis is a deep tragedy, but it also offers an opportunity to help the D.R.C. and the region to set a more sustainable course toward peace, prosperity, and long-term security.
The US urges the international community, the Great Lakes region, and the Congolese people to demonstrate the resolve to achieve the peace and prosperity that we know lays ahead for the D.R.C.
Earlier this week, responding to the devastating crisis in eastern Congo, the United States of America has unvield its comprehensive response to the crisis in the African country.
First and foremost, the US is monitoring humanitarian needs and mobilizing a response.
The humanitarian situation in the eastern Congo remains deplorable, as it has been for years, with more than two million Congolese currently displaced internally or to neighboring countries.
The United States provided more than $110 million in humanitarian assistance for Congolese refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict-affected civilians in Fiscal Year 2012, including a $5 million supplemental contribution for the increased needs in the D.R.C., Uganda, and Rwanda as a result of displacements caused by the M23 rebellion.
At the UN, the US also has urged donors to respond to the UN’s consolidated appeal for the D.R.C.
Second, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, or ICGLR, the African Union, and the Security Council have all demanded that the M23 refrain from further offensives and stay out of Goma.
The US renews call on the D.R.C., neighboring governments, and the broader international community to ensure accountability for M23 leaders who have committed serious human rights abuses.
Third, the US believes that Presidents Kabila, Kagame, and Museveni must continue to engage in direct talks to address the underlying causes of instability in the region.
The US encourages the UN Secretary-General to appoint a UN Special Envoy to engage on a sustained basis to facilitate ongoing discussions toward a long-term solution of these long-standing problems.
The US and Security Council members and troop contributing countries are reviewing options for improving the UN’s ability to protect civilians and help implement defined aspects of a potential regional political settlement.
The United States is strongly encouraging its partners to ensure these efforts are coordinated with, and perhaps even integrated into, UN peacekeeping efforts.
The US government is urging President Kabila to undertake a credible effort to professionalize and reform the Congolese security forces. ]
The US government is making clear that the Congolese Government must accelerate its efforts to deploy and strengthen state institutions and provide needed public services in the Kivus.
The US believes that the time has come for the region’s leaders and the international community to break the cycle of violence and impunity in the region.
Violence has once again plagued the eastern part Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where armed groups have targeted civilians in the area.
Massacres of civilians have made headlined beginning early in August.
According to UN, the deterioration of the overall security situation in North Kivu following the M23 mutiny and related ruthless attacks against civilians is extremely alarming.
The M23 has clashed with national army troops and peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), which has caused massive displacement of local residents.
The M23’s activities have led to condemnation from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Security Council as well.
According to UN, more than 45 attacks on some 30 villages and towns in the Ufamandu I and II areas, in Masisi territory, in North Kivu province since May this year.
In May this year, fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, dissident groups and militia, causing new inflows of refugees enter Rwanda and Uganda.
Reports say 30,000 refugees have arrived in Uganda this month. In addition, Uganda was already host to 175,127 refugees, including 97,424 from DRC.
According to UNHCR, more than 8,200 refugees have crossed from DRC into Rwanda since 27 April. These are in addition to the 55,000 Congolese refugees that Rwanda is already hosting.
The conflict was coupled with very limited access for humanitarian workers means that many thousands of people are without protection and help.
There were an estimated 1.7 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as of July 2011, the vast majority of them in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu. This included over 128,000 people newly displaced in the first quarter of 2011.
A peace agreement in 2003 formally brought years of war to a close, but fighting flared again in North Kivu that same year. An estimated 1.3 million IDPs remain in the DRC, while 350,000 Congolese have fled to other countries.