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January 13, 2014

UN Still Concerned About Armed Groups in Eastern Congo

by Margaret Besheer

The U.N.’s top envoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo warned Monday that despite progress, the presence of armed groups in the country's east is still too strong.

U.N. envoy Martin Kobler said the momentum must be kept up against M23 and other rebel groups in eastern Congo.

In a briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Kobler said the international community should not tolerate any military reemergence of the M23.

“There are credible reports that the military recruitment of the M23 did not cease after the Nairobi declarations.  There are also credible reports of emerging M23 activities in Ituri in northeastern Congo,” he said.

Last month in Nairobi, M23 leaders signed a peace deal with the Congolese government that formally ended their rebellion.

Kobler cautioned that the Rwandan Hutu group FDLR, and the Islamist Ugandan group, Allied Democratic Forces - or ADF -- also posed a serious threat to Congolese civilians.

“The ADF still terrorizes civilians in Ituri, northeastern Congo.  For example, on 13 December, in an ADF-controlled area, 21 bodies, including the bodies of eight babies, very young children and pregnant women were found dead, mutilated and some beheaded,” he said.

Regarding the FDLR, he said military pressure must be applied so their fighters have no choice but to come out of the bush and surrender.

The envoy noted that some 8,000 combatants from various Congolese armed groups have surrendered and need to be quickly reintegrated into society.

Kobler summed up the position of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in the DRC.

“We are not in the DRC to react, but to act; we are not there to deter but to prevent; and we do not only keep the peace, we must make peace a long-term reality,” he said.

Kobler said the mission, known by its acronym MONUSCO, was finalizing a review of where its more than 21,000 troops and police were deployed across the fragile, conflict areas of the eastern Congo, in order to make the force more flexible and ready to deploy quickly when and where it was needed.

The mission has also begun using unarmed drones for surveillance.

Kobler praised the Congolese army, saying it has become more effective and operational, its discipline improved and the chain of command streamlined.  The force is also better equipped and more regularly paid.  He said all of these factors had been crucial to the military success against the M23.