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UN Alarmed by Militias' Resurgence in DRC

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - Head of the U.N. mission in the DRC, Roger Meece, November 28 2011.
The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of Congo warns that resurgent militia activity in some eastern parts of the country is threatening civilian populations.

The head of the U.N. mission in the DRC, Roger Meece, told the Security Council on Friday there have been “worrisome security developments,” particularly in northern Katanga province, where Mai-Mai militia leader Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga, known as Gédéon, escaped during a mass prison break in September 2011. Gédéon is under a death sentence dating back to 2009 for his role in the long-running conflict in the eastern Congo.

“The situation has now reached alarming proportions, affecting a growing geographic region and already producing a major humanitarian crisis, with OCHA [the U.N. Office of Humanitarian Affairs] now estimating there are 316,000 displaced persons in Katanga because of Gédéon-related military activity. This number is growing," said Meece.

Meece said the U.N. Mission, known as MONUSCO, has a very limited presence in this area and he fears the situation is likely to deteriorate further in the coming weeks. He also cited as a disturbing development the occupation of a town in Maniema province by a faction from another militia, the Rayi Mutumboki about a week ago.

“This [town] is a considerable distance from what has been their area of operations in South Kivu province, representing another expansion of the reach of militia activity and violence, and again beyond the area of any MONUSCO presence," he said.

Meece said Congolese armed forces counterattacked the militants and drove them out of the town, but only as far as another town in the same province that is under the group’s control.

He also said there are continuing tensions in parts of the DRC's Equateur province, where significant numbers of refugees have arrived after fleeing unrest in the Central African Republic.

The U.N. Security Council will soon start discussions on modifying MONUSCO’s mandate, including adding a “peace-enforcing” capacity, which would consist of a special brigade of peacekeepers equipped to target, neutralize and disarm militias. The U.N. is also planning to deploy three unarmed drones over eastern Congo to help monitor the movements and activities of armed groups in a bid to stop the violence.