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UN Secretary-General Urges Armed Groups in Congo to Lay Down Arms

Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye greets U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ahead of the 11th Summit of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of Addis-Ababa Framework Agreement, in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 6, 2023.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday urged all armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to lay down their weapons, saying their presence was causing "humanitarian tragedies" and threatening regional security.

Guterres was speaking at a meeting of regional leaders in Bujumbura, the commercial capital of Burundi, convened to discuss the security situation in Congo, where armed groups have been blamed for violence and mass displacement of civilians.

Eastern Congo has for years been plagued by widespread violence that has included killings, rapes and mutilations by armed insurgents from various groups, including M23 and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

"The presence of these armed groups... leads to humanitarian tragedies and serious human rights abuses, including sexual violence," Guterres said, adding there were more than 100 armed groups in eastern Congo and that their presence was threatening regional security.

"It is time for the violence to end. I reiterate my call to all armed groups (to) lay down your arms – immediately – and join the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process."

A resurgence of the M23 since November 2021 has displaced at least 500,000 people, Guterres said.

Congo accuses neighboring Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, which are made up of mostly Tutsi ethnic group members from Congo's east.

Rwanda denies the accusation and accuses Congo of persecuting its Tutsi population and fanning ethnic hatred against them.

Guterres also called on political leaders "to end hate speech and incitement to violence."