The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday extended for two more years the arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on the armed rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC.
The Council also hinted at additional sanctions targeting the leadership of the M23 rebel group which recently occupied the eastern provincial capital Goma.
In a resolution unanimously adopted, the UNSC extended existing sanctions on rebel groups in the DRC until February 1, 2014. The sanctions were first introduced in 2003 at the end of a brutal civil war that engulfed the vast central African country for five years.
The sanctions comprise an arms embargo against armed groups that are not part of the DRC government's integrated army or police units after the end of the civil war. They also include travel bans and asset freezes against individuals or entities that have violated the embargo or are otherwise designated. The UNSC requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to renew the mandate of the group of experts monitoring these measures until February 1, 2014.
Wednesday's resolution also condemned the M23 soldiers, who mutinied from the DRC national army in April and seized Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, last week after launching a new wave of attacks that uprooted more than 140,000 civilians.
The Council demanded that the M23 and other armed groups "cease immediately all forms of violence and other destabilizing activities" and reiterated its demand for a halt to any outside support to the M23.
A day earlier, the UNSC was briefed in a closed-door session by Chef de Cabinet Susana Malcorra and Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous on the latest developments in eastern DRC.
Malcorra was sent to the region by the U.N. chief last week as his personal emissary to maintain contact and dialogue with key actors. During her visit, Malcorra met Sultani Makenga, head of the M23's military wing, to convey his concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation as well as reported human rights violations.
Malcorra told the Council that she had encouraged the rebel commander to stop the fighting and pursue his objective through political means and lay down arms. Later, Ladsous told reporters that there were "indications" that M23 elements were possibly starting to withdraw from Goma, but such reports still needed to be confirmed.
Earlier, African leaders who attended the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Summit in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Saturday had urged the rebel group to halt its hostile actions and threats to destabilize the DRC government. They also demanded the withdrawal of rebel fighters from Goma as a pre-condition for initiating talks with the DRC government.
The M23 comprises mainly soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April as well as members of a former Congolese Tutsi rebel group which signed a peace accord with the DRC government in 2009. The rebels now insist that the DRC government failed to honor the terms of a 2009 peace deal which promised them army posts.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the DRC, better known by the French acronym MONUSCO, continues to hold its positions in Goma "to protect civilians from imminent threat." The U.N. mission reported earlier on Wednesday that the M23 rebels appeared to be preparing to withdraw from Goma as demanded by the African leaders over the weekend.
MONUSCO, with 19,000 uniformed personnel, is the latest iteration of U.N. peacekeeping missions deployed in DR Congo. U.N. peace-keepers were first sent to DR Congo in 1999 as part of international efforts to end the 1999-2002 civil war and restore peace in the region. The fighting had dragged in six other countries and left more than four million people dead.
Incidentally, a report released by U.N. experts last week had accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23 rebel group. Nevertheless, both the nations have denied the allegation. Notably, M23 rebels as well as members of the Rwandan government are mostly ethnic Tutsis.
by RTT Staff Writer
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