UN demonstrates presence in DRC as rebels threaten | Africa | DW | 02.05.2013
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UN demonstrates presence in DRC as rebels threaten

The UN is sharpening its focus on the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the arrival of a new UN brigade which rebels say they will fight.

Two key UN officials have paid visits there in less than a month.
On her arrival in Goma, capital of North Kivu province, the new UN Special Envoy for Africa's Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, did not mince words.

"I am shocked to see thousands of people displaced, women raped, in sum the massive violations of human rights in North Kivu which are continuing, " she said.

Robinson began her trip to the DRC in the capital, Kinshasa.

She is leading political efforts to bring an end to more than two decades of conflict in the eastern DRC and has vowed to help build the trust needed for a recent regional peace agreement to work.

Robinson welcomed

Under the framework agreement signed in Addis Ababa on February 24, 11 African heads of state from the Great Lakes region vowed not to interfere in the affairs of their neighbors. DRC President Joseph Kabila promised democratic advances and improved security.

M23 rebels withdraw from the Masisi and Sake areas in the eastern Congo town of Sake, some 27 kms west of Goma, Friday Nov. 30, 2012. Rebels in Congo believed to be backed by Rwanda postponed their departure Friday from the key eastern city of Goma by 48 hours for “logistical reasons,” defying for a second time an ultimatum set by neighboring African countries and backed by Western diplomats. The delay raises the possibility that the M23 rebels don’t intend to leave the city they seized last week, giving credence to a United Nations Group of Experts report which argues that neighboring Rwanda is using the rebels as a proxy to annex territory in mineral-rich eastern Congo.(Foto:Jerome Delay/AP/dapd).

M23 rebels left Goma on 1 December 2012 after occupying the city for ten days

The eastern DRC, which is rich in minerals, has been a haven for armed groups who have left a trail of bloodshed and killing in their wake and raped tens of thousands of women. 

Violence surged again last May when DRC government forces began fighting the M23 rebel group, formed by army mutineers.

DW's correspondent in Goma Jack Kahorha said local residents were happy to welcome Robinson to Goma  "because they say they have never seen someone -  a woman - who arrives at the center of things where people need her."

New UN brigade

The latest rebellion has prompted the UN to send a 3,000 strong intervention force to augment its existing 17,000 strong UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).

The new brigade, set to arrive in the coming months, will have a more robust mandate than previous peacekeepers in the region and for the first time will be allowed to pursue armed groups.

The M23 rebels, who briefly occupied Goma in 2012, say they are getting ready to fight the new arrivals.

Stanislas Baleke, an official with M23's political branch told the AP news agency "we are waiting for the brigade: we are ready. Our men are on maximum alert."

Kahorha says civil society representatives in Goma are reporting that M23 is deploying and "the situation is precarious."

New Central African Republic leader Michel Djotodia speaks on Republic Plaza in Bangui on March 30, 2013 . The Central African Republic's new strongman Michel Djotodia vowed Saturday not to contest 2016 polls and hand over power at the end of the three-year transition he declared after his coup a week ago. AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU (Photo credit should read SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images)

After Michael Djotodia siezed power in the CAR, thousands of refugees fled to neighboring DRC

Robinson says the intervention brigade must play a role of deterrent rather than a military solution. "The real focus is on the framework for a political solution," she said.

Coup in CAR sends rebels into DRC

The Special Envoy for the Great Lakes was the second top UN official to visit the region in less than a month.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, met some of the thousands of displaced persons from the Central African Republic (CAR) who had fled to the DRC after rebels had seized power in their home country.

Guterres spoke to the refugees in Zongo, a town which lies inside the DRC just across the border with CAR.

The UNHCR said on its website on Tuesday (30.04.2013) that the recent months of fighting in the CAR had displaced 173,000 people internally and sent almost 50,000 fleeing to neighboring countries – including 37,000 to the DRC.

Kahorha says the high level of UN interest in the region is explained by the imminent arrival of the intervention brigade. "They will be coming with guns not with flowers, so the clashes may start at any time and this will really cause the movement of people, so it is quite normal that international authorities take an interest in this region," he added.

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