THE eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo is again on the brink of a major conflict, a senior United Nations official warned yesterday.
Roger Meece, head of the UN mission in Congo, urged the Security Council to approve plans for a peace enforcement unit within the existing peacekeeping mission to combat armed rebels in the resource-rich area.
Such a move would be an innovation for the UN but, Mr Meece told the council, it was “an urgently needed and important response to the existing situation on the ground”.
Peace enforcement missions allow the use of lethal force in serious combat situations, while peacekeeping operations are intended to support and monitor an existing ceasefire.
The Congolese government has reached an uneasy truce in eastern Congo with M23 rebels, and Uganda is now hosting peace talks, but Mr Meece warned of “increased fears and rumours in the area of an imminent resumption of large-scale military actions”.
“The overall situation is volatile and precarious, and could break down at any time into large-scale conflict without much, if any, prior warning,” he said. “Our forces and resources are stretched very thin over a broad area [while] the M23 forces maintain an appearance of being well supplied, well provisioned, and well armed.”
Mr Meece said that the rebels continued to recruit “new combatants, including through the use of force and widespread recruitment of minors”.
M23 began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honour a 23 March 2009 peace deal.