The African Union and the United Nations will move to the next most difficult chapter in trying to find long-term solutions to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after the approval of additional troops there.
Africa Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said Friday the UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon was working on obtaining an amendment to the UN peacekeeping regulations, especially chapter seven, to allow the UN peacekeepers there to use force.
“The UN Secretary-General requested the Security Council to get additional 3,000 soldiers to get the force to the 20,000 level. This request has been accepted. It has also been accepted that there should be use of force, this amendment will not be easy,” Ping said.
He said once an approval for the use of force against the rebels fighting the government forces has been obtained in the Eastern Congo, the AU and the UN would move to the search for long-term solutions to the crisis.
“This will not be easy – getting an amendment of Chapter Seven – to allow the UN Peacekeeping Force (MONUC) to use force against the rebels and tackling the root causes of the conflict but it has to be noted the conflict has been reoccurring for ages,” he added.
African leaders who met in Nairobi mid this month, agreed on the need to change the mandate of the UN peacekeepers in the Congo to protect the civilians from the rebels.
The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) have been battling with National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) in Congo’s eastern province of North Kivu, creating a humanitarian crisis on the ground.
In a statement, African civil society organisations called for a “zero-tolerance position” to be applied on any of the forces in the DRC who violate the ceasefire and continue to violate human rights in the region.
“The suffering has gone too long for the population of North Kivu. The international community must honour its responsibility to protect civilians before the DR C falls back into another general war,” said Roseline Musa, an advocacy officer for African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET).
Ping said the ceasefire obtained through the direct involvement of the AU and other African leaders meeting in Nairobi in mid November was holding and efforts to obtain a relief corridor to allow free movement of assistance were also progressing.
“I think we, as the leaders of the Great Lakes region, have come together in trying to solve this problem. This conflict has important repercussions for the people of the Great Lakes region, that is why our first step was to stop the fighting,” Ping said in an interview.
He said the efforts to ease the humanitarian crisis had also been bolstered by the implementation of a variety of measures, which saw the rebels vacate their strongholds to allow the creation of a humanitarian relief corridor.