A ceasefire between the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) rebel group and the Congolese army has come into effect today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, DR Congo). The truce in the eastern part of the country was agreed and announced on Friday after talks between the armed group and Angolan President and African Union mediator João Lourenço.
According to United Nations (UN) sources, fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group continued today in North Kivu province despite the ceasefire. Clashes were also reported Monday in parts of Rutshuru and Masisi territories, and in the town of Sake.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the truce agreement on Monday and urged the M23 to respect the ceasefire in order to create conditions for its full and effective withdrawal from all occupied areas in eastern DRC.
Eastern DRC is home to multiple armed groups, including the rebel M23 force. A dramatic resurgence of clashes between the armed group and the Armed Forces of the DR Congo (FARDC) began in March 2022. The humanitarian situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has drastically deteriorated due to the escalation of the conflict in the North Kivu province.
The ceasefire was due to take effect at noon on Tuesday (10 am GMT). A previous truce in November that was agreed upon at a November 23 summit in Luanda, Angola did not hold. According to the United Nations, the ceasefire beginning on Tuesday is in compliance with the decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council on February 17 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Through his spokesman, Mr. Guterres also condemned all violence against civilians and renewed his call on all Congolese and foreign armed groups to lay down their weapons and disarm unconditionally. He urged all parties to the conflict in the DR Congo to ensure an immediate and unfettered humanitarian access to the affected population and to ensure protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law. The Secretary-General also called on all actors to refrain from hate speech and incitement to violence.
In a related development, the European Union (EU) announced on Saturday that it would set up a “humanitarian aid bridge” to deliver aid to eastern DR Congo. The operation, conducted with the support of France, will deliver humanitarian support to Goma in the form of medical and food supplies along with a range of other emergency items, in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other humanitarian partner organizations.
In 2022 and early 2023, attacks by non-state armed groups in the eastern DRC have killed hundreds of civilians and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in search of safety. In the eastern North Kivu province fighting between the M23 and Congolese government troops has displaced some 600,000 people since March 2022. About 240,000 women, men and children are reportedly living in makeshift shelters on the outskirts of Goma.
Ruanda has long been accused of supporting the M23 rebel group. A report by a group of independent United Nations (UN) experts - mandated by the UN Sanctions Committee on the DR Congo - found strong evidence that Ruanda supported the M23, among others by supplying weapons, ammunition and uniforms. The international community has firmly urged Rwanda to stop supporting the M23 armed group in the North Kivu province.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is facing one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world, and the situation in the country is one of the most neglected displacement crises globally. For decades, the country has endured multiple, overlapping emergencies driven mainly by conflict and forced displacement. The UN estimates that 26.4 million require humanitarian assistance in the country this year.
With 7.1 million forcibly displaced people, the DR Congo has more displacement than any other country in Africa. Some 6.1 million people are internally displaced within the country, mainly in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, while 1 million refugees and asylum seekers from DRC are hosted in neighboring countries.
Full text: Secretary-General Welcomes Regional Engagement, Ceasefire Announcement in Democratic Republic of the Congo, statement issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, March 6, 2023
Full text: EU mobilises over €47 million and launches Humanitarian Air Bridge to help people affected by the conflict in DRC, European Commission press release, published March 4, 2023