Dr. Denis Mukwege Addresses UN Security Council on Crisis in Eastern DRC

Denis Mukwege

In an open letter dated March 5, 2024, Dr. Denis Mukwege, the esteemed 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has directed a compelling plea to the Member States of the United Nations Security Council concerning the dire security and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Dr. Mukwege’s letter sheds light on the grave situation since November 2021, marked by the resurgence of the M23 armed group and its alleged support from the Rwandan military, a situation that is thoroughly documented by the United Nations Group of Experts.

The conflict, predominantly concentrated in North Kivu Province, has been characterized as a violation of DRC’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, contravening the core principles of the United Nations Charter. This situation not only poses a risk of further destabilization in the African Great Lakes sub-region but is also marked by severe human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. These transgressions include, but are not limited to, the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, and targeted attacks against United Nations personnel and assets.

With over 7 million internally displaced persons, a figure that predominantly includes women and children living in dire conditions, the crisis represents one of the most neglected humanitarian emergencies globally. The situation has been exacerbated by the potential phased withdrawal of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), with a plan for gradual disengagement commencing in South Kivu Province. This plan follows United Nations Security Council Resolution 2717, aiming for a systematic and orderly transition of responsibilities to Congolese authorities by December 20, 2024.

Dr. Mukwege underscores the vital need for a reevaluation of MONUSCO’s disengagement strategy, urging for a responsible and sustainable withdrawal that ensures the establishment of a secure, professional, and accountable Congolese state apparatus, particularly in the realms of security and justice. He emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive approach that interlinks conflict prevention, transitional justice, and peace-building efforts, arguing that the current conditions are not yet conducive to a complete transfer of responsibilities.

The letter calls for immediate and decisive actions to curb the support for the M23 from external forces, notably urging Rwanda to cease its involvement and withdraw its forces from Congolese territory. Dr. Mukwege appeals for the international community, especially the UN Security Council, to adopt robust sanctions against those fueling the conflict and to reinvigorate efforts towards de-escalation, justice, and respect for international law in the region.

Dr. Mukwege’s message is a clarion call for renewed commitment and political will to address the complex challenges facing the DRC, emphasizing the urgency to prevent a further escalation of the crisis. It is a poignant reminder of the international community’s responsibility to uphold peace, security, and human rights, urging immediate action to avert a deepening of the humanitarian tragedy in the heart of Africa.