Concerned at the worsening situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where fighting has escalated between Government and renegade forces, the Security Council today demanded that all rebel groups lay down their arms and immediately stop recruiting children.
Tens of thousands of people are on the move again in the province of North Kivu, where Government forces (FARDC) are clashing with troops loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda resulting in some of the worst fighting since the DRC civil war formally ended in 2003.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that since August, some 170,000 people have been forced out of their homes in North Kivu by the fighting. Over the last year, a mix of conflict, military build-up and spiralling lawlessness has displaced 400,000 people in the province.
In addition, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (known by its French acronym MONUC) reported recently that many of the estimated 8,500 former child soldiers who have been rescued by the UN and other humanitarian organizations since 2004 have been re-recruited in the last few months or used as sex slaves.
The Council urged the Government to address the crisis "in a comprehensive way," in a resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-member body that also extended the mandate of MONUC until 31 December 2008 with troop strength of up to 17,030 military personnel 760 military observers, 391 police personnel and 6 formed police units.
More than 4,500 blue helmets serving with MONUC have been deployed to North Kivu in recent weeks to help ensure the defence of Goma, the provincial capital, and the key town of SakÚ.
The Council requested MONUC "to attach the highest priority to addressing the crisis in the Kivus in all its dimensions, in particular through the protection of civilians."
In addition, it asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report by next March on how MONUC could further support FARDC or take other measures in dealing with illegal foreign and Congolese armed forces.