By Catherine Ageno
The UN Secretary-General has urged leaders of the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to respect a ceasefire agreement due to come into effect on Tuesday.
In a statement released by his spokesperson, António Guterres welcomes the international and regional efforts which took place last week, led by the President of Angola and African Union (AU) Champion for Peace and Reconciliation, João Lourenço, with the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23).
Guterres also urges all parties involved in fighting to ensure “immediate and unfettered humanitarian access to the affected population”, ensuring that civilians are protected, paying respect to international humanitarian law.
He also calls on all actors to refrain from hate speech and incitement to violence.
The Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN’s support for the peace process which continues in the Angolan and Kenyan capitals, through his Special Representative in the DRC, and his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region.
He added that the UN stands ready “to step up efforts to bring about peace and security” in the restive eastern DRC region.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed during years of violence at the hands of armed groups, including women and children.
More than 600,000 have reportedly been displaced in eastern North Kivu, amidst a territorial advance in recent months by M23 and other groups.
A ceasefire was announced last Friday, in compliance with the decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council on 17 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.