The fight, in 10 days, has seen multiple civilians killed, and “massive displacement.”
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has expressed deep concern over the increase in the fight between government troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the 23 March Movement (M23) rebels in the east.
The fight, in 10 days, has seen multiple civilians killed, “massive displacement” and four peacekeepers from the UN Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) injured.
Mr Guterres, in a statement by his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, on Monday stated that two UN peacekeepers were injured by mortar fire.
He said two others were injured by small arms during attacks by M23 on Saturday on one of the reportedly captured towns, Kiwanja in North Kivu, while carrying out their protection mandate.
MONUSCO recalls that attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes and that it will spare .no effort to prosecute those responsible before national and/or international courts,” said the statement. “The Mission strongly condemns the hostile actions of the M23 and their serious consequences on the civilian populations.
It added, “It calls on this rebel group to immediately cease all belligerence and warns that it stands ready to retaliate vigorously in the event of new aggression on its bases.”
The UN chief had spoken with the President of Angola, João Lourenço, DRC President, Félix Tshisekedi, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, the President of Kenya, William Ruto, and the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, as chairman of the African Union, the statement disclosed.
Over the weekend, according to news reports, the DRC ordered the Rwandan ambassador to leave the country within 48 hours, after accusing Kigali once again of supporting the M23 rebels, a claim which has been repeatedly denied by Rwanda.
The secretary-general called for the immediate de-escalation and reiterated the full support of the UN for the ongoing mediation.
Mr Guterres urged the M23 and other armed groups to immediately cease hostilities and to disarm unconditionally and called for the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The UN chief further called on all parties to facilitate humanitarian access across eastern DRC, “and to ensure the project of civilians and respect for i.nternational humanitarian law.”