Concerns over worsening security situation in North Kivu

The signatories of this statement hereby express our concern regarding the return to war in the territory of Rutshuru in North Kivu, between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the armed group, M23. The on-going violence could possibly revive tensions between ethnic communities in the Kivus as well as have a negative impact on economic development, including on cross-border trade by small traders which sustains hundreds of thousands of persons in the region on both sides of the border.The violence which took place in Goma on Monday 9of July sadly recalls the ethnic conflicts that marked the Kivus in the 1990s. A group of motorcycle taxi drivers, commonly known as “motards” (bikers) controlled the main roads of Goma, chanting hostile slogans against Rwanda and hunting down persons suspected to be Rwandan nationals. Individuals were pulled aside based on their physical appearance and taken to the border between DRC and Rwanda, escorted by the national police. Others were manhandled before being forced to cross the border. The small cross-border traders coming from Gisenyi to trade in Goma, as well as students from Goma are some of the victims of these acts. Despite protestors’ claim that they demand that the DRC Government accounts for the return to war in North Kivu and that they protest against Rwanda supporting the rebel group M23, we condemn these acts of violence and ethnic stigmatisation which not only affect the physical integrity of victims, but also threaten social cohesion in a region where the manipulation of identity issues is a threat to peace and stability. Hence, the signatories of this statement call on local, national and regional civil and military authorities to act responsibly and to give priority to peaceful means in resolving disputes. We call on the people of Goma in particular and the people of the Kivus in general to remain calm and to respect human rights in order to guarantee peace in the Kivus. We ask them to use reason and non-violent methods of asserting their rights. We also encourage Congolese and Rwandan civil society organisations as well as the international community, MONUSCO in particular, to support initiatives aimed at finding a peaceful and lasting solution to this crisis which threatens the peace in the Great Lakes region.Goma, 18 July 2012Signatories: