The United States strongly condemns the resumption of fighting by the March 23 Movement armed group, or M23, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a written statement, “The resumption of hostilities since October 20 has caused significant human suffering, including deaths and injuries among civilians and significant numbers of newly displaced persons. The United States calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.”
M23 is a militant group operating in eastern DRC, made up of rebels who defected from the DRC’s armed forces. There are credible reports it is supported by the government of Rwanda. The M23 and some of its leaders, including Sultani Makenga, have been sanctioned by the United States and the United Nations for horrific attacks on civilians.
M23 fighters recently seized multiple towns and two major roads in the DRC’s North Kivu province. At least 20 civilians were killed, at least 50 were injured, and six peacekeepers from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or MONUSCO, were injured. The offensive has displaced an estimated 475,000 people since October 20, with another 200,000 unable to leave occupied areas.
The United States calls for M23 “to withdraw from its positions, disarm, and rejoin the in preparation for disarmament, demobilization, and community reintegration offered by the Government of the DRC,” said State Department Spokesperson Price.
At a Security Council briefing, Ambassador Robert Wood, U.S. Alternative Representative for Special Affairs, called on Rwanda to cease its support for the M23 and noted that MONUSCO remains critical to bringing peace to eastern DRC and the broader region. “It serves an important purpose …: protecting civilians, disrupting illicit networks, and helping stabilize governance and security institutions,” he said.
Ambassador Wood emphasized achieving peace is “contingent upon a political process, political will, and political solutions. To that end,” he said, “the United States announced in September an additional $13 million in funding to support a transparent electoral process in the DRC. … Strengthening democratic institutions, bringing justice to victims, holding bad actors to account, respecting states’ territorial sovereignty and integrity, and prioritizing civilians will help bring peace to the Great Lakes. The people of the region deserve nothing less.”