The UN issued a statement on Saturday calling for attacks on civilians by multiple armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC to “immediately cease”.

Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the UN was “concerned over the deteriorating security situation…and the increase of attacks against civilians by the Cooperative for Development of the Congo, CODECO and the M23 as well as the on-going presence of other foreign armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces, ADF, Red Tabara and the Forces Démocratique pour la libération de Rwanda (FDLR), which continue to pose a threat to regional stability.”

The FDLR is a largely Rwandan Hutu armed group operating inside DRC, some of whose members took part in the 1994 genocide, and Rwanda has reportedly alleged that the Congolese army has been collaborating with it, on the border area.

The violence must end, he said, urging armed militants to begin participating “unconditionally” in the Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program (P-DDRCS), and called on “foreign armed groups to immediately disarm and return to their countries of origin.”

We reaffirm our strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the DRC and strongly condemn the use of proxies”, Mr Dujarric added.

The increase in attacks across the volatile region was the focus of a Security Council meeting at the end of last month. The brutal M23 rebel group – which began as a renegade force of army mutineers in 2012 committing many atrocities and war crimes – have launched their biggest offensive against government forces in a decade, according to news reports.

Assistant Secretary-General for political affairs and peace operations, Martha Pobee, said it was “imperative” for the Council to throw its full weight behind efforts to defuse the uptick in violence, in particular by the M23 group, which has seen thousands displaced, many fleeing across the border to Uganda.

“We welcome and support ongoing national and regional political efforts to accompany the disarmament of armed groups, including by President Félix Tshisekedi of the DRC and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya through the Nairobi process”, said Mr Dujarric.

He stressed that the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, MONUSCO was also working closely with the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, to promote non-military measures for the disarmament of foreign armed groups.

The Spokesperson also welcomed the nomination of President João Lourenço of Angola by the African Union (AU), “to defuse tensions” between the DRC and Rwanda. “The UN fully supports these political efforts.” 

He noted that in the restive provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, MONUSCO was “impartially and robustly protecting civilians and helping to neutralize armed groups, as mandated by the Security Council.