UN security council eases weapons embargo on DR Congo

The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S.

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday eased a weapons embargo meant to stem rebel fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and renewed a peacekeeping mission there for another year.

Under a new resolution, U.N. member states are no longer required to notify the Security Council of arms sales or military support to the Congolese government.

Arms sales to non-governmental armed groups are still banned.

The embargo was first imposed after the end of a civil war in 2003 that left Democratic Republic of Congo’s vast mineral-rich east plagued by militia activity.

It was eased in 2008 to allow U.N. member states to provide military supplies and assistance to the Congolese state, but required they notify the Security Council of their actions.

In recent months Congo’s government has publicly protested the measure, saying that a shipment of arms intended for its fight against the M23 rebel group had been blocked, without specifying where or by whom.

“France has heard the requests of the DRC to support capacity building and the reform of the Congolese armed forces,” France’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Nathalie Broadhurst said in a statement.

The French-drafted resolution was supported by Russia and China, which are among the countries that sell weapons and equipment to DRC.

Congo praised the decision in a government statement, saying it corrected an “injustice” that was preventing it from defending itself against rebel groups, in particular the M23.

The situation in Congo continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region, the U.N. Security Council said.

It requested that Congo provide it with a confidential report by May 31, 2023 “detailing its efforts to ensure the safe and effective management, storage, marking, monitoring and security of the national stockpiles of weapons and ammunition, as well as efforts to fight arms trafficking and diversion.”

There has been a surge in fighting between the Congolese army and the M23, a Tutsi-led militia formed in 2012, which staged a major comeback this year.

The other resolution renewed the mandate of MONUSCO, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in eastern Congo, for one year. This will allow it to provide support for the general elections of December 2023, the French statement said.

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