Re-emergence of Armed Groups among Challenges Facing Great Lakes Region, Special Envoy Says in Security Council Briefing
7923RD MEETING (PM)
12 APRIL 2017
Democratic Republic of Congo Representative Recounts Extradition of Ex-Fighters
Africa’s Great Lakes region — having made some progress in implementing its 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework — still faced critical challenges, including the re-emergence of violent non-State armed groups, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy told the Security Council during a briefing today.
Said Djinnit, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, described efforts to implement the Framework, known formally as the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region. He presented the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2017/208), saying that a recent summit of the Framework’s regional oversight mechanism had generated renewed commitment among signatories. There had also been promising steps in the area of regional cooperation, as well as efforts to address the root causes of conflict, he said.
Nevertheless, the persistent activities of illegal armed groups remained a major challenge to the security of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider region, he warned. Calling for such groups as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) to be neutralized, he said the Force Intervention Brigade of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) must enhance offensive operations targeting such groups. He described the recent incursion into the Democratic Republic of the Congo by former members of the March 23 Movement (M23) armed group as a setback, and said further efforts were needed to address the “daunting challenge” of repatriating former combatants.
During the ensuing debate, speakers welcomed the Great Lakes countries’ renewed commitment to the Framework, while simultaneously voicing concern over the escalating activities of armed groups, and various political processes that remained deadlocked. Delegates expressed particular alarm about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with Ethiopia’s representative emphasizing that it lay at the “epicentre” of the region’s security dynamics.
The United Kingdom’s representative pointed to “stalling” on the part of those parties, saying that “sadly, obstacles go beyond inertia” in relation to implementation of the Political Agreement. Echoing the concerns of several other delegations, he said the lack of consensus surrounding the new Prime Minister’s appointment only aggravated the already deteriorating security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A number of speakers, including Italy’s representative, expressed serious concern over escalating violence in that country’s Kasai region, stressing that parties on the ground must “pull out all the stops” to investigate allegations of crimes being committed there. Those responsible for murdering two United Nations experts in Kasai must be held accountable as soon as possible, he stressed. He also called for targeted efforts to address the re-emergence of M23 fighters, support refugees, and continue the intra-Burundian dialogue.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the Secretary-General’s report underscored the efforts of his country’s Government, alongside MONUSCO, to neutralize various active armed groups. Recalling the Government’s successful extradition of several of their leaders, as per the Framework’s stipulations, he noted that some neighbouring countries continued to harbour former M23 fighters. On the political situation, he said the Council should refrain from involvement with the opposition party, the specificities of which it did not understand.
Also speaking today were representatives of France, Senegal, Russian Federation, Japan, China, Egypt, Ukraine, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Bolivia and the United States.
The meeting began at 4:37 p.m. and ended at 6:30 p.m.
SAID DJINNIT, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, presented the most recent report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the region (document S/2017/208), highlighting progress in implementing the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region during the reporting period. Recalling that Angola had recently hosted the seventh summit of the regional oversight mechanism, he said that meeting had generated renewed commitment among the region’s States. Nevertheless, the persistent activities of illegal armed groups remained a major challenge to the security of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider region, he said, calling for the neutralization of groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Emphasizing that the Force Intervention Brigade of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) must enhance offensive operations targeting such groups, he welcomed the February launch of the Joint Follow-up Mechanism targeting the threat posed by armed groups, and called upon States to actively support it. The recent incursion into the Democratic Republic of the Congo by former members of the M23 armed group represented a setback in that regard, he said, adding that his Office would continue to address security issues in the east of the country. He went on to describe the cooperation between his Office and regional Governments in addressing the activities of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) in South Sudan, as well as the daunting challenge of repatriating former combatants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighbouring countries.
There had been a number of promising steps in the area of regional cooperation during the reporting period, he said, noting that his Office continued to support joint efforts to address root causes of conflict, including by supporting the empowerment of women, addressing displacement, tackling the illicit exploitation of natural resources, reducing youth unemployment and fighting impunity. Outlining efforts to support the inter-Burundian dialogue, he said the forthcoming Summit of East African States would offer a chance for countries to renew their commitment to support the Burundian parties as they sought a consensus solution to the challenges facing their nation. Calling also for an intra-Congolese dialogue, he urged all parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to create an environment conducive to peaceful elections and to abstain from any action that could lead to violence. In that regard, the United Nations, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and other relevant actors must continue to coordinate their activities in support of the 31 December Peace Agreement, he said.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) expressed concern about the slow implementation of the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement and the political situations in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. Concerning the trafficking of goods and resources, he said that as long as the illicit trade remained prevalent, there could be no stability in the region. On the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said France was “very alarmed” at the failure to implement the 31 December Peace Agreement, and voiced concern over the appointment of a Prime Minister who had not enjoyed consensus. In Burundi, where there had been no real improvement, he said “genuine and authentic” commitment to dialogue was lacking, and “the situation keeps getting worse by the day”. Recalling Burundi’s previous stabilizing role on the continent, he said restoring peace and stability in that country required a political solution to the current crisis, under mediation by the East African Community. Political leaders must also live up to their responsibilities and ensure that years of international investment had not been for nought, he stressed.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo remained concerning, particularly with the resurgence of M23 fighters, a development that underscored the importance of implementing the Nairobi Declaration. All United Nations efforts must be aimed at finding an apt solution to the security issue, he added, expressing concern at the increase in violence and urging a swift response. Noting that the number of refugees and displaced persons in the region exceeded 6 million, he noted with concern the instability prevailing in spite of various processes and political dialogues. Welcoming progress in the implementation of the Framework Agreement, he said the same trend should apply in disarmament efforts targeting armed groups.
PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said armed groups remained active, prolonging inter-ethnic conflict and exacerbating the humanitarian situation. He urged comprehensive measures to remove the underlying causes of the conflict and expressing concern over the repatriation of armed groups to neighbouring countries. Lack of progress on the latter had already led to repeat offences by combatants, he noted. Another challenge was that allies of Riek Machar remained present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said.
YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) noted that transitional institutions had yet to be created three months after the 31 December Political Agreement, calling again on the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to lead, and on all political actors to expedite the political process. On Burundi, he welcomed the recent meeting between President Pierre Nkurunziza and the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi configuration. However, he expressed deep concern about the suspension of cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) amid reports of serious human rights violations, and especially the climate of impunity surrounding Imbonerakure. Maintaining a United Nations presence would benefit Burundi, he said, stressing the importance of African Union engagement, including the deployment of African Union observers. Japan fully supported the East African Community-led mediation and was confident that Heads of State in the subregion would provide strong guidance to the Facilitator in leading an inclusive dialogue process, he said. Japan had recently decided to give $18 million in aid to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia, particularly for refugees and food security.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), recalling that the situation in the Great Lakes countries had been recently discussed in country-specific meetings of the Council, said today’s meeting provided an important “comprehensive picture”. Voicing serious concern about the deteriorating security situation, he declared: “No doubt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is at the epicentre of the security dynamics of the region.” The resurgence of negative armed forces in that country’s east was particularly alarming. Welcoming recent reforms in the governance structures of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, he called on all parties to remain committed to the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration as well as the 31 December 2016 Peace Agreement. Any efforts to put that Agreement aside would be damaging, he warned, adding that the support of regional countries, the African Union and the United Nations would be critical for a smooth transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the holding of peaceful elections. On Burundi, he welcomed progress made, but expressed concern about allegations of human rights violations. Pointing to a “veritable stalemate” on that issue, he expressed support for a special meeting to break the deadlock with a view to encouraging the parties to show flexibility and readiness for compromise.
WU HAITAO (China), noting that the countries of the region faced numerous challenges related to sustainable development and the threats posed by armed groups, stressed that international support was crucial. Nevertheless, both the international community and the countries themselves must respect each other’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and resolve differences through dialogue. Calling for the strengthening of security cooperation and the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration, as well as accelerated efforts to repatriate former combatants, he called for efforts to promote economic development in the region. The African Union, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and other regional structures — as well as international donors — must continue to support such efforts, he said, underscoring the need for Africa to “resolve African issues in an African way”.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), welcoming the revitalization of the Follow-Up Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, said there nevertheless remained grounds for concern. The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was critical, with the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo deciding to end its mediation efforts. President Joseph Kabila had appointed a new Prime Minister, who did not enjoy broad support, leading to protests. Stressing that the 31 December Agreement was the only path to peace, he said all parties must be guided by the needs of the people they had been elected to govern, and called on them to tackle the situation in the Kasai region in particular. Indeed, parties on the ground must “pull out all the stops” to investigate the violence in Kasai, which could constitute a crime against humanity. Adding that those responsible for the murders of two United Nations experts must be held accountable as soon as possible, he called for targeted efforts to address the re-emergence of March 23 Movement (M23) fighters, support for refugees, and the continuation of the inter-Burundian dialogue.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) outlined myriad challenges facing the region, the most prominent of which was armed groups posing hurdles for Governments and threatening civilians. The humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes region was concerning, with a growing number of refugees and displaced persons in need of aid. He underscored the importance of seeking nationally-owned sustainable solutions in partnership with regional and international actors. He called on regional States to commit to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, stressing that hurdles facing the African initiative to eradicate the Lord’s Resistance Party (LRA) required ongoing and open dialogue. Growing security challenges underscored the responsibility of United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the need to provide it with funds and resources. Noting the appointment of a Prime Minister, he stressed that all parties must implement the 31 December accord, underscoring the role of international and regional partners in that context. On Burundi, there was no alternative to a sustainable political solution in line with the East African Community, he said, underscoring the role of the sanctions committee on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and expressing condolences to the families of the United Nations experts.
EDUARD FESKO (Ukraine) expressed concern that, due to the lack of political will to comply with promises and obligations, priority provisions of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework had not been implemented, creating distrust and provoking tensions. All signatories to the Nairobi Declaration must speed their efforts and resolve the issue of M23 elements as soon as possible. Noting the forthcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he said regional actors should give priority to eliminating the threat of the ADF and the FDLR. There was an urgent need to resolve the issue of SPLM-IO combatants in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose authorities were also expected to address the activities of the Kamuina Nsapu gang in Kasai province that allegedly killed two members of the Group of Experts. Turning to the human rights situation in Burundi, he said the lack of serious efforts to investigate abuses and overcome a climate of impunity only encouraged perpetrators to commit new crimes. It was upsetting that the situation in that country was worsening while the implementation of key elements of Council resolution 2303 (2016) had stalled.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) noted that four years after the adoption of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, the signatories had made some progress in its implementation. Nevertheless, the region was riddled with a number of complex political, security and humanitarian challenges, he said, warning that “the achievements made thus far could be quickly undermined by the presence of non-State armed groups” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other countries. Warning that the activities of a newly emerged militia — known as the Kamuina Nsapu — in the country’s Kasai region were particularly barbaric, he said the resulting crackdown had nevertheless been violent and excessive, leaving civilians caught “between a rock and a hard place”. He expressed concern about the human rights and humanitarian situation in the region, particularly in South Sudan, as well as about the plight of millions of displaced persons whose most basic needs continued to go unmet. The Council must “keep a watchful eye” on the situation, in particular human rights violations, which could lead to conflict, he said.
DIDAR TEMENOV (Kazakhstan) expressed support for the “growing ownership” of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework signatory countries, stressing that the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi must show political will to resolve the challenges facing their countries. In Burundi, the Government must continue to engage the opposition in dialogue; meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the presence of illegal armed groups remained a major challenge to peace and security. In that regard, he expressed hope that the recent re-prioritization in MONSUCO’s mandate would help address the critical situation on the ground.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said more must be done to overcome obstacles to peace and security, and to come to terms with armed groups. Expressing deep concern about increasing violence and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he warned that political uncertainty and lack of progress in implementing the 31 December Political Agreement could exacerbate instability. A transitional Government, supported by all parties, must be formed to prepare for elections, with the active participation of women. Influential regional actors should coordinate to ensure coherent messages, with the Security Council providing support for — and aligning itself with — such efforts, he said. While the international community remained committed, it was up to countries in the region to find peaceful solutions, he emphasized.
RENÉ ERNESTO FERNÁNDEZ REVOLLO (Bolivia) said arbitrary borders established by colonial Powers had caused many of the current conflicts in Africa. Noting that natural resources were being trafficked to fund armed groups, he pointed out that huge multinational businesses controlled diamonds and copper in an illicit trade that “drag conflicts on and on”. Added to the mix were inter-ethnic conflicts. Lack of security and violence continued to spread tension across the region, he said, expressing concern over the humanitarian situation. Some 6 million refugees and displaced persons remained extremely vulnerable. Despite those challenges, Bolivia welcomed the regional support for the Nairobi Agreement and the Great Lakes Regional Strategic Framework, he said, emphasizing that the focus must be on neutralizing armed groups and promoting the rights of women and young people.
PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained deeply troubling, and it was up to the Government and the opposition to deliver on the 31 December Political Agreement. “What we actually have seen is stalling,” he said, adding that “sadly, obstacles go beyond inertia”. The appointment of the Prime Minister only aggravated the already deteriorating security situation, he said, expressing concern about the potential for increasing violence. The resumption of talks between the Government and M23 was vital, as was implementation of the Nairobi Declaration, he said, adding that a regional solution would help to avoid exacerbating existing challenges. Turning to Burundi, he said a “climate of fear” had persisted in that country amid arbitrary arrests and daily killings. The Government cared only about clinging to power, he said, expressing concern over its refusal to engage with the international community.
MICHELE SISON (United States), Council President for April, spoke in her national capacity, recalling that the Council had recently voted to renew MONUSCO’s mandate — an important step towards setting the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a long-term path to peace and stability. Noting that she was disturbed by allegations of atrocities in that country, including reports of mass graves, she warned that the Government must “work with, and not act as an impediment to, MONUSCO” in investigating such reports. While citing improved relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, she nevertheless expressed concern about the presence of armed groups throughout the subregion, urging the Congolese Government and the M23 leadership, in particular, to implement the Nairobi Agreement. Calling on all States and parties to end their support for non-State armed groups, she said the Council must avoid losing sight of the situation in Burundi, where more pressure was needed on both sides to ensure that the political crisis did not become a continued source of instability.
IGNACE GATA MAVITA WA LUFUTA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the Secretary-General’s report underscored his Government’s efforts, alongside MONUSCO, to neutralize the various armed groups active in his country. The report also acknowledged the Government’s request that MONUSCO help with the rapid repatriation of SPLM and FDLR members still waiting to be returned to their homelands or to third countries. In the context of the Framework’s stipulations against harbouring or protecting anyone accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, and those under sanctions, he said the Congolese Government had apprehended and extradited various high-ranking FDLR leaders to Rwanda. However, several international arrest warrants sent by the Government to other countries in the region had still not been executed and war criminals continued to roam freely, he said.
He went on to emphasize, in that regard, that neighbouring countries continued to harbour former M23 fighters. On the political situation, he recalled that President Kabila had nominated Bruno Tshibala as Prime Minister, and he was now working to put together a Government of National Unity. The Council should refrain involvement in the conflict with the opposition party known as the Rassemblement, the specificities of which it did not understand, he urged. He concluded by underlining that the 31 December Peace Agreement did not replace the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which governed dealings with the political opposition.