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Great Lakes: Activities of Secretary-General in Kenya, 6-8 November

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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, from New York in the evening of Thursday, 6 November, to attend a regional summit meeting on the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Prior to the start of the African Union-sponsored meeting on Friday, the Secretary-General had a number of bilateral meetings, including with President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. He also met with President Jakaya Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania, who is also the Chair of the African Union, as well as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping. His Special Envoy for the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Olusegun Obasanjo, joined him in his meetings.

He then attended closed informal consultations with the gathered leaders of the region before addressing the opening session of the summit. In his statement the Secretary-General said he had come to Nairobi with a "heavy heart", at a time, once again, when the interlinked tensions and conflicts in the Great Lakes region threaten hard-won progress. (See Press Release SG/SM/11908)

He said that neither the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nor Rwanda, nor the rest of the Central African region can afford to be dragged back into conflict. "This is why we are here today," he said.

He then outlined three priorities. First, he spoke of the need to take urgent measures to contain the present crisis created by the upsurge of fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United Nations peacekeeping operation, MONUC, will continue to play a strong part in containing the crisis while the search for a political solution is under way.

The Secretary-General also drew attention to the huge humanitarian crisis worsened by the recent fighting on the ground. Again, he said, the United Nations and international partners are mobilizing all possible resources to provide urgent assistance. He exhorted all parties to ensure that international humanitarian law is observed and that access to suffering populations is guaranteed.

And third, he emphasized the need to tackle the root causes of the crisis. "It is only at the political level, here in your region, that lasting solutions can be found," he said. "There can be no military solution to this crisis."

"We need to end the conflict in the east, and prevent it from spilling over into the wider subregion. We need to restore the authority of the State, and consolidate the stability that has been achieved in the rest of the country."

To assist in this task, the Secretary-General presented former President Obasanjo of Nigeria, his Special Envoy, and told the participants that his Envoy would work closely with those gathered to reach comprehensive and durable solutions to the problems created by the continued existence and destructive activities of the illegal armed groups.

Noting that the most effective remedy for the challenges the region faces will come through direct and frank discussions among the Heads of State in the region, he said: "As leaders of Africa, you have a historic responsibility -- this is a critical moment for the Great Lakes region, and for Africa as a whole. We must put the cycle of violence behind us. We must build a shared future of stability, peace and development for all citizens of your countries."

The Secretary-General then attended a luncheon hosted by Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula of Kenya, before participating in another closed session for the heads of delegations and in an end of meeting press conference, during which the final communiqué was read out.

After a meeting with the European and United States delegations, he ended the day with a joint press conference with Special Envoy Obasanjo and his Special Representaive for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Alan Doss.

On Saturday morning, he had a breakfast meeting with Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, his Special Representative for Somalia; Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-Habitat; Aeneas Chuma, Resident Coordinator for Kenya; and B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. That was followed by a meeting with Joaquim Chissano, Special Envoy for the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)-affected areas. He also met with the Foreign Minister of Angola, Assunção Afonso dos Anjos, before leaving Nairobi.

He left Nairobi on Saturday morning for Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

For information media - not an official record