Great Lakes : The UN Must Prevent a Regional Crisis [fr]
Great Lakes Region - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 12 April 2017
First, I would like to warmly thank Mr. Djinnit for his excellent work and unwavering commitment to achieving peace in the Great Lakes region. I am pleased that we have been given the opportunity to speak with him in this format, where we can take a step back and consider all of the region’s challenges. The regional dimension of the crisis in the Great Lakes region should not be neglected.
France is concerned about three main mutually reinforcing issues in the region: the continued slow process of implementing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, the ongoing political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the situation in Burundi, both of which can significantly destabilize the region if they are not resolved. The Security Council must take joint, decisive action thereon in order to prevent a regional crisis from erupting.
Turning first to the Addis Ababa Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, I would note that despite some headway, as underscored by the Secretary-General in his report, which was presented by Mr. Djinnit, negative forces continue to make their presence felt in the region. Although the era of reciprocal destabilization by armed groups is, fortunately, over, the legacy of that time remains, and certain armed groups are still active. This legacy of the past continues to fuel suspicion and mistrust between the countries of the region; it must be definitely resolved so that the region can finally move forward and forge healthy ties of cooperation. To that end, decisive steps will need to be taken in three areas, and regional organizations, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have a key role to play in this respect.
First, with respect to a military response to the armed groups, a key role will be played by the Force Intervention Brigade, provided by SADC. The renewed mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) will enable it to rebuild its capacity for mobility in order for it to engage in decisive offensive actions, as it did with respect to the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23).
Secondly, political action must be taken in order to demobilize, repatriate and reintegrate these combatants in their countries of origin. Here I am thinking of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and former members of M23, as well as those of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition, who have been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since last year. This will require joint action and a commitment at the highest level of the political leaders concerned. The Addis Ababa agreement, which experienced a welcome revitalization thanks to the efforts of Angola in 2016, must be fully implemented, and the Technical Support Committee of the Regional Oversight Mechanism must undertake this task. Its upcoming meeting in Brazzaville in October will be an opportunity to address the issue.
Thirdly, I turn to the issue of tackling the illicit trafficking in natural resources. Armed groups use such traffic to meet their needs, contribute to their survival and fuel an economy of war and predation. So long as that illicit trafficking continues, no lasting solution to the instability in the region is possible. Therefore there needs to be strong, harmonized action by the countries of the region as well as a sustained commitment of international partners to ensure that we can stamp out illicit trafficking in natural resources with the support of the international community. We must work for transparency in the mining industry and ensure greater traceability of minerals.
Turning to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France is very concerned. At the political level, the failure to implement the 31 December 2016 agreement threatens any potential resolution of the crisis. All of the legislative bodies in the country have now overrun their mandates, and therefore their legitimacy going forward depends entirely on the 31 December 2016 agreement and the consensus that characterized its signing. The appointment of a Prime Minister who does not enjoy consensus support following a process that does not respect the provisions of the 31 December 2016 agreement is a very worrying step. The agreement is the only credible road map for an end to the crisis, and its violation could seriously threaten the stability and the future of the country.
In keeping with resolution 2348 (2017), which was just adopted by the Security Council unanimously, France reaffirms the need for the urgent and unconditional implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement, including the lifting of restrictions on rights and freedoms, so as to enable the holding, in suitable conditions, of elections by the end of 2017, as agreed, thus paving the way for the first peaceful transition of power in the history of the country.
It is crucial that international partners, the Security Council, the African Union and the SADC, all of which welcomed the 31 December 2016 agreement, work to ensure its implementation. France will stand side by side with its partners to achieve that purpose.
The deterioration of the security and human rights situation is also a source of great concern to us. Violence in the Kasai region has soared to levels that we had hoped never again to see in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is therefore pressing that the situation be brought under control. France condemns the acts of violence that we have seen in the region over the last few months and looks forward to the outcome of the joint inquiry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and MONUSCO into violations and assaults on human rights and humanitarian law in the region. The cowardly murder of two United Nations experts in that region underscores once again the deterioration of the situation in the area. France calls for full light to be shed on this very tragic event, so that those responsible can be identified and stand trial for their crimes. We once again underscore our full support for the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose members play a key role.
Turning finally to the situation in Burundi, here we have to note that, regrettably, there has been no noticeable improvement. As the Secretary-General states in his report,“the inter-Burundian dialogue, facilitated by the East African Community, has yet to produce a breakthrough”. Despite the efforts of the Facilitator, Mr. Benjamin Mkapa, which France welcomes, a genuine and authentic commitment to this dialogue is still lacking.
Observers from the African Union have not yet been deployed, nor have the police officers specified in resolution 2303; on the contrary, the situation seems to be getting worse by the day. I think that no one could fail to be shocked by the images of the video that has been circulating in which young members of the Imbonerakure militia call for rape and murder. These images and the hate speech that goes with it conjure up extremely painful memories in the Great Lakes region and is a source of grave concern for France. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated. The leadership of the Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie has condemned these acts, and France hopes that appropriate measures will be taken to put a definitive end to such behaviour and that the perpetrators of human rights violations in the country will be prosecuted and sentenced.
Burundi could, with the restoration of peace and security, play a stabilizing role on the continent, as it was able to do in the past by sending peacekeepers to the Central African Republic and Somalia.
For that to happen, the resolutions of the Security Council must be implemented and peaceful relationships restored with the United Nations agencies that have been supporting Burundi for 20 years towards a return to peace. The resumption of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would be a positive step along these lines.
This will require finding a political solution to the current crisis through inclusive, open and honest dialogue by way of the mediation efforts of the East African Community (EAC) and full respect for the Arusha agreement. Only such a dialogue, strengthened by a firm rejection of violence and by guaranteeing the security and fundamental rights of all Burundians, will can allow Burundi to find its way back to the path of peace and stability.
France hopes that the EAC Summit at the end of April will be the first step in a positive process and that the Government will honestly commit to moving forward.
Our most deeply cherished wish as a close-knit partner of the region and a permanent member of the Security Council is to see Burundi pursue the cause of peace and lasting stability so as to finally benefit from its wealth in natural resources and be able to focus on development and the well-being of people. This will require a strengthening of political stability and the democratic legitimacy of institutions, as well as a fight against impunity. This is not a given, and France is concerned. We hope that political leaders will meet the challenges and put the process back on track. It is the responsibility of the Security Council to support them in this difficult task so as to ensure that years of tremendous investment on the part of the international community are not jeopardized and that the peoples of the region do not suffer as a result.