posted on Wed 2 Oct 2019 1:05 PM
Great Lakes Region Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (3 October), the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia will brief the Security Council on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Region (S/2019/873).  Consultations will follow.

In accordance with resolution 2463 on the DRC (29 March), the Secretary-General is to report on this issue every six months. The report was due by 28 September, but Council members only received an advance copy of the report yesterday (1 October). The report provides an overview of security, political and humanitarian developments in the Great Lakes region between 1 March and 31 August, as well as describing the activities of the Special Envoy.

In the report, the Secretary-General expresses his concern over persistent challenges to the exercise of political freedoms and human rights in parts of the Great Lakes region. Nevertheless, he notes that the Great Lakes region witnessed recent positive developments, mainly the formation of a new government in the DRC, steps taken by DRC President Felix Tshisekedi to strengthen relations with neighbouring countries, and efforts undertaken by Angola, DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda to advance regional cooperation. It also notes early measures taken by Tshisekedi to open political space by releasing political detainees, allowing the return of opposition political actors, and making progress in the upholding of fundamental liberties.

At the same time, the human rights situation has not improved in eastern DRC, which continues to be affected by armed conflict and where many human rights violations by both government forces and armed groups were documented, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. Huang visited Goma, North Kivu, on 16 and 17 May, where local authorities highlighted the urgent need for the state to restore its authority and protect civilians. Council members may be interested to hear from Huang on his engagement and good offices with the DRC and neighbouring countries in the region, particularly on the coordination mechanisms under the Peace and Security Framework Agreement, and how efforts through the agreement  could assist in bringing security and stability to the eastern DRC and curb the activities of armed groups threatening the country and the region.

In Burundi, the report notes that the security situation remained calm in most areas, although human rights violations were reported along with restrictions on political participation. Burundi is continuing its preparation for presidential, legislative and local elections, set to take place on 20 May 2020. President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has pledged not to run for a fourth term in the elections, reaffirmed on 1 July that the elections would be financed without external support. The Secretary-General urges in the report that Burundi and all stakeholders create conditions conducive of peaceful and inclusive elections. The report also addresses the continued strained relationship between Burundi and Rwanda.

Huang visited Bujumbura from 6 to 9 May, where he met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burundi, Ezechiel Nibigira, and other officials and regional and international actors. Huang emphasised to his interlocutors the importance of a credible and inclusive electoral process in Burundi. Council members, who are divided on the issue of whether the situation in Burundi should be on the Council’s agenda, may wish to hear Huang’s assessment of the current security and political situation in Burundi and on the possible impact on the region of tensions between Burundi and Rwanda.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), the Secretary-General’s report expresses concern about the commitment of some of the 14 armed groups that signed the Political Peace Agreement in the CAR on 6 February to implementing that agreement. It refers to the deadly attack by the Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation (3R) armed group on 21 May 2019 that killed 42 persons, mostly civilians, around Paoua. The report adds that during the first six months of 2019, 102 cases of conflict-related sexual violence were reported in the CAR, more than half of which were committed after the signing of the 6 February Agreement and in direct violation of it. Displacement caused by continued attacks on civilians has led to a situation where one of every five Central Africans has been displaced, and an estimated 1.8 million people suffer from severe lack of food.  It appears that the implementation of the CAR Political Agreement may be on the agenda of the upcoming joint consultative meeting between members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council later this month in Addis Ababa.