Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
April 13, 2023
Good morning, colleagues. Thank you, Special Envoy Xia, for your informative briefing. I also welcome the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and appreciate the advice to the Council he outlined this morning.
Today’s meeting comes at a critical moment for the DRC and broader Great Lakes Region. Just last month, this Council traveled to Kinshasa and Goma. Two weeks ago, SRSG Keita provided an update on MONUSCO’s critical contributions to – and sacrifices for – peace in eastern DRC.
The UN Regional Strategy for the Great Lakes is another important means of bringing peace to the region.
The United States appreciates the Special Envoy’s use of his good offices to generate international support for the EAC-led Nairobi Process and Luanda Process. We welcome the initiative and commitment of regional partners and welcome the recent decrease in fighting.
Yet despite these efforts, the situation in the Great Lakes region continues to deteriorate and tensions between the DRC and Rwanda remain.
The United States calls on all parties to act expeditiously to meet their commitments under the Luanda communique in full, including the M23’s full withdrawal to the Sabinyo Line, followed by cantonment and disarmament. Rwanda must also withdraw its troops and end support to the UN-sanctioned M23.
I also reiterate our call on the DRC government to immediately end cooperation with armed groups, including the FDLR; pursue security sector reform; continue denouncing hate speech; and hold individuals accountable for inciting violence.
Unfortunately, ISIS-DRC, also known as ADF, has taken advantage of the situation and will continue to pose a threat. We must not lose sight of this pressing security challenge.
We must also increase our focus on the grave humanitarian crisis. Conflict has displaced more than half a million people in 2023 alone, many of whom are being forced to live without access to adequate food, water, or medical care in camps filled far beyond capacity. Thousands of women and children are being exploited by organized sex trafficking operations.
The United States is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to eastern DRC, contributing more than $140 million since October 1. As we speak, our partners are working in perilous conditions to provide lifesaving assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in North Kivu.
The DRC government must do considerably more to protect its citizens, including providing land for sites where displaced people can receive services and enforcing its own laws against trafficking and exploitation of women and girls.
Special Envoy Xia, the last time you briefed this Council, regional troop deployments under the aegis of the EACRF were in the initial planning stages. In recent weeks, Burundi, Uganda, and South Sudan deployed troops to North Kivu province. Angola has also committed to deploying troops to help restore peace. It is imperative additional security forces not aggravate an already tense situation.
As such, I repeat my call on regional leaders to ensure their forces respect human rights, prioritize the safety of civilians, and refrain from illicit activities, such as extraction of natural resources.
It is equally critical they coordinate with and complement the important work of the DRC Armed Forces, MONUSCO, and UN humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations.
Colleagues, this year marks 10 years since the signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, but the region remains marked by instability.
Through the Nairobi and Luanda processes we have the political structures necessary to pursue dialogue. Through the FARDC, MONUSCO, and the EACRF we have the capacity to protect civilians. And through the United Nations, the Office of the Special Envoy, and our own bilateral efforts, we have the necessary platforms to coordinate and engage diplomatically.
What we are missing is the commitment and political will to use these tools for their intended purpose: bringing about peace. We cannot wait another 10 years for peace in the Great Lakes. The region’s people deserve it now.