Mr. President, let me start by thanking you for the dedication you have shown as DRC Sanctions Committee Chair in ensuring Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan’s important work continues. The Group of Experts has done, and will continue to do, excellent work, and I am honored that we can demonstrate this commitment – voice this commitment – in the presence of Michael and Zaida’s families in this chamber this morning. We are humbled by your presence, Mr. and Mrs. Sharp and Mrs. Moresby.
To Zaida and Michael’s families, this Council sits on the frontlines of conflict resolution, and your children, your sister, gave their lives working to find peace and resolve conflict. They pursued truth and justice, and we owe it to them to pursue truth and justice and investigate their murders. Michael and Zaida worked to bring light to the horrific crimes plaguing the DRC. We, in turn, must shine a light on their murders, and pursue a full understanding of the events surrounding their deaths.
The murder of UN officials cannot end with an administrative inquiry into their deaths. There needs to be a genuine investigation that uncovers the facts surrounding this case. We welcome the Secretary-General’s intention to pursue a follow-on mechanism to the BOI under his own authority, and we urge him to waste no time in establishing this mechanism. There is no time to delay; we must urgently continue our efforts to uncover the truth surrounding Michael and Zaida’s deaths.
While Michael and Zaida are no longer with us, their work through the Group of Experts must continue. As highlighted by the Group of Experts, the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo needs to do more to strengthen legitimate trade in natural resources and to reduce illicit trafficking in those resources. Illicit trafficking strengthens armed groups and corrupt officials, and thus perpetuates conflict. In addition, regional countries, regional organizations, and all Member States must work together to reduce such illicit trafficking.
And while the investigations of the Group of Experts have helped us to understand the nature and means of illicit trafficking and the funding of armed groups, their work needs to continue in parallel with DRC elections and a peaceful transition of power in order to bring real peace to the DRC. Without a democratic transition, we can expect continued cycles of widespread violence. The Congolese people are upset with their government and tired of waiting for the elections called for by their constitution.
We call upon the authorities in the DRC to announce its timeline for the overdue elections and to stick to it. In the absence of an elections timeline, the United States will pursue stronger sanctions in this Council, and we will take measures to increase the pressure on – and hold accountable – those who undermine peace and stability or democratic institutions and processes in the DRC, or are working on behalf of or supporting already listed individuals.
Finally, the DRC is responsible for providing security for its citizens, who continue to suffer violent attacks and sexual and gender-based violence, are fleeing their homes in the tens of thousands, and who struggle to meet their basic needs as they are deprived of their livelihoods and resources. While many of the attacks are perpetrated by armed groups, we are concerned the government of the DRC continues to support and profit from these armed groups, and to commit human rights violations with impunity. These actions and the continued delay in elections call into question the legitimacy of the current government.
Mr. President, our work is not yet done, just as the work of Michael and Zaida and the Group of Experts is not yet done. We must continue to seek ways to seek peace and justice in the DRC, for Michael and Zaida and just as Michael and Zaida attempted to do.
Thank you, Mr. President.