Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 26, 2023
Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Assistant-Secretary-General Pobee for your remarks.
The importance of MONUSCO to the DRC and broader region is clear. This is why the United States is concerned by the DRC government’s increasing call for the mission to withdraw following elections planned for December. As we have said many times, MONUSCO cannot – and should not – stay in the DRC indefinitely. But there is broad consensus that the DRC government will have not met the benchmarks it agreed upon as the minimum conditions for MONUSCO’s drawdown by the end of 2023.
A precipitous withdrawal of MONUSCO would likely leave a security vacuum that state authorities are unable to fill, with devastating effects for the region’s most vulnerable populations. Without MONUSCO, we will likely see more activity by CODECO and ISIS-DRC, two armed groups that carried out shocking and brazen massacres at an internally displaced persons camp and school earlier this month.
The humanitarian crisis is also worsening due to this continued violence, resulting in one million internally displaced persons, an appalling escalation in gender-based violence – including conflict-related sexual violence – and immense human suffering. To address such a pressing and urgent situation, the DRC and Great Lakes Region need political will, a commitment to dialogue, and a willingness to make hard decisions and pursue much needed reform. They also need MONUSCO.
Fortunately, the government of the DRC has taken some important steps that will help achieve a lasting peace. We welcome the government’s report to the Security Council on weapons and ammunition management. This report will provide valuable insight into the government’s capacities and enable the international community to assist in the prevention of small arms trafficking and diversion.
In May, a military tribunal in South Kivu province sentenced a commander of an armed group to life in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the crime of forced pregnancy. The forced pregnancy conviction was the first time a national court has convicted someone of such an offense.
The UN Joint Human Rights Office provided financial and technical support to the investigation and prosecution, and exemplifies how the UN, MONUSCO, and the DRC government can work together to bring justice to victims and accountability to perpetrators. These important human rights and rule of law initiatives should continue for as long as the mission is in place.
But there is still work to be done and progress to be made, especially in the security sector. We are concerned by DRC Armed Forces collaboration with non-state armed groups in the east, including the UN-sanctioned FDLR. Just as we have done numerous times previously, we call on the DRC government to fully professionalize its security forces and work to end such cooperation.
The United States is also concerned by the DRC’s Army Reserve Corps legislation, which could allow for members of armed groups to become part of the FARDC and hamper DDR efforts. We urge the DRC to ensure that the reserve corps is carefully vetted and subject to Demobilization, Disarmament, Community Recovery, and Stabilization Program. We also call on the government to ensure accountability.
The DRC government has discouraged and denounced hateful rhetoric, but I reiterate the need to call out hate speech vilifying Rwandaphone communities and peacekeepers alike. This speech has led to arbitrary killings, mob violence, and harassment.
Of course, the DRC is not solely responsible for addressing these challenges. Rwanda’s continued direct support to UN-sanctioned M23 is a violation of UN Security Council Resolutions and must stop. I urge other members of this Council to press the Government of Rwanda to withdraw its troops from the DRC and cease support to M23 immediately.
As Rwanda’s support to M23 demonstrates, this is a regional crisis and requires regional solutions that address the root causes of conflict. The United States supports mediation efforts led by Angola, Kenya, and the East African Community, and calls on them to coordinate and deconflict their operations with MONUSCO.
We are committed to ensuring MONUSCO can deliver on its mandate to protect civilians and assist the DRC government to strengthen key governance, justice, and security institutions. In order for the mission to succeed, it deserves this Council’s support and that of the DRC government. The people of the DRC deserve peace. The United States stands with them in their pursuit of a better future.
Thank you, Madam President.