Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Great Lakes Region

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 3, 2019


[Inaudible] Conflict has plagued the Great Lakes Region for decades. But six years on from the signing of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, we have seen some momentum toward solutions to the drivers of this conflict. The United States is encouraged by this momentum.

We recognize the positive developments in the DRC following last December’s historic democratic elections. Specifically, we applaud the formation of a DRC government that embraces new leaders – who we hope will pave the way for positive reforms – while largely excluding those who have proven themselves corrupt and unfit.

We also recognize the President’s efforts to proactively address the long-held grievances of the Congolese people; improve conditions for foreign investment; and strengthen relationships with neighboring countries. Amid these developments, we must underscore that the burdens of implementing the PSC Framework fall to all signatory parties, not just the DRC.

So, we are heartened that the Secretary-General’s report details multiple efforts of neighboring countries to engage on issues of mutual concern: regional commerce; illicit flows of goods that contribute to corruption; and the presence of armed groups.

We commend the initiative regional countries have shown in working toward lasting peace and stronger economic ties. With that said, the United States is deeply concerned by several negative trends outlined in this report. Insecurity continues to plague eastern DRC, armed groups still benefit from the mineral trade, especially in gold, and the Allied Democratic Forces continues indiscriminate attacks on civilians, peacekeepers, and the Congolese military.

Political solutions, security sector reform, and the demobilization of armed groups into civilian life will be critical for future stability. For our part, the United States will continue to identify opportunities to engage the DRC government on how to attain greater security, peace, and prosperity for the Congolese people.

In Burundi, we remain concerned about continued restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression, as well as attacks on opposition political parties. We remind the government of Burundi that peaceful, free, fair, and transparent elections in 2020 are the basis for normalization of relations with the United States and other members of the international community.

Next week, the Security Council will discuss its need to assume a stronger posture toward preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention. We are all keenly aware that elections in this region have been a flashpoint for considerable violence in the past.

So, with Burundi’s 2020 presidential elections fast approaching, and with recent trends in the country pointing in a concerning direction, the United States believes the people of Burundi need this Council’s attention. If we fail to engage, their lives – the lives of millions of others throughout that region – could be adversely impacted.

Mr. President, as previous meetings on this subject have been largely pessimistic, the United States is pleased that the Secretary-General’s latest report suggests an improving situation in the Great Lakes Region.

Yet, we worry that the gains of the last six months will be lost if the concerns I have expressed today are not comprehensively addressed. Fellow Council members, just as yesterday, we were inspired by young African leaders who challenged us to do our part in bringing peace and security to the continent.

And so, in closing, I want to reiterate their challenge to us, and encourage this body to engage proactively and preventively as we consider the specific challenges facing the Great Lakes Region.

Thank you Mr. President.