Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 6, 2020
Thank you very much. And thank you, Special Representative Zerrougui, for your briefing today. I’d like to express my appreciation to Ambassador Abarry for your update on the status of the important work of the DRC sanctions committee.
The United States is deeply troubled by rising levels of violence in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri, which were characterized by clashes between armed groups; tit-for-tat militia attacks against civilians, including many women and children; and the Allied Democratic Forces’ continued brutal campaign. We must use all tools at hand to work toward the peaceful resolution of historic drivers of conflict and an end to impunity.
This is a policy priority for the United States. Our Ambassador to Kinshasa, Mike Hammer, traveled to North and South Kivu last week to meet with key officials and civil society to assess how the U.S.-Congolese partnership can benefit local people.
With more than 1,300 civilians killed by attacks in the first half of 2020 alone, it is clear MONUSCO would benefit from additional operational support. The United States supports the UN’s efforts to add three new Quick Reaction Force units to the Force Intervention Brigade, also known as the FIB. These new units, together with the increase in the number of military staff officers and new intelligence capabilities, will equip the mission to more effectively counter the threats that have increased the devastating death toll in the DRC this year.
As President Tshisekedi said during his remarks to the UN General Assembly last month, boosting the FIB’s operational capacity can help to stop asymmetric attacks on Congolese civilians living in insecurity for more than two decades now. Two decades too long.
We also welcome the president’s call for increased efforts by international actors to dismantle armed group networks. As just outlined by Ambassador Abarry, we remind all armed group actors and their business associates that UN 1533 sanctions remain in place. We view appropriate, targeted, and effective sanctions as an essential tool against actors and entities that undermine the peace and security of the DRC.
The path to sustainable peace will require political solutions to localized conflicts, as well as improved governance. We were encouraged by the initial surrender of more than 450 NDCR fighters in August, and would urge more progress on the government’s disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of FRPI armed group.
But sustainable peace can only take root when accompanied with broader political and economic reforms. To this end, we applaud the DRC government for the steps it has taken to improve governance and human rights, fight impunity, and stop trafficking in persons and child soldier recruitment. We hope to see progress in decreasing the number of human rights violations committed by state security forces and increased prosecutions of both state and armed group actors for human rights violations and abuses. We also urge more accountability for those with command responsibility, as well as the improved prevention of sexual violence in conflict and stronger support and protection for survivors.
We also congratulate President Tshisekedi for taking steps to professionalize the Congolese military by appointing new leadership this summer, as well as for appointing the first woman Constitutional Court judge and a new director of the DRC financial investigation unit. While there is a long road ahead to sustain these gains, we think it is important to recognize progress to date.
With that in mind, we are very concerned about the recent allegations of widespread sexual exploitation and abuse by personnel who claimed to be employed by international organizations and private relief agencies in North Kivu as part of the Ebola response. The United States takes these alleged incidents very seriously and calls upon the organizations and agencies involved to conduct a thorough investigation and hold offenders accountable. The United States will continue to work with the UN to develop programs and capabilities to conduct thorough investigations and prosecutions of these crimes.
We remain concerned about similar allegations against MONUSCO peacekeepers and civilians, which continues to have the second highest number of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of all missions. We urge all troop- and police-contributing countries to enforce the UN’s zero-tolerance policy and to swiftly and credibly address criminal allegations. We urge MONUSCO and the UN to take prevention seriously, including by repatriating contingents that display a pattern of abusive behavior.
Finally, as requested in the mandate adopted last December, we look forward to receiving later this month a joint exit strategy with measurable benchmarks for progressively transferring MONUSCO’s tasks to the Congolese authorities, the UN Country Team and other stakeholders, with the goal of achieving a responsible exit of MONUSCO in the coming years.