Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 25, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Zerrougui, for your briefing today. We also want to thank you, Mr. Usseni, for sharing your expertise through your excellent briefing today regarding the nature and impact of the corrupt trade in the DRC’s gold.
At the outset, please allow me also to express my condolences to our dear colleagues of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia regarding the death of one of your brave peacekeepers following an attack in North Kivu. We understand he was an engineer who was building bridges – literally, not just figuratively – in support of the Congolese people at the time of his death.
We also understand that 46 MONUSCO personnel have tested positive for COVID-19, and that one of MONUSCO’s staff members in Bukavu has died due to the virus. And, again, Special Representative Zerrougui, please accept our condolences to your entire mission and the staff member’s family.
Whether due to armed groups or disease, these troubling deaths, underscore the dangers inherent in peacekeeping, and remind us of our debt to UN personnel – uniformed and civilian – serving in difficult circumstances far from home. The United States deeply appreciates their sacrifices to promote peace and prosperity for the DRC and its neighbors.
The United States recognizes the efforts to date by the Government of the DRC and MONUSCO to develop a joint strategy and benchmarks to prepare for the eventual drawdown and transition of the UN peacekeeping mission out of the eastern DRC. We look forward to hearing the outcomes of these discussions and would encourage the use of creative technology solutions to continue the dialogue despite the challenge of physical distancing measures due to COVID-19.
We also welcome the news of increased cooperation between MONUSCO and UN Country Team in the Kasais. The DRC’s future rests on the establishment of a sustainable model for handing over tasks currently performed by the UN peacekeeping mission to Congolese governmental bodies, UN agencies, and other partners. We need to learn from past attempts, especially while the regional dynamic is improving.
That said, the violence that requires a UN peacekeeping response has not ended. The United States is deeply concerned by continued attacks on civilians, peacekeepers, and Congolese security forces by armed groups operating in the eastern DRC. The humanitarian situation also remains grim, with an estimated 25.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including 19.5 million in need of food aid and 5.5 million who are internally displaced. This significant increase in the number of vulnerable Congolese is due to a combination of factors, including surging intercommunal violence in Ituri, severe flooding, Ebola outbreaks, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United States remains fully committed to the people of the DRC, as demonstrated by our unparalleled support to healthcare in the country and our robust assistance to countering outbreaks from malaria to Ebola to COVID-19.
Mr. President, we would also like to take this opportunity to heartily congratulate all those involved in supporting the containment measures to make possible today’s declaration of the end of the tenth Ebola outbreak in the DRC, the most devastating that the country has ever faced. This declaration is not only a major milestone in defeating an Ebola outbreak in the midst of a conflict zone, but a truly internationally coordinated accomplishment. The United States was proud to play a major part, donating nearly $600 million to the Congolese-led effort.
Finally, we congratulate the Congolese authorities on their continued progress in seeking justice and accountability for the murders of UN experts Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp. The recent arrest of a long-sought militia leader suspected in their murders marked important progress in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes. We warmly welcome the Secretary-General’s extension of the mandate for the Follow-on Mechanism led by Mr. Robert Petit through the end of the year, and we fully appreciate the investigative team’s continued efforts.
Thank you very much.