Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Ambassador Bale and Special Envoy Djinnit, for your briefings and your work to advance the commitments under the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region.
Just over a month ago, the United States was pleased to join with fellow donors, the signatories, and guarantors of the framework agreement in Addis Ababa for the fifth anniversary of that agreement. That forum proved a useful opportunity to take stock of the accomplishments that have occurred under the framework agreement, review those elements of the agreement that remain unfulfilled, and discuss ways in which the framework agreement mechanism can be made more effective and work within the existing regional organizations.
Signatories of the framework agreement understood there are inherent linkages between peace, development, and security in the DRC and the prospects for long-term stability across the broader region. This theme was reflected in the Secretary-General’s recent report on the Great Lakes region as well. He stressed that uncertainty surrounding the political situation in the DRC is compounded by the persistent activities of armed groups on the territory.
However, we would take this point a step further. The political impasse resulting from delayed elections has heightened tensions, undermined already weak to non-existent state authority, and risks increased violence and unrest as it provides space for armed groups and other malign actors to continue to operate. And we would urge the Special Envoy to focus on ensuring elections advance and the December 31 agreement is fully implemented.
We agree that we must continue to urge action against armed groups operating in eastern DRC. We cannot pretend that there is any solution to these problems without the full implementation of the December 31 agreement, electoral provisions in DRC’s constitution, and the electoral calendar. The DRC must hold inclusive and credible elections in December 2018 that lead to a peaceful, democratic transfer of power. No more delays will be tolerated.
We were particularly heartened in Addis to see consensus on the importance of DRC’s election for regional stability. Continued strong leadership from the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region will be critical in advance of the election to ensure that preparations continue moving forward and that potential spoilers are held accountable.
While we remain focused on DRC during this critical period, we also must not lose sight of other challenges to peace and security in the Great Lakes region. In this regard, we are particularly concerned about Burundi’s planned constitutional referendum on May 17. Already we’ve seen numerous reports of violence, intimidation, and harassment of those perceived to be opponents of the referendum. We are concerned that the referendum will exacerbate political tensions in Burundi and that the development of proposed constitutional revisions have not been conducted in a transparent and inclusive manner.
Failure to respect the Arusha agreement risks further destabilizing Burundi with unpredictable repercussions for both Burundi and the region. As is the case in the DRC, the region has an important role to play in promoting stability in Burundi, and we urge regional stakeholders to intensify their efforts to foster dialogue and bring an end to Burundi’s longstanding political impasse.
Special Envoy Djinnit, your role will be critical in working to strengthen and support the regional mechanisms advancing peace and security in the Great Lakes region as DRC and Burundi proceed through this very important period. We urge you to continue engaging with the key stakeholders in the region and inform us of any additional steps necessary to advance your mission. Thank you, Mr. President.