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

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
March 26, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President. Special Envoy Djinnit, thank you for your dedicated service of nearly five years. Your efforts have been deeply appreciated, and we wish you every success in your future endeavors.

Mr. President, we all know the enormous potential of the countries of the Great Lakes region, but also the history of conflict that has destroyed millions of lives and deepened the distrust that has endured for decades.

Since 2013, the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework has provided a roadmap to rebuild confidence and mutual respect at the state level. Reviewing many of the commitments made six years ago – for example, to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighbor countries and to strengthen regional economic integration – we see this agreement is every bit as relevant today.

In fact, it may have new importance in the Great Lakes. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Tshisekedi is providing new hope that the status quo of insecurity and impunity will cease, and that the DRC will keep its commitments to further reconciliation, tolerance, and democratization.

Mr. President, the United States welcomes President Tshisekedi’s announcements on key Congolese commitments in the PSC Framework, including security sector reform, the consolidation of state authority, and economic development.

The United States is committed to working with the DRC government to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace conflict with commerce, and help permanently transform the Great Lakes region into an interconnected hub of prosperity.

Mr. President, now is the time for regional leaders, who are also parties to the PSC Framework, to live up to their commitments to adhere to the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of neighboring countries and to deny support or safe harbor to armed groups.

Working together, the countries of the region can use the tools at their disposal, with the support of MONUSCO, the UN sanctions committee, and the Security Council, to tighten their grip on destabilizing actors, not simply to protect civilians or provide humanitarian aid, but to eliminate conflict from the Great Lakes region altogether.

Mr. President, recent examples suggest that such outreach is already paying dividends.

For example, the December agreement, highlighted in the Secretary General’s report, between military officials from Uganda and the DRC to conduct joint border patrols in insecure areas along their shared border could serve as a new beginning for constructive cross-border cooperation.

The repatriation of FDLR and M23 combatants are additional positive examples of intra-regional cooperation, made possible by support from UN Missions.

New opportunities for regional economic integration and foreign direct investment could also be within sight. Regulators will need to tackle endemic corruption, particularly in the mining sector, to help stop the financing that fuels armed groups and makes peace so hard to achieve.

Mr. President, in previous Council sessions this year, the United States carefully described the threat of rising tensions in the Great Lakes region. I won’t rehash them now. But it is important to remember that, despite these challenges, a remarkable opportunity has been presented to the people of the Great Lakes, to the UN Missions working in the region, and to this Council.

Let’s build trust, let’s build confidence, and let’s seize this opportunity for peace, together.

I thank you.