Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 22, 2020
More than six years on from the beginning of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework, the United States remains optimistic that the countries of the Great Lakes region can engage constructively on issues related to insecurity. These include tackling illicit flows of goods that contribute to corruption, and addressing the threat posed by armed groups. I want to note that our confidence has been rewarded by positive regional momentum over the past year.
As the international community responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recall the extraordinary measures taken in the last year-and-a-half by Congolese and international actors to contain the Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC. We were saddened to learn of the resurgence of Ebola cases just days before being able to declare an end to the outbreak, but we believe that there will be progress again – in the very near future.
Today, the United States again reiterates the need for transparency and the timely sharing of public health data with neighbors, and with the international community, in order to tackle public health challenges.
Special Envoy Xia, this is a difficult moment and your role is more critical than ever. We urge your office to innovate, including by using videoconferencing technology to support Great Lakes governments. They will need this support especially as they balance their focus on both the COVID-19 response and the political, security, and economic needs that remain essential to regional peace and security. Current, positive momentum for peace and economic integration will surely be slowed by this pandemic – but it must not be reversed. Special Envoy Xia, to prevent any such reversal and improve progress, we would encourage more regular reporting, in standard UN products, on your office’s efforts.
The United States emphasizes the importance of follow-through on the Quadripartite outcomes between Rwanda and Uganda. We express our sincere appreciation to the governments of Angola and the DRC for their leadership in mediating this dispute, and for encouraging the governments of Rwanda and Uganda to continue to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve their differences.
Turning to Burundi, we note that as May’s elections rapidly approach, there is an increasing COVID-19 caseload. The potential impact of the pandemic on the ability of Burundian citizens to fully participate in the electoral process raises new concerns. We are therefore encouraged the Government of Burundi to ensure that all citizens can fully and safely participate in the May 20 elections.
Beyond elections, we are gravely concerned by the reports of repression of freedom of expression, assembly, and association. These come in addition to reports of other serious human rights abuses and violations, including arrests, disappearances, killings, torture, and sexual violence. Our message to the Government of Burundi remains clear: inclusive, peaceful, transparent and credible elections that reflect the will of the Burundian people are critical to reducing long-term grievances, improving security, and enabling economic growth.
In closing, the United States commends [the countries of the Great Lakes for continuing to engage constructively as they work toward lasting peace and stronger] economic ties. Just as they have worked together, the United States will continue to work closely with Great Lakes countries to address COVID-19. We are fully committed to helping save lives – and to [ensuring that the progress made since the signing of the PSC Framework is not lost.]