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

Scott Turner
Deputy Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 13, 2020


Thank you, Madam President. Special Envoy Xia, we appreciate your briefing today on the latest developments in the region.

Since we last met to discuss the situation in the Great Lakes, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to turn our world upside down. The Great Lakes region, which was in the midst of overcoming the second most deadly Ebola epidemic in world history, is no different. Despite the obstacles to travel created by the pandemic, we are encouraged by the ongoing and constructive diplomatic efforts that continue to be made to address root causes of conflict in the region.

Madam President, October is an important month for the UN’s engagement in the Great Lakes region with three prominent forthcoming reports – a UN regional strategy for the Great Lakes; an assessment of the UN’s role in Burundi; and a report on the exit strategy and drawdown benchmarks for the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC. The United States looks forward to receiving these reports and working with the UN to advance long-term stability and security in the region.

The United States is pleased to see that governments have already taken important steps to improve stability. Case in point: we commend the efforts of the governments of the DRC and Zambia, supported by SADC for work to address a long-standing border dispute. We also welcome reports of meetings between Rwandan and Burundian security officials, as well as continued progress to mediate disagreements between Uganda and Rwanda. This news bodes well for regional stability.

At the same time, the United States is disappointed by reports of violations of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation framework. The Secretary-General’s report includes many allegations of troops carrying out attacks and operations outside their borders, underscoring the need for all governments to uphold their commitments under the PSC framework. These incidents must stop, and those responsible must be held accountable.

The United States calls on regional oversight mechanisms to address these violations in earnest and take steps to ensure that such violations no longer occur. Special Envoy Xia, we believe you and your team have a key role to play.

Of particular importance, the United States commends President Tshisekedi’s efforts to energize regional reconciliation through a virtual “Eastern Congo Summit.” We hope that conversations like this one can maintain momentum for much-needed dialogue among heads of state that can trickle down into concrete proposals for regional economic integration. We have a rare window of opportunity to work together to address longstanding issues that impact the security for all Great Lakes countries. Regional governments could build a different way of doing business by tackling the illicit flow of minerals that funds armed groups.

Madam President, this October also marks the 20th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which established the Security Council’s Women, Peace, and Security agenda and recognizes the important role women play in conflict prevention, resolution, and recovery. We must continue to support women as drivers of social and economic recovery and put in place the building blocks for them to contribute fully and meaningfully.

The United States is very concerned by reports of widespread sexual exploitation and abuse by personnel who claimed to be employed by international organizations and private relief agencies as part of the Ebola response. We urge the organizations and agencies involved to ensure their recently announced investigations are thorough and conclude in a timely manner with appropriate steps taken to address the situation in a survivor-centered manner.

Finally, Special Envoy Xia, your role is more critical than ever. We urge your office to innovate, including by using videoconferencing technology to support governments in continuing the conversations that have started. There are a number of important regional conversations underway that will need your constant support.

Thank you.