Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 30, 2021
Let me start by thanking Special Representative Keita for your briefing. We extend our appreciation to MONUSCO, its leadership, its troop- and police-contributing countries for their efforts to protect the Congolese people.
And I thank you, Madam Lusumba, for joining us today to share your expertise and make recommendations for further action. The Security Council needs to continue to hear the views of brave civil society members like you, and your on-the-ground reality must inform our work.
Colleagues, it is almost inconceivable the danger that so many Congolese people have to face on a daily basis. More and more innocent people die every day because of attacks by armed groups – including those attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces, known as the ADF, in North Kivu and Ituri.
The ADF killed more than 840 people last year alone. These people are more than a statistic. And I would say their names – every one of them – but we can’t, because we have to protect their families from reprisal attacks. That’s how dangerous the situation there is on the ground.
Each person killed by the ADF was someone’s father. Or someone’s mother. Or someone’s child. Their deaths rip through towns. They tore holes into communities. And the survivors often lose their family’s source of income or face social repercussions. One attack can lead to life-long trauma. The ADF is not the only deadly armed group operating in the DRC, however.
I want to extend my deepest condolences to the families and colleagues of Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio, Mustapha Milambo, and Vittorio Iacovacci. This month we also mark the fourth anniversary of the deaths of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan.
We must remain focused on the real, direct impact these tragedies have had on the individuals and on communities, no matter the perpetrators. We must do more to stop the violence.
To that end, the United States domestically designated the ADF as a Foreign Terrorist Organization as Specially Designated Global Terrorist. We urge the states of the region, with the support of MONUSCO and this Council, to develop integrated, holistic strategies to stop the ADF’s external funding and recruitment.
We’re also deeply concerned about the atrocious acts of gender-based violence in the DRC. Reports of rape are heartbreaking and they are appalling. What’s more, since women and girls must play pivotal roles in any effective conflict prevention and resolution efforts, these horrific acts slow down the peace process.
So, we welcome MONUSCO’s work with women’s organizations to map security hotspots where women and girls are at risk. And we strongly support MONUSCO’s efforts to integrate 15 female engagement teams in the force’s major units to advance community engagement and trust building.
Confronting the challenges in the eastern DRC also requires the full implementation of commitments under the 2013 Peace, Security, and Cooperation framework. That means enhancing security, ending impunity for human rights abuses, and supporting stabilization efforts.
This is an opportunity for regional and international partners to step up. With their help, we can achieve real peace and stability, and ensure the region’s rich economic potential comes to fruition. This includes all of the countries in the Great Lakes region. All Great Lakes governments play a vital role, a vital and important role in furthering peace and stability.
So, we encourage the Office of the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes to be more forward-leaning, and to press regional actors to improve good governance, strengthen rule of law, and promote human rights.
Meanwhile, we support MONUSCO’s efforts to strengthen the Force Intervention Brigade’s capacity to prevent and respond to ADF attacks. That work should continue in conjunction with the Government of DRC.
I would also note that we are encouraged by the Secretary-General’s report that consultations have begun between MONUSCO and DRC government to plan for the eventual transition and responsible exit of peacekeeping forces.
As part of that holistic approach, we support regional engagement to block illicit funding of armed groups. Responsible and conflict-free mineral supply chains and efforts to counter smuggling in natural resources will weaken the ADF and strengthen the local economy.
Finally, we’re looking forward to discussing these issues further during next month’s briefing on the Great Lakes. We hope that these back-to-back briefings will draw more attention to the urgent need for action. After all, there is so much ripe potential here today.
Together, we turn the page on several decades of violence, and launch a peaceful and prosperous era for eastern DRC and the entire Great Lakes region.
Thank you very much.