Speakers Stress Combating Illicit Trade in Natural Resources that Fuels Conflict, at Security Council Briefing on Democratic Republic of Congo, Great Lakes

The deteriorating security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to stymie favourable developments in the wider Great Lakes region, the Security Council heard today, as members stressed the need to strengthen regional cooperation and dialogue on countering common threats and working towards shared goals, including combating the illicit trade of natural resources that fuels conflict.

Xia Huang, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of the peace, security and cooperation framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider region (document S/2022/735), said that the resumption of hostilities by the 23 March Movement (M23) a few days ago had claimed victims and displaced thousands.Their activities, as well as those of other armed groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Résistance pour un État de droit au Burundi (RED Tabara), have amplified insecurities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and given rise to tension between countries of the region, in particular the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, threatening accomplishments in cooperation over recent years, he said.

Such instability, as well as climate-related events, have given rise to a concerning humanitarian situation, with 4.9 million refugees and asylum-seekers, and 12 million internally displaced in the region, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), he continued.

Against this backdrop, he called for greater mobilization among regional actors, welcoming in this regard the work of Kenya in the East African Community peace process, noting that talks within the framework will resume in Nairobi in the coming weeks. Reiterating his Office’s commitment to providing technical support to such efforts, he recalled the remarks made a month ago in the Council by his colleague Bintou Keita, Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), stressing the vital importance of coordination between all forces deployed on Congolese territory on security.Such coordination should also extend to mediation efforts, he added.

Despite such challenges, he welcomed progress enabled by the work of Angola in building a road map for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while stressing the need to forge progress through tangible actions, including confidence-building measures.He went on to outline efforts he will prioritize in the coming months, including strengthened bilateral coordination, including in matters of security, tackling the illicit extraction of natural resources, and promoting the participation of women in election processes and bodies.

In the ensuing debate, Council members expressed concern about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the country and called for a strengthened focus on non-military as well as military solutions to tackle the root causes of the conflict.Many members stressed the need to counter the illicit trade in natural resources that fuels tensions and funds armed groups, while also taking note of encouraging progress in diplomatic relations between regional States following the accession of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the East African Community.

The representative of Kenya, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, called for the swift implementation of the Action Plan for the 2021-2023 United Nations Strategy for Peace, Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes as well as the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region.Condemning the illegal and inhumane activities of groups such as M23 and ADF, he pointed out that some of them have links to terrorist networks including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Also concerning, he said, was the heightened levels of mistrust between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and the use of hate speech as well as disinformation and misinformation by some leaders.

The representative of the United States expressed concern about the “deeply troubling” humanitarian and security situation in the Great Lakes and called on armed groups to discontinue their assaults in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and for States to stop supporting such groups.Expressing concern over the calls for MONUSCO’s immediate withdrawal, he urged Kinshasa to work with the Mission towards a gradual, responsible conditions-based withdrawal guided by benchmarks in the joint transition plan.

China’s delegate was among several delegates calling for a multi-pronged approach to address security threats, including through strengthened support to be lent to disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation efforts. The root causes of regional instability, including the unlawful exploitation of natural resources, must be addressed, he said, calling for the implementation of the recommendations of the workshop held in Khartoum to help advance the lawful trade in such resources.

Meanwhile, the representative of Norway called forviolations of international humanitarian law and abuses of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be investigated and those responsible held accountable. She welcomed steps taken to promote the involvement of women in peacebuilding efforts. She went on to express concern over rising tensions between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda and welcomed the region’s political and diplomatic efforts to address security challenges.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo stated that the town of Bunagana has been occupied for M23 for more than four months and asked the Council to demand that “Rwanda and its M23 immediately withdraw”.He went on to dismiss the assertion by Rwanda’s delegate about the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) being a main cause of the conflict in the eastern part of his country, stating that the group is used as a pretext to plunder his country’s natural resources. Outlining progress made in the implementation of the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement, he highlighted the decision to deploy the operational unit of the Contact and Coordination Group in Goma from November, following the meeting of the heads of security and intelligence services in the region in September.The aim was to garner the support and involvement of all stakeholders in the non-military efforts to achieve the surrender of armed groups, he said.To this end, he urged the Special Envoy and the Council to assist his country in securing financing for the Demobilization, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilization Programme.

Source: UN Security Council

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