While tensions in Africa’s Great Lakes region have eased in the past year, there are still serious issues to be dealt with, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling on leaders there to move quickly to carry out existing peace agreements.
Addressing the third summit of heads of State and government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), taking place in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, Mr. Ban commended in particular the commitment of the leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to promote peace and stability in the region.
In a message delivered by his Special Envoy for the region, Olusegun Obasanjo, the Secretary-General welcomed last week’s summit between the Presidents of the two countries, as well as the exchange of their ambassadors.
“This is no doubt a result of the collective efforts of the two countries and the region,” he noted. “It is also an example of how the ICGLR can serve as an effective instrument for change.”
He also highlighted the 23 March agreements between the DRC Government and armed groups in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, and appealed to all parties to pursue the full implementation of the accords.
In addition, he drew attention to the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, which he described as “one of the most far-reaching agreements that the region has ever seen.”
Under the Pact, which entered into force in June 2008, countries of the region committed themselves to tackling the underlying causes of the many conflicts that have raged there in recent decades and to deal with key security, governance, development, humanitarian and social issues from a regional perspective.
“It is now crucial to move from commitment to implementation,” the Secretary-General said, adding that this requires strong leadership.
At the same time, Mr. Ban said the region still faces “profound” security, humanitarian, developmental and environmental challenges.
“I urge you as members of the ICGLR to make full use of this unique mechanism to quickly consolidate peace. This is, of course, an essential ingredient to sustainable development,” he stated.
The core members of the ICGLR are Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), DRC, Kenya, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
In a related development, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, held a meeting last week bringing together dozens of traditional leaders in the country’s troubled east to discuss the joint DRC-Rwanda military operation aiming to root out the notorious ethnic Hutu militia known as the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR).
The leaders from South Kivu province conferred on challenges, including how best to protect civilians, posed by the operation, known as Kimia II, which was launched earlier this year.
Also attending the two-day gathering was South Kivu Governor Louis Mudherwa, who stressed the Government’s commitment to help those forced to flee their homes by the fighting, asking the traditional leaders for their support in the peace process.
Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the latest bout of fighting between DRC troops and the FDLR, along with their local allies, uprooted a further 35,000 people in South Kivu last month, bringing the total displaced there since January to 536,000. More than 1.8 million people are now internally displaced in the DRC’s east.