A senior United Nations envoy today stressed the need for peace, security and development in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as she visited the provincial capital of Goma, the site of upheaval and a humanitarian crisis late last year.
Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, also underscored the importance of implementing the agreement signed by 11 countries in February aimed at ending decades of conflict and instability in DRC and the wider region.
Leaders of the region “know that this is a moment when things must come together. There is a new opportunity,” she told a news conference before departing DRC for neighbouring Rwanda.
“We need peace, security and economic development in eastern DRC and the region going forward,” added the envoy, who is on a week-long visit to the Great Lakes region.
While in Goma, the capitol of North Kivu province, Mrs. Robinson met with Government officials, civil society groups, UN humanitarian agencies and the regional commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO).
She also visited Heal Africa, a health facility treating women who are victims of sexual violence, a brutally widespread practice within the conflict, and children affected by the conflict.
Mrs. Robinson expressed solidarity with the people and the communities of the region who have suffered for so long from the conflict, and pledged her strongest efforts to encourage full and rigorous implementation of the peace agreement, which she has dubbed “a framework of hope.”
She said she was encouraged by her discussions thus far and would also be “straight and direct” if she felt the process was not moving forward adequately.
Last November the M23 rebel group – made up of former members of the DRC national army (FARDC) who mutinied in April 2012 – occupied Goma. Clashes between the Government and rebels displaced more than 130,000 people in and around the city, and sent another 47,000 fleeing to neighbouring South Kivu province. Amidst widespread condemnation and calls for their withdrawal, the M23 fighters pulled out after 11 days.
In the wake of those events, the Security Council in March authorized the deployment of an intervention brigade within MONUSCO to carry out targeted offensive operations, with or without the Congolese national army, against armed groups that threaten peace in eastern DRC.
Asked about the coming establishment of the intervention brigade, Mrs. Robinson stressed that it could play an important role, particularly if it is able to act preventively as a deterrent, with limited strategic military operations. It would be vital that it operated in full compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law, she added.
Mrs. Robinson has arrived in Rwanda for the next leg of her regional tour, which will also take her to Uganda, Burundi, South Africa and Ethiopia.