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UN envoy says her only agenda is helping restore peace to Africa’s Great Lakes region

Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson.
Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson.

UN envoy says her only agenda is helping restore peace to Africa’s Great Lakes region

The United Nations Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa stressed that she has no other agenda than to help the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and neighbouring countries to regain peace.

Speaking to Radio Okapi, a radio station backed by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC that is known by its acronym MONUSCO, Mary Robinson said it was important for her to remove any ambiguity regarding her position.

“As Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, I have no other agenda than to help this country […] to restore peace for the people so the country can move forward.”

Mrs. Robinson said that she fully supports Resolution 2098, which was unanimously approved in March by the 15-member UN Security Council. “This is a very clear resolution that provides a vision and a holistic and comprehensive approach to promoting peace and stability in the DRC. In my opinion, it leaves no room for ambiguity.”

She added that the resolution both launches a political process that aims to bring peace to the DRC, as well as authorizes an intervention brigade within the current UN peacekeeping force.

“These are two pillars that go together, one does not exclude the other,” the envoy stressed.

Resolution 2098, which extends the work of MONUSCO through March 2014, provides a framework for the UN to support Congolese authorities by protecting civilians, neutralizing armed groups, and implementing key reforms to consolidate peace in the country, particularly in the area of security sector reform and rule of law.

The resolution also approves an intervention brigade to carry out targeted offensive operations, with or without the Congolese national army, against armed groups that threaten peace in the eastern part of DRC – a region that is prone to cycles of violence and consequent humanitarian suffering.

The objectives of the new force – based in North Kivu province in eastern DRC – is to neutralize armed groups, reduce the threat they pose to State authority and civilian security and make space for stabilization activities.

The brigade is putting in place measures gradually, Mrs. Robinson told Radio Okapi, in collaboration with national authorities to help address the situation on the ground.

“It naturally takes time,” the Special Envoy stressed.

Over the past year, the M23, along with other armed groups, has clashed repeatedly with the national DRC forces (FARDC) in the eastern DRC. The rebels briefly occupied Goma in November 2012. The fighting resumed in recent weeks, this time dragging in a group of Ugandan-based rebels, and displaced more than 100,000 people, exacerbating an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which includes 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.

As part of an effort to address the underlying causes of violence in the region, the Government of DRC along with 10 other countries and four regional and international institutions adopted what Mrs. Robinson has dubbed a “framework for hope” in February.

Known formally as the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region, the accord serves as a blueprint for peace and development in the region.

“I come from a country – Ireland – that has experienced a violent conflict for a long time. It is with this personal experience that I work with all my energy and in partnership with the Government of the DRC, civil society and other signatories to the Framework Agreement,” Mrs. Robinson said.

“I am personally ready to explore all possible and acceptable ways that can lead to a lasting solution to the crisis.”