United Nations envoys and their diplomatic counterparts today voiced regret that peace talks between the M23 rebel group and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) could not be concluded this evening, while also stressing that any solution to their conflict must ensure accountability for those who have committed grave crimes.
The joint statement by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson, his Special Representative for DRC, Martin Kobler, United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region and the DRC Russ Feingold, African Union Special Representative Boubacar Diarra, and European Union Senior Coordinator for the Great Lakes region Koen Vervaeke comes nearly a week after the group welcomed the announcement by the M23 that it is ending its bloody insurgency against the DRC Government.
The talks in the Ugandan capital of Kampala were aimed at reaching a final and principled agreement that ensures the disarmament and demobilization of the M23 and accountability for human rights abuses.
“The Envoys note that the parties have expressed no differences on substantive points within the draft document. However, agreement on the format has not yet been reached. Despite a change in the military situation, it is important that there be a political conclusion to the dialogue,” said the statement.
“The Envoys urge the parties to resolve the differences relating to the format of the document and to remain committed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
“The Envoys further emphasize that any solution must allow the pursuit of accountability for those who have committed war crimes, crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, including those involving sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers, and other gross violations of human rights.”
Meanwhile, another senior UN official issued a statement today, calling for greater commitment and focus to “turn the tide” on conflict-related sexual violence in DRC.
“Accountability for sexual violence is critical for deterrence and ultimately the prevention of these crimes,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura.
She noted the “unprecedented” measures announced by President Joseph Kabila to tackle the scourge, including his decision to appoint a Presidential Representative on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment and his call for the creation of specialized chambers to prosecute international crimes.
While the measures represent a greater commitment and focus to eradicate conflict-related sexual violence, “commitments must be turned to concrete action – action that can and must turn the tide on this unacceptable crime.”
In light of the recent end to the conflict with the M23, the envoy urged Mr. Kabila to ensure that proper screening and vetting take place so that perpetrators of sexual violence and other egregious human rights violations are not integrated into the national security forces.
The M23 – composed of soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April – along with other armed groups, has clashed repeatedly with the FARDC. In the past year, the fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people, exacerbating an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which includes 2.6 million internally displaced persons and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.