Resource-Rich Democratic Republic of Congo Must Become Source for Development, Not Conflict, Secretary-General Tells Peace Framework Meeting, Urging End to Violence

Following are United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the eleventh high-level meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, in Bujumbura today:

Before I begin my speech, allow me to express my solidarity and condolences to the people and Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, victims of catastrophic floods in recent days.  This is a new illustration of the acceleration of climate change and its disastrous impact on countries that have not contributed in any way to a warming planet.

The Great Lakes region is enormously rich.  Naturally rich — thanks to its vast resources.  And culturally rich thanks to its people.  But, year after year, this incredible richness is undermined by theft, conflict and crises.  For decades, the peoples of the region have suffered from looting and violence.

The signing of the Framework, 10 years ago, raised many hopes.  It marked a turning point, where countries in the region made concrete commitments to end the recurring cycles of violence — particularly in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo — and build lasting peace and security.  I commend the signatory countries, as well as the guarantor institutions for their efforts to implement the Framework.

Unfortunately, the current crisis shows that much still remains to be done.  Despite our collective efforts, more than 100 Congolese and foreign armed groups are still operating in the country today, threatening the stability of the entire Great Lakes region. The presence of these armed groups, notably the 23 March Movement (M23), Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), Coalition of Congolese Democrats (CODECO), Résistance pour un État de droit au Burundi and others, gives rise to humanitarian tragedies and serious human rights abuses, including sexual violence.  It also fuels the mistrust and recent tensions between the countries of the region.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, since the resurgence of M23 in November 2021, more than 500,000 people have had to flee. The situation in Ituri Province remains extremely worrisome.

It is time for the violence to end.  I reiterate my call to all the armed groups:  Lay down your arms — immediately — and re-join the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process.  I also urge the political and community leaders to put an end to hate speech and incitement to violence, which only exacerbate tensions and move us further away from peace.  All parties must implement the decisions taken under the Luanda and Nairobi processes without delay and without exception.  Only through steady and sincere dialogue can lasting compromises be found.

I salute the recent efforts of the leaders of the region to prevent an escalation of tensions.  The United Nations and United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) will continue to support regional initiatives, including the East African Community Regional Force — and I call on all international partners to do likewise.

I welcome the consensus among regional actors around non-military measures for the disarmament, return and reintegration of foreign armed groups in their countries of origin.  The fight against impunity is another important step.  The perpetrators of cross-border and international crimes must be brought to justice.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region are rich in natural resources.  The Congo basin is home to the second-largest rainforest in the world — accounting for 10 per cent of global biodiversity.  It has an abundance of unique animal and plant species and many precious minerals.  The heritage of the Democratic Republic of the Congo belongs to the Congolese people.

We must ensure that it becomes a source of prosperity and development — not of conflict, rivalries and unsustainable exploitation. Peace and development must go hand in hand, and for peace to be sustainable, the voices of women, young people and displaced persons must be fully heard — in all political, security and judicial processes.  Let us not forget them.

I therefore encourage the signatory countries, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to redouble their efforts to meet these challenges.  In this context, I welcome the initiative taken by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union in February to revitalize the Framework.  The United Nations remains fully engaged, by your side. Only together can we achieve the common objectives of peace, security and cooperation of the Addis Ababa Framework. The peoples of the region are counting on us.

For information media. Not an official record.