Thank you, Mr. President. On October 7, Ambassador Power had the privilege of leading the Security Council’s first visit to Rwanda since 2009.
Council members began this leg of our trip by visiting a Demobilization Center in Mutobo where we had a chance to hear testimonials from former FDLR combatants who have voluntarily returned and, with the help of MONUSCO and the Rwandan government, are trying to reintegrate into society. These individuals told us about the difficulties they faced while living on the run in the DRC and about the hard choices they had to make in deciding to leave the rebel force. In many cases, the FDLR has threatened to retaliate against them and members of their families. We were pleased to hear of the key role that MONUSCO continues to play in collaboration with Rwandan authorities to ensure that these former fighters can successfully resume their lives.
The Council then traveled to Kigali where we had a tour of the children’s wing of the Gisozi Genocide Memorial. Even those of us who had already visited Rwanda’s memorial were overwhelmed by the devastating eloquence of the memorial. Since the memorial opened in 2004, more than 100,000 visitors have viewed the exhibits -- an impressive number but a mere fraction of the 250,000 people whose bodies are buried in mass graves beneath the four acres of memorial gardens and grounds. The facility serves as a permanent repository for photos and testimonies related to the 1994 genocide – and a permanent warning for the world community. That warning has special meaning for our Council, which failed dismally in responding to the slaughter of nineteen years ago.
As Council members are aware, the waves created by the genocide continue to disrupt and claim lives. Prior to arriving in Kigali, we met with displaced persons outside of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where many thousands of families have been victimized by recurring attacks and atrocities. We were struck by the contrast between conditions in and around Goma with the relatively calm and stable environment in Rwanda. In our meetings with Rwandan officials, several of us made the point that Rwanda has an opportunity to take steps that would help spread the peace and greater prosperity it has achieved to people across the Great Lakes region.
Following our visit to the Gisozi Memorial, we met in Kigali with the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, and finance and with senior representatives responsible for intelligence and economic planning. In these meetings, we discussed a comprehensive range of issues, including the status of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region. Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo assured us of her government’s readiness to be a full partner in creating a sustainable peace and said that she was encouraged by the proactive initiatives undertaken by the UN Secretary General, World Bank President, and new leadership of MONUSCO. The foreign minister also raised Rwanda’s concerns about the ongoing security threat posed by the FDLR and requested greater collaboration between the Security Council and the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region. We were able to reinforce the message that SRSG Kobler had delivered – that MONUSCO would not allow the FDLR to wreak havoc in East Congo any more than it would the M23.
Council members then had a frank 90 minute dialogue with President Paul Kagame. The president echoed his foreign minister in calling attention to the dangerous activities of the FDLR.
Council members again noted MONUSCO’s clear mandate to neutralize all irregular armed groups and expressed their commitment to see that this aspect of the UN mission’s mandate is implemented. In addition to the FDLR, Council members cited the threat posed by the M23 and observed that if the regional framework is to succeed, all armed groups must be neutralized. Building on this point, we emphasized the imperative for every country, including Rwanda, to neither tolerate nor provide support to any militia or armed force, and appealed to President Kagame to use his country’s influence with the M23 to promote peace and help bring the Kampala Talks to a decisive close. The president pledged that Rwanda would be a genuine partner in the peace process, but noted his concern with how events in the region have been characterized, questioning whether the causes of the current conflict are accurately understood. Further, he urged the Council and international community to help establish adequate judicial and accountability mechanisms in the DRC.
Overall, we found our exchange of views with Rwandan government officials to be very substantive and constructive, and we are hopeful that the dialogue will help further efforts to achieve regional peace.
In closing, I would like to thank the UN’s Resident Coordinator for Rwanda, Lamin Manneh, and other UN staff, including Nene Bah, James Sutterlin, and Davey McNab for helping to make this leg of our trip successful. I express my appreciation, as well, to our Rwandan government hosts for their hospitality and open exchange of views. Thank you, Mr. President.
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