Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Great Lakes Region

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
April 12, 2017


Thank you Special Envoy Djinnit for your work to advance the Peace and Security Framework for the Great Lakes Region.

Two weeks ago, we renewed the mandate of the UN Mission in the DRC, MONUSCO. That vote was an important step in reinvigorating efforts to set the DRC on a path toward a democratic transition of power. That’s the only way to ensure the long-term stability of the DRC.

Certainly, the challenges in DRC are immense, and we are deeply disturbed by the violence and reports of mass graves in the Kasais. We recognize the importance of investigating these atrocities and urge the government of the DRC to work with, and not act as an impediment to, MONUSCO and other relevant parts of the UN to swiftly conduct these investigations.

We are also deeply disappointed by the lack of progress in implementation of the December 31 political agreement between the government and opposition. We continue to support this agreement which represents the best path forward for the DRC, including for ensuring upcoming elections and a peaceful transition of power. The United States continues to urge both the government of the DRC and the opposition to resolve outstanding issues, make concessions, and work constructively in the implementation of the agreement.

It remains clear that our collective efforts in the DRC must be matched with strong, simultaneous efforts to address all the regional sources of instability. Now more than ever, we need the focus of Special Envoy Djinnit to be on addressing problems related to the armed groups operating in the region and the legacies of past conflicts. In this regard, we appreciate efforts over the past six months to reform the governance structures of the Peace and Security Cooperation Framework and to reinvigorate its implementation. We are also pleased that there have been some improvements in relations among Great Lakes countries – most notably between the DRC and Rwanda.

However, we share the concern of the Secretary-General in his recent report that the continued presence of armed groups in the eastern DRC and the wider region pose acute challenges. In the last six months we have seen M23 and South Sudanese fighters cross into the DRC. These militants are in addition to the ADF, FDLR, and Lord’s Resistance Army fighters and numerous local militias that are already operating in the region, and their arrival in the DRC comes at a time of increasing inter-ethnic violence. We echo the Secretary-General’s call for the Government of the DRC and the leadership of the former M23 to resume their implementation of the Nairobi Declaration and ask Special Envoy Djinnit to redouble his work in support of these and other efforts aimed at reducing the threats of armed groups.

Now is the time to advance the agreements and processes that chart a path toward peace. We must see honest, good-faith efforts by all countries in the region to repatriate combatants and stop support for armed groups. The problems are there, and they are at risk of growing.

In our focus on the DRC, we must not lose sight of continuing challenges in Burundi. We are grateful to President Mkapa for his facilitation of the Inter-Burundian dialogue, but stronger and more sustained leadership from the region will be necessary to generate the pressure needed on both sides to make the dialogue a success and ensure the crisis in Burundi does not become an increasing source of instability for the region. The current situation in Burundi is not sustainable, nor acceptable.

Special Envoy Djinnit, we know you have a very challenging job. We will continue to work with you and our allies to advance stability in the Great Lakes, but these efforts cannot advance without strong and consistent engagement from the region. I urge you to continue engaging all of the stakeholders in the region to reinforce the importance of follow-through on the commitments they have made. We are here to make things work, and if they don’t work, we need to change them.