The UN Special Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes region, Huang Xia, made an appeal to the international community on Tuesday for increased assistance in resolving the escalating tensions in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the growing unease in the wider Great Lakes region. Speaking before the Security Council, Mr. Xia expressed deep concerns regarding the deteriorating security situation and the potential for direct conflict between the DRC and Rwanda, both of whom have accused each other of supporting armed groups within their territories.
Mr. Xia emphasized the troubling signs of a military build-up by the two countries, the absence of direct high-level dialogue, and the persistence of hate speech. He stressed the urgency of addressing these issues.
The humanitarian situation in eastern DRC is also alarming, with a rising number of displaced people. The UN envoy called upon the international community to provide substantial humanitarian assistance and support the return of displaced individuals to their homes. He underscored the significance of education for children in ensuring the region’s future stability.
Mr. Xia has been actively working to promote peace in the region by visiting several countries including Angola, Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. His efforts aim to foster trust and mobilize partners for a peaceful resolution to the challenges faced by the region. He highlighted the importance of revitalizing the 2013 Addis Ababa Framework Agreement, which serves as a foundation for peace and security.
Additionally, Mr. Xia called on all armed groups to disarm and participate in the DRC’s demobilization program introduced in 2022.
Moving forward, it is crucial to focus on diplomatic efforts and ongoing dialogue to achieve a comprehensive solution for the Great Lakes region. Mr. Xia emphasized that military solutions alone would not be enough to establish lasting peace. International support and cooperation are pivotal in preventing further escalation and paving the way for peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.
Furthermore, the UN has a comprehensive Strategy for the region aimed at addressing the root causes of instability. However, Mr. Xia noted that it lacks sufficient funding. He called on all partners to contribute towards filling this financing gap, highlighting the strategy’s proven effectiveness. Mr. Xia also emphasized the importance of implementing a regional strategy on artisanal gold, which includes a traceability mechanism. He emphasized the detrimental connection between illicit gold exploitation and the financing of numerous armed groups in eastern DRC, and urged for measures to shut down this trade.
The UN Strategy places a particular emphasis on involving women and young people in political dialogue initiatives, recognizing their vital roles in achieving peace and security in the region.
To prevent further escalation and pave the path for lasting peace, stability, and prosperity, international support and cooperation are crucial in the highly volatile Great Lakes region.