UN urges Central African leaders to help end conflict | New

UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The UN Security Council on Wednesday urged the leaders of the Great Lakes region of central Africa to seize the momentum of recent positive political developments to move towards ending conflict and conflict. illegal exploitation of gold and other natural resources in eastern Congo.

A presidential statement adopted by the most powerful organ of the UN cited diplomatic efforts reinvigorated by the presidents of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi which have resulted in improved bilateral cooperation. The council also commended the efforts of the African Union and regional groups to support the political process and help resolve conflicts in the region.

The Great Lakes region has been a hotbed of political instability and fighting since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda saw more than 500,000 people, mostly from the country’s Tutsi minority, massacred by a majority extremist regime. hutu. After Tutsi rebels led by Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, put an end to the genocide, Hutu extremists fled to neighboring eastern Congo.

Rwanda, along with its neighbor Uganda, invaded the Congo twice – in 1994 and 1998. The second invasion sparked a five-year, six-nation war in the Congo that killed some 3 million people. Rwanda and Congo normalized their relations in 2007, and 11 countries signed a peace accord drafted by the UN in 2013 to stabilize the Congo and not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries in the region.

Raychelle Omamo, secretary of the Kenyan Foreign Cabinet who chaired the council meeting, said that in the Great Lakes region there is now greater regional and bilateral cooperation, the thawing of tensions, “and a movement towards the search for holistic solutions to meet the challenge. conflict, poverty and underdevelopment. “

“The links between natural resources and conflict remain a major challenge for many Great Lakes countries,” she said,

Huang Xia, the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region, told the council that ministerial consultations and numerous state visits over the past six months “have given impetus to bilateral relations” in the region and a revitalization of cooperation in areas such as security. , trade, infrastructure, transport, natural resources and energy.

“Bilateral and regional initiatives show that there is an emergence of a community of common destiny, aware of the added value of dialogue and cooperation as tools to be good neighbors,” he said.

But Huang said that despite these achievements, the continued activity of armed groups remains the main threat to peace and security in the region.

He underlined the resumption of attacks in eastern Congo by the rebel group ADF, originally from Uganda, and by the rebel group Red Tabara against the airport in the Burundian capital in September.

The continuing violence has “very serious consequences” on the fragile humanitarian situation, economic stability and the illegal exploitation of natural resources “which finance their weapons and their recruitment,” he said.

João Samuel Caholo, Executive Secretary of the International Conference of 12 Countries on the Great Lakes Region, said the region “has made progress in terms of peace, stability and development despite the challenges of heinous criminal activities, including including illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources. “and the increase in sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups against women and children, particularly in eastern Congo and the Central African Republic.

UN Under-Secretary-General Martha Pobee told the council that the UN is encouraged by improving bilateral relations between neighboring countries. But she said domestic and foreign armed groups still operate in eastern Congo “and continue to carry out deadly attacks against civilians, further deteriorating the already dire humanitarian situation.”

“Since the start of this year, at least 1,043 civilians have been killed, including 233 women and 52 children,” she said.

Pobee cited a multitude of underlying causes of conflicts in the region, ranging from the presence of foreign armed groups and exploitation of natural resources to land and border conflicts, inter-communal tensions, to the limited presence of the state. in remote areas, persistent inequalities, youth unemployment and poverty.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the exploitation of minerals, wildlife and timber by armed groups, corrupt state officials and criminal networks “is clearly fueling the conflict” in eastern Canada. Congo and “help terrorist groups”.

She urged regional governments to manage their natural resources responsibly and demand that the private sector comply with international regulations, and she called for greater cross-border cooperation to ensure the legal sale of gold and other minerals.

“The Great Lakes region is rich in natural resources and has talented staff to finance these efforts themselves, if state actors work together to ensure legal and productive trade that benefits all inhabitants of the region”, Thomas-Greenfield said.

“The difference would be extraordinary,” she said. “It is entirely possible to stop this smuggling and bring more peace and prosperity to the region.”

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