Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Ms. Mary Robinson, has called on all parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to immediately stop military confrontations in the eastern part of the country.
Ms. Robinson is in the DRC to begin a regional tour with envoys from the African Union, European Union and the US to bolster diplomatic efforts for peace and stability in the region.
The UN envoy’s visit comes amid renewed fighting in the eastern DRC where over the past year, the rebel M23, along with other armed groups, has clashed repeatedly with the DRC national forces (FARDC).
‘I urge all parties concerned to immediately stop military confrontations in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and work to rebuild trust in peace efforts,’ a UN statement issued on Monday in New York quoted Ms. Robinson as saying on arrival in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, on Sunday.
She said what the DRC and the region needed was peace, stability and economic development and this could only be achieved by tackling the root causes of the conflict through a comprehensive political process.
The statement noted that prior to the start of the joint regional tour, Ms Robinson and Mr. Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the DRC and head of the UN mission there (MONUSCO), met with UN partners in the DRC.
They also travelled to Goma to express solidarity with the civilian population and MONUSCO peacekeepers.
During the four-day regional visit, scheduled to start on Wednesday, Ms. Robinson and Mr. Kobler will speak with senior government officials and representatives of local authorities, the international community and civil society in the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda.
They will be joined by Boubacar Diarra, Special Representative of the African Union, Koen Vervaeke, European Union Senior Coordinator for the Great Lakes region and Russ Feingold, US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region and the DRC.
The goal of the trip is to discourage further hostilities and to energize political efforts for peace in the region, including the so-called Kampala talks held under the auspices of the Chairperson of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
While in Kampala on 5 September, Ms. Robinson and the envoys will attend an extraordinary session of the IGCLR focused on the crisis in eastern DRC.
According to the statement, they will stress the urgency to take steps forward in the implementation of the 11-nation Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region signed earlier this year under UN auspices as a comprehensive approach to sustainable peace in the region.
Ms. Robinson has dubbed the accord a ‘framework of hope’ and has repeatedly said that there is a renewed opportunity in eastern DRC and the Great Lakes to address the underlying causes of the conflict and stop the violence for good.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about the escalating violence and in particular by the indiscriminate shelling by the armed group M23 which caused deaths, injuries and damage among the civilian population in the eastern provinces as well as the immediate border area in Rwanda.
A UN peacekeeper from Tanzania also died in one of the attacks.
In the past year, the fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people, exacerbating an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which includes 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.