Statement by H.E. Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation at the Security Council Debate on the Situation in the Great Lakes Region
New York, 25 July 2013 -- Secretary Kerry, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates, Let me begin by thanking the US and Secretary Kerry for convening this most important debate in support of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework and for the Presidential Statement just adopted. Allow me also to thank the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for his statement as well as the World Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, and Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Mary Robinson for their valued contributions and briefings. Taken together, their extraordinary efforts, exhausting travel schedules and financial commitments to regional development priorities amply demonstrate their sincere commitment to the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework- a visionary, comprehensive and inclusive strategy to end decades of conflict and instability in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. I also thank AU Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra for his revealing briefing on regional efforts undertaken towards finding peace in the Great Lakes Region.
Let me also acknowledge the presence of Honourable Ministers from countries of the region and from fellow Council members.
Rwanda warmly welcomes the new Special Envoy of the US to the Great Lakes Region and the new SRSG and Force Commander of MONUSCO. Together, with Special Envoy, Mary Robison, I wish to assure you of Rwanda’s total collaboration. Mr. President,
Rwanda is very pleased and supports the Presidential Statement; we nonetheless believe it could have been strengthened by including ongoing regional efforts, particularly in support of the Kampala peace talks established under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Indeed, we urge the UN’s Special Envoy, Mary Robinson, to play an active part in seeing through the Kampala talks without much further delay. Her engagement would be a welcome and helpful contribution.
We have gathered today out of a shared determination to make peace in the Great Lakes Region a lasting reality. Having endured devastating conflict within our own borders nearly two decades ago, the people of Rwanda have worked tirelessly to rebuild a peaceful and thriving nation but we are also very aware that our destiny is inextricably tied to that of our neighbors.
Let me put it in the clearest possible terms: in order to secure long-term peace and prosperity for Rwanda into the future, we need a peaceful and prosperous DRC. As long as conditions persist that allow more than thirty rebel groups to roam in Eastern DRC with impunity -- or as long as men and boys see nothing in their futures beyond crime, violence and conflict -- such a transformation will remain beyond reach. The Framework of Hope, along with regional peace efforts, opens the door to that kind of profound and necessary change. Rwanda is eager to do its part and live up to its commitments – as a neighbor and a regional partner, as well as through the Framework agreement.
Allow me to lay out some concrete actions of my government has taken so far:
We have disarmed, interned and relocated away from the DRC border more than 600 M23 combatants who crossed into Rwanda as a result of infighting in March 2013. In his report dated June 28th, the Secretary-General commended Rwanda for the positive role it played in disarming Bosco Ntaganda’s troops. We have asked the United Nations to take responsibility for these combatants. It is important to note that Rwanda cannot bear this burden alone. We invite the international community to devise and implement a long-term solution for this group of former combatants. Rwanda has also worked with the UN to accommodate roughly 70,000 Congolese nationals who have sought refuge in Rwanda, and to take the necessary steps to ensure their safe return home as soon as possible.
In addition, as the Secretary General mentioned in his report on the implementation of the PSC Framework, the Government of Rwanda reported the presence of several high-ranking M23 members who crossed the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to seek refuge in Rwanda, including UN Sanctioned individuals.
When M23 leader General Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali on March 18th, Rwandan authorities offered facilitation for his transfer to The Hague.
We can all agree that the economic components of the Framework must be implemented alongside its political and security aspects. To that end, Rwanda is working to boost regional cooperation through enhanced economic integration and close collaboration in cross-border trade. Just last month, Rwanda mining authorities seized 8.4 metric tons of smuggled minerals and are in the process of returning them to DRC authorities, as has been our practice in the past.
We are also exploring several other opportunities for economic cooperation including a strategic bilateral project with the DRC on Lake Kivu.
Finally, Rwanda supported and has been facilitating the deployment of the Intervention Brigade. We did so because we believe that it could help pacify the region, and serve as a deterrent thereby allow MONUSCO to carry out its Protection of Civilians responsibility and, critically, create the space necessary to implement the Peace and Security Framework as well as for regional peace efforts.
But as Special Envoy Mary Robinson has stressed in the past, the Framework is a shared endeavour and its success depends on each party living up to their respective commitments.
Rwanda is one of the eleven countries who make up the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), by which developments in conflict-affected areas are examined thoroughly and with transparency and accountability. We therefore urge the Security Council to attach value to the work of the EJVM, and for their findings to inform the decisions we reach and resolutions we agree to.
On the recent FDLR-FARDC collusion, Rwanda remains seriously concerned. The Security Council received a letter (document S/2013/402) from my Government with details, so I will not repeat the specifics today. Nevertheless, Rwanda requests concerned parties to halt any further threats to its territory and its population such as the recent bombing into Rubavu district from the DRC territory. Nor can the peace process withstand destructive military alliances.
While Rwanda views any alliance between the FDLR and FARDC as a threat to regional security, we will not allow these disturbing developments to derail our commitment to peace.
I cannot stress enough Rwanda’s goodwill and ongoing support for the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework. We believe it offers a realistic path to lasting peace and security for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region at large. But we must not veer off course, and we must understand that this vision is only achievable alongside regional peace initiatives, as well as genuine political will on the part of all affected states.
Further, the international peacekeeping force in the DRC is forging unchartered territory with the deployment of an Intervention Brigade as well as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. UN peacekeepers must take great care to respect all relevant international laws, and adhere strictly to their mandate.
Since the consequences of instability in the Eastern DRC fall so heavily on Rwanda, we are eager to take full advantage of this historic opportunity for peace and security and, despite the serious risks I have outlined, we can see early signs of progress.
A plan without action is just words, and, when it comes to the eastern DRC, there have been enough words. There has been enough speechifying and report writing. And there has been more than enough grandstanding, especially by unaccountable actors who seek profit and publicity from the region’s misery. It is time for such forces to move aside. This is the time for accountable parties to stand up and step forward. Now is the time for action.