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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's Press Encounter after Security Council Briefing on Visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region

New York, 29 May 2013

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to see you.

As you know, I returned on Monday from my trip to Africa and have just briefed the Security Council. I briefed the Security Council, particularly focusing on my travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other countries in the region, like Rwanda, Uganda [and Ethiopia]. Before that, I visited Mozambique, so this time, I have visited five African countries. Before that, as you may know, I had a visit to the Russian Federation, having a meeting with President [Vladimir] Putin.

During my visit to three countries in the region -- DRC, Rwanda and Uganda -- the President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, travelled together.

The Security Council is seized with many issues, including of course the latest efforts to achieve a political solution in Syria. But today, I’d like to focus on my trip to Africa.

The main purpose of my visit to Africa was to facilitate the early and effective implementation of the Framework Agreement on Peace, Security and Cooperation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, which was signed by 11 neighbouring countries on 24 February.

As my Special Envoy, Mary Robinson, has said, it is a Framework of Hope.

The agreement gives the people of eastern DRC their best chance in many years for peace, human rights and economic development.

It is also a foundation for stability and progress for the entire Great Lakes region.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim and I visited the Heal Africa hospital while visiting Goma to meet the many women and girls who had been brutally raped by armed groups, including Congolese armed forces.

They, and the people lining the city streets, had a clear message: no more war, no more abuse, no more impunity, and give us peace. I have travelled many countries, many conflict zones, many humanitarian crisis areas, where I was very much humbled and moved by what I have seen there.

Thousands of people came to the streets, following me, following our car and people sometimes, trying to block our convoys; but of course, they were not threatening crowds, they were friendly crowds. They were all holding papers, small papers, handwritten: “No more wars. Give us peace. No impunity.” All these were very much compelling messages from them to the United Nations, and I was so humbled, thinking what and how the United Nations could and should do more for these people. That has really strengthened my resolve to work for these people in the Congo.

Equally, the same experience which I have felt in the past was when I visited Juba, before South Sudan was independent. They were yearning, expressing their aspirations for independence. This kind of feelings, I have felt during my visit to Goma. This was my second visit to Goma and the second to the Heal Africa hospital; but it was quite a different experience for me at this time.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A peace deal must deliver a peace dividend -- health, education, jobs and opportunity.

That is why World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim has pledged a new $1 billion to support social safety nets, cross-border trade, energy and essential infrastructure for the people in the region.

These investments will boost the work both our organizations are doing to support sustainable economic growth in the Great Lakes region.

The region has enormous potential for those with the vision and courage to invest – governments and private investors alike.

On energy alone, geothermal, methane and hydro resources mean the DRC and the Great Lakes region could be a powerhouse.

There is no reason the DRC cannot follow the development path of countries like Mozambique, which emerged from bitter civil war to achieve peace and economic growth. Mozambique has been able to enjoy peace and stability during the last 20 years. If you look back 20 years, Mozambique was affected by civil wars and their crises.

Across Africa we see the same story: where there is sustained peace and good governance, economic growth and prosperity will follow.

These changes do not happen overnight – but they are happening now. 

I am determined to do everything in my power to encourage and nurture this new African narrative, all the while knowing that progress can be fragile and that serious challenges remain.

I will have further talks on these matters when I attend the Tokyo International Conference on African Development this weekend, TICAD V.

Looking further ahead, tomorrow my high-level panel of eminent persons on the post-2015 development agenda will release its report.  I will meet with President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono of Indonesia, representing the co-chairs; he will come with the final recommendations and we will go to the General Assembly and President Yudhoyono will report to the General Assembly on this final report of the high-level panel of eminent persons for the post-2015 development agenda.

Even as you cover today’s immediate crises, I hope you will also pay attention to this effort, which aims to put in place the solid foundation for a peaceful tomorrow.

Again, I thank you very much for your attention.

Q: We know that preparation is going on regarding this international conference, Geneva II. Have you determined when exactly it is going to happen? And my issue is to ask about the spillover, that Hizbullah is now openly declaring participation in this war in Syria. What are the ramifications for this kind of declaration from Hizbullah and other parties? Thank you. 

SG: On the first part of your question -- preparations in Geneva of an international conference on Syria -- active consultations are going on still between the United Nations, US and Russia. I had very good discussions with President [Vladimir] Putin and Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov in Sochi. And then I had also a good long meeting with [US] Secretary [John] Kerry in Addis Ababa. This morning again, I had a telephone discussion with Secretary Kerry. While active discussions are going on, there are still many elements which we have to clear. We have yet to find out, agree on a mutually agreeable and convenient date for a meeting. And also we have to see how the opposition groups are discussing their unity issues. We expect that the opposition groups will come in a coherent and unified manner, as a single representation. And we also have some other issues, participation issues – who should participate in this meeting. Therefore, I am not in a position at this time to tell you exactly when this will take place. But we are all committed to convene this meeting as soon as possible. Russia and the United States have asked me to convene this meeting and send an invitation, but before an invitation is issued, we have to clarify all the elements.

On this Hizbullah issue, we are very much concerned that many actors are now involved in this. My strong message is that fighting must stop immediately, so that the political process can begin. That’s the best way at this time. Thank you.

Q: Now that the European Union arms embargo appears to be expiring and lifted, do you believe that some countries should be able to deliver arms before the peace talks? The Austrian Foreign Minister said that you did not believe that it should happen; could you verify that is what you believe in? And what efforts are being made to get the opposition to the talks?

SG: In the course of the last few days or week, I have been discussing on this issue with Prime Minister David Cameron and President [Francois] Hollande, and the Foreign Minister of Austria, and many others, Secretary Kerry. My position on this issue has been clear and consistent: I had been urging all the parties who have influence to both sides, they should urge both sides to stop fighting. There is no strategy of arms in both sides. Just providing arms to either side will not help this process. There is no such military solution in this case. I think only a political process can resolve this issue [in a] sustainable way.

I have taken note of European Union decision. But I understand this was a decision, after very carefully thought about, many, many hours, in fact many months, they have been discussing this matter. I hope the whole world at this time will try to address this issue, so that we can begin the political process.

Q: President [Jakaya] Kikwete of Tanzania has said at the African Union Summit that Rwanda should negotiate with the FDLR. And the Rwandan Foreign Minister has called this abhorrent and said this would be akin to negotiating with people who committed genocide in Rwanda. Since Tanzania is part of the Intervention Brigade, some people are saying this makes the Brigade less than impartial. What do you think of the idea of Rwanda negotiating with the FDLR? Are they a legitimate group or are they still tied to the genocide of 1994? Thank you.

SG: What is important at this time is that Tanzania is one of the signatories to the Framework Agreement and they are going to provide [to the] Intervention Brigade and the force commander is coming from Tanzania. I hope with all this Framework Agreement and active participation of many countries involved, we will be able to see first of all peace and stability. That is our focus at this time and I will not comment any further on that matter. Thank you very much.