I would like to express my appreciation to President Museveni for his leadership in convening this important meeting, which provides a timely opportunity for leaders of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to advance their collective search for a peaceful solution to the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I am deeply concerned about the security conditions in eastern DRC, particularly caused by the violent activities of the 23 March group of mutineers and other national and foreign armed groups. The humanitarian consequences for civilians have been grave. The number of internally displaced persons and refugees continues to grow, with over 220,000 people displaced in North Kivu alone in the past four months, while over 50,000 Congolese have crossed into Rwanda and Uganda. The worsening situation also poses a threat to stability in the wider Great Lakes region.
I have noted a decrease in M23 military operations since late July, and I call for the group’s immediate and complete cessation of all destabilizing activities. I condemn the violence and serious human rights violations committed by the M23, as well as other armed groups, against civilians, including acts of sexual violence, summary executions, and the recruitment of children as combatants. Such grave crimes need to be investigated by relevant institutions and all persons responsible must be held accountable.
I am also deeply concerned at the continuing reports of external support to the M23, and I call for an end to all such support without delay. Military deterrence alone will not resolve the current crisis. I strongly encourage continued and strengthened high-level dialogue at the bilateral and regional level, aimed at ending the conflict.
The issues that must be addressed are deeply intertwined. They include the extension of state authority, the neutralization of the armed groups, the return of refugees, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the strengthening of military, police and other security institutions. I reiterate my call to key international stakeholders to provide enhanced and sustained support to the Congolese authorities for Security Sector Reform and other key endeavours. I also call on the members of the Great Lakes Conference to renew their efforts to implement the Pact on Peace, Security and Development aimed at ensuring regional stability, integration and socio-economic development.
This Summit can point the way forward. The United Nations stands ready to provide support, as appropriate, in cooperation with the African Union and regional and international partners. In that spirit, I wish you fruitful discussions.