United Nations — Hopes were high for the recently agreed Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki- moon said here Thursday, but recent fighting in the region has him "deeply concerned."
The UN chief is not alone in his concern as the Security Council held an open debate at UN headquarters in New York.
Taking advantage of theUnited States role as the council president for July, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry decided to chair a discussion on the situation surrounding eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and its neighbors Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
The 15-nation Security Council unanimously approved a presidential statement on the conflict, commending the PSC and its signatories but also criticizing some of them for not living up the accord.
"The Security Council calls on the DRC and the countries of the region to implement promptly, fully, and in good faith, their respective commitments under the PSC Framework," said the statement, which does not carry the weight of international law, as does a council resolution.
"The Security Council calls on the DRC to continue and expand security sector reform, consolidate state authority, make progress on decentralization, and further the agenda of reconciliation, tolerance, and democratization," it said.
The statement also called on the countries to respect the sovereignty of its neighbors, urging them "not to interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring countries" and not to harbor fugitives and to promote accountability.
"The Security Council calls on all countries of the region neither to tolerate nor provide assistance or support of any kind to armed groups," the statement said.
Ban told the open session that "hopes were high that we could see an end to the large-scale cyclical violence that has ravaged eastern DRC over the past two decades and derailed previous peace initiatives."
"Peace would mean a new chance for development and lasting security for some of the world's most sorely tested people," he said, adding that "I am therefore deeply concerned about the current hostilities."
He singled out the rebel DRC soldiers who reformed in North Kivu province last year as the March 23 Movement (M23) against the regular Congolese armed forces.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, by teleconference from Washington, said he and Ban recently went to the region and concluded, "We cannot have development without peace and we cannot have peace without development."
"Conflict not only can stop development but it can reverse years of development gains," said Kim. "The eastern provinces of the DRC are a good example of a tragedy with an immense human cost that has gone on for far too long."
More than 3.5 million people died in the conflict since 1998, he said. "Another 4.7 million people lost their homes and over 2 million children cannot benefit from education due to the destruction of schools. The poverty rate is about 70 percent and overall access to economic services, including energy is very limited."
Moreover, Kerry lauded the government for taking initial steps towards army reform, decentralization and national dialogue but added it must translate the commitments into tangible results.
"For far, far too long, far too many lives in the DRC and the broader Great Lakes region have been ravaged by targeted, grotesque violence," he said. "They have been subjected to human rights abuses and the region has been disrupted by dangerous instability."
"It is a stark reminder of what fills the vacuum in the absence of good governance, basic dignity, and in the absence of firm leadership that holds accountable those who violate basic standards of decency," he said.
Kerry said violence in the region should remind all "of an obligation that we all share -- not only to end the killing, the raping, the forcing of children into combat, the devastation and the fear -- but the obligation to establish a lasting peace and the climate of development."
Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and a former UN high commissioner for human rights who has served as Ban's special representative to the region for four months, told the Security Council the latest fighting "has had devastating consequences."
"Many cases of death, injuries, sexual violence against women and massive displacement of population are still being reported," she said. "These cannot be allowed to go on; the fighting must stop immediately and all parties should exert maximum restraint to avoid a further escalation of the conflict."
To counter violence, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC ( MONUSCO) was recently given a green light by the Security Council to form an Intervention Brigade, which she called "an important tool with a robust mandate operating within a comprehensive approach that embraces security and development."
DRC Foreign Minister Tshibanda N'Tungamulongo blamed "a cyclical calling-in-to-question of its security and peace due to rebellions which have been clearly established as having the same genetic signature, the same designers, the same external support, fallacious justification, the same actors on the ground the same modus operandi, marked by massive violations of human rights."
The minister said that his nation has seen violence since the mid 1980s. "With the loss of more than 6 million souls we see a tragedy which is unequaled in the history of mankind and which can leave no one indifferent unless mankind loses its soul," he said. - Xinhua