Central Africa: Economic Impact of Coronavirus Threatens Hard-Won Gains Across Great Lakes Region

Kampala, Uganda — Sweeping preventative measures seem to be curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the Great Lakes region of Africa, but the economic impact of the global pandemic threatens hard-won gains made along the long road back to peace and stability, a UN regional representative has stated.

The Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the region Huang Xia told the Security Council during open videoconference proceedings last night that the novel coronavirus has so far claimed 131 lives in the Great Lakes region among more than 4,766 confirmed cases - but is spreading at a moderate rate compared to other parts of the world.

So far, strict travel restrictions and quarantine measures seem to be keeping the spread of the deadly virus at bay, he said. But the economic impact is already significant, with many key sectors including agriculture, mining and transportation at a near-standstill.

"In the long term, these preventative measures - combined with the reallocation of resources to address the health crisis are likely to weaken the already fragile economies, with possible implications for peace, security and development in the region", Huang told Council members via video-teleconference.

He urged the international community not to let up on its support for the continent-spanning region that includes Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda, among several other nations.

"The countries of the region, some of which are emerging from decades of conflict will need steadfast support from members of the international community in order to deal with and, in a sustainable manner, recover from the pandemic and its consequences."

The Special Envoy was briefing the Council on the Secretary-General's latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the

While COVID-19 is, like elsewhere, forcing countries in the region to redirect their priorities, Huang pointed to several positive developments, including a peaceful political transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, progress towards normalizing relations between Rwanda and Uganda and the formation of a unity Government in South Sudan.

Progress has also been made in the fight against armed groups operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, he added, with increased coordination and exchange of information between the armed forces of that country, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

Nevertheless, the activities of armed groups - including the illicit exploitation of natural resources - undoubtedly remains the biggest challenge, the Special Envoy said, diminishing trust among countries in the region and fueling a humanitarian crisis that leaves civilians paying the highest price.

He went on to urge the Council to keep a close watch on electoral processes in the region. Elections can be a source of unrest at times, but hopefully, upcoming polls - particularly in Burundi and the Central African Republic - will be an opportunity to consolidate democratic gains and reinforce stability, he said.

In press elements issued after the meeting, the representative of the Dominican Republic, Council President for April said that Council members welcomed positive developments and commended the steps taken by regional leaders to deescalate tensions, build confidence and advance cooperation.

Council members also called for stronger coordination among Governments in the region in the fight against COVID-19, vigilance against a potential resurgence of the Ebola virus and an immediate cessation of hostilities by all armed groups.

More From: Independent (Kampala)

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