The UN Secretary General's Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region, Huang Xia, spoke with Fred Oluoch on the current security and economic situation in the region.
Covid-19 has exacerbated the health crisis in the Great Lakes region; weakened the already fragile economies, and poses a danger to peace and security. What is your office doing to address the situation?
My office, together with the other guarantor institutions of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region (the African Union, ICGLR and SADC), is engaged in advocacy for coordinated support and attention from international partners, including international financial institutions, with a view to strengthening national efforts on mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
My office is also liaising with the civil society, including women and youth organisations, as well as the private sector to track the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations, and to support non-governmental initiatives, and to ensure that responses to Covid-19 take into account the needs of all segments of society.
You reported to the Council that the greatest challenge in the region is the activities by armed groups supported by the illicit exploitation of natural resources. What is the way forward?
The way forward is two-fold: Intensify the regional cooperation to neutralise the armed groups through a comprehensive approach that combines military and non-military efforts.
On the other hand, encourage member states to use the existing instruments, such as the ICGLR Regional Certification Mechanism to ensure that the exploitation of natural resources benefit the population and contribute to human security.
What major steps have been made since your first address to the Security Council in October 2019 in which you expressed much optimism?
This past year has seen much progress. Rwanda and Uganda, for example, have taken clear steps towards normalising bilateral relations, with the support of Angola and the DRC. Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have also succeeded to address their border dispute through diplomatic channels.
Co-operation among the concerned countries in the fight against illegal armed groups in eastern DRC constitutes another area in which we have seen progress.
With the support of my Office, the AU, ICGLR and SADC, and the countries at the core of the implementation of the PSC Framework (DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda) agreed to take joint and concerted actions in the context of non-military measures to promote the voluntary disarmament and the dismantling of the recruitment networks and supply lines of foreign armed groups operating in eastern DRC.
These measures complement ongoing military efforts, including by providing viable opportunities for disarmed former combatants from armed groups to reintegrate into civilian lives.
What are the major steps remaining for the full realisation of the PSC Framework?
The greatest challenge remains the complete eradication of the activities of foreign armed groups in eastern DRC. That would pave the way to address the illicit exploitation of natural resources and interference in internal affairs of neighbouring countries.
The Rwanda-Uganda rapprochement remains fluid, and is there a danger of losing the already covered grounds?
Since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Rwanda and Uganda under the aegis of Angola and DRC, significant progress has been registered in the quadripartite process, which includes the release of prisoners and the signing of extradition treaty between the two countries, as well as agreement on a roadmap which should lead to the re-opening of the border between the two countries.
Observers say that your office has not been active in the South Sudan peace agreement. Comment?
My office has supported regional efforts to find a solution to the presence of combatants of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM/IO), which fled to the DRC.
We also supported the efforts of the UN Mission in South Sudan in promoting inclusive peace and political processes through joint solidarity missions, undertaken together with the African Union and ICGLR, among others.
Date of Birth: 1962
Current position: The UN Secretary General's Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region spoke with Previous positions:
-Deputy Mayor of Jiamusi, Heilongjiang Province in China.
-Served in the Embassy of China to Gabon, France,
-Chinese ambassador of China to Niger, Senegal, Republic of Congo