NEW YORK— The United Nations special envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, said this is a moment of renewed opportunity for peace in the area. She warned that if the opportunity is not seized, however, the consequences will be severe.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council Monday, Robinson called for optimism and courage in place of cynicism concerning Africa's Great Lakes region. She urged the governments and people of the region, as well as the international community, to believe once again that peace can be achieved and to take the necessary actions to obtain it.
Parts of the region, especially the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, have been mired in conflict for years.
Robinson, a former U.N. high commissioner for human rights and president of Ireland, was named special envoy to the Great Lakes region in March and has just completed her first visit to the area in an official capacity for that job.
In February, the Democratic Republic of Congo along with other African nations signed the “Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the eastern DRC and the Region.”
Then, in March, the U.N. Security Council authorized a special intervention brigade in the eastern DRC to reinforce the U.N. peacekeeping force, known as MONUSCO. The new brigade is authorized to use force to prevent the expansion of armed groups in the eastern DRC, such as M23.
“My visit in the DRC, in particular, took place against the backdrop of tensions produced by M23 statements in reaction to the upcoming deployment of the Force Intervention Brigade. In Kinshasa and Goma, the overwhelming majority of the Congolese I spoke to were enthusiastic about the deployment of the brigade, a feeling that is understandable,” said Robinson.
Robinson, who spoke via video link from Dublin, said the brigade should be seen as one element of a much larger political process aimed at finding a comprehensive solution to the crisis in eastern DRC. She told the Security Council the new "framework of hope," as she described it, is an opportunity to get it right - to bring peace, security and development at long last to the region.
"There are no guarantees that this new push for peace will succeed. However, we can be sure that if it fails the consequences will be grave,” she said.
Robinson said this new push for peace in the Great Lakes region will require what she called an all-out series of actions that are both serious and sustained, at the national, regional and international level.