UNITED NATIONS— A delegation from the U.N. Security Council is heading to Africa to visit the volatile Great Lakes Region and discuss implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in February, aimed at stabilizing the region.
The U.N. Security Council delegation leaves Thursday on a trip that will take them to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia.
Their first stop is the DRC, where the ambassadors will meet in Kinshasa with President Joseph Kabila. Then they will travel to Goma, in eastern Congo, not far from where the Congolese army has clashed repeatedly with rebel group M23.
The U.N. has about 20,000 peacekeepers in Congo, including a new element, called an “Intervention Brigade.” The brigade consists of 2,500 special offensive forces tasked with eliminating the threat from rebel groups which terrorize civilians in that part of the country.
In Goma, the ambassadors will meet the governor of North Kivu and visit a camp for internally displaced persons.
They will continue to Kigali to meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. They will also visit the Gisozi Genocide Memorial Site and a demobilization center for ex-combatants.
The delegation's final stop in the Great Lakes will be a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni in Entebbe, Uganda.
Critical time for mission
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who is co-heading the mission, said the Security Council's visit comes at a significant time in the region.
“It is actually quite an important moment to be going because of all the sort of new developments in the region with MONUSCO, the intervention brigade, the use of UAVs, the regional peace framework, the Kampala talks, etc.," he said. "It is an important moment for the Security Council to be able to monitor how that process is developing, how MONUSCO is responding in this new environment, and to put a little bit of pressure on all the governments clearly to come together and resolve some of these issues.”
The last leg of the visit will be to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the delegation will meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and with the African Union Peace and Security Council.
The AU plans to hold a summit in Addis on October 10 to discuss the work of the International Criminal Court, or ICC. Specifically, some states are upset at what they view as the court's targeting of African leaders in its work.
The ICC has charged Kenya's president and vice president with orchestrating post-election violence in that country in 2007 and 2008 that killed more than 1,100 people. Kenya has threatened to withdraw as a member of the court and is urging other African countries to do the same.
Human Rights Watch's Director of International Justice, Richard Dicker, said he hopes U.N. Security Council members whose countries are signatories to the ICC treaty will discuss the matter with relevant officials.
“I hope that those Council members who are part to the Rome Treaty of the ICC convey to AU Commission officials, as well as any diplomats from AU member states that they meet, the strong commitment of those Security Council state parties to maintain the integrity and universality of the ICC," he said. "I hope there [are] some bilateral exchanges that take place, even if this is not an item on the official agenda.”
Thirty-four African countries currently belong to the ICC. A mass withdrawal would be a blow to the court, but analysts see that outcome as unlikely.