Speaking at a high-level summit on Congo and the region in Burundi’s commercial capital Bujumbura, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for redoubling efforts to achieve lasting peace and security in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region.
Guterres reiterated that both local and foreign armed groups in Congo must lay down their arms.
“I encourage the signatory countries, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community to redouble their efforts,” said Guterres.
The meeting attended by several regional leaders was convened to review progress and challenges on implementing the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for Congo and the region, signed in Ethiopia in 2013.
Guterres said the signing of the framework agreement 10 years ago raised many hopes.
“It marked a turning point, in which countries in the region made concrete commitments to end recurrent cycles of violence, particularly in eastern DR Congo, and build lasting peace and security … unfortunately, the current crisis underscores how far we still have to go,” he said.
There are more than 100 armed groups in Congo, including Congolese and foreigners.
The groups accused of committing serious human rights abuses, including sexual violence, pose threat on the stability of the entire Great Lakes region.
The Addis Ababa framework agreement was aimed at ending recurring violence in Congo and resolving conflict, tackling instability, and building sustainable peace in the region – with the UN, African Union, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, and the Southern African Development Community, acting as the guarantor institutions.
Appealing to armed groups to join the Congolese government process of demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, the UN chief called on “political and community leaders to put an end to hate speech and incitement to violence.”
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said “certain signatories have violated the Addis Ababa framework agreement,” reiterating claims accusing Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel group fighting his government in the east.
Rwanda, which was represented at the summit by Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, has constantly denied the charge. More than 500,000 people have fled their homes since the resurgence of the M23 in November 2021, according to the UN.
Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye called for “African wisdom to find African solutions to African problems.” South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission chairperson, attended the meeting among others.