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The security crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo threatens to frustrate favourable developments in the wider Great Lakes region, the Security Council heard today, as members welcomed that country’s recent admission into the East African Community and stressed the need to combat the illicit trade of natural resources that continues to fuel conflict.

Xia Huang, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, first briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of the peace, security and cooperation framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider region (document S/2022/276).

While he noted that the situation in the Great Lakes region has seen encouraging trends in dialogue, cooperation and integration, he pointed out that this positive trend has been upset by security and humanitarian crises in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The 23 March Movement (M23) has resumed military activities, and the Allied Democratic Forces and other local armed groups continue committing atrocities against civilians.  “All of this tells us that peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains fragile,” he said.

Despite this fragility, however, he emphasized that major accomplishments achieved in the region to date can still be consolidated to move towards lasting peace.  For this to happen, regional cooperation in security matters must be strengthened, direct dialogue between leaders must occur regularly and continued international support in the region must continue.  He went on to say that, for his part, he will prioritize several initiatives in the coming months, including efforts to combat the exploitation and illicit trade of natural resources and to promote the economic empowerment of women as a strategy for peacebuilding in light of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s recent admission into the East African Community.

João Samuel Caholo, Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, then briefed the Council via videolink, but connection issues frustrated delivery of his statement.  His written statement will be circulated to Council members.

Dinesh Mahtani, an independent expert on the Great Lakes region, next told the Council that insecurity and conflict in the region is increasingly linked to dynamics in other parts of the continent.  Mozambican insurgents and radical youth from Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania have trained in the Allied Democratic Forces’ camps, and these East Africans are among the young men whom Islamic State may be looking to support with continued financing.  He pointed out that these individuals are likely to be a threat to security in their home countries, should they ever return.

While a proposed joint force to address insecurity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is now on the table, he said, it poses significant risks as many of armed groups that the regional Governments propose to attack have at times been proxies for the same.  Despite the warming of ties between two of the country’s neighbours in the Great Lakes, trust between them remains tenuous.  While the use of force should eventually be an important part in any exercise to neutralize armed groups, all interested parties must first work together to implement the Congolese strategy to demobilize armed groups and rebuild trust between its neighbours.

In the ensuing debate, Council members stressed the importance of regional cooperation to address concerning security threats in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Many emphasized that purely military strategies will be unsuccessful, spotlighting the need to address the root causes of conflict in the region through non-military means.  On this point, members called for the combating of the illicit trade in natural resources that funds armed groups.  Many members also welcomed improved diplomatic relations between regional States, along with the recent admission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo into the East African Community.

The representative of Kenya, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, spotlighted that formal admission, stressing that economic development is key to minimizing the risks of conflict and that structured regional political cooperation is essential to overcoming common security threats.  Noting that poverty is a root cause of the conflict in the Great Lakes region, he called for the illegal exploitation and export of natural resources therein to be addressed to translate them from a curse to a blessing.

China’s representative, urging that the views of the three African members of the Council be valued, noted the interdependent and interconnected nature of regional security.  He stressed the need to jointly tackle security challenges — the establishment of a regional force will help in this regard — and to promote legal trade while cracking down on the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  Sanctions must not be misused, he added.

The representative of Norway, joining other Council members in expressing concern over the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that a common denominator behind these negative developments is rivalry related to natural resources.  Calling on States to address the root causes of conflict, she stressed that military measures must be accompanied by concerted political dialogue, peacebuilding efforts and projects to promote economic and social development.

Brazil’s delegate pointed out that armed groups’ activities often result in sexual violence, lack of access to humanitarian aid, recruitment of children into armed conflict and the illicit exploitation of natural resources.  As such, these activities can jeopardize ongoing efforts to reach sustained peace.  To protect achievements made so far, he stressed the need to expedite the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, and ensure that former combatants, women and youth have access to economic opportunities.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo similarly underscored that military cooperation must be accompanied by non-military measures.  He called on the United Nations and the international community to support efforts undertaken by leaders in the Great Lakes region to promote participation in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and to combat the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  “Peace must return to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he stressed, to end the untold suffering and allow its abundant resources to contribute to national and regional prosperity.

Also speaking were representatives of France, Albania, Ireland, India, United Arab Emirates, United States, Mexico, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Rwanda and Burundi.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:05 p.m.

Briefings

XIA HUANG, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of the peace, security and cooperation framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider region (document S/2022/276).  He said that the situation in the Great Lakes region has seen encouraging trends in dialogue, cooperation and integration, and welcomed the continued will to address the root causes of instability therein.  This positive trend, however, has been upset by security and humanitarian crises in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the resumption of military activities by the 23 March Movement (M23) in the first quarter of 2022.  He also expressed regret that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and other local armed groups continue committing atrocities against civilians.  “All of this tells us that peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains fragile,” he said, calling for intensified collective effort to free the region from the horrors of war.

Despite this fragility, however, he said that major accomplishments in the region to date can still be consolidated to move towards lasting peace.  For this to happen, cooperation must be strengthened in security matters, and he welcomed in this regard joint operations conducted by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda and the memorandum of understanding between the former country and Burundi to meet challenges at the border.  Direct, high-level dialogue between leaders in the region must also occur regularly to lower tension and strengthen trust.  On this point, he welcomed progress in normalizing relations between Rwanda and Uganda, which has led to the reopening of their common border.  Further, continued international support in the region is indispensable to safeguard accomplishments made therein.

He then detailed several initiatives to which he will accord priority in the coming months, including the continued provision — in cooperation with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) — of technical and logistical support to the Nairobi peace process.  He also said he will continue political advocacy with countries in the region to combat the exploitation and illicit trade in natural resources, along with diplomatic engagement with destination countries towards the same end.  Promoting the economic empowerment of women as a strategy for peacebuilding will also be prioritized, taking advantage of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s recent admission into the East African Community.  Adding that impunity hinders the rebuilding of trust between people and Governments, he said he will support the efforts of regional States to combat the same, spotlighting the work done by the Great Lakes Judicial Cooperation Network on high-profile cases of transborder crime.

DINESH MAHTANI, an independent expert on the Great Lakes region, said M23 has re-emerged in North Kivu Province in recent weeks, raising the spectre once again of a regional security crisis. The Allied Democratic Forces has found a new ally — Islamic State.  Insecurity and conflict in the Great Lakes is increasingly linked to dynamics in other parts of the continent.  Several Mozambican insurgents, who trained in the Forces’ camps as the insurgency in Cabo Delgado emerged in 2017, eventually made their way to North Kivu camps where they learned battlefield tactics, passing this knowledge onto fellow insurgents when they returned to Mozambique.  Radical youth from Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, including the former East African foot soldiers of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab militant group, migrated west towards the Forces’ camps, with many others moving south to join the insurgency in Mozambique.  These East Africans are among the young men whom Islamic State may be looking to support with continued financing, through money transfers from abroad, including from South Africa.  They are likely to be a threat to security in their home countries, should they ever return.  “It is no wonder, therefore, that East African Governments are worried.  Not only do they have Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaida affiliate, to deal with, Islamic State is also likely building up its presence on their soil,” he said.

In this context, insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo takes on new meaning, fuelled by the presence of dozens of local and foreign armed groups scattered from Ituri to Tanganyika Provinces, he said.  Besides pursuing their own agendas these armed groups are now also the agents and collaborators of criminals and jihadists looking to bolster their influence in that country’s east.  Governments of the Great Lakes and East Africa have agreed to launch joint military operations against armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Confidence in military solutions is high after Rwanda’s intervention in Mozambique significantly dented the insurgency there.  Uganda’s intervention against the Allied Democratic Forces has meanwhile scattered the armed group from its bases.  But, in both cases, military victory is far from achieved.

While a proposed joint force is now on the table, its poses significant risks, he said, noting that many armed groups the regional governments propose attacking in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have at times been proxies for the same.  Despite the warming of ties between two of the country’s neighbours in the Great Lakes, trust between them remains “shaky”, he said, pointing out that officials in both countries have regularly told him they believe their counterparts are in fact involved in supporting either M23 or the Forces.  Also, there are serious challenges to implementation.  How would a joint force of East African States, including Uganda, sit alongside Uganda’s existing mission in North Kivu, and aside MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade, which partly comprises Kenyan troops?, he asked, also wondering if the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s disarmament institutions have the resources to smoothly demobilize and reintegrate the different armed factions, and what would happen to foreign armed group members who surrender or are taken captive.

While the use of force should eventually be an important part in any exercise to neutralize armed groups, all interested parties must first work together to help implement the Congolese strategy to demobilize armed groups and rebuild and consolidate trust between its neighbours.  “Without these ingredients, foreign military intervention might simply create a cascade of second order problems on the ground that Kinshasa’s authorities might struggle to cope with,” he said.  Dismantling armed and terrorist groups might be better achieved by the region enhancing intelligence‑sharing and policing partnerships to better control borders, recruitment networks and circulation of combatants, illicit finances and material supplies, he stressed.

Statements

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), stressing the importance of dialogue among States in the Great Lakes region to address security threats, expressed concern that M23 has again taken up arms.  She supported efforts by Congolese authorities to bolster stability in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, but cautioned that any regional military initiatives must account for MONUSCO’s mandate and ensure the security of the “Blue Helmets”.  It is also important to continue addressing the root causes of conflict and to reduce tension through political and diplomatic means.  Further, regional cooperation must promote the proper management of natural resources.  Emphasizing that “people lie at the heart of our concerns”, she called for equal rights and political parity for women.  She went on to state that the goals of the United Nations strategy for the region must be pursued, including on issues relating to health and to addressing the socioeconomic impacts of epidemics.

CÍCERO TOBIAS DE OLIVEIRA FREITAS (Brazil) said the armed groups’ activities, which unfortunately seem to be on the rise, have a destabilizing effect on local communities from various perspectives, ranging from human rights to economic development.  Since those activities often result in sexual violence, lack of access to humanitarian aid, recruitment of children in armed conflict and illicit exploitation of natural resources, they can jeopardize the ongoing efforts to reach sustained peace.  To protect the achievements of the peace process made so far, it is imperative to expedite the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and ensure that former combatants, women and youth have access to economic opportunities that provide them with the tools to improve their livelihood.  In this vein, he voiced support for the Special Envoy and highlighted the contribution of the United Nations Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region in bringing coherence and comprehensiveness to the peacebuilding initiatives.

ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said the signing of several bilateral agreements between States is among the several positive developments in the reporting period.  Another important development is the admission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo into the East African Community.  Regional cooperation must always encompass all countries involved.  Despite the ongoing rapprochement between States, the root causes of conflicts are too complex to be considered healed and the challenges too deep from being over.  The security situation remains volatile, with increased cross-border incidents and continuing clashes within the countries.  The Allied Democratic Forces and the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo  have increased attacks against civilians, with the deadly comeback of M23.  The attacks registered in Uganda and Burundi require enhanced regional attention, she said, stressing the need for a comprehensive strategy which provides lasting solutions as no military settlement can address the security challenges in the region alone.

MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), speaking also for Gabon and Ghana, drew the Council’s attention to the Democratic Republic of the Congo formally joining the East African Community.  It will have a population of 300 million, and its seven member States are continuing to undertake one of the world’s most extensive exercises in the integration of trade, investment, free movement of people, and ultimately, to political federation.  As Council members know well, economic development is key to minimizing the risks of conflict, and structured regional political cooperation is essential to overcoming common security threats.  Citing the successful outcomes of the second Regional Heads of State Conclave on the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Nairobi on 21 April, he said the Conclave agreed on a two-track initiative to help bring security and stability to that country’s east.  First is to commence a political process under the leadership of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, to facilitate consultations to be undertaken between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and local armed groups in that country.  Second is to accelerate the establishment of a regional force to help contain and fight the negative forces under the country’s leadership.  He called upon the Security Council and the United Nations system to support this bold regional initiative.

Noting that poverty is a root cause and effect of conflict in the Great Lakes region, he deplored that the people of the region have not benefitted from the abundance of natural resources in their countries.  The illegal exploitation, competition and export of these resources including by international actors and armed groups must be addressed to translate these resources from being a curse to a blessing.  In this regard, the regional countries should implement their commitments under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region’s Regional Initiative against Illegal Exploitation and Trade in Natural Resources, which include establishing internal systems of control, monitoring and verification to eradicate illicit mineral trade.  He also recognized the valuable role of the Peacebuilding Commission, alongside its key partners particularly international financial institutions and the Peacebuilding Fund, in supporting cross-border cooperation in the region.

ZHANG JUN (China) said that views of the three African members of the Council must be valued.  While there is a new outlook in the region, the security situation remains highly fragile.  There are chronic obstacles to development that must be addressed.  He then urged the maintenance of political momentum to enhance mutual trust, welcoming normalization of relations between countries in the region.  He also welcomed the commitment of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework to increase diplomatic engagement and defuse tensions.  Noting the interdependent and interconnected nature of regional security, he said insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern provinces started affecting other areas.  Therefore, it is imperative to jointly tackle security challenges.  The establishment of a regional force will help in this regard.  He also called for more investment in non-military solutions, stressing the importance of a comprehensive approach entailing poverty‑reduction and food security.  While cracking down on illegal exploitation of natural resources, it is important to promote legal trade, he said, also warning that sanctions must not be misused.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), stressing that regional stability depends on stability in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that the ongoing joint military operations by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda must be conducted in line with obligations under international law, and ensure the protection of civilians.  The challenges facing the region cannot be solved solely by military means, she said, calling for a coherent approach to addressing the root causes of conflict, with women’s meaningful participation.  In that regard, the illegal exploitation of minerals and natural resources remains a significant driver of instability.  Warning that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is projected to see the highest number of people facing acute food insecurity globally in 2022, she urged all parties to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.  Renewed efforts are needed to put an end to the suffering of vulnerable populations, she said, welcoming efforts to develop a regional strategy on durable solutions for displaced people.  She also expressed concern about the significant increase in documented human rights violations and abuses and called for accountability for the perpetrators of such acts.

MADHU SUDAN RAVINDRAN (India), welcoming progress on the political track, including the convening of the tenth high-level meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement on 24 February, nonetheless said security conditions remain volatile.  He expressed particular concern over Allied Democratic Forces activity and signs of resurgence by M23, noting that sexual violence cases doubled in the last two years in the Central African Republic, and that 16.3 million internally displaced people are registered in the region, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone recording 6.7 million.  The voluntary return of displaced people would be unrealistic.  Condemning the terrorist attacks in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he recommended monitoring the links between regional armed groups and terror groups outside the area to “nip them in the bud”.  Stressing that trafficking and illicit natural resource trade has exacerbated armed conflict, he reiterated the importance of improving traceability and certification for natural resources, especially gold, adding that India’s peacekeepers are at the forefront of supporting post-conflict reconstruction in the region.

AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), noting the progress witnessed in the Great Lakes region, especially regarding the strengthened diplomatic relations between the countries of the region, stressed the essential significance of the implementation of the peace, security and cooperation framework.  The economic empowerment of the countries of the region and the strengthening of trade relations remains a key factor in consolidating peace, she said, emphasizing the importance of the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all social, economic and political tracks, as well as necessary protection.  Echoing the Secretary-General, she noted that achieving stability in the region in the long-term requires addressing the root causes of conflict, ending the violence of armed groups and resolving humanitarian crises.  Addressing violence against civilians and humanitarian workers, especially in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, requires a collective, internationally supported response from the countries of the region.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) welcomed efforts to strengthen regional security through new bilateral agreements and encouraged the Special Envoy to make progress on addressing the risks of conflict and corruption associated with the region’s mineral trade.  He also welcomed the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s admission into the East African Community, along with recent subregional efforts to address insecurity in the eastern part of the country through non-military measures.  Expressing concern over continued intercommunal violence and increased activity by local armed groups, he said that the United States is committed to working with other Member States to use the Council’s sanctions regime established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) to hold accountable those who fuel conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider region.  He went on to welcome MONUSCO’s continued efforts to protect civilians and disrupt the illicit networks fuelling violent campaigns against the same.

TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) expressed deep concern about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had led to large-scale displacement.  She went on to cite reports which show an increase in cross-border incidents and in the overall activity of armed groups, despite the current state of siege in Ituri and North Kivu Provinces.  She also pointed to increasing incidents of grave human rights violations and abuses, conducted by non-State and State actors.  A common denominator behind these negative developments is rivalry related to natural resources, she said, calling on States to address the root causes of conflict to reduce the threat to civilians, including children.  Military measures must be accompanied by concerted political dialogue, peacebuilding efforts and projects to promote economic and social development, both in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Great Lakes region as a whole, she said, also highlighting the essential need for women’s involvement in promoting sustainable peace in the region.

JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) welcomed the inclusion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo into the East African Community, which is a significant step that will facilitate socioeconomic opportunities and development in the region.  He expressed concern, however, over increased activity by armed groups — such as the Allied Democratic Forces, the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo and M23 — in the eastern part of the country, along with cross-border incidents and raids.  Despite exceptional measures to address it, this increased violence demonstrates that there are no purely military solutions to this situation.  The root causes of violence must be addressed — including the hate speech that generates intercommunity tension — and the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes must be prioritized.  He also called for judicial cooperation among countries in the region, particularly relating to crimes involving the illicit exploitation and transfer of natural resources and the trafficking of small arms and light weapons.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) said that despite the joint military operation of the Congolese and Ugandan armies and efforts by MONUSCO, illegal armed groups are seen increasing their activities in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  On 29 March, a United Nations peacekeeping helicopter carrying a Russian military observer, Lieutenant Colonel A. A. Mizyura, was shot down.  She underscored the importance of conducting a thorough, transparent investigation into the incident and bringing those responsible to justice.  Noting with concern the reported links between illegal armed groups and terrorist organizations, she expressed the Russian Federation’s commitment to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  She also stressed the need to improve socioeconomic conditions in the region, notably by efficiently implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for ex-combatants, advancing national reconciliation and addressing the illegal exploitation of natural resources used by militants.

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) voiced extreme concern over the fragile security situation in the Great Lakes region, calling the re-emergence of M23 and reported links between the Allied Democratic Forces and Islamic State Central Africa Province “stark reminders” of the need to address the security vacuum in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He also voiced concern over the displacement of 16 million people and protection of civilians as a result of intercommunal violence in Ituri, including the recent targeting of camps.  “The multidimensional challenges facing the Great Lakes region require a multidimensional response,” he stressed, urging countries in the region to intensify diplomatic dialogue to improve cooperation.  Noting that illegal natural resource exploitation is a funding source for armed groups, he expressed strong support for the designation of sanctions on individuals and entities found responsible for such exploitation.  He also called on the Special Envoy and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to continue to work in close coordination, including with MONUSCO where relevant, to help countries holistically tackle the threat posed by M23 and other armed groups,

CLAVER GATETE (Rwanda) said he is encouraged by the measures taken during the second Regional Heads of State Conclave on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, hosted by Kenya on 21 April.  The outcome includes a political process that involves domestic armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and disarmament and repatriation of all foreign armed groups.  This initiative, supported by the African Union, is expected to restore peace and stability in that country.  She called on the Security Council to support these regional efforts, which complement the peace and security framework in the Great Lakes region.  Addressing security is not enough.  Underscoring the imperative of strengthening economic development cooperation, he pointed to efforts ongoing through regional investment and cross-border trade involving both the central and northern corridors of East Africa.

ZÉPHYRIN MANIRATANGA (Burundi) welcomed active involvement of the Special Envoy as well as regional cooperation in intelligence, calling on the international community to be engaged in the peace and security of the Great Lakes region.  Refuting allegations contained in paragraph 13 of the Secretary-General’s report on implementing the peace, security and cooperation framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, he said the report alludes to the presence of Burundi’s national defence force and members of the Imbonerakure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  “We did not deploy our army” in that country, he said.  RED Tabara terrorist group, based in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a threat to subregional security.  It has crossed the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi several times to conduct act of terror in his country, using grenades against civilians and ambushing vehicles.  As for a reference to the Imbonerakure, he said Burundi is regarded as a successful model of youth integration and empowerment.  Burundi youth are working within the framework of development, not for the framework mentioned in paragraph 13, he stressed.

GEORGES NZONGOLA-NTALAJA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) spotlighted Government efforts to change the narrative in the Great Lakes region by strengthening relations with all leaders therein.  “Peace must return to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he stressed, to end the untold suffering and allow its abundant resources to contribute to national and regional prosperity.  While certain situations have seen improvement, the major goals of seeking peace, stability and development have yet to be achieved, and all challenges that delay realization of these goals must be identified and addressed.  The harmful activities of domestic and foreign armed groups — such as the Allied Democratic Forces, the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo and M23 — must be relegated to the past.  As national efforts to reform defence and security systems are pursued, he welcomed the comprehensive approach to neutralize negative forces in line with the Nairobi peace process.

Stressing that military cooperation must be accompanied by non-military measures, he said that his country is engaged in talks with armed groups and called on the Council, the international community and regional actors to support efforts that would require these groups to surrender, lay down their arms and enrol in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.  Further, improving efforts to combat the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the illegal trafficking of arms and munitions must continue throughout the region.  On human rights, he said that his country is working towards reform of the justice system and implementing transitional justice.  Although challenges remain in the region, positive trends and efforts to restore trust should be encouraged, and he called on the United Nations and the international community to support efforts undertaken by all leaders in the Great Lakes region towards this end.

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