Great Lakes region: 'Bolster' peace 'efforts' UN envoy urges

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The UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region urged the Security Council Wednesday to push harder for peace as he noted "a slight improvement to the situation" on the ground.

This comes after months of fighting and regional mediations for a halt of hostilities in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"A fragile calm has now begun to prevail in the eastern DRC," Xia Huang  started.

"We must make the best possible use of this small window of opportunity which is open at this time. We must work to ensure that tensions do genuinely decrease. We must support efforts in the region to put an end to the crisis."

"The situation in the Great Lakes region is as you can see a very mixed picture indeed. On the one hand, some encouraging steps have been taken. On the other hand, we have a security and humanitarian situation, which remains as worrying as it ever was."

The region is plagued by violence emanating largely from multiple armed groups, including the rebel M23 fighters, who launched a major campaign against Government troops in late 2021.

If guns reportedly fell silent in some parts of eastern DRC, the authorities have so far rejected negotiations with the armed group.

"We have already stated this on different occasions, let me say it once again the DRC will not negotiate with the M23," Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja said. 

"No country that we know of is today negotiating with terrorists. Rwanda never negotiated with FDLR, why should we be the ones of whom it is asked to negotiate with the M23?" Permanent Representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United Nations asked.

"We’d also like to bring to the council’s members attention dangerous declarations on the redrawing of the borders in the Great Lakes region. The Council should firmly condemn and ban those comments which are revealing of vague desires of expansionism that would exacerbate tensions in the region. The DRC will defend every inch of its territory."

Some 600,000 are displaced in North Kivu alone, while 38,000 more Congolese became refugees between October last year and this February.

And Relations between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are still fraught.

Regional forces are deployed in DRC's east to oversee the withdrawal of all armed groups.

Additional sources • U.N.

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