A UN special envoy, Huang Xia, has appealed to the international community to increase support in resolving the escalating hostilities in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the mounting tensions in the wider Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Mr Xia, the UN Special Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes Region, made the appeal on Tuesday while briefing the Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York.
The envoy expressed deep concern over the worsening security situation and the potential for a direct conflict between the DRC and Rwanda, who have accused each other of supporting armed groups within each other’s territory.
Mr Xia highlighted the resurgence of large-scale hostilities in the restive eastern DRC alongside the worsening relationship between the DRC and Rwanda.
“The military build-up of the two countries, the absence of direct, high-level dialogue, and the persistence of hate speech are all worrying signs that we cannot ignore,” he said.
The humanitarian situation in eastern DRC is equally dire, with a growing number of displaced people sounding the alarm. The UN envoy urged the international community to provide more substantial humanitarian assistance and facilitate the return of displaced people to their homes, underlining the importance of education for children as essential to the region’s future.
Mr Xia has undertaken efforts to promote peace in the region by visiting several countries, including Angola, Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda, aiming to build trust and mobilise partners for a peaceful solution to the region’s challenges.
He stressed the importance of revitalising the 2013 Addis Ababa Framework Agreement, laying the groundwork for the region’s peace and security.
Mr Xia called on all armed groups to lay down their weapons and urged Congolese armed groups to participate in a disarmament and demobilisation programme adopted by the DRC in 2022.
The UN has a comprehensive Strategy for the region, consisting of flagship initiatives designed to address the root causes of instability. However, the envoy pointed out that it lacks the necessary funding. He urged all partners to fill this financing gap, emphasising the strategy’s proven effectiveness.
Mr Xia also highlighted the importance of implementing a regional strategy on artisanal gold, which includes a traceability mechanism. He explained the strong connection between the illicit exploitation and trade of gold and the financing of the many armed groups operating in eastern DRC, calling for the trade to be shut down.