Statement by Alexander Konuzin, Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Official UN Security Council Meeting held on November 20, 2003, to Discuss the Situation in the Great Lakes Region (GLR)
Africa is facing a new generation of challenges and threats that exert a destabilizing effect on the peaceful life of the countries of the region. Internal and international crises are being brought on by the aggressive spread of illegal armed groups, by the weakness of statehood and the underdevelopment of democracy, by the nonobservance of the accepted laws of intercourse between peoples, by impunity for mass violations of human rights and the norms of international humanitarian law and by the inability of leaders to ensure a sustainable economic and social development of the states there.
It will not be possible to solve these problems quickly. There is a need for multipronged, coordinated efforts by the friends of Africa as well as by the Africans themselves in the first place.
To the present meeting on the situation in the GLR, we have come up with certain achievements chalked up. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the leadership of the Transitional Government of National Unity life is returning to normal, in spite of the continuing instability there, particularly in the east of the country. The peace process is progressively developing in Burundi, despite the obstructionist stance of one of the armed groups. Positive shifts are evident in relations between the DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi. The efforts of the states in the region have contributed to this.
The United Nations and its Security Council do not keep aloof. Over the 2000-2003 period, four Missions of the Security Council visited the GLR. It is gratifying that their work and recommendations have turned out to be called for. In particular, this past September, under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, the leaders of the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda adopted the Declaration on the Principles of Good-Neighborly Relations and Cooperation. The provisions of the Declaration have already become operative.
We do not ignore the lingering risks and difficulties there: the danger of a resumption of interethnic clashes, the complexities of the DDR process, illegal flows of small arms and light weapons, mercenaries, the use of child soldiers, uncontrolled borders, violence against civilians, the humanitarian plight, and so forth. At the same time a critical mass of positive factors has currently formed in the GLR that allows for moving on to a new quality of relations between the states of the region.
The next effective step to be taken along the path towards a full return to normalcy in the Great Lakes Region is an International Conference on the GLR under the aegis of the United Nations and the African Union. We support the need to hold this event within a time agreed upon by the concerned African states, and share the objectives of this forum and its format. We are certain that the work of the Conference will help solve many interconnected regional problems, and open the way to peace, security, democracy, socioeconomic development and cooperation among the states of the GLR. At the same time, and we want to stress this once more, the effectiveness of this Conference, above all, will be determined by how consistent the actions of the major players in the crisis in the GLR will be with regard to the implementation of existing agreements and understandings concerning the cease-fire in the DRC and Burundi, and with respect to the achievement of the aims of the internal Congolese dialogue and security on the borders.
Advocating the promotion of the peace process in the Great Lakes Region, Russia also supports the idea of creating a Group of Friends of the GLR Conference and is ready to take part in its activities.
Simultaneously we would like to suggest that the organizers of the Conference should think of the possibility to enlist in its work one more participant - international business. For many decades transnational companies have been exploiting the natural and human resources of this immensely rich area of the world. The development of its still huge potential in the interests of the GLR countries will call for a new application of capital and enterprise. The participation of their representatives in the Conference may help achieve the objectives set by it.
The long-standing bloody conflicts in the Great Lakes Region are a not healing wound on the body of the African continent. On how fast and effectively it will be possible to settle these conflicts, stability in all of Africa will depend, to whose lot so many ordeals have fallen. It is necessary to act; fast and effectively.