More problems coming for Great Lakes region


A top UN official maintains Africa’s Great Lakes region is at a crossroads

Huang Xia, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ special envoy, told the UN Security Council, the main threat to peace and stability around the Great Rift Valley remains the persistence of non-State armed groups.

As examples of an “upsurge in attacks” he named the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or those launched by the RED-Tabara at Bujumbura airport, Burundi, in September.

A thousand and forty-three civilians have been killed in the DRC so far this year Xia pointed out, adding: “violence continues to have serious consequences on an already fragile humanitarian situation, as well as on socio-economic stability.”

He told Council members “these negative forces remain involved in illicit exploitation and trade in natural resources, the revenues of which finance arms procurement and recruitment”.

There are bilateral and regional initiatives “attesting to emergence of a community aware of the added value of dialogue and co-operation”.

Overall peaceful transfers of power in DRC and Burundi, as well implementation of peace agreements in the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and Sudan were noteworthy, he said.

“It is necessary to sustainably consolidate achievements and address persistent challenges. The success of such an approach requires learning from the lessons of the past and showing imagination to support the people of the Great Lakes region in building a better present and future,” he said.

The Security Council heard the UN is reconfiguring its presence in the region to best address challenges.

Martha Ama Akya Pobee, assistant secretary-general in the UN departments of political and peacebuilding affairs and peace operations, said a comprehensive approach rooted in political engagement, encompassing military and non-military interventions, fostering economic co-operation across borders and building trust between neighbours and among communities was required.

She pointed to the illegal exploitation and regional trafficking of natural resources as a root cause of problems in the Great Lakes region.