Thank you, Mr. President. Let me also thank the Government of France for hosting this important session on the stabilization of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for your insightful statement. And thank you, Minister Chibanda, for your candid remarks.
The United States is committed to working with the Congolese government and the international community toward our shared objective: peace and security in the DRC and the region in which the DRC plays such a substantial role. We support ongoing efforts to increase stability, reduce the insecurity in which all too many civilians still live, ensure legitimate governance, and ensure a strong, credible democratic process for the country’s upcoming elections.
On behalf of the United States, let me again express our deep sorrow for the tragic UN air accident on April 4, in which 32 individuals lost their lives. We offer our condolences and our lasting appreciation to Special Representative Meece, the men and women of MONUSCO, and all UN personnel who work with such dedication in challenging environments.
I will focus on three points today.
First, for long-term stability in the DRC to take root, the country’s civilians need and deserve greater security. So we commend MONUSCO for its efforts to implement its mandate fully, especially its innovative efforts to protect civilians. We applaud the development of a mission-wide strategy, including the deployment of Community Alert Networks and Community Liaison Assistants. These important initiatives better connect peacekeepers with communities at risk—and enable MONUSCO, despite the all too real risks, to work quickly and effectively to respond to potential crises.
Mr. President, important progress has been made. Much of the DRC is relatively stable. Security in the east has increased. The reduction of armed groups continues. Important efforts toward reintegration and disarmament have taken place.
Nonetheless in the east and northeast, insecurity persists. State authority remains extremely weak, and violent militias continue to fuel conflict. To take two troublesome examples: the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda continue to kill, rape, abduct, and displace civilians in shocking numbers. Armed entities, including elements of the state security forces, also illegally exploit the country’s natural resources—terrorizing innocent civilians as part of their efforts to control communities that live near lucrative mining areas. That can allow them reap ill-gotten mining-related profits, which in turn sustain the conflict and prolong its suffering and abuses.
Far more must be done to deal with these violent armed groups. We remain committed to helping the DRC address this scourge, in part through security-sector reform assistance. We have trained a light infantry battalion in Kisangani, which is now operating in areas victimized from the LRA. We provided ongoing support to develop more Congolese military-justice personnel and strengthen the country’s military-justice system. We are also helping develop Congolese defense institutions.
Armed groups often rely on the mineral trade to sustain their operations. So my government is actively working to enact regulations that will require companies publicly traded in the United States to ensure that their mineral purchases do not help violent groups. We call on all member states to support Resolution 1952 and urge companies within their jurisdictions to exercise due diligence over their supply of minerals that stoke conflict in the eastern DRC. We are also working with companies, civil society groups, and governments in the region to ensure that the trade in the DRC’s minerals does not help armed groups. We continue to partner with the DRC and the region on these efforts, and we urge the DRC government to take steps to demilitarize the mines and reduce armed actors in the country’s east.
Second, second point I would like to address. The upcoming national and legislative elections could be historic. The Congolese will lead these elections, which we hope will be credible and fair. The Congolese can demonstrate their commitment as we approach the November 28 presidential and legislative elections.
Hurdles remain. A new electoral law has yet to be passed. The recently released electoral calendar is ambitious, and it leaves scant room for error. The logistical challenges are substantial. Security remains a serious concern. In the past, members of the state security forces have abused and threatened journalists. Intimidation of domestic human rights defenders continues. MONUSCO may lose key mobility and air assets that could help the elections just as they are needed most.
So we call on the DRC’s government to demonstrate the highest regard for the democratic process and to continue its work to assure transparent, open, and fair elections, with freedoms of movements for all candidates and journalists. We will be closely monitoring developments in urban and rural areas alike, as the electoral process should be credible throughout the country. We also will be providing approximately $11 million in electoral support, including election monitoring and civic education, in coordination with partners such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the Carter Center. We also support MONUSCO’s efforts to improve the elections’ technical and logistical aspects, as well as Radio Okapi’s work to help cover these elections.
While the international community plays an important role supporting the electoral process, ultimately, it is the Congolese government’s responsibility to provide the necessary support and security. We look forward to working with the government in this regard.
Third, let me underscore the importance of longer-term stabilization for the DRC and its neighbors. True progress will depend on tackling the underlying causes of insecurity and impunity in order to build the institutions that can support good governance.
Mr. President, the conviction of nine military personnel for ordering and carrying out mass rapes in Fizi is a milestone. By taking action, the DRC government has strengthened the message to perpetrators of sexual violence: no one is immune from prosecution.
The United States is deeply committed to ending impunity and developing democracy in the DRC, including initiatives to support free speech, governance, the rule of law, judicial independence, and accountability. For example, we have helped build up the Congolese justice system’s forensic capacity to investigate mass killings and sexual and gender-based violence. This has made it easier to prosecute dozens of rapists and perpetrators of sexual violence. We have also allocated more than $2 million in new communications technologies to better protect civilians in the Kivu provinces through early warning mechanisms and to support joint field investigations in the east by UN and Congolese military prosecutors.
The United States, working with the strategies of the DRC government and the United States*, has developed a comprehensive approach to help tackle sexual and gender-based violence. That includes $42 million in the Kivus, Orientale, and Maniema provinces to prevent future violence and take better care of survivors, as well as a three-year, $15 million initiative to scale up programs to fight HIV/AIDS. We continue to strengthen the Congolese civilian and military justice systems through long-term capacity-building and efforts to reduce impunity.
Mr. President, in conclusion, the Government of the DRC must take concrete steps to address the full spectrum of challenges the country faces. As Council members, we must also provide our political support to peace and stabilization. The United States is committed to doing so—and to working with the Congolese government and the international community toward our common objective of peace and stability in the DRC and the region.
Thank you, Mr. President.