Delivered by: Ameirah AlHefeiti, Deputy Permanent Representative
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At the outset, I would like to thank the special representative, Mrs. Keita, for her briefing and appreciate her and her team’s efforts to support peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I also welcome the participation of the representatives of DRC and Rwanda in today’s meeting.
We convene today at a very critical moment for the DRC. In just over a week’s time, the Congolese people will be heading to the polls to participate in an electoral process that we hope would help shape the future of the country in line with their aspirations. We encourage MONUSCO and the UN Country Team to continue providing the support needed to ensure the success of this electoral process. It is also important to ensure the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in the electoral process; their role is pivotal to building and consolidating peace.
In the context of today’s discussion, I would like to emphasize four main points:
First, the protection of civilians should remain a top priority. Their continued exposure to attacks by armed groups is very worrying, especially in the North Kivu region. The region continues to see growing violence stemming from the violation of the ceasefire between the March 23 Movement and the Congolese army.
In this context, we reiterate our condemnation of acts of violence committed by armed groups, including the March 23 Movement. We call on March 23 Movement to recommit to the ceasefire and to abide by the Luanda communiqué of November 2022. We also call on all other armed groups to lay down their arms, permanently and unconditionally cease their hostilities, and seriously engage in the disarmament process. We reiterate the UAE’s firm commitment to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC.
We also re-emphasize the need to protect women and girls from acts of violence, especially sexual violence, which has reached unprecedent levels. As UN agencies indicate, insecurity in the East has led to a significant increase in sexual violence incidents since March last year.
Therefore, addressing these extremely worrying situations in a sustainable manner requires an integrated approach that strengthens the capacities of relevant institutions to address and prevent sexual violence.
Second, it is very important that dialogue and constructive communication between the DRC and regional actors are enabled to continue, especially among the neighbouring countries. The security and stability of the DRC lies on the security and stability of the whole region. We must also ensure that local, regional, and international partners continue their efforts to prevent and de-escalate tensions whenever they arise. This requires strengthening communication and coordination between various actors in this aspect.
In this transitional phase between the withdrawal of the regional forces of the East African Community and the planning for the deployment of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as the accelerated gradual withdrawal of MONUSCO, it will be crucial not to leave any vacuum that armed groups may exploit to undermine peace efforts. There is therefore a need for enhanced coordination between the departing forces and the new ones.
Third, addressing the fast-deteriorating humanitarian situation in the DRC requires a collaborative response between the government and the international community, that both addresses immediate needs while also planning for the long term. According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of internally displaced people has risen to unprecedented levels in the DRC. There are now approximately 7 million displaced people, most of whom fled due to the intensification of conflict in North Kivu.
It is critical to continue making efforts to reach all those in need. The expanding the operational capabilities of humanitarian organizations emergency systems has enabled them to reach 3 million people. Yet, there are still some serious obstacles that prevent this aid from reaching more than 2 million people still in need for support.
Four, as our meeting takes place amidst the Council’s deliberations on the future of MONUSCO, we stress the need to prioritize the needs of the Congolese people. We thank Special Representative Ms. Keita and her team their efforts and work with the Congolese Government to develop a plan to gradually accelerate MONUSCO’s withdrawal.
In conclusion, more must be done towards finding a comprehensive approach to address the various challenges in the DRC, including those related to climate change and conflict prevention, while responding to urgent needs on the ground. These are fundamental issues that ensure the stability of the DRC in the long term.
We affirm the UAE’s commitment to constructive engagement with Council members in the context of MONUSCO’s mandate negotiations, to ensure that the Council provides adequate support to the DRC in line with the country’s priorities.
Thank you, Mr. President.