Statement by Minister of State in Charge of Cooperation, Hon. Eugene-Richard Gasana, at the UN Security Council debate on the Great Lakes region.

 

Mr. President,

I thank you Mr President and your delegation for organizing this important debate on conflict prevention and resolution in the Great Lakes region of Africa, and for the concept note you circulated among member states.

I also thank the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, for his briefing. His presence here today once again highlights his commitment to conflict prevention and resolution particularly in our region. I also welcome the briefings from the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Mr. Smail Chergui, from the UN Secretary-General Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Mr. Saidi Djinnit and Mr. Vijay Pillai from the Office of the ice President, Africa Region, World Bank.

Mr. President,

Although conflict prevention and resolution has become the centerpiece in the work of the United Nations, in the wake of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, increasing intrastate conflicts in DRC, Burundi, Central African Republic, and South Sudan, the concept of “conflict prevention” has been more in theory than in practice. The UN, especially the Security Council, was and still is, much more focused on crisis management rather than crisis prevention.

The report of the High level Independent Panel on Peace Operations as well as the recommendations of the Secretary General rightly acknowledge the primacy of politics, with focus on mediation and conflict prevention. At the same time, they recognize, among other equally important tools, the usefulness of strong global-regional partnerships in addressing conflicts. Working together with the region in assessing the situation to the implementation of decisions of the Security Council can also help in addressing as early as possible sources of conflicts. These principles that we do strongly support, will not bear any fruit if they are not implemented in good faith, with a cohesive, inclusive and effective strategy, bringing on board all stakeholders.

That is why; early warning mechanisms should be guiding the work of the Security Council in preventing conflict to arise. This can not only improve the work of the UN and the Security Council in particular, but it can also be cost effective when it comes to saving lives.

Mr. President,

The situation in the Great Lakes of Africa speaks for itself. This is a region that has been in turmoil since the 1950s. While various unsuccessful efforts have been deployed, very few of them were aimed at addressing the root causes of these crises. For instance, the Peace and Security Cooperation Framework in the DRC and the Peace process in Burundi created hopes that the epoch of violence in the African Great Lakes region was finally drawing to an end. Progress in these initiatives has however been limited, if not disappointing.

Mr. President,

If we speak of the current situation in Burundi, since May last year, political and security unrest in the country have proven that the Great Lakes region is far from being stable. Burundi is in political turmoil; with state- sponsored militias armed and innocent civilians being murdered in broad daylight. Moreover, the unverified allegations from the two empty paragraphs of the report of the Group of Experts on DRC and the rumors from the Refugee International seek to externalize the responsibility to the current conflict and is another failed attempt to shift focus away from the real causes of the instability

Rwanda readily shoulders its obligations to protect and care for refugees. While my government is committed to meet its obligations under international humanitarian law, it should not however be negatively exploited by those who are expected to find solution to this crisis

The fact that Burundi has now descended into a spiral of violence has not helped make the case for our collective ability and will to prevent conflict, as well as in protecting civilians. The response from the International community has been more of rhetorical exchanges than actions aimed at preventing the escalation and the commission of mass atrocity crimes.

The response from the Burundian officials hasn’t been better either. Instead of exercising leadership and living up to their responsibilities and obligations to protect their own citizens, they have opted to turn the blind eye to innocent civilians being killed daily, and the carnage continues.

On our side, to avoid, Mr President, of any misunderstandings of our intention, we have requested the international community to work with us in planning the orderly and safe relocation of Burundi refugees to 3rd countries.

Let me just add that hatred rhetoric against my country, against my President are [ facing Alain Nyamitwe,..Sir unacceptable. He is our Hero, don’t ever dare, ever treat him that way]

Mr. President,

Moving on to the situation in the DRC, the persistent presence of the roaming predators in the name of the FDLR in eastern DRC and in Burundi; and the inaction by MONUSCO in implementing decisions of the UN Security Council and those of the ICGLR-SADC raise serious concerns of commitment of stakeholders to see sustainable peace and stability in the region. While we welcome the transfer of Ladislas Ntaganzwa yesterday from the DRC, we can only note nothing tangible has been achieved so far on the ground when it comes to dealing with FDLR. Rwanda deeply deplores the lack of meaningful action in the neutralization of this genocidaire group and terrorist organization, including its leadership. It is unfortunate that, the international community, especially MONUSCO and its Force Intervention Brigade, didn’t follow through with any military action, after the defeat of M23, as provided by the region and the UN Security Council. While we were in the Security Council, we vote for this resolution.

Mr. President

Your concept note for this open debate also highlighted the linkage between natural resources and forces of destabilization and conflict. Without doubt, natural resources have been a backbone of the endowed Countries to advance their development agenda and lift their citizens out of poverty. In some parts of the world including the Great Lakes Region of Africa, these resources have been a blessing for some and a curse for others.  Many countries remain in abject poverty, experience poor economic growth and consequently a lower standard of living.  The argument that the more resources a country has will lead to increased economic growth and prosperity does not hold true when it comes to my region.

Illegal exploitation of resources can be a factor in prolonging and in some cases fueling conflicts both in the areas of exploitation and in some cases across borders of neighboring Countries. In our region, armed groups such as ADF, Mai Mai, LRA and the genocidaire group, FDLR, have benefited from illegal exploitation of resources in DRC to cause insecurity to neighboring countries, including my own country.

The Government of Rwanda has set up verification mechanisms that help identify origins of mineral resources on its territory. Rwanda is one of the most advanced countries in the region in the implementation of the ICGLR certification mechanism, as demonstrated by the meeting of the ICGLR held in Kigali in November 2015. The country’s Geology and Mines Authority (OGMR), has set up a mineral tagging and sealing scheme which aims to curb the illegal trading of “conflict minerals” such as tin, tantalum and tantalite.  This project is called iTSCi (ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative) was set up by UK tin industry to assist countries in the region, and the Government of Rwanda ensures that minerals from Rwanda are verified and traceable right from their source to smelters.  We encourage countries in the region to adopt similar measures, which will contribute to the transparent of mineral trading in the region.

Before I conclude Mr. President, allow me to respond to H.E Ambassador Samantha Power remarks with regard to her analysis of the situation in four countries of the region, including my own. I hope that she is watching this on webcast, if not, please (addressing the US Representative), convey this message of Rwanda.

First of all, I think and I hope she does not confuse her name with her assignment. Mrs. Power does not have power over Rwanda!

In reaction to her remarks, we need first of all to caution her in lumping together the approaches of the four countries as there is no one size fit all solution in responding to the challenges the region is confronted with.

While we commend her remarks as to the positive trajectory achieved by Rwanda in economic and social fields and in Rwanda playing a key role in maintaining peace and security in the international arena, there is a need to emphasize that Rwanda’ achievements did not occur in a vacuum.

Indeed, the success Rwanda encountered stemmed from many factors including good governance and an enlightened leadership led by his Excellency President Paul Kagame that put together solutions tailored to the Rwanda situation in the immediate aftermath of the genocide against the Tutsi. [Yes, if he was not there, I would be here today talking to you. My grandparents were refugees, my parents were refugees, I was born as a refugee; and luckily, he went back home and stopped the Genocide, and luckily, I went back home too. And you were all here, the Security Council, in 1994; tens of thousands being killed; what have you done? Nothing! We want this man there, he was the only one to take his responsibility…and stop the genocide; he is our hero. So we will never ever accept whoever try to deny what the Rwandans want to achieve, or what is the choice of Rwanda.

Drawing from the bad politics that led to the Genocide, it was imperative for the Rwandan people to build on a culture of ongoing dialogue with all citizens of Rwanda so as to enable them to have a voice, participate and redress any attempt of hampering their wellbeing and the opportunity to claim their rights when they feel that their leaders are not responsible to their plights.

With that approach, pluralism has been deepened in a consensual democracy whereby citizens-led consultations have yielded tangible results in mending the social fabric and in addressing all issues of concern.

Mr. President

Indeed, citizens of Rwanda have been afforded with numerous platforms to convey their views and concerns. Indeed, Rwanda understood as a vital element that the only way to consolidate gains was staying connected through a participatory democracy enabling people to have a voice in all matters concerning their well-being. That well-tested system has prompted the people of Rwanda to opt massively to keep their president at the helm of the nation. So if, as Ms Samantha well stated, that over the past 25 years, Rwanda has made the most progress in the world in term of Human Development, did it come out of the blue? No, it is through his leadership. We know what is good for Rwanda and for Rwandans. You don’t need to agree with us, but you can respect our choices. There are some of the things we might disagree with your country, but there is nothing we can do about it. We leave it to you. You want somehow to occupy our political space; no one will ever occupy our political space; it belongs to Rwandans, and only to Rwandans. If your leaders well stated that democracy was for the people and by the people, then please, let the people of Rwanda have their own choice

Ensuring peace and stability of a country without taking into account the political, economic, historical factors would be mere exercise that would lead nowhere. We in Rwanda came to the realization that it has to be an ongoing process of education and dialogue with the people and cannot be at all means a cut and paste exercise from one country to the other and cannot follow the same pattern as issues are unique to any country.

In conclusion Mr President, let me reiterate my call for the Security Council to shift from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. Indeed, with unfolding events in Burundi, and elsewhere, it is inevitable for the Security Council to improve its record in fully understanding early warning signs of conflict and responding through early action, if it has to remain relevant.

While there has been a huge increase in the level of international preventive diplomacy and diplomatic peacemaking, for the most part by the United Nations, and more recently in partnership with regional organizations, these efforts will remain inadequate if they are not followed up by concrete actions on the ground.

I thank you for your attention