Secretary-General Stresses Need to ‘Neutralize’ Threat Posed by ‘Negative Forces’, Repatriate Ex-Fighters, Curb Political Crises Plaguing Great Lakes Region

Following is UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' message, delivered by Said Djinnit, his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, to the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, in Brazzaville today:

I express my deep appreciation to President Denis Sassou Nguesso and the Government of the Republic of Congo for hosting the eighth high-level meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region.

Much has been achieved since the signing of the PSC Framework in 2013, yet there is still a long way to go to achieve the noble goals the region has set for itself. Today's meeting offers an important opportunity to take additional measures to address the remaining challenges. I see four priority areas for our collective efforts.

First, vigorous action is needed to neutralize the continued threats posed by negative forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region as a whole. I encourage the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to step up their operations � in close collaboration with MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] � against all armed groups still active in eastern the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For our part, the United Nations continues to adjust MONUSCO's configuration and operations to more effectively contribute to neutralizing the threat of armed groups and to protect civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I also encourage your respective Governments and security forces to cooperate closely to continue to jointly address the activities of armed groups that affect security and stability along a number of border areas in the region.

Second, we need to achieve tangible progress on the repatriation of former combatants. I encourage the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda to intensify their efforts and accelerate the repatriation of disarmed combatants, with the support of the United Nations, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Third, we need to resolve the persistent political crises in the region. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the full implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement is key to ending the political crisis in the country. I call on all stakeholders to take all necessary measures to create conditions conducive for the holding of peaceful and credible elections, in line with the 31 December 2016 agreement. This should include an early publication of a consensual electoral calendar in accordance with the Constitution and the 31 December 2016 agreement, as well as further progress in implementing additional confidence-building measures.

I acknowledge the significant efforts of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the support of the United Nations, in the ongoing voter-registration process that has to date resulted in the registration of more than 40 million eligible voters. The United Nations will continue to assist the parties in these efforts.

The United Nations will also continue to support efforts of the East African Community (EAC) with respect to the Inter-Burundi dialogue, under the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni, to find a political solution to the crisis in Burundi. I urge all parties to show their determination to end the crisis through a frank and inclusive dialogue.

I also repeat my call for the guns to be silenced in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. I welcome progress in the organization of the national dialogue in South Sudan and call on all parties to commit to a political solution to the conflict. I urge the armed groups in the Central African Republic to immediately cease hostilities and commit to a political settlement of grievances, including through the Government-led dialogue, supported by the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation.

Fourth, we must support and protect refugees and internally displaced persons, and help host countries as well as local communities. This is not just a matter of solidarity and justice, but also an investment in securing the gains we have made so far in the region.

Let me conclude by reiterating the commitment of the United Nations to regional integration and economic cooperation, a core objective of the PSC Framework. Through the Great Lakes Regional Strategic Framework � endorsed by the Security Council last year � the United Nations will continue to work closely with you to promote increasing cross-border cooperation for the benefit of the countries and the peoples of the region.

We stand by your side to fulfil the promises for peace, security, human rights and sustainable development, made under the [International Conference on the Great Lakes Region] Pact and the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework.

Source: United Nations

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