UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will preside over a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council this month to push for implementation of a peace accord signed by 11 African nations to end years of fighting in eastern Congo.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, the council president for July, told reporters Tuesday that the United States wants to keep the spotlight on the Feb. 24 peace accord, encourage signatories to live up to their commitments and underline the need to tackle the underlying causes of the conflict in the region.
In a report to the council late Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the signing of the agreement and the diplomatic and political initiatives that followed have raised expectations that the crisis could be resolved.
The agreement has contributed "to containing the protracted crisis," he said. "However, the situation remains tense with episodes of deadly fighting indicative of its continuing volatility."
The Congo conflict is a spillover from the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Hundreds of Hutus who participated in the mass slaughter escaped into Congo and still fight there.
DiCarlo said the July 25 council meeting chaired by Kerry will include briefings by the secretary-general, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, U.N. special envoy for Africa's Great Lakes region Mary Robinson and representatives from Congo, Uganda and the African Union. Rwanda, which is serving a two-year term on the Security Council, is also sending a high-level representative, she said.
The signatories of the peace deal include Rwanda and Uganda, which were accused in a U.N. report last year of helping aid the M23 rebel group which swept through eastern Congo in 2012 and captured Goma in November but pulled out under international pressure. The M23, whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces, is an incarnation of a group of Congolese Tutsi set up to fight the Rwandan Hutu rebels in Congo.
Both Rwanda and Uganda deny aiding the M23. A report this weekend by U.N. experts monitoring sanctions against Congo said Rwandan support for the M23 movement has waned but not ended in the past six months.
The secretary-general's report said the recurring cycle of violence in eastern Congo "poses a major obstacle to the consolidation of peace and greatly undermines ... Congo's development prospects." This is compounded by years of mistrust between Congo and its eastern neighbors, which include Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, he said.
Ban said he is nonetheless encouraged to see leaders in the region continuing to talk to each other. He also welcomed the resumption of talks in Uganda between the Congolese government and the M23, saying they remain "a viable option for finding a peaceful solution to the crisis."