Peace and Security in the Great Lakes Region
14 March 2017
Cairo, Egypt - In cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Egyptian Agency for Partnership for Development (EAPD), and the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), CCCPA organized a high-level workshop on peace and security in the Great Lakes. The workshop was held in Cairo on 27 February 2017.
Titled ‘Towards a More Effective Collective Response to Peace and Security Threats in the Great Lakes Region’, the workshop brought together top-ranking diplomats and officials from Egypt, the twelve member states of the ICGLR, and the Secretariat of the International Conference. Key representatives included H.E. Georges Chikoti, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Angola; H.E. Hamdi Loza, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt; H.E. Yves Kisombe, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Dr. Susan Kolimba, Deputy Foreign Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania; H.E. Jean de Dieu Ndikumana, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and International Cooperation of the Republic of Burundi; and H.E. Zachary Muburi-Muita, Executive Secretary of the ICGLR.
Other high-level representation included officials from the United Nations and African institutions, such as H.E. Said Djinnit, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region; H.E. Maman Sambo Sidiko, Special Representative of UN Secretary General for the DRC and Head of MONUSCO; H.E. Jamal Benomar, the UN Secretary-General Special Adviser to Burundi; and H.E. Francine Muyumba, President of the Pan African Youth Union. Representatives from a number of diplomatic missions in Cairo were also in attendance, including the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Republic of France, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of Sweden and the European Union.
In his opening remarks, H.E. Ambassador Hamdi Loza, Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs outlined the objectives of the workshop: “This workshop is not about identifying the positions of national and regional stakeholders on the threats and challenges to peace and security in the Great Lakes region. It is rather an opportunity to deliberate on how we can all work together in an effective manner to address these issues.” He also reaffirmed Egypt’s commitment to supporting the ICGLR and its member states in their efforts to achieve peace and security.
Minister Chikoti commended the Government of Egypt for hosting such an important and timely event. He highlighted the ICGLR’s central role in harnessing and coordinating a regional approach to peace, security and stability in the region. In addition, he urged Member States to intensify efforts aimed at neutralizing negative forces, building confidence among the countries of the region, and fighting the scourge of terrorism.
On his part, H.E. Zachary Muburi-Muita addressed key security challenges in the region. He described the workshop as “an opportune moment […] to review progress by Member States and partners towards achieving a more effective response to peace and security threats in the Great Lakes region.”
Discussions during the workshop focused on a number of issues, including the challenges to peace and security in the Great Lakes region, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, as well as prospects for sustaining peace. Several interventions highlighted the opportunities that exist for peace and security in the region, including the ongoing political processes in the DRC, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. Another key opportunity that was underlined is the sustained attention of the international community, which has been actively engaged in the Great Lakes region. In the opinion of many participants, the region does not lack regional or international responses; rather an effective collective response. To achieve that, participants emphasized the need to strengthen confidence-building measures across and within the countries of the region, and renew commitments to implement the 2013 DRC Framework.
With regards to peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts in the region, participants emphasized that such interventions cannot substitute national efforts to build and sustain peace. The centrality of national ownership was highlighted in this regard, particularly in the context of security sector reform (SSR).
The issue of adapting peacekeeping missions to the ever-evolving security environment also received considerable attention. Participants highlighted the importance of meaningful and institutionalized engagement with troop- and police-contributing countries, including in doctrinal and policy debates. The discussion also touched upon the need to consider exit strategies for peacekeeping missions and to ensure sustained international engagement in peacebuilding efforts. Moreover, participants agreed that sustaining peace (a point repeatedly asserted) requires an integrated regional approach to address the development priorities of the countries in the region--along with security needs.
The workshop also featured discussions on the role of the local community in conflict resolution. A number of participants stated that community actors have ‘local knowledge’ and are better able to lead the process of reconciliation and nation-building, and that women and youth, in particular, can play an important role as actors for peace. As such, participants agreed that greater attention should be paid to supporting youth-led initiatives, considering that they constitute more than 60 percent of the population in the Great Lakes region.
The role of local religious and community leaders in preventing radicalization and recruitment to terrorist organizations was also highlighted. Specific reference was made to CCCPA’s unique training program on preventing radicalization and extremism leading to terrorism (PRELT), which targets local community leaders in Somalia and Nigeria using the rules and ethics of war and peace in Islamic Sharia as the foundation for building a counter-narrative.
Key recommendations from the workshop include the following:
a.emphasizing political solutions based on nationally-owned, internationally-supported processes;
b. strengthening bilateral, regional and international cooperation;
c. intensifying confidence-building measures and promoting dialogue within and among countries of the region;
d. enhancing the engagement of host countries and troop and police-contributing countries in doctrinal/policy debates on peacekeeping; and
e. supporting women and youth empowerment as a tool for conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence.