I would like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms Bintou Keita, and Ms Sandrine Lusamba, for their presentations and for their commitment. I welcome the participation of the representatives of the States of the region.
During a recent visit to the DRC by a delegation from my ministry, we met Pétronille Vaweka. This long-standing representative of Congolese civil society told us, and I quote: "Despite the persistence of conflict and suffering in the east, I am convinced that we can build peace. That's why I'm still standing. I would like to reaffirm to the Congolese people Switzerland's commitment to promoting lasting peace in the country.
In this respect, I would like to address three points:
Firstly, MONUSCO's disengagement must be responsible and carried out in stages. Switzerland welcomes the collaboration between the Congolese authorities and the Mission in drawing up the disengagement plan. We recognise the DRC's call for a gradual withdrawal of the Mission. We welcome the government's determination to ensure that the withdrawal is carried out responsibly and in a staged manner. This means giving priority to the protection of civilians and ensuring an inclusive and collaborative process, including with civil society.
With a view to the deployment of regional forces in the DRC, it is essential that any support from MONUSCO be in strict compliance with the human rights due diligence policy. The regional forces should apply the African Union's compliance framework and include the protection of civilians in their mandate.
Finally, with the withdrawal of the Mission from South Kivu in 2024, we encourage the DRC to strengthen the rule of law, the security sector and the implementation of the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration process for armed groups.
Secondly, political initiatives must be reinvigorated to put an end to clashes and consolidate a lasting peace. At the regional level, Switzerland calls on all parties to exercise restraint and de-escalate tensions. A sincere and well-founded dialogue, particularly between the DRC and Rwanda, is urgently needed to put an end to the cycles of violence. To this end, all support for armed groups, in particular the M23 and the FDLR, must cease immediately. In this respect, Switzerland takes note of the Congolese government's decision to prohibit its officers from having any contact with the FDLR.
At a national level, the DRC must make every effort to guarantee civic space for its people, particularly in the context of the elections. It is imperative that the Congolese people are able to express their will freely, and without fear of reprisals. Meanwhile, all candidates have a responsibility to ensure that the electoral process is peaceful and free of hate speech. We regret that the populations of certain territories, notably Masisi and Rutshuru, are deprived of the opportunity to participate in the electoral process.
Thirdly, all parties must respect international humanitarian law and human rights. The intensification of fighting in the east of the DRC since October is worrying. Increased attacks by armed groups in North Kivu and Ituri, in particular Wazalendo, M23, ADF and CODECO, are having a devastating impact on the civilian population. At a time when the number of victims of violations of international law is rising dramatically, insecurity is hampering people's access to humanitarian aid. These violations of international law must stop immediately and be investigated.
The Security Council visited the DRC this year to engage in dialogue with the Congolese authorities and promote mutual understanding. The DRC's continued cooperation and dialogue with the United Nations remains essential. As this Council prepares to renew MONUSCO's mandate, a constructive and transparent relationship between this Council and the DRC is crucial to a successful disengagement process.