UN Great Lakes peace envoy to embark on first tour to region

Mary Robinson speaks in London on October 15, 2012.  By Justin Tallis (AFP/File)

Mary Robinson speaks in London on October 15, 2012. By Justin Tallis (AFP/File)

KINSHASA (AFP) – UN’s new special envoy for the Great Lakes, former Irish president and renowned rights activist Mary Robinson, will next week make her first tour of the region since assuming her role, the United Nations said in a statement Thursday.

The week-long visit, which will bring her to Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and South Africa, starts Monday and will wrap up on May 5, with a visit to the African Union in Ethiopia’s capital.

Robinson assumed the special envoy post last month and has been tasked with leading political efforts to bring an end more than two decades of conflict in the region.

During her trip, Robinson will initiate talks “with leaders and officials from key countries that recently signed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region” and explore ways to translate it into “tangible actions and cooperation to end the recurrent cycles of crisis and suffering in the eastern DRC”.

In February, 11 African countries signed a UN-brokered accord in a bid to end more than two decades of conflict in DR Congo’s mineral rich east, which has been a haven for armed groups who have left a trail of bloodshed and killing in their wake, and raped tens of thousands of women.

Violence surged again last May when the Congolese army began fighting the M23 rebel group, formed by army mutineers.

On April 29, Robinson will arrive in Kinshasa where she is scheduled to meet President Joseph Kabila, Foreign Affairs Minister Raymond Tshibanda and leaders of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUSCO). On April 30, she will visit the provincial capital of Goma in the country’s volatile east, where she is meeting local authorities, rights groups and UN peacekeeping partners.

Robinson was president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002.