This is a first in history, a Chinese is a special envoy of the UN. Huang Xia is the new “Great Lakes Master” of the United Nations, and he is full of praise for the new Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi. He answers questions from Christophe Boisbouvier.
Huang Xia: I believe that these concrete results are, first and foremost, more concrete actions in the cooperation between the countries signatories of the Framework Agreement [for Peace, Security and Cooperation for the DRC, signed in February 2013 in Addis -Abeba] and especially the key countries of this region. I am thinking of the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. After taking up my duties on April 1st, I have already made a series of trips to several countries. What I have received as a result of these visits is, nevertheless, an encouraging sign of better cooperation, of closer cooperation between all the countries of the region and especially between the key countries. . Since there is a strong political will to better cooperate, we could actually hope for more concrete results by the end of the year.
You have indeed been received in Kinshasa by Felix Tshisekedi, in Kampala by Yoweri Museveni and in Kigali by the highest Rwandan officials. What is it concretely, repatriation of fighters from the M23 in Congo (former rebels) and fighters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in Rwanda for example ?
These are elements that we have mentioned. There are even more important ideas, but in the exchanges with all interlocutors, all these interlocutors recognize that the flight is now prevented, is undermined by insecurity in eastern DRC. So we have to fix this problem. I observe that, in the absence of a presence and a deterrent capacity of the Congolese state in the east of the country, many local and foreign armed groups proliferate, swarm and especially foreign groups including the FDLR, the ADF [Ugandan rebels], and emerging groups of Burundian or Ugandan origin, who use the DRC as a rear base for their operations against their country of origin. This situation continues to fuel mistrust among the countries of the region. But I have to say, that in this disturbing context, the steps taken by President Félix Tshisekedi, the day after his installation as supreme magistrate, with a view to regional rapprochement deserve the congratulations and encouragement of the entire international community. These steps seem to be already bearing the first fruits.
You talk about the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Rwandan rebels settled in Congo-Kinshasa, the UN has overseen in recent months the repatriation of several hundred of them to Rwanda. But is not it about forced repatriation ? Can you guarantee that these returnees, once they arrive in Rwanda, stay alive and are treated well in accordance with the Geneva Conventions ?
In the subregion, there are existing mechanisms. I think of the ICGLR Pact [International Conference on the Great Lakes Region], I think of the Framework Agreement [of Addis Ababa]. It is up to us to work together to translate into concrete actions the provisions of all these instruments so that the necessary conditions are created. It is with these conditions that we will be better able to achieve these DDR [disarmament, demobilization, reintegration] plans.
Which means that for the moment, the safety of these returnees is not yet guaranteed ?
For many years, there has been a lot of success in our efforts to sustain peace and security in the region, but the picture is not rosy. Much remains to be done.
You talk about the DDR, there are several thousand fighters of armed groups from Congo Kinshasa who have surrendered in recent weeks. The problem is that they are not supported in the cantonments where they are grouped. They are so hungry, they are so badly treated that they go back into the bush. Is it not urgent to act today ?
Monusco [UN Mission in the DRC] is better placed than me to answer your question. If there have been favorable developments in the subregion for months, and especially in the DRC, we must welcome the efforts made by President Tshisekedi following his election. These are actions that we must encourage and support. All partners, starting with the United Nations, are there to encourage and help the Congolese authorities to do a better job.
What do you think are the signs of this favorable development in the DRC since Felix Tshisekedi came to power ?
Already, since his accession to the highest office, President Tshisekedi has made trips to neighboring countries to show a strong political will for rapprochement, for a closer regional cooperation approach. And on the side of the countries where he was, it was a very favorable reaction. I am also thinking of the two signed peace agreements concerning South Sudan and the Central African Republic. So indeed, for several months, in this sub-region, we see very favorable momentum, a very encouraging development. In the DRC, more precisely, today we expect a change and President Tshisekedi symbolizes this change.
The announcement of the return of Moses Katumbi May 20 in Lubumbashi, is this for you good news or not ?
Since his accession to the supreme office, President Tshisekedi has made great efforts to ensure national reconciliation, to achieve political and social agreement throughout the territory. And in this context, I think we must encourage all the efforts that President Tshisekedi has undertaken, will undertake and will undertake to ensure better national reconciliation.
The sudden outbreak of fever between Rwanda and Uganda since the beginning of this year, do you care ?
In recent months there has been some diplomatic tension between Rwanda and Uganda. However, I note that, so far, both countries have shown restraint and their ability to rely on their differences through the political process. I also see that many bridging efforts have already been undertaken to alleviate these tensions, first and foremost by the two countries concerned.
So you do not believe in an armed conflict between Rwanda and Uganda ?
I think there is momentum to ease the tension. There are countries in the region that have also addressed the issue and offered their good offices and, finally, the organizations of the subregion are of proven diplomatic utility for the political solution of conflicts.
Did you offer your good offices between Kigali and Kampala ?
At this point, I just did a listening mission in Uganda and another listening visit to Rwanda. I am ready to return very quickly.
When Rwandan Paul Kagame accuses Ugandan Yoweri Museveni of supporting Rwandan dissidents who want to overthrow him, is he right ?
I would like to listen more and more to the leaders of these countries. Our African friends are smart enough to find an African solution to their problems.
In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza announces that he will not run again next year. But do you believe it ?
I think the chairman is sincere in his statement, in his commitment. Indeed, throughout my mission in this country, I have noticed that we are focused on the election date scheduled for the year 2020. And everyone wishes that this election is conducted in a peaceful and credible manner. And this is a common point of agreement.
With you, this is the first time that a Chinese diplomat has arrived at such a high and sensitive position in the United Nations. Is this the sign of a changing world ?
For my nomination, I must take advantage of your antenna to thank the Secretary General [Antonio Guterres] for his confidence in my own person. Regarding the recruitment and appointment of United Nations staff and officials, I believe there is this article, Article 101 of the United Nations Charter, which says: ” will be given due consideration importance of recruiting on as wide a geographical basis as possible .
Yes, but you are Chinese and your country is now the second largest financial contributor to the United Nations. That’s why you were appointed to this sensitive position, right ?
I think that if the Secretary-General appoints a senior official in the UN system, the first criteria, that is to say the first references, is the quality of work, it is the competence and it is the integrity.
Is not the fact that you come from a country that is increasingly present at the United Nations and has become the second biggest contributor to the UN ?
China has been present for many decades at the United Nations. In the selection and appointment of officials in the system, the United Nations scrupulously respects the criteria set out in the Charter and in the various legal and regulatory acts.
China has been present since 1946, but is not it ever more present ?
China is increasingly present on the international scene.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently told President Xi Jinping : ” You have become a central pillar of multilateralism “. With China, can the UN remain strong, despite the threats of the US administration against this international organization ?
The Secretary-General was right to defend multilateralism fiercely, because multilateralism today is under threat. I think that the whole international community must mobilize more to defend it.