Editor's Note: This post was co-authored by Annie Callaway and Sasha Lezhnev.
On July 17th, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced the appointment of senior Algerian diplomat Ambassador Said Djinnit as Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Amb. Djinnit will replace Mary Robinson, who held the position from March 2013 until last week when she accepted the role of U.N. Special Envoy for Climate Change.
With a strong passion for peace and security in Africa, senior diplomatic heft throughout the continent, and adept diplomacy, Amb. Djinnit adds tremendous value to the international envoy team working on peace in Congo and the Great Lakes region. His previous positions include Commissioner for Peace and Security for the African Union, and U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the U.N. office for West Africa. He also worked tirelessly and effectively in partnership with the U.S. government – including directly with Susan Rice, Gayle Smith, and John Prendergast – on the Ethiopia-Eritrea negotiations to end the war in the late 1990s. His years of experience on issues related to peacebuilding have earned him the respect of many African leaders, which will be of use during his tenure as Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, as the regional peace process for Congo will require careful diplomacy amongst nations.
Now is a critical time and an opportunity for the peace process, as it must move toward solutions to the FDLR rebellion, address economic drivers of the conflict, and be more inclusive of civil society. Amb. Djinnit must help make those changes happen, if peace is to take root.
The Enough Project warmly welcomes Ambassador Djinnit’s appointment.
Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst Sasha Lezhnev said: "Ambassador Said Djinnit can be a boon to peace in eastern Congo, as his senior-level negotiating experience in Africa on security issues has earned him the respect of regional leaders, and as he will be based full-time in the region. Ambassador Djinnit should first focus on firm 3-month benchmarks for progress on the disarmament of the deadly FDLR rebel group, which remains a major obstacle to regional peace."
Enough Project Founding Director John Prendergast said: "The appointment of Ambassador Djinnit is an excellent choice given his strong regional background and the wide respect he enjoys from African leaders. Going forward, Ambassador Djinnit should work closely with Angolan President Dos Santos to broaden the agenda of the regional peace process to include economic cooperation and war crimes accountability. In addition, he should establish a civil society feedback mechanism to incorporate their input, including women's voices, into the heads-of-state peace process."
Enough Project Policy Associate Holly Dranginis said: "Mary Robinson made it a priority to listen to women in the Great Lakes, support them, and understand their ideas and demands in the context of this region's peace process. Special Envoy Djinnit should take care to carry on that work and ensure that momentum for women's empowerment and inclusion in the region is not lost in this transition."
Enough Project Field Researcher Fidel Bafilemba said: "The FDLR is the main bottleneck for peace restoration in eastern Congo and the region at large. The FDLR cannot be given a leash to reorganize, and must be treated with strong measures as was the M23, otherwise the people of eastern Congo will continue to bear the brunt of the FDLR's brutality. Definitively resolving the FDLR is the greatest difference Said Djinnit can make to the Great Lakes crisis."
Although there have been several positive developments in Congo over the past year, much work remains, and the international community has a critical role to play. Recently, concerns have been raised over the apparently revitalized FDLR rebel group, and the fate of former M23 fighters remains largely undetermined, leading to fears that they may regroup. Additionally, the illegal mineral trade requires national, regional, and international attention in order for reforms to take hold, and impunity for crimes such as sexual violence and child recruitment must be addressed.
Amb. Djinnit’s mandate is focused broadly on peace and security in Congo and the surrounding region. Joining U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold, U.N. Special Representative and Head of Mission for MONUSCO Martin Kobler, and European Union Special Representative to the African Union Koen Vervaeke on the team of international appointees charged with facilitating and bolstering peace in the region, Amb. Djinnit will add clout to the mission to bring an end to conflict in the DRC. His ability to be based full-time in the region will aid these efforts and establish a consistent presence that prioritizes a comprehensive peace process. With international attention on Congo at a peak, Amb. Djinnit, in cooperation with his colleagues working in the Great Lakes region, African political leaders, and civil society groups, must harness this opportunity and lay the groundwork for a sustainable peace to take root.
Photo Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider