Robinson given key UN role to police peace efforts in African region

Former president Mary Robinson has been tasked by the UN to police delicate peace efforts in one of the most violent regions of the world.

The Security Council unanimously approved the appointment of Ms Robinson as the UN’s special envoy to the Great Lakes region in Africa.

The area includes Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where civil war has destabilised neighbouring countries.

The central African region has been ravaged by war and famine. It is where Ms Robinson shifted from being an Irish president to an international peace figure when she visited Rwanda to highlight the genocide there in 1994.

At the time, her forthright assessment of the violence in the region was met with hostility from the warring factions.

Ms Robinson, who previously held the role of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will monitor the Great Lakes region from the newly established envoy’s offices in Dublin and Burundi.

Foreign Affairs minister Eamon Gilmore said the appointment came at a critical time.

“In overseeing the implementation of the new regional agreement, former president Mary Robinson will play a central role in facilitating and encouraging leaders of the region to address through dialogue and cooperation the challenges faced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and countries of the region,” he said.

Ms Robinson’s tenure as special envoy began on a surprise note as Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda handed himself into the American embassy in Rwanda and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Efforts to arrest Mr Ntaganda partly led to a year-long war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and he has been wanted for conscripting child soldiers, rape, and ethnic cleansing.

The American embassy, which is not affiliated to the ICC, said it was working to facilitate his delivery to the Hague.


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