UK Ambassador's Speech at Goma House Event

Your Excellency the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations,

Bishop of Goma,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Karibu Sana,



This should have been a happier occasion. I couldn't wait to be back in Eastern DRC, to welcome you all to the British Embassy office in Goma, along with our wonderful team, Jon, Magnus, Lucien, Diane and Christian, and to thank you for your friendship, partnership and support. That's what I'm going to do. But first I must say a few words about the current situation and recent events.

With the latest M23 advances in Kanyabayonga, many of you here tonight have colleagues who have been trapped by the fighting, living under intense pressure and fear. On Monday, we heard the terrible news that a five-vehicle humanitarian convoy carrying Tearfund staff had been attacked, the vehicles burned and two colleagues killed. I know that many of you here tonight have been involved in the evacuation efforts of other colleagues, and that you are tired, grieving, worried for your colleagues and the communities left behind.

Humanitarian workers, like the civilian populations you serve, are not supposed to be a target in conflict. But the reality is that you are, and so are they. So, I want to pay tribute to your courage, and allow us to take a moment to honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving their fellow human beings, and to remember all the victims of conflict. May I invite everyone to remain silent for a moment.

Thank you. I would like to assure everyone here that the UK will continue to be committed to the search for the lasting peace that the people of the eastern DRC deserve. The UK has had a permanent presence here for over twelve years, and the team here is working hard, day after day, to represent the UK in eastern DRC.

Ladies and gentlemen, despite the difficult times, it's a pleasure to be back. Goma is a dynamic, creative and proud city, brimming with ideas and resources, full of music, art and enterprise, people doing impressive things in difficult circumstances. It's also a place of incredible beauty, set between the great Nyiragongo volcano and Lake Kivu. I always look forward to spending time in Goma and always return to Kinshasa with a suitcase full of coffee, a little jealous of Goma's spectacular scenery and indomitable spirit.

I also had the privilege of visiting Bukavu this week, seeing the "mother of the Kivus" and meeting many of South Kivu's community and political leaders, business people and local and international partners. On my way back by boat at dawn this morning, as the sun rose over the island of Idjwi, I wondered if there was any place more beautiful than Lake Kivu.

As you all know, the last few months have been marked by an escalation of the conflict that has inflicted terrible suffering on civilians. Tomorrow, I'm going to meet some of the people most affected by the war and learn more about their experiences and needs. While I am always humbled by the resilience of displaced populations, I expect to hear hard messages about how hard life is, and why all of us with influence must step up our efforts for peace with greater urgency.

I am proud that the UK is standing alongside other donors in responding to this humanitarian crisis. We have committed one hundred and twenty million dollars in humanitarian aid over three years as part of its humanitarian and recovery programs. With this aid, we are providing short-term emergency relief by funding the SAFER consortium, the Red Cross, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, and we are also working to reduce future crises through the EAST consortium (Enabling Affected Communities to Survive and Thrive).

To be entrusted with positions of responsibility at a time when so much is at stake is an enormous responsibility in any part of the world. We are all called upon to do everything in our power to bring the conflict to an end as quickly as possible, and to work with compassion and determination. When I see you, I see a dedicated and passionate community, whether frontline humanitarians, government leaders, conflict analysts, civil society leaders, UN agencies, diplomats, security professionals or human rights defenders.

I would particularly like to congratulate:

MONUSCO's DSRSG, Vivian van de Perre, for her obvious passion and influence from the outset of her mandate, and Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Suzanna Tkalec, for her leadership of the humanitarian community in the East.

In addition to our team in Goma, I would also like to thank our wonderful catering team, musicians, decorators and house staff for tonight's event. I'd also like to thank the sponsors who made this evening possible:

  • Socimex
  • Rawbank
  • Vodacom
  • Médecins de Nuit
  • UTEX
  • Maison Castel
  • Brasimba

Everyone here has a difficult, if not impossible, job, but we all have a reason to exist. Take advantage of this evening to talk to other people who have a reason to be here in North Kivu. We're not alone, and together we can do more and better with and for the people of eastern DRC.

Given that his photo is in the garden this evening, and that it was the DRC's national holiday this week, perhaps I can share with you the words of His Majesty the King's message to President Tshisekedi to mark the occasion. He said:

As you and the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrate the special occasion of your Independence Day, it gives my wife and I great pleasure to convey our sincere congratulations to Your Excellency and to the Congolese people.

I value the ties that bind our two nations, and hope that our countries can continue to work closely together on important global issues, from peace and prosperity to the environment and climate change, which will benefit our future generations for many years to come.

My wife and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and all the Congolese people the very best for the coming year.

I invite you to join me in a toast to His Majesty the King.

All that remains is for me to say:

Karibu pia mangaribi njema kwa wote (Welcome and have a nice evening).

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