The new UN special envoy for Africa's Great Lakes region, former Irish president Mary Robinson, expressed her "shock" Tuesday over human rights abuses in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
"I'm shocked to see thousands of people displaced, women raped, in sum the massive violations of human rights in North Kivu which are continuing," Robinson said on her first visit to the volatile, mineral-rich region since taking up the post last month.
"I am committed," the renowned rights activist told reporters at the airport of North Kivu's capital Goma.
Speaking alongside Roger Meece, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUSCO), she said: "We want a political, diplomatic solution, but also to strengthen protection for civilians."
Robinson is leading political efforts to bring an end to more than two decades of conflict in the region, and has vowed to help build the trust needed for a recent regional peace agreement to work.
"This framework must work," she said of the UN-brokered accord signed by 11 African heads of state on Feb 24. "It gives hope to the population."
Under the accord, the 11 states vowed not to interfere in the affairs of their neighbours, and DR Congo President Joseph Kabila promised democratic advances and improved security.
In March, the UN Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a brigade of more than 2,500 troops to help MONUSCO curb violent unrest in the region, where Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of backing rebels.
South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi were to provide troops to the 3,000-strong brigade.
The rebel M23 movement has warned that it will retaliate if attacked by the brigade.
"The UN brigade will play an important role," Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Tuesday.
Robinson, who began her first trip to the region in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa, left later Tuesday for Rwanda.
Her week-long tour will also take her to Uganda, Burundi and South Africa, wrapping up with a visit to the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia.