Press Releases

    UNIS/SC/1179
    25 January 2000

    Seven African Heads of State Address Security Council
    In Day-long Meeting on Democratic Republic of Congo

    Call for Support for Lusaka Agreement,
    Speedy Establishment of UN Peacekeeping Mission

    NEW YORK, 24 January (UN Headquarters) -- Seven African Heads of State addressed the Security Council’s day-long meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, stressing the need for resolute international support for the peace process and for speedy establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in that country

    Speakers stressed that the unprecedented number of regional leaders taking part in the meeting testified to their commitment to the July 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and their will to inject a fresh momentum into the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Twenty-four representatives addressed the Council including: seven African Presidents; nine Ministers; the Secretary-General of the United Nations; the Secretary-General of Organization of African Unity (OAU); and the facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue envisioned by the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, former President of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire.

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Council that, with the necessary cooperation, the Organization’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could foster confidence among the parties and keep the peace process on track. To make the difference in the Democratic Republic and avoid the wrong turns that had led to tragedies elsewhere, the United Nations must not only be ready to act, but act in a way that was commensurate with the gravity of the situation. Whether that meant intense political engagement, a sustained commitment of resources or decisive action in the face of unforeseen circumstances, it was necessary to see its involvement through.

    [Provided the parties agreed to take the necessary steps, the Secretary-General -- in his report before the Council -- recommended the deployment of four reinforced protected infantry battalion groups, accompanied by up to 500 military observers, two marine companies and the supporting military personnel and equipment, and the additional civilian personnel required.]

    Frederick J.T. Chiluba, President of Zambia, said resolution of the conflict should not be an "us-versus-them" situation. The parties to the conflict, and its immediate victims, might be African, and the Ceasefire Agreement might have been signed by Africans, but it was not "their" conflict or "their" Agreement. The fact that the matter was today being discussed by the Council was an acknowledgement of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

    If the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement failed, it would be a failure of each and every Member State.

    Laurent-Desire Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said he had signed the Lusaka Agreement because he was a man of peace, and his people wanted peace. The Agreement, however, was not working and peace had not been achieved. Today, he was prepared to offer a hand of reconciliation to all the parties, without prejudice. Nevertheless, for peace to work, it must be mutual. The Agreement had failed in its objectives, for it could not restore peace without an immediate and complete ceasefire. It also envisioned the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers and the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of aggressor forces. He hoped those objectives could be reached by the end of this week.

    Referring to the fact that since 1959, approximately 2.5 million people in the Great Lakes region had been extra-judicially killed, Yoweri Kaguti Museveni, President of Uganda, emphasized the security needs of neighbouring States, saying "We are not chickens to be slaughtered by demented political actors. We expect the international community to support us in this. That is why the Security Council was set up". A neutral international peacekeeping force established under Chapter VII of the Charter should be deployed "as an inter-position force in the Congo", under the auspices of the United Nations. All foreign troops must withdraw in accordance with a timetable to be worked out by the United Nations and the OAU, and to be supervised by the United Nations force.

    Pasteur Bizimungu, President of Rwanda, said the Lusaka Agreement was not an end in itself. It was meant to facilitate a process of bringing durable peace to the region. However, he warned against the tendency to praise the Agreement so much that the important matter of implementation was forgotten. There could be no peace and security in the region if some provisions of that Agreement were taken lightly. He said the very first step for the Council was to ensure that the ceasefire held, while other mechanisms were being put in place. "That is why we believe plans to deploy a peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be elaborated now and not tomorrow."

    Addressing the difficulties in the process of the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement, Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary-General of the OAU, said that his organization had worked hard to mobilize the necessary financial and logistical support to facilitate the establishment of the Joint Military Commission at its temporary headquarters in Lusaka and the deployment of the local Commissions in three out of the four identified areas within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the enthusiasm and goodwill that had been demonstrated by the partners at the negotiations and signature of the Agreement were not accompanied by the required level of support. The support given to the Joint Military Commission to perform its tasks had been far below the essential requirements.

    Sir Ketumile Masire, former President of Botswana, who was appointed by the OAU in December 1999 as facilitator of the Inter-Congolese dialogue, said the most critical challenge to facilitating the political dialogue would be to determine the nature and content of the dialogue, establish the criteria for participation and determine how to organize the infrastructure that would provide the necessary backstop for negotiations. The current pronounced goodwill of the international community should be translated into concrete assistance.

    In her opening remarks, Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of State of the United States, as President of the Council, said her country was providing $1 million to assist the work of the Joint Military Commission. "We will work with Congress to provide $1 million this year to the former President of Botswana, Ketumile Masire’s efforts to facilitate the Congolese national dialogue", she added. That was vital because such a dialogue could be a critical step, not only towards ending the current conflict, but also in preventing future ones.

    Statements were also made by: President Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique; Robert G. Mugabe of Zimbabwe; and Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola.

    Also speaking today were: Foreign Minister of Namibia Theo-Ben Gurirab; Foreign Minister of South Africa Nkosazana C. Dlamini-Zuma; Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Burundi Severin Ntahomvukiye; Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium Louis Michel; Minister of Armed Forces of Mali Mohamed Salia Sokona; Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada Lloyd Axworthy; Minister of States for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom Peter Hain; and Minister Delegate for Cooperation and Francophonie of France Chales Josselin. Abdellatif Rahal, Diplomatic Advisor to the Chairman of the OAU, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, spoke on behalf of the OAU Chairman.

    The representatives of Bangladesh, Tunisia and Argentina also spoke. The President of the Council, Richard Holbrooke (United States), also read out a message on behalf of the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo.

    Committee Work Programme

    As the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Mission in that country (MONUC) (document S/2000/30), which was established by Council resolution 1279 (1999) of 30 November 1999.

    The Secretary-General states that since his November 1999 report, the situation in the Democratic Republic has deteriorated. Fighting between Government troops and the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) and other armed groups has been reported in different parts of the country. According to witnesses, the armed groups have acquired new equipment. Reports from South Kivu strongly suggest the danger of large-scale violence among different ethnic groups there. Among several alleged massacres and atrocities is the burial alive of 15 women in Kivu province by rebels, apparently in suspicion of contacts with Mayi-Mayi forces.

    As explained in the report, the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, which provides for holding of an inter-Congolese national dialogue leading to national reconciliation, also envisioned the establishment of a Joint Military Commission (JMC), which, together with the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), would be responsible for peacekeeping operations until the deployment of the United Nations peacekeeping force. Under another provision of the Agreement, a ministerial-level Political Committee was to be established.

    The Secretary-General concludes that the deployment of additional United Nations military personnel should contribute to restoring momentum for the implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. In that connection, the signatories bear a crucial responsibility for ensuring the implementation of the Agreement. The international community’s willingness to lend its full support and allocate the significant resources that will be required will depend upon their renewed commitment to the Agreement. In that context, no new military offensives should be launched, the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel should be guaranteed, and the spreading of hostile propaganda, especially incitements to attack unarmed civilians, should cease.

    The Secretary-General states that, in view of its essential role, the Joint Military Commission must be established soon on a permanent basis, so that it can react swiftly to events and provide credible and authoritative decisions. Efforts to integrate its activities with those of MONUC should continue. Designation in December of the former President of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, as the neutral facilitator for the inter-Congolese dialogue has elevated the prospect that the rest of the Lusaka peace process will now be implemented, with the assistance of the OAU. On 11 December 1999, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Kamel Morjane (Tunisia), assumed his duties in Kinshasa.

    Regional efforts and initiatives undertaken in support of the peace process, including those by heads of State in the region, are to be commended, the Secretary-General states. Provided the parties agree to take the necessary steps, he recommends the deployment of four reinforced protected infantry battalion groups, accompanied by up to 500 military observers, two marine companies and the supporting military personnel and equipment, and the additional civilian personnel required. Until full deployment of a United Nations force, the role of the Joint Military Commission will remain crucial.

    In order to permit the Joint Military Commission to fulfil its functions, the Secretary-General appeals to donors to provide the resources necessary to support its operations. Information from MONUC personnel confirms previous assessments that, in order to be effective, any United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would require the deployment of thousands of international troops and civilian personnel. It would face tremendous difficulties and risks. Despite the fact that the deployment of a MONUC peacekeeping operation might create inflated and unrealistic expectations, the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement remains the best hope for the resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, for the time being, the only prospect of achieving it.

    With the renewed commitment of the parties to the Lusaka Agreement, fully supported by the international community, diplomatic efforts may yet succeed in resolving the crisis, the Secretary-General states. If the Agreement is to be carried out as signed, the formidable tasks expected of the United Nations will need to be carefully evaluated. In particular, it will be necessary to reflect on the question of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the armed groups in order to develop a realistic plan of action.

    The United Nations can play an important role if it receives the necessary mandate and resources, the Secretary-General continues. A large-scale United Nations peacekeeping operation would provide assistance in the disengagement and withdrawal of combatant forces; provide security for the operations of United Nations military personnel; and work towards eventual disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, including the armed groups identified in the Lusaka Agreement.

    The latest developments described in the report include the Joint Military Commission meeting in Harare in December 1999, at which the Commission adopted for approval by the Political Committee papers on the determination of humanitarian corridors, release of hostages, exchange of prisoners of war and relations with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It also addressed the mechanisms of disarming armed groups and handing over war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity; drafting mechanisms and procedures for the disengagement of forces; and withdrawal of foreign forces.

    The Joint Military Commission also adopted a proposal for a peaceful resolution of the situation at Ikela, where Congolese, Namibian and Zimbabwean troops are encircled by rebel forces. It also considered the question of stationing United Nations liaison officers and further deployment of the Joint Military Commission’s own regional structures, accompanied by OAU observers, within the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    To address the questions of security and freedom of movement for the technical survey team, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Moustapha Niasse, met with President Kabila during his visit to Kinshasa in November. Since then, the survey team has visited seven locations in rebel-held territory and one in Government-held territory; and teams of United Nations military liaison officers have been positioned at several locations. Seventy-nine United Nations military liaison officers are currently deployed on the Democratic Republic, in the capitals of the belligerent parties and elsewhere in the subregion.

    Regarding the humanitarian situation in the country, the report states that there are some 960,000 internally displaced persons in eight of the 11 provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and over 300,000 refugees from six of its neighbouring countries. Recent humanitarian assessments reveal that over

    2.1 million people (internally displaced persons, refugees, urban vulnerable), or 4.3 per cent of the population of the country, face critical food insecurity. Another 8.4 million, or 17 per cent of the population, face moderate but rapidly growing food insecurity.

    The Secretary-General further reports that a major improvement in funding and resources is needed to address the humanitarian needs in the country. In December 1999, the United Nations Consolidated Appeal for 2000 was launched at Geneva, requesting $71.3 million. The 1999 Consolidated Appeal for $38.6 million had only a 17 per cent response rate, making it impossible to provide the necessary life-saving interventions. Recent exceptional floods and river overflows in Kinshasa created an additional group of approximately 9,000 vulnerable families in several areas of the capital. The Governments of Belgium, France, Japan, United States, Canada and the United Kingdom contributed over $500,000 to address immediate humanitarian needs, along with the European Community Humanitarian Office and United Nations agencies.

    The Secretary-General also states that children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo face displacement, separation from and loss of families, physical injuries and exposure to chronic violence and forced recruitment into fighting forces. Thousands serve as combatants with the various fighting forces. Large numbers of unaccompanied minors have been reported in several provinces. The recruitment of child soldiers continues, especially in the eastern part of the country. Among the positive developments in that regard, the report mentions a Forum on the Demobilization of Child Soldiers and the Protection of Human Rights, which was organized in December 1999 by the Congolese Ministry of Human Rights, supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

    Regarding financial aspects of the situation, the Secretary-General reports that pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1258 (1999), 1273 (1999) and 1279 (1999), he has obtained from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) commitment authorities totalling $41 million for the United Nations preliminary deployment in the subregion and for the establishment and maintenance of MONUC for the period from 6 August 1999 to 1 March 2000. That amount includes the funds necessary for equipping 500 military observers and an additional 100 civilian support personnel, expected to be deployed subject to a further decision by the Council. The Secretary-General intends to seek assessment of these requirements from the General Assembly during its resumed fifty-fourth session.

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    NOTE: A summary of the statements made can be provided upon specific request.
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