Press Releases

     

    UNIS/SG/2785
    8 February 2001

    Secretary-General Urges Security Council to Seize New Opportunity
    For Peace in Democratic Republic of Congo



    NEW YORK, 7 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement made to the Security Council this morning by Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

    For the second time in less than one week we are meeting to affirm our commitment to help bring peace and stability to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The welcome presence of the President of Rwanda here today should strengthen our resolve to make the most of this opportunity for change, and ensure that it gives new impetus towards a final resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What is clear to this Council –- and should be clear to all sides in the conflict - is that no country in the area can hope to enjoy stability while the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues, and that all will benefit from its resolution. I therefore wish to commend President Kagame and President Kabila for the statesmanship they showed in meeting last week in Washington to discuss the challenges facing both their countries and the entire area.

    There are difficult issues of governance, national dialogue, democracy, accountability, and reconciliation that need to be addressed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the region as a whole if there is to be a lasting solution in the Great Lakes. But in the short term the most pressing issue is the continued existence of predatory armed groups. Although there is no easy military solution to this dangerous phenomenon, those guilty of the worst atrocities and human rights abuses –- and especially those guilty of genocide - must not be allowed to escape unpunished.

    We must understand that all the countries in the region, in particular Rwanda, have legitimate security concerns. Let me here express once again my profound personal sorrow at the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. Let me also commend the Government and people of Rwanda for their efforts to rebuild and renew their nation. The Government is completing its daunting programme of reintegration, and is moving ahead systematically towards greater inclusion, as well as national reconciliation and democratization.

    Much remains to be done, however, and the United Nations will continue to give whatever help it can to Rwanda in carrying out these tasks.

    In welcoming President Joseph Kabila during his brief visit last week, many members of the Security Council spoke of the need to seize this opportunity for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition, leaders throughout the region have responded to the latest developments in a way that suggests they sincerely wish to implement the Lusaka agreement in all its aspects. I hope we can build on this momentum –- and on the fact that no major ceasefire violations have been reported over the past two weeks.

    I would like to mention one step that would serve as an important confidence-building measure, as the United Nations moves to help the parties carry out the disengagement plan signed in Harare in December.

    The Force Commander of MONUC, Major-General Diallo, is currently discussing with the authorities in Kigali and in the Democratic Republic of Congo the withdrawal of Rwandan forces and their allies from the town of Pweto, on Lake Mweru in Katanga. We understand that substantial, if not complete, agreement has been reached. MONUC is ready to deploy a team of observers to the town once all the arrangements are in place. A withdrawal from Pweto by Rwanda and its allies, in accordance with the Harare disengagement plan, would help set the tone for the remainder of the disengagement plan. It would also represent an important step towards compliance with this Council’s resolution of 16 June 2000 demanding the withdrawal of Ugandan and Rwandan forces from the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    In the report I intend to submit to the Security Council next week, I will propose a revised concept of operations for the deployment by MONUC. I will propose the deployment of additional personnel to monitor and verify the implementation by the parties of the Harare disengagement plan.

    Meanwhile, MONUC has already begun to take some initial steps, which fall within mandate approved by the Security Council in February 2000. Should the Council approve the revised concept, MONUC will be able to help the parties further in drawing back their forces from the confrontation line. This will reduce the risk of clashes and serve as a vital first step toward an eventual complete withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.

    We may be on the verge of a new and more constructive stage in the process of bringing an end to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and stability to the region. We should not, however, lose sight of the scale of the challenges that remain and the enormity of the crime against humanity that lies at the source of so many of these issues –- namely, the genocide in Rwanda. Indeed, it is my most profound hope that a resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will bring peace to the entire Great Lakes Region, and, in particular, to the people of Rwanda.

    A new opportunity has presented itself, and I urge this Council and every country in the region to do everything possible to seize it.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

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