SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS REPORT ON MISSION TO CENTRAL
AFRICA SUPPORTING PEACE PROCESSES IN BURUNDI,
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
NEW YORK, 18 June (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council this morning heard an oral report on the Council’s mission to Central Africa in support of the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.
The head of the Council’s mission, Jean-Marc de La Sablière (France) said a National Reconciliation Government should soon materialize in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but hostilities were still ongoing. The mission had asked President Kabila to accelerate the establishment of the transitional government and had reminded representatives of RCD-Goma to end hostilities immediately. Noting that most victims of fighting in the Ituri region were civilians, he said the next victim should not be the peace process itself.
The mission had told the Presidents of Rwanda and Uganda how much it wanted them to contribute to stabilization of the Great Lakes region by positively influencing the armed groups, and it had reminded all actors there would be no impunity for human rights violations, he said.
When the mission visited Bunia, he said, deployment of the multinational force authorized by Council resolution 1484 (2003) had already produced a return of security. When that force departed on 1 September, there would be favourable conditions for a more effective peacekeeping mission. The mission had noted that a sizeable proportion of the militia units seen on the streets consisted of young children.
He said Council members should now define how the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) could play the most effective role in the peace process in that country, possibly with a more robust mandate.
In Burundi, the change in presidency in April had made the peace process irreversible, he said. There was, however, not a complete ceasefire and hostilities continued. The mission had invited the Government to accelerate reforms in security and the judiciary. It had also informed the rebel movements that had not signed the Arusha Agreement to respect the ceasefire and had encouraged the Government to provide room for them in its army and institutions. The mission had also emphasized that serious human rights violations could not remain unpunished.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said implementation of the mission’s recommendations would enable the Congolese parties to overcome the last obstacles before fully implementing the transition. Her country had spared no effort to implement its obligations under the all-inclusive agreement and described some positive developments. However, the war in the east had raised obstacles to the process, she said, adding that no one was unaware of Rwanda’s influence in the matter.
Noting that the explosive situation in Bunia had led the Council to authorize a multinational force in resolution 1484, which also emphasized the temporary character of that mission, she stressed that the situation there required a long-term strategy and called for strengthening MONUC’s mandate.
Rwanda’s representative expressed hope that the Council’s message for peace and neighbourly relations would be heeded by all the parties, and that all would work towards the complete disarmament of rebel factions such as the Ex-FAR and Interahamwe, which were still fomenting violence and mistrust throughout the region. He asked the Council to put pressure on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to comply with the Lusaka and Pretoria Accords, particularly the provisions addressing the security concerns of Rwanda, and to stop all support of the rebels. He also urged the Council to strengthen MONUC and give it a clear mandate.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania also spoke.
The meeting, which started at 10:45 a.m., was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the report on its mission to Central Africa, which took place from 7 to 16 June under the leadership of Jean-Marc de La Sablière (France).
According to a letter of the Council President for the month of May, Munir Akram (Pakistan), to the Secretary-General of 21 May (document S/2003/558), the mission would focus on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.
The mission’s terms of reference regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo included an emphasis to all its interlocutors on the need to take the peace process forward. The mission would invite the Congolese parties to work resolutely to implement their commitments in the framework of the inter-Congolese dialogue. It would clearly remind the Congolese parties and the country’s neighbours of the Council’s expectations and their obligations, including: complete cessation of hostilities; respect for human rights; cessation of support to armed groups; cessation of the plundering of natural resources; and access for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to all parts of the territory.
The mission would stress to the Congolese parties and to the States in the region the value of making progress towards convening of a proposed international conference on peace, security, democracy and development in the Great lakes region.
Regarding Burundi, the mission would express the Council’s support for the second phase of the transition and the new President, the regional mediators and the African peacekeeping mission, as well as the Implementation Monitoring Committee and the Joint Ceasefire Commission. The mission would also assess what could be the relationship between the United Nations and the African peacekeeping mission.
The mission’s report will be issued as document S/2003/653 on 20 June.
Introduction of Mission’s Report
Introducing the report of the Council’s mission to Central Africa, JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said the mission’s objective was to support the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. In Bujumbura, Burundi, the second President had just taken office; and in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the all-inclusive agreement should soon materialize in the form of a National Reconciliation Government, but there were still hostilities in both countries.
He said the mission, along with heads of State of countries involved in the peace process, had contacted heads of rebel movements and passed on very strong messages. It had visited Bunia two weeks after adoption of resolution 1484 (2003). In Kinshasha, the mission had asked President Kabila to accelerate establishment of the Transitional Government. It had reminded representatives of RCD-Goma to end hostilities immediately. A cycle of violence had devastated the Ituri region for several months, and attacks had become more virulent in Kivu, with most victims among the population. The next victim should not be the peace process itself. Therefore, armed groups should not receive foreign assistance.
The mission had told the Presidents of Rwanda and Uganda how much it wanted them to contribute to stabilizing the Great Lakes region by positively influencing the armed groups, he continued. The mission provided an opportunity to remind all actors there would be no impunity for human rights violations. Pillaging of natural resources had resulted in a cycle of hostilities in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In Bunia, the mission witnessed the cooperation between MONUC and humanitarian actors, he said. Deployment of the multinational force there had occurred more rapidly than planned and had already produced a return of security. When the multinational force departed on 1 September, there would be favourable conditions for a more effective peacekeeping mission. In Bunia, it was likely that the number of internally displaced persons would increase -- Bunia had been deeply traumatized by the massacres. He noted that the sizable proportion of the militia units seen on the streets were young children. The dignity and determination of the representatives of Ituri mediation groups and women’s groups had demonstrated that the population aspired to peace and reconciliation.
Council members should examine the recommendations of the Secretary-General in his special report on MONUC and should define how MONUC could play the most effective role in the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, maybe with a more robust mandate, he stated.
In Burundi, the transition in April in presidency had made the peace process irreversible, he continued. There was, however, not a complete ceasefire, and hostilities continued. The mission encouraged the citizens of Burundi to make the final, difficult gestures that would enable them to establish reconciliation under the Arusha Agreement. It invited the Government to accelerate reforms in security and the judiciary. The mission also had requested the rebel movements that had not signed the Arusha Agreement to respect the ceasefire agreement and encouraged the Government to provide room for them in the army and institutions. It also emphasized that serious human rights violations could not remain unpunished. The mission expressed appreciation for the peace process carried out by the African Union, the first of its kind. There was also a need for budgetary and economic assistance to the Government.
The mission had enabled Council members to renew direct dialogue with the actors, he said. In light of high expectations, the mission was careful to remind interlocutors that peace depended, first and foremost, on local actors. The need to restore confidence on both sides of the borders was recognized. While the possibility of holding an international peace conference in the region gave reason for hope, the possibility of a declaration of good-neigbourliness could already be entertained.
PASCAL NYAMULINDA (Rwanda) said today’s meeting was taking place at a time when the Great Lakes region was experiencing troubling events on several fronts, particularly the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s north-eastern Ituri province. He hoped the Council’s recommendation would be heeded by all the parties and all would work to completely disarm and demobilize faction still operating in the region, chiefly, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe forces.
In the wake of the Council’s mission, he continued, there had been persistent accusations made against Rwanda by elements of the press and civil society. Those elements and sources described the presence of Rwandan forces operating in the troubled Ituri province, and had even accused his country of supporting Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) forces. All those accusations were categorically false and had been fabricated by those in civil society that wanted to spoil the image of Rwanda in support of groups seeking to perpetuate destabilization throughout the region. Rwanda continued to believe that the question of Ituri was one that should be answered within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Government of Rwanda had not sent any forces to the Democratic Republic and did not support any rebel group in that country, he reiterated.
He went on to say the withdrawal of Rwandan forces had begun on 17 September 2002 and had been completed on 5 October 2002. Since the signing of the Pretoria Accord, his Government had not ceased extending its hand to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in its search for stabilization throughout the region. However, Rwanda would note that the Government of the Democratic Republic had not reciprocated that kindness.
Bearing in mind the political situation there, Rwanda would ask the Council to put pressure on the Democratic Republic of the Congo authorities and Government to, among other things, comply with the Lusaka and Pretoria Accords, particularly the provision addressing the security concerns of Rwanda; to stop all support of rebels; and to adhere to relevant Council resolutions and not shirk its responsibilities and not look to blame others for its failure to bring the Congolese people together. He also urged the Council to strengthen MONUC and give it a clear mandate.
As for Burundi, Rwanda commended the African Union’s decision to send a force to the country to assist with the current phase of its political transition. Still, Rwanda would note Burundi’s persistent refusal of the heads of certain rebel wings to come into the Arusha peace process. He asked the Council to put pressure on those groups to follow that path to peace. In the meantime, Rwanda would continue to work for peace in Central Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.
NDUKU BOOTO (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said implementation of the mission’s recommendations would enable Congolese parties to overcome the last obstacles before fully implementing the transition. Her country had spared no effort to implement its obligations under the all-inclusive agreement. A constitution had been promulgated, after which President Kabila had taken office, had decreed amnesty for all acts of war, and had suspended the Court militaire. The first President of the Supreme Court and the Attorney-General had been appointed, as well.
Since 14 April, she said, the President had convened the first meeting of the Follow-up Commission. However, the war in the east had raised obstacles to the process. It was not difficult to identify the authors of the problems. RCD-Goma had jeopardized the process, had asked for control of the land army and had launched large-scale offences in the east, which constituted a violation of the Agreement. She deplored that resumption of RCD-Goma hostilities had jeopardized success of MONUC’s disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration programmes. No one was unaware of the influence of Rwanda on those who supported RCD-Goma, despite what that country’s representative had said.
She hoped that the interest generated by the mission would be maintained to encourage people not to derail the peace process. The situation in the east could jeopardize the process on the national level. The explosive situation in Bunia had led the Council to authorize a multinational force in resolution 1484, which also emphasized the temporary character of that mission. However, Bunia required a long-term strategy. She, therefore, called for strengthening MONUC’s mandate. She also reiterated the need for a mechanism to combat impunity.
LIBERATA MULAMULA (United Republic of Tanzania) said “seeing is believing”, and there was no doubt that the Council’s mission had provided an opportunity for a first-hand assessment of the situation on the ground and to contemplate decisive measures to support the fledgling and still fragile peace process in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. Tanzania saw a ray of hope on the horizon, given the Council’s commitment.
Her country drew comfort from the fact that when the Council had been determined to act, it had acted swiftly by authorizing a robust peacekeeping force in order to keep up the momentum created by the deployment of the interim multinational force in Bunia. Still, while the countries in the region recognized their responsibility and that of the Congolese people to bring lasting peace, their efforts alone –- however determined –- would not be sufficient to stay the course towards peace. The region’s leadership, therefore, expected their efforts to be complemented by decisive action and support of the wider international community in the true spirit of peace and partnership.
She went on to say that the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo offered a comprehensive “road map” for peace-building in the country, particularly by reinforcing MONUC. There was no doubt that a military solution was not the answer for ending the violence and lawlessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere in the region. The Secretary-General’s report had stressed the importance of pressing ahead with disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement programmes. The challenge to the Council, then, was not to let the momentum ebb and to move expeditiously to empower the MONUC force to ensure viable and sustained peace and security in volatile areas, as recommended by the Secretary-General.
The prospects for lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would largely depend on the degree to which the Council could stand up to the process, she said. Any delay could only be detrimental to the peace process to which all parties had committed themselves. She urged the Council to “walk the extra mile” with the Congolese people in their long march to peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She said that the Council should advocate the spirit of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in all regional efforts to ensure peace, support civil contact and exchange among the nations in the region, and contain the proliferation of arms throughout the Great Lakes.
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