Press Releases

    SC/8001
    18 February 2004

    Substantial Progress Made in Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi Peace Processes, Security Council Told

    Assistant Secretary-General Briefs Council, Says Much Work Remains to Consolidate Historic Advances

    NEW YORK, 17 February (UN Headquarters) -- Substantial progress had been made in the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi since the Council mission to the region in June 2003, Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council today.

    Introducing the Secretary-General’s progress report on the recommendations of the Council mission to the subregion, he said, however, that much work remained to be done to consolidate those historic advances and to build sustainable peace in the region as a whole. The international community’s commitment to continue supporting peace efforts in the subregion was, therefore, as critical as ever.

    Describing developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said significant progress had been made in normalizing relations between that country and its neighbours, and the pace of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement of ex-combatants.  In Bunia, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had been enforcing a weapons-free policy.  The prospects for peace in Burundi had improved considerably with a comprehensive ceasefire agreement between the Transitional Government and the Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces nationales pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) in November 2003 and subsequent integration of FDD representatives in the transitional institutions.  The President and a high-level Forces nationales de libération (FNL) delegation had met for the first time in the Netherlands in January.

    Advances achieved in the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi over the past six months had created a new momentum in favour of the convening of an international conference of the Great Lakes region.  The first summit of the conference is scheduled to be held in November 2004, in the United Republic of Tanzania. However, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region required additional staff resources.

    Speakers in the ensuing debate welcomed progress achieved in the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but condemned the killing of a military observer in the eastern part of the country last week.  Many speakers stressed the need for strengthening the monitoring of the arms embargo, and for reform of the security and judiciary sector, so that the Government’s authority could be extended throughout the country and impunity could come to an end.

    Preparations for future elections were a priority.  Efforts to halt the proliferation of arms and illegal exploitation of natural resources must be intensified.

    Progress in Burundi was also welcomed, and the African Mission there was commended for its work.  Speakers noted, however, that the mission faced financial shortfalls and called for financial support from the donor community.  Several speakers called for deployment of a United Nations mission and urged the remaining rebel forces to join the peace process.  Brazil’s representative, stressing that creating a healthy economic environment was crucial for a peace-building process to be sustainable, expressed his disappointment that only 10 per cent of pledges made in 2000 and 2001 by the donor community had been disbursed.

    Answering a question by the representative of the Russian Federation about a law granting immunity for political crimes, Burundi’s representative said that law had been only political in nature and crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity were not covered by it.  International courts, once established, would have every chance to conduct investigations into suspicious cases and immunity could be withdrawn.

    Prospects for convening the conference of the Great Lakes had significantly improved, speakers said, and broadening participation beyond the subregional framework would certainly enhance the impact of the conference worldwide.  In that regard they welcomed the invitation of the conference’s core countries to invite Egypt to participate as an observer.  Although some representatives were disappointed that the first summit of the conference had been postponed, Germany’s representative said the shift in dates would allow for careful and thorough preparation of the substance, format and structure of that important process.

    The representatives of France, Angola, Benin, Chile, Philippines, Pakistan, Spain, Algeria, United Kingdom, Unites States, Romania, China, Syria, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Japan, Egypt and Rwanda also spoke.

    The meeting, which started at 10:10 a.m., was adjourned at 1:05 p.m.

    Background

    The Security Council had before it a Secretary-General’s progress report on the implementation of the recommendations of its mission to Central Africa (document S/2004/52), which reviews the developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi and addresses the proposal to hold an international conference on the Great Lakes region.

    In its report (document S/2003/653), the Security Council mission, which took place last June, identified a number of issues that required urgent attention, including:  the installation of the transitional Government and the creation of a unified national army; the situation in Bunia and North Kivu; the need for the countries of the region to exert a positive influence on the situation; and the end of impunity.

    Regarding Burundi, the mission recommended, among other things, that the Council call on the international financial community to assist with the African mission there, and also call for providing adequate budgetary and economic support to the transitional Government.  Urgent attention should be paid to putting an end to impunity, it said. The mission also concluded that installation of the Congolese transitional Government and a successful conclusion of a ceasefire in Burundi could clear the way for a possible international conference on the Great Lakes region.

    Reporting on the implementation of those recommendations, the Secretary-General states that despite the positive developments that followed the installation of the transitional Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, much work remains to be done in pursuing the objectives of the accord.

    A clear prioritization of requirements is needed to ensure the success of the transition, including security sector reform, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and elections.  Moreover, the Government must continue to extend its authority throughout the country, and strengthen the judiciary and human rights institutions to put an end to impunity.

    Among recent achievements, the document lists the transitional Government’s decrees regarding elections, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.  It also points out that an Integrated Police Unit is to provide security for transitional leaders and institutions; the security environment in the east has improved; and signs of national reunification are evident in the resumption of transport and commercial links in the formerly divided territories.  Significant progress has also been made in normalizing the country’s relations with its neighbours and in moving forward the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation progress as far as Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian armed elements are concerned.

    The document further emphasizes the critical importance of the Council’s continued attention to the needs of the country.  It also stresses that every effort must be made to ensure that the international community speaks with one voice at all levels and uses the appropriate leverage available to it.  In this connection, a welcome development is that the International Committee in Support of the Transition has grown in strength and influence over the past six months.  Moreover, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) presence and influence is growing, and the Mission is building up its capacity to assist in police reform and elections.  Yet, the financial and political support of key donor countries remains critical.

    On Burundi, the document notes improved prospects for peace and expresses hope that the declaration by Palipehutu-FNL (Rwasa) that it is ready to enter into discussion with President Ndayizeye will be followed by concrete steps that will lead to that movement finally joining the camp of peace.  The challenges that lie ahead are tremendous, as the transitional period is expected to end in November 2004, following presidential and National Assembly elections.

    The international community’s commitment to Burundi will continue to be needed as the peace process enters a new crucial phase. The United Nations Office in Burundi will continue to provide support to the transitional Government and institutions, as well as other Burundian partners interested in the success of the peace process. The United Nations, which chairs both the Implementation Monitoring Committee and the Joint Ceasefire Commission, will continue to monitor the progress in the peace process and in the implementation of ceasefire agreements. It is also likely that the Organization will be called upon to provide electoral assistance, once relevant legal instruments are in place.

    As for the prospects for convening an international conference on the Great Lakes region, the document states that they have significantly improved in the last six months, mainly as a result of the momentum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi peace processes. With the launching of the preparatory process in Nairobi last June, the outline of the conference has started to take shape.  The core countries have put in place a framework in the context of which they will be conducting their dialogue and discussions on substantive issues in the coming months.

    In connection with these developments, the activities of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region have increased.  In the coming months, the Office will have to convene three important regional preparatory meetings and a set of regional thematic meetings.  Its staffing resources are not sufficient, however.  In order to be able to effectively carry out its increased tasks, the Office requires additional resources.

    Another important development described in the report is the setting up of the Group of Friends of the Great Lakes region at a Geneva meeting last December, which was attended by senior representatives of 28 countries and 10 multilateral institutions.  The Group, which is co-chaired by Canada and the Netherlands, will be an important partner, providing political, diplomatic, technical and financial assistance throughout the preparatory process of the conference.  The executive committee of the group is now finalizing a document defining the financial modalities for supporting the activities of the preparatory process.

    Opening Remarks by Assistant Secretary-General

    TULIAMENI KALOMOH, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been established on 30 June 2003.  The Government’s comprehensive programme of work for the transition period had been approved by the new Parliament in December.  Significant progress had also been made in normalizing relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbours, and the pace of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement of Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian armed elements had accelerated beyond expectation.

    He said with regard to the situation in Ituri, MONUC had assumed responsibility from the Interim Emergency Multinational Force on 1 September 2003.  In Bunia, MONUC had been enforcing a weapons-free policy, and the first phase of the Mission’s military expansion outside Bunia was now under way.  With regard to the establishment of a unified national army, an integrated High Command composed of senior military leaders from the parties had been formed.  At a December meeting in Paris, donor countries and organizations had pledged around $4 billion for the period 2004-2006.

    Significant progress had been achieved in Burundi, he continued.  The African mission in Burundi had been carrying out outstanding work, but continued to face serious difficulties.  At a January meeting in Brussels, donors had pledged a total of $1 billion.  The prospects for peace in Burundi had improved considerably with a comprehensive ceasefire agreement between the transitional Government and CNDD-FDD and integration of FDD representatives in the transitional institutions.

    The President and a high-level FNL delegation had met for the first time in the Netherlands in January, he said and urged parties to pursue those discussions with a view to having the FNL joint the peace process as soon as possible.  A United Nations multidisciplinary reconnaissance mission was to arrive in the country today to examine the situation on the ground and assess how the transitional Government could best be supported to ensure the successful conclusion of the peace process.

    Advances achieved in the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi over the past six months had created a new momentum in favour of the convening of an international conference of the Great Lakes region.  The national coordinators of the core countries had so far held three meetings to discuss the objectives, themes and structure of the conference.  A Group of Friends of the Great Lakes region had been set up.  The first summit of the Conference is scheduled to be held in November 2004, in the United Republic of Tanzania.  However, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region required additional staff resources.

    Substantial progress had been made in the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi since the Council mission to the region in June 2003.  However, much work remained to be done to consolidate those historic advances and to build sustainable peace in the region as a whole.  The international community’s commitment to continue supporting peace efforts in the subregion was, therefore, as critical as ever.  The Council’s mission had been received well in the region and had encouraged the parties to fulfil their commitments in both Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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