16 November 2005
Security Council Briefed on 4-11 November Mission to Central Africa
Visited Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania
NEW YORK, 15 November (UN Headquarters) -- With peace in Africa's restive Great Lakes region close at hand, the Security Council today was briefed on the mission of its members this month to five Central African countries recovering from ethnic and territorial conflict - the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Leading the mission, from 4 to 11 November, was France's Ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sablière, who, in his briefing this morning, focused on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. He told the Council this morning in an open meeting that the Council's visit to Central Africa six times had been prompted by the need to promote peace in a region eager to see stability restored and a lasting peace instilled, without which it could not achieve development. Success in Central Africa was important well beyond the subregion; it was important for the whole of Africa. That fact, alone, justified the Council's visit to the region every year. That, and the presence of 20,000 men and women in the field for the United Nations, also justified continued international support for the peace process.
He reported to the Council that, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he had seen indications that the transition was "gathering speed". Everyone had spoken of the Congolese desire to vote, and according to the Independent Electoral Commission, some 20 million people had registered. Everyone was now looking forward to the next deadlines: the constitutional referendum in December; the presidential elections; and the deadline for the transition's completion in less than eight months. Progress had been commendable, but significant problems remained, including the tight electoral timetable, the integration of the army and police, and the presence of armed groups in the east of the country.
With the success of Burundi's recent political transition an encouraging sign, he said that three issues had dominated the discussions, starting with the question of the United Nations' presence. Its support had been decisive in achieving the transition, but with the transition's completion, the question arose about disengaging the mission, or at least withdrawing its military presence, about which there was general agreement. The swift creation of the Peacebuilding Commission at the United Nations could greatly benefit the Burundians.
Expressing some disappointment that the Forces nationales de liberation Forces (FNL) remained outside the peace process, he said it was not acceptable for the rebels to impose themselves through violence against the fledgling democratic institutions. During the mission, Council members had reminded the Burundian authorities of the possibility of imposing sanctions, he said.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and was adjourned at 10:31 a.m.
Briefing Summary on Security Council Mission
In his capacity as Head of the Security Council mission to Central Africa, JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) said that the mission to five Central African countries had been an opportunity to renew the Council's support for the peace and reconciliation processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. In the former country, what he had seen had indicated that the transition there was "gathering speed". Everyone spoke of the Congolese desire to vote, and according to the Independent Electoral Commission, some 20 million people had registered to vote. Everyone was now looking towards the next deadlines: the referendum on the constitution; the presidential elections; and the deadline for the transition's completion, which was to be in less than eight months. The progress had been commendable, but significant problems remained.
He said, for example, that the electoral timetable was a tight one. There had already been some delay, yet all interlocutors had underscored the need for the voting to take place within the accepted timetable. Thus, the various legislative issues must be promptly addressed by the parliament, and the new legislation should be promulgated right after the constitutional referendum scheduled for 18 December. Also essential was for the elections to be open to everyone; no one must feel excluded from the process. The Congolese Government must also ensure that its citizens were properly informed.
The second question concerned integration of the army and police, he said. Progress had been made to demobilize the former combatants and restructure the police force, but that should be further developed. During the mission, he had asked the Congolese authorities to report on that. The integration programme had been broken off -- six brigades had been formed, but nine had been envisaged. The mission's message in that regard was that no time should be lost in carrying out the second wave of integration. It must also be ensured that new brigades received the necessary equipment. Also essential was for the Government to pay its soldiers, regularly and consistently. Governance, particularly the restoration of State authority, was a priority now more than ever. The mission had underscored that repeatedly throughout its interviews.
As for the armed groups in the east of the country, that problem had been raised by all heads of State and others as a main area of concern, he continued. Everyone now recognized that the armed groups were burdensome on the population in the east, as it was subjected to atrocities and abuses, and plundering. Thus, there was an obligation to take action. That was also a problem for the neighbouring countries. The Congolese forces, together with United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), were taking strong actions against the armed groups. He had asked the Government, among other things, to ensure that the armed groups did not receive support from outside the Congolese borders. The arms embargo should be respected, and armed trafficking should be curbed. He also emphasized the need for respecting the country's natural resources.
Turning to Burundi, he said it was a young Government, fresh from the elections, and determined to carry out the reforms begun during the transition period. Three subjects had dominated the discussions, starting with the question of the United Nations' presence. Its support had been decisive in achieving the transition in Burundi, but now that the transition was complete, the question arose about disengaging the mission, or, at least withdrawing its military presence. According to his understanding, there had been agreement on the gradual withdrawal of the mission, but there needed to be a defined plan for such disengagement between the United Nations and the legitimate authorities.
The second point concerned the role of the international community, he said. With the gradual withdrawal of the mission, the best possible dialogue should be ensured between the Government and the international community to find the best possible way to help Burundians. The partnership formed two months ago in New York was the natural framework for that dialogue, but it should also be borne in mind that the Peacebuilding Commission should be set up as quickly as possible, as great benefit could be derived from its creation.
He said there had been some disappointment with regard to the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL). Perhaps it was not too late for the movement to join the peace process. In any event, it was not acceptable for it to impose itself through violence against the new democratic institutions. The Government should be open to a resumption of negotiations in that regard. The Council had said last year that it was ready to consider sanctions. The interlocutors were reminded during the mission that those options were still available.
Generally speaking, the Council had visited Central Africa six times, prompted by the need to promote the peace processes in a region that needed to see stability restored and a lasting peace instilled, without which it could not achieve development. The success of the peace processes in the region was not only important for the population itself, which had suffered much, but in building cooperation among the countries of the subregion, and thus placing it on a solid footing. That cooperation, particularly in the context of the Great Lakes conference, was a key factor in stability. The success of the common undertaking in Central Africa had importance well beyond the subregion; it was important for the whole of Africa. That fact, alone, justified the Council's trip to the region every year.
That point also justified the international community's support for the process, he went on. The United Nations had 20,000 men and women in the field involved in the missions there. There was a clear-cut policy on the part of the international community, which was remarkably united in that regard. The Council's activities were reflected daily in the field in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the transitional institutions that had been established there. In Burundi, when a mandate was considered for renewal, members should really think about what needed to be adjusted. He was not talking about change for change sake, but the Council's capacity to adapt should be cultivated.
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