07/02/2001
Press Release
SC/7008



Security Council

4273rd Meeting (AM)


PRESIDENT OF RWANDA OUTLINES CONDITIONS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF FORCES


FROM DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO


President Paul Kagame of Rwanda called upon the Security Council this morning to help secure peace in the Great Lakes region and expressed his readiness to take advantage of the changed leadership in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The open briefing of the Council by President Kagame followed a similar one last week by President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which he pledged to examine ways and means of revitalizing the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.  President Kagame, responding to Council members' questions and comments, said the withdrawal of Rwandan forces was contingent on several conditions, including the disarmament and repatriation of armed militias in the Congo believed to be linked to the Rwandan genocide, as well as recognition of the broad scope of the human rights abuses throughout the Congo.


He said his country wished to fulfil its obligations under the peace accord, and even beyond, but certain conditions must be met:  dialogue among the parties must continue; the armed militias problem must be solved; and the human rights abuses should be addressed in a comprehensive, rather than a fragmented, way.  His country had been trying to rebuild following the devastation caused by the genocide in 1994.  Current events in the region, however, had hampered those efforts.  After all, peace in the region was a prerequisite for development.


Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that what was clear to the Council -- and should be to all sides in the conflict -- was that no country in the region could enjoy stability as long as conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo persisted.  Difficult issues of governance, national dialogue, democracy, accountability and reconciliation should be addressed in the Democratic Republic and in the region as a whole if there was to be a lasting solution.  In the short term, the most pressing issue was the continued existence of predatory armed groups.  Although there was no easy military solution to dangerous phenomenon, those guilty of the worst atrocities and human rights abuses -- and especially those guilty of genocide -- must not be allowed to escape punishment.


The Secretary-General said the Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in the Congo was currently discussing with the authorities in Kigali and in the Democratic Republic the withdrawal of Rwandan forces and their allies from the town of Pweto on Lake Mweru in Katanga.  Substantial, if not complete, agreement had been reached, and the Mission was now ready to deploy a team of observers to the town, once all the arrangements were in place.  That withdrawal would set the tone for the remainder of the disengagement plan, and represent an important step


towards compliance with the Council’s demand last year for the withdrawal of Ugandan and Rwandan forces from Democratic Republic territory. 


Most Council members welcomed the Washington meeting last week between Presidents Kagame and Kabila and urged follow-up to the dialogue.  The Lusaka Agreement remained the framework for the settlement of the conflict, and the signatories should live up to their commitments.  Security concerns of Rwanda would have to be taken into account, as well as the presence of armed militias, they said.  It was necessary for the parties concerned to work together -- instead of against each other -- to forge a common security regime.  Rwanda, one speaker said, could not secure long-term security interests through a policy of military opposition to the Congolese Government. 


All 15 members of the Council -- United States, France, Bangladesh, Mali, United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Colombia, Mauritius, Ukraine, Norway, Jamaica, Russian Federation, Singapore and Tunisia -- spoke. 


The meeting, which started at 10 a.m., was adjourned at 12:02 p.m.


Council Work Programme


The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in the Great Lakes region and to hear a briefing by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.


Background


On 10 July 1999 in Lusaka, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe, signed the Ceasefire Agreement.


The Lusaka Agreement included provisions on the normalization of the situation along the Democratic Republic’s border, the control of illicit trafficking of arms and the infiltration of armed groups; the holding of a national dialogue; the need to address security concerns; and the establishment of a mechanism for disarming militias and armed groups.  It also provided for a Joint Military Commission (JMC).


The Council, by its resolution 1258 of 6 August 1999, authorized the deployment of up to 90 United Nations military liaison personnel, along with necessary civilian staff.  By its resolution 1279 of 30 November 2000, the Council decided that the previously authorized personnel would constitute the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).


On 24 February 2000, the Council, by its resolution 1291, decided to extend the mandate of MONUC until 31 August 2000 and authorized expansion of the Mission up to 5,537 military personnel, including up to 500 observers and appropriate civilian support staff in the areas of, among others, human rights, humanitarian affairs, public information, child protection, political affairs, medical and administrative support.  The mandate of MONUC has been extended by Council resolutions 1316 (2000) and 1332 (2000).  The current mandate ends on 15 June 2001.


Statements


Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN observed that for the second time in less than a week, the Council was meeting to affirm its commitment to help bring peace and stability to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The welcome presence of Rwanda President Kagame should strengthen resolve for the Council to make the most of the opportunity for change, and to ensure that it gave new impetus towards a final resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic.  What was clear to the Council -- and should be to all sides in the conflict -- was that no country in the region could hope to enjoy stability while the conflict in the Democratic Republic continued, and that all would benefit from its resolution.  He commended Presidents Kagame and Joseph Kabila for the statesmanship they showed in their meeting last week in Washington.


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


It must be understood that all countries in the region, particularly Rwanda, had legitimate security concerns.  He again expressed profound personal sorrow at the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994.  He also commended the Government and people of Rwanda for their efforts to rebuild and renew their nation.  He observed that the Government was completing a daunting programme of reintegration and was moving ahead systematically towards greater inclusion, as well as national reconciliation and democratization.  Much remained to be done, however, and the United Nations would continue to give whatever help it could to Rwanda in carrying out those tasks.


He said the MONUC Force Commander, Major-General Diallo, was currently discussing with the authorities in Kigali and in the Democratic Republic the withdrawal of Rwandan forces and their allies from the town of Pweto on Lake Mweru in Katanga.  Substantial, if not complete, agreement had been reached.  MONUC was ready to deploy a team of observers to the town once all the arrangements were in place.  That withdrawal would set the tone for the remainder of the disengagement plan.  It would also represent an important step towards compliance with the Council’s resolution of 16 June 2000 demanding the withdrawal of Ugandan and Rwandan forces from Democratic Republic territory. 


In a report he would submit to the Council, he said he would propose a revised concept of operations for MONUC’s deployment.  MONUC had already taken some initial steps, and if the Council approved the revised concept, it would be able to help the parties further to draw back their forces from the confrontation line.


It was his profound hope that the resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would bring peace to the entire region and particularly to the people of Rwanda.  He urged the Council and every country in the region to do everything possible to seize the new opportunity that had presented itself.


PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said his country had been trying to rebuild itself from the devastation caused by the genocide and earlier problems.  Progress had been made in the areas of reconstruction and rehabilitation, as well as in matters of reconciliation.  The Government had also been tackling questions related to justice and the bigger problem of socio-economic development.  However, that progress and the efforts that propelled it were being hampered by what was happening in the region.  That concerned the situation in the Congo, which many members had been following very closely.  Without peace in the Congo and in the countries of the region, development and kind of progress would not take place. 


He said his country was continuing to address matters aimed at establishing regional peace and stability.  That was why his Government had signed the peace agreement in Lusaka, although at a later stage it had become difficult to implement it.  Certainly, there was a need to take advantage of the change that had taken place in the Congo, however tragic that had been in its coming.  He had discussed with the new President, Joseph Kabila, many issues concerning what could be done in the region to bring about peace.  Those discussions had focused mainly on the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement.  His country wished to fulfil its obligations as demanded by the Lusaka peace accord, or even beyond that.


He said that three core issues must be addressed in order for the Lusaka process to succeed, and those were issues on which the process itself had been built.  The first concerned the internal inter-Congolese dialogue, which had been highlighted in the Peace Agreement.  Hopefully, that dialogue would lead to a stable situation in the Congo thereby preventing its problems from spilling onto its neighbours.  The second core issue concerned the problem OF militias.  That problem had been known since May 1994, and although it had been discussed in a number of forums, those discussions had always fallen short of evolving ways of eradicating the problem.  The third core issue concerned the withdrawal of foreign enemies from the Congo. 


All three issues had already been addressed in the Lusaka peace formula, he emphasized.  Returning to that Agreement would most likely offer the chance, with the change that had occurred in the Congo and the statements by the new President, to realize peace, not only in the Congo, but also in the region.  Talk was not enough, however.  Everyone should assist the region in order to support implementation of the peace process.  Undoubtedly, the Council would continue to play its role in finding a solution or solutions to many of those problems.  He called, once again, upon the Council to help bring about peace and support the region in terms of its socio-economic development.


J.B.CUNNINGHAM (United States) recalled that in his statement before the Council when it met Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila last week, he had stated that the Democratic Republic had the right under the United Nations Charter to insist on the withdrawal of all foreign troops from its territory.  He said he had also stated that the Government of Rwanda had a right under the Charter to insist that Congolese territory should not be used as a launching pad for attacks against Rwanda.


There were obvious mutual interests here which should form the basis for discussion, the United States representative said.  He hoped that Rwanda President Kagame and his colleagues in the region could begin to work together -- instead of against each other -– to forge a common security regime.  The United States did not believe that Rwanda could secure its long-term security interests via policy of military opposition to the Government of the Democratic Republic.  Likewise, it did not believe that the withdrawal of foreign forces from the Democratic Republic could be accomplished through military means.


JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said his country was glad to have heard from President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was interested to hear about Rwanda President Kagame’s meeting with him in Washington.  The region could be brought closer to peace if the dialogue continued.  There was a certain calm in the Democratic Republic, he said.  Without further delay, there must be withdrawal of foreign forces.  The relevant Security Council resolution called for phased withdrawal of those forces, beginning with the uninvited ones. The presence of the forces of aggression was unacceptable, he said.


He spoke of the need for respect for the independence and territorial integrity of States.  He noted Rwanda’s assurance that it would withdraw its forces once MONUC was in place.  He also noted the violations of human rights in eastern Congo.  He also expressed France’s concern about the widespread plundering of the Democratic Republic’s natural resources.  He said the return to peace in the Democratic Republic must begin with the withdrawal of foreign forces.


Establishing internal dialogue must not be confined to the Democratic Republic alone, he said.  It was a key to peace in the region.  The Council was aware of Rwanda’s need for peace along its borders without threats.  The question of the armed groups, including the Interahamwe, should also be resolved.  The Council had said it would be ready to deploy MONUC along Rwanda’s borders.  He hoped the forthcoming meetings of the political committee of the Lusaka Agreement could lead to a resolution to the conflict.  The settlement of the conflict should also take account of the legitimate interests of all.


M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said the Lusaka Agreement was still the most viable option for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, and must be adhered to by all parties.  There could be no military solution to the conflict.  Noting President Kagame's appeal to the international community to "seize the moment", her delegation hoped that all signatories to the Agreement adequately demonstrate their seriousness and commitment to the process by abiding by a ceasefire, and by withdrawing troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  All Congolese must also be fully engaged in the inter-Congolese dialogue, which was an important component of the Lusaka Agreement.  Her delegation believed that was an indispensable step towards national reconciliation.


She said that it was an opportune time for parties to recommit to the Subsidiary Plan for Disengagement of the Harare Agreement signed in December last year.  Parties which had not yet signed must be brought on board.  To do otherwise would send a wrong signal to the international community of the seriousness of the parties to sustainable peace.  The MONUC had already taken measures necessary to support the disengagement.  In the near future, a revised concept of operations for MONUC deployment in support of the disengagement Plan would be presented as a basis for further action by the Council.


She said peace efforts in the Democratic Republic could not be allowed to fail, as the cost of such a failure would be a high price for the region as a whole.  The challenge for the leaders of the region was to commit to dialogue among themselves in order to bring about reconciliation among all the people of the region.


ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the Great Lakes region had been at the centre of the Council's preoccupation for sometime, and there had been various efforts to find a peaceful solution.  Agreements had been signed with the best intentions, but there had been little progress in implementation.  Last week, President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had expressed his determination to make fresh efforts to bring peace to the country, to hold free and fair elections, and to extend full cooperation to the United Nations. 


The Council would be supportive of a regional meeting, possibly at the summit level, involving all signatories of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, he said.  He welcomed President Kagame's assertion that there was an opportunity and that it must be seized now.  The Lusaka Agreement provided for a workable compromise for all parties.  The solution of the conflict would require hard concessions and a lot of pragmatism.  The security concerns of the Democratic Republic's neighbours would need careful consideration.  The imperative of justice should be pursued with the ultimate goal of healing wounds and promoting reconciliation.


MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said President Kabila had provided a glimpse of encouraging prospects for the settlement of conflicts in the Great Lakes region.  His country had been pleased at the peace process -– the new peace process –- which he firmly supported.  A lasting settlement of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo necessarily entailed respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States.  The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and the Arusha Agreement had remained the viable bases for lasting peace in the region. 


He called upon all parties to show restraint and cooperate fully in the implementation of those agreements, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions.  The time had come to end the conflict that had gone on for too long and caused indescribable suffering to innocent peoples.  He firmly encouraged the continuation of discussions begun last week in Washington, D.C., between the two presidents, as well as regional and international initiatives aimed at putting a “final stop” to the conflict in the region.  He hoped to contribute usefully to the Council meeting on 21 and 22 February with the Lusaka Agreement authorities, in order to advance the peace process.


RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said his country understood the consequences of internal communal violence and the difficulties of building trust and understanding between communities that had been engaged in deep and sustained conflict.  He said the Rwandan people and their Government had Ireland’s full support and understanding in their struggle to build a free, secure, democratic and human rights-based society founded on equality and respect for diversity.  His delegation would be interested in hearing any comment from the Rwanda President on progress towards inter-communal reconciliation within Rwanda.


Ireland subscribed fully to the European Union position on the Democratic Republic of the Congo situation, which was that peace there could be achieved only through a negotiated peace settlement fair to all parties, through respect for the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of the country, and for democratic principles and human rights in all States of the region.


Ireland welcomed the assurance of President Kagame that Rwanda was ready to implement the Lusaka Agreement, and to assist in bringing about an early and peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Ireland recognized the security concerns which led to the presence of Rwandan troops on the territory of the Democratic Republic, and agreed that any lasting settlement would have to take account of the armed groups in the region.  Ireland was, however, not convinced that those concerns justified the extent of the current Rwandan military presence.  The same reservations applied to the number and disposition of troops deployed in the Democratic Republic by neighbouring countries, regardless of the reasons put forward for their presence.


Ireland looked forward to the Secretary-General’s report which would contain a revised concept of MONUC operations.  It was concerned about any illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic by the various parties to the conflict, and encouraged the parties to give the United Nations panel established to investigate the situation all the information it required. 


He said events of the past few days had given rise to a rare stirring of hope for region as a whole.  The visits to the United Nations of President Kagame and Kabila, and their meeting in Washington, had shown that the dynamic for peace could come from within the region itself.  Ireland urged President Kagame to continue his contacts with all the parties to the conflict, and looked forward to further progress in advance of the forthcoming meeting of the Lusaka Political Committee in New York. 


Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that the Council had further discussions in recent days with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s President and his authorities.  It was becoming clear that the new Government had accepted the principle of combined security for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for Rwanda, and Uganda, in particular.  The Democratic Republic’s delegation had specifically indicated to the Council that if the talks that were beginning continued to focus, as a prime objective, on the combined security of the Great Lakes countries, then some progress was being made.  The Democratic Republic Government would respect the legitimate interests of Rwanda, if it respected theirs. 


He said he would like President Kagame’s confirmation that he accepted that as a basic principle of efforts over the next few weeks.  Concerning settlement of the ex-FAR/Interhamwe, he asked how many fighters were involved.  Had he accepted the Secretary-General’s proposal, as a first confidence-building measure, to withdraw Rwandan forces from Pweto in combination with deployment, by arrangement, of MONUC observers?  Taking the first step in implementing the disengagement agreements would pressure other parties to “get the thing going”.  Would he go to the meeting in Lusaka of heads of State of the region on 12 February?  His presence was exceptionally important.


He asked if, there or elsewhere, President Kagame would meet with President Kabila again soon.  President Kabila had indicated his wish to continue bilateral communications with President Kagame and he sought a reciprocal agreement.  Had President Kagame instructed his armed forces to respect Congolese property and refrain from any exploitation of mineral wealth of the Congo -- a top requirement of the Council?  Hopefully, the Rwandan Government would take that very seriously.  Further, would he take action for the protection of human rights and to ensure that child soldiers were not recruited into any military activity in the area of the Rwandan army’s operations?


KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said there was now a unique opportunity for the re-launching of the Lusaka peace process, and full advantage should be taken of that.  He urged the parties concerned to help in the realization of those expectations.  He said MONUC could be a key catalyst in changing things on the ground.  The parties must adhere to the Lusaka Agreement which, among other things, called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces.  He said there could be no peace unless those forces were withdrawn.  But that could also not happen unless the security concerns of some of the parties involved in the conflict were addressed.


ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) recalled his affirmation -- at the Council’s meeting with President Kabila last week -- of the political independence and the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic, and that the signatories to the Lusaka Agreement must implement its provisions.  He said those comments could also be applied to Rwanda.  There was now a window of opportunity for peace in the Great Lakes region.  This was a moment for acts of peace to be taken by leaders of the region.


Actions provided for in the Lusaka Agreement were important, and they included the disarming of troops and the reintegration of ex-combatants, he said.  His delegation would appreciate comments on that from the President.  Colombia deeply regretted the genocide of 1994.  It was firmly opposed to genocide and hoped the people could live together again.


OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) reiterated his Government's support of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, which stated that the parties to that Agreement must commit themselves to address immediately the security concerns of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbouring countries.  That meant that all foreign forces must withdraw from the Democratic Republic according to schedules drawn up by the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Joint Military Commission.


While understanding the precarious security situation Rwanda was facing, he said that that could not justify Rwandan troops several hundred kilometres inside the Democratic Republic's territory.  Full deployment of MONUC would be an important step in safeguarding Rwanda and other countries' security concerns.  The efforts to rebuild peaceful relations in the Great Lakes region must also take due account of the ongoing illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic.  He urged all parties to the conflict to cooperate constructively with the United Nations Expert Panel established for that purpose.


ANDREI E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said President Kagame’s participation in today’s meeting had shown the importance of the situation in the Great Lakes region and of the Council’s agenda.  The Russian delegation’s fundamental position in favour of the earliest possible settlement had remained unchanged.  He had closely followed developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the aftermath of the recent tragic event there.  It was satisfying that the new leadership had confirmed its dedication to a settlement based on the Lusaka Agreement and had expressed its readiness to enter into dialogue, in order to ensure regional security and achieve democratization in the Congo, on the road towards opening up the inter-Congolese dialogue. 


He hoped those statements would be given tangible confirmation in the near future.  The window of opportunity must not be missed, and the vicious cycle of mutual distrust must be broken and genuine steps taken.  He was pleased with Rwanda’s commitment to withdraw from the Pweto region, which was most likely to flare up.  He attached the greatest importance to the earliest possible withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Congo, under the time-frame of the Lusaka Agreement and the requirements of the relevant Council resolutions.  It was not possible to settle the long-term conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region without finding a solution to the illegally armed groups.  The Congo must be assured of the groups' disarmament, demobilization, re-integration and repatriation, in order to create security conditions for all countries of the subregion.


Also in order for the peace process to succeed, it must be based upon democratization, he said.  Particularly alarming were reports of mass human rights violations in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which were not under government control.  He called upon all concerned not to allow such violations and to cooperate with international personnel by providing free access to those in need of assistance.  This month, MONUC’s fulfilment of its mandate, including the extent to which parties were cooperating and concluding obligations, would be reviewed.  A demonstration of genuine political will by the parties in fulfilling their obligations would help the Council in considering Phase II of MONUC's deployment.


WANG DONGHUA (China) said he had appreciated the candid exchange of views with President Kabila concerning the conflict.  Such exchanges were conducive to efforts by the parties in the region to seek peace there.  Ending the conflicts in the region meant addressing the profound historic and ethnic factors, as well as poverty and external intervention.  Such factors had been linked to the tragic Rwandan genocide in 1994 and to the ongoing conflict.  Various parties had repeatedly emphasized that an overall strategy must be adopted to deal with the situation.  Only when peace and stability returned to the entire region could it be guaranteed for all of the countries in the region. 


Hopefully, he said, each country in the region would seize the opportunity to make a political decision and settle the conflict peacefully through dialogue.  The new Congolese Government had repeatedly emphasized its commitment to re-launch the Lusaka process and engage in consultations with the United Nations.  The parties concerned should respond positively to that initiative and prove their sincerity through actual deeds.  The inter-Congolese dialogue was critical to advancing the peace process, but such dialogue should be free from external intervention or military interference.


The sovereign and territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic must be respected, he went on, and security in the border areas should be guaranteed.  The realization of peace and stability in the region represented the biggest challenge confronting the United Nations.  The positive role of the Organization and the Security Council was crucial to the early realization of peace in the Great Lakes region.


ANUND PRIYAY NEEWOOR (Mauritius) said there was no doubt that the Lusaka Agreement constituted the only basis for peace in the region.  President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had confirmed his determination to move the Lusaka peace process forward.  Mauritius believed there was an excellent opportunity for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the entire region.  There had been talk of moving that process forward, and now was the time to do so.  His delegation was pleased that Rwanda had pledged to move its forces away towards its borders.


He called for the earliest deployment of MONUC as requested by the Security Council.  Mauritius looked forward to the report of the United Nations panel on the illegal exploitation of the mineral and other resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which was due next month.  His Government was concerned about the human rights situation in the region, he stated, adding that restoration of peace could end the suffering of the people.


VALERI P. KUCHYNSKI (Ukraine) said security in the Great Lakes region depended directly on the security situation in each individual country.  The main causes of conflicts in the region were ethnic divergence, weak political governance linked with the lack of national dialogue, presence of uncontrolled armed groups, flows of refugees, fluid borders and poverty.  Especially the fluidity of borders had become one of the main causes of insecurity in the region.


The resolution of specific conflicts required regional approaches.  He supported the idea of convening an international conference on the Great Lakes Region under the auspices of the United Nations and the OAU.  The effectiveness of the international support for the maintenance of peace and security in the region depended also on the implementation of the parties' commitments in the framework of the Lusaka Agreement and other peace arrangements, and readiness for national reconciliation and dialogue.


He welcomed the outcome of the meeting between President Kagame and President Kabila in Washington, where the parties reaffirmed their commitment to a constructive dialogue towards resolving existing differences, and urged the leadership of the countries in the region to take a pragmatic approach towards the peace process and to cooperate fully for the sake of progress and peace in Africa.


HABIB BEN YAHIA, Foreign Minister of Tunisia, and President of the Council, expressed the hope that the forthcoming meetings on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo including that of the Lusaka political committee would bring about practical results and the realization of the aspiration of the people for peace and progress.  He said the Lusaka Agreement remained a better framework for the resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic.  The parties to that conflict must prove their commitments to the implementation of the agreement’s provisions.  He said conditions now seemed favourable for peace and the inter-Congolese dialogue.  The parties must be encouraged for the remaining pillars to be built.


Tunisia looked forward to the earliest deployment of MONUC to show the determination of the international community to shoulder its responsibilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It expected the parties to take the necessary steps for dialogue, cooperation and mutual respect.  He welcomed the Washington meeting of the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda and hoped their dialogue would help the people realize their aspirations and yearning for peace.


He said the President of Tunisia, as head of the Oganization of African Unity in 1994, had been concerned about the situation in the Great Lakes region and had taken initiatives for peace.   


President KAGAME, taking the floor at the conclusion of statements by delegations, said he had listened with deep interest to the serious concerns articulated by the Council members about the situation in the Great Lakes region, as well as some the proposals about how to deal with it.  Most of the concerns expressed had been genuine and correct; others had not been correct.  Most of the concerns expressed would be addressed through implementation of the Lusaka peace process.  Sometimes, picking issues in a very fragmented way was not helpful in addressing the entire situation comprehensively. 


He said the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement had contained all the points made today.  Concerning the withdrawal of foreign forces from the Congo, most parties wanted forces on the ground to blame each other for one thing or another.  Some of the problems had resulted from a failure to do the most important thing, namely to focus on ensuring the implementation of the peace process.  At times, it had been difficult to differentiate between those who clearly and openly supported a ceasefire and peace from those who did not.  Sometimes, certain measures had even been taken to delay the peace process by trying to revise what had already been agreed to by the parties in Lusaka. 


The Lusaka peace process had committed the parties to the total withdrawal of foreign forces, he said.  It was crucial that such action happen when it was supposed to, but someone always seemed to introduce the issue of apportioning blame.  His country was ready to withdraw its forces as agreed in Lusaka and in conjunction with the resolution of other problems because the stationing of forces had occurred for a certain reason.  He had even suggested at one point that implementation be hastened.  He was still ready to take initiatives to advance the peace process, but that was not an end in itself.  The end lay inevitably and eventually in all of the parties doing what they were supposed to do, as required by the Peace Agreement.  


The human rights violations were trouble, he agreed, but the problem should be looked at comprehensively.  To say that such violations were only taking place in eastern Congo was to ignore the problem in the west, north and south of the country.  He would not advise the Council to discriminate in its discussion of human rights violations; those had been taking place in the whole territory of the Congo in various forms.  One reason for the failure of Rwanda's withdrawal from the territory had been the human rights violations perpetrated by the Government.  The Council had requested United Nations observers to be stationed in some areas, but clearly the number of observers was not enough.  Should his forces continue to withdraw without United Nations deployment?  He had not condoned human rights breaches, but he had been unable to control every household, every road and every forest to ensure that nothing happened.


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