30/05/2001
Press Release
SC/7064



Security Council

4323rd Meeting (AM)


COUNCIL, EXAMINING REPORT OF ITS GREAT LAKES MISSION, SEES


'WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY' IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO


Several Speakers Express Concern over Burundi Situation


The timely and important visit of the Security Council mission to the Great Lakes region had served to consolidate the recent momentum for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council today as it considered the Council mission’s report on that visit.


While the Democratic Republic of the Congo presented an immense operational, administrative and logistical challenge to any outside mission, “we are, however, now faced with a genuine window of opportunity for peace and security”.  In the near future, the parties would be finalizing plans for the withdrawal of all foreign troops as well as for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration (DDR) and repatriation or resettlement of armed groups.  The planning for all those operations had already begun, and must be incorporated into the overall planning for phase III of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).


There had been a change in the political climate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General stated.  “Recently we have seen progress in the inter-Congolese dialogue, which is an indispensable element of the peace process”, he noted.  The humanitarian situation, however, was still one of the urgent remaining challenges.  Frankly speaking, he said, “current international support for humanitarian activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is unacceptably low, with only 20 per cent of the 2001 Consolidated Appeal for $139.4 million being funded”.


In introducing the mission’s report, the representative of France also underscored the feeling that there was a true window of opportunity to move towards peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and that throughout the region there was the feeling of weariness and the realization that fighting did not make sense.  He stressed that, with respect to last year’s Council mission, the atmosphere between the parties and the United Nations was completely different and more positive. The role of the United Nations in the region was to help the parties to implement their commitments, not to impose peace. 


The mission had achieved results in the military sphere, he said, and there had also been progress in the inter-Congolese dialogue.  In the economic field, a


number of small quick-impact projects had been announced in areas where MONUC was deployed, as well as the reopening of the country's river network to humanitarian and commercial traffic.  In the area of human rights and humanitarian rights, progress had been made as well.


He was concerned about the impasse in which Burundi found itself, he said.  The mission had met with the President, political parties and leaders of two armed groups and with former President Mandela, and had told leaders of the two armed groups that there would be no military solution.  A deadline would be given to the two groups to return to negotiations, after which heads of States in the region could decide on what measures to take.  To address concerns about the refugee problem, the mission had suggested establishing a Tanzanian/Burundian commission to find practical ways to reduce tension.  Ways had to be found to allow President Mandela to work better together with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.


The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said disengagement and demobilization must be speeded up to stop the suffering of the Congolese people.  The Council must stand by its resolutions and force the parties to comply with their various provisions.  What would happen if the parties did not withdraw by the set time-limit?  Would the Council risk issuing another statement of good intent and in the process lose its credibility, or would the Council enforce its directives? 


The representative of Burundi said some rebel groups in his country regarded the ceasefire as the lowest priority in their plans and still hoped there could be a military solution.  The Council must demand that the armed groups and the countries that supported them cooperate with the Government in seeking a security solution along the border areas.  His Government supported sanctions against some armed groups and their supporters, and proposed that the next meeting with the armed groups on 3 June should be set as a deadline for cooperation.  Waiting longer would spoil any hope for reaching peace, he said.


Uganda’s representative said his country’s withdrawal exercise in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was progressing according to schedule. Last Friday, the Uganda People’s Defence Force completed its troop withdrawal from the north-eastern Congolese town of Isiro.  The second phase of complete withdrawal of that force started yesterday from Gemena.


Regarding allegations made about his country’s misappropriation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said his Government had taken that issue seriously.  An independent-Judiciary Commission of Inquiry had been appointed on 23 May to investigate the allegations.  That Commission would investigate the allegations in an open and transparent manner, and report to the Government for appropriate action.


The representative of Jamaica expressed disappointment that some delegations, in this morning’s debate, had used this important milestone in the peace process to be belligerent rather than advance the process.  Negotiations had come too far for parties to be hurling verbal darts at each other.  No party to the conflict


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or any country should be allowed to create obstacles or hinder the progress of peace.  The international community must deal with any negative responses firmly and unequivocally, he said.


The United Kingdom’s representative emphasized that the peace process was one for the whole Great Lakes region, and that the international community was not going to invest, in the widest sense of the word, in the process as long as one country tried to advance its own interests at the expense of another.


He said he was depressed about the situation in Burundi.  No party, including the Government, was really contributing to the peace process.  Those entities, too, would have to remember that there was no point in the continuation of armed force.


Many delegations stressed that there was now a “window of opportunity” for the peace process, but the representative of Singapore said that windows of opportunity were often fragile and fleeting and always existed in areas of doom and gloom.  It was therefore important that positive results should be maintained and developed.  There was no doubt that a lot depended on the action of the signatories.  A symbiotic relationship was necessary, where positive action by the parties would lead to positive responses from the Council.  He hoped the positive accomplishments of this Council mission would not be fleeting.


The representatives of Rwanda, South Africa and Namibia also spoke, as did representatives of Council members Bangladesh, Tunisia, Ukraine, China, Russian Federation, Colombia, Norway, Mali, Mauritius, Ireland and the United States.


The meeting, which started at 11:05 a.m., was suspended at 1:13 p.m. and reconvened at 3:35 p.m.  It adjourned at 4:55 p.m.


Background


The Security Council had before it the report of the Council mission to the Great Lakes region, 15-26 May (document S/2001/521).


The mission, consisting of Jean-David Levitte (France), Wang Yingfan (China), Alfonso Valdivieso (Colombia), David Cooney (Ireland), Curtis A. Ward (Jamaica), Moctar Ouane (Mali), Anund Priyay Neewoor (Mauritius), Kishore Mahbubani (Singapore), Othman Jerandi (Tunisia), Valery P. Kuchinsky (Ukraine), Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom), and Cameron R. Hume (United States), had visited Johannesburg, Pretoria, Kinshasa, Luanda, Lusaka, Bujumbara, Dar es Salaam, Kigali and Kampala.


It had met with Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, José Eduardo dos Santos, President of Angola, Sam Nujoma, President of Namibia, Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, Frederick Chiluba, President of Zambia, Pierre Buyoya, President of Burundi, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda.  It had also met with the facilitator in the Burundi conflict, former President Nelson Mandela, and the neutral facilitator for the inter-Congolese dialogue, former President Ketumile Masire, as well as with leaders of Congolese groups and civil society, leaders of Burundian groups and signatories of the Arusha Agreement.


On the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Council mission found much that was encouraging.  "For the first time since the outbreak of the conflict", says the report, outlines of a solution appeared to be taking shape."  The ceasefire had continued to hold over the past four months, and disengagement of the belligerents’ forces had been accomplished.  The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had been able to deploy guard units and military observers to their designated locations.  The attitude of the Congolese people suggested that the country was eager to move forward towards national reconciliation, democratization and development with respect for human rights.  The implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, however, would remain difficult in practice as long as the sequencing of the disengagement and withdrawal of forces was viewed subjectively by the parties, according to the report.


The mission recommended that the Council be prepared to consider approving a transition to Phase III of the activities of MONUC.  There was an imperative need to demilitarize the city of Kisangani without further delay.  The persistent presence of Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) forces in the town was a violation of Council resolution 1304 (2000).  The disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation or resettlement of armed groups was key to ending the conflict. If the withdrawal of all foreign forces was achieved in accordance with the present draft plan, the implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement would have achieved substantial completion in its military aspects.


Progress made during the mission’s visit in the preparations for the inter-Congolese dialogue was encouraging.  The Council might wish to confirm that the dialogue should proceed in all parts of the country as speedily as possible, and not be delayed by unnecessary linkages or conditionalities connected to the military aspects of the Lusaka process.   The mission considered it indispensable for the return to peace to be accompanied by an increase in economic activity, which the international community should mobilize to assist.


Illegitimate exploitation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be brought to a halt, according to the mission’s report.  All parties concerned should cooperate with the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The mission called for full respect for human rights by all the parties, and for an immediate cessation of the use of child soldiers.  It recommended that the Council consider the deployment of additional human rights observers.  War criminals must be held accountable without impunity, the report states.


The report adds that there would be a durable peace only if all the countries of the region succeed in defining for themselves the rules by which to promote security and development.  At the appropriate time, an international conference on the Great Lakes region would permit a close and continuous examination of those questions, as well as helping to attract donor contributions.


Regarding the situation in Burundi, the mission was struck by the complexity and intractability of the situation in that country, and its serious potential for large-scale violence.  The regional heads of State should remain involved, and ways should be found of encouraging dialogue between the Government and the Front national de libération (FNL).  Strengthening of the Regional Peace Initiative would also be desirable.  Urgent attention should be paid to the situation along the border between the United Republic of Tanzania and Burundi, which could ignite a serious deterioration in the crisis. 


The report states further that the Council should consider establishment of a permanent negotiating mechanism involving the Representative of the Secretary-General in Bujumbura.  The tragedy in Burundi was closely linked with that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Movements of rebel fighters from the Congo eastwards in order to evade demobilization might aggravate the Burundi crisis.  No action that damages Burundi could truly assist the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Council will continue to support a global solution that can assist in restoring peace to both countries, and to the entire Great Lakes region.


Background on MONUC


Following the 1994 massacres in Rwanda and the establishment of a new government there, some 1.2 million Rwandese Hutus -- including some who had taken part in the genocide -- fled to Kivu province in eastern Zaire, an area partly inhabited by ethnic Tutsis.  There, a rebellion started in 1996, pitting Zairean Tutsis, led by Laurent Désiré Kabila, against the pro-Hutu army of President Mobutu Sese Seko.  Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire/Congo (ADFL), aided by Rwanda and Uganda, took Kinshasa, the capital, in 1997, and established the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The civil war resulted in more than 450,000 refugees and internally displaced people.


In 1998, a rebellion against the Kabila Government started in Kivu, and within weeks the rebels had seized large areas of the country.  Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe promised and provided President Kabila with military support.  Despite the recapture of several towns and halting of a rebel advance on Kinshasa, the rebels maintained their grip on the eastern regions.  The rebel movement, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), was supported by Rwanda and Uganda.  The Security Council called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of foreign forces, and urged States not to interfere in the country's internal affairs.  Uganda signed a peace agreement with the Kabila Government in April 1999.  In May, the RCD split into two factions.


Efforts by the Secretary-General, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) led in July 1999 to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.  Signed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe, it provided for an end of hostilities and for the holding of an inter-Congolese dialogue.  The "Lusaka Agreement" included provisions for the normalization of the situation along the border; the control of illicit arms trafficking and infiltration of armed groups; the holding of a national dialogue; and the establishment of a mechanism for disarming militias and armed groups.  It also provided for a Joint Military Commission composed of two representatives from each party under a neutral chairman appointed by the OAU.  The two rebel factions signed the agreement in AugustTo help implement the agreement, the Council authorized the deployment of 90 United Nations military liaison officers to strategic areas in the country and to the capitals of the signatory States.


To maintain liaison with the parties, assist in implementing the agreement and monitor security conditions, the Security Council in November established the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), incorporating the personnel it had authorized earlier on.  In February 2000, the Council expanded the size and mandate of the Mission, which was to monitor implementation of the ceasefire, support disarmament and demobilization, and provide support to the facilitator of the national dialogue.  The Council authorized the use of force by MONUC to protect United Nations personnel and civilians under imminent threat of violence, and made the deployment of the Mission to its authorized strength of 5,500 contingent on adequate access, security and cooperation.  Continued fighting has prevented full deployment.


In January 2001, President Laurent Kabila was killed.  The Security Council met formally four times in February to discuss the changing situation in the country.  Laurent Kabila’s son, Joseph, assumed the presidency and in February, at separate meetings, both he and Rwandan President Paul Kagame addressed the Council.  It seemed the impasse might be broken.  The Secretary-General proposed an updated concept of MONUC operations to monitor and verify ceasefire and disengagement plans, and, on 22 February, the Council adopted a resolution endorsing this new concept and calling for rapid implementation of disengagement plans.  Reports in late February and early March were received of withdrawals of Ugandan and Rwandan troops from the territory of the Democratic Republic.


Introduction of Mission Report


JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France), introducing the mission’s report, underscored the feeling that, for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there was a true window of opportunity to move towards peace, and that throughout the region there was the feeling of wariness and the realization that fighting did not make sense. He stressed that, with respect to last year’s mission, the atmosphere between the parties and the United Nations was completely different and more positive.  The role of the United Nations in the region was to help the parties to implement their commitments by sending observers with the contingence to secure safety of the observers.  It was not a matter of imposing peace.  


The mission had achieved results in the military sphere.  The ceasefire had been holding for four months, and the next stage was disengagement.  The Political Committee and the Council had obtained a firm announcement that the Front de libération du Congo (FLC) forces will withdraw to agreed positions.  Without conditions, it was decided that humanitarian observers would be sent throughout the Congo to improve the human rights and humanitarian situation.


Ministers and heads of States had reaffirmed their common objective of total withdrawal of all foreign forces.  The withdrawal of several thousand Zimbabwean troops had been confirmed.  In three weeks, all Ugandan forces would have left the Congo territory, with some exceptions.  Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation or resettlement of so-called negative forces were not in line with the Lusaka Agreement at the time of the mission.  Burundi groups had left with their arms, transporting war materiel.  Rwanda had seen incursions along its border.


Progress in the inter-Congolese political dialogue was also important, and meetings with Mr. Masire, the neutral facilitator, had been very encouraging.  A date for preparatory dialogue had been set for 16 July.  Representatives of

Mr. Masire would travel to 11 provinces to prepare the dialogue.  Another encouraging element was that President Kabila had announced abolition of the decree banning political parties.


In the economic field, a number of small quick-impact projects had been announced in areas where MONUC was deployed, as well as the reopening of the country's river network to humanitarian and commercial traffic.  He said there would also be progress in the area of human rights and humanitarian rights.  The mission had encouraged non-governmental organization and religious leaders to publicize discovered massacres.  Beyond that, the mission had stated that the time for impunity must come to an end.


He said the Ugandan army needed help in leaving the Congolese territory.  Ugandan troops in Kisangani should be helped to leave by plane.  Kisangani was not yet demilitarized, because RDC forces were still present, making it difficult for the Ugandan troops to use the airport.


In respect to moving forward to Phase III, he said the ceiling of 5,537 personnel seemed to be enough.  Detailed plans had to be provided, though.  The MONUC should help the facilitators for the national dialogue to move throughout the country.  A difficult point was the provisional administration of evacuated zones.  He was afraid that in some eastern areas withdrawal would lead to security risks, even though it was up to the Congolese parties to guarantee security in the zones under their control.


The announced devaluation of the currency had thrown the economy into turbulence, and he was concerned for social stability.  Looting of national resources must be stopped.  A project had been proposed for a conference of all States concerned.  The idea had been well received, but it had been stressed that peace had to be achieved in every country before such a conference could be held.


He was also concerned about the impasse in which Burundi found itself.  The mission had met with the President, political parties and leaders of two armed groups and with former President Mandela, and had told leaders of the two armed groups that there would be no military solution.  A deadline would be given to the two groups to return to negotiations, after which heads of States in the region could decide on what measures to take.


Burundi’s President was concerned about returnees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and about refugee camps which were a starting point for operations carried out by Burundi groups.  The mission had suggested establishing a Tanzanian/Burundian commission to find practical ways to reduce tension.  Ways had to be found to allow President Mandela to work better together with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, said the timely and important visit of the Security Council mission to the Great Lakes region had served to consolidate the recent momentum for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and demonstrated the importance that the United Nations attached to the peace process there.


He said that while the Democratic Republic of the Congo presented an immense operational, administrative and logistical challenge to any outside mission, “we are, however, now faced with a genuine window of opportunity for peace and security”.  An important signal had been the reopening of the river network in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for humanitarian assistance and commercial exchanges between Kisangani and Kinsasha.  More specifically, there had been progress on disengagement, with the United Nations actively assisting the parties in implementing their commitments.


In the near future, said the Secretary-General, the parties would be finalizing plans for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, as well as for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration (DDR) and resettlement of armed groups. The process would present a major challenge to MONUC and the international community as a whole.  The planning for all those operations had already begun, and must be incorporated into the overall planning for Phase III of the Mission.  His recommendations for that phase would be contained in his forthcoming report to the Council, to be issued in mid-June.  He hoped the international community would contribute generously.


He said there had also been a change in the political climate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  “Recently, we have seen progress in the inter-Congolese dialogue, which is an indispensable element of the peace process”, he noted.  The humanitarian situation, however, was still one of the urgent remaining challenges.  It was imperative that additional resources were made available to address the emerging requirements, as well as to fund quick-impact projects that could bring relief to the population.  Frankly speaking, he said, “current international support for humanitarian activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is unacceptably low, with only 20 per cent of the 2001 Consolidated Appeal for $139.4 million being funded”.  The Council might wish to take up that issue with donors as a matter of urgency.


The dire human rights situation of civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was well known to Council members.  He believed it was important to step up MONUC’s monitoring activities in that area without delay.  In cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, he had taken steps to increase the number of human rights officers in the Mission.  Within that area of concern, the question of impunity also had to be addressed by investigating alleged massacres and other major violations of human rights.


He said the use of child soldiers had been pervasive among the fighting forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  His Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, was currently visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and he was looking forward to receiving Mr. Otunnu's recommendations on how to address that issue in a comprehensive manner.  Separately, the security situation continued to be precarious –- especially in the east of the country.  At present, there were only three United Nations field security officers for the entire country, which was totally inadequate.


In conclusion, he said peace would not be brought to the Democratic Republic of the Congo by MONUC alone.  The leaders and peoples of the region must lead the way and create a new culture of peace and coexistence.  Beyond the region, every member of the United Nations had a role to play in helping to secure peace and in improving the lives of the Congolese people.


ATOKI CHRISTIAN ILEKA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the recent Council mission had brought hopes of peace, while sending signals of the unanimous and real will to move ahead in the peace process and end both the suffering and the massive humanitarian violations in his country.


The time had now come for the Council to say that the war of aggression had exceeded what was tolerable or acceptable.  The death of 3 million civilians was not just deplorable, but a true tragedy.  The massacres were the result of a clear-cut cleansing policy by Rwanda, in reprisal for events that had happened seven years earlier.  Those responsible for the genocide must be punished and held accountable.  The authorities of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi were also responsible for the exile of thousands of Congolese.  Their leaders must be brought to justice and they must be made to realize that sooner or later this would happen.


Disengagement and demobilization must be speeded up to stop the suffering of the Congolese people.  The Council must stand by its resolutions and force the parties to comply with their various provisions.  What would happen if the parties did not withdraw by the set time limit?  Would the Council risk issuing another statement of good intent and in the process lose its credibility, or would the Council enforce its directives?


He said his Government intended to make every effort to contribute to the preparation and implementation of withdrawal and DDR plans and to move forward to Phase III of MONUC.  His Government was also inviting the Council to begin reflecting on possible increases to the Mission as it began the third phase of its deployment.  It would also do its utmost to ensure security at the preparatory session of the inter-Congolese dialogue.


He said that last year Kisangani had lived through an era of exceptional violence and extreme violations of the ceasefire agreement.  The fighting there had resulted in incredible losses of human life.  The MONUC was able to see for itself that the city had still not been demilitarized as stipulated in Security Council resolutions.  The Council should take the appropriate measures to ensure the demilitarization of the city by Rwandese troops and to end the blocking by Ugandan troops of roads leading to that city.


A settlement of the Burundi crisis would have a positive impact on the war of aggression in his own country, he said.  Thirty-three per cent of the population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been chronically affected by the war.  The international community was invited to help his country emerge from its crisis by, among other things, resuming partnerships to assist national development plans.


ANASTASE GASANA (Rwanda) said the mission had been a success not only for the Council, but also for the countries the mission visited.  The Lusaka Agreement had been reinvigorated.  Nonetheless, he said, the negative forces, including those who had carried out the genocide in Rwanda, would remain a major obstacle if they were not controlled and disarmed.  Any support given to them must stop immediately.


His Government was pleased with the mission’s conclusions that there was a need for assistance in social and economic development for countries which had been victims of the conflict.  Rwanda had been the biggest victim, he said, referring to the genocide in his country.


The Political Committee established by the Lusaka Agreement would continue to cooperate closely with the Council, he said.


JEANETTE NDHLOVU (South Africa) said the inter-Congolese dialogue was still the key to the establishment of a broad-based democratic process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  In that regard, her delegation welcomed the recent announcement by the Government of that country that it would allow political parties to participate in the process.  Also, in order to establish a sustainable peace, it was vital that the peace process be complemented with a rejuvenation of economic activity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 


Critical in achieving that, she continued, would be the establishment of a communications and transportation infrastructure.  Her delegation wished to stress the importance of international community support for the implementation of quick-impact projects.  Such a dual approach to achieving peace and stability would ensure that, as the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo traded their guns for peace, they would be able to focus their energies on the reconstruction of their country.


She said her country would like to see a situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where all the people could benefit from the enormous natural resources with which that nation had been endowed.  If a state of freedom from fear could be achieved, freedom from want would be a long-term benefit.


MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said timely planning and approval of Phase III were crucial for the smooth implementation of the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The complexity of that process should be taken into account when the size and mandate of Phase III of MONUC’s deployment was considered.  He was concerned about the reluctance of the Mouvement de libération du Congo to disengage.  The continuation of Kisangani’s occupation was another concern, and he called on the Council to go on insisting that Kisangani be demilitarized without further delay.  The city could play a much broader role in the economic and political life of the country. 


He welcomed progress made in the preparation for the inter-Congolese dialogue.  That dialogue, however, was for the Congolese people, and should be conducted without foreign interference.  The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo should take over civil administration in zones vacated by foreign forces.  He called on the international community for assistance in that regard.


A complete return to peace would be stimulated by an increase of economic activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Quick-impact projects were welcome, but the international community should consider much broader economic assistance to that country to accompany the onset of peace.  The Council should adopt urgent measures to stop the plundering of the country's natural resources.  He welcomed the Council mission’s efforts to give momentum to the peace process in Burundi and supported its recommendations in that regard.  He also supported an international conference on the Great Lakes region at an appropriate time.


FRED BEYENDEZA (Uganda) said his country’s withdrawal exercise in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was progressing according to schedule.  Last Friday, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) completed its troop withdrawal from the north-eastern Congolese town of Isiro.  The second phase of complete withdrawal of the UPDF started yesterday from Gemena.  In February, even though the seventh Ugandan Battalion was withdrawn from that locale, some units had remained to guard the airport.  It was hoped that by the end of the week the last group would have pulled out.  After the Gemena withdrawal, the UPDF would leave eight other Congolese towns, namely, Dongo, Busankusu, Gbadolite, Lisala, Bitembo, Beni, Kanyabayonga and Bafwasende.


His country had asked the Council to allow it to use the Bangoka International Airport in Kisangani to pull out troops and heavy equipment from Bafaswende.  It was important to emphasize the use of that airport, because Uganda’s sixty-fifth Battalion in Bafaswende had no other route to pull out.  Regarding allegations made about his country’s misappropriation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said his Government had taken that issue seriously and welcomed the opportunity to put those matters to rest.  As a result, an independent Judiciary Commission of Inquiry had been appointed on 23 May to investigate the allegations.  His Government had named Justice David Porter -- a distinguished retired British judge -- as Chairman of that Commission.


Other members of the Commission, he continued, included Justice Joseph Berko, a judge of the Court of Appeal, and John Rwambuya, a retired senior United Nations official from Uganda.  That Commission would investigate the allegations in an open and transparent manner, and report to the Government for appropriate action.  It would start its work on 4 June, and the Council would be updated on its outcome at the appropriate time.


He said President Museveni of Uganda had spent many hours with the Council mission discussing all possible formulas for a solution to the problem of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Such attention and concern were not accidental.  They demonstrated the seriousness with which Uganda viewed the need to end the conflict and achieve peace in the Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 


His country had insisted that the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement should address two fundamental areas which were at the root of the conflict -- the security concerns of all countries in the region; and the internal dimension of the conflict -- through a national dialogue involving all the Congolese parties.  Uganda, therefore, reaffirmed its support for the inter-Congolese dialogue under the neutral facilitator, Ketumire Masire.  In that respect, he wished to inform the Council that President Museveni and Mr. Masire had just concluded a meeting today in Kampala.


MARC NTETURUYE (Burundi) said his Government was pleased that the Council would finally be hearing about the danger of total war in Burundi posed by the spillover of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He welcomed the Council’s clear message in that regard.  The Council mission had been able to see that some rebel groups regarded the ceasefire as enjoying the lowest priority in their peace plans.  Some groups still hoped there could be a military solution. The Council must demand that the armed groups and the countries that supported them cooperate with the Government in seeking a security solution along the border areas.


His Government supported sanctions against some armed groups and their supporters, and proposed that the next meeting with the armed groups on 3 June should be set as a deadline for cooperation.  Waiting longer would spoil any hope for reaching peace, he said.


He was pleased with the proposal to establish a joint Tanzanian-Burundian commission to deal with refugees.  A tripartite agreement between Burundi, United Republic of Tanzania and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had been signed.  His Government called on the Tanzanian Government to accept the agreement, so that a campaign for return of the refugees could be mobilized.


The intensification of the war since February had dealt a blow to the peace process, he said.  More than anything else, people were hoping for a ceasefire and security.  He welcomed a proposal to strengthen the office of the Representative of the Secretary-General and to broaden his mandate.  He hoped that the Follow-up and Implementation Group of the Arusha Agreement would shift its headquarters to Burundi’s capital.


ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the withdrawal of foreign forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be undertaken by all parties without further delay and in a phased and orderly manner.  Addressing the inter-Congolese dialogue, he said it was expected that the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would facilitate that process, as stipulated in the Lusaka Agreement.  All parties must take a realistic approach since the resolution of the most intractable conflict of recent times would require hard decisions, difficult compromises and a lot of pragmatism and courage.


He stressed that justice must be pursued with the aim of healing past wounds and promoting reconciliation.  Turning to the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said all measures must be

taken to break that practice and by extension the continuation of the war.  He underscored the appeal made by Mr. Levitte about sending a message to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about the critical situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the situation’s close links to the peace process. 


Addressing Phase III of MONUC, he said, "concrete actions must now be taken at our end".


President Suspends Meeting


The President of the Council then suspended the meeting, which he said would resume at 3:30 p.m.


Upon resumption of the meeting, CURTIS WARD (Jamaica) said the deployment of human rights observers and MONUC should help assure the Congolese people of “our concerns” and persuade them that peace meant they could live in safety.  He stressed the importance of the national dialogue moving forward as soon as possible.  He also insisted that all parties fully respect the human rights of people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and called for immediate demobilization of child solders and their reintegration into society.  It should also be clear to all that impunity would not be tolerated and that war criminals would be held accountable.


He expressed disappointment that some delegations, in this morning’s debate had used this important milestone in the peace process to be belligerent rather than advance the process.  Negotiations had come too far for parties to be hurling verbal darts at each other.  That was not a situation for recriminations.  Peace and security in the region was the objective.  He welcomed the withdrawal plan detailed by Uganda and urged others to follow. No party to the conflict or any country should be allowed to create obstacles or hinder the progress of peace.  The international community must deal with any negative responses firmly and unequivocally.


JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) hoped the Council would move swiftly on the report’s recommendations.  All the signatories to the Lusaka Agreement had told of their commitment to the peace process, but had given different nuances.  He emphasized that the peace process was one for the whole Great Lakes region, and the international community was not going to invest, in the widest sense of the word, in the process as long as one country tried to advance its own interests at the expense of another.


He said the Council would crack down on those who obstructed the Lusaka Agreement.  He emphasized the symbolism Kisangani would represent if it could come out of its shadows.  A quick advance there would advance the whole peace process. 


He was depressed about the situation in Burundi.  No party, including the Government, was really contributing to the peace process.  Those parties, too, would have to remember that there was no point in the continuation of armed force. There was a need for regional input.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that the parties were in the lead, but the Security Council had shown it was serious and would be doubly serious in the coming months. 


OTHMAN JERANDI (Tunisia) said the recent mission to the Great Lakes region had made it possible for the Council to achieve certain objectives that it had set itself.  The momentum created had also made it possible to clarify the positions of one and all on many issues.  The current impetus should be maintained and closely monitored by the Council, since the peace process was fragile and still required all parties to assume their responsibilities.  Slippage could not be allowed to occur.  The parties concerned must scrupulously fulfil their commitments.


Turning to the issue of Burundi, he said the mission had conveyed the need to continue the dialogue and end the conflict.  The Council must, therefore, remain vigilant and monitor that situation on an ongoing basis.  Political assistance and short-term economic assistance were required by all for peace and prosperity to prevail.


VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the mission to the Great Lakes region had received a clear picture of the situation on the ground and better understanding of the problems in the region.  There was, indeed, a "window of opportunity" which should be used to settle the conflict.  There was also common understanding by the parties that the Lusaka Agreement remained the only key to restore peace and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The inter-Congolese dialogue was given strong impetus, the process of disengagement of the forces was moving forward, and the plans were confirmed for DDR.


Regarding those plans and the total withdrawal of all foreign forces, he said many details remained to be worked out.  Although countries of the region had mustered sufficient political will to advance the peace process, they must take practical steps in the spirit of compromise.  United Nations support to the process was indispensable.  It was imperative, however, that the parties understood that the process must be carried out against the backdrop of cooperation, in particular, between Presidents Kabila and Kagame.  United Nations assistance would be provided, taking into account the level of commitment demonstrated by the parties.  He called upon the parties to revitalize their bilateral contacts to ensure the necessary level of cooperation.


The issue of safety and security of the civilian population in areas to be evacuated after the withdrawal of foreign forces was critical, he added.  The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo should take responsibility for establishing the necessary civil administration in those areas, including a police presence.  On economic issues, one of the important results of the mission was reopening the Congo River for commercial navigation and the imminent arrival of the MONUC riverine unit, which would permit the re-establishment of links between Kinshasa, Mbandaka and Kisangani.  It would also enhance confidence building and the strengthening of a sense of national unity. 


Among the most urgent issues was the demilitarization of Kisangani, he said.  The continual presence of RCD forces there was a violation of Council resolution 1304 (2000). He urged RCD leaders to implement the provisions of the disengagement plan and to withdraw.  Looting of natural resources should end.  He called upon all countries concerned to cooperate with the Expert Panel on the illegal exploitation of natural resources as it completed its final report.  Phase III of the MONUC deployment was vital for advancing the settlement process, not only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also in Burundi and the region as a whole.


WANG YINGFAN (China) said the situation in the Great Lakes region was at a vital juncture.  The mission had acquired first-hand knowledge of the situation in the region.  The situation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was extremely complex, as many parties and countries were involved.  The key for an early end to the conflict was whether the countries and parties involved in the conflict had the general will and determination for peace and reconciliation.  The initiatives for peace must first come from the region, as the Secretary-General had pointed out this morning.


All parties had a general wish for peace.  Some parties, however, had not made up their minds to turn that wish into concrete action.  For that reason, the United Nations must continue its efforts to secure peace.  To build a lasting peace, achieving internal reconciliation, as well as a broader reconciliation between countries, was key.  Otherwise, peace could not last long.  He called on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from actions or words harmful to reconciliation. 


It was crucially important that there was no backtracking or violating of the achieved disengagement and ceasefire.  The city of Kisangani must be demilitarized without delay, and the Congo River must be reopened for navigation.  The situation in Burundi must be followed closely to prevent it from deteriorating.


SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said encouraging results had, indeed, been achieved, such as successful deployment of United Nations contingents and observance of the ceasefire.  On the whole, the process of disengagement had been implemented.  The mission had shown that relations between the Government and MONUC had improved and had shifted away from antagonism.  The problems now were created by armed opposition.  The time was over for violations with impunity of peace agreements, the plundering of Congo’s natural wealth and atrocities against its people. 


The Democratic Republic of the Congo Government had confirmed its commitment to inter-Congolese dialogue, he said.  Restrictions on political activities had been lifted, and the neutral facilitator was organizing the dialogue in a concrete way.  Evidence of a responsible approach to power had been provided by President Kabila when he promised steps to improve the situation of his people.  International humanitarian efforts in the Democratic Republic should be intensified, and his country stood ready to participate in such efforts. 


He shared the concern over the danger of resumption of large-scale violence in Burundi.  There was a need to intensify the efforts of the region to encourage the armed opposition to enter into a dialogue with the Government, he said.


ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said the recent action taken by the Council in Africa would enhance the attention the Economic and Social Council would give the continent this year at its ministerial segment in Geneva.  The visit by the mission to the various capitals had raised expectations of future United Nations actions.  There would be no military solutions, demobilization would take place and natural resources would be placed at the service of the development of countries.


Turning to Burundi, he said impetus should be given to dialogue with the rebel groups that remained outside the Arusha Agreement. The United Nations and bilateral donors should be ready to offer additional resources and good offices. The parties must respect human rights and the norms of international humanitarian law.  His delegation also placed special value on the efforts within the United Nations system to bring together a regional vision for the Great Lakes region.


OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) reiterated his Government’s support for the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, stressing that it was the key denominator in the peace process.  The challenge ahead was to secure continued support for its implementation.  He was encouraged by reports that some foreign troops had already withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and urged others to follow suit in a phased and organized manner.  Regarding DDR, he welcomed the assurances given to the mission by the Political Committee that it would provide information on armed groups.  He urged that Committee to deliver on its promise as soon as possible.


He stressed the importance of all rebel groups participating in the DDR exercise.  If that did not happen, the process towards substantial peace would have limited hope for success.  He also highlighted the need to deal with the issue of impunity.  His Government had provided financial support towards facilitating the inter-Congolese dialogue, and now wanted to see that process get off the ground.


Turning to Burundi, he said his Government was one of the sponsors of the Arusha Peace Agreement; he stressed support for Nelson Mandela's efforts in that process and the mandate for peace.  His delegation looked forward to discussions on strengthening the Facilitator's office.  He also confirmed that his country's humanitarian assistance to the region would remain at a high level.


SEKOU KASSE (Mali) said he welcomed the developing partnership between the Council and the Political Committee of the Lusaka Agreement.  He urged the parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to give MONUC the necessary information for proceeding towards Phase III.


Regarding Burundi, he urged all parties to engage in the process outlined in the Arusha Agreement.  He commended the Council’s commitment to the Great Lakes region, and hoped a new impetus would be given to the Lusaka Agreement.  He warned that the Council must remain vigilant on the matter, particularly on troop withdrawals and on the respect by the parties of their military and political commitments.


ANUND PRIYAY NEEWOOR (Mauritius) said the importance of the mission could be better understood if it was realized that the Lusaka process had been bogged down for some time, and that there was now an opportunity to advance that process.  All the parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo conflict recognized that Lusaka was the only basis for a peaceful settlement.


The Council was left in no doubt that the parties remained fully committed to the Lusaka process.  The parties had engaged in serious discussions on withdrawal of all foreign forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He was optimistic that the established timetable for that withdrawal would be adhered to.  He welcomed the announcement of 16 July as the beginning of the preparatory meeting for the inter-Congolese dialogue.  All parties appeared to be eager to participate in that dialogue, he said, notwithstanding the fact that they all had agendas of their own.


As long as the negative forces remained active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, peace remained threatened in the Great Lakes region.  It was important that the United Nations take up its Lusaka responsibilities.  Time would tell if MONUC’s strength would be sufficient for its responsibilities under Phase III, and the Council should not hesitate to enhance MONUC’s strength if there was a need.


The situation in Burundi was quite explosive, he added.  The Council should continue to extend its full cooperation to Nelson Mandela. 


RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said the general consensus was that good progress had been made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Long-term stability in the region depended on the dismantling of negative forces in the region through DDR. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was currently divided in three zones run by three Powers.  It was, therefore, important that all those parties subscribe to the Security Council's wishes to see the reintegration of the country and the   re-establishment of its sovereignty. 


Addressing Burundi, he said the situation there was precarious.  There was, therefore, an urgent need to address the differences between the parties and the obstacles blocking the road to peace.  The opportunity now existed to respond to the appeal of the Council and to engage in dialogue in an atmosphere free from violence.


KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said the phrase used most frequently today vis-à-vis developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was "window of opportunity".  Everyone, however, should be aware that windows of opportunity were often, by definition, fragile and fleeting.  And they always existed in areas of doom and gloom.  It was, therefore, important that if there were positive results after a mission they should be maintained and developed.  It was critical that if all the elements added up to a larger process, then that larger process should continue to move forward.  There was no doubt that a lot depended on the action of the signatories.  There was a need for a symbiotic relationship, where positive action by the parties would lead to positive responses from the Council.  He hoped the positive accomplishments of this Council mission would not be fleeting.


Turning to the issue of Burundi, he said the report stated that the mission was struck by the complexity and intractability of the situation in Burundi and its potential for large-scale violence.  That should be a strong alert for the Council.


Addressing the issue of Council missions, he said that if such an undertaking was a success, "we should try to reflect on why".  He hoped that the Council as an institution would become more reflective about both its successes and failures.  Identifying five reasons why the recently concluded mission was successful, he cited leadership, unity of purpose, a realistic mandate, timing, and support by the United Nations system.


The President of the Council, JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States), speaking in his national capacity, said the discussion today had shown that among the Council members there was consensus about the situation in the Great Lakes region.  He hoped that the message of what had been said was heard by all parties in that region.


He emphasized the importance of the fact that the Secretary-General in his statement had given such prominence to the humanitarian situation.  That would touch all members.  The task ahead was clear, he said, emphasizing that the Council would only help those that helped themselves.  “All must act or all will continue to suffer.”  The true success of the mission would be in the follow-up of that mission in the coming months.


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