ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
(WITH BRIEF STOPOVER IN ZAMBIA), 1-3 SEPTEMBER
The Secretary-General left Durban, South Africa, on Saturday, 1 September. On his way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), his plane stopped at Lusaka, Zambia, to refuel. At Lusaka airport he met with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Steven Chilombo, and the United Nations Development Programme Resident Coordinator, Olubanke King-Akerele. He also had a brief encounter with the press.
He arrived in Kinshasa in the late evening, where he was greeted by DRC Foreign Minister Léonard She Okitundu.
He held a brief press encounter at the airport at which he declared, “Neighbouring countries must respect the sovereignty of the Congolese nation.” He pledged to work with the Congolese and their neighbours to restore peace.
On Sunday, 2 September, the Secretary-General began his official visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a meeting with DRC Foreign Minister Léonard She Okitundu, who thanked the Secretary-General for his efforts in support of the peace process. The Minister then reviewed the status of the implementation of the Lusaka Peace Accords, touching on disarmament, withdrawal of foreign troops, the inter-Congolese dialogue and future elections in the country. He also emphasized the grave humanitarian situation in the DRC.
The Secretary-General and his delegation then met with President Joseph Kabila. Initially, the two principals met one-on-one, then with their delegations.
The President welcomed the Secretary-General, then described the status of the peace process. The Secretary-General praised the President for having made a qualitative and dramatic contribution to moving the peace process forward. He said there was agreement that the DRC should remain one country, which was something to build on. Don’t allow foreigners to divide you, he said; this is your country. He urged the Congolese parties to continue the dialogue and work together.
The President said he had assembled 3,000 elements of armed Rwanda groups in Kamina for disarmament and demobilization. He said the Secretary-General’s presence in the country would offer encouragement to the parties and to the people.
They discussed the need for regional security arrangements with international support, and economic development prospects following the opening of the Congo River by the UN Mission (MONUC).
The Secretary-General and the President then met with the press.
He and his wife Nane then visited the General Hospital, where they talked with patients, about 60 per cent of whom were dying of AIDS. They administered oral vaccine against polio to a number of infants, kicking off the third and final phase of a nationwide campaign.
Returning to his hotel, the Secretary-General met with a group of Ambassadors from the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, as well as troop contributors to MONUC. The Secretary-General briefed them on his discussions thus far and asked for their advice.
He had a working lunch with former Botswanan President Katumile Masire, Facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue. He congratulated the President on the successful pre-dialogue meeting of the Congolese parties in Gaborone, Botswana, which, he said, had confounded the skeptics. The President said that the participants claimed they had never participated in such a democratic process.
The Facilitator briefed the Secretary-General on the state of play of political reconciliation in the DRC, and they analyzed the process in the light of United Nations experience in places like Mozambique, Cambodia, Burundi and Sierra Leone.
The Secretary-General then met with participants in the inter-Congolese dialogue, including opposition parties and civil society representatives. He told them that the success of the peace process depended on the outcome of the dialogue and he urged them to work together, with the UN’s support. Three people stepped forward and made statements; all expressed appreciation for his presence.
Representatives of United Nations agencies active in the DRC then gathered at the Headquarters of the United Nations Mission in the Congo, MONUC, where they met with the Secretary-General for a briefing by the MONUC military and civilian leadership on the status of the peace process.
He then addressed the assembled MONUC staff.
In the early evening, he gave a press conference, expressing satisfaction with his visit and with the progress being made in the peace process.
He later attended a dinner in his honour hosted by the President.
On Monday, 3 September, The Secretary-General left Kinshasa for Kisangani in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he was greeted by thousands of people carrying welcoming signs, with many chanting "Demilitarization Now".
He visited the Moroccan Camp of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was briefed by UN sector Commander General Aberchane, who reported the steady expansion of the UN presence in the region to monitor disarmament, demobilization and demilitarization, known as the "3-Ds".
He then addressed the UN staff and met briefly with representatives of UN agencies working in the region, before having a working lunch with Adolphe Onusumba and other leaders of RCD (Rally for Congolese Democracy), which
Mr. Onusumba leads and which is a signatory to the Lusaka Accords.
The Secretary-General said that the demilitarization of Kisangani was a priority for him. They discussed implementation of the Lusaka accords. The RCD officials expressed their appreciation for MONUC’s impartiality, and said they were confident that the inter-Congolese dialogue, designed to bring the parties and civil society together, would succeed.
The Secretary-General then addressed a meeting of civic leaders, which started with a benediction by the Archbishop of Kisangani, Laurent Monsengwo. Afterwards, the Secretary-General chatted with the Archbishop, then took some questions from the press.
He then went from Kisangani to Kigali, Rwanda.
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