17/02/2004
Press Release
SC/8001



Security Council                                           

4911th Meeting (AM)                                         


SUBSTANTIAL PROGRESS MADE IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO,


BURUNDI PEACE PROCESSES, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD


Assistant Secretary-General Briefs Council,

Says Much Work Remains to Consolidate Historic Advances


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Background


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


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


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


Reporting on the implementation of those recommendations, the Secretary-General states that despite the positive developments that followed the installation of the transitional Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, much work remains to be done in pursuing the objectives of the accord.  A clear prioritization of requirements is needed to ensure the success of the transition, including security sector reform, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and elections.  Moreover, the Government must continue to extend its authority throughout the country, and strengthen the judiciary and human rights institutions to put an end to impunity.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Opening Remarks by Assistant Secretary-General


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


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


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


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


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


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


JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said the Mission was in the region at a decisive time.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo as in Burundi, considerable work had been accomplished in eight months.  The problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were grave.  The transition agreement threatened to unravel, the eastern part of the country was a scene of violence, and peace was at risk.  Major progress had been accomplished, however.  The Government of national unity had been established, the question of the high military command had been resolved and relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda and Rwanda had improved considerably.


Thanks to Operation Artemis and the strengthening of MONUC, hostilities had come to an end, he continued.  Insecurity remained, however.  A Kenyan had been killed in the Ituri region last week and he expressed his condolences to the family.  The MONUC, which had a robust mandate, must make the militia understand that such actions would not be tolerated.  It was essential to strengthen the monitoring of the arms embargo.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo was entering into a new and delicate period.  Much remained to be done to maintain national reconciliation.


Concerning Burundi, he said the mission had returned with a hopeful spirit.  All the parties seemed to be inspired by a sincere will for reconciliation and reform.  The agreement to which the international community had aspired had been concluded.  The progress was encouraging.  Africa had displayed remarkable mobilization, with the African Union deciding to deploy its first peacekeeping mission in Burundi.  The conditions under which a United Nations operation could take the relay for such an operation would have to be studied.


On an international conference, he said the crises in the Great Lakes could not be understood in isolation.  Borders did not stop arms trafficking.  A lasting solution could only be regional.  The conference must be opened to the participation of all neighbouring countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi and it had to focus on the fundamental issues of security and economic regional cooperation.  A conference would also have to produce concrete results in the fields of peace, security and good neighbourliness.


He concluded by saying that the Council mission had been useful in a number of ways.  It had helped the Council in its work, encouraged Council unity and strengthened its message to the parties.  The mission had been warmly welcomed in the region.


TETE ANTONIO (Angola) said the meeting was being held at a crucial time.  The peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had accelerated and there was now hope.  Some grey areas remained, however, in particular in the east, where violence and human rights violations continued.  The violence must be stopped, as it could jeopardize a process that was gaining ground.  The assassination of a Kenyan meant that a strategy was needed regarding armed groups in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The MONUC should focus on a strategy that would provide an adequate response to specific questions.  The arms embargo was one aspect that deserved the Council’s attention.


When resolution 1522 (2004) had been adopted, the Council said that the question of reforming security and defence was a crucial matter for the process, he said.  He welcomed the fact that countries were already lending assistance.


On Burundi, he recalled the appeal for the deployment of a United Nations force in Burundi, which would be crucial.  He welcomed the mission that went to Burundi and he hoped it would come up with recommendations that could provide a response to the questions he had highlighted, including the deployment of a United Nations force.  The African Union force had gone through tremendous difficulties.  Without the support of the international community those difficulties could negatively impact on the process itself.


The fact that peace had returned to Burundi had given rise to new socio-economic problems, he said.  Resources must be provided to Burundi’s Government.  Regarding coordination within the United Nations, he said that cooperation between the Council and the Economic and Social Council could make a difference in confronting the question of Burundi.  The regional approach was also important for Central Africa.  Regional efforts were under way concerning the quest for a political solution and the Council’s support for such efforts was appropriate.  He welcomed the preparation for a Great Lakes conference.  He believed that the neighbouring countries would have an active role to play in that conference.


JEAN-FRANCIS REGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said the report painted a realistic and timely picture of the situation in Central Africa.  Since the mission’s return, there had been important progress made in the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.  He welcomed the peaceful change that had taken place in Burundi, which made the second part of the transitional period of the Arusha agreement possible.  However, all parties must redouble their efforts to meet their requirements.


He welcomed the commitment of the transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to make progress in the establishment and functioning of the security forces.  If respected, that commitment should provide more encouraging results in disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement activities, which had not met expectations so far.  He encouraged the Democratic Republic of the Congo Government to define clear priorities and welcomed the redeployment of MONUC in the eastern part of the Congo.  He also welcomed the increased relations between the country and its neighbours.


Regarding Burundi, he said the situation remained of concern, because of continued fighting.  He appealed to rebel forces to join the peace process in Burundi and urged the international community to use its influence to contribute to the comprehensive ceasefire and to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.  It was urgent that the Council considered transforming the African Mission in Burundi into a United Nations operation.  He supported the recommendations of the Secretary-General for more resources for the Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region.


RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said there had been several positive developments in the situation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and of Burundi.  He urged the United Nations in cooperation with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to bring to justice all those responsible for the death of a military observer.  In Burundi, too many violations continued to be reported and the Council had not been sufficiently responsive.  A year ago, the Council had been requested by the President of Burundi to consider an international commission of judicial inquiry, and only in January had the terms of reference of the assessment mission been agreed upon by the Council.


He considered initiatives to create a healthy economic environment central for a peace-building process to be sustainable.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the time had come for institutional reforms to be undertaken in the area of regulation and control of natural resources.  Illegal exploitation remained one of the main sources of funding for groups involved in perpetuating the conflict.  Regarding Burundi, he was disappointed to note that only 10 per cent of pledges made in 2000 and 2001 by the donor community had been disbursed.  The Council should reinforce the Secretary-General’s appeal for donor countries to accelerate disbursement.


Prospects for convening the conference of the Great Lakes had significantly improved, he continued.  He was confident that the current dialogue would develop into a pact around the four main thematic areas of the conference:  peace and security; democracy and good governance; economic development and regional integration; and humanitarian and social issues.  Broadening participation beyond the subregional framework, without affecting the decision body, would certainly enhance the impact of the conference worldwide.


HERALDO MUNOZ (Chile) noted that the mission had been the fourth such mission since the Council had resumed its practice of sending field missions.  There had been some encouraging signs of progress.  He welcomed the progress in establishment of the transitional Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Striking advances in the establishment of good neighbourliness had also been made.  In spite of progress at the national level, the situation in the Ituri and Kivu region was still characterized by violence and human rights abuses.  The recent assassination of a MONUC observer was a reminder that violence still prevailed in the north-eastern part of the country.  He condemned such acts perpetrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular against the civilian population.  Such acts must be punished and the perpetrators held responsible.  He supported the conclusions of the report on the need for the transitional Government to establish clear priorities.  The reform of the security sector, the consolidation of the rule of law, respect for human rights and preparations for future elections were priority objectives.


The situation in Burundi had also seen important progress, he continued.  The challenges in Burundi’s transition continued to require the full support of the international community.  The appeal to donor countries to meet their pledges at the Paris and Geneva conferences must be emphasized.  The signs of peace that were appearing on the horizon could recede into the distance if there was not an improvement in the conditions of the people.


Regarding the holding of an international conference, he was pleased to note the progress made in the last six months in the design and development of a process toward dialogue among the core countries of the process.  The beginning of the preparatory process had increased the activities of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, an office that did not have the resources to confront the tasks that lied ahead.  The Council must analyse the mandates of the different United Nations offices in the light of the new scenario before it.


A firm and lasting peace in the region was an imperative, he said.  An African continent with economic stability would be an important contribution of the United Nations system.  Chile had supported initiatives to meet the interests of the African continent, including by providing troops.  He promoted an integrated approach to AfricaChile believed the Council should consider the possibility of organizing another mission to the region to observe the most pressing needs of the transitional Governments of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


BAYANI S. MERCADO (Philippines) said peace and stability in the Central African subregion had a considerable impact on the entire continent.  The international community should capitalize on the positive momentum and continue to build upon the achievements to date.  The Council mission had provided impetus for progress in Central Africa.  Concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he commended the Congolese, MONUC and the African Union, particularly the “troika”, for the establishment of the transitional Government on 30 June 2003 and subsequent actions that had been undertaken to build the foundations for the country’s security, notably the establishment of an integrated army and police, as well as the formation of the National Committee for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.  Efforts to consolidate the authority of the transitional Government in the entire country, particularly in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo needed to be accelerated.  He also hoped efforts to halt the proliferation of arms and illegal exploitation of natural resources would be intensified.  The elections, set for 2005, would be doable if the international community extended its robust support, particularly to the United Nations.  The historic election would also be an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a positive environment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


On Burundi, he underscored the need for more positive developments to promote a political settlement among the parties concerned, consistent with the Arusha Agreement.  He urged the transitional Government, the Burundians and the United Nations Office in Burundi to persevere in their efforts to further the Burundi peace process.  The general insecurity and human rights abuses needed to be addressed.  He welcomed the European Commission’s announcement of the approval of some $19 million in humanitarian aid for Burundi.


He said the application of the regional approach was never more relevant than in the Great Lakes region.  For years, the idea of an international conference on the Great Lakes region had been put forth with no action, until now.  He was gratified to note from the Secretary-General that the developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi had created new momentum in favour of the conference, which could be held in October this year at the ministerial level and at summit level in the proceeding month.  He commended the Group of Friends for their important role in providing political, diplomatic, technical and financial assistance in support of the preparatory process.  He supported the additional allocation of resources to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region.


MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said since the Council’s mission, a number of positive developments had taken place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.  There had also been an improvement in the relations between the countries in the region.  Welcoming those positive developments, he said much more remained to be done.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo more progress was required in security sector reform and the rule of law.  In Burundi the peace process would not be complete without inclusion of the FNL.


The objective of the international community must remain the consolidation of peace and stability, he said, including through facilitating disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, strengthening the rule of law to end impunity, and promoting national reconstruction.  The situation in the region had illustrated how easy it was for a conflict in one country to pour over into another country.  A regional approach was, therefore, indispensable.  He supported the international conference for the Great Lakes region, but said that conference must lead to tangible results.  At the least, the conference must yield agreement on confidence-building measures.


There were also cross-cutting issues, which could not be addressed in a national or regional framework alone, including the issue of poverty.  The international community must continue to assist the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi and other countries in the region to promote sustainable development.  Greed had perpetuated the conflicts, including the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  Extension of State authority and institutional reform were indispensable in that regard.  The United Nations needed to act with coordination and synergy in the region, including cooperation between General Assembly, Council and ECOSOC.  Non-governmental organizations and the international financial institutions were needed in bolstering the efforts.


INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, progress made in the peace process was encouraging, but it was essential that the transitional authorities made progress in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; restructuring of the armed forces; and reform of the judiciary with the aim of holding democratic elections next year.  In Burundi, the time had come to apply without delay the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, restructure the armed forces, and to establish a commission for truth and reconciliation.


As far as the conference of the Great Lakes region was concerned, he said decisions had been taken on participation in the conference and the timetable and objectives of the conference had been clarified.  He encouraged establishing national preparatory committees for the conference.  The conference, together with improved bilateral relations, were positive developments that promoted confidence building and consolidated the prospects for peace, he concluded.


ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) welcomed efforts to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo transition authorities speed up the establishment of an integrated, unified army and a national police force.  He was concerned, however, about a lack of clarity in drawing up a national plan to achieve the two-fold objective.  He was also concerned at the delay in completing the work on the legislative mechanism, which was necessary for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission.  Regarding Ituri and Kivu, he welcomed the redeployment of MONUC to the triangle.  The results achieved in a relatively short period were impressive.  Tightening the arms embargo would help pacify that part of the country.  He supported the three-tiered mechanism to monitor the embargo.


In Burundi there were new prospects for the return of peace, he said.  The African mission had done much to stabilize the situation in the country.  While important progress had been made, many challenges remained.  It was high time that the United Nations played a role in Burundi, in the form of a peacekeeping mission.  The example of MONUC in peace-building encouraged him to call for an increased international presence in Burundi, where the return to peace remained fragile.  He welcomed the holding of the forum of the development partners and hoped that donor countries would accelerate the release of funds to restore and strengthen peace in the country.


He welcomed the adoption of the declaration on the principles of good neighbourliness.  Regional efforts should be made in the region and the plan to organize an international conference would provide a unique context for finding solutions to the problems in the region.  He was pleased at progress towards holding a conference in November.  He encouraged countries of the region to give that conference the best chance for success.  He also welcomed progress made at the meeting of the core countries.  The four themes of the conference were of equal importance and should be dealt with in an equal and priority manner.  He welcomed the establishment of the Group of Friends and supported the Secretary-General’s request to increase resources for the Office.


EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) expressed sympathy at the killing last week of a Kenyan observer.  The mission had been carried out at a critical time.  He congratulated MONUC on its work.  The attack last week took place during a mission to stop the harassment of the civilian population.  He agreed that there was a strong case for MONUC to take a more robust posture with regard to the militia.  The transition process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including political and economic reunification, were huge challenges requiring a real national government.  The United Kingdom would step up its engagement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo as long as the transition remained on track.  The international committee to accompany the transition was an important tool on the ground.  The violence in the eastern part of the country must also be halted.  The arms embargo could not put a perfect seal on the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it could have a real deterrent effect.  He hoped to reach early agreement on an arms monitoring mechanism.


On Burundi, he said the African mission was doing a good job under difficult conditions and financial constraints.  The United Kingdom had made and would continue to make substantial sums available in that regard.  It was also open to the idea that the force be replaced by a United Nations force.


Concerning the issue of impunity, he remained concerned at continuing human rights abuses in Burundi.  Progress in the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission had been too slow.  He hoped the law to establish that commission would soon be adopted.  It was important that impunity and post-conflict justice be addressed at an early stage.


ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said he agreed with the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s report.  The overall situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained stable.  Positive trends were emerging in areas of peace and reconciliation, extension of State authority and preparations for elections.  Steps to create a first integrated brigade in Kisangani marked the beginning of a united armed force.  The security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had improved and steps were being taken to end impunity.  All parties must remain fully committed to their obligations and forces resisting peace must not be allowed to influence the process.


Progress had also been made in Burundi, he said.  However, an end to violence must be achieved in the provinces.  The African mission in Burundi deserved appreciation.  He hoped the transitional period would end on time.  The improvement of inter-State relations was an encouraging sign for the preparations for the international conference of the Great Lakes region.


JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States) said, in general, he endorsed the conclusions of the report.  Although deeply saddened by the death of a MONUC member while carrying out his duty, he noted that, despite continued insecurity in parts of the region, there was hope.  The MONUC had been given a more robust mandate and the Council remained united in its determination to stop the flow of illicit arms into the country.  Adoption of resolution 1493 (2003) allowed the United Nations to build on the impressive work carried out by the French-led intervention in Bunia.  However, many tasks remained to be carried out before the 2005 elections.


The Great Lakes conference was a forum to solidify and improve regional relations, but Member States should not wait for the conference to establish stronger ties, he said.  He hoped the Friends of the conference would direct sufficient resources to the Office of the Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region to carry out his responsibilities regarding the conference.


He welcomed the fact that the FDD had joined the ceasefire in Burundi, and urged FNL to join.  The African mission was indispensable to the success of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and the overall peace process, but continued to face a funding shortfall.  He said that mission was an excellent example of an African solution to an African problem, and the international community should, therefore, do everything possible to support that effort.


MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) took note of the overall progress in the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The top priority for the success of the transition was the need to strengthen the capacity of the Government of National Unity, as well as the extension of its authority.  The Government would be required to speed up the drafting of legislative texts essential for the peace process.  The Council should continue to support the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular efforts to end arms trafficking.  He also noted that the report did not go into detail on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


He welcomed the improved prospects for peace in Burundi.  He encouraged the parties to continue their discussions to consolidate the peace process.  There was a real chance for a return to normalcy and the Burundians and the international community needed to take advantage of that favourable progress.  The ceasefire must be fully implemented and the political process should lead to improved living conditions for the people of Burundi.  The meaningful support of the international community would be essential for ensuring that the peace established remained irreversible.


An international conference was timely and Romania supported the organization of such a conference, he said.  He was encouraged by national and regional steps to prepare for the conference and he welcomed the fact that a preparatory meeting had been held.  He stressed the need for regional coordination to implement confidence-building measures -- both political and economical -– which were vital for the development of the entire Great Lakes region.


GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said the Democratic Republic of the Congo was making great strides towards political stability.  Still, there were many obstacles to overcome.  One decisive element of peacekeeping in eastern Congo was the weapons embargo, which must be strengthened.  The peace process in Burundi seemed to be on the right course, with the opening of a dialogue between the Government and the Palipehutu-FNL.  In due course, the Council would have to decide on the question of an enlarged United Nations role in the peace process.  The initiative for a Great Lakes region conference was finally taking shape, he said.  The shift in dates would allow for careful and thorough preparation of the substance, format and structure of that important process.


Despite those encouraging developments, political and economic stabilization of the Central African subregion remained vulnerable and was not yet irreversible, he said.  The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants was a cross-cutting issue, as was the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the illegal flow of arms to belligerents.  All of those challenges could only be met through joint efforts by the countries in the region and the international community as a whole.  Strong regional involvement would remain a decisive factor.  That meant strengthening existing subregional mechanisms, supporting promising developments within the African Union, and furthering cooperation between mechanisms, as well as cooperation with the United Nations, the international financial institutions and other stakeholders.  Further cooperation between the Council and the ECOSOC would also be of benefit.


WANG GUANGYA (China) said he was pleased to note that the overall situation in the region had witnessed encouraging changes.  The security environment in the east had been enhanced in varying degrees and the Burundi peace process continued to make process.  The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme in Burundi had fully begun.  The visit by the council mission and its recommendations were useful for moving the situation forward.  The peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi continued to face much instability, however.  National reconciliation awaited further consolidation and the economies in both countries remained precarious.  The international community should continue to follow the situation in both countries and encourage them to achieve economic reconstruction.  China would support the United Nations in providing assistance to facilitate the settlement of the process.


Under the current circumstances, the convening of an international conference was significant for achieving peace in the region, he added.  He looked forward to the holding of the conference and to its good results.  He endorsed the increase in resources for the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.


LEONIDAS NKINGIYE (Burundi) said that, thanks to the efforts of the States and people of Central Africa, the tension among the nations and the destructive war were beginning to be overcome.  Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi, although still fragile, was no longer an impossible objective.  New institutions had been installed in both countries, and a transitional period was under way.


Regarding remaining challenges, he said a great deal of progress had been made in that the principle rebel movement had signed a ceasefire agreement.  All that remained was the cantonment of its combatants and the beginning of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration arrangements.  The other movements were gathering their combatants, which were returning from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  There was hope in bringing the remaining movement into the process.  The African mission had done remarkable work under difficult conditions.  It had been deployed to, among other things, create an environment for the deployment of a United Nations mission.  The time had come to meet that request.  He was not asking for the impossible, only that the Council give to Burundi what it gave to other countries.  The sending of a fact-finding mission this weekend was a first step.  The Government was grateful to the Secretary-General and the Council for that decision.  If such a mission were not sent in the coming weeks, the situation could rapidly deteriorate from both a political and security standpoint.


Today, rebel movements were moving in the country and were bearing arms, he added.  They were becoming a parallel administrative and police force.  A single spark could reignite the fire at any time.  A country still traumatized by war required an international presence.  Such a mission was needed to conduct a disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation operation and to improve the atmosphere for the two commissions, provided for under the peace agreement.  A United Nations peacekeeping mission was urgently needed for the success of the peace process.  The mission would stabilize the Great Lakes region.


Continuing, he said the establishment of a truth and reconciliation Commission alone was not enough.  He was pleased that the Council had asked the Secretary-General to deploy a fact-finding mission on the establishment of the independent commission on the judiciary.  In that way, reconciliation would be genuine.  He thanked the United Nations for mobilizing the international community and welcomed cooperation between ECOSOC and the Council.  Regarding the international conference on the Great Lakes, he hoped the preparatory process would be soon completed.  He asked the Friends of the Great Lakes region to provide the means so that preparatory work could be carried out.


Mr. KONUZIN (Russian Federation), noting that Burundi had adopted a law granting immunity for political crimes, asked what those crimes constituted.  He also asked if the Government intended to consider the crimes at a later stage, and if the Burundi experience could be useful for other situations.


Mr. NKINGIYE (Burundi) said that the law had been only political in nature.  Crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity were not covered by the law.  International courts, once established, would have every chance to conduct investigations into suspicious cases and immunity could be withdrawn.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that the mission to Central Africa, in which his country had participated, was proof of the importance of such missions, as many of its recommendations had been implemented.  He welcomed the appointments of members of the transitional Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the establishment of national army and police force.  However, there was still a long way to go regarding reform of the security sector and establishing State authority in all parts of the country.  Laws must be strengthened to put an end to impunity.  Efforts to strengthen good-neighbourly relations must continue and the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement programme must be strengthened.  The illegal exploitation of natural resources must come to an end.


As the important African mission in Burundi must be completed, he supported the appeal to donors to provide generously to that mission.  The Government of Burundi had taken some effective steps in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, but priority should be given to disarming child soldiers.  The country sorely needed financial support and funds promised by donors, therefore, needed to be disbursed.  The international conference on the Great Lakes region would provide a historic opportunity to bring about reconciliation and integration.


PHILOMENA MURNAGHAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that although Central Africa had the potential to be one of the richest subregions in Africa, its potential had not been realized.  Tackling shared problems demanded a regional approach.  The success of the Great Lakes conference would depend primarily on the common political will of the countries involved in achieving shared objectives.  She welcomed the progress made in the preparatory process.  The conference would be all the more successful if an agreed time frame for clear and realistic goals, based on concrete operational agreements or projects, could be defined early on.  It was important that all the national preparatory committees take immediate steps to enable the agreed timetable for the holding of the conference proceed on schedule.  As preparations continued, the Union stood ready to engage as a committed partner to the countries of the region.


In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said the Union was encouraged by the significant improvements achieved, including the improved security situation, signs of national reunification, and progress in security sector reform.  The Union commended the transitional Government in its implementation of the Sun City and Pretoria agreements.  The situation remained fragile, however, and the Union urged President Kabilia to continue to work to put in place the legislative framework and establish the national institutions required for the holding of free and transparent elections, the formation of restructured and integrated military and police forces and for the implementation of a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.


The Union was committed to underpinning peace, security and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said.  Operation Artemis and the Union’s support for the Integrated Police Unit were clear demonstrations of that commitment.  The Union stood ready to support concrete initiatives for the rebuilding of a stable Congolese State able to guarantee the safety of the Congolese people, national reconciliation and regional stability.


The Union was greatly encouraged by recent progress in Burundi, she continued.  A significant milestone had passed with the convening of talks between President Ndayizeye and a delegation from the National Liberation Forces.  The Union hoped that the proposed follow-up meeting between President Ndayizeye and the FNL took place at the earliest opportunity.  The Union called for the cessation of all hostilities in Burundi and for the conclusion of an agreement for the inclusion of the FNL in Burundian State institutions.  The Union commended the African Union for establishing the African Mission in Burundi, the first force of its kind in the history of the African Union.  The wind of peace was blowing across the African continent.  Africa and its people deserved the Council’s full support in their quest for peace, democracy and sustainable development.


KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said the situation in the region remained tense and unstable, thus requiring the continued involvement of the international community.  As the conflicts in the region involved neighbouring countries, a resolution from a regional perspective was necessary.  The Great Lakes region was a priority subregion, in which efforts for the consolidation of peace and the promotion of human security were required.  Regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he expressed deep sorrow over the killing of a Kenyan military observer in the Ituri region.  That demonstrated that, despite the progress made since the establishment of the transitional Government, the situation in the eastern part of the country remained precarious.  Japan fully supported the focused redeployment of MONUC troops to the eastern areas.  To further strengthen the peace process, reform of the security sector was of vital importance.  Regarding measures to enhance the arms embargo imposed in the eastern part of the country, he stressed that any measures introduced by the Council must be based on a careful study of their cost-effectiveness.


Concerning Burundi, he welcomed the meeting that took place between the representatives of the FNL and President Ndayizeye and their agreement to continue talks.  Although the situation remained fragile and the outcome difficult to predict, he hoped the talks would eventually lead to a lasting peace.  Japan was very much encouraged to note that African initiatives for conflict resolution and consolidation were also under way.  Conflicts in Africa could be more effectively addressed by African countries themselves.  The success of the activities of the African Union would be decisively important for conflict resolution in Africa in the future.


To promote the post-conflict peace process in Burundi, Japan intended to support Burundi in cooperation with other countries, the United Nations and other international organizations.  It would consider extending assistance for improving human security for the people, promoting disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and implementing elections in accordance with specific requests by the Government, once relevant programmes were finalized.  Japan welcomed the fact that the United Nations was providing major donors the opportunity to send concurrent missions to conduct assessments alongside the United Nations mission and hoped it would become a precedent for the future.  Japan would also like to see Burundi, in its transition process from post-conflict to reconstruction, become a model for the promotion of human security in Africa.


AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that despite positive developments in Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, the challenges facing attempts to restore peace to the region were still extremely serious.  The post-conflict phase required cooperation between the parties concerned, subregional organizations, the United Nations and international donors on the basis of integrated responsibilities in the political, economic and social areas.  There was also a need for a more comprehensive consideration in the region of cross-cutting issues, such as refugees, repatriation of ex-combatants and development.  He, therefore, looked forward to the conference of the Great Lakes region under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union.  He expressed appreciation that seven core countries had invited Egypt to participate as an observer.


The Central African region, in particular Burundi, was witnessing the growing role of the African Union.  However, the African Mission in Burundi, the first peacekeeping mission of the Union, faced financial difficulties.  He called on the United Nations and donor the community to provide all necessary assistance to the Mission.


Challenges facing the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo included illegal exploitation of natural resources and how to direct resources gained from natural resources towards reconstruction.  Rehabilitation and reform of the security sector was another challenge.  He urged the Council to take steps in order to deal with the linkage that existed between the illegal exploitation and the flow of arms to factions in the country.


STANISLAS KAMANZI (Rwanda) said since the establishment of transitional institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year, his Government had begun the process of normalizing relations with that country, including with high-level visits.  His Government was greatly concerned by the continued lawlessness and violence in the Ituri province.


He said the continued presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of armed ex-FAR/Interahamwe militia would be a threat to the security of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the entire region until they were effectively disarmed and demobilized.  Although about 100 commanders and men of ex-FAR had voluntarily repatriated to Rwanda last year, he was concerned by reports that hundreds of other would-be returnees were being prevented from doing so by extremist elements among them.  He appealed to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide maximum cooperation to ensure that those who wanted to return to Rwanda could do so, and those who chose to remain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo did not present a security threat to Rwanda.


Regarding the Great Lakes conference, he said preparations for that conference were already under way at the national level in Rwanda.


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