6 July 2006
Security Council
SC/8770

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5482nd Meeting (AM)


Successful Democratic Republic of Congo elections will mark beginning, not end,


of long process of recovery, Security Council told

 


As the transitional process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo entered its final phase and the country prepared for landmark presidential and parliamentary elections -- the first in 45 years -- it was the international community’s responsibility to help it meet a new rendezvous with history and begin the country’s recovery, Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France told the Security Council today.


Introducing the report of the Council’s mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which took place from 10 to 12 June, Mr. de La Sablière, the head of the mission and the Council’s President for July, said the elections, scheduled for 30 July, would not be an end in itself.  The post-election period would also be important.  Much work remained to be done and the situation was far from stable.  During the mission –- the Council’s seventh to the country -- there had been warnings that the political climate was deteriorating and that the media was spreading dangerous messages.  Based on its former experience, the mission had stressed the danger of such media messages in its report, including recommendations in that regard.


The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo agreed that the elections would not be an end in itself.  Members of the mission had witnessed the population’s profound desire to have elections for the first time in 45 years.  They had also understood that an unequivocal consensus was developing to conclude the peace process as soon as possible.  President Kabila Kabanga had repeated his commitment to do everything possible to guarantee the smooth functioning of the “crucial and sensitive” elections that constituted the path to normalization.  The Congolese people had clearly expressed their wish to see an end to the transition through establishment of leaders of their choice.  That wish should be respected.


Calling on the international community to support the Democratic Republic of the Congo during and after the elections, the representative of the Congo also noted that the elections would not solve all of the problems facing the country.  The United Nations must ensure a successful fruition of its partnership with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  With the country celebrating the forty-sixth anniversary of its independence only some six days ago, the world remembered that the United Nations first intervention had not been successful.  The time had now come for everyone to ensure a successful outcome.  On the eve of an historic event, it was necessary to clarify the rules of the game and reach agreement on future steps to ensure an end to the process.


Having invested so heavily in the peace process, the Council also needed to remain engaged in the post-election period, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said.  While the challenges were enormous, they were not impossible.  It was crucial that the international community support the country’s people and Government in the post-election phase, so that the Democratic Republic of the Congo could become a strategic player in the region.  With United Nations assistance, the Democratic Republic of the Congo could be turned into an economic giant, not only of the region, but also of Africa.


With political campaigning having officially commenced on 30 June, Finland’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, urged all political forces to hold a responsible debate.  All possible measures must be taken to ensure respect for freedom of expression, including through fair access to the media.  It was also crucial that the media displayed a responsible attitude.  The Union condemned all appeals to hatred and xenophobia -– negative messages in the pre-election campaign on the subject of “Congoleseness” must not be repeated in the election campaign.  Successful elections, however, marked only the beginning of the long and arduous process of recovery in the country.  Nobody should be fooled into believing that the inauguration of a new President and the swearing-in of the members of Parliament would be the end of the process.  Strong, continued support by the international community would be necessary long after the elections.


Belgium’s representative added that restrictions on the freedom of the press should be rejected, intimidation of candidates prohibited, and hateful discourse condemned.  In that regard, he welcomed the establishment of a “Comité des Sages” in order to lower tensions following the elections.  The message must be simple, namely that after free and transparent elections, those individuals who could show they had the full support of the people should take up their responsibilities in a democratic Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The country should be supported by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) for as along as necessary to help the country in establishing its authority in all territories, particularly in the east.


The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and adjourned at 11 a.m.


Background


The Security Council met this morning to consider the Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 10 to 12 June, led by Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière ( France).  Mr. de La Sablière briefed the Council on that mission on 16 June (see Press Release SC/8754).  Now, the Council has before it the report of the Security Council mission on the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document S/2006/434).


Introduction of Report


Speaking as head of the mission, Council President JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France), introducing the report, expressed thanks to the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their welcome.  The mission had stayed in Kinshasa from 10 to 12 June.


He said the mission had held two meetings in Kinshasa and had agreed that conditions had been met for the upcoming elections.  Those elections should be carried out effectively and on time, on 30 July.  During the mission there had been warnings that the political climate was deteriorating and that the media was spreading dangerous messages in that regard.  Based on experience from former missions, the Council mission had stressed the danger of such media messages in its report, including recommendations.


He said the mission had also stressed the importance of carrying out the campaign as peacefully as possible.  The elections would not be an end in itself.  The period to follow was also important.  There was a need for all political actors to have a non-exclusive approach.  Much work remained to be done and the situation was far from stable.  The report contained recommendations relating to continuing reform in the security sector, which was essential in order to deal with armed groups in the east.  The report also contained recommendations regarding the necessary improvement in governance so that the country, after so many years of war and transition, could finally benefit from its wealth.


Statements


BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) thanked Ambassador de La Sablière for the excellent report issued following the visit.  Everything the Ambassador had said perfectly reflected the numerous contacts held in Kinshasa on 11 and 12 June.  Two main messages had been conveyed to the political protagonists and to civil society in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He thanked all interlocutors in the country.  It was high time to organize free, transparent, democratic and credible elections for the sake of peace.  It was also time to turn back hatred and divisive language.  Concern had been expressed regarding the tone adopted by the media.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo should take steps to calm tensions before proceeding to elections.  That calm had to be restored both for the electoral period and beyond.


He also called on the international community to support the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the process without any interference, as the electorate should elect the country’s future leaders.  The elections were a crucial step, but a great deal remained to be done.  The elections would not resolve all of the problems facing the country.  It was important to bear in mind the need to preserve the potential for ongoing cooperation with the international community, which must remain engaged.  The United Nations must ensure a successful fruition of its partnership with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Some six days ago, the country had celebrated the forty-sixth anniversary of its independence.  At independence, difficulties had arisen and the United Nations had first intervened.  That first intervention had not been successful.  The time had now come for everyone to ensure a successful outcome.


The Security Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been very welcome, he said.  It was the ideal moment, on the eve of an important event, to clarify the rules of the game and reach agreement on future steps to ensure an end to the process.


TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) joined in expressing gratitude for the Security Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The mission had been vital and timely.  It had not only clearly demonstrated the Council’s commitment to the country as it marched towards the holding of the first elections in 45 years, but had also provided an opportunity to learn first-hand the status of preparations for the elections.  In that regard, he stressed the need for the elections to be held as planned and for all registered voters to exercise their democratic right to choose their leaders.  He appealed to the people and the leaders of the parties to accept the outcome of the elections, once established as free and fair, and to support the democratic process.  Having invested so heavily in the peace process, the Council needed to remain engaged in the post-election period to ensure that democratic gains were consolidated.  The country should continue to benefit from the Organization’s presence as it instituted necessary reforms in the country.  While the challenges were enormous, they were not impossible.


Within the region, he said it was crucial to enhance efforts to support the people and Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in their post-election phase, so that the country could find its rightful role and become a strategic player in the region.  He looked for the holding of the second Great Lakes Conference at an early date to chart the way forward in the field of regional cooperation.  Tanzania would strengthen its policy of good neighbourliness with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Concerted effort to alleviate abject poverty was needed.  Too often he had heard that a country’s natural resources could often be a curse.  The reverse was also possible.  With the assistance of the United Nations and the international community, the Democratic Republic of the Congo could be turned into an economic giant of the region and the continent.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo had to now rise up to meet the aspirations of its people for peace and democracy.


ILEKA ATOKI ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the transition process was now entering its last phase.  The participants in the Council mission had witnessed the population’s profound desire to have elections for the first time in some 40 years.  Members of the mission had understood that an unequivocal consensus was developing to conclude the peace process as soon as possible.  Council members, in the “excellent” report, had developed a series of relevant recommendations.


He said Kabila Kabanga, the country’s President, had repeated his commitment to do everything possible to guarantee the smooth functioning of the “crucial and sensitive” elections that constituted the path to normalization.  Nothing should delay the elections.  The President urged the political actors to accept the verdict of the ballots.


Paying tribute to the Independent Electoral Commission regarding the organization of the elections, and reaffirming the importance of the fair use of media, he said it was at the same time important to expunge messages of hatred.   The Haute Autorité de Medias was engaged in an awareness campaign on the elections.  Measures had also been taken to allow the international press to cover the entire election.  The Congolese people had clearly expressed their wish to see an end to the transition through establishment of leaders of their choice.  That wish should be respected.


He said the security situation in general, and in the eastern part in particular, remained disturbing.  He was pleased that the Council and the European Union had agreed to substantially increase their presence in order to increase security during elections.  At the same time, efforts must continue to achieve national reconciliation.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo would do everything possible in order to guarantee that the elections would be carried out in a calm climate.  The support of the international community would be essential in that regard.


He stressed that elections were not an end in itself.  The country requested additional assistance in reconstruction, as well as in disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation.  The support of the international community was also necessary for national reconciliation, recovery and reconstruction.  Peace and security were important for the whole Great Lakes region.  He also stressed the importance of an end to impunity and prosecution of those who had violated human rights.  Expressing his country’s gratitude to the Secretary-General and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), he also thanked the Council for regularly sending missions.  Each visit had led to significant progress in the peace process.


KIRSTI LINTONEN ( Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Democratic Republic of the Congo was at a critical juncture in its history.  The holding of the first free elections in 45 years represented a milestone, marking the end of the transition period.  The elections must fulfil the earnest desire of the Congolese people to select their representatives at different levels of democratic institutions in free, fair and transparent elections.  The Union fully supported the electoral calendar set by the Independent Electoral Commission for the presidential and legislative elections.  She urged all political forces in the country to engage in the electoral campaign in a spirit of peace and reconciliation and to hold a responsible debate.  All possible measures must be taken to ensure respect for freedom of expression, including through fair access to the media.  It was also crucial that the media displayed a responsible attitude.  The Union condemned all appeals to hatred and xenophobia -- negative messages in the pre-election campaign on the subject of “Congoleseness” must not be repeated in the election campaign.


Successful elections required sufficient security, she said.  While that was first and foremost the responsibility of the large Democratic Republic of the Congo police force and the new integrated units of the army, supported by MONUC, to provide security, the Union, upon a request by the United Nations and supported by the Congolese authorities, had decided to deploy a European Union military operation (EUFOR RDC) in support of MONUC.  The Council had authorized that operation by resolution 1671 of 25 April and the European Union Council of Ministers had officially taken the decision to launch the operation on 12 June.  In addition, the police assistance mission EUPOL Kinshasa was being reinforced during the election period to help the Congolese police forces coordinate their activities.  The Union would thus be in a position to make a significant contribution to creating a more secure environment for the elections.  However, it remained the responsibility of the Congolese authorities to ensure protection of all the candidates, preventing attempts of harassment or restrictions in their mobility throughout the Republic.


Successful elections also required sufficient resources, she said.  The Union had to date provide some €250 million -- about $320 million dollars -- or nearly 80 per cent of the overall cost of the elections.  She had full trust in MONUC’s abilities to support the Congolese authorities effectively in the organization of the elections.  Furthermore, to verify the correct conduct of the elections and to create trust in the results of the elections, the Union was deploying a large Election Observation Mission.  The mission would closely liaise with other international observer missions, in particular those from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


Successful elections, however, marked only the beginning of the long and arduous process of recovery in the country, she continued.  Nobody should be fooled into believing that the inauguration of a new President and the swearing-in of the members of Parliament would be the end of the process.  Strong, continued support by the international community would be necessary long after the elections.


Outlining crucial elements for long-term success of common efforts to stabilize the country, she said it was important that all political players accepted the election results.  The Union, therefore, called on all the political parties to respect the verdict of the polls.  The real test for the success of the democratic process would be the way in which the election results were handled and the way in which the majority dealt with the minority.  Security had to be effective in the whole territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Important progress had been achieved in the field of security sector reform, with the process of army integration ongoing.  Since June 2005, the Union had supported defence reform through its mission EUSEC Democratic Republic of the Congo, which provided advice and assistance to the Congolese authorities.  A key project in that framework addressed the chain of payments, aiming at ensuring that the monthly pay reached the soldiers.  Much still needed to be done, however, and the Union was currently drafting a strategy to support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in the post-election phase.


She said the related problem of illegal armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo needed to remain in the centre of attention after the elections.  She welcomed the Council’s increased attention to the regional dimensions of the problem.  The Union stressed the crucial role neighbouring countries could play and underlined the need for strict enforcement of the arms embargo.  In that regard, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2006/310) on a strategy to deal with the problems of armed groups operating in the field.  She also welcomed the firm action taken by the International Criminal Court to combat impunity in the country and hoped that there would soon be progress in apprehending the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, as well.  She also commended MONUC’s role in the disarmament of illegal armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The MONUC had paid a heavy tribute in human lives, and she expected that MONUC would continue to play its fundamental role for security in the country after the elections.


Economic development was key to the long-term success of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said.  The country was rich in natural resources.  If illegal exploitation was halted and those resources were managed transparently, they should provide ample income to bring about a degree of prosperity for the people.  It was important that the international community remain committed to the country beyond the election period and that it was given the opportunity to do so.  The Union was among the country’s main development partners.  In that regard, the Union expected the new President and Government to govern in the interests of all Congolese and to stand ready to engage with the international community in a fair and transparent dialogue on governance.


2006 might well be the most significant year for the Democratic Republic of the Congo since its independence, she concluded.  The successful holding of elections would be the first, decisive step in the construction of a new, brighter future for the people of the country.  It would also greatly contribute to peace and development in the Great Lakes region.  The international community had a responsibility to help the people of the country achieve that goal and to stand by them in support of the authorities emerging from the elections, for a long time after the actual election period.  The Union stood ready to remain a part of any future engagement by the international community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


ALAIN COOLS (Belgium), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, noted that, last Friday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had celebrated its forty-sixth year of independence and had officially launched the electoral campaign.  He expressed appreciation for the work of the United Nations, through the Council, MONUC and its humanitarian and development agencies, stressing that his country had provided support in the form of training and logistics to restore peace.  The electoral process was a major challenge, he said, and it must be ensured that it proceeded smoothly.  Leaders and participants should adhere to a stringent code of conduct.


He said restrictions on the freedom of the press should be rejected, intimidation of candidates prohibited, and hateful discourse condemned.  He welcomed the establishment of a “Comité des Sages” in order to lower tensions following the elections.  The message must be simple, namely that after free and transparent elections, those individuals who could show they had the full support of the people should take up their responsibilities in a democratic Democratic Republic of the Congo.


As for the future of the country after elections, he said the presence of MONUC should be carefully examined.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo should be supported by MONUC for as along as necessary to help the country in establishing its authority in all territories, in particular in the east.  A report of the Secretary-General had also noted the worrisome humanitarian situation and had highlighted the need for peacebuilding mechanisms.  Structural improvement in the management of natural resources could provide a long-term contribution.  He stressed that reform of the army, the police and the judiciary was at the heart of peacebuilding.


Mr. DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France), speaking in his capacity of head of the mission, agreed that the Democratic Republic of the Congo had a new rendezvous with history.  The international community must help the country meet that rendezvous.  It must, therefore, remain partners with the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the elections in order to continue supporting the country’s recovery.


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For information media • not an official record