|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6067th Meeting (AM)
SPECIAL ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL NAIROBI PEACE TALKS AIMED AT DURABLE SOLUTION
TO UNREST IN EASTERN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO BRIEFLY SUSPENDED
Says Forced by Government Intransigence, Rebel Faction Power Struggle;
After Pause, Hopes Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities Declaration Will Follow
Pleading with Security Council members to “use whatever leverage they have” with Congolese parties to bring about a durable solution to the unrest in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations Envoy for the Great Lakes Region today said a power struggle within the main rebel faction and stubbornness on the part of the Government had forced a suspension of the peace talks taking place in Nairobi.
Just back from the Kenyan capital to brief the Council on the state of the Nairobi dialogue, Olusegun Obasanjo, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General said that, while the parties had now re-engaged in discussions towards a joint cessation of hostilities declaration, in just the past 48 hours, reports had surfaced in the subregion of “a web of plans and counter plans, and deals within deals”. That had once again slowed the momentum of the dialogue.
Further, he said that last week a rival commander claimed to have ousted Laurent Nkunda -- a key player in the talks with the Congolese Government -- as leader of the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP), and the internal dynamics of the rebel faction now remained unclear.
“Both sides have, once again, become intransigent, the Government side in particular,” said Mr. Obasanjo, who is the former President of Nigeria, and is co-mediating the talks along with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa. Both leaders are representing the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes. Mr. Obasanjo told the Council that the two leaders had called for a brief suspension in the talks “as we have done in the past when we observed such intransigency.” They were expected to restart in a few days.
The talks between the Democratic Republic of the Congo Government and the CNDP have been taking place since early December and are seeking to bring an end to a conflict which has uprooted an estimated 250,000 people in the region since late August, mainly in North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda. News of the suspension of the dialogue came after a modest breakthrough earlier when the parties agreed on the last of three documents which Mr. Obasanjo said make up the “ground rules”, principally, the rules of the negotiations that would guide the substantive talks to follow.
If, following the suspension, the parties could arrive at a declaration on ending the hostilities, it would mark an important step forward. At the same time, such an agreement would need to be under-girded by an effective and trusted independent monitoring mechanism. He trusted that, when the time came, he could count on the support of the Council membership to help establish, as soon as possible, such a mechanism that would report directly to the mediation team.
He said that officials from the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had expressed willingness, in principle, for the Mission to lend its logistical support to such a mechanism. In the meantime, he had pleaded with both parties, particularly the CNDP, which remained suspicious of MONUC, to accept that the Mission would monitor and verify the unilateral cessation of hostilities agreements that were currently in place.
“The dialogue must then proceed with critical discussion on humanitarian and security issues, to be followed by negotiations on political and economic matters,” Mr. Obasanjo said, emphasizing that, in his view, it was critical to first address humanitarian and security issues so that internally displaced persons could safely return to their homes and secure humanitarian corridors, or buffer zones, could be established. “The long-suffering populations of the Kivus must be able to return safely to their homes before the planting season in September,” he said, adding that it was also critical to begin the disarmament and demobilization processes so ex-combatants could be integrated into the national Army.
Overall, he said that the process was still in its very early stages, but throughout the process the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the wider Great Lakes region and the facilitators would need the continued political and material support of the Security Council, and that of the members’ Governments, to bring about a durable peace. Such support was especially critical given the grinding pace of the negotiations. “I would appeal to the Council to use whatever leverage it may have on the parties to improve matters,” he said, adding that, if the talks remained deadlocked, the Secretary‑General might call on the Council “to consider what other measures may help encourage progress”.
He also reported that he had travelled last week to Kinshasa, Kigali, and Jomba, in North Kivu province, to consult with Congolese President Laurent Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and to meet with Mr. Nkunda. All had strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the Nairobi dialogue. Mr. Obasanjo had been heartened to hear that the relations and interaction between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda had significantly improved, as a result of frequent direct contacts and ministerial-level meetings.
The Presidents of both countries had expressed satisfaction with the progress made in finding common ground on issues of joint concern, particularly the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) issue. In line with the 2007 Nairobi Communiqué, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda had agreed on a military plan to put pressure on the FDLR and both countries seemed encouraged with the political message their enhanced cooperation was sending.
Among the remaining challenges, he cited the CNDP’s insistence that the dialogue remain exclusively between it and the Government. However, more that 20 armed groups had signed the 2008 Goma Acts of Engagement, along with many representatives of the different communities of North and South Kivu. “Their interests must not, and will not, be left out of any comprehensive solution,” he said, vowing to work with the Council and regional leaders to find a way to link those interests and the commitments made under the Goma Agreements to the outcome of the current dialogue.
He went on to say that the long-term presence on Congolese soil of foreign armed groups, the FDLR and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), among them, remained a major factor. “We will seek to find the right combination of measures to resolve this issue, but again, we will need your help in finding it and making it stick,” he added.
Finally, Mr. Obasanjo stressed that, too often, agreements had faltered not only because of a lack of political will, but also because implementation and follow‑up were neglected. He assured the Council that he would leave no stone unturned to help the concerned parties arrive at a comprehensive, realistic and implementable agreement. “But all the agreements and accords in the world will help the people of the eastern DRC not one bit if they are not faithfully implemented,” he said, stressing that engagement of the region, and the African continent as a whole, would be crucial in that regard.
Vowing that the momentum for peace generated so far “cannot, must not and will not be allowed to die”, he said the long-suffering people of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo deserved batter than that. They deserved -- and demanded -- a full and lasting peace. “Africa and the world must help make that peace a reality in the DRC and the whole of the Great Lakes region,” he said.
The briefing began at 10:21 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record