|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6104th Meeting (AM)
BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE DETAILS CONTINUING DIFFICULTIES
IN ESTABLISHING STATE AUTHORITY IN EASTERN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Reprisal Killings by Armed Groups Offset Successes
In Civilian-Protection Efforts by UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo
Following on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, told the Security Council today that considerable difficulties remained in establishing State authority in the eastern part of the national territory.
Only a profound reform of the security sector would eventually enable the Congolese Government to deal by its own means with security threats and challenges to State authority, he stressed during a briefing to the Council in which he described recent developments in North and South Kivu Provinces as presenting major opportunities as well as risks. That was a long-term process in which the Government itself had to assume the lead role, but for which several international partners should be collectively engaged.
He pointed out, however, that the situation in North Kivu had undergone a “sea change” since mid-January, when the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance (PARECO) -- followed by other Congolese armed groups -- had declared their readiness to integrate immediately into the Congolese army. That remarkable turnaround had been made possible by the rapprochement between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Commending the “courageous decision” by the two Governments to overcome their previous distrust and focus on common interests of the future, he said that decision, in addition to the reversal of CNDP’s position and the abrupt change in its leadership, had opened entirely new perspectives for the Congolese peace process. As with all such cases, however, those dramatic changes had also brought new challenges which must be carefully managed.
Mr. Doss, who also heads MONUC, expressed hope that the strengthening of the security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo would help lead to a reduction of the Mission’s presence in the country and pave the way for its eventual departure. Meanwhile, the Council’s approval of a temporary surge capacity for MONUC was appreciated given that the current situation underlined the importance of additional resources. Several countries had confirmed their intention to provide additional troops and police personnel, but other critically important capacities were “not yet in sight”.
Without an additional 18 helicopters for rapid deployment and reaction, the Mission’s capacity to respond quickly to emerging threats and protect civilians would be curtailed, he warned, adding that its support to the newly-integrated Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) would also be seriously constrained. MONUC was doing its best to focus its efforts and resources in accordance with its mandate, and had already deployed more than 90 per cent of its troops to the east. It had also thinned out considerably its civilian presence in many western provinces, but the handover of tasks envisioned in resolution 1856 (2008) was hampered by the concentration of United Nations agencies in the eastern part of the vast country.
Those agencies were largely absent from the Kasai provinces, Equateur, Bandundu and Bas-Congo, he said, emphasizing that an effective handover, as recommended by the Technical Assessment Mission, required a preliminary rebalancing of the United Nations presence and resources. MONUC was preparing a work plan with specific benchmarks to guide the transfer of functions and the drawdown of its presence.
Reflecting on the past two years as the Mission prepared to celebrate its tenth anniversary, he noted that it had concentrated on resolving the crisis in the Kivus and protecting civilians. “The expectations of MONUC matched the country in which we are deployed –- enormous and complex.” Through it all, the Mission had had to face unexpected challenges. Its police, military and civilian personnel had often sought new strategies that went beyond traditional peacekeeping approaches and responsibilities. Mobile operational bases and joint protection teams were new concepts developed within MONUC, and their perseverance and creativity in difficult and dangerous situations deserved tribute.
He said important progress had been made in operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), but alongside those and other gains were new challenges, the first of which was integrating the Congolese armed groups into FARDC. So-called fast-track integration had initially been a political gesture that was only now being followed up with practical implementation. Most elements of CNDP and other armed groups had been registered, but the payment of salaries had been delayed and the provision of food and ammunition for units engaged in anti-FDLR operations had lagged. As a result, some elements of the newly-integrated FARDC had reverted to looting or illegal taxation. The Congolese military had started addressing those issues, with the assistance of MONUC and other international partners.
The Government must move quickly to cover the immediate needs arising from the fast-track integration and manage the transition towards long-term army reform, he emphasized. Secure areas must be demilitarized by properly garrisoning contingents not involved in the joint operations or in patrolling, and by deploying police to maintain law and order. MONUC had trained the local police forces and was coordinating international assistance to facilitate the restoration of State authority and the provisional garrisoning of FARDC, which should start in the coming weeks.
He noted that FARDC and MONUC had launched Operation Kimia II, the next phase of operations against FDLR, the first objective of which was to prevent the armed group from reoccupying areas from which they had been pushed by the joint operations between FARDC and the Rwandan Patriotic Front. FDLR had carried out a spate of reprisal attacks against civilians along the border between Masisi and Walikale territories, but MONUC had reinforced its presence there and continued to help FARDC flush out several pockets of FDLR in North Kivu, before starting operations in South Kivu. The next phase of Operation Kimia II would be particularly challenging.
Besides resolving the crisis in the Kivus, the Council had instructed MONUC to pursue the protection of civilians as the first priority, he recalled. The demands were changing and the main challenges were now preventing FDLR reprisal attacks and reining in undisciplined elements of the Congolese security forces. Police and army reform must introduce a vetting system to progressively remove known human rights offenders and ensure that they faced justice. MONUC was adapting its policies and practices to enhance its civilian-protection work by developing guidelines for military units on how to tackle the challenges of protection.
Everyone should be aware, however, that the continuing joint operations against armed groups might lead to further attacks against civilians and new displacements, he cautioned. The Council must bear in mind that it was impossible to end FDLR control over large parts of both Kivu provinces without any humanitarian consequences. Protecting civilians had been integrated into the planning of MONUC’S joint operations with FARDC, and the Mission would do its utmost to minimize their negative effects on civilians.
Armed groups could not be allowed to perpetuate their violent activities, which were accompanied by extortion, illegal taxation and an appalling level of violence against women and children, he said, noting that a significant success of the accelerated integration of Congolese armed groups into FARDC had been MONUC’s separation of almost 1,100 children associated with armed groups. The groups also remained a cause of concern for neighbouring States and a risk to subregional stability.
Turning to the situation in Orientale Province, he said the Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) gruesome reprisal attacks in the wake of the joint operation by FARDC, the Uganda People Defence Force (UPDF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) could not be condemned too strongly. LRA had dispersed into small groups, sowing terror and taking revenge by looting, raping, maiming, abducting and killing civilians in a vast area stretching from northern Ituri to eastern Central African Republic. Most of those attacks had occurred between Christmas 2008 and mid-January 2009. Altogether, about 1,100 civilians had been killed, hundreds had been abducted and 200,000 had been displaced. The number of attacks had dropped significantly in recent weeks, but there were indications that LRA might be regrouping, and a new wave of attacks in the future could not be ruled out.
Describing civilian protection in such a huge and inaccessible area as a major challenge, he said FARDC had progressively reinforced its presence, with MONUC providing logistical and material assistance in the context of Operation Rudia II. The Mission was also establishing four operational bases in some of the most vulnerable areas of Haut Uele. However, improving the protection of civilians would depend mainly on the deployment of FARDC troops with the necessary mobility and fire support. Furthermore, it was essential to ensure close and smooth cooperation not only between FARDC and MONUC, also between SPLA and UPDF.
The adoption by the Congolese Government and United Nations agencies of a comprehensive strategy to combat sexual violence had been another encouraging development in MONUC’s efforts to protect civilians, he said. Towards bolstering the peace process in the Kivus with a tangible peace dividend, the United Nations Security and Stabilization Support Strategy aimed to consolidate the improving security situation there by rapidly rehabilitating basic infrastructure and facilitating the return of law-enforcement authorities. The extension of State authority and basic services must go hand-in-hand with labour-intensive employment programmes to absorb former combatants. The armed groups of North and South Kivu had declared a total of 47,000 combatants, but, while there were doubts about the reliability of that figure, it indicated how many unemployed youths were associating with armed groups for want of a better occupation.
He said the 23 March signing of a peace accord between the Government and CNDP had laid the foundations for settling critical issues, including the incorporation cohabitation of CNDP’s parallel administrative structures into the provincial and national security services. On the illegal exploitation of natural resources, improving the conduct and effectiveness of the security forces would be essential in curbing such activities, which had deprived the legitimate national authorities of revenue and had fuelled local conflict, especially in the east. The decades-long organized plunder of Congolese riches had created complex regional networks involving armed groups, corrupt officials and irresponsible local and foreign traders. Dismantling those networks was an “uphill battle” in which MONUC was working with the Interior Ministry and provincial authorities to improve control mechanisms, including spot-checks at major transit points in the Kivus and elsewhere, and curb illegal exports.
Regarding preparations for local elections, the last component of the electoral cycle, he said they were still “unfinished business” from the transition, but, after repeated delays in the legislative and administrative preparations, the main elements were now in place. MONUC was supporting the Electoral Commission in launching the voter registration update in early June. The announcement of a polling date was expected as the update proceeded, and the Mission’s assistance would be required in all provinces.
He concluded by stating that, due to the impact of the ongoing global economic downturn, declining demand and plummeting prices for key minerals and crude oil had forced the Government to review its 2009 budget downwards. Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito had mentioned that the Government had suffered a 70 per cent decline in revenues in the past year, accompanied by a critical shortage of foreign reserves and a dramatic devaluation of the Congolese currency. Those developments had imposed additional hardships on an already impoverished population. “The DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] requires rapid international assistance, but the Government must take more decisive action to tackle corruption and improve the management of public resources in order to sustain donor support and financial aid.”
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:40 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record