28 May 2009
Security Council
SC/9666

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

Security Council

6131st Meeting (PM)


permanent members, reporting on misson to africa, brief Security Council

 

on visits to African Union headquarters, great lakes, liberia

 


Security Council diplomats today reported to the 15-nation body on their just-concluded eight-day mission to Africa, which included stops in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, where they met with senior African Union officials, as well as Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia.


Reporting on the first leg of the trip, from 14 to 21 May, Ruhakana Rugunda ( Uganda) highlighted meetings with the African Union, which reviewed the situations in the Sudan and Somalia, as well as the financing of peacekeeping operations in Africa and the issue of unconstitutional changes of Government on the continent.  He said the talks had been useful in strengthening cooperation, particularly in the areas of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, among other areas of mutual interest.


John Sawers (United Kingdom), who co-led that leg of the mission, said the two bodies were working together to address the well-known difficulties facing the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), as well as considering ways to strengthen action on the ground in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  Those issues were among the most pressing on the Council’s agenda, he said, adding that both organizations must continue their consultations to see how best to employ their comparative advantages and bolster cooperation in the future.


Turning to the mission’s activities in Rwanda, he said a Council mission had last visited the Great Lakes region in June 2008 during a time of relative calm.  Over the past year, however, conflict had escalated in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, leading to cooperation between the Governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to address the shared problem of armed groups operating in the region.  That decision had helped reshape the regional political landscape.  The just-ended visit had afforded an opportunity for the Council to encourage both Governments to deepen their cooperation.


Jean-Maurice Ripert (France), reporting on the mission’s stops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that from all their meetings in the region, the mission had learned that the situation in the Great Lakes had improved, particularly as a result of the rapprochement between the Congolese and Rwandan Governments.  They had also learned that the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) remained indispensable.  The deployment of 3,000 additional troops, approved by the Council and provided by Egypt and Jordan, was expected in June and July.


The visit had also driven home to the mission the widespread nature of sexual violence, which must be dealt with urgently and comprehensively, he stressed, noting that the Congolese Government had taken special measures to address such violence, including the enactment of a law against rape and other gender-based crimes.  For its part, the Council team had presented the Congolese authorities with the names of five high-ranking military officers charged with or convicted of sexual violence against women, asking the President and Prime Minister to arrest them in order to restore public trust and respect.


Reporting on the last stop of the mission, Susan Rice ( United States) said the purpose of the visit had been to reaffirm the Council’s support for the Liberian people and Government, as well as for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).  It had also been meant to examine such pressing issues as violence against women.  UNMIL’s “impressive” all-female Indian Formed Police Unit had inspired Liberian women to consider careers in law enforcement.


In a meeting, members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had reported having had contact with some 100,000 alleged perpetrators from the conflict period, she said.  They had spoken of potential violence once the Commission’s report was released, stressing the importance of maintaining sanctions on targeted individuals.  In general, the Council had found that a substantial amount of work remained to be accomplished and, for that reason, UNMIL was still needed.  With peace and security remaining fragile, the Government must be encouraged to build up its security forces and justice sector so that UNMIL could wrap up its activities.


The representatives of Costa Rica and the Russian Federation also addressed the meeting regarding the Council’s working methods.


The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:45 p.m.


Background


The Security Council met this afternoon to hear briefings by the leaders of its recent mission to Africa, which included visits to Ethiopia, in connection with the African Union, the Great Lakes region, in connection with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia.


Briefings


RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda) said the meetings with the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, had reviewed the situation in the Sudan and Somalia, as well as the financing of peacekeeping operations in Africa and the issue of unconstitutional changes of Government on the continent.  On the Sudan, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) was a concrete representation of the close cooperation between the world body and the regional organization, and of their commitment to work together.  With regard to southern Sudan, it had been agreed that the two parties should be encouraged to work together to complete the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.


Turning to Somalia, he said that both Council members and African Union representatives had agreed that the Djibouti Agreement was a basis for reconciliation.  They had also commended the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and underscored its need for international support.  Both bodies looked forward to the report on AMISOM, due in September.  The meetings had been useful in strengthening cooperation, particularly in the areas of preventing conflicts, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, among other areas of mutual interest.  However, the modalities for strengthening that cooperation required further clarification and would be discussed in future meetings.


JOHN SAWERS (United Kingdom), continuing on that leg of the mission, said the substance of discussions with the African Union, especially on the Sudan and Somalia, had demonstrated the depth of the relationship between the two organizations and the ways in which their cooperation was becoming more substantive.  The United Nations and the African Union were working together to address the well-known difficulties facing UNAMID and considering ways to strengthen action on the ground in Somalia.  Those issues were among the most pressing on the Council’s agenda.  Both organizations must continue their consultations to see how best to employ their comparative advantages on the ground in the future.


He said the Council team had also carried out the 15-nation body’s tenth mission to the Great Lakes, reflecting the level of attention it gave to the challenges in that region.  The last mission had been there in 2008, a time of relative calm, but in the past year conflict had escalated in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, leading to cooperation between the Congolese Governments and that of Rwanda.  That decision had helped reshape the region’s political landscape, and the just-concluded visit had afforded the Council an opportunity to encourage both Governments to strengthen their cooperation.


Among other stops in Rwanda, he said Council members had been moved by a visit to the Kigali Genocide Museum, which had imparted a sense of the continuing resonance of the horrific events of 1994 on those of today, he said.  The mission had also paid a brief but encouraging visit to Motobo rehabilitation camp, near the Congolese border, where ex-combatants had given the impression of being relieved to be back home in Rwanda, and of being pleasantly surprised at how well they were being treated, underscoring the need to refocus efforts on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration initiatives in that country and the wider region.  The mission had expressed the Council’s strong support for the rapprochement between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


In their “wide-ranging and frank” meeting with President Paul Kagame, the Rwandan leader said he had been encouraged by the progress in relations between the two countries and hoped their political, military and economic cooperation could continue.  He had stressed that cooperation with Congolese officials in addressing issues in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo had been helpful and hopefully could be sustained, with the help of international partners.


Mr. Sawers said that, while looking forward to ongoing international support, President Kagame had been unsure that the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), as currently set up, would be the most adequate to continue the partnership role played by the Congolese military.  For its own part, Mr. Sawers said, the Security Council must now consider the ways in which the relationship between the two countries could be sustained, and the transformative potential of that cooperation could be realized and provide a peace dividend for civilians across the region.


JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), reporting on the mission’s stops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said its members had heard presentations from representatives of MONUC, the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and non-governmental organizations.  In North Kivu, the mission had visited the Heal Africa Hospital, which provided assistance to victims of gender-based and sexual violence, among others.  In Kinshasa, it had met with President Joseph Kabila and other top-level Government officials and representatives of civil society.  MONUC Chief Alan Doss and other United Nations staff had presented the strategic working plans of that Mission.


From all their meetings in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider region, he said, the mission had learned that the situation in the Great Lakes had improved, particularly as a result of the rapprochement between the Congolese and Rwandan Governments.  The Great Lakes Economic Community should be thoroughly reactivated to promote the region’s socio-economic revival.  The Council members had also applauded the “remarkable” efforts of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, stressing that he should continue his good offices.


The visit had also driven home to the mission the widespread nature of sexual violence, which must be dealt with urgently and comprehensively, he said.  The Congolese Government had taken special measures to address sexual violence, including the enactment of a law against rape and other gender-based violence, and establishing funds for women and children victims of such violence.  The Government had also begun to combat impunity in such cases, which, the mission had stressed, must remain a priority.


He said the mission had also stressed that armed groups must stop violence against civilian populations, especially women, and that perpetrators, as well as those who recruited children, must be arrested, tried and imprisoned.  The mission had presented to the highest Government authorities the names of five high-ranking military officers charged with or convicted of sexual violence against women, and had asked the President and Prime Minister to arrest them in order to restore public trust and respect.


Noting that the mission considered security-sector reform another top priority, he said many ex-fighters had been integrated into the national army, but were reportedly difficult to control.  Furthermore, soldiers were poorly paid when they were paid at all, and they were also housed in sub-standard living quarters.  Yet, according to all reports, when respected and treated fairly, they carried out their duties admirably and ethically.  The Government and the international community must ensure soldiers were paid well and treated fairly.  Moreover, there was a need to establish a mechanism to ensure that violators of military protocol did not remain in the army.  The international community must help the Congolese Government carry out wide-ranging training for its army and police forces.


The mission had also learned that MONUC remained indispensable, he continued, noting that the 3,000 additional troops approved by the Council and provided by Egypt and Jordan were expected to be deployed in June and July.  While visiting Kiwanja, the Council had taken note of measures to protect civilians, including the launch of rapid reaction mechanisms that could deploy in about 10 minutes once the alarm was raised.  “Of course, this was a very small area, but it’s a beginning.”  He said the MONUC plan of action had set out future the Mission’s prospects and outlined its drawdown strategy.  Overall, the Council mission had noted that for the last few months, the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been “moving in the right direction” but the wider Security Council would have to remain fully mobilized to ensure the process stayed on course.


SUSAN RICE ( United States), who led the mission to Liberia, said the purpose of the visit had been to reaffirm the Council’s support for that country’s people and Government, as well as for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).  It had also been meant to examine such pressing issues as violence against women.  Peace and security remained fragile, partly because of a weak security and justice sector.  UNMIL’s “impressive” all-female Indian Formed Police Unit had inspired Liberian women to consider careers in law enforcement.  Visiting a prison, Council members had found conditions shocking, and many prisoners had spoken of long-term pre-trial detention.


Council members had also spoken to members of the international business community, who had pointed out that a strong, stable United Nations presence encouraged the formation of a stable private sector, she said.  In their discussions with UNMIL, Liberian leaders had described the situation in the country as calm but unpredictable, with demonstrations apt to turn violent.  There was also a prevalence of crime.  Future events, such as the delivery of verdicts in truth and reconciliation trials, as well as upcoming elections, could stir up instability.  In a meeting, members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had reported having had contact with some 100,000 alleged perpetrators from the conflict period.  They had spoken of potential violence once the Commission’s report was released, stressing the importance of maintaining sanctions on targeted individuals.


She said that President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, in her meeting with the mission, had outlined the elements of Liberia’s development strategy, the Government’s efforts against sexual violence, and its attempts to regulate the mineral and forestry sectors.  In general, the Council had found that a substantial amount of work remained to be accomplished and, for that reason, UNMIL was still needed.  However, the Government must also be encouraged to build up its security forces and justice sector so that UNMIL could wrap up its activities.


Following the briefings, the representatives of Costa Rica and the Russian Federation, in his capacity as Council President, had held a brief discussion about working methods, with the former maintaining that unwritten rules governing the creation of terms of reference for Council missions had led to inequalities between permanent and elected members.


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