|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6403rd Meeting (AM)
Horrific Attacks, Mass Rapes in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Prompt
‘Major Internal Review’ of United Nations Mission’s Protection Activities
Briefing Security Council, Mission Chief Says More Active Military
Posture Only Short-term Solution, Urges Broader, More Comprehensive Strategy
The horrific attacks in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s restive North Kivu province in late July and early August, clearly underscored the importance of civilian protection and had provoked a “major internal review” of the protection programmes being carried out by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission there, the head of that operation told the Security Council today.
Briefing the Council on the work of the Mission — known as MONUSCO — and presenting the findings from the Secretary-General’s related report (document S/2010/512), Roger Meece, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that, since his arrival in Kinshasa three months ago, his priority had been to establish an ongoing and constructive dialogue with the Government.
However, his “settling-in period” had been interrupted by the violent attacks and mass rapes in the Kibua-Mfopi area and a “direct assault” on a MONUSCO base in Kirumba — both in North Kivu — as well as a worrisome overall escalation of violence. Acknowledging that those serious incidents had prompted MONUSCO and the wider United Nations to begin reassessing its civilian protection activities, he told the Council that “we have taken new initiatives to address deficiencies and improve our effectiveness in this area.”
In response to the escalating violence in North Kivu, Mr. Meece said a more visible and active MONUSCO military posture had been established. “Operation Shop Window” - aimed at putting pressure on the armed groups , improving protection of local populations and supporting the Congolese Government’s efforts to capture the perpetrators of the late July early August attacks — had been carried out in the Pinga/Walikale area from 1 to 18 September. It had involved some 750 MONUSCO troops.
He said that, although the Congolese military (FARDC) had been fully briefed on that initiative, it had been a unilateral operation to check the freedom of operations seemingly enjoyed by armed elements in the area and to change the immediate dynamic of violence. He said that the operation had been well received by FARDC and Government leaders, and he believed it had accomplished its essential goals, “at least for the short term”. Resources permitting, he intended to continue a more active military stance, “an essential component of the strategy to improve security”.
Continuing, he highlighted several key Mission-specific initiatives aimed at addressing security issues, saying that, among others, MONUSCO was seeking authority to add many more Community Liaison Interpreters (CLIs). It was also augmenting military patrol activities, adding radios and telephone networks, and increasing communication and outreach activities. The number of forward MONUSCO bases and temporary bases had greatly multiplied over the past year, and high-risk zones had been better identified. With 90 such bases, however, the present support capacity was being reached if not exceeded. Overall helicopter lift capability was a critical factor, as were budgetary limitations.
“I must be frank, however, and underscore that all those MONUSCO activities cannot serve as the complete answer to the security problems in the East,” he said. According to the best date available, some 15,000 rapes had been committed last year in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Armed groups operated in many widely dispersed areas and were often intermixed with civilian populations. In an area larger than Afghanistan, he said, it was impossible for the Mission to ensure full protection for all civilians. Also, even good, short-term military operations would not be sufficient to ensure long-term security. A broader strategy was required — one that went beyond military pressure addressing a daunting array of issues.
MONUSCO’s collaboration with the FARDC was predicated on the basis of conditionality to promote respect for human rights while working to improve effectiveness of military operations, he said. Many aspects of the collaboration had been perceived by FARDC commanders as a problem or an obstacle to be avoided, so the FARDC had increased its unilateral operations. The lack of support for “holding” battalions to ensure that negative forces did not return to cleared areas was a major and long-standing problem.
Continuing, he said that security sector reform was a central focus in the general discussion on a future strategy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Such an exercise would cover a vast range of activities, from training to military and civilians justice systems and police training and reform. Two weeks ago, MONUSCO had launched a six-month training programme for 500 recently integrated Congolese national police. The Government had requested the Mission to significantly expand its training programmes, he said, but added that one of the keys to that expansion would be the provision of equipment to trained police personnel and units, something for which the Mission lacked the legal authority.
Ending the culture of impunity was also a key objective, he said. Recent arrests of Lieutenant Colonel Mayele and Callixte Mbarushimana had been encouraging steps forward, but they also underscored the continuing need for the strengthening of both military and civilian justice systems. Illegal exploitation of mineral resources was another major area of concern. In that regard, simultaneous efforts were required on a number of fronts, from bolstering domestic Congolese capabilities to international efforts to establish an acceptable regulatory framework for the mineral trade.
The new process of joint evaluation with Congolese authorities of security conditions was working well, he said, and provided an ongoing institutional mechanism for collaboration. The initial cycle of assessment did not indicate a need for any significant adjustments to the MONUSCO deployments or focus.
Referring to the November 2011 national elections, he said the conduct of democratic, transparent and credible polls was a major Government priority. Thus far, budgets had been approved by national and international authorities, initial planning for logistics support by MONUSCO had been completed, and support for voter registration was ongoing. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was also committed to provide technical and other assistance.
Mr. Meece said he was greatly encouraged by the improvement in regional relations, which were of critical importance to future stability in the Great Lakes. However, the major threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in several countries was an ongoing priority. MONUSCO was continuing its support to those regional activities.
The extent and the scope of the challenges ahead was daunting, he said, but they could be met — and resolved — with sufficient will and the commitment of the Government and the population and with sustained support from the international community. MONUSCO, however, required the necessary resources to carry out its mandate, including stepping up its military activities and enhancing civilian protection programmes, among other things.
He said that as long as armed groups were still active, peacekeeping activities would have to go hand in hand with peacebuilding activities and support for socio-economic recovery. “I hope that together with the Government and bilateral partners, the needed support will be available for all the areas of the [Democratic Republic of the Congo] where peace has been restored, but where people wait for a peace dividend,” he said, adding that Council resolution 1925 (2010), which had transformed the existing peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo into a stabilization mission in the vast African nation, constituted yet another step in the transition towards a peacebuilding mission.
“I have no illusions of the difficulty of the road ahead,” he said in conclusion. “The problems are great in scope and complexity. I retain a fundamental optimism, however, that with sufficient will and resources progress can and must be achieved. It is important to pursue that path.”
The meeting started at 10:20 a.m. and was adjourned at 10:40 a.m.
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