|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6476th Meeting* (AM)
Top United Nations Official Urges Maintaining Support for Ending Violence
against Civilians, Holding Elections in Democratic Republic of Congo
Mission Head, Permanent Representative Brief
Security Council on Efforts to End Impunity, Defeat Armed Groups
Despite progress in consolidating stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, international support must be maintained to end violence against civilians and facilitate upcoming elections, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country told the Security Council in a briefing today.
“With this support, and while cognizant of the ongoing challenges and difficulties, I remain optimistic that with sustained engagement and support, we are on a path towards achieving the kind of security and stable conditions which the people of [the Democratic Republic of] the Congo and region richly deserve,” said Roger Meece, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
Relations between MONUSCO and the Congolese Government were continuously improving at all levels, he said. The ongoing joint assessment process had validated the Mission’s presence and approach to security issues and did not yet indicate major changes to be made, although specific adjustments in response to tactical and threat conditions would continue to be made, he added.
The greatest difficulties were presented by foreign and domestic armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Meece said, noting that they “continued to act as predatory forces, often incorporating the use of rape and other violence as a weapon against civilians”. During the last half of January, 50 to 80 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by the Democratic Force for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) had been reported, and MONUSCO continued to respond to such incidents and provide all possible support and protection.
Meanwhile, there had also been “too many reported cases of abuses committed by members of the Congolese armed forces and the Congolese national police”, he said. MONUSCO had been working closely with national authorities to address such abuses and the number of suspects arrested in that connection had increased significantly. “Such action is a welcome step towards ending the impunity felt by too many for too long,” he said, emphasizing that the Mission was also addressing significant weaknesses in the military judicial system.
He went on to state that the integration of individuals formerly affiliated to armed groups had created additional problems as they were often associated with the reported abuses. To address that issue, he expressed strong support for efforts to increase training for the national armed forces and strengthen the capabilities of the national police. MONUSCO had initiated a long-term officer-training programme in September, but much more was needed, he noted.
Concerning foreign armed groups, he said there were some hopeful signs of progress in the long-standing effort against FDLR, which operated primarily in North and South Kivu Provinces. Actions against the group’s key political leaders in Europe had clearly had a demoralizing effect, as had sanctions and pressure on the ground. There had been some increase in the number of more senior officers presenting themselves for repatriation, he said, cautioning, however, that the threat had not ended, though there had been clear progress. It was vitally important that the political and military pressure be maintained to the maximum extent to build on that trend.
As for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), he said that regional efforts to end the threat presented by the Ugandan rebel group included the establishment of the Joint Intelligence and Operation Centre in Dungu, Orientale Province. LRA leader Joseph Kony, who had reportedly remained outside the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent months, should remain the focus of attention, along with civilian-protection efforts, he stressed, calling for careful monitoring of opportunities for LRA due to the changes in South Sudan. MOMUSCO had conducted consultations and contingency planning based on possible scenarios, he added.
Operations against armed groups in the east were all being planned and conducted in full cooperation with the national armed forces and Congolese authorities, he emphasized, adding that all support to the military was undertaken in full compliance with the “conditionality policy” in support of strict human rights standards. While not without problems, the relationship had continued to improve, with both MONUSCO and the Congolese authorities sharing the same objectives. However, resource concerns, particularly the shortage of military helicopters, imposed significant constraints on operations, he stressed, welcoming the extended use of existing combat helicopters lent by India. The Mission also faced serious shortfalls without new timely contributions, he said, noting that civilian helicopters could be substituted to some extent, but that placed additional strain on an “already very stretched budget.”
He said the Mission had been moving ahead actively with the variety of civilian-protection initiatives outlined in the Council in 2010, including community alert networks, from which good results were expected, though not perfection. Regarding efforts to deal with the illegal exploitation of “conflict” minerals in the east, which supported armed groups, he said national and destination-country efforts had been supplemented by a recent regional summit held in Lusaka, Zambia.
Good progress had been made in preparation for general elections this year, he said, noting that the polls were important for long-term stabilization, though they presented challenges. MONUSCO had been actively providing logistical support, with more than 2,600 tons of election-related materials transported to 190 hubs to date. There had been “satisfactory” progress in ensuring financing for the election, he said, while expressing concern about the Mission’s budget levels, which did not ensure its ability to continue electoral support. Shortfalls would force MONUSCO to use funds from other areas, with negative repercussions, he warned.
Following that briefing, Atoki Ileka (Democratic Republic of the Congo) confirmed the “good relationship” between his Government and the Mission, saying many things had been accomplished with MONUSCO’s help while significant challenges nonetheless remained. Violence against women and the impact of HIV/AIDS on peace and security were key areas of Government concern, he said, expressing optimism regarding the outcome of the current visit to his country by Margot Wallström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
He went on to say that efforts to end the scourge must be complemented by efforts to end impunity by bringing all perpetrators to justice — whether foreigners, nationals or peacekeepers — and providing reparations to victims. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was one of the only countries where senior officers had been prosecuted for acts directly related to sexual violence, he pointed out, adding that judicial structures had been established to enable the Government to monitor and follow up on specific cases.
Despite all such efforts, however, the return of total peace was the only way to “put an end to these acts, which we all deplore”, he stressed. That was why strenuous efforts to end all the activities of foreign armed groups must continue. On that point, he noted that positive events in the Central African Republic and Sudan would make it possible to enhance the coordination of initiatives against LRA. Efforts to counter the actions of foreign groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, largely Rwandese “and my own countrymen who have become outlaws”, were also continuing, he added.
For its part, the Government was working to ensure that the armed forces were organized, financed and operated in such a way as to improve their functioning, he said. The hope was that security-sector reform should speed up the creation of a professional police force and a national, republican, apolitical army, subject to civilian control at all levels of power, and which would protect the liberties of the people, particularly women. Everyone agreed that reforms were essential, especially in the post-conflict phase, he added.
Noting that 2011 would be “the year of elections in Africa”, he said a vote would take place in his country at the end of November. It was therefore important that no one in the country call recent constitutional revisions into question as they were in conformity with the Constitution signed into law in 2006, he emphasized. However, he acknowledged some “slight disagreements” with “maximalists” wishing for an entirely new Constitution, and “minimalists” calling for the implementation of changes required when institutions were consolidated.
In any case, the Government believed the current revised Constitution would “meet the needs of our young democracy as it found its voice”, he said, pledging that the Government was committed to covering the majority of election costs. Given current economic difficulties, that would be a significant sacrifice, but well worth it.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:40 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) on developments in that country since his last report (document S/2010/512) dated 8 October 2010. The latest report (document S/2011/20) details progress in implementing the objectives set out in Council resolution 1925 (2010), including completing the ongoing military operations in the provinces of North and South Kivu, as well as Orientale Province; creating sustainable security forces to better protect the population from armed groups; and bolstering the police, territorial administration and rule-of-law institutions in areas freed from those groups in order further to reinforce State authority.
While the overall situation in most of the country is “relatively stable”, conflict in the east persists, with foreign and Congolese armed groups carrying out violent, mostly small-scale attacks against civilians, the report says, noting that the Secretary-General is “deeply concerned” about the high levels of insecurity, violence and human rights abuses in the area. The integration of former Congolese armed groups into the national armed forces, FARDC, remain tenuous, and some military units continue mining despite the Government ban on that activity.
According to the report, the Secretary-General notes further progress in implementing the Government’s stabilization and construction plan for the east, but expresses concern over the lack of progress in training in FARDC, and delays in adopting key legislation on reforming the army, police and judicial institutions. However, he is encouraged by the Government’s commitment to hold and prepare for post-transitional general elections in 2011 and 2012. He encourages the Congolese Parliament quickly to create the independent national electoral commission and enact the legislation needed to conduct the elections, in line with the Constitution. Pledging continued United Nations electoral support, he underscores, however, that electoral authorities and MONUSCO must agree on a logistical plan and distribution of task in order for the Secretariat to seek the General Assembly’s approval for electoral resources.
Welcoming Government steps to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2010 attacks on civilians in Walikale territory, the Secretary-General describes the arrest of one of the main perpetrators, with MONUSCO’s support, as a “positive development”. He also welcomes recent steps by France and Germany to arrest key leaders of FDLR, the main foreign rebel group, and encourages other Governments where FDLR leaders and support networks reside to take suitable legal action against them.
The report says that to better protect civilians, MONUSCO has adopted a “major proactive effort” focused on expanding patrols and improving their effectiveness, enhancing communication with local populations and enabling local communities to warn authorities and the Mission of possible or impending attacks, particularly in sensitive areas of North and South Kivu and Orientale. However, it cautions that without more pledges from donors, the Mission will be left without attack helicopters, only 10 military utility helicopters and four military observation helicopters to deter armed groups and support temporary or company operating bases in remote and high-risk areas. The Secretary-General appeals to Member States urgently to contribute military helicopters to fill that critical capability gap.
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