|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6649th Meeting (PM)
UN Mission Chief Tells Security Council More Funds Needed for Helicopters,
Police Training as Democratic Republic of Congo Prepares for Elections
Country’s Delegate Says That, despite Problems, Situation for 28 November
Polling More Peaceful than for 2006 Elections; Government Urging Non-Violence
As election day loomed closer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sporadic security threats by armed groups had triggered a need for additional funding for military helicopters and police training, the United Nations top adviser in that country told the Security Council today, presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General on recent developments there.
“The problems with which we are confronted do not have short-term solutions,” Roger Meece, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) told the Council. “We need consistent commitment from you, which is vital to the people of Congo and the region. Because of the world’s support and the synergy of these efforts, significant progress has been made since the years when the country was in the throes of war. With continued support, we can make genuine progress towards attaining common objectives.”
Those common goals, he said, included seeing a peaceful election scheduled for 28 November. To that end, the Mission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had provided police training, additional civilian aircraft to distribute election materials, technical assistance and activities to promote dialogue among candidates, parties and government institutions.
Indeed, the task was “enormous”, he added, with more than 32 million voters, almost 19,000 National Assembly candidates, 11 presidential candidates, 58,000 national and 600 international observers and thousands of trained Independent National Electoral Commission agents. He noted that generous international financial support had fulfilled pledges made towards electoral costs.
Security still presented a great concern, he said, with recent reports of violence and incidents involving armed groups. Countering those situations required non-lethal equipment for trained police units, which remained outside the Mission’s budget, Mr. Meece stressed. In addition, a helicopter shortage had “imposed severe limits on the nature and level of military operations” and led to the emergence or strengthening of several armed groups. Restoring strong military pressure on foreign armed groups was important to protect civilians and eliminate those threats.
Pointing to the “shocking” number of reported rapes, many attributed to armed groups and elements of the national army, he said sexual and gender-based violence was a particular concern, as was impunity.
However, there was progress in the fight against impunity, he said, noting high conviction rates in 2011 following 140 military trial prosecutions, and two cases against armed combatants, most of which involved sexual violence and human rights violations.
“More is needed, of course, but at least we are seeing a positive trend,” he told the Council, noting that a recent British Embassy study had highlighted the number of prosecutions for “sexual-based crimes” despite a relatively weak civilian prosecution and court system.
Some incidents leading up to the election were worrisome, he said. The Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2011/656), covering 12 May to 10 October this year, noted that, while a total of 10 rapid-intervention police units were being trained on electoral security, the pre-electoral campaign continued to be marked by politically motivated human rights violations. MONUSCO had documented 45 incidents in which political opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders were targeted, in addition to more than 80 allegations of election-related human rights violations.
Atoki Ileka, representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told the Council that recently the offices of two presidential candidates had been burned, and that a 10-year-old girl in Kinshasa had been killed by a stray bullet during a demonstration. The perpetrator of that killing had been arrested. He said provincial and national authorities were calling upon militants in the various parties to act with restraint in order to prevent further violence.
It was crucial that every candidate realized that elections were not an end in themselves, he said, but a stage in the strengthening of the young Congolese democracy. He assured Council members that the Independent National Electoral Commission would rise to the challenge of the historic elections, noting that the situation now was more peaceful than in the lead-up to the elections of 2006.
Each and every person should have confidence in the will of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Government to bring the electoral process to a non-violent conclusion, he said.
The meeting began at 3:08 p.m. and ended at 3:40 p.m.
Meeting to hear a briefing this afternoon, Council members had before them a report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) dated 24 October and covering the period 12 May to 10 October, including significant events in the electoral process.
According to the report (document S/2011/656), the overall situation in most of the country remained relatively stable while preparations for the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 28 November continued to gather pace with the completion of voter and candidate registration. In addition to the 32 million voters registered, 19,000 candidates will view for legislative seats and 11 will contest the presidential election. The Electoral Commission’s revision of the voters’ register, with a preliminary total of 32,024,640 voters, was completed by 17 July, the report notes, adding that the Mission continued to provide technical and logistical support, while a number of partners — including the European Union and the Carter Center — committed to send international observers.
Noting that a total of 10 rapid-intervention police units are being trained on electoral security, the pre-electoral campaign continued to be marked by politically motivated human rights violations, the report states. MONUSCO has documented 45 incidents in which political opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders were targeted, in addition to more than 80 allegations of election-related human rights violations. The situation in North and South Kivu deteriorated owing to reduced military pressure on armed groups resulting from the ongoing reconfiguration of the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC).
In North Kivu Province, the report continues, the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and Congolese armed groups remained active, while the Ugandan Allied Democratic Front (ADF) consolidated its presence in Beni and Lubero territories. In South Kivu province, the reconfiguration process led to significant desertions from armed groups, particularly the Patriotes résistant congolais (Pareco), Congrès national pour la défense du people (CNDP) and Force républicaines féderalistes (FRF). Alongside elements of the Government Armed Forces, those groups were involved in increasing incidents of violence, the report states, adding that Mayi-Mayi Yakutumba elements were reinforcing their collaboration with the Burundian Forces nationales de libération (FNL) and the FDLR. The Yakutumba alliance was reportedly involved in exploiting and smuggling gold, copper and cassiterite.
Noting that MONUSCO’s military operations yielded only limited success, the report says it registered only limited progress in implementing the 23 March 2009 peace agreements between the Government and Congolese armed groups, including the CNDP. Attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against civilians in Orientale Province decreased in August, with indications that elements of the Ugandan rebel group might be regrouping in the Central African Republic. The FARDC continued operations against the LRA, with the support of MONUSCO and in coordination with the Ugandan People’s Defence Force. In Ituri District, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Armed Forces conducted five separate military operations, with the Mission’s support, against the Front populaire pour la justice au Congo (FPJC) and the Front de résistance patriotique de l’Ituri (FRPI), partially curtailing their operational capacity.
According to the report, an estimated 1.57 million people remain displaced, and at a tripartite meeting involving Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), agreement was reached on the voluntary return of 43,085 Angolans living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The strained relationship between the two countries persisted amid the continued expulsion of Congolese from Angola, some of them reportedly accompanied by serious human rights violations, including sexual violence.
Although the Mission continued to prioritize the protection of civilians through implementation of the United Nations system-wide strategy, the report says, its efforts were significantly curtailed by a critical shortage of military utility helicopters and a lack of attack helicopters, which prevented the Mission from implementing critical parts of its mandate, among them protecting civilians, supporting the elections and ending the presence of armed groups, particularly in North and South Kivu.
The report says the Mission continued to document human rights abuses, such as killings, abductions, forced labour and looting, in addition to sexual violence and mass rapes perpetrated by FARDC elements, as well as Congolese and foreign armed groups. Although the Senate unanimously rejected, on 22 August, a bill that would have created a specialized court on human rights tasked with trying genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, some progress was made in the fight against impunity, with four policemen sentenced to death for the killing of human rights defender Floribert Chebeya.
However, the prevalence of sexual violence in conflict-affected areas lacking State authority remained of concern as high numbers of victims continued to be reported in the Kivus and in Orientale Province, the report continues. Most were attributed to men in uniform, and an increasing number have involved acts of rape against minors. MONUSCO documented the release of 271 children from the Government Armed Forces and armed groups, but no progress was made on the adoption of an action plan to halt the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
The Secretary-General urges the Congolese authorities to take the necessary steps for the preservation of political space, and to allow all registered candidates and political parties to compete freely and peacefully in a democratic contest. Deeply concerned about continuing violence against civilians — including acts of sexual violence — he notes that the constraints on MONUSCO’s operational capabilities due to significantly reduced military helicopter capacity have become acute. He appeals strongly to Member States that have indicated a willingness to provide additional helicopters to confirm their pledges, while urging others to contribute military helicopters.
Amid the waning momentum of military operations against armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and with their integration into the FARDC showing sings of unravelling, the Secretary-General urges all parties to renew their commitment to the integration process. Security gaps throughout North and South Kivu must be rapidly addressed, he stresses, adding that troops redeployed in the two provinces must be more cohesive, more regularly and better paid, as well as properly trained and equipped. The Secretary-General also encourages the Congolese authorities to ensure that perpetrators of sexual violence and other serious human rights violations are held accountable, emphasizing that accountability is critical to addressing impunity and deterring new human rights abuses.
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