|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6712th Meeting (AM)
Dialogue, Stabilization, Civilian Protection Priorities, Special Representative
Says in Briefing to Security Council on Democratic Republic of Congo
Country’s Representative Cites Secure Elections,
Sexually-based Violence, Judicial Reform, Armed Groups Impeding Peace
Dialogue among all parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as stabilization programmes and continuing efforts to protect civilians, were priorities in the vast central African country as tensions and uncertainties following recent national elections were being resolved, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.
“We will be very actively pursuing opportunities to move forward in all these areas in the weeks and months to come,” said Roger Meece, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The focus would be on civilian protection and related-security issues, associated reforms and augmenting State capacity and authority, in addition to stabilization and development efforts and successful completion of the electoral cycle, he said as he briefed the Council.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (see Background), he noted that the recent presidential and legislative elections had been the focus of the Congolese and international communities for the past several months. Although, voting had been held on schedule, beginning on 28 November, despite enormous challenges, he said, the campaign period had been increasingly marked by tensions, exacerbated by the rhetoric of political leaders and culminating in violence on 26 November that had resulted in the deaths and wounding of many Congolese. MONUSCO was conducting an investigation into the violence, the results of which would be detailed in the near future, he said, reiterating his condemnation of violations of human rights and expressing condolences for the victims.
Describing logistical problems during the elections, which had been overcome with the Mission’s assistance and resources from neighbouring countries, he said the voting period had had to be extended nevertheless, in some cases for several days, and accredited observers had reported a number of problems. None of them would necessarily have changed the presidential election results, but they pointed to the need for a “thorough and open review” of the election process to ensure the highest level of integrity possible. The election commission had already initiated action for the arrest and prosecution of several of its own employees, while discussions of the broader review were proceeding.
Noting as well that provisional results for the legislative elections had only been announced last week, he said the Mission had emphasized to all candidates and parties the importance of using legal channels to contest the results, as well as pursuing full dialogue and discussions among political leaders and parties to address differences of view. In addition to providing logistical support to the elections, training special units of the Congolese National Police and helping to resolve the outcome, MONUSCO had provided extensive support for efforts to promote dialogue in a variety of forums, he said, emphasizing, however, that the Mission had no official role in verifying or ratifying the announced results.
The Mission would now provide support to ensure improvements in the electoral process were implemented in time for the provincial and local elections to complete the electoral cycle during this year and 2013, although the timing of those elections was now uncertain. In addition, he strongly encouraged all recently elected political leaders to carry out their responsibilities as the new Government was formed.
Stressing that the protection of civilians remained MONUSCO’s highest priority, he expressed deep concern over renewed activity by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and its January massacre of an estimated 54 civilians in South Kivu Province. Analysis suggested that such actions were meant to intimidate civilians as internal tensions, the loss of senior commanders and repatriation programmes continued to weaken the FDLR. Working with Congolese authorities, the Mission intended to pursue all possible means to further reduce the militia’s capabilities, he said.
Emerging armed groups in conflict or alliance with main militias also posed significant threats in North and South Kivu, he continued. In the north-east, the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had been reduced in recent months due partly to extensive operations by MONUSCO and the Congolese Armed Forces. Other Ugandan armed groups, alongside “uncontrolled” militia elements integrated into FARDC, also posed a serious threat in the Kivus, he said, adding that discussions with FARDC on addressing those threats concerned renewed military pressure, intensified repatriation of foreign combatants and demobilization of Congolese groups. In that regard, he expressed appreciation for the recent addition of one South African and three Pakistani military transport helicopters, and for the expected arrival of four Ukrainian combat helicopters. Ideas under consideration for reforming and strengthening FARDC, building on other training and reform programmes supported by MONUSCO, were also encouraging, he added.
The Mission continued its support for an “encouraging increase” of military and other prosecutions of those guilty of rape and other sexual-based violence as well as other serious human rights abuses, he continued, pledging that it would maintain its pursuit of an end to impunity. However, recent data showed that a substantial portion of grave crimes against women were committed by civilians, he noted, calling for increased attention to that terrible problem, to the prison system and other justice infrastructure.
Regarding stabilization programmes, he said they were critical in the east as well as other areas to strengthen State authority and support general development. The early official adoption of the Peace Consolidation Programme would be an important part of that effort, he said, adding that MONUSCO would be working closely with United Nations agencies as well as key bilateral and multilateral partners, Government authorities and non-governmental organizations to realize further progress.
Charlotte Omoy Malenga (Democratic Republic of Congo) then commented on four areas of concern in the stabilization efforts cited in the Secretary-General’s report: ensuring secure elections; implementing human rights principles and combating sexually-based violence; reforming the judicial system; and responding to Congolese militia and foreign armed groups still actively impeding peace.
She pointed out that the Minister for Justice and Human Rights had denounced the violence and violations of human rights during the electoral process and called for full investigations. The incidents included the lynching of politicians and policemen, the destruction of voting equipment and State property, the burning of police stations, and threats against people’s lives. Despite all appeals, however, violence had continued. “The Congolese people want only one thing and that is peace,” she stressed.
Turning to human rights violations and sexually-based violence, including the mass rapes of 2010 and 2011, she emphasized that the need for justice in those crimes was of great concern to her Government, which was committed to bringing all the perpetrators to justice. New forms of criminality had emerged from the long-running conflict, which was impacting women in a profound way, she said. The Government had implemented a zero-tolerance policy and, regardless of status or standing, officials from all levels had been brought to justice. She also highlighted measures to reform laws addressing sexually-based crimes, including the raising of the age of rape for minors from 14 years to 18 years of age. Reiterating that the official status of a perpetrator was irrelevant, she said courts and tribunals had “innovated” new measures of investigation, notably in the east, where special courts were now geographically closer to people, and in some areas were held in the open, under trees, to allow community participation.
As for reforming the judicial system, there was a focus on the “total end of impunity for serious crimes”, she said. The Government was initiating special mixed courts, competent to deal with serious violations of human rights, and to support nationwide implementation, Parliament had before it a bill to help end impunity, enhance victims’ access to justice systems and ensure effective prosecution for serious crimes. However, the courts would need strong support from the Security Council, she stressed, calling for obligatory contributions to the courts by Member States. The absence of such cooperation could threaten international peace and security, she warned.
Describing armed groups and peacebuilding as the “priority of priorities”, she noted that because of the threat presented by LRA, it was crucial to step up efforts to tackle them. Particular progress had been made in protecting civilians from them, while the normalization of relations with neighbouring countries continued, she said, reminding the Council that it had been mandatory since February 2001 to return any armed foreigner to his or her country of origin.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was now entering a new phase of economic resurgence after many years of war, she said in conclusion, adding that her country had a stabilization and reconstruction plan for all areas emerging from conflict, including North Kivu and certain districts of Haut-Uele. In the new phase, however, certain economic development programmes of the United Nations must be revisited and redesigned, she said, urging the international community to participate fully in her country’s economic and social development and rebuilding.
The meeting started at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 10:48 a.m., at which time Council members were invited into consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as previously agreed.
Before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) dated 26 January 2012, which covers developments on the ground and the Mission’s activities between 24 October 2011 and 9 January 2012.
According to the report (document S/2012/65), the elections were seriously marred by a number of deaths and injuries. Furthermore, elements of the national security force were reportedly involved in a number of extra-judicial executions and arbitrary arrests, among other serious human rights violations. The Secretary-General strongly urges the authorities to ensure respect for human rights, including while dealing with public demonstrations and other instances of civil unrest in future election periods. Perpetrators of rights violations should be held accountable, he stresses, adding that the findings of MONUSCO’s investigations into election-related violations will be included in his next report.
While welcoming the Congolese people’s participation in the 28 November presidential and legislative elections, the Secretary-General notes, however, that many serious irregularities were observed in the electoral process. A period of uncertainty may lie ahead, he cautions, urging the Independent National Electoral Commission, in close consultation with other national and international stakeholders, to address the shortcomings in a timely manner through a comprehensive review of the process and apply the lessons learned to the provincial and local elections scheduled for 2012 and 2013 respectively. He also encourages all the parties to use existing legal and mediation mechanisms in resolving pending electoral disputes.
In the east of the country, some of the momentum gained in tackling armed groups was regained following the regimentation of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), the report states. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which remain a major threat to civilians in the provinces of North and South Kivu, continue to show signs of weakness due to military and judicial pressure as well as MONUSCO’s disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration efforts, it says, adding that several Congolese armed groups also continue to pose threats and a parallel chain of command comprising elements integrated into the FARDC remains worrisome. It welcomes coordinated action to tackle the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), though thousands continued to suffer from its activities.
Noting that sexual violence remains a major concern, the Secretary-General expresses particular concern over reports of sexual and other violence that accompanied the expulsion of Congolese nationals from Angola, and encourages the Government to continue its constructive engagement on that matter. Armed groups as well as elements of former fighters integrated into the armed forces must be dealt with in that respect, he emphasizes, adding that a new national plan to strengthen criminal justice remains essential. The report notes that displacement in the east and food insecurity in the west show the need for continued engagement by humanitarian donors. It also welcomes the Congolese Government’s renewed commitment to enhancing stabilization efforts in the east, and welcomes efforts to fill gaps in the Mission’s helicopter capabilities and other shortfalls.
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