|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6785th Meeting (AM)
Envoy for Democratic Republic of Congo Tells Security Council Vital to Recover
from ‘Sobering’ Security Setbacks, Move Forward on Broader Agenda
While “considerable” progress had been made in combating the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, a mutiny led by officers in the Congolese army had caused a serious deterioration of security in North and South Kivu provinces, and an easing of pressure on other armed groups operating in the region, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.
Briefing the Council on recent developments, 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), said the mutiny had been initiated by soldiers integrated into the Congolese army — the Forces d’armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) — under agreements reached in 2009. Those soldiers were led by Bosco Ntaganda and Sultani Makenga.
While they had asserted that the terms of those agreements central to their interests had not been implemented, “their recourse to an armed mutiny is not an acceptable means to address their grievances”, Mr. Meece said. “It now threatens a general destabilization of the Kivus and the region, and dramatically increases the general threat to millions of civilians.”
He said the “effective” response by the Congolese Government had substantially reduced numbers available for the mutiny and the parallel “M23” movement launched by Mr. Makenga. MONUSCO had been working closely with the Government and the FARDC since the start of those events in early April to limit civilian injury, provide aid, contain the conflict area, and restore order as quickly and effectively as possible. As a result, mutinous forces had been driven out of their base areas to an area near the town of Bunagana, close to the Ugandan and Rwandan borders.
But the fighting had produced major civilian displacements, he said. The FDLR and other Congolese groups had sought to profit from the instability and stepped up their own activity, which in turn, had exacerbated rape and other sexual violence, and greatly limited humanitarian access in the region.
Such events stood in dramatic contrast to the situation prior to the mutiny, Mr. Meece said. The FARDC and MONUSCO had been planning joint operations in North and South Kivu targeting the FDLR and other armed groups. Their efforts included “unprecedented” steps to minimize the impact of those operations on civilians, establish monitoring centres, and provide for humanitarian access. Those operations were now suspended and there had been a large reduction in FDLR repatriations. He urged that support for the mutinous forces stop and that States make any information available to relevant national and international bodies.
As for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), he said its “brutal” activities had shown little change, with attacks often including kidnapping and looting. MONUSCO continued to work closely with the FARDC to forestall larger-scale LRA attacks.
On other matters, he said Government institutions created following “problematic” 2011 national elections had taken longer to establish than he would have hoped. Nonetheless, the new National Assembly had put in place new internal procedures, Assembly officers and standing committees. He looked forward to building relationships with the new Government, believing it was “in the interests of all parties for MONUSCO to have a strong and ongoing dialogue, regarding programme implementation and collaborative relationships”.
To be sure, there were challenges ahead for ensuring successful provincial and local elections, he said. Steps were needed to ensure that the problems of the “2011 exercise” were not repeated. He anticipated that a report presented by the Independent National Election Commission to the National Assembly would provide a basis for discussion.
Amid the “sobering” security situation in the eastern region, he said it wasimportant not to forget the considerable progress that had been made since the formal end of the war. It was vitally important to recover from the security setbacks and move forward on a broader agenda aimed at addressing the underlying causes of conflict in the eastern region, which would help ensure much needed durable security and development throughout the country.
It was also important to strengthen the reach of State authority and examine how land disputes could be resolved, he said. In moving into a new phase of the Stabilization and Recovery Funding Facility (STAREC) — and hopefully establishing a parallel framework for efforts in other parts of the country under the prospective Peace Consolidation Programme — all parties should review priorities, operations and programmes being implemented.
“These are not small challenges”, he said. But there were opportunities for significant progress, and he assured the Council that both MONUSCO and the United Nations country team were committed to doing all possible towards those ends.
Following those remarks, Zénon Mukongo Ngay (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said Rwandan elements — estimated at 200 to 300 men — continued to fight within the ranks of the “M23” rebels. They had been recruited, trained and deployed from Rwanda. As was often the case, the upcoming conclusion of the MONUSCO mandate coincided with violence in the east of the country. With his arrest looming, Mr. Ntaganda — head of the “National Congress for the Defence of the People” militia group — had defected and launched a mutiny in a part of the country that was already largely destabilized. That had caused massive civilian displacement into neighbouring States.
In that context, he stressed that the protection of civilians, in particular women, must continue, and “must be at the heart of the concerns of your Council”. MONUSCO must be authorized to use “all necessary means” for civilian protection. Refocusing attention on the Kivus, where armed groups were running rampant, was now also of paramount importance for the Mission. The Secretary-General, in his report, had welcomed the close cooperation and intensified dialogue between the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s authorities and the United Nations. In that vein, the work of the joint assessment team established by resolution 1925 (2010) must be given primary importance, he added.
He went on to say that the Congolese army operations had drastically diminished the success of armed groups, although those groups continued to pose a major threat in some parts of the country. Work was under way to bolster the Government’s resources to protect its population and gradually assume MONUSCO responsibilities. Schools and training centres had reopened, and personnel training and retraining had been launched. “Now is the time to ask MONUSCO to resume joint FARDC–MONUSCO operations against national or foreign armed groups,” he stressed. Support by neighbouring countries to the present mutiny must also cease.
Regarding the rule of law, he said a civil administration had been established and legitimate authorities now controlled virtually all territories once belonging to armed groups. New civilian prosecutors and been trained and deployed in sensitive areas. The struggle against impunity also continued, with charges brought against former members of armed groups and long prison terms imposed. There was a need to take strategic decisions to allow the Government to ensure security, good governance and the consolidation of the country’s right to economic development, he said. In that regard, the United Nations and the Government needed to work together to define parameters for drawing up a time table for the disengagement of MONUSCO troops, while the establishment of the Congolese army continued. Additionally, MONUSCO’s mandate required a transition to economic recovery after a number of years of instability.
Finally, on the restructuring of the Independent National Electoral Commission, known as CENI, he assured the Council that the Government was revisiting that matter. To give credibility to the next elections, a number of measures had been taken, including the reallocation of revenues, stabilizing the electoral register and stepping up the recruitment and training of electoral agents. Also, on 6 June, CENI had published a timetable for its elections. According to that calendar, provincial elections would take place on 25 February 2013, senatorial elections would take place on 5 June 2013, and the election of provincial governors and vice-governors would take place on 22 June 2013.
Emphasizing the increasingly favourable conditions in his country, he concluded by stressing his expectation that the Council would condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the Bosco Ntaganda mutiny. It should also remind parties to respect engagements they had freely signed onto. “This will be justice,” he said.
The meeting started at 10:23 a.m. and ended at 11:10 a.m., at which time Council members were invited into consultations on the situation, as previously agreed.
The Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) (document S/2012/355), in which he recommends that MONUSCO’s mandate be extended for a further period of 12 months, with the military troop and police unit strength maintained at current authorized levels.
Covering the period 26 January to 10 May, the report reviews progress on the ground in that country and significant events in the electoral process, including MONUSCO’s support to that process. It also includes a comprehensive assessment of the political, security, humanitarian and human rights environment, following the elections, as well as an indication of the progress towards achieving a coordinated United Nations approach in-country.
According to the report, the assessments confirmed that, while there have been several positive developments relative to the consolidation of peace and stability across much of the country, some serious challenges remain, particularly in the eastern provinces as a result of desertions from the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC). However, there was continued progress in the voluntary participation of combatants and dependants of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in the MONUSCO disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration process. In addition, intensified efforts targeting the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) appear to have reduced the group’s capacity to commit large-scale atrocities, although its presence remained a threat to civilians and was preventing returns.
The Secretary-General recommends that MONUSCO maintain its priority focus on the protection of civilians. In addition, MONUSCO should continue to support the Congolese authorities to maintain control over areas cleared of the presence of armed groups in the eastern provinces and to enhance stabilization activities in those areas under the International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy. MONUSCO and the United Nations country team should also accelerate stabilization and peacebuilding efforts in the western provinces through the Peace Consolidation Programme.
The report finds that the recent deterioration in the security situation in the Kivus again underscores the importance of tangible and sustainable reform within all parts of the country’s security sector to ensure that the military, police and other security institutions have the necessary capacity and resources to establish and maintain State authority, and effectively address the problem of armed groups and banditry. The robust MONUSCO response aimed at protecting civilians in this context was significantly enhanced by the recent deployment of additional military utility and attack helicopters, he adds.
The Secretary-General encourages MONUSCO to continue to support the Government to coordinate the efforts of the international community, including bilateral and multilateral actors, working on security sector reform. He also urges international partners to increase their cooperation with MONUSCO to enhance coherent approaches on security sector reform and to provide increased and sustained support for such reform, focusing on defence sector reform. He further recommends a strengthened role for MONUSCO in providing logistical support and training in the security and justice sectors in which there has been comparatively greater progress, including the police, the judiciary and corrections.
In the political arena, the report states that, following many serious irregularities and allegations of fraud in the presidential and legislative elections of 28 November 2011, the political environment in the country had been characterized by some distrust of, and low confidence in, the political representatives and institutions. It was vital for the relevant Congolese authorities to ensure that the provincial and local elections are conducted in a credible and transparent manner. In that regard, MONUSCO and other United Nations partners should continue to support the Congolese authorities to complete the current electoral cycle and to hold credible, inclusive, transparent, peaceful and timely provincial and local elections.
* *** *For information media • not an official record