|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE on situation in democratic republic of the congo
The problems in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo had no single solution, but required a combination of efforts to deal with protection of civilians and integration into the national army of armed groups, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative said today at a Headquarters press conference.
Having briefed the Security Council earlier in the day, Alan Doss told correspondents that the Council had expressed concerns regarding the humanitarian impact of recent operations, the protection of civilians, and impunity, but recognized the importance of dealing with armed groups in the eastern region, underlining the importance of stabilization and helping the region to return to some measure of economic recovery and putting in place State structures.
Mr. Doss said that some progress had been made, but that difficulties remained, including the displacement of civilians, as a consequence of operations against ex-Rwandan forces in North Kivu. At the same time, with the ending of the rebellion by the Congrès National pour la défense du peuple (CNDP), large areas of North Kivu were relatively stable. Operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had continued. Although the level of incidents had dropped, the LRA was still quite a lethal force.
The quick integration of armed groups into the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) -– a political requirement -– had created disciplinary problems, he said. The behaviour of the armed forces was of serious concern. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had taken measures to enhance protection against sexual violence, particularly in remote areas, and to help the Government end impunity and deal with the problem.
Answering correspondents’ questions, Mr. Doss said that commitments for additional personnel by Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan and the United Republic of Tanzania consisted of some 3,000 people, including troops, some 300 police and 200 military trainers. He hoped they would arrive within two to three months. The commitments unfortunately did not include the helicopters and intelligence capacities requested by the Mission.
He could not comment on an Oxfam survey published today that spoke about a surge in rape, forced labour and reprisal attacks, as he had not yet seen it, he replied to other questions. It seemed to be a blanket statement. However, one should look at the whole picture: there had been an increase in certain areas, while in others, incidents had decreased. He did not agree that there was an apparent acceptance of collateral damage in dealing with armed groups. The humanitarian impact of operations was of great concern and was not acceptable.
One had to deal with armed groups as well as with discipline problems within the FARDC, he said, stressing that the FDLR was the problem. That group had become a State within the State and had control over mineral resources. By their attacks against civilians, they tried to undermine confidence in the Government and MONUC. The group was involved in “wholesale” rape and exploitation. Military action alone would not solve the problem. Applying military pressure should be accompanied by sensitizing members -– many of whom were not implicated in the Rwanda genocide -– by offering incentives to join the integration process.
At the same time, the FARDC, which after integration now stood at an estimated 50,000 troops in the Kivus, should not become part of the problem, he continued. Salaries and material support should also be provided. MONUC could not continue to provide open-ended support to the Army. A joint evaluation had been carried out on joint operations in the Kivus, and some frank discussions had been held. The fast integration of former militias in the army had created a problem for which the price was the disciplinary problems.
Asked about FARDC operations against the FDLR, he said those operations had been going on for some time. There was robust containment, including severing of economic ties, of the group. MONUC could only support operations, however, if they were implemented jointly and subjected to respect for international humanitarian law. MONUC had a robust Chapter VII mandate and could open fire if needed. It had provided fire support frequently, as had been the case in preventing the CNDP from overrunning population centres.
Addressing another question, he said rape was not spreading across the rest of the country. The epicentre of the problem was in the Kivus. In areas where the conflict had ended, however, the level of violence had dropped significantly, as was the case in Ituri. The United Nations Action Strategy to Combat Sexual Violence was being implemented, but MONUC could not do it alone. The Congolese society itself must take action. Sexual violence was also a major problem in post-conflict areas and could not be solved in a short period of time.
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