SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO BY UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING

16 December 1999
SC/6774

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO BY UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING

16 December 1999

Press ReleaseSC/6774

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO BY UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING

19991216

The Security Council this morning held an open briefing on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, hearing a range of views on United Nations involvement. The meeting followed a day-long open discussion yesterday on the situation in Africa, in which many of the 50 speakers, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan, had referred to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as one of the most urgent issues on the continent.

Briefing the Council this morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Bernard Miyet, said that the military situation in the country had seriously deteriorated in the past three months. The United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had deployed military liaison officers, but until MONUC was guaranteed full security and freedom of movement, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations would not be able to fully assess security conditions or develop a detailed concept of operations to submit to the Council. A report would be submitted in mid-January, containing options and recommendations. In the meantime, action must be taken to stop the situation from deteriorating, and the parties themselves bore the primary responsibility for that. Strict adherence to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement was essential, he stressed.

The Council President, the representative of the United Kingdom, said the debates today and yesterday had one clear message: the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the major challenge facing Africa, the United Nations and the international community as a whole. One in five African States were involved in the conflict and the stability and future development of the region was at stake. The Lusaka Agreement was predicated on major international support. The agreement was sound. It addressed the issues at the heart of the conflict: the foreign military presence in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the dangers posed to its neighbours by armed groups; and the urgent need for a national dialogue to work towards a more inclusive and representative political system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The United Kingdom's Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Peter Hains, speaking as his country's representative, said the peacekeeping force should be deployed as soon as it was feasible and not before. The international community could not enforce compliance. Renewed fighting threatened a return to full-scale war. The parties must return to their Lusaka obligations. He called on the international community to close down illegal commerce, and address profiteering and exploitation of that country's natural resources.

Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6774 4083rd Meeting (AM) 16 December 1999

The United States wanted a peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it wanted to "get it right", that country's representative said. The Council should not vote on a resolution until it knew what it was voting for. There were a number of factors that still needed to be clarified, including cost and size.

It was good to "get it right" but the time to act was now, Gambia's representative said. The Council must move fast to keep up the momentum generated by the Lusaka Agreement. The longer it took to support it, the more likely the Agreement would fall apart, he warned.

There was a myth that the Council's "dilly-dallying" had killed the Agreement, but African nations should not delude themselves, the representative of the Netherlands said. Did anyone seriously believe that all parties were observing the Lusaka Agreement for the first three months of its existence? he asked. The Netherlands was anxious to do the right thing with regard to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but the situation was complex. Also, the Netherlands was cautious because of its traumatic involvement in the tragedy of Srebrenica, which showed what happened if peacekeeping operations were used as a substitute for political consensus. "Let us not make the same mistake twice", he said.

Namibia’s representative said that Africans were not deluding themselves; the Council should assume its responsibilities. If the Council waited for a perfect peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before it took action, everything that had been achieved would be lost. He wondered if the hesitancy was due to the fact that the conflict was in Africa.

Canada's representative said the Council should be prepared to support the process when the Agreement was observed. He recalled that in Rwanda, his country's representative had called desperately for help and none had come. There were lessons to be learned from previous missions, he stressed. He urged the parties to commit themselves to the dialogue process. There could be no benefit in the absence of political dialogue.

Only when the United Nations peacekeeping mission was deployed could there be an effective and stable situation in which national dialogue could occur and other elements of the Agreement implemented, China's representative said. The Council's ability to push through the settlement would be the litmus test of the importance that the Council attached to African conflicts.

The representatives of Argentina, Malaysia, France, Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, Slovenia and Russian Federation also made statements this morning.

The meeting began at 10:25 a.m. and adjourned at 12:55 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to hear a briefing by the Under- Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

BERNARD MIYET, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, describing a number of military actions undertaken by both the Government and the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo, said the military situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had seriously deteriorated since the Council was last briefed on 18 September. In addition, a group of about 700 Government allied forces composed of Congolese, Zimbabwean and Namibian troops, had been encircled at Ikela by the rebels and their allies and was running short of supplies. Other clashes had taken place in the South-East of the country and fears had arisen of a major attack on Bukavu and Uvira by the so-called "negative forces," which were not party to the ceasefire agreement. Those included the former Rwandan forces and interahamwe militia, as well as Burundian extremists.

He said that the United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had currently deployed 62 of the 90 military liaison officers authorized by the Council under resolution 1258 (1999). In addition to Kinshasa, they were located in the capitals of the belligerent States, in Addis Ababa and in Bujumbura. Teams of military liaison officers had also been deployed in Goma, Katanga and Gbadolite. The Congolese Rally for Democracy, however, had not yet agreed to the positioning of another team in Kisangui, insisting that the Government should first allow more MONUC deployments in the area they controlled.

Until MONUC was guaranteed the full security and freedom of movement that it needed, he said, it would not be able to complete its technical survey of the country or to station military liaison officers at the rear military headquarters of the parties. The Department also would not be able to fully assess the conditions of security, access and freedom of movement and cooperation on the part of the parties or to develop a detailed comprehensive concept of operations to submit to the Council.

To complete its survey of the country and the deployment of the remaining military liaison officers, he said, MONUC and the Joint Military Commission had drawn up a list of locations which included the rear military headquarters of the parties. The Joint Military Commission would be responsible for obtaining the consent of the parties for those deployments.

Regarding the humanitarian situation, he said heavy rains had caused flooding in Kinshasa with some 20,000 people made homeless. Major food shortages were reported in urban areas and staple food prices had risen over 25 percent. High levels of acute and chronic malnutrition had been reported in the western part of the country. The World Food Programme had announced that, while access to war affected populations had improved, aid agencies were struggling to reach the country's interior. Unless new funds were made available immediately, 350,000 people living in precarious circumstances would struggle to survive. He said that in view of the difficulties encountered, the Department could not present recommendations on further deployment of United Nations personnel in the country and on their protection. It would submit a further report in mid-January which would contain options and recommendations based on the situation at that time.

In the meantime, he said, action must be taken to check the degradation of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it was the parties themselves which bore the primary responsibility for taking that action. A quick start up of the national dialogue would mark an important step towards the resolution of the conflict.

The Government and the parties should reaffirm their full cooperation to MONUC in its efforts to implement Council resolutions, he said. Strict adherence to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement was essential. He hoped the action by the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would have the same positive effect as its success in the Central African Republic and, thus, contribute to a general improvement in the stability and cooperation of all regional actors.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States) said the current issue was even more complicated than East Timor, and no less complicated than Kosovo. In his recent trip to Africa, he had been accompanied by Senator Feingold. He informed the Council of this because the United States Congress was in charge of domestic legislation enabling his country to pay for peacekeeping, and it was important to get it right. The tragedies in Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia could not be repeated.

The Lusaka Agreement was a superb document, he said. It was well written, well thought out, and done by the parties in the region, which was more than could be said in Bosnia or East Timor. Yet, it seemed the Agreement was being disregarded. He was delighted at the nomination of President Masire. The United States would find it difficult to move forward on peacekeeping absent a political facilitator. The United States had contributed $1 million for the Joint Military Commission. But the Joint Military Commission, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the United Nations and MONUC must work more closely together.

The United States had been accused of dragging its feet on peacekeeping in the Congo, he said. In fact, that was true. But that was not because it was opposed to peacekeeping in Congo; rather it wanted a peacekeeping operation, and wanted to get it right. It could not afford an operation that was not right. There were still a number of factors to sort out, such as the composition and structure. It was imperative that a more intense planning effort be made involving The Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Council members, troop contributors and those to be asked to contribute money. The situation was very complicated. The relationship between the Joint Military Commission and MONUC, the cost, the size, all needed to be clarified. The Council should not vote a resolution until it knew what it was voting for. That approach would better enable international support, domestic support and support from the Congress of the United States. He reserved the opportunity to speak again in the debate.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that in yesterday’s open debate on Africa, almost all speakers had mentioned the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Clearly, the overlapping theme of two days of public Council debate was implementation of the Lusaka agreement -- not by its signatories, but by the Council. The Council had been told that if it failed to pass the litmus test, it would once again have revealed its double standard. Yesterday, his delegation had hoped to put up a defence against such strident words, but there had not been time.

There seemed to be two ways of looking at the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he continued. The first was to be baffled by the complexity of the conflict. Here was a country with an exceptionally distorted past, from the personal possession by Leopold II through the decades of mismanagement under President Mobutu. Given that history, it was no surprise that the Democratic Republic was in such disarray. The second way was to see a simple line of cause and effect between the Rwandan genocide and the present chaos in the Democratic Republic. Those in the Council who blamed others for dragging the situation tended to see it that way. The situation was simple to them; all the Council had to do was comply with the Lusaka Agreement and send in troops.

But his delegation did not believe in that second approach, he continued. The situation was not simple. Many people in the eastern part of the country had no business being there, but those intruders were a mix of friends and enemies of the Government of Rwanda. The drafters of the Lusaka Agreement were aware of that. As Ambassador Holbrooke had said, the Lusaka Agreement was well drafted, but he had also said that about every one of its provisions was being ignored or violated. That was nothing new. On the first day that the Council discussed the Lusaka Agreement, it was already put under pressure with the argument that the agreement would not last if it did not dispatch peacekeepers right away.

If the Lusaka Agreement was a litmus test, it was first of all one for the people who had signed it, he said. If the parties themselves did not meet their engagements, there was nothing the Council could do. There was something disconcerting about yesterday’s debate. A myth seemed to be emerging in this chamber that it was the Council’s “dilly-dallying” that had killed the Lusaka Agreement. If his delegation had been able to speak again yesterday, it would have begged African delegations not to delude themselves. Did anyone seriously believe that the Lusaka Agreement was being observed by all parties for the first three months of its existence, and only began to unravel due to the Council’s inaction? he asked.

The Netherlands was anxious to do the right thing with regard to Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it was not helpful to be told that the situation was simple, and that calling it complex could only be a lame excuse for procrastination, he sad. The Netherlands’ commitment to Africa could not be called to question. It had not faltered in its commitment to African projects, such as contributions to the Economic Community of West African States’ Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) in Sierra Leone and the Arusha peace process in Burundi. A country with such as its record should be listened to when it expressed doubts about a military involvement that was urged upon the Council. It was not procrastination to ask questions.

Another reason for the Netherlands caution was its traumatic involvement in the tragedy of Srebrenica, he added. The Secretary-General’s 15 November report showed what could happen if military involvement was initiated without having been thought through, if peacekeeping operations were used as a substitute for political consensus and peacekeepers were told they must use their tools to impose ill-defined wishes of the international community on belligerents by military means. “Let us not make the same mistake twice”, he said.

BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said he was eagerly awaiting the report of the technical survey team. He was gratified that the Joint Military Commission and the Political Committee were up and running. He expressed gratitude to the United States for its generous contribution to the Joint Military Commission.

He said the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo still gave cause for grave concern. The forces of evil and darkness must be defeated. It required the cooperation of all concerned. There was no military solution for that fratricidal conflict.

The Council needed to move fast to keep up the momentum generated by the Agreement. The longer it took to support it, the more likely it would fall apart. The time to act was now. It was good to “get it right”, but one could not wait too long. He commended the Permanent Representative of the United States, Richard Holbrooke, for his timely visit to the region. The Council should remind itself of its obligations. He hoped it would make good on its promises and act expeditiously. Half-hearted measures would generate severe criticism from the Member States.

Yesterday, he said, during the debate the representative of South Africa had said that the litmus test for the Council was the Democratic Republic of the Congo. How could it be clearer? he asked. All issues before the Council should be approached with the same zeal and attention. One life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was as valuable as a life in another part of the world. Africans needed Council partnership and support. All they were asking for was for the Council to make good on its promises.

FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) said the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would not be resolved without the political will of all involved. Action in such areas entailed risks, but the risk of a generalized conflict must also be analyzed.

The United Nations had a major role to play in dealing with the issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. But, a climate of relative security appropriate and adequate for United Nations and associated personnel was essential. The conflict had an external and internal component. The domestic component could not be side-stepped. The emergence of a civil society with greater participation by all citizens must be encouraged. There must be a firm commitment of all parties to the Lusaka Agreement.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) noted that yesterday, in virtually every intervention, reference had been made the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the importance of the Council responding promptly to manage the conflict there. Comparisons had been made between the Council’s hesitancy to act in Africa and the promptness of its response in Kosovo and East Timor. It was time the Council addressed the issue by demonstrating its commitment and resolve to carry out its responsibility in the Democratic Republic. The situation there presented the Organization with one of its most daunting challenges, given the nature and complexity of the conflict, and the country’s size. The Council must be prepared to mount a major peacekeeping mission, which might be the biggest operation undertaken thus far. To be successful, it must be provided with all necessary financial and logistical assistance.

He supported early action on the part of the Council to deploy an observer mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. Resolution 1279 (1999) should allow the Secretariat to immediately begin preparations in anticipation of a possible future deployment of a United Nations observer force in early 2000. He looked forward to the assessment of a technical survey team whose recommendations would have an important bearing on any decision on the eventual deployment of observers.

If the peace was to take root, all signatories must comply with the provisions of the Lusaka Agreement, he said. He noted with concern the recent ceasefire violations, and said it was imperative that the parties carry out their responsibilities under the Agreement, in that way to facilitating the role of the international community in supporting the peace process.

ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said he continued to be concerned by the ongoing violations of the Lusaka Agreement. The question was how could the United Nations further assist the peace process in the face of the continued fighting.

He recalled that, in Rwanda, the Canadian representative had called desperately for help and none had come. He also recalled the difficult situation in which Dutch troops found themselves in Srebrenica. There were lessons to learn from those and other peacekeeping situations. He welcomed the appointment of Ketumie Masire as facilitator for inter-Congolese political negotiations and urged all parties to commit themselves to the dialogue process.

There could be no benefit in the absence of political dialogue, he said. The Council should be prepared to support the process when the Agreement was observed. It was critical that the Agreement be observed and that United Nations personnel have unhindered access. Safety and freedom of movement must be secured for humanitarian personnel.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said the disturbing report of tribes clashing over the occupation of land and the resulting loss of thousands of lives, required a reaction from the Council and a concrete effort.

The members of the Council wanted to be serious, he continued. Council decisions were accompanied by risks to observers and peacekeepers. The Council must take into account what had happened in other parts of the world. Members and their governments were asking for more time to consider the situation, with a view to ensuring how Council decisions could be implemented. At the same time, the Council should consider what could be done in the immediate future to face the dangers in the region.

He added that a simple and explicit task for the Council was to urge the Secretariat to produce an operational concept that could then be deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An operational concept would allow the Council to make decisions with full knowledge of the facts.

There were some positive elements in the situation, in particular the appointment of a facilitator, he said. Simple gestures could sometimes be made to help with the ceasefire. Would it be possible for MONUC to provide military assistance to the Joint Military Commission? he asked. Could the Joint Military Commission provide reports to the Council on decisions it had taken? That would be a way to implement suggestions for better cooperation between the regional organizations and the United Nations. The Council had to keeps its cool and maintain a certain amount of optimism. He added that the situations in the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone had not been easy, but the Council had proved it was possible to act.

JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said that yesterday, when the Council had discussed practical means to improve the situation in Africa, his delegation had hoped to have an interactive dialogue and exchange of views, rather than just speeches. Many thoughts had been expressed which could have been discussed. Yesterday, the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been mentioned frequently. He hoped the Democratic Republic would not occupy the Council’s time and then be forgotten, as often happened.

Why was the peace process based on the Lusaka Agreement proceeding so slowly? he asked. What were the impediments to peace? The United Nations was clearly hesitant to intervene to resolve the issue. But, the present situation, of no peace and no war, was dangerous. If it continued, it was possible that war would erupt again because belligerent forces remained in their positions and combatants were still armed. Why was the United Nations hesitating to intervene? he asked. The reluctance would continue the “no war, no peace” situation and affect many other “hot spots” as well.

QIN HUASUN (China) said Ambassador Holbrooke had previously briefed the Council on his African trip. Physical visits to the areas in conflict in Africa had enabled Council members to experience more keenly the suffering and desire for peace on the ground, and to get more first-hand information and hear divergent views. Those visits were a means to strengthen political will and efficiency in solving African conflicts.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo was one of the most serious problems afflicting Africa, he said. It had been almost six months since the signing of the Agreement in Lusaka. The United Nations had been slow to respond to the situation, as several speakers had emphasized yesterday. The Council should rethink the problem; it was never too late to mend. China welcomed that both the Democratic Republic and the rebel group had accepted Mr. Masire as facilitator. But, it was also an immediate priority for the Council to send in military observers.

Only when the United Nations peacekeeping mission was deployed could there be an effective and stable situation in which national political dialogues could occur and other elements of the Agreement implemented, he said. He agreed with the views expressed yesterday that the Council’s ability to push through the settlement would be the litmus test of the importance that the Council had attached to African conflicts. He looked forward to smooth implementation of resolution 1279 (1999) and expected Council members would be unanimous in taking concrete actions for the deployment of military observers.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said his Government welcomed the appointment of the new facilitator. He hoped arrangements would be in place for the dialogue to resume without further delay. He cautioned against foreign intervention and stated that the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) could not have waged war in Angola without support from outside the country. Care must be taken to prevent a repetition of that experience in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He expressed concern over reports of certain countries doing business illegally in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Plundering of diamond rights could not be allowed, he stated.

He said Africans were not deluding themselves, but felt that the Council should not feel any less urgency to act in the Democratic Republic of the Congo than it had in other areas. The Council should assume its obligations. Time was of the essence. Noting that the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, had said that the situation in Burundi was impacting the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he stressed the importance of being alert to what was going on around the Democratic Republic.

He reiterated Namibia's commitment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It would passionately maintain that commitment, but would not offer itself as a helpless target when fired on by the rebels.

Should the Congolese people continue to be held hostage by those whose interests were materially based? he asked. If the Council waited for a perfect peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before it took action, everything that had been achieved would be lost. He and his colleagues wondered if the hesitancy was because the conflict was in Africa. It seemed that goal posts were continually being moved.

GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said there were some political situations in which two sides presenting contradictory arguments might both be right. In his view, that was the case here. There could not be a more eloquent presentation of an African call for a United Nations presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo than the one heard yesterday from South Africa’s Ambassador.

He said that the call that rang out was not artificial or contrived. Those who signed the Lusaka Agreement had been aware that if the United Nations were absent from the Agreement, the Agreement would be more difficult to translate into reality. Had there been a United Nations peacekeeping force in the field immediately after the signing of the Agreement, perhaps today the Council would be dealing with a different situation. The presence of such a force might have had a deterrent effect. It was necessary to consider the consequences that might occur if the crisis was not addressed. The arguments advanced by Ambassador Holbrooke were valid. The problem of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be dealt with realism. A failure by the Council in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would have an adverse affect on the Council itself.

So, how were the two contradictory positions to be reconciled when both sides were right? he asked. African colleagues had presented their call clearly, and recognized that the Council must act swiftly. France's representative had drawn attention to the need for developing a precise concept of operations. It was clear that in the operation, the Council would have to move warily and show realism. In discussions on peacekeeping operations in the country the word “robust” had often been repeated, but to that word, he would add the words “urgently created”. The Council should begin to embark on the path towards resolution.

PETER HAINS, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for the United Kingdom, and Council President, speaking as a representative of his country, said the Council was coming to a critical moment. He wanted to see the peacekeeping force deployed as soon as it was feasible and not before. The renewed fighting threatened a return to full-scale war. Everything rested on the successful implementation of the Lusaka Agreement

The parties must return to their Lusaka obligations, he insisted. Without their support the international community could not help implement the agreement. The international community needed to do all it could -- individually and collectively -- to support the Lusaka framework by helping the mechanisms established to implement the Agreement. The United Kingdom’s Department of International Development had announced a further funding of 100,000 English pounds to the Joint Military Commission, in addition to the 50,000 pounds it had already provided. The European Union had pledged to do all it could to help.

Continuing, he said the international community should support the deployment of an effective United Nations force to help implement Lusaka. However, it could not enforce compliance. There must be clear ceasefire and withdrawal arrangements; consent of all the governments concerned to a United Nations deployment and commitment to a viable political process on internal and external security issues; and adequate guarantees of security and freedom of movement for United Nations personnel.

He went on to say that the international community needed to move ahead in developing a plan for the successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the armed militia groups active in the region whose presence was one of the key root causes of the conflict. Without successful implementation of that programme, the agreement would fail. He urged the parties to continue to work up a credible plan that would attract the levels of international support to make implementation possible.

The international community must address profiteering and exploitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's natural resources, he said. It must be prepared to take action to close down illegal commerce. It should also sustain support for an international conference on the Great Lakes to address the region's underlying problems, but that should take place only once the parties had implemented the main elements of Lusaka. The Conference could not be an alternative to Lusaka, he said.

He hoped that the Political Committee established by the Lusaka Agreement would convene at an early date to discuss implementation. Without their input and engagement, the ceasefire would fail.

ALFRED MOUNGARA-MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) welcomed the progress that had been made in the activities of the joint military commission, as well as the appointment of the new facilitator. But, certain elements were required if the inter-Congolese dialogue was to occur in an appropriate atmosphere. For that reason, the reports of ceasefire violations were a source of great concern.

The situation was extremely fragile, he said. The Council must act speedily to avoid a continuation of the vacuum, which could be exploited by the parties and lead to the resumption of fighting on a broader scale. The challenge was complex, but with the firm commitment on the part of all, including the parties involved, peace could take root. The Council should focus on settling the conflict, rather than concentrating solely on the problems involved. For example, it was not realistic to require absolute security, which would not be found in other situations either. Swift action by the Council to resolve the situation could spare the Congolese people further suffering. Africa could no longer be satisfied with words from the Council. It required action now. The Council should shoulder its responsibilities.

The meeting briefly suspended to allow Sir Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom) to replace Peter Hains as President of the Council.

IRENA MERNIK (Slovenia) said it was welcome that after a year and three months of ongoing armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Council members had finally taken the first step in assisting the process of restoring peace by approving, on 30 November, resolution 1279 (1999) authorizing the United Nations to begin preparations for deploying 500 military observers. She thanked Zambian President Friderick Chiluba for his efforts which, through high-level diplomacy, had resulted in the Lusaka Peace Agreement, which, if its provisions were not violated, would provide the basis for further United Nations assistance. Implementation of the Agreement should be done in cooperation with the OAU and its Joint Military Commission.

In his open briefing to the Council on 21 September, President Chiluba had appealed to the United Nations for generous contributions and assistance in normalizing the situation in the country, she recalled. He had asked the Council to authorize the peacekeeping operation, which could be considered one of the short-term tasks to be completed in the near future. There were also long-term tasks, including the inter-Congolese dialogue.

The humanitarian needs of the Congolese people must be met, she said. The Council's help was needed in mobilizing humanitarian assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons, facilitating their return and protecting children, child soldiers in particular. Further, investigating massacres was a task related to the protection of human rights and would help consolidate a lasting peace. At a later stage, assistance in economic reconstruction and development would be needed. Her Government hoped that in the near future, the Council would be successful in finding solutions to the problems in Africa, the most challenging of which was the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said he could understand when his African colleagues spoke of the need to take urgent decisions. He also understood the concerns of those members who stressed the need for certain conditions to be in place before the Council took action. Despite those apparent disagreements, it was clear that all agreed on the necessity for all the parties to the Lusaka Agreement to comply with that Agreement. The Council had stated its willingness to proceed with deployment of military observers when the technical survey team reported that conditions were right. He expressed concern that the technical team had so far been unable to do that.

The willingness of the parties to comply with the commitments of the Agreement and to cooperate with the United Nations was a crucial factor, he said. Yet, his Government would not hide behind the tragic experiences in Somalia and Srebrenica. The lesson of Somalia was that when the Council authorized operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it would have to find countries that would provide troop contingents. That was not just a question of security; the contingents would be paid.

In Somalia, he said, the United Nations had still not paid the troop- contributing countries. The fact that intervening in Somalia was a mistake did not mean it did not have to pay for its mistake. The Russian Federation was in arrears in its contributions, but it fully intended to pay. The questions of financing peacekeeping operations was close to the subject being discussed today and needed to be borne in mind for future peacekeeping operations, as well.

He drew attention to the need to organize the national dialogue in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and he wanted to see practical steps taken to achieve it. He supported the organizing of an international conference on peace and stability in the Great Lakes Region. There must be a strong political component to make it possible to consider the key areas of peace and stability in the region as a whole.

Comments

Mr. HOLBOOKE (United States) said was he was pleased with the style of the discussion. He thought this was what the founding fathers of the United Nations had in mind.

He said the issue was not whether the United States would support Council action in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but when and how. His Government wanted to vote for a resolution concerning peacekeepers for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but needed to know the mandate, size and cost of the mission. He urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to continue consultations. He hoped that as a result of today's meeting, the Council would be able to accelerate, intensify and clarify what it intended to do.

Mr. VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said he could subscribe to what Ambassador Holbrooke had said, particularly his reference to the fact that the issue was not “whether" the United Nations would be involved, but “when and how”. The Netherlands was pleased with the fact that former President Masire had been accepted as facilitator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Netherlands had made some $200,000 available to the OAU for the Joint Military Commission. Mr. Miyet had said the next meeting of that Commission was to be on 20 January. Perhaps those meetings could be stepped up.

Mr. DEJAMMET (France) said he also endorsed the request of the United States representative that the Secretariat now do what it had envisaged doing. He was also interested in soon seeing the conclusions and clarifications. There seemed to be consensus taking shape on the desirability and possibility of mounting a peacekeeping operation, as well as the urgent desire to move swiftly.

Another idea had also enjoyed vigorous backing, he noted. That was the idea of an international conference on the Great Lakes region, to be co- sponsored by the OAU and the United Nations. The leaders of those countries must be brought together to discuss security and the protection of minorities. The international conference should be a driving force for the Council's work. The Council might manage to start a diplomatic enterprise that could lead to an overall political settlement of the problem. Africa was not a one-month topic; it must remain on the Council’s agenda. The conference should be on the Council’s agenda as well.

Mr. MIYET, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, then responded to questions and comments. To Bahrain's questions on the slow pace of the peace agreement and the United Nations hesitancy to act, he said he wondered whether they were directed to the United Nations or to Member States. Speaking for the Secretariat, he said that the Secretary General was firmly committed to Africa, and to ensuring that the United Nations was present there and played its part. The operation had three phases, with elements involving the Council and aspects that must be implemented on the ground.

Regarding support for the Joint Military Commission, he said the technical assessment team had been on the ground for months, and was doing its utmost with the Commission to complete the work. Officers in Lusaka were offering support to the Commission, which was to have a permanent secretariat by 20 December. The United Nations was doing its utmost to support that. The United Nations had been able to help deploy officers from the OAU to various sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In short, the United Nations had been active and would continue to be so.

On the need to proceed in the spirit of seriousness and lucidity, he said the United Nations had always taken that approach. Some Council members had spoken about tragedies of the past, and the reports that had been issued on those experiences. The Secretary-General and his team, as well as the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, were fully aware of the concept of operating in an atmosphere of security, without establishing conditions that would render involvement impossible. The intention was to implement the phases as soon as possible, so the peace process could have a chance. The Secretariat was considering the force's robustness, credibility and deterrent power. There was no confusion. There were three phases to unfold. The 500 observers were part of phase two. Protecting them, communications and freedom of movement were the key elements that were now being focused on.

Ambassador Lavrov had said the force and observers must be deployed in an environment where they had the necessary support, he continued. The Secretariat had to know the Council would provide support in financial terms, and it had to be sure about troops and equipment as well. It was not just a question of taking a decision, but rather of having the necessary resources. A budget proposal for $31 million plus funds for humanitarian purposes had been brought to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

The Joint Military Commission was a key element in ensuring the operation's success, he continued. It was crucial to the Secretariat awareness of the parties' will and intent. The Commission provided a mechanism for ironing out difficulties. It was a means for understanding the parties' intents, and for them to understand the United Nations intents and modalities. Ambassador Dejammet had suggested that the Commission make its reports available to the Council. But, the Commission was not part of MONUC; it answered to the OAU. The United Nations could, however, approach the OAU to request consent for making the reports available.

Regarding the Secretariat's will to move ahead, he said serious did not mean slow. The Secretariat was proceeding. Sometimes it was criticized for going too fast, which had created some doubts in the parties themselves. The Secretariat wished to maintain its current rate, and proceed with the full cooperation of the parties themselves. On proposals to be made in early January, the process was still underway. If all aspects of the concept of operations had already been clearly set, Council members would have it before them. There was a need to have a clear idea of needs on the ground, and the conclusion of the technical survey team would be useful in that regard.

Phase two of the operation could not be regarded as an end itself, he said. It was a phase to allow for the development of phase three: a major peacekeeping operation. Thinking in New York had evolved over recent weeks and would continue do so. The Secretariat wished to discuss this with the parties involved, the Council and troop contributing States. But, it would focus on what was reasonable for the mission to provide security of the troops, and not a feeble compromise to satisfy others.

The President of the Council, Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom), said the Council debates today and yesterday had one clear message: the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the major challenge facing Africa, the United Nations and the international community as a whole at the end of the century. One in five African States were involved in the conflict; a vst region of Africa was affected; and the stability and future development of the region was at stake.

He said the expectations of the international community were high. The Lusaka Agreement, brokered by the region with the involvement of the United Nations, was predicated on major international support. There was no alternative to the Lusaka Agreement. It was a good agreement. It addressed the key issues at the heart of the conflict: the foreign military presence in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the dangers posed to its neighbours by armed groups; and the urgent need for a national dialogue to work towards a more inclusive and representative political system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Reviewing the points stressed by speakers today, he said the need for the international community to act quickly had been widely stressed as had the urgency of building on steps already taken. The Council would have to take those points to heart.

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For information media. Not an official record.