SECRETARY-GENERAL HAILS PRETORIA AGREEMENT AS POLITICAL MILESTONE FOR PEACE IN CONGOLESE CONFLICT

8 August 2002
SC/7479

SECRETARY-GENERAL HAILS PRETORIA AGREEMENT AS POLITICAL MILESTONE FOR PEACE IN CONGOLESE CONFLICT

08/08/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7479

Security Council

4596th Meeting* (AM)

SECRETARY-GENERAL HAILS PRETORIA AGREEMENT AS POLITICAL MILESTONE

FOR PEACE IN CONGOLESE CONFLICT

Calls for Assistance to Help Parties Implement Accord

The signing of the Pretoria Agreement on 30 July between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda represented an important political milestone that could pave the way for resolution of one of Africa’s longest conflicts, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council this morning. 

Addressing the Council as it considered the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he said the parties had indicated their desire to end the conflict and must now be provided with all the assistance required to implement that agreement.  He said he had instructed the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to examine what steps it could take to assist the parties to carry out the agreement.  However, the parties must be clear on what steps they would take and inform MONUC about the assistance they would require.

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said that the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda had taken an important step in signing the agreement on the withdrawal of Rwandan troops from Congolese territory and the dismantling of the ex-Forces armées rwandaises (FAR) and Interahamwe militias there.  The agreement was even more significant because it came in the wake of the tremendous progress made in the inter-Congolese dialogue, held in South Africa earlier this year.

She said it had become clear that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could not be resolved until the matter of military groups -– which continued to operate freely within the territory, posing a real threat to all the people there  -- had been addressed.

The Pretoria Agreement should be seen as a complement to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and subsequent accords, stemming from the recognition that peace could not be established in the Great Lakes region without resolving the conflict between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

Leonard She Okitundu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the Pretoria Agreement would speed up the remaining phases of the

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*     The 4595th meeting was closed.

Lusaka Agreement and was in conformity with Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops, particularly resolution 1341 (2001).  Namibia had completely withdrawn its troops, and Angola and Zimbabwe had withdrawn a large part of theirs.  Rwanda had been the only country to increase its forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He emphasized that the demilitarization of Kisangani, which must become a political and physical symbol of renewal for the entire Congolese people, would be another promising sign.  In addition, the illegal exploitation of Congolese natural resources must end.

Hopefully, the Pretoria Agreement, which set out the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country, presented a sufficient response to Rwanda’s security concerns.  Stressing that it was vital that similar agreements be concluded with Uganda and Burundi, he said contacts had begun at the highest level in that regard.  Following that, it would be necessary to sit down and discuss the region's future.

Patrick Mazimhaka, Special Envoy of the President of Rwanda for the Great Lakes Region, said the parties had gathered to present the Council with an unprecedented step towards resolving the conflict that had afflicted Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Great Lakes region as a whole since the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in 1999.  The Pretoria Agreement provided solutions to what had up to now been intractable problems in the Lusaka Agreement. 

Referring to the disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation of armed groups, he said that, crucial as those elements were, the parties had been unable to effect any meaningful disarmament that could lead to the reduction of the security threat to the affected countries, principally Rwanda.  However, the Pretoria Agreement had brought to the peace process the firm commitment by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to “track, and disarm

ex-FAR/Interahamwe”. 

Today, he continued, both the Congolese and Rwandan Governments believed that the Pretoria Agreement had a chance to succeed.  By addressing the core issues that had plagued both sides, it paved the way for the peace and stability that had eluded the two countries for so long.

Council President John Negroponte (United States) said the Presidents of the two countries had shown great statesmanship in signing the Pretoria Agreement, taking an important step towards ending a war that had cost countless lives and produced immeasurable suffering.  With the help of South African President Thabo Mbeki, they had pledged to bring that difficult chapter in their history to a close.

The meeting, which began at 10:47 a.m., adjourned at 11:34 a.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the wake of the 30 July signing, in Pretoria, South Africa, of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

In a press statement last week, Council members expressed warm appreciation to the Government of South Africa for its role in facilitating the agreement.  They called on the Governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as other parties to the Lusaka Agreement, to hold early detailed discussions with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) on the practical implementation of the Pretoria agreement.

Statements

JOHN NEGROPONTE (United States), Council President, said the recent agreement represented an important step towards ending a war that had cost countless lives and produced immeasurable suffering.  With the help of South African President Thabo Mbeki, the signatory heads of State had met for the first time and pledged to bring that difficult chapter in their history to a close.  They should be applauded, he added. 

The Pretoria agreement provided a real opportunity for progress, he said.  Council members wanted to understand fully the provisions of the agreement and  the intentions of the parties to ensure that all those who would play a role in making the agreement work understood their responsibilities and obligations.  Implementing the agreement would be a complicated task requiring unswerving commitment by the parties and by the international community.

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, described the signing of the peace agreement as an important political milestone that could pave the way for the resolution of one of Africa’s longest conflicts.  The Presidents of the two countries had committed to working for peace, and both parties must now be urged to take the necessary measures to implement the agreement.  The international community must provide all the necessary assistance for the parties to successfully implement the agreement.

He said he had instructed MONUC to examine what steps it could take to assist the parties to carry out their agreement.  However, the parties must be clear on what steps they would take and inform MONUC on what assistance they  would require.  He said he expected to revert to the Council with specific recommendations with regard to MONUC after the Council held consultations with the parties concerned.  The participation of the Congolese, Rwandan and South African representatives today had enabled them to engage with the Council on issues of direct concern to the implementation of the agreement, he added.

NKOSAZANA DLAMINI ZUMA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Africa, said the Presidents of the two countries had taken an important step in signing a peace agreement on the withdrawal of Rwandan troops from Congolese territory and the dismantling of the ex-Forces armées rwandaises (FAR) and Interahamwe forces there.  The peace agreement had been even more significant in that it came in the wake of the tremendous progress made by the Congolese people in the inter-Congolese dialogue, held in South Africa earlier this year.

She said the Pretoria agreement was at the centre of the peace process and signalled the strong political will of both sides to expedite reconciliation.   She stressed the importance of supporting and encouraging the agreement’s implementation, adding that it would be wrong for peace-loving nations to be less than enthusiastic about recent events.

In order to understand the current agreement, she said, it was important to look back at the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement of 1999, which had always centred on the question of how to deal with foreign forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly those that had been implicated in the Rwanda genocide.  Since 1999, it had become clear that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could not be resolved until the matter of military groups -- which continued to operate freely in Congolese territory, posing a real threat to all the people there -- had been addressed.

South Africa welcomed the declaration by the Congolese Government not to have such armed groups use its territory to launch attacks against neighbouring countries, she said.  South Africa also welcomed Rwanda's commitment to withdraw its forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo as soon as those military groups ceased to threaten the Rwandan people.

Recalling that there had been a crucial meeting between President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda at the launch of the African Union in Durban last month, she said it had laid the foundation for the current peace agreement.  It was also in Durban that the parties had asked President Mbeki and the Secretary-General to act jointly as a third party guarantor of the agreement.

She stressed that the Pretoria agreement was a reflection of the wishes and interests of both Governments and did not supplant the precepts outlined in the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and subsequent accords.  Rather, it should be seed as a complement to those important agreements, stemming form the recognition that progress towards establishing peace in the region could not be achieved without resolving the conflict between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

There was no doubt that the developments of the last month had created political momentum that must be seized and supported by the entire international community, she continued.  That momentum imposed on all international actors the imperative to do everything necessary to achieve the targets set out in the programme of implementation.  The agreement had provided a rare gift of hope to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the countries of the Great Lakes region.

LEONARD SHE OKITUNDU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the South African Foreign Minister had just described what was at stake for the agreement's success.  The obligations undertaken by his country would be scrupulously implemented.

He said that in order to settle the war of aggression, his Government had been in direct contact since last year with the countries that had troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Pretoria agreement, which was basically bilateral, fell within the framework of the Lusaka accord.  It would speed up the remaining phases of the Lusaka accord and was in conformity with Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops, particularly resolution 1341 (2001).

With regard to the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, reunification and repatriation (DDRRR) process, he said the Congolese Government had undertaken to implement faithfully its obligations under the Pretoria agreement, adding that the majority of the parties to the conflict had already begun withdrawing their forces.  Namibia had completely withdrawn; Angola and Zimbabwe had withdrawn a large part of their troops, but Rwanda had considerably increased its forces and was still engaged in military activities in his country.

Another promising sign would be the demilitarization of Kisangani, he said.  The town must become a political and physical symbol of renewal for the entire Congolese people.  At the same time, there must also be an end to the illegal exploitation of the country's natural resources.  The Congolese Government was cooperating fully with the United Nations panel of experts in that regard.

He expressed the hope that the Pretoria agreement presented a sufficient response to Rwanda’s security concerns, saying that the accord also set out

the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country, which had   been greatly imperilled by Rwanda.  The international community must assist

in ending the conflict that had led to the deaths of more than 3 million    people.

He highlighted the need for a new concept of operations for MONUC that would support both the verification mechanism and allow the execution structure to be put in place by the third party under the Pretoria agreement.  The Council must redefine the Mission's operations to reflect recent developments.

Stressing that putting an end to impunity would be critical for achieving peace in his country and the region, he said, justice must be done for the millions of dead Congolese.  The process of restoring peace must be stepped up with increased credibility in the United Nations and the Security Council.  It was vital for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to conclude with the Governments of Uganda and Burundi agreements similar to the Pretoria accord.  Contacts had begun at the highest level in that connection, he added.

Following that, it would be necessary to sit down and discuss the future of the region, he said.  A peace conference should lay the basis for a new order, help the countries of the region to develop economic activities of common interest and pave a new way forward.  He called on the international community also to assist Rwanda's efforts to restore internal peace.  The Pretoria agreement was key to restoring the trust that had been lost, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo would never again be a channel for discord in any country, let alone its neighbours.

PATRICK MAZIMHAKA, Special Envoy of the President of Rwanda in the Great Lakes Region, said his delegation had come to present what it believed was an unprecedented step towards the resolution of the conflict that had afflicted Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Great Lakes region as a whole, since the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in 1999.  The Pretoria agreement provided solutions to what had up to now been intractable problems in the Lusaka accord.

He said that uncertainties surrounding the forces that had carried out genocide and then relocated to the Democratic Republic of the Congo had preoccupied the Council and the signatories throughout the past two years.  Still, the Council had continually encouraged the two countries to work together to solve the root cause of the protracted conflict -- how to dissuade the ex-FAR and Interahamwe forces from attacking Rwanda from bases within the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Today, he continued, both Governments believed that the plan developed with the help of President Mbeki and the Secretary-General, indeed, had a chance to succeed.  The Pretoria agreement addressed the two core issues that had plagued both sides:  how to resolve the problem of the Interahamwe, and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the Congolese territory.  By addressing those two issues, the current agreement paved the way for peace and stability, which had eluded both countries for so long.

Those familiar with the Lusaka process were painfully aware of Rwanda's performance in the area of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR), he continued.  Crucial as those elements were, the parties had thus far been unable to effect any meaningful disarmament that could lead to the reduction of the security threat to the affected countries, principally Rwanda.  The Pretoria agreement, however, brought to the peace process the firm commitment by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to “track, and disarm

ex-FAR/Interahamwe” in cooperation with MONUC, the Joint Military Commission (JMC) and the third party.  Rwanda undertook, in turn, to withdraw its troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo as soon as the DDR process got under way and was judged to be irreversible.

He went on to recall Rwanda’s enduring commitment to repatriation and reintegration, saying that since 1994 many members of the ex-FAR had joined the military service or been demobilized.  The militia had been resettled in equally large numbers.  The well-documented 2,000 captives of the 2001 attack on north-west Rwanda had now been settled and some of them had formed a group to carry out Rwanda’s mobilization work on the themes of national unity and reconciliation.  Through the work of MONUC and the JMC, Rwanda now had an idea where the Interahamwe were operating and how they were organized.  Still the country needed MONUC's help to monitor the militia's activities.

Expressing the hope that the Council saw the resolution of conflict in the region as a shared challenge, he appealed for continued support of all the parties in the conflict, as the Pretoria agreement alone could not resolve all the outstanding problems, such as the need to work out an all-inclusive agreement and to ensure the withdrawal of all other foreign forces.  Rwanda recognized the problems caused by its nationals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and

saluted the decision of the Congolese Government to negotiate the Pretoria agreement. 

In that spirit, he said, Rwanda believed that all the other outstanding issues would find resolution through pragmatic exchange on behalf of both Governments.  He reiterated the commitment made by President Kagame at the signing of the agreement last month, that Rwanda stood ready to work with its African brothers and sisters and the wider international community to bring about peace and security for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and all the people of Africa.

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For information media. Not an official record.