UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR GREATER SECURITY COUNCIL COMMITMENT TO ENDING CONFLICTS IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, NORTHERN UGANDA

15 September 2006
SC/8831

UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR GREATER SECURITY COUNCIL COMMITMENT TO ENDING CONFLICTS IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, NORTHERN UGANDA

15 September 2006
Security Council
SC/8831
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5525th Meeting (AM)

UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR GREATER SECURITY COUNCIL COMMITMENT TO ENDING

CONFLICTS IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, NORTHERN UGANDA

In Briefing on African Crises, Top Humanitarian Official Describes

Enormous Challenges of Fighting to End Impunity, Promote Rule of Law

Presenting a picture of enormous challenge and historic opportunity today, the top United Nations humanitarian official asked the Security Council to bolster its commitment to ending two of the worst conflicts of the current time, by completing the marathon course set for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and pursuing to the end the best chance so far for peace in northern Uganda.

Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said, while briefing the Council on his recent trip to assess the humanitarian situation in those countries, that the United Nations and the Congolese Transitional Government had made much progress in terms of increased security and successful elections, but not enough had been done on the issue of impunity.  Sexual abuse had become a cancer, while military and civilian authorities were still virtually unaccountable for crimes against civilians.  More than 1,000 raped women had been treated so far this year in South Kivu alone, and it was not known how many more had suffered in inaccessible parts of the province.

Expressing concern about the impact on civilians of operations by Government armed forces, he said more than 500,000 people had been newly displaced in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, often following military actions against militia groups.  Too often, civilians fled because of the fighting and were then victimized by the armed forces, who accused them of supporting the militias.  The only long-term solution was the formation of one competent national army with the exclusive right to bear arms.

While the humanitarian situation had improved, there were still insufficient resources to meet the country’s overwhelming needs, including the 1.6 million or so internally displaced persons who had returned home last year, he said.  The Council must show its strong commitment to the country by maintaining the strength of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and keeping pressure on the Government to end impunity and promote the rule of law and good governance.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo had seen the worst haemorrhage of human life in the present generation, he said, noting that war and preventable disease had taken a death toll of 4 million people -- six Rwandan genocides -- in the last eight years.  “We must not fail to stop once and for all this tragedy,” he stressed.

Turning to the situation in northern Uganda, he said the picture there was more promising than it had been in years.  Since negotiations between the Uganda Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had begun in Juba, southern Sudan, earlier in the year, security had increased dramatically.  The improved security environment would be used to continue trying to create better conditions in camps for internally displaced persons and to prepare for the return of more than 1.5 million people.  On 26 August, the two sides had signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and the Government of South Sudan, lacking the resources to support rapid progress in the talks, had asked the United Nations to assist in that regard, including by providing monitors for the accord.

The impunity question and the International Criminal Court’s indictments against LRA leaders was the number one subject of discussion with the internally displaced persons in Uganda and the parties in Juba, he continued.  They had all expressed a strong concern that the indictments, if not lifted, could threaten the progress in the most promising talks ever.  But there could be no impunity for mass murder and crimes against humanity, and the parties should look at different ways to develop a solution that met local needs for reconciliation, as well as universal standards of justice and accountability.  Peace and justice could work together, he emphasized.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed cautious optimism at the progress achieved in both countries.  Addressing the issue of impunity, speakers stressed the need to find a delicate balance between reconciliation and peace on the one hand and justice and accountability on the other.

Ghana’s representative said that achieving peace was the key to eliminating humanitarian problems, stressing the need to focus on the factors that aggravated suffering in the displaced-persons camps, including restrictions on humanitarian access and the use of civilians as hostages and bargaining chips.  There was also the risk of permanent displacement, for example in northern Uganda, where entire generations had been born in the camps.  Ghana supported the appeal for extra resources, so that the agencies on the ground could continue their vital work.

Several delegates underlined also the need to highlight other humanitarian crises in Africa.  Describing the deteriorating situation in Darfur, Denmark’s representative said the direct targeting of humanitarian workers had pushed the situation to the brink of catastrophe.  If security deteriorated even further, the entire region would soon face further destabilization and a scenario not unlike Rwanda in 1994.  In the absence of eyes and ears on the ground, the rest of the world had reason to be extremely worried.

The United Kingdom’s representative said the situation in Zimbabwe was also a cause for concern, as almost none of the victims of the Government eviction operation had benefited from a re-housing programme.  They suffered from food shortages, an inflation rate of more than 1,200 per cent and blatant disregard of human rights, while migration flows also put a burden on neighbouring countries.  As for the alarming sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ending impunity was not only a moral imperative, but also a practical matter, as an end to impunity would contribute to stability and peace.

Responding to comments following the discussion, Mr. Egeland said he had become increasingly desperate regarding the situation in Darfur.  Neighbouring African and Islamic States, China and the Western world must do everything possible to impress upon the Sudanese Government and rebel groups the need to avoid a “meltdown beyond description”.  While the situation in southern Sudan was encouraging, progress could be threatened by a possible collapse in Darfur, he warned.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania, France, Congo, China, United States, Slovakia, Argentina, Japan, Russian Federation, Peru, Qatar and Greece.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 11:55 a.m.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, briefing on the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda, which he had visited last week, said the United Nations and the Congolese Transitional Government had made a lot of progress with increased security and successful elections, but not enough on the issue of impunity.  Sexual abuse had become a cancer in society, while military and civilian authorities were still virtually unaccountable for crimes against civilians.  President Kabila had said that one could act more firmly after the elections.

He said that, in South Kivu alone, more than 1,000 raped women had been treated so far this year and it was not known how many more had suffered in inaccessible parts of the province.  One woman had recounted how she had been raped repeatedly by members of the national army for more than a week, while bound so tightly that she had permanently lost the use of her hands.  The army was not systematically addressing that issue and the Council must exert more forceful pressure on it to end that pattern of abuse.

Expressing concern about the impact of armed forces’ operations on civilians, he said more than 500,000 people had been newly displaced in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, often following a military operation against a militia group.  Too often, civilians fled because of the fighting, and were then victimized by the armed forces, who blamed them for supporting the militias.  The only long-term solution was the formation of one competent national army with the exclusive right to bear arms.

He said that, while the humanitarian situation had improved, the humanitarian efforts still lacked the resources to meet the overwhelming needs, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) did not have money for the food pipeline beyond the next three months.  In 2007, humanitarian programmes would be expanded to meet the needs of the more than 1.6 million internally displaced persons who had returned home last year.  The National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission was not working effectively, and had claimed that it no longer had resources to serve a group of Mayi Mayi militia who had voluntarily disarmed last week.  The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) military observers had shared their rations to avoid looting of the civilian population by the Mayi Mayi.  Other Mayi Mayi groups who had been ready to come out of the bush had not done so because they wanted assurances that they would be taken care of.

The Council should show its strong commitment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo by maintaining MONUC’s strength and the pressure on the Government to end impunity and promote the rule of law and good governance, he said.  “The DRC has seen the worst haemorrhage of human life in this generation.  Four million people -- six Rwandan genocides -- was the death toll to war and preventable disease in the last eight years.  We must not fail to stop once and for all this tragedy.”

Turning to Uganda, he said the picture in the north was more promising than it had been in years.  Since negotiations between the Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had begun in Juba, southern Sudan, earlier in the year, security had increased dramatically.  OCHA could now reach 54 of the 102 internally displaced persons’ camps without military escorts, up from 34 in May.  Internally displaced persons in Acholiland were cautiously beginning to move home.

He said the number of night commuters had fallen to 10,000 from a high of 40,000 last year, and few of the remaining children were moving due to insecurity.  Most continued to move to the towns every night because of social problems at home related to prolonged displacement, such as domestic violence and overcrowding.  The improved security environment would be used to continue improving the situation in the internally displaced persons’ camps and to prepare for the return of more than 1.5 million people.  The Government would need to rapidly increase social services in the north, including the return of teachers, doctors and nurses.  The Prime Minister had said the Government was working on that through the Joint Monitoring Commission and the Government’s Peace, Reconciliation and Development Plan.  The international community must soon make the necessary investments in peace and hold the Government accountable for effective protection of the civilian population and a real reconciliation process.

As the Council was aware, Riek Machar, Vice-President of South Sudan, had been facilitating talks between the Ugandan Government and LRA, he said.  On 26 August, the two sides had signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.  OCHA and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) already had staff providing technical support to the mediation team, and the Department of Political Affairs would dispatch someone over the weekend.  Norway had provided financial support for the peace talks through OCHA, and several other European donors had indicated their willingness also to support those efforts, which was critical to keeping the process moving forward.  The Government of South Sudan lacked the resources to support rapid progress in the talks, and Vice-President Machar had asked the United Nations to provide monitors for the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, assembly areas for LRA fighters, as well as monitors from the parties and the African Union.  He had transmitted that request to the Secretary-General.

The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement required the LRA to move to two assembly points in southern Sudan by 19 September, he said, adding that reports from the field confirmed that LRA units were moving from northern Uganda towards the assembly area at Owiny-Ki-Bul, and from northern Democratic Republic of the Congo into Ri-Kwangba.  Some 400 combatants and non-combatants had so far arrived at the two assembly points, and the United Nations had already assessed the situation there.  The Organization was prepared to provide assistance to the women and children with the LRA, whom the parties had agreed could be separated from the group’s fighters.  The Government of South Sudan had moved some food supplies to those areas.

He said that, while in Uganda and southern Sudan, he had received several telephone calls from Vincent Otti, the LRA second in command, who had invited him for a meeting at the western assembly point.  He had replied that he could only come if LRA made a “humanitarian gesture” and released some of the women and children they were holding.  The group had not agreed to such a release yet.

The International Criminal Court indictments were the number one subject of discussion with the internally displaced persons in Uganda and the parties and civil society in Juba, he said.  All had expressed a strong concern that, if the indictments were not lifted, they could threaten the progress in the most promising talks ever for northern Uganda.  He had said that he believed the indictments had been a factor in pushing LRA into negotiations, that they should not disrupt the talks and that there could be no impunity for mass murder and crimes against humanity.  The parties should, however, look at different ways to develop a solution that met local needs for reconciliation as well as universal standards of justice and accountability.   Peace and justice could work together.

“This is the best chance we have ever had for peace in northern Uganda,” he said, adding that it must be pursued to the end.  The Council’s interest in the issue had been a crucial factor in the progress to date, and it should show its support for the talks and encourage the Government and LRA to reach a final agreement at the soonest opportunity.  The Council should also express its support for the Government’s efforts to develop a recovery plan for northern Uganda, while stressing the need for the affected communities to be fully engaged in the process.  Finally, the Council should stress the need for a reconciliation process that addressed the root causes of the long and terrible conflict, and ensure the future protection of the civilian population.

AUGUSTINE MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that, while he was delighted to hear that the “forgotten emergency” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was finally getting attention, he was alarmed by reports of impunity, especially regarding sexual violence.  It was imperative that armed forces training be given priority, especially in the area of relations with the civilian population.  It was also important that, in the eastern part of the country, MONUC should undertake closer coordination with the armed forces in order to restore the confidence of the population.  It was to be hoped that the Government would take the necessary measures to address the issues after those election. 

He said he was gratified to hear about improvement in northern Uganda, and noted that humanitarian action could greatly facilitate ongoing negotiations.  More vigilance was necessary on the question of release of abducted persons.  It was a matter of particular concern that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda the issue of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration had not received adequate resources.  That could cause continuing insecurity among the population.  There was also a need to reintegrate returning refugees and internally displaced persons.

ALBERT FRANCIS YANKEY ( Ghana) welcomed the positive developments highlighted by the Under-Secretary General, but expressed concern about the remaining obstacles to the delivery of relief to displaced persons.  The achievement of peace was key to the elimination of humanitarian problems and it was only right, therefore, that the Council continue to be fully seized of the humanitarian consequences of conflict as an integral part of its mandate.  The forced displacement of large segments of the population had become part of the strategy of combatants in furtherance of their military objectives.

He stressed the need for the Council to focus on the factors that aggravated suffering in the internally displaced persons’ camps, including restrictions on humanitarian access and the use of civilians as hostages and bargaining chips.  Whatever the outcome of the peace talks in Juba, the deliberate targeting of humanitarian workers also deserved much more serious attention from the international criminal justice system.  Sexual exploitation and abuse should also not be tolerated, and related to that was the human trafficking reported in certain camps.  The proliferation of small arms in the camps was another problem deserving the Council’s attention.  Those arms were used to terrorize displaced persons and posed the risk of turning the camps into staging points for bloody conflicts.

There was also the risk of permanent displacement of the internally displaced persons, for example in northern Uganda, where entire generations had been born in the camps, he said, stressing that the threat posed by prolonged stays in the camps should not be underestimated.  The camps could be fertile ground for terrorists and mercenaries.  Ghana supported the appeal for extra resources so that the agencies on the ground could continue with their vital work.  The African Union had the primary responsibility for providing humanitarian relief for their kith and kin.

JEAN MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) said the United Nations humanitarian response was swifter today, but the improvement observed should not cause members to forget the real state of affairs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The humanitarian situation in certain regions of the country had been among the most lethal in the world.  Faced with the scope of the movement of displaced persons and refugees, the basic principle of voluntary return of refugees must be followed.

He said he was also concerned about the needs of the local population, who suffered from a large number of displaced persons.  The involvement of children in the conflict was of particular concern, and the Congolese authorities, as well as major donors, must implement the recommendations of the Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.  France supported the agencies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and strengthened cooperation among United Nations programmes was needed so that humanitarian assistance could address the needs of the entire territory.  France also hailed the return of donors and welcomed the fact that donors were ready to refinance their relief, given the prospect of restored basic services.

Welcoming also the signing of the ceasefire between the Ugandan Government and LRA, he said it was a step towards the final solution to the conflict there.  The quest for peace should be reconciled with the need not to guarantee impunity.  France was dedicated to the reintegration of child soldiers, especially young girls who had been raped and required special assistance.

CHANTAL ITOUA APOYOLO ( Congo) said the humanitarian situation in Africa was not only of concern to the region itself but also to the whole international community, as it was linked to conflicts and natural disasters.  The fact that impunity and insecurity kept millions of people dependent on humanitarian aid was a matter of concern.  The signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement had opened good prospects for the people of northern Uganda and promised much for the stability of the Great Lakes region.  But it was intolerable that women and girls continued to be raped and children recruited.

As for progress in humanitarian affairs, she stressed the need to implement the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement as soon as possible.  The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process needed to be accelerated and impunity must be ended through existing mechanisms.  Congo called on all parties to recognize the neutrality of humanitarian personnel.   The international community should be encouraged to take up the challenge of humanitarian assistance.  International peace and security would continue to be threatened if resolution 1625 (2005) was not implemented.

ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark) said that, given its gravity, the humanitarian crisis in Africa merited more of the Council’s attention, political and financial resources.  The power of nature only accounted for a fraction of Africa’s humanitarian crises, most of which were man-made.  They could be corrected through concerted action by all the parties involved.

She said the humanitarian situation in a number of other countries, including Zimbabwe, also required the Council’s close attention.  While the humanitarian situation in southern Sudan had led to some optimism, there had been a sharp deterioration in Darfur, where direct targeting of humanitarian workers had pushed the situation to the brink of catastrophe.  In the absence of eyes and ears on the ground, the rest of the world had reason to be extremely worried.  An immediate strengthening of the African Union Mission in the Sudan was essential, not only in words, but also in deeds.  At the same time, the joint planning of a transfer from that mission to the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) must continue without delay.  If security deteriorated even further, the entire region would soon face further destabilization and the world would face a scenario not unlike Rwanda in 1994.

With more than 1,000 people dying every day as a result of the continuing conflict in the east, the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was extremely worrying, she said.  Only through peace and stability could that situation be eased.  The political actors must respect the electoral process and work constructively to support the country’s democratic development.  Denmark welcomed the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the Government of Uganda and LRA as an important step in the right direction and a development that represented the best hope for sustainable peace.  Denmark urged the parties to agree on a comprehensive settlement of the conflict, which would improve the situation of some 2 million displaced people in northern Uganda.  Impunity must be addressed in order to ensure lasting peace.  Uganda must find a solution that was consistent with its obligations under humanitarian law.

Regarding Zimbabwe, she stressed her concern over the humanitarian situation there, noting that a growing number of Zimbabweans were suffering from food insecurity, homelessness and HIV/AIDS.  Denmark requested the Under-Secretary-General to provide an update on cooperation between the United Nations and Zimbabwe.

WANG GUANGYA ( China) said the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which were progressing smoothly, were the most important event in the country’s political life.  However, there were still human rights issues in the east.  The political and security situation was linked to the humanitarian situation, and improvement in the latter would promote progress in the former.  If the humanitarian situation improved in the Kivus, the elections there would be positively impacted.  China hoped that, in the meantime, the Transitional Government would maintain its unity and find a practical solution to the humanitarian situation in the east.

Turning to Uganda, he said the Government had achieved great breakthroughs.  LRA had agreed to lay down its weapons, release abducted prisoners and implement the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.  Those developments had an important impact on the stability of the country as a whole, and China hoped the international community could find an early solution to the International Criminal Court indictment of Joseph Kony.

JOHN BOLTON ( United States) said he was encouraged by what appeared to be some positive developments in Africa.  The return of refugees and displaced persons in Angola and Liberia was nearly complete and a similar process was also under way in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and southern Sudan.  There was reason for cautious optimism about the situations in northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it was hoped that external financial support for recovery in those countries was shared more broadly by a wider donor community.  Encouraged by the ongoing negotiations between the Government of Uganda and LRA, the United States urged both parties to continue to work towards a viable ceasefire.  It was important that the 2007 United Nations Strategy and Consolidated Action Plan address displaced-person returns in Uganda and assistance to internally displaced persons’ camps.

He expressed grave concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur, including possible new flows of refugees to Chad and weak implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  Ways must be found to help reach a cessation of hostilities in Darfur, to help provide security for the civilians there, and to support dialogue rather than the use of arms.  The United States reiterated the call on the Government of the Sudan to welcome deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur.  Given the recent deaths of humanitarian workers in Darfur, there was an urgent need to support individuals working in some of the most difficult areas of the world, for the benefit of those in need.

PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia), while noting the encouraging signs of progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda, pointed out that violence continued, particularly against women and children.  The international community must pay constant attention to the implementation of resolutions 1325 and 1674.  Impunity must not be allowed in any country or region and all perpetrators of violent acts must be brought to justice.  How could impunity be addressed in northern Uganda?  Slovakia shared the view that the Council’s constant attention was crucial for progress in that regard, and would welcome regular briefings on the Government’s commitment to addressing the grave humanitarian situation in the north, including the establishment of a recovery plan.

With respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said it was of the utmost importance to address violence against women and other grave violations of human rights by the Congolese armed forces, as well as militias.  Addressing that problem was a prerequisite for consolidating peace and additional resources were needed to speed up security sector reform.

He concluded by underlining the necessity to pay equal attention to all regions of Africa and to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe currently unfolding in Darfur.  Slovakia was also concerned about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, which could, if not addressed, lead to conflict.  What could the international community do in that regard?

CESAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) welcomed the positive aspects in the briefing, noting that the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda had seen the worst tragedies of a whole generation and expressing the hope that both countries could now follow a path towards democratic normality.  However, Argentina was concerned about the sexual violence.

Emphasizing the utmost urgency of the situation in Darfur, he noted that almost 3 million people in the region might be deprived of humanitarian assistance due to the new escalation of violence.  It was imperative to implement resolution 1706 (2006) without delay.

As for the Juba peace process, he stressed one could not negotiate impunity for the perpetrators of so much suffering in northern Uganda.  In order to have peace, there must be accountability regarding mass violations of human rights.  The Ugandan Government had voluntarily put the issue to the International Criminal Court and should now leave matters in the hands of the Court.  “Peace cannot be achieved by paying the price of justice,” he added.

Condemning the attacks on humanitarian personnel, particularly the deaths of 12 of them in Darfur, he said attacks on humanitarian workers not only violated humanitarian law, but were also an attack on the survival of 3 million people.  The international community could not allow innocent civilians to continue dying in the name of legitimate defence.

KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said that, while the positive developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda were welcome, they were also fragile and sustained support was needed to make them stick.  The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the Ugandan Government and LRA was a positive step and it was now important to ensure that it held.  Hopefully, the favourable momentum would lead to the next steps for a peace agreement and lasting solution, led by Africans through the process they had set in motion.  The international community’s support was also needed.

The question of impunity must also receive due attention, he said, stressing the need to end impunity and bring those responsible for crimes to justice.  Promoting reconciliation was often a sensitive matter and the right formula needed to be found.

Important progress had been made in the political process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, noting the need to support and carefully manage it so that tensions were kept to a minimum.  Japan supported the recommendation that improvement of the humanitarian situation must be pursued in tandem with the political process.

On the situation in southern Sudan, he noted the concerns expressed about the recent resurgence of “other armed groups”.  Efforts must continue towards the consolidation of peace and the further return of refugees after the rainy season.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), referring to the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the recent violence between the security forces of President Joseph Kabila and his rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba, was unacceptable.  The two must restate their commitment to the peace process and resolve their differences in a peaceful manner.  The United Kingdom shared the alarm about the sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was a human rights concern that would have a long-term impact on peace and security.  Ending impunity was not only a moral imperative, but also a practical matter, as an end to impunity would contribute to stability and peace.  The United Kingdom called for a coordinated response to the immense needs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Welcoming the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Uganda, he said that, despite the progress made, 1.7 million people were still living in internally displaced persons’ camps.  It was to be hoped that Government arrangements, to be carried out in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and the international community, would ensure progress.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration must be a priority if there was to be an end to conflict.  Justice would inevitably require an end to impunity for those who had committed the gravest crimes against humanity.

As for Darfur, he stressed the importance of implementing resolution 1706(2006) and ensuring security in Chad.  Maximum pressure must be exerted on the Government of the Sudan to accept UNMIS.  The situation in Zimbabwe was also of concern, as almost none of the victims of its eviction operation had benefited from a re-housing programme.  They suffered from food shortages, an inflation rate of more than 1,200 per cent and blatant disregard of human rights.  Through migration flows, the situation also put a burden on neighbouring countries.

KONSTANTIN DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) said the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to be a complex one, requiring comprehensive international cooperation.   The successful resolution of the situation in that country and the problems of internally displaced persons depended on the peace process going forward and the effective implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation process.  The Congolese parties must, with United Nations help, continue efforts for a political settlement.

The signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between Uganda and LRA, with the assistance of the Government of South Sudan had opened prospects for a final settlement of the northern Uganda conflict and an easing of the situation, he said.  Strict compliance with the agreements was needed, and a step in the right direction was the proposal by the Ugandan Government for the step-by-step easing of the humanitarian situation in the north.  The international community’s support, including financial support, was needed in order to successfully carry out a comprehensive programme.  With the Peacebuilding Commission and the Central Emergency Response Fund, efforts to ease the humanitarian situation in Africa would be able to pick up steam, and Russia would continue to promote those efforts.

ROMY TINCOPA ( Peru) welcomed improvements in the two countries, including Uganda’s Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, but stressed that the Council and the international community should continue to focus on the critical humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Work to create democratic institutions and carry out elections must go hand in hand with social improvements and establishing the rule of law.  Perpetrators of human rights violations must be prosecuted and punished and due attention must be paid to victims.  Without that, there could be no reconciliation.

She said that, while violence against women was simply not acceptable, it was almost becoming a habit in some African countries.  Assistance to internally displaced persons must also be a priority in Darfur, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.  There was also a need for speedy implementation of resolution 1706 and for more financial resources.  Was there any indication that the second round of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo might lead to a resurgence of violence, and was there a plan to prevent worsening of the humanitarian crisis?

MUTLAQ MAJED AL-QAHTANI ( Qatar) said he was saddened to note that the rape of women had become a cancer and that those who committed such crimes did so with impunity.  Surgery was needed to remove the spreading cancer.  The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must not be forgotten and the Council should make all efforts to ensure the full application of criminal justice.  History had proved that national dialogue and reconciliation was the best hope for ending conflict situations.  Recent developments in Uganda testified to that.  The Council must support Uganda Government efforts to settle the problem in the north and deal with its root causes by encouraging reconciliation and dialogue.

The best hope for realizing peace in Darfur was not by transferring the African Union Mission to UNMIS, but by calling on rebel groups to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement, he said.  It was also necessary to enhance reconciliation and strengthen the judicial and legal systems, so that all those who had violated international humanitarian law could be tried.

Council President ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS ( Greece), speaking in his national capacity, expressed some optimism at the political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, even though the situation remained fragile.  Violence, including the sexual abuse of women, still posed a threat to untold numbers of Congolese, while, in Katanga, the problem of 150,000 internally displaced persons persisted.  There was now hope for a political settlement in northern Uganda, where 20 years of conflict had caused immense suffering.  Regional actors and the international community should spare no effort to ensure the allocation of adequate resources for humanitarian assistance and the sustainable reintegration of conflict-affected populations.

He said the humanitarian operation launched in Darfur in late 2003 was now on the brink of total collapse, touching on what some had called the “ Rwanda threshold”.  The number of gross human rights violations, including rapes, had risen dramatically over the past few weeks, as had the number of internally displaced persons.  Humanitarian access had been severely restricted, as humanitarian workers were targeted.  The only way to improve the situation and resolve the crisis was to fully and expeditiously implement resolution 1706 (2006) and uphold the Darfur Peace Agreement.  There could be no military solution to the crisis.

Response by Under-Secretary-General

Mr. EGELAND, responding to delegates’ questions and comments, noted that, during his previous briefings to the Council on the humanitarian situation in Africa, he had brought mostly bad tidings, including after his first big trip to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003.  Today’s briefing had the very positive message that two of the worst wars of the current time could be brought to an end.  Such an historic opportunity did not often exist.

The international community must work to end the haemorrhage of life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the kidnapping of children in Uganda, he stressed.  Militias were giving up their arms in eastern Congo, and the LRA were gathering at the assembly points.  Urgent action and a flexible way to respond were needed.  The Mayi Mayi fighters needed tools and farming implements to take up a livelihood.  That was not happening.  The 400 combatants who had come to the assembly points would be joined by thousands of others.  It would be better that they eat canned food than return to northern Uganda and start attacking the civilian population again.

Regarding the question of a consistent recovery effort in the 2007 appeals, he said the country teams were working hard on an ambitious recovery and reconstruction programmes for eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda.  The Secretary-General would launch the 2007 appeal at the end of November, and he had also agreed on the need for more help in realizing that programme.  With some five dozen viable economies in the world, more than the usual suspects should contribute to the appeal.

With respect to the balance between reconciliation and peace on the one hand and justice and accountability on the other, he said Africa could be a model for other continents in terms of its ability to reconcile and look to the future.  The problem, however, was that it had often been a case of forgive and forget.  The military and political elites were often not interested in ending impunity for serious violations of human rights, including rampant sexual abuse.  The focus should be on the need to ensure peace with justice.  That was certainly possible in northern Uganda.  The words International Criminal Court Prosecutor were encouraging; the Court’s indictments would not be a stumbling block, but rather an impulse for further progress.  Peace was now at hand for northern Uganda.

Congratulating MONUC for its work in the first round of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he also commended William Lacey Swing, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, for working to reconcile tensions between the two presidential candidates contenders in the second round, the results of which would hopefully not lead to further tension.  The marathon was only half way run and the billions of dollars invested in MONUC must now be bolstered by the international community’s future investments in peace and rebuilding.  That non-governmental organizations had been told they would have less to work with in 2007 was a bad omen for OCHA’s ability to stay the course until the end.

He said he had become “increasingly desperate” regarding the situation in Darfur.  $4.5 million had been released from the Emergency Fund for helicopters to get back in touch with those groups with which contact had been lost, as well as to drop food.  That “crude” life-saving measure showed how desperate the situation had become.  OCHA was sending more staff to Darfur to help non-governmental organizations stay in Darfur.  One non-governmental organization had lost five out of seven vehicles to carjacking and armed robbery by various armed groups, including militias and organized crime gangs.  Leaving the non-governmental organizations and the African Union Mission was like “pulling the plug”.  Neighbouring African and Islamic States, China and the Western world must do everything possible to impress upon the Sudanese Government and the rebels the need to avoid a “meltdown beyond description”.

While the situation in southern Sudan was encouraging, that progress could be threatened by a possible collapse in Darfur, he warned.  LRA was gathering at assembly points in South Sudan, and UNMIS had brokered agreement between the Sudan Liberation Army and other groups.  The security-alert level had been lowered, but the situation remained fragile.

Turning to the situation in Southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe, he said that, after the Government’s eviction campaign, he had been promised that all those evicted would end up in better housing.  More than 92,000 structures had been destroyed during that campaign and, of the 3,325 or so houses subsequently constructed, many had gone to people who had not been evicted.  Amnesty International’s report was accurate and to the point.  OCHA had tried to construct housing, but had been hindered by a lack of Government cooperation.  $2 million had been released from the Emergency Fund, but 1 million people were in need of food assistance.  Zimbabwe’s economy was in decline and vulnerability was increasing.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.