|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR DEMOCRATIC
REPUBLIC OF CONGO ON BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL
Alan Doss, Head of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), said today that he had voiced concern to the Security Council about delays in fulfilling its decision to beef up the operation’s military and police components to reinforce its capacity to protect beleaguered civilians.
The problem was one of United Nations peacekeeping; the United Nations had no standing army and no defence minister who could say “hey, off you go”, said Mr. Doss, who is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cap in hand, the Organization had to knock on a lot of doors, which sometimes opened, but only slowly.
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference after briefing Council members on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said there were some indications that there were countries willing to contribute additional personnel, but that had to be put in writing. They also had to sign memorandums of understanding with the United Nations and send teams to conduct reconnaissance among other tasks. As always, that was a fairly lengthy process.
“We haven’t made a lot of progress in terms of getting boots on the ground in the capacities we need,” he said, adding that he had wished to emphasize to Council members the continuing importance of that reinforcement package. “Things have changed, things have improved, but still, the situation is very fluid and volatile in the east, especially in North and South Kivu, where operations against the ex-Rwanda forces are expected to begin in the not-too-distance future.”
At the same time, he said, he had indicated to the Council that it was “time to start thinking about life after MONUC”. The Mission had been in place for 10 years, although not on the same scale as today. But it had “come a long way” and it was appropriate to begin that reflection. A strategic work plan to be presented to the Council would include benchmarks to illuminate the way towards a post-MONUC future. While that was not for tomorrow, it was important at least to begin thinking about it.
He said he had also stressed the “sea change” in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo over the last few months following the rapprochement between Kinshasa and [the Rwandan capital of] Kigali and to some extent [the Ugandan capital of] Kampala. That had opened up new prospects for lasting peace, “although we’re not there yet”. There was universal agreement on the need to maintain the momentum generated by those developments.
MONUC was endeavouring to seize those opportunities, first by enhancing its role in protecting vulnerable civilians, its principal priority, he continued. Secondly, the Mission was seeking to support the so-called integration effort, as former fighters of the Congrès National pour la Défence du Peuple (CNDP) were progressively integrated into the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC). Finally, it was involved in the broader effort to help stabilize the east because a cessation of armed conflict was not enough, but must be backed up by efforts to revive the economy, get people home, rebuild State authority and, above all, help find jobs for the large numbers of young people who were a potential source of recruitment for militias, particularly in the country’s eastern portion.
Noting that the ex-Rwandan armed forces, the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had also been discussed, he said he had expressed the need to support military reform given the need of the Congolese armed forces for better training, equipment and material support. While MONUC was helping in that regard, they also had issues of discipline and command and control. A “thorough-going” reform of the military was absolutely indispensable.
He said a secondary task was supporting the stabilization of the east, for which resources were required to start projects involving road rehabilitation, reviving agriculture and, when the time was right, helping displaced people to return home in safety and dignity. The third task was dealing with sexual violence, which had reached “horrific levels”. MONUC could not do that alone; it needed many partners to work on a strategy to counter sexual violence, of which he had outlined some key elements.
In conclusion, he said that he had emphasized that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was one of the principal victims of the global economic crisis. According to the Budget Minister, State revenues had declined by 70 per cent, year-on-year, owing to the collapse in the prices of raw material, so assistance to help the country weather that storm was essential. Non-payment of salaries to soldiers and other security personnel would complicate the situation, especially in the east. Measures being taken to hold local elections had also been discussed, an important matter given that there were 6,000 constituencies in a country the size of Western Europe, involving some 200,000 candidates.
* *** *