|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6159th Meeting (AM)
civilians have paid high price in campaign to integrate congolese armed groups,
dismantle foreign ones, Special representative tells Security Council
Briefing Also Outlines Progress on Stabilization, Recovery, Electoral Preparations
Significant progress had been made in the integration of local armed groups into the Congolese military, and in their incorporation into its operations against foreign fighters, but the two processes had engendered serious humanitarian consequences for the civilian population, Alan Doss, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told the Security Council this morning.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2009/335) on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), Mr. Doss said action to dismantle foreign armed groups operating in the eastern part of the country had led to population displacements and serious human rights violations by the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as well as undisciplined soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).
Some of the disciplinary problems afflicting FARDC stemmed from delays in the payment of salaries and from the fact that many integrated ex-combatants maintained loyalty to their former commanders, he continued. In response, the Government and the FARDC high command had taken measures to reinforce military justice, including the trial and sentencing of several soldiers and the removal of some of the most notorious commanders.
He said civilian protection had been enhanced as a key part of MONUC’s strategy to deal with FDLR, adding that the Mission had established 35 military bases in North Kivu Province. However, the manning of so many bases had stretched resources thin, and the arrival of additional forces authorized under resolution 1843 (2008) would help alleviate the pressures. Joint Protection Teams, comprising civilian personnel from various sections, had undertaken a total of 30 protection and assessment missions, mostly in North Kivu. They had helped create greater awareness of the local and ethnic dynamics contributing to violence. The Mission had also established an early warning and rapid response cell, complementing the creation of Joint Operations Centres for MONUC and FARDC in the three operational zones within the provinces of North and South Kivu.
A particularly important aspect of civilian protection was combating sexual and gender-based violence, he said. The Government and its international partners had adopted a comprehensive strategy that was being implemented by all relevant actors through decisive action in the judiciary and corrections system. President Joseph Kabila had declared a “zero tolerance” policy in that respect. It should not be overlooked that FARDC was conducting challenging operations in particularly difficult circumstances. Some 50 soldiers had lost their lives and more than 30 had been wounded in the campaign against FDLR.
It was too soon to make a definitive assessment of the ongoing operations against foreign armed groups, he said, but some initial conclusions could be drawn: Operation Iron Stone and the long struggle to dismantle the remaining armed groups in southern Ituri District seemed to be approaching the “home stretch”; FDLR had been reduced to fairly isolated pockets in some parts of North Kivu, but significant numbers of combatants were still present in Walikale and Lubero; almost 10,000 Rwandans had been repatriated since January, including 1,206 combatants; dismantling FDLR would require a multidimensional approach comprising a combination of sustained military pressure and enhanced efforts and incentives to induce younger elements to surrender; and it was important to take more determined action against FDLR leaders in exile.
As for LRA, he said several commanders of the Ugandan rebel group had been captured or killed since the beginning of “Operation Rudia”, while 109 combatants had been killed and 115 arrested. However, it would take a while before the LRA threat was neutralized, and there was cause for particular concern about the fate of hundreds of children and young people abducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. LRA remained a serious security challenge that would require the sustained commitment of all Governments and United Nations missions in the subregion if the group was effectively to be neutralized.
Mr. Doss said implementation of the 23 March agreements between the Government and armed groups in the Kivus was proceeding steadily but slowly. The Amnesty Law had been promulgated and the Congrès National pour la Défence du Peuple (CNDP) had been registered as a political party. The military integration of CNDP and other groups continued to be hampered by delayed salary payments and difficulties in streamlining the command structure. Comprehensive security-sector reform, including the vetting of the security forces was of critical importance. He said he had conveyed proposals to the Minister for Defence for consolidating the integration of armed groups in the Kivus, while discouraging the integration of any additional militias into an already “plethoric” FARDC.
Turning to the issue of stabilization and socio-economic recovery, he said a plan for eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo built on and incorporated the earlier work carried out on the United Nations Security and Stabilization Support Strategy (UNSSSS). It had been estimated to cost $1.2 billion, of which $500 million had already been made available. Projects at an advanced stage of implementation included the rehabilitation of six key transport routes in the Kivus and Ituri, the training and deployment of police and judiciary personnel, and preparations for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
The economic situation was difficult for the country as a whole, he said, emphasizing that the Government should take decisive action to improve the management of public finances, and address the prevailing lack of transparency and accountability in order to capitalize on support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the European Union.
He said the Independent Election Commission had started updating voter registration as planned, which had led to a considerable mobilization of the major political parties, but the national authorities had still not provided the Commission with an official list of constituencies. Although the delayed adoption of enabling legislation did not yet mean that elections could not be held in early 2010, the time frame was narrowing.
As for the configuration of MONUC, he said the Mission was preparing for a gradual transition in western Democratic Republic of the Congo. Together with the United Nations country team, the Mission would elaborate an Integrated Strategic Framework detailing the progressive handover of MONUC’s tasks in the western part of the country.
In conclusion, he said a critical stage had been reached in respect of supporting the Government’s integration of armed groups and neutralizing the threat from foreign combatants. In the face of renewed violence against civilians, particularly sexual violence, the strategy must be adjusted to better protect them. The objective, however, was to eliminate once and for all the threat of destabilizing armed groups that caused enormous suffering to the people of the Kivus and Orientale Province. That task could be completed by pooling all efforts in a comprehensive military, diplomatic, juridical, socio-economical and political strategy, which, however, would not succeed without material, political and diplomatic support.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:50 a.m.
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