|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6203rd Meeting (AM)
Citing Real Prospect for Ending Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo,
Special Representative Says United Nations Mission Must Not Rest on Laurels
In Briefing, MONUC Chief Says Rebuilding Country, Ensuring Lasting Safety
Of Population Require Security Council’s Continued Assistance, Engagement
Now that there was a real prospect of ending the violence plaguing the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, efforts to ensure the lasting security of the population there must be pursued to a successful conclusion, Alan Doss, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, told the Security Council this morning.
“We should avoid resting on our laurels”, he stressed as he introduced the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the work of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there, known as MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) (see background).
Overall, he said, the Congolese Armed Forces, or FARDC (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo), had made progress in operations against foreign armed groups and in particular against the ethnic Hutu Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR). The integration of Congolese armed groups into the FARDC was being accomplished, more FDLR combatants and their dependents were being repatriated to Rwanda and refugees and internally displaced persons were returning home.
This year, he continued, some 2,000 children had been separated from armed groups, 120 political prisoners had been released and stabilization programmes in areas that had been freed from the control of armed groups was now opening the way for the return of State authority.
Mr. Doss stressed that threats, however, persisted. The FDLR had still not been neutralized and attacks continued in the North and South Kivu provinces and in Orientale province where remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) were still active. Returns of internally displaced persons and refugees had caused tensions, sometimes of an ethnic nature. There had been new population displacements and human rights violations, and there was still an appallingly high level of sexual violence against women. In addition, the integration into the Army of ex-rebels had aggravated discipline problems.
He said several issues must be addressed if momentum generated by agreements between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and agreements with armed groups was to be maintained. He urged pressing on with the initiative known as Kimia II, the joint MONUC/Congolese campaign against the FDLR, as well as putting pressure on FDLR leaders who were outside the country through criminalizing the militia under the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
In secured areas, he said that stabilization had to be assured, with a priority of controlling mining sites. Non-military initiatives designed to encourage defections among remaining FDLR combatants had to be intensified. The discipline of the national Army and police required constant attention to signal that impunity would not be accepted.
Since the Security Council had mandated MONUC to focus on protection, the Mission had identified protection hotspots and established mobile operating bases, he said. More than 50 operations by joint protection teams had been launched, guided by a Rapid Response and Intelligence Cell. The performance of national Army battalions was also being monitored and the Congo’s military leadership was asked to take corrective measures when disciplinary problems were noted.
The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had declared a zero tolerance policy for acts of sexual and gender-based violence and the Government was now acting against looting, corruption and other undisciplined behaviour. MONUC was establishing Prosecution Support Cells to assist Congolese authorities in investigating and prosecuting serious crimes, including rape. MONUC would withdraw support from battalions that showed a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.
He said that under a specific directive on civilian protection, MONUC “Blue Helmets” provided protection against attacks by armed elements to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance. Peacekeepers provided armed escorts for villagers on market days, so that they could travel without fear of harassment or illegal taxation by armed groups. The Blue Helmets also supported rehabilitation of schools, administrative buildings, roads and bridges.
He paid tribute to the personnel who were pursuing the protection strategies in the vast, demanding terrain of the Kivu provinces, saying: “Our protection efforts are a daily exercise in managing scare resources and making hard choices.”
To strengthen their operations, Mr. Doss said, the first elements of the additional 3,000 uniformed personal the Council authorized last year had begun to arrive in the east in the past few weeks, and another battalion was being redeployed to Orientale province from Kinshasa to “backstop” operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army, leaving only 500 military personnel in the entire western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Air assets were still sorely lacking.
Turning to other areas, he said that the implementation of the 23 March agreements on the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) were also progressing and timetables had not been yet announced for local elections and might be pushed back to late 2010, as the enabling legislation was lagging. He also noted the many impediments to strengthening the justice sector, calling for resources to be focussed in that area, as well as in attaining the minimum humanitarian conditions in the prisons.
In regard to MONUC’s mandate, he said the preparation of a new Integrated Strategic Framework was ongoing, which would detail the current challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and recommend the best way for the United Nations to respond to them. He urged the Council to consider that document when it reviewed the Mission’s mandate. Assuming that the surge in the east was successful, and major military operations against armed groups were concluded in 2010, gradual troop withdrawals could be considered, permitting a re-direction of resources to broad security sector reform and strengthening the rule of law.
In summarizing the many achievements of MONUC as it approached its tenth anniversary, he said that the crucial tasks that remained included the training of a professional Army, the establishment of national authority everywhere and the rebuilding of the country. “I believe those tasks must be done with the assistance of MONUC and the support of the Council,” he concluded.
Following Mr. Doss’ presentation, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo stressed the historic importance of MONUC to his country and to the Organization, as the largest United Nations peacekeeping operation, which could finally put an end to the first African “world war”. “MONUC must succeed in the Congo,” he declared.
To be a complete success, MONUC, he specified, must make a successful exit. The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo did not want a hasty withdrawal, but at the same time, they did not want the Mission to stay forever.
He said that cooperation was necessary to elaborate parameters and draw up a timetable for disengagement of United Nations troops, as well as to develop a road map towards a peacebuilding operation that covered an area beyond the Congo’s borders. To that end, he had asked for the establishment of a United Nations Office for Central Africa with its headquarters in Kinshasa.
Turning to the issue of sexual violence, he reminded the Council that in 2000 it had been warned about the impact of HIV/AIDS on peace and security in Africa, and of the spread of the disease by HIV-positive soldiers. Today the AIDS prevalence rate in the Kivus and in Orientale province was four times the national average. He was convinced that, if the Council, at that time, had shouldered its responsibility, the “virus of sexual violence” would not have spread, declaring that acts of sexual violence against women and children in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were the most serious crimes of the twenty-first century.
He drew attention to the sexual offences committed by Blue Helmets on the night of 1 August at the N’Djili Airport, saying that a MONUC spokesperson had declared that there was not sufficient evidence to support a complaint by an 18‑year-old woman that she had been gang raped and demanding to know how that conclusion had been reached. He asked the Council to be seized of the matter. The Blue Helmets, he said, did not have the right to turn the airport into a brothel.
Also this morning, Le Luong Minh of Viet Nam, which holds the presidency of the Council for the month of October, paid tribute to Ambassador John Sawers of the United Kingdom, who would soon leave his current position.
The meeting, which began at 10:15 a.m. ended at 11 a.m.
The Council had before it the Twenty-ninth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document S/2009/472), which reports on developments in that country since the last quarterly report of 30 June 2009. It says that stabilization of the troubled eastern provinces has been uneven, with some rebels being reintegrated into the national Army while others continued to attack civilians.
“The humanitarian situation remained precarious during the reporting period due to large-scale population displacements; human rights violations by armed men, including rapes, killings and lootings; impeded humanitarian access; and security incidents against humanitarian workers,” the Secretary-General says in the report.
The total number of internally displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is estimated at 2.2 million, of whom an estimated 1.7 million people remain displaced in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, where more than 400,000 persons have fled their homes since January.
The Secretary-General reports that the challenges that remain in the North and South Kivu provinces remain “formidable and have the potential to impede the consolidation of peace and stability in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo if not handled in a timely and comprehensive manner”.
He urges the Congolese Government to work with partners, including the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MONUC, to keep the integration process on track by ensuring regular payment of salaries to the national Army, known as FARDC, by building barracks for the soldiers based in the east and by other means.
While some rebels, including members of the CNDP, continued their integration into FARDC, in accordance with agreements signed in March, military operations against the mainly Rwandan Hutu rebel group, Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, spread into South Kivu, he reports.
He also reports that the FDLR and the Uganda-based rebels, Lord’s Resistance Army, continued to attack civilians in the Kivus and Orientale province, respectively, resulting in new population displacements. In Ituri province, to the north, two residual armed groups, the Forces de résistance patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) and the Front populaire pour la justice au Congo (FPJC), continued to attack and loot civilians in the Irumu area.
Elements of FARDC also conducted exactions against civilians, although some progress was reported in the areas of military justice and discipline within those forces, the Secretary-General writes, adding that he is encouraged by Government steps against impunity for sexual violence and other human rights violations by Army elements in the Kivus.
He says, however, that the human rights situation throughout the country continues to cause serious concern, with MONUC observing an increase in reported human rights violations perpetrated by foreign armed groups and also, at times, by Government security forces, some of which were perceived to be ethnically motivated.
“Sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained severe during the reporting period, with rapes and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups, security forces and, increasingly, civilians,” he writes.
The Secretary-General urges all parties, particularly the Congolese authorities, to ensure the full operation of the local conciliation committees and the appointment of territorial administrators and their assistants, and to expedite the appointment of members of the former armed groups to administrative positions as foreseen in recent agreements. He also calls on Member States to act against FDLR leaders based in their countries to cut off support.
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