|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6215th Meeting (AM)
Security Council Is Told ‘Slide to War’ Threatening Great Lakes Region
Reversed, but Underlying Issues Still Need Attention
Secretary-General’s Envoy Reports on Efforts to Ease Tensions among Parties
The slide to war that had threatened Africa’s Great Lakes region last year had been reversed, but the underlying causes of repeated crises must be dealt with, Olusegun Obasanjo, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the region, told the Security Council this morning.
“Without dealing effectively with the underlying issues, peace can neither be durable nor irreversible,” he said, adding that addressing those issues was a prerequisite for any cutback of international facilitation in the region.
On the positive side, he said, one year after he and his co-facilitator, former President Benjamin Mkapa of the United Republic of Tanzania, had been appointed, the situation in the Great Lakes region had dramatically improved. On 7 November 2008, Laurent Nkunda’s Congrès national pour la défense du people (CNDP) had been at the gates of Goma in the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Today, CNDP no longer existed as a politico-military organization, the humanitarian situation had improved and many internally displaced persons were now returning home.
In addition, the threat to regional peace by groups such as the Forces démocratique de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) had been considerably reduced and there had been a notable warming in regional relationships, he said.
He had, he recounted, made a total of 30 visits to 10 Heads of State in the region, and had carried messages to build détente to Presidents Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who soon thereafter had renewed contact by telephone. In November 2008, he had met with Laurent Nkunda, resulting in a direct dialogue between CNDP and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
That activity had laid the groundwork for the peace agreements between the Government, CNDP and other armed groups on 23 March 2009, he said. The rapprochement between the Presidents of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had culminated in the decision to take decisive joint military action against FDLR on Congolese soil.
There had been substantial progress on implementation of the 23 March agreements, including the promulgation of an amnesty law, the registration of CNDP as a political party and the release of political prisoners. In addition, authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Nations Organization Mission in the country (MONUC) were establishing a programme for the stabilization and rebuilding of ex-conflict zones.
Slow army integration remained an issue in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, stressing that, without concerted international support, there was little chance that military integration would be effective in the near future and that “the era of warlordism” would not return. Although spontaneous returns of internally displaced persons had increased significantly, the process leading to the return of refugees from neighbouring countries would have to be managed carefully to avoid a resumption of hostilities between communities in the Kivus.
He said some provisions of the 23 March agreements remained unimplemented, including establishment of a national reconciliation mechanism; creation of a “proximity police force”; reforms in the area of good governance and the proper control of natural resources; and the identification of means to foster the participation of elements of the former armed groups more directly in the political life of the nations. A further concern related to rumours of splits within CNDP.
Turning to the regional level, he said that the rapproachement between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda gave him hope. He cited the joint operation against FDLR, joint energy generation from butane gas in Lake Kivu and the restoration of diplomatic relations and exchange of ambassadors, which had taken place within the last two weeks.
The restoration of full trust between the peoples of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo would take some time, he cautioned. In furtherance of confidence, he encouraged the two Presidents to take the opportunity soon to meet once again.
Operations against FDLR were achieving “reasonable success”, he said, although the humanitarian consequences of those operations should not be played down. It was important to continue to support the Congolese Government in its resolve to rid the Kivus of that militia while encouraging them to protect civilians.
Mr. Obasanjo said that, in order for the facilitators to take “a step back from an active role” in the region, he had told Democratic Republic of the Congo President Kabila that underlying issues must be addressed, and that the so-called 23 March agreements between parties in the region must be fully implemented. He was in active correspondence with President Kabila towards that end.
In a month or so, he said, he would send a team under his senior adviser to make a further assessment of progress and at the end of January, he and former President Mkapa would submit a final report based on that study to African Union leaders.
In order to set up an early warning mechanism, in case new crises should loom, he was working with the United Nations to consider “retooling” his existing support office in Nairobi as a very small, dedicated “listening post”, which would continue the implementation of the 23 March agreements, monitor efforts to counter the violence of residual foreign armed groups in the broader region and consolidate regional rapprochement.
Towards addressing underlying causes, he recommended an “umbrella approach” bringing together the United Nations, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and international development partners in a concerted effort to strengthen governance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He said that, with President Mkapa, he planned, in the near future, to discuss the approach with all concerned parties.
The Council meeting opened at 10:14 a.m. and closed at 10:45 a.m.
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