|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6551st Meeting* (AM)
Security Council Told Upcoming Elections in Democratic Republic of Congo
of ‘Critical Importance’, as It Meets to Consider UN Mission’s Mandate
‘We Have No Illusions Regarding Magnitude’ of Electoral Challenges,
For Which There Are ‘No Guarantees of Success’, Special Representative Says
The holding of peaceful, credible elections, protection of civilians, regional stabilization, control of mineral resources and security-sector reform presented the major challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the coming year, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this morning.
Upcoming elections, in particular, were of “critical importance” Roger Meese told the Council in a briefing that also included the Congolese representative and preceded the expiration of the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), which the Secretary-General recommends renewing for another 12 months in its present configuration (see Background).
“We have no illusions regarding the magnitude of the challenges of organizing successful elections and there are no guarantees of success,” Mr. Meese said of the presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled for November 2011, to be followed by provincial and local elections in 2012. However, he pointed out, the same risk factors had been present during the 2006 election cycle, which had been held successfully.
In addition to the logistical challenges, he noted with concern several reports of harassment, intimidation and violence centred on electoral activities, particularly involving opposition parties. Government leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring free, peaceful and fair conditions for the elections. MONUSCO would continue an active dialogue with all to encourage such conditions.
Preparations for the elections had been under way for some time, he noted, with over half of the projected total of 31 million eligible voters already registered. In addition, a timetable had been announced by the National Independent Electoral Commission. New electoral legislation had been passed by the National Assembly, and he urged their rapid adoption by the Senate.
MONUSCO, he said, had been actively supporting the process, transporting thousands of tons of materials, providing ongoing technical support in a variety of areas, and generally helping national authorities meet the ambitious timetable. For the next budgetary year, however, the Mission would need supplementary financial resources to continue such extensive electoral support without negatively impacting other activities. Continued backing by international partners for the elections was also needed, with 60 per cent of the budget covered by the Congolese Government. An adequate number of international and national observers must also be deployed, he added, welcoming commitments from the European Union, the Carter Center and other entities.
In regard to the security environment and the related threats to the civilian population, which he said remained the Mission’s greatest concern, there was still much to be done, but the situation must be viewed on a localized basis to obtain a full understanding of the remaining threats, the relevant factors affecting the problem and the options available to address it.
In that regard, he said the primary threat in Orientale province was the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which was limited in size and poorly supplied, but yet continued to use very brutal tactics. Joint MONUSCO, Congolese and Ugandan operations were ongoing, but the only strategy that could eliminate the threat was one that focused on the LRA leadership — three of whom were under indictment by the International Criminal Court. That went beyond MONUSCO’s mandate, but the Mission was ready to support that process to the maximum extent possible.
In the Ituri District of Orientale province, there was some residual militia activity, but apparent recent attempts to recruit new militia elements or form new groups had not been very successful, and increased cooperation by the population with Congolese security forces and MONUSCO was an encouraging sign.
In North and South Kivu provinces, the weakened state of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) had encouraged repatriation of more senior cadres. The recent arrest by Congolese authorities of Bernard Munyagishari and his pending transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was a further encouraging step. MONUSCO, together with Congolese authorities, was exploring other means to address the FDLR threat.
Another remaining challenge in the Kivu provinces was completing the integration of armed groups into the Congolese Army, particularly members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), which had retained parallel structures. The threats of some Mayi-Mayi, Ugandan and other armed groups remained, but at a much smaller level than that of the FDLR.
In the area of illegal exploitation of mineral resources, he said it was important that international efforts by various countries be coordinated to the maximum extent possible with regional and Congolese national efforts. MONUSCO was continuing to help the Government establish trading centres where minerals could be certified as originating from legitimate mining operations. It was also supporting regional dialogue, which was critical in that regard.
On further strengthening the National Police, which the Government had asked MONUSCO to support, he welcomed the adoption of necessary legislation, but stated that further police capacity was still limited by resources. He appealed to donors to fund additional training programmes, assuring them of MONUSCO’s intention to make effective use of all resources.
He said the reinforcement of judicial and military institutions was shown by the growing number of military trials of security personnel, including of officers of the Congolese army, who had been found guilty of serious abuses, including rape and other gender-based violence. Overall, however, capacity in both the civilian and military justice systems was still weak. For that reason, MONUSCO and bilateral partners were supporting the Joint Prosecution Support Cell initiative and other programmes that reinforced the work of army investigators, prosecutors and judges. Additional support was still needed in those areas and the corrections sector.
Finally, he welcomed the continuation of the joint assessment process between the United Nations and the Congolese Government, saying that that would be a key resource for looking at any future configuration and deployment of MONUSCO forces. However, he warned that the gaps in MONUSCO’s critical helicopter capabilities would worsen, following the scheduled departure of the remaining combat helicopters in July, absent new contributions.
Taking the floor next, Ileka Atoki, Permanent Representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United Nations, recognized the Secretary-General’s most recent report on MONUSCO’s work and the situation in his country. On 18 May, the Council had held an important meeting that had allowed the participants to forge a consensus on the progress that had been made, the remaining obstacles, and on future United Nations action and MONUSCO’s mandate.
On the upcoming elections, he said that holding those polls in the most positive and inclusive atmosphere would be the Government’s utmost priority in the coming months. The Government would also aim to ensure that the elections took place in a peaceful atmosphere, and he thanked the Mission for its support of the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission. He hoped that all Council Members and other Member States would support the electoral preparations and the polls themselves. The Government wished to reassure the Council that it had no intention to weaken the consolidation of the security situation, and would continue to work with MONUSCO as its mandate was readjusted.
It was incumbent upon the Congolese Government to work with the Council to ensure that good governance and the rule of law was implemented countrywide. He urged its neighbours and partners to recognize that the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Nations were entering into a new phase of their partnership, which would require changes on the ground.
“The time has come to move to a new phase of peace and economic recovery,” he added. To that end, the country had employed rehabilitation and socio-economic stabilization strategies, chiefly for North Kivu and other districts, including in Orientale province and North Tanganyika. The elements for the economic recovery, which sought consolidation of stability in the North and West, must now be revisited. “We must go beyond these programmes”, and “call on out partners to review them and invest massively in them to ensure real economic recovery”.
Turning to security sector reform, he said that a request had been submitted to the Government on reform of the national police forces, but resource constraints were hampering the broader effort. While awaiting the provision of resources, the Government would continue to count on the assistance of MONUSCO to help train officers for patrolling and monitoring the election sites. He hoped that similar support would be provided to enable the Government to build a competent, professional and republican national army.
The Government was continuing to address the activities of armed groups, he said, highlighting the recent arrest of Mr. Munyagishari. The Government was meanwhile struggling to reduce the “nuisance factor” of the LRA, whose heinous activities continued to rage across a vast area that encompassed Central African Republic, Chad, and Uganda, as well as his own country.
Turning next to the issue of justice, he said: “If we want a true peace, we need to restore truth.” He ensured the Congolese people that the Government had not forgotten the atrocities, the massacres, their broken mothers or sisters who had been buried alive during conflict. The Government had taken relevant initiatives to establish, within the judiciary, certain “mixed chambers”, attached to local appeals courts, to hear cases of grave human rights violations.
Those chambers, he explained, would not only help end impunity, but also improve the access of victims to the country’s justice system. Further, the exercise would bolster the capacity of national courts to adjudicate cases concerning grave human rights violations. The chambers would hopefully begin working in concert with similar bodies in other countries in the region, thus creating a “security belt” that would allow cases to be tried against those that had fled their respective countries.
Thanking the United Nations for its ongoing support, he said that Congolese President Joseph Kabila had joined the wider international community in expressing support for the Secretary-General’s announcement that he would welcome a second term as head of the United Nations. With the Secretary-General’s birthday fast-approaching, the Council could take that opportunity to welcome that announcement.
The meeting was opened at 10:10 a.m. and closed at 10:50 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document S/2011/298), which reports that the assessment process carried out jointly between the United Nations and the Congolese Government did not indicate at this stage any reconfiguration of the mandate or deployment of the Mission, which is known as MONUSCO.
The Secretary-General, therefore, recommends that MONUSCO’s mandate be extended by a further 12 months, with the Mission’s military troop and police unit strength maintained at current authorized levels. Regarding presidential and National Assembly elections, scheduled for 28 November, to be followed by provincial and local elections in 2012, he recommends that the Mission continue to provide logistical and technical assistance for the timely conduct of credible, free, fair and transparent polls and to continue to assist the National Independent Electoral Commission to encourage dialogue among all stakeholders.
In addition, he says that MONUSCO should continue to protect United Nations personnel and assets, and provide sufficient aviation assets as are made available, to contain violent acts that threaten the protection of civilians during the electoral period. He notes that additional resources would need to be approved by the General Assembly in order for MONUSCO to provide such support without impacting the implementation of other currently mandated tasks.
He says that in keeping with the Mission’s increased emphasis on stabilization, MONUSCO should also continue to support the Government’s Stabilization and Reconstruction Plan for War-Affected Areas through the International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and work with the United Nations country team and national counterparts towards the adoption and implementation of the peace consolidation programme for western provinces.
In terms of the country situation, the report states that, overall, the situation has remained stable, with the exception of the eastern provinces of Orientale and North and South Kivu, where violence has persisted. Pre-electoral activities have intensified across the country, including voter registration and actions by the Electoral Commission. Constitutional amendments have also been developed, including the change of the presidential poll to a single round. Delays in voter registration and the adoption of essential electoral legislation, however, are expected to pose continued challenges to the timely conduct of the polls. Although the formal campaign period has not yet begun, opposition parties and civil society have expressed concern over the disruption of their political activities by national authorities, particularly the police.
Progress made towards the neutralization of foreign and Congolese armed groups in the Kivus remained limited, he says. The Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) began internal restructuring in the Kivus while intensifying negotiations with the residual Congolese armed groups on their integration into FARDC. There were continued attacks against civilians, including acts of sexual violence, by foreign and Congolese armed groups and some FARDC elements. In an encouraging development, trials of FARDC officers accused of human rights violations were conducted in South Kivu. In Orientale province, however, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to attack and abduct civilians.
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* The 6549th and 6550th Meetings were closed.