18 June 2008


18 June 2008
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5915th Meeting (AM)




Council Members Brief on Recent Week-Long Mission to Africa to Assess

Progress in Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire

Despite assurances from Sudan’s President that his Government would help smooth the full deployment of the joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the Security Council “was not seeing the progress expected” when it had approved the operation last July, the co-leaders of a recent mission to Africa said today, as they briefed the wider Council membership on the week-long trip.

Even with some small improvements in the situation in the Sudan’s war-torn western Darfur region, the Sudanese Government must live up to its commitment to remove the obstacles hindering the full deployment of peacekeeping troops, United Kingdom Permanent Representative John Sawers said, further adding:  “The political situation [in Darfur] is badly in need of new energy and the humanitarian situation continues to worsen.”

Mr. Sawers was reporting on a Council delegation’s trip to Africa earlier this month, which included stops in Djibouti, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cote d’Ivoire, as well as the Sudan.  He co-led the Sudan leg of the mission with South Africa’s Permanent Representative Dumisani Kumalo, and both diplomats expressed concern that, despite President Omer Al-Bashir’s promises, much remained to be done before there was solid progress on all four tracks of the United Nations engagement in the Sudan:  peacekeeping; political; humanitarian; and addressing impunity for war crimes committed in Darfur, now under investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Discussions with the Sudanese Government had focused on the north-south peace agreement and on Darfur.  The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) remained the bedrock of peace in all the Sudan, Mr. Sawers said.  While President Bashir and other top Sudanese officials had reassured the delegations that they were committed to peace, “the CPA is fragile”.  The Council should, therefore, do all it could to help the parties implement that accord.

Further, it was essential to tackle impunity.  The Council had stressed that the Government of the Sudan must cooperate with the International Criminal Court, as called for by resolution 1593 (2005), including by executing the outstanding arrest warrants for a Sudanese minister and an alleged militia leader suspected of war crimes in the Darfur region.  However, President Bashir stood by his position that he would not cooperate with The Hague-based Court.

Mr. Sawers went on to say that President Bashir had assured the Council that the Sudan would take the necessary steps to secure the full deployment of UNAMID.  The President also agreed to make improvements in road and air infrastructure, so the United Nations could use the airport 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  He also assured the Council that he would facilitate better trans-shipment routes and access across the country.

However, no matter how well resourced UNAMID was, it would not be successful if there was no peace to keep.  A chief mediator must be rapidly appointed.  The Sudanese President rightly highlighted the failure of a number of political groups to engage in the peace process.  Peace in Darfur would not be possible without peace and understanding between Chad and the Sudan, he said, stressing that the Dakar Agreement must be implemented.

Also during the mission, internally displaced persons described to the Council attacks by Janjaweed rebels and armed forces, he continued.  Food access was so poor that the World Food Programme (WFP) had halved rations to the internally displaced persons.  The Sudanese President said his Government remained committed to the March 2007 communiqué to the United Nations.  However, obstacles were still there.  The Council had urged the Sudanese President to allow in aid.

With UNAMID’s mandate coming up for review next month, Mr. Kumalo urged his fellow Council members to pay much more attention to the details of that important operation’s structure.  “Even I was shocked at how under-resourced UNAMID was […] this must be watched very closely,” he said, acknowledging that the Mission was indeed still rolling out, but that he was sincerely concerned that UNAMID was not at a strength to respond to the fears of the people on the ground.

At the Council’s stops in Darfur, refugees in the camps and relief workers alike had given disturbing accounts of the very unsafe conditions there.  “So the issue of UNAMID, its strength, resources and the conditions under which it will work need more attention from the Council, so it can assist the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and our humanitarian friends working on the ground.”

Mr. Kumalo went on to report on the team’s discussions with Somali leaders in Djibouti, the first stop on the trip, where talks were being held between representatives of the Government and the opposition in the neighbouring strife-torn nation under the auspices of the United Nations.  He said that all the political parties there, as well as civil society actors, had had an important opportunity to “put their case before the members of the Security Council”.

Council members also met with representatives of the Transitional Federal Government and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, as well as Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and members of his cabinet.  Mr. Kumalo, who led this portion of the mission, said he had been encouraged that all parties seemed willing to work towards finding a way out of the difficulties that had gripped Somalia for the past 18 years.  President Yusuf had made it very clear that his Government was willing to engage in dialogue and reach agreement with all Somali parties.

He said the Council team also met with representatives of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), who said that they were committed to helping Somalia and its long-suffering people.  Primarily, the issue was ushering in security and political processes that could move the situation forward.  “At the heart, however, is the presence of the Ethiopian troops,” Mr. Kumalo said, noting that both the Transitional Federal Government and opposition foresaw a time when those troops would leave Somalia.  But, the debate was over what would happen ahead of improvements in security, or whether they should remain in the country until a political settlement was in place.

The Government was adamant that the Ethiopian forces must remain until a political agreement was reached to avoid a vacuum, while the opposition was equally adamant that the presence of those forces would hamstring any effort to reach such an agreement and they should leave Somalia as soon as possible.  Mr. Kumalo said, however, that the Council had received some good news on this front, when shortly after the team departed, the Transitional Federal Government and the opposition had reached an agreement to end their deadlock and press ahead with negotiations.  They also decided security must be stabilized before the so-called “foreign troops” could leave.

Overall, Mr. Kumalo said, the Council team and United Nations officials working on the ground had been impressed by the commitment of all parties, including Somali civil society, to find a political solution.  Some concerns had been raised, however, by the United Nations Country Team, which reported that the Somali schilling had collapsed, negatively impacting the already stagnant economy.  Further, three years of drought and the global food crisis were also putting pressure on the humanitarian, as well as security, situation.

“The way out is first to have a political process that involves as many parties as possible, so that the security situation can improve,” he said, finally adding that the Council was very encouraged because, for the first time, there was “critical mass” between all the Somali parties and groups to work together to find a way out of their dilemma.  The Council team told representatives of all the parties that, should there be improvement in the security situation and a solid political agreement reached on the ground, the Council would consider authorizing a United Nations mission that could take over from AMISOM.  That was something that the people were holding on to, he added.

Reporting next on the stops in Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France’s Permanent Representative, Jean-Maurice Ripert, who led that leg of the mission, said the team had first visited Abeche, in eastern Chad, where they met with the Commander of the European Forces (EUFOR) and with the head of the United Nations Mission in Chad and Central African Republic (MINURCAT), who had briefed Council members on the respective operations.

He went on to say that the Council had flown to Doz Baide, near the Sudanese border, and met with the governor of the region before visiting a camp for refugees from strife-torn Darfur.  Elders at that camp identified security as their main problem.  The Council members heard similar concerns from internally displaced persons, as well as relief workers in that region. Many living in the camps said they had fled their homes in Darfur after their villages had been destroyed by air raids.

Mr. Ripert said Council members had been especially concerned by reports of rape, harassment and other sexual violence from the women living in and around the camps, who “had the threat of violence and fear hanging over their heads”.  They had pleaded for the Council do all it could to improve security in the camps.  Also troubling were reports from aid workers that armed groups, especially the Janjaweed, allegedly coming in from the Sudan, were orchestrating the attacks in the camps.  Relief workers said that they were also being threatened and that their vehicles were being attacked.  The team had also visited a camp for displaced Chadians, he added.

Overall, he said the team had “brought encouragement from the Council” to MINURCAT and the EUFOR.  The team had also urged the acceleration of MINURCAT’s deployment.  He noted that the Council members had been unable to meet with Chadian President Idriss Deby in the capital, N’Djamena, but had met with the Prime Minister and other high officials.  Council members had reaffirmed their commitment to Chad’s sovereignty and had also stressed the importance of the rule of law and human rights.  They also emphasized that Chad must commit itself to dialogue with the Sudan and that both countries must pledge to keep armed groups out of each others territories.  The Prime Minister had welcomed the international community’s attention and denounced the Sudan’s allegation that it supported armed groups.

Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said the team had stopped in Kinshasa where it had met with the head of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and other United Nations staff.  It had also met with top Congolese Government Ministers, including of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Gender Issues, as well as representatives of all political groups, opposition leaders, and civil society, especially women’s groups.  The team had also met with President Joseph Kabila.

Mr. Ripert said that the Council members also touched on the country’s continued cooperation with the United Nations, as well as on sexual violence and issues related to war crimes investigations by the International Criminal Court.  The delegation also visited a camp for internally displaced persons in the north-eastern town of Goma, and held discussions with the people living there, as well as with United Nations humanitarian staff working in the camp.  They also met with the Mixed Commission on the follow-up mechanism to the Goma Agreement, and expressed the importance of that accord.

He said that the delegation was concerned by reports of ongoing sexual violence against women, and had come away with the perception that impunity for such crimes was the rule in and around the camps.  They were also concerned that people in the eastern part of the country were tuning to armed groups, most often of the same ethnic background, for protection.  All that meant that the United Nations must provide MONUC with the resources to stop commando groups.  It was also necessary for the Government to develop a strong State presence in regions far from Kinshasa.

Encouragingly, the Government shared those concerns and President Kabila vowed to fight against impunity and pledged to continue cooperating with the International Criminal Court.  He had also taken note of several of the Council’s other serious concerns, including the need to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions, reform its justice sector, and to press ahead with the holding of local elections and decentralization efforts.

“Even with all this, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is nevertheless seeing its first real taste of democracy in the last 50 years,” Mr. Ripert said, especially with political opposition playing a role in what appeared to be a “serene” atmosphere.  The Security Council must remain vigilant and continue to support the Government’s efforts to implement the Nairobi and Goma processes.  That, along with cooperation and dialogue with neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, would help ensure the Congolese themselves were empowered to take their destiny in their own hands.  That was what the population wanted and the Council must do all it could to support that process, he added.

Reporting on the final leg of the mission, Burkina Faso’s Permanent Representative, Michel Kafando, said the trip to Côte d’Ivoire aimed to determine progress made by the Ivorian players in adhering to the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, including the holding of credible, free and transparent presidential elections.  The mission was to meet the main players involved, such as the President of the Independent Electoral Commission and officials of the Forces Nouvelles, the Licorne operation and the National Statistics and Technical Operations Institute, among others, as well Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.

During talks with President Gbagbo, the mission focused on the peace process.  The President showed interest and reiterated his commitment to the 30 November presidential elections.  Despite difficulties due to the lack of financial means, he thanked the international community and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Choi Young-Jin Choi, in supporting Ivorian institutions as they prepared for the elections.  It was necessary to stress to the Independent Electoral Commission that the 30 November deadline must be respected.

President Gbagbo told the mission that he had met the obligations governing the electoral process and that now it was up to the technical operators to speed up preparations for the elections, he said.  Stressing the financial sacrifices involved, he said the international community should make their financial contributions and should be understanding with regard to the juxtaposition of various operators in the process.

He said that President Gbagbo told the Council delegation that his Government gave a great deal of importance to transparency of electoral lists.  The mission also raised the issue of the responsibility of the media to maintain a fair and constructive political environment during the elections.  The President had responded that he planned to urge public media to play a greater role in the peace process and that he supported fair access for the media to the process.

Further, the Council mission encouraged the President to respect the five criteria listed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General:  the restoration of peace; the inclusion of all players involved; access to State media; scrupulous respect for all the stages of promulgating the electoral list; and acceptance of the results of the elections.  Many interlocutors stressed that the Government must guarantee that it would adhere to the five criteria.  He said he was pleased that the political situation had calmed down and preparations for the election had been expedited.

Mr. Kafando also noted considerable progress in recent months in respecting the timeline to the Ouagadougou Political Agreement and to the 30 November election date.  Several decrees related to the electoral process had been issued.  However, the reconstitution of state registration lists had been lost or damaged.  Voter registration on the electoral list would begin 1 July, and a provisional electoral list would be available by 31 August, before the official publication of the final list on 15 November.

The mission was pleased by the adoption by the political parties of a code of good conduct, he said.  Concerning inclusiveness of the electoral process, civil society organizations had suggested convening a national consensus day to study the electoral process, as well as looking into some of the basic causes of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire that had not been addressed by the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, namely concerning the cost of long-term stability, national rights and reconciliation.

Turning to security, he said progress had been significantly more limited, noting the containment of Defence and Security Forces and the launching of the process to control the Forces Nouvelles.  Some progress had been made since the last Council mission to Côte d’Ivoire in June 2007, including the removal of the confidence area and the reestablishment of the State administration throughout Côte d’Ivoire.  All parties were able to move freely throughout the country to carry out election campaigns.

The Independent Electoral Commission had asked for more security for staff and greater freedom of movement of voters to subscribe on the list and in political campaigns, he continued.  The Council mission took note of progress in preparing for the elections under the leadership of the Independent Electoral Commission.  The Government had adopted several significant decrees, but some had not been promulgated.  However, the President of the Independent Electoral Commission said agreement had already been reached on these matters.  Concerning logistics, the Independent Electoral Commission had reported that 80 per cent of the 415 local offices had already been deployed throughout the country.  However, there was a financing deficit of $15 million needed for the elections.

Regarding the electoral process, he said the Forces Nouvelles and civil society opposition organizations had expressed the importance of security during the electoral process.  However, there had been little progress in dismantling the militia and in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.

Those responsible for defence and security in the country reported that they were in the process of preparing a security plan for Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries.  There was little progress on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the Forces Nouvelles.  Civil society organizations had urged the Council to maintain the sanctions regime and the arms embargo until the peace process was irreversible and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration had been completed.

Mr. Kafando said the containment of former combatants must be followed up.  The Special Representative of the Facilitator, Boureima Badini, reported that he hoped that containment would take place on schedule during the next five months.  Concerning human rights, he said civil society representatives had reported trends towards gender-based violence in the country.  On the socio-economic and humanitarian fronts, all interlocutors had pointed to risks and precariousness and had asked the Council mission to urge donors to do more to help Côte d’Ivoire financially.  He reaffirmed the Council mission’s full support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to certify the electoral process and to respect the elections timetable.

The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 11:20 a.m.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.