|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7137th Meeting (PM)
United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo Must Transform
into ‘Robust, Flexible, Highly Mobile’ Entity, Security Council Told
Congolese, Rwandan Representatives Differ over Genocide-linked Armed Group
Fourteen years of a “static” approach to civilian protection in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had proven insufficient, and the United Nations mission there must transform into a robust, flexible and highly mobile entity, able to deploy across the country’s volatile eastern region, the world body’s senior official there told the Security Council today.
“If we are to enhance our ability to effectively deal with armed groups, the Force as a whole has to tirelessly pursue them,” said Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). A more active presence was needed in Ituri District as well as in the provinces of South Kivu and Katanga.
Emphasizing that MONUSCO could not stay in the country forever, he said it must start planning its phase-out, with the Security Council’s support. In the meantime, security and protection would remain the Mission’s first priority, followed by the task of stabilizing conflict-affected areas and supporting the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region.
MONUSCO had accomplished a great deal In the last year, he said, citing the defeat of the “M23” rebel group, the Mission’s joint operations with the Forces armées de la république du Congo (FARDC) against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), and the restoration of security in liberated territories. “We must now consolidate our gains,” he said. “It is now for us to win peace with energy, conviction and persistence.”
Also briefing the Council, via video link from London, was Mary Robinson, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, who said that a good way to sustain the current momentum was to align international actions with emerging positive regional dynamics, which reinforced the objectives of the Peace and Security Framework. As the Framework moved into its second year, it was equally important to fast-track its social and economic aspects, she said, pointing out that peace could not take root without tangible evidence on the ground that jobs and businesses would able to flourish.
In the coming months, she continued, certain actions would be critical if further progress was to be achieved. At the national level, the Government must quickly implement the Kampala Dialogue Declarations, including the administrative and technical steps to facilitate the repatriation of the almost 2,000 former M23 combatants who had fled to Rwanda and Uganda in 2013. The national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme must also gain immediate traction, she added.
Following those presentations, Rwanda’s representative took issue with the Congolese Government’s and MONUSCO’s position on the threat posed by FDLR, recalling that it had been responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In late 2013, the Council had heard that that group would be “next on the list of negative forces to be eliminated”, he recalled, asking why there had been no accountability. He said FDLR was enhancing its collaboration with the Congolese armed forces, which enabled it to pass freely into Rwanda to commit terror attacks. Next month would mark the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, he pointed out, adding that there would be no greater symbol of justice for its victims than the defeat of FDLR once and for all.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said efforts were being undertaken to combat impunity and neutralize armed groups. To improve domestic security, the Government had begun recruiting personnel for its defence forces and reopened its military academy, among other initiatives. It had adopted an amnesty law and devised a new electoral code of conduct, he said, adding that the Council of Ministers had adopted the third disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan. Emphasizing that his country had no interest in supporting FDLR, he pointed out that the group killed and raped Congolese people. “My country is innocent and does not tolerate these accusations,” he said, stressing that it had always respected the territorial integrity of neighbouring countries and would continue to do so.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 4:27 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to hear briefings on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Members had before them reports of the Secretary-General on, respectively, implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region (document S/2014/153), and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document S/2014/157).
MARTIN KOBLER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), said that since 2013, the Mission had accomplished a great deal. The defeat of M23, joint operations against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and the Forces démocratiques alliées (ADF), as well as the restoration of security in liberated territories had all promoted stability and State authority in the eastern part of the country.
“We must now consolidate our gains,” he continued. “It is now for us to win peace with energy, conviction and persistence.” There was indeed a new momentum upon which security and protection must be built, followed by the stabilization of conflict-affected areas, and support for implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework. “MONUSCO cannot stay forever in the Congo,” he pointed out, stressing that, alongside the Council, the Mission must start planning its phase-out. Moving its civilian personnel from the east was a first step.
Discussing priorities, he said that MONUSCO and the Forces armées de la république démocratique du Congo (FARDC) had cleared many positions held by armed groups. Thanks to intelligence from various sources, including unmanned aviation systems (UAV), sweeping operations had become better targeted against the FDLR. The Government had also stepped up its efforts to end the threat pose by the group, in addition to having destroyed the ADF headquarters, with MONUSCO’S support. However, the Mission must modernize as its “static” approach to civilian protection had proven insufficient, he cautioned. It must be robust, flexible, highly mobile and well-trained, as well as fully able to deploy across the country, including the most inaccessible areas.
A more active presence was needed in Ituri, South Kivu and Katanga, he continued, noting that, with MONUSCO focusing on the use of mobile troops, the deployment of Egyptian special forces to Katanga had shown how a proactive approach could deter attacks against civilians. However, the use of force was guided by the principle of “politics first” and would not achieve results unless embedded in a political framework, he stressed.
Welcoming the recent adoption of the amnesty law, he urged the Government to ensure implementation of the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. Adequate civilian follow-up actions were also needed. To deal with persistent sexual violence against women, MONUSCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) would publish a thematic report on the fight against impunity, he said, pointing out that the trial of those suspected of involvement in the Minova case had resumed, and that the military court had heard 60 testimonies from rape victims and others.
The second priority — stabilizing freed areas — should lead to the restoration of State authority, he said, noting that children were now attending school and the administration was functioning in areas liberated from the M23. The advances made in Kiwanja-Rutshuru had been “quite impressive”. Police units had been deployed, while MONUSCO and the United Nations country team were developing projects to rehabilitate police, justice and administration buildings. To better support the Government, the Mission was transforming into a field operation, with two thirds of all substantive staff in Kinshasa being redeployed to reinforce field offices in the east.
As for the third priority — encouraging reform in the context of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework — he said he supported the Government’s reform plans and had established a coordination group with a view to harmonizing donor positions, which would look at key areas of concern, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, elections, security sector-reform, and stabilization. After decades of conflict between neighbouring countries, contact among the region’s Governments indicated a “new dynamic”, he said, cautioning, however, that mutual trust was fragile and confidence-building took time. Still, investment in cross-border transport infrastructure and economic cooperation would pave the way to regional prosperity.
MARY ROBINSON, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, spoke from London via video link, recalling that States in the region had signed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo a year ago. Referring to the accord as the “framework of hope”, she declared: “I remain convinced that it offers the best prospects and hope for security and for the improvement of the living conditions of the people in the region, who continue to bear the brunt of armed violence and aggression.” Hope had risen over the past year, with the defeat of the M23 rebel movement, followed by the conclusion of the Kampala Dialogue between the parties.
A good way to sustain the current momentum was to align international actions with emerging positive regional dynamics that reinforced the Framework’s objectives, she said. Angola’s current chairmanship of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) held significant prospects for advancing the cause of peace and stability in the region. The President of Angola had initiated a political dialogue with his counterparts in the region on illegal armed groups such as FDLR and ADF, during which they had agreed on a plan to tackle those sources of insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region. As the Framework moved into the second year of its implementation, it was equally important to fast-track its social and economic aspects, she said, emphasizing that peace could not take root without tangible evidence on the ground that jobs and businesses were able to flourish.
In the coming months, certain actions would be critical if any further meaningful progress was to be achieved in implementing the Framework, she continued. At the national level, the Government needed to quickly implement the provisions of the Kampala Dialogue Declarations, including the administrative and technical steps needed to facilitate the repatriation of the almost 2,000 former M23 combatants who had fled to Rwanda and Uganda in 2013. Further delay in that process could be costly to peace and regional stability. The national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme also needed to gain immediate traction, she said, adding that it remained stalled due to the lack of an agreed approach and a funding plan with the international partners. Concrete actions in fair and independent courts of law would also be required against those who had committed serious violations of human rights and international crimes, she stressed.
EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo was volatile, citing the killing, maiming, rape, child recruitment and civilian displacement caused by FDLR. The killings in Katanga and areas formerly occupied by M23 were “deeply troubling”. The culture of impunity continued and there was no doubt that the coming months would be critical, he said. The Council must examine the implementation of resolution 2098 (2013), including in respect of civilian protection in liberated areas. Commending the Congolese armed forces for having destroyed a number of ADF camps, he said the resumption of the Minova trial was another positive development, the conclusion of which would hopefully set a precedent for future cases.
Such positive developments should not, however, obscure the fact that one of the oldest armed groups remained at large, he emphasized. The problem was the position of the Congolese Government and MONUSCO on threats posed by FDLR, which was responsible for the genocide against the Tutsis. Recalling that the Council had heard during the last quarter of 2013 that FDLR were “next on the list of negative forces to be eliminated”, he asked why there had been no accountability in that regard. The FDLR threat persisted in spite of MONUSCO’s mandate, and it was time the Congolese Government changed its attitude towards the group, he stressed, noting that Rwanda had already expressed its concern over the neighbouring State’s lack of commitment in that regard.
Moreover, the Mission’s continued excuses in relation to operations against FDLR were disturbing, he continued. On 9 March, MONUSCO and the Congolese army had raided FDLR roadblocks, yet credible information showed that the acting FARDC commander had leaked information of an impeding attack, thereby undermining that operation. The region had expressed its frustration with MONUSCO’s reluctance to deal effectively with such armed groups, he said. ICGLR had devised political and military measures, some of which had been taken over by the United Nations, including the intervention brigade.
He went on to warn that FDLR’s armed strength stood at 3,640 and would likely increase. The group was enhancing collaboration with FARDC at the operational level, which enabled it to refit and pass freely into Rwanda to commit terror attacks. Since July 2013, 42 FDLR members had been charged in Rwandan courts, he said. MONUSCO’s claim that FDLR was in populated areas was a “sheer lie” because most of its units were in a North Kivu park and in unpopulated areas of South Kivu. Rwanda had done all that it had been required to do in order to contain M23, he emphasized. Noting that next month would mark the twentieth anniversary of the Tutsi genocide, he said there would be no greater symbol of justice for its victims than to defeat FDLR once and for all.
IGNACE GATA MAVITA WA LUFUTA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said he was pleased to note that the Secretary-General’s reports unanimously acknowledged his country’s efforts to implement the agreed Framework. Endorsing an appeal by the signatories of the Framework at the third meeting of the regional oversight mechanism on 31 January 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he said his country was determined to shoulder its responsibilities and fulfil its obligations.
The Government was undertaking efforts including combating impunity and measures to neutralize armed groups, he continued. To enhance its national capacity to improve domestic security, it had begun recruiting personnel for the defence forces and reopened its military academy, among other initiatives. It had adopted an amnesty law and devised a new electoral code, he said, adding that the Council of Ministers had adopted its third disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan.
Responding to the statement by the representative of Rwanda, he said his country had no interest in supporting FDLR because the armed group killed and raped Congolese people. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was the one suffering under FDLR actions, he said, urging the international community to help resolve the situation. “My country is innocent and does not tolerate these accusations,” he stressed, adding that it had always respected the territorial integrity of neighbouring countries and would continue to do so.
The representative of Rwanda took the floor a second time to clarify that on 7 April, his country would mark the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, but “we will not be celebrating it”.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo responded by saying that would be a sad event in which everyone would participate. “There is no culture of impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he emphasized, urging a minimum of respect for the Congolese authorities. The Rwandan delegate’s language was “unacceptable” and he had offended the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he added.
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