|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7237th Meeting (AM)
Despite Marked Progress in Democratic Republic of Congo, Conflict Will Persist
if Remaining Armed Groups Do Not Lay Down Weapons, Security Council Told
Despite greatly improved security and last year’s surrender of the “M23”, the protracted conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would persist if other remaining armed groups in the country’s east failed to lay down their weapons too, a senior United Nations official warned the Security Council today.
“We are not at the end game,” 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 as he briefed the 15-nation body on recent developments in the strife-torn central African nation.
Since 2002, more than 11,000 combatants of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) — an armed group formed by leaders of the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda — had been disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into Rwandan society, he said. However, an estimated 1,500 combatants of that group were still active and their leaders were stalling implementation of the Congolese Government’s six-month voluntary disarmament plan.
“This is a serious signal of non-cooperation. Standing still means we are moving backwards,” Mr. Kobler said, stressing that the FDLR’s dissolution would be a turning point that would fundamentally alter and improve security in the entire region. He backed the consensus among the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region to use the “military option” against factions unwilling to disarm.
Echoing that concern, Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, said the FDLR’s process had yet to gain sufficient traction to show true credibility, creating a “worrying dynamic” in the region. She underscored the need to preserve the earlier consensus built on armed groups, to remain focused on Security Council resolutions on neutralizing the FDLR and to fully implement the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region.
Council members, while praising the signing of the Nairobi declarations last December and the Congolese authorities’ subsequent efforts to implement an amnesty law for ex-M23 combatants in Uganda and Rwanda, also expressed worries over the stalled voluntary disarmament process, with some speakers backing the use of military force for groups that failed to cooperate. Also of concern were the delays in training a rapid reaction force within MONUSCO.
Raymond Tshibanda N’Tungamulongo, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Francophone Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, however, said the recruitment and training of new units for that force was well under way, as was the third disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan approved by the Congolese Cabinet in December 2013. As well, State authority had been reinstalled in territories formerly controlled by the M23 and other armed groups, and a new policy was being called for that would ensure his country’s action plans towards peace and stability were consistent with that of the entire subregion.
Henry Oryem Okello, Uganda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, nonetheless said repatriation of former M23 combatants remained unresolved, exerting pressure on the region’s meagre food and shelter resources. Calling on the Congolese Government to expedite its efforts, he also voiced concern that the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo had levelled false and unfounded allegations against Uganda, alleging that M23 combatants were moving around freely in his country.
Rwanda’s representative said the FDLR’s most recent promise to disarm was its latest distraction. Reminding the Council that he knew first-hand what it took to build a nation from the ashes, he pointed out that the main reason more than 10,000 combatants had voluntarily disarmed in Rwanda was mainly due to political and military pressure. While reaffirming his commitment to his tasks under the Framework, he noted that over 450 M23 fighters had recently been registered in Rwanda. Incentives were needed to ensure they remained committed to the process.
Participating in the meeting were Angola’s Minister of Defense, United Kingdom’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and South Africa’s Minister for Defence and Military Veterans.
Also speaking were representatives of France, Australia, United States, China, Chad, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Chile, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Nigeria, Argentina and Luxembourg.
The meeting began at 9:39 a.m. and ended at 12:35 p.m.
As the Security Council met this morning to discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) (document S/2014/450).
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 since he last addressed the Council five months ago much had changed. Recapping developments, he said that in August 2013, there had been daily reports of rape, killings and displacement by the M23 in Goma. Attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) had forced 66,000 Congolese from their homes and Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) activity in the east was on the rise. Today, due to joint efforts of the Congolese military forces and MONUSCO, the M23 was no more. The Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) had drastically reduced the ADF, almost 4,000 combatants from several Congolese armed groups had surrendered, the FDLR had begun to voluntarily disarm, and 500,000 displaced persons had returned home.
As a result of the declarations signed in Nairobi last December, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process of M23 fighters was well under way, he said, welcoming the Congolese Government’s efforts to enact the amnesty law and provide ex-combatants in Uganda and Rwanda the chance to apply for it. Still, implementation of the Nairobi Declarations remained slow. Cooperation between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda was crucial to sustainable peace. The clashes on 11 and 12 June near Kibumba in which five FARDC soldiers died illustrated the dangers of unclear borders. He welcomed the revitalization of those two countries’ joint border commission, which should set forth a viable road map to delineate their shared border.
“There can be no doubt that the security situation has vastly improved since this time last year. However, conflict persists, the situation is fragile and not irreversible,” he said. Early warning mechanisms were in place. Still, 33 people in Mutarule had been massacred on 3 June when the national police and armed forces failed to intervene and MONUSCO troops failed to leave their base nine kilometres away. The incident brought to light the need for a paradigm shift in thought and action of United Nations forces, from reaction to prevention, and from “protection by presence” to “protection by action”. MONUSCO’s first priority had been to put an end to the FDLR. Since 2002, more than 11,000 FDLR combatants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were successfully disarmed, demobilized, repatriated and reintegrated into Rwandan society. The Democratic Republic of the Congo estimated that some 1,500 combatants remained in the country. “We are not at the end game,” he stressed.
The Congolese Government intended for the FDLR’s remnants to be resettled outside the country, he said. On 27 May, the Government presented a 22-day voluntary disarmament plan and asked for MONUSCO’s logistical support. Since then, 186 combatants and 430 dependents had voluntarily disarmed. To date, MONUSCO had provided security together with the FARDC, medical services, 46 special flights, and more than 20 tonnes of food. A joint ministerial meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes had extended the timeline for voluntary disarmament from 22 days to six months starting 2 July. However, the FDLR had interpreted that decision as a call to stall the process. Since 2 July there had been no movement to the provisional camp in Kisangani, as called for in the Government plan. The FDLR subsequently cancelled three meetings and had largely ignored the efforts of the Congolese Government, SADC and MONUSCO to convince it to move forward.
“This is a serious signal of non-cooperation. Standing still means we are moving backwards,” he said, welcoming the consensus among the SADC and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region that the military option was still acceptable should the process continue to stall. Their joint communiqué called for a three-month review in October. He was confident that the mini-summit of Governments in Luanda next week would move the process ahead. Criteria for assessing the credibility of the current disarmament process should include: the number and quality of surrendering combatants and their weapons; hand-over to international courts of those who were indicted; restoration of Government authority over vacated areas; an immediate end to human rights violations; disengagement from illicit economic activities; and an end to recruitment. He also recommended joint military action against those FDLR factions unwilling to disarm and those who continued committing human rights violations. The longer the process took, the higher the risk that spoilers would enter the game.
“The end of the FDLR will be a turning point which will fundamentally alter the security situation in eastern DCR and the region,” he said, calling on the FDLR to seize the opportunity to move the process forward, Congolese authorities to bring all those involved into agreement, and the SADC and International Conference to pressure the FDLR. He welcomed progress of the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan to stabilize the east of the country and called on donors to support it. With the expulsion of various armed groups from areas in North Kivu, State authority had gradually returned. Turning to the election process, he said electoral decisions should be based on the Congolese Constitution and he praised the May publication of a calendar for local elections as a good first step.
MARY ROBINSON, presenting her last report as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, surveyed developments during the period in which she had served in her role. Describing “great damage and misery” when she had first assumed her post, she said “hope was not lost”. Despite anticipated challenges in pursuing the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, she remained encouraged by the prospects and opportunities it had generated, as well as its significant achievements.
She looked to the Technical Support Committee, which offered a forum in which to deliberate and offer advice on actualizing regional commitments. Those high-level interactions had significantly improved communication flow and mutual understanding, while supporting a heightened sense of urgency for collective actions. One result had been formulation of a regional action plan. In addition, implementation of the Framework had also strengthened collective governance and ownership in the region. Her own efforts had benefited from the region’s leaders’ determination to take ownership and responsibility for pursuing peace, security and development. The upcoming “mini” Summit of Heads of State was one example of emerging collaboration and synergy.
While stressing the importance of international support, she also outlined how, with women and youths’ participation critical to regional success, she had worked with civil society to establish a women’s framework to facilitate women’s active participation in implementing the Framework. Furthermore, work was under way to establish a civil society coalition to ensure accountability of Governments for their Framework commitments. Her attendance at the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Extraordinary Summit to Combat Youth Unemployment in the Great Lakes Region demonstrated to her the determination of Governments in the region to address the looming danger of a fast growing youth population alongside “stagnant, if not dwindling, opportunities.”
Irreversible peace, security and development remained a goal and much work was needed to confront the challenges in the way of its achievement, she said. It was vital to address existing challenges because they could undo progress so far achieved and ultimately undermine peace and security. Some of the challenges still being faced included the humanitarian and human rights situation; persisting impunity; the ongoing plight of refugees and internally displaced persons; and slow implementation of the provisions of the Nairobi Declarations. Implementation of the Nairobi Declaration’s provisions required a timetable and careful monitoring. There had been progress on the national oversight mechanism, but concrete actions were needed to address the conflict’s root causes. She said her office was assessing the refugee and internally displaced persons situation.
Although she welcomed the FDLR’s voluntary surrender, the process was yet to gain sufficient traction to show true credibility. In fact, slow implementation had created a “worrying dynamic” in the region and she underlined the need to preserve the earlier consensus built on armed groups and to remain focused on Security Council resolutions on neutralizing the FDLR. She was also pleased that positive steps had been taken related to electoral calendars in the region, notably in Burundi, but she said the Government needed to do more to curb politically motivated violence. Solutions would not be realized “overnight” and a long term view was needed to ensure tangible returns on commitments made under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework.
JOÃO MANUEL GONÇALVES LOURENÇO, Minister for Defence, Angola, noted with satisfaction that resolving conflicts in Africa was in the spotlight of the United Nations and several other political institutions and entities that were devoted to peace, solidarity and the common good. Although there were some difficulties in the stabilization process in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, if the international community appropriately intervened with firm pressure there would be positive development in the search for peace in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Through constructive dialogue and joint measures, it was possible to take into account the legitimate concerns and interests of all parties involved and to find fair and lasting solutions.
He reiterated his country’s support for the efforts that were being undertaken for the peace, stability and prosperity of those countries, which would benefit from technical and humanitarian assistance. Since assuming the rotating presidency of the International Conference of the Great Lakes, Angola had spared no efforts to find durable solutions for the eradication of war in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was, however, concerned with the slow progress of the voluntary surrender and disarmament of members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. His Government would continue to adhere to and support the initiatives and actions of the international community aimed at the restoration and maintenance of peace and stability in Africa.
MARK SIMMONDS, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom, and Council President, spoke in his national capacity, noting that currently there was a rare opportunity to break the cycle of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thanks to great efforts towards that end, progress had been made against armed groups. Some 4,000 former combatants had come forward. As well, the Government had set forth strategies to build a national dialogue of broader engagement and end sexual violence in armed conflict through a national action plan, among other things. Regional leadership in that work was of great importance. It was now possible to imagine that in two years’ time, all armed groups, including the FDLR, would no longer be a threat, a constitution would be formed, and MONUSCO’s drawdown would be a realistic goal. He stressed the need to seize that opportunity with the determination and vigour it deserved.
By year’s end, the full implementation of the Kampala Dialogue must be achieved, particularly the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of M23 ex-combatants, as well as the full and swift disarmament of the FDLR, he said. The international community should be prepared to use the military option if disarmament, demobilization and reintegration failed to be swift. “We must stay strong in pursuit of peace,” he said, stressing the need for three principles to underpin work in the next two years. They included supporting the Congolese Government’s national capacity-building and reform process, regional processes, and MONUSCO as it continued to transform and become more effective at fulfilling its mandate.
ALEXIS LAMEK (France) said that although M23 had been defeated, they had not fully disappeared and were not fully demilitarized, therefore remaining a threat. The Security Council required the “immediate and permanent demobilization” of that armed group. Their swift disarmament was necessary to calm tensions and build confidence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it was essential that maximum pressure be brought to bear upon them, including a military option. He also called for structural reforms to allow for real peace and lasting stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country’s capacities had to be strengthened and a strong electoral process was needed to uphold constitutional rules and align with the African Charter. A credible and legitimate road map, along with a timeframe and budget, was needed. It was crucial the Government play a key role in all reforms. MONUSCO would give support but it could not act in the Government’s stead.
PHILIPPA JANE KING (Australia) said the conflict’s staggering toll was a searing reminder of the stakes — including more than 5 million lives lost, millions displaced and horrific human rights abuses perpetrated with impunity against men, women and children. The gains that had been made were important, but remained fragile and reversible. Civilians continued to face horrific acts of violence and the pace of key reforms was far too slow. The destabilizing impact the FDLR had was clear and there must be no ambiguity or preconditions to disarmament. It was crucial that M23 elements were repatriated from Rwanda and Uganda and further progress was made to operationalize the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. The implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework must also be accelerated and was an essential nexus to tackle the root causes of the conflict.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States) noted the significant progress since the signing of the peace, security and cooperation agreement six months ago, including MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade demonstrating that, with a robust mandate, peacekeepers could protect people from atrocities. The Mission’s shift from “protection by presence” to “protection by action” was welcomed. However, the FDLR still posed the greatest threat, she said, recalling that group’s abduction of at least 60 civilians in Wali Kali for refusing to carry out forced labour. The longer FDLR militants remained at large, the harder it would be to dismantle them. Referring to the “alarming report” that revealed the armed group’s stalling of its voluntary disarmament and its cancelling of meetings, she stressed that any disarmament process must lay out specific time-bound targets. Military pressure was needed for results, as seen with the M23 and ADF. “This should not be a grace period,” she said, warning that such an approach would put even more innocent civilians at risks. Members of the M23 that were eligible for amnesty must be repatriated; those that were not should be prosecuted. Congolese and Rwandan authorities must cooperate in that regard.
LIU JIEYI (China) said at present the region had a good opportunity to end the turmoil. The international community should coordinate efforts on three fronts. It should advocate the concept of common security, comprehensiveness and sustainable development to guarantee and respect every country’s security. It should encourage countries in the region to resolve disputes through dialogue and consultation. The Great Lakes region was endowed with rich resources and the international community should encourage those countries to pursue development in which all members of society benefited. Such cooperation would make the countries stronger. He called on Governments in the region to abide by the regional cooperation frameworks. China attached great importance to its ties with Africa and firmly supported resolving African issues in an African way, including through a regional security mechanism.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) listed several recent successes and positive developments seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the establishment of an electoral commission, the publication of an electoral calendar and the commencement of the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process. He also welcomed the State’s authority extension to the country’s eastern provinces, which built trust and allowed the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. However, even with some successes in security sector reform, he voiced disappointment by delays. Nonetheless, he welcomed cooperation between MONUSCO and the Government in eliminating several armed groups, though he expressed concern about continued activism of some elements. Overall, he said the MONUSCO mandate implementation was going well, as was the transfer of some of its tasks to the United Nations country team.
SAMER ANTON AYED NABER (Jordan), praising MONUSCO’s efforts to restore stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that although the M23 had been defeated, he remained concerned over the continued threat posed by armed groups to civilians. That included the ADF in North Kivu, which continually targeted United Nations staff and facilities. The FDLR threat also remained and the security situation remained tenuous. He welcomed the Mission’s new configuration in the south and central of Katanga Province, saying it had helped reduced danger faced by civilians. He called for MONUSCO to receive more support in its efforts to achieve demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, particularly regarding the FDLR. However, he remained concerned over collusion between certain Government officials connected to violence and he called on MONUSCO to investigate, especially where civilians faced threats. Prevention was essential and perpetrators of violations had to be held to account.
OH JOON (Republic of Korea) noted the meaningful progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which provided a window of opportunity for future progress. However, the increasing threats from the ADF and FDLR continued to be an obstacle to stability in the Great Lakes region as a whole. The recent surrender of FDLR combatants was welcomed and should lead to the complete disarmament of all of that armed group. The military option should remain open should the voluntary disarmament process remain stalled. As the Democratic Republic of the Congo moved towards elections in 2015 and 2016, he voiced support for a transparent and electoral process. The Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework agreement gave hope for a durable peace and stability. It was essential, in the Framework’s second year, to accelerate dialogue.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo offered a window of opportunity and a cautious sense of hope, although many challenges remained, especially in the eastern provinces. Continued cooperation among countries of the Great Lakes region and an increased sense of national and regional ownership were key to further progress. The security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to be affected by the activities of armed groups, while the situation of internally displaced persons in Katanga was alarming. The unconditional and voluntary disarmament of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda was of importance, as was the accelerated implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts. Broader reforms aimed at strengthening public finance management, combating corruption and increasing accountability, among other efforts, would be critical to the country’s long-term stability.
CARLOS OLGUÍN CIGARROA (Chile) said the defeat of the M23 should serve as an opportunity to foster inclusive dialogue, guarantee adequate funding of the electoral process and promote cooperation, peace and security. MONUSCO must fully use its capacity to effectively complete the process of disarming the FDLR, in line with the Nairobi plan; close the gap between demobilization and reintegration; neutralize the ADF and other groups; and advance the third plan of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as the action plan for ending child recruitment. While the number of internally displaced persons had fallen to 2.3 million, it was worrisome that their numbers had increased in Katanga due to attacks by the Bakata Katanga, among other groups. It was to vital to reassess the use of humanitarian and financial resources in order to meet the needs of women and children, including victims of sexual violence. Despite gains in six areas under the Framework agreement, progress related to justice and security had been slow. He praised the reform of the Congolese police sector but expressed concern over the delay in deploying troops to the rapid reaction force. MONUSCO and Congolese national forces must continue supporting structural reform and decentralization, including in the mining sector.
MARTIN SENKOM ADAMU (Nigeria) said the Congolese Government had shown firm commitment to the success of the electoral process. Its proposed amendments to the Constitution and judiciary reform were confidence-building measures. Reforms concerning adjudication of genocide and crimes against humanity should be in line with relevant international instruments. He welcomed the robust efforts to reform the police sector and encouraged the Government to mobilize adequate resources for similar reform of the defence sector, as well as bear full responsibility for reconstruction of liberated areas. He welcomed the intention of the FDLR to engage with MONUSCO to move forward the disarmament process, and noted the efforts of the FARDC and Ugandan People’s Defence Force to neutralize threats posed by the ADF. Although the number of internally displaced persons declined from 2.9 to 2.6 million, more must be done to further decrease that number. He also welcomed the joint commission of the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo and the holding of a regional support mechanisms’ meeting in May.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina), while acknowledging progress made, said that the FDLR, ADF and other armed groups continued to be a real threat to peace. MONUSCO must continue its support role. She expressed concern over the lack of real progress in training a rapid reaction force within the Force Intervention Brigade. There were still 2.6 million internally displaced persons in need. That required a political, not military, response. Congolese action plans and regional agreements were needed to support economic growth, environmental conservation and social inclusion, and triangular cooperation was essential. She expressed concern over the struggle to end impunity and the continued existence of serious human rights violations, including kidnappings and rape by armed militia and Government forces. Perpetrators must not go unpunished, and she called for stronger policies to protect women and girls from rape and sexual slavery. It was also critical to address the more than 4,000 cases of recruited children.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) welcomed progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s security sector since the M23’s defeat. She voiced hope for the restoration of State authority in the east of the country to ensure basic services reached the population and to provide economic opportunities. In cooperation with Rwanda and Uganda, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme had to proceed, and the FDLR had to move ahead with its voluntary disarmament with no conditions. In pursuing its own obligations on that front, the Government would need support. If the FDLR did not meet commitments it had made, military action should be an option. Women and children remained the primary victims of violence, with sexual violence continuing, alongside the use of children as fighters and the use or attacking of schools by military units. That not only endangered children but deprived them of their education, too. Given the violations, “we must act,” she said, welcoming the Democratic Republic of the Congo Government’s efforts towards that end. She also called for reform of the military, as implementation of the rapid reaction force was vital to MONUSCO’s exit strategy.
RAYMOND TSHIBANDA N’TUNGAMULONGO, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Francophone Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that his country had made remarkable efforts implementing institutional reforms essential for strong, sustainable and socially inclusive growth. As well, progress had been made in improving relations with neighbouring States under the terms of the Framework agreement. Despite an incident in which Rwanda authorities delayed a group of envoys from entering that country to meet with ex-combatants at the original request, the meeting eventually took place and the work was completed in that matter. Regarding the security sector, he said recruitment and training of new units for the formation of the rapid reaction force were progressing satisfactorily, as were efforts to reform the police force which, in December 2013, had been restructured based on community policing and new legislation. Following the adoption by the Cabinet in December 2013 of the third disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan, pre-operations were now were fully funded and under way.
He noted that the FDLR had responded by letter on 8 April to the ultimatum to disarm, stating that only 250 FDLR combatants out of more than 1,400 still active had surrendered at sites secured by FARDC and MONUSCO joint operations. If disarmed and demobilized FDLR former-combatants did not want to go home, it was critical they find refuge in a country where they could not be considered a threat to Rwanda, thus ceasing to be a pretext for any action that could destabilize the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also cited the monthly meetings between ambassadors of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and SADC and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to assess and measure the quality of the disarmament and demobilization of the FDLR.
The consolidation of State authority was continuing in the territories formerly taken by the M23 and other armed groups. He also welcomed the gradual transfer of powers to the provinces and territorial governing bodies. With his Government entering a new phase of elections for the 2015-2016 cycle the schedule of municipal, urban and local elections had been published on 26 May 2014. In addition, a new policy was being called for based on a new security order that ensured action plans towards peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were consistent with that of the entire subregion.
HENRY ORYEM OKELLO, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Uganda, said the state of peace and security in Africa, and in particular the Great Lakes region, remained a preoccupying phenomenon with successes and continuing challenges. There had been some promising achievements in the region, but a broad range of issues persisted. There was no doubt that there was a desire and commitment on the part of the region and international partners to resolve conflicts in the region. However, if previous peace agreements such as the Nairobi declarations were not fully implemented, the threat of a relapse into violence would remain.
The repatriation of former M23 combatants remained unresolved, which exerted pressure on meagre food and shelter resources. Uganda called on the Democratic Republic of the Congo to expedite the repatriation process as much as possible. It was disheartening that the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo had levelled false and unfounded allegations against Uganda, alleging that M23 combatants were moving around freely in his country. The biggest challenge in the region was a lack of financing, particularly for the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework. Genuine support from development partners and the international community for that effort was paramount.
NOSIVIWE MAPISA-NQAKULA, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, South Africa, welcomed Said Djinnit, the new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, and commended his predecessor, Mary Robinson, for her work over the past 18 months. The recent strengthening of MONUSCO and its mandate by the Council had contributed a great deal to the progress in the security situation. Successful implementation of the Peace and Security Cooperation Framework would go a long way in comprehensively addressing the challenges facing the region and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Recalling that his country hosted the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region/SADC Summit last year, he said that the subsequent ministerial meeting had recently taken decisions on the political and security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the continued voluntary disarmament and demobilization of the FDLR. The disarmament should take place within six months from 2 July, and it was the responsibility of all stakeholders to jointly define the criteria and terms of a midterm review three months down the line. He appreciated the manner in which the Council had so far cooperated with the regional organizations, urging the international community and the United Nations to continue providing the much-needed resources for the implementation of the disarmament process.
Mr. GASANA (Rwanda), taking the floor for a second time, addressed a claim made by the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that his Government had denied a team of Congolese envoys entry to the country to meet ex-combatants. He pointed out that the team had arrived so quickly after the request had been issued that it had been impossible to respond. However, he added that the visit had been re-arranged and had since gone ahead.
Mr. TSHIBANDA N’TUNGAMULONGO (Democratic Republic of the Congo), taking the floor a second time, stating that he had indicated in his comments the fact that the visit had eventually taken place and that the team’s work had broadly been completed. He said he believed Rwanda could have worked with his country’s envoys but had, instead, asked them to go through a particular verification mechanism that was unnecessary. Overall, he said he preferred to look to the future.
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