In light of continued massacres committed by armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the country this morning requested the Security Council to endorse and promote a more proactive stance by peacekeepers for protection of civilians.
"Presence without action, in the face of violence, undermines our credibility," Martin Kobler, who is also the Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) said, introducing the Secretary-General's latest reports on the Mission (document S/2014/698) in a meeting that also heard a briefing from Said Djinnit, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, as well as statements from the Rwandan and Congolese representatives.
Mr. Kobler said that only two weeks after a 21 September celebration of peace in the east's major city of Goma following its liberation from the 23 March Movement (M23), more than 80 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed and mutilated in villages around Beni by the group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Turning their anger on MONUSCO, on 22 October a crowd of 2,000 civilians tried to storm its base in Beni.
Only action against the ADF, not words, would restore the confidence of the population in the Mission and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or FARDC, he stressed, strongly advocating for "a decisive joint military — also combat — operations between the FARDC and MONUSCO against the ADF to bring an end to this scourge".
Congratulating the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade, known as FIB, on bringing an end to the M23’s activities, he urged the Congolese Government to expedite the long-overdue repatriation of the group's combatants from Uganda and Rwanda.
In regard to the voluntary disarmament of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which was meant to take place under a regional agreement by 2 January 2015, he said that the process was at an impasse. As the FDLR continued to violate human rights, there could be no excuse for further delay. He welcomed "unequivocal instructions" from the Council on dealing with all contingencies. "I am more than confident that, if the FDLR do not disarm before 2 January, the FIB supported by all MONUSCO forces will fight equally bravely and successfully against them," he said.
While continuing to partner with the Government in such efforts, he stressed that MONUSCO would also continue to report on respect for human rights by all parties, which he said helped empower the Government in its fight against impunity. In that light, he asked the Government to reconsider the decision to expel the head of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the country, Scott Campbell, following his issuance of a report documenting killings and disappearances in the context of the Government’s Operation Likofi against street gangs in Kinshasa. Expressing concern over recent threats against other Office staff, he said he intended to propose a regular, high-level human rights dialogue with the Government.
Among other challenges, he highlighted the potential of rising inter-community tensions in Katanga Province, where the influx of displaced persons had increased 11-fold since 2011, as well as in other areas in the run-up to unprecedented local elections planned. It was essential that dialogue be enabled across all parties and groups.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region (document S/2014/697), Mr. Djinnit said the Governments of the signatory countries continued to view the Framework as a useful tool to speed the transformation to development and lasting stability. The delicate security issues stemming from the region’s history and the reinstatement of trust remained priorities. “We must support efforts to galvanize energies and resources for the socioeconomic transformation of the region and its integration,” he said.
With that in mind, he said the first progress report of the regional oversight mechanism underlined the need for faster progress in neutralizing “negative forces” in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. He called on signatories, guarantors and international partners to ensure that the disarmament of the FDLR took place by the 2 January deadline. The group’s full voluntary disarmament should be facilitated while a credible process for military pressure against those unwilling to surrender by the deadline was set in motion. “We must act now,” he said, as failure to bring that process to a successful conclusion could place the Framework under “serious stress.”
Noting the slow pace of implementation of the Nairobi Declarations on the M23 group, he said a high-level follow-up meeting would be convened in Kinshasa, from 7 to 8 November, where he intended to encourage parties to “fast track” the amnesty and repatriation processes. Dealing with the FDLR and M23 must continue to receive full attention, as should the threat posed by the ADF, whose horrendous acts in Beni were a sad reminder that hard won gains against negative forces could be reversed.
Recounting activities by his Office to promote stabilization of the region, he urged efforts to convene the Summit of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries as part of the revitalization called for by the Framework. He was committed to working with the signatory countries, co-guarantors and international partners, saying that collective efforts could help end recurring instability, build confidence and set in motion an “irreversible” process to realize the region’s potential.
Speaking after those briefings, Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda) said that the FDLR was considered a major perpetrator of the genocide in his country that had occurred 20 years ago. It remained the greatest security threat in the Great Lakes region despite the Council’s resolutions. MONUSCO had been unable or unwilling to ensure those resolutions were fulfilled. The Force Integration Brigade had failed to act against the FDLR after the M23 had been neutralized, and no concrete action was even planned, despite tough talk by Mission officials. He maintained that the group was still planning to subvert Rwanda and was recruiting more elements while they made a pretence of disarming.
He asked why, 20 years after the resolve of "Never Again", there was no determination to strongly address the major perpetrators of genocide in his country and cause of unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, even though it had provided a clear mandate to United Nations peacekeepers to do so, supported by billions of dollars of international taxpayer funds. It undermined the credibility of the Council.
Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said his country’s Foreign Minister had signed on to the deadline for the FDLR to disarm and that military action would be taken if it didn’t meet the deadline. “They must all leave the Congolese territory and return to their host country, Rwanda,” he said.
On other armed groups, he said the resurgence of ADF was a particular challenge, as it was rebuilding and operating in small units. On the M23, his Government had drawn up a road map for the implementation of the Nairobi Declarations, enacted an amnesty law, and established a technical oversight team that had visited Uganda and Kigali to identify former M23 combatants and had facilitated their signing of a commitment document.
The coordinator designated by former M23 members, René Abandi, had repeatedly been invited to meet with the Great Lakes regional organization, but had not yet accepted, he said. The latest offer was for his participation in a meeting on 7 and 8 November, to be attended by the Special Envoys, regional witnesses and others. “The Democratic Republic of the Congo seeks peace in its territory and all regional States”, he said, expressing the determination to combat all negative forces in the country.
As for MONUSCO, he said his Government had taken note of the road map for reassigning its tasks to the United Nations Country Team. He asked that a 22 October letter outlining his Government’s position on the Scott Campbell affair be circulated. The Congolese police had cracked down in response to complaints of persistent urban violence in Kinshasa, in which groups of young people would kill for a cell phone or the “simple pleasure” of doing harm. Phase one of the operation against them had been successful, but Mr. Campbell had published “untruths”, alleging 32 cases of forced disappearances, among other things.
Mr. Campbell’s actions had compromised security by demoralizing security forces, he said, claiming that Mr. Campbell had refused to take into account information provided by authorities. His country did not have a tradition of expelling diplomats, but in Mr. Campbell’s case, it was due to his offensive behaviour.
He reassured the Council that the decision had not undermined relations between MONUSCO and his Government, which would fully support Mr. Campbell’s replacement. The Government had published a list of 30 police condemned for their behaviour in the Kinshasa operation and was investigating threats made to United Nations staff. He hoped the Organization would take into account all positive work carried out by his country in promoting human rights.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:18 a.m.