Welcoming Improved Political Climate Following Peaceful Transition, Speakers Still Concerned about Ongoing Presence of Ebola, Fighting in East
Spotlighting a range of positive developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the senior United Nations official in that country today urged the Security Council and other partners to support Kinshasa’s efforts to push forward tangible improvements in the lives of the Congolese people.
“We need to collectively seize this wind of hope,” said Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), who briefed the 15-member Council via video-teleconference. Outlining developments between 29 June and 25 September, covered in a new report of the Secretary-General (document S/2019/776), she pointed out that the upward trajectory comes on the heels of a peaceful transition of power in March, in which President Felix Tshisekedi was elected and formed a coalition Government. Against that backdrop, she urged Member States to support national efforts to strengthen State authority, empower the judiciary and address root causes of conflict.
Also welcoming a decrease in the number of Ebola cases in recent months — linked to a broad, coordinated response and a focus on building community acceptance of medical support — she urged Kinshasa and its partners not to waver in that crucial work. Seizing the opportunity presented by the new Government will not be without risks and challenges, she said, spotlighting the need to ensure the functioning of State institutions. Meanwhile, she called for accountability for deeply troubling attacks against civilians by armed groups in some parts of the country — including the brutal recent decapitation of 14 people, including children.
Taking the floor, many Council members expressed concern about unabated instances of violence, human rights violations and the lingering Ebola epidemic. However, they also echoed the Special Representative’s optimism about the window of opportunity presented by the new Government, commending President Tshisekedi’s commitment to addressing the complex situation in the east of the country and implementing the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region. Many also underlined the important role being played by MONUSCO, whose strategic review and potential reform is slated to be considered by the Council in the coming months.
The representative of South Africa joined other speakers in welcoming the Democratic Republic of Congo’s improved political climate and the formation of a coalition Government. He nevertheless drew attention to persistent military and humanitarian challenges in the east — characterized by intercommunal clashes, remaining cases of Ebola and ongoing activities of armed groups — and underlined the need for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts, security sector reform and progress in establishing Government authority in areas liberated from armed groups.
The representative of the United States stressed: “Only concrete action can prove to the Congolese people that this Government represents the change that they voted for.” While an end to violence is a necessary precondition for peace, it is no guarantee, she said, urging national authorities to work closely with MONUSCO in developing a long-term plan for peace and reconciliation which addresses longstanding grievances. Efforts are also needed to improve standards in the police and armed forces, uphold human rights and ensure the reintegration of willing armed groups into civilian life, she said.
Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate urged international financial institutions, bilateral partners and development agencies to ramp up support for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the aim of consolidating recent stability gains. Highlighting regional support, he welcomed the recent quadripartite summit between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Uganda and Rwanda and expressed appreciation for those working at the frontlines of the Ebola epidemic. Against that backdrop, all donors should honour their pledges for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he stressed.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo agreed that the situation in the east of the country remains a major source of concern and a priority for President Tshisekedi, who has committed to combating negative forces “until their complete eradication”. Welcoming the continued support being provided to national forces by MONUSCO, he welcomed discussions on the Mission’s strategic review and highlighted the urgent need to readapt it to the evolving situation on the ground. “The Democratic Republic of the Congo still needs MONUSCO,” he stressed, but one that is stronger, more focused and better equipped.
Also speaking were representatives of Peru, Equatorial Guinea, China and Indonesia.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 11:02 a.m.
LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), speaking via video-teleconference from the United Kingdom, described “new and positive trends” on the ground which may help to transform the Democratic Republic of the Congo into a stable country. Noting that the shift follows the peaceful transfer of power in Kinshasa earlier in 2019, she said the new Government has embraced a positive programme of action for the country’s peace and development. Calling on all stakeholders to embrace such changes, she pointed out that the country’s provincial assemblies began convening last week. However, she cautioned that challenges remain, including in ensuring the functioning of State institutions. MONUSCO and other partners must be closely aligned with national priorities, she said, underlining the Mission’s commitment to providing support, including by helping to tackle unacceptable threats to civilians.
While the opportunities offered by the new Government represent a positive development, she said seizing them will not be without risks and challenges. Moreover, those shifts must translate into tangible improvements for Congolese people, who continue to live in a state of danger, poverty and humanitarian dependence. Recalling that human rights violations led to massive displacement in several parts of the country, she said violence by the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and splinter armed groups continue to take a dire toll on civilians. She voiced concern particularly about severe brutality committed recently against civilians, such as the decapitation of 14 people including children and reported cases of female genital mutilation in South Kivu. Stressing that such violence is both unacceptable and deeply troubling, she said perpetrators must be held to account. Against that backdrop, the support of bilateral and multilateral partners in finding common security responses to the situation in the east of the country is both timely and encouraging.
In that context, she called for redoubled efforts to strengthen State power, empower the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s judiciary, address root causes of conflict and respond to incitements of ethnic hatred through targeted responses. The reintegration of former members of armed groups, following waves of voluntary surrender in early 2019, remains another critical task. She urged the international community to support flexible, community-based approaches to challenges that will set the stage for sustainable development. Welcoming a downward trend in the number of Ebola cases in recent months — linked to a broad, coordinated response and a focus on building community acceptance of medical support — she urged Kinshasa and its partners not to waver in that crucial work. Efforts must also seek to respond to the broader needs of the population, including by bolstering health care, sanitation, education and peace. “We need to collectively seize this wind of hope,” she stressed, underlining MONUSCO’s commitment to that end.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Cote d’Ivoire) urged international financial institutions, bilateral partners and development agencies to ramp up support for the Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to consolidate recent developments towards its stability. He noted that, despite efforts made by that country backed by MONUSCO, armed groups continue to destabilize North and South Kivu and Ituri. As such, he welcomed the holding of a quadripartite summit in July bringing together the leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Uganda and Rwanda. He went on to express concern about the humanitarian situation rendered worse by the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, also expressing appreciation for staff at the frontlines of the epidemic. He called on all donors to honour their pledges for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, welcoming the solidarity of the international community and specialized agencies in the field.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) noted that the ground work has been laid for further steps to be taken to ensure the stability of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In that context, he welcomed its reactivation of political relationships with other countries in the region. However, his delegation remains concerned by outbreaks of inter-communal violence causing death and forced displacement. As such, he welcomed the regional coalition established to eliminate armed groups in the country’s eastern province, calling specifically for action to target the recruitment of child soldiers. Moreover, the actions of MONUSCO’s civilian components are more important than ever, including the building of trust between various stakeholders and the coordination required to avoid duplication of efforts by international partners. On the humanitarian front, he noted that 10 per cent of the population is food insecure, whereas the Ebola outbreak has been declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) welcomed the new momentum witnessed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and positive developments such as peaceful elections, the inauguration of Parliament and the formation of a new coalition Government. The international community must ensure that the country’s Government has the monopoly on the use of force there. He also appealed for good neighbourly relations in the region and non-interference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s internal affairs. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s recent visit to the country, he noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo possesses extensive natural resources. As such, he called for the benefits derived from those resources to be invested in the population and safeguarded from exploitation. He commended efforts by leaders in the region to deal with their differences through dialogue and manage cross-border incidents with the aim of achieving stability and development.
WU HAITAO (China) said the successful formation of a new Government — as well as its focus on peace, stability, reconstruction and economic growth — represents a positive signal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It also reveals strong political will, he said, calling for the international community’s support. Noting that during the Secretary-General’s recent visit to the country he ventured deep into the eastern region and visited with anti-epidemic actors and other local stakeholders, he said such meetings demonstrated the United Nations strong support. Urging MONUSCO to work more closely with the national security forces, he expressed hope that the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the upcoming reform and eventual drawdown of MONUSCO will reflect the will of the host country. Outlining China’s support, he said Beijing provided $1 million to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national efforts to tackle the Ebola epidemic and $2 million to the World Health Organization’s response.
KELLY CRAFT (United States), also welcoming the smooth transition of power, declared: “Only concrete action can prove to the Congolese people that this Government represents the change that they voted for.” As the largest single donor to the Ebola response, the United States stands committed to continue supporting efforts to combat the disease. However, she voiced concern about continuing instances of violence in South Kivu and elsewhere in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “While an end to violence is a necessary precondition for peace, it is no guarantee,” she said, urging national authorities to work closely with MONUSCO in developing a long-term plan for peace and reconciliation which addresses longstanding grievances. Efforts are also needed to improve standards in the police and armed forces, uphold human rights and ensure the reintegration of willing armed groups into civilian life. Welcoming efforts to combat corruption, she said the United States is launching a new bilateral initiative with Kinshasa to those ends. In addition, her delegation expects to receive the full text of the report on MONUSCO’s review, as well as any related documents.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) stressed the key importance of regional cooperation in addressing the threat posed by foreign armed groups. Welcoming steps taken by Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi to strengthen relations with neighbouring countries, he called for placing the needs of the Congolese people above the pursuit of partisan interests. The humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should be urgently addressed, he said, noting that 197 civilians have been killed in Ituri and 230,000 people have been displaced. Measles, malaria and cholera must be addressed with equal urgency. The current financial situation of the United Nations should be managed so that it will not impair MONUSCO’s ability to fulfil its mandate.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the improving political climate in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the formation of the new coalition Government, as well as the enhanced political representation of women. In addition, he commended President Tshisekedi’s commitment to fully implementing the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region. However, a complex military and humanitarian situation persists in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to the activities of armed groups, intercommunal clashes and the Ebola epidemic. Echoing the concern expressed by the Secretary-General in his report on the impact of the Ebola virus outbreak in the region, he said that the response remains hindered by poor funding and accessibility, and low levels of cooperation between the community and Government, which are further compounded by outbreaks of cholera and measles and condemnable attacks by armed groups on treatment centres and staff. Emphasizing the vital role played by MONUSCO alongside the Democratic Republic of the Congo authorities in addressing the security situation, he stressed the need to implement disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and security sector reform programmes, and to establish government authority in areas liberated from negative forces. Any adjustment to the mandate of MONUSCO should be based on developments on the ground, he added.
IGNACE GATA MAVITA WA LUFUTA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) recalled that President Tshisekedi’s election earlier in 2019 was followed by the formation of a coalition Government led by Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilukamba. Pledging to engage more closely with partners across the region, he said the Secretary-General’s visit demonstrated the international community’s clear support. However, the situation in the east of the country remains a major source of concern and a priority for the President, who has committed to combating negative forces “until their complete eradication”. Welcoming strong cooperation between national armed forces and MONUSCO to that end, he welcomed discussions on the latter’s strategic review. There is an urgent need to readapt the Mission to the evolving situation on the ground, including by focusing more on the type of intervention capacities which successfully tackled the 23 March Movement. “The Democratic Republic of the Congo still needs MONUSCO,” he stressed, but one that is stronger, more focused and better equipped. Vowing to press on with efforts to tackle the Ebola epidemic, he said national efforts are also under way — with support from international partners — to address the country’s ongoing humanitarian challenges and those posed by displacement.
* The 8637th Meeting was closed.