SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON PEACE PROCESS IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO;
SECRETARY-GENERAL NOTES RECENT PROGRESS, CALM ON CONFRONTATION LINE
Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe Cites ‘Renewed Hope’ for Peace,
NEW YORK, 21 February (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council this morning heard from three speakers in a brief open meeting -- the United Nations Secretary-General, the Council President and the Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe -- then reverted to a private meeting to discuss the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with members of the Political Committee established by the Ceasfire Agreement signed in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 1999.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Council that in recent weeks some things had changed for the better. The parties had been talking to each other at the highest levels and the way had been opened for the Congolese people to take part in the governance of their country. In addition, for the past five weeks the line of confrontation separating the five foreign armies had been calm. The opposing troops could soon begin to pull back from their advance positions, as the first step towards a withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country. The Council was ready to endorse a concept of operations for monitoring and verifying the actions of the parties.
The political environment was troubled, but improving, he said, and he welcomed the decision of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to allow a neutral facilitator to work with the various Congolese parties in conducting a national dialogue. The parties to the Lusaka Agreement must now prove their determination to end the fighting and lay the foundation for peace and recovery. Today, the parties should be given a clear message: Disengagement of forces and inter-Congolese dialogue must begin. Plans must be made to withdraw all foreign forces from the Democratic Republic and, through dialogue, creative ways must be found to resolve problems of armed groups and border security.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister, Stanislaus I.G. Mudenge, Chairman of the Political Committee, told the Council that today a radically transformed situation yielded renewed hope and optimism for the peace process. The parties to the Ceasefire Agreement had underlined their desire to accelerate the pace of implementation of the peace process, and he hoped that hesitation and doubt would give way to renewed confidence which would, in turn, translate into timely concrete actions.
In that regard, he noted with concern that the United Nations under "the new step-by-step gradualist and minimalist concept of operations" for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) conveyed an impression of hesitancy and doubt. MONUC must be allowed to deploy the 5,537 men as authorized under resolution 1291 (2000). Cutting the number to under 3,000, as was now being proposed under the new deployment concept, was tantamount to amending that resolution through administrative fiat. It was not the time to imagine that every light at the end of the tunnel was necessarily that of an approaching train. The moment to make progress must be seized. "The Council is called upon to assume its responsibility and lead the way", he said.
The Council's President, Said Ben Mustapha (Tunisia), welcomed the progress with respect to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and looked forward to its implementation, as well as that of the relevant Council resolutions. He encouraged all parties to cooperate in the inter-Congolese dialogue. MONUC’s deployment had been delayed, he said, which had been a disappointment to many. It was now ready to be deployed. He called on all parties to cooperate with the Mission, and to guarantee access and security to its members.
In addition to Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister, members of the Political Committee for implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement scheduled to participate in the closed meeting were: Joa Bernardo de Miranda, Minister for External Relations of Angola; Leonard She Okitundu, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Theo-Ben Gurirab, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Namibia; Patrick Mazimaka, Minister in the Office of the President of Rwanda; Alfred Mubanda, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Uganda; and Eric Silwamba, Minister for Presidential Affairs of Zambia.
Also, Valentin Senga, representative of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo; Azarias Ruberwa, Secretary-General of the Congolese Rally for Democracy; Pashi-Claver, representative of the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Kisangani; Assani Tidjani, Minister of Defence of Togo; Said Djennit, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs of the Organization of African Unity; and Kamel Morjane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The meeting, which began at 10:20 a.m., was adjourned at 11 a.m.
As the Security Council met this morning with the Political Committee for implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it had before it the sixth Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) (document S/200/128), which reflects developments since the fifth report of 6 December 2000 (S/2000/1156).
Reporting positive political developments, the Secretary-General, while condemning assassination and the use of force as a means of settling political differences, is gratified to note that the other parties concerned have refrained from taking advantage of the situation that arose after President Laurent-Desire Kabila was killed on 16 January.
The report states that on 21 January, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe issued a communiqué on their intentions in the country, calling for a cessation of hostilities, a diplomatic solution and the strengthening of the United Nations observer force. President Joseph Kabila, who has succeeded his father, at the same time made many positive overtures to the international community. Various factions of Congolese rebels, in the meantime, have been consolidating. Ketumile Masire has been promoting inter-Congolese dialogue with the explicit support of the rebels, main political parties and civil society, and with some accommodation by the Government.
The Secretary-General states that during the period covered by the report much of the country was quiet, but military action was observed in both Equateur province and Katanga. Scattered fighting has also been reported from the Kivus. The military chiefs of staff of the parties, with the exception of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo, ratified the sub-plans for disengagement and redeployment in Harare on 6 December 2000. The disengagement has not been on schedule, though MONUC is proceeding on the assumption that the parties will indeed carry out the plan. There has, similarly, been no significant reduction in foreign force levels.
The report then describes cooperation with the Joint Military Commission (JMC), also established by the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, stating that it has been hindered by a lack of resources. It also assesses the status of MONUC deployment and security of MONUC personnel, stating that the parties have continued to provide generally satisfactory security, though in South Kivu violence has forced international agencies and non-governmental organizations to suspend many of their operations and precludes MONUC deployment in the eastern provinces at this time. Regular liaison between MONUC and the Government has improved cooperation with the Mission.
The report then details the continuing humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and corresponding efforts for their remediation. To date, only 30 per cent of the consolidated appeal for $37 million has been received. The human rights situation also remains a cause of serious concern, the report states, with mass killings, torture, arbitrary detention and serious inter-ethnic tensions. The situation relating to the recruitment of children into the armed forces and various warring groups has not improved significantly.
After reviewing financial aspects of MONUC, the report then describes the next steps, including a revised concept of operations. The four phases in that revised concept describe deployment of military observers and specialized support services, through the disengagement phases of the Harare plan and beyond. Assessing the situation in the eastern provinces and border areas, the report states that a peacekeeping force on its own is unlikely to restore peace, security and stability to the Kivus. In other areas, the Secretary-General recommends delaying proposals for the establishment of a permanent follow-up mechanism, until the new positive spirit and encouraging contacts are given a chance to bear fruit.
The report concludes that recent events give grounds for cautious hope. In addition to the diplomatic efforts of President Kabila and the President of Rwanda, the Secretary-General is heartened by the calm on the confrontation lines between the hostile forces. Signs that the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo might accept the role of the neutral facilitator are also hopeful.
The report states that, in this atmosphere, the United Nations should be ready to advance, at least with small steps. The revised concept of operations proposed by the Secretary-General is designed to assist in the disengagement of forces. He recommends the adoption of that draft concept, and calls for the support of Council members and troop-contributing countries as steps are taken to carry it out. He also recommends that MONUC be strengthened by the addition of civilian staff, including a reinforced human rights component.
The President of the Security Council, SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia), in introductory remarks, said members of the Council had noted the willingness to proceed with the peace process. The possibility for progress in that process now existed, following meetings in the region. He welcomed the progress with respect to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and looked forward to its implementation, as well as the relevant Council resolutions.
He also welcomed the readiness among parties to implement the inter-Congolese dialogue and encouraged all parties to cooperate in that endeavour. MONUC’s deployment had been delayed, he said, which had been a disappointment to many. It was now ready to be deployed. He called on all parties to cooperate with the Mission, and to guarantee access and security to its members. He followed with concern the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic and emphasized the necessity for assistance to the Congolese people.
KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that much had changed since the Political Committee last met with the Security Council to discuss advancing the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Positive changes included high-level communication between the parties, openings for the Congolese people to participate in their government, and a prevailing de facto cessation of hostilities.
For the past five weeks, he said, the line of confrontation separating the five foreign armies had been calm. In accordance with the plan devised by the Joint Military Commission and approved by the Political Committee, the opposing troops could soon begin to pull back from their advance positions, as the first step towards a withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country. That would fulfil an important goal. As all of the parties could take some credit for the recent progress, all parties remained responsible for seeing that progress reach its rightful, long-awaited conclusion.
Since 6 December 2000, when the plan for disengagement was signed in Harare, he had, he said, submitted to the Security Council a concept of operations for monitoring and verifying the actions of the parties in its implementation. The Council was now ready to endorse that concept. MONUC and the Secretariat had already taken steps towards its implementation. Once the Council discussions were finished, a date would be set to begin the disengagement and redeployment, followed by the actual withdrawal, which would be supervised and monitored by United Nations observers. The start date should be as soon as it was possible for all the necessary preparations to be in place.
Those events would take place, he said, in a political environment which was troubled but improving. He welcomed the decision of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to allow a neutral facilitator to work with the various Congolese parties in conducting national dialogue. In view of the positive signs, he urged all donors who pledged to support the work of that facilitator to fulfil their promises, and also urged support from the wider international community.
Before the long-term political goals were achieved, however, the humanitarian crisis, he said, must be addressed, given the lack of access to those in dire need of aid. There was widespread displacement and a severe lack of access to food, water and medicine. Refugees and armed men, fleeing the fighting, also threatened neighboring countries. Civilians had been principle victims of the fighting, with rape used as a weapon of war and children inducted.
The parties that signed the Lusaka Agreement, he said, must now prove their determination to end the fighting and lay the foundation for peace and recovery, in order for the international community to provide assistance. In that regard, he welcomed the confirmation by the President of Rwanda of his decision to withdraw his troops from Pweto and pull back all his troops, as per the Harare plan. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Force Commander had been instructed to prepare to assist in that withdrawal. As a sign that a new tone had indeed been set by the Rwandan move, he noted the statement issued yesterday by the Ugandan Government that it intended to withdraw two battalions.
Today, he said, the parties should be given a clear message: Disengagement of forces and inter-Congolese dialogue must begin. Plans must be made to withdraw all foreign forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And, through dialogue, creative ways must be found to resolve problems of armed groups and border security.
STANISLAUS I.G. MUDENGE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe, in his capacity as Chairman of the Political Committee for the Implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, said today a radically transformed situation yielded renewed hope and optimism for the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The guns had been silent for more than three weeks and the speedy implementation of the process of disengagement and redeployment of forces could help sustain that silence.
MONUC was enjoying the cooperation of all parties to the Agreement, and the hitherto thorny issue over the facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue had been resolved, he said. The preparations for that dialogue were set to get under way any day now. The parties to the Ceasefire Agreement had met in Lusaka, Zambia, on 12 and 15 February at the Political Committee and summit level. They had underlined their desire to accelerate the pace of implementation of the peace process. He hoped that hesitation and doubt would give way to renewed confidence in that process and that renewed confidence would translate into timely concrete actions.
In that regard, he noted with concern that the United Nations under "the new step-by-step, gradualist and minimalist concept of operations for MONUC" conveyed an impression of hesitancy and doubt about the peace process. The parties firmly believed that now was not the time for prevarication and doubt, but one for rapid engagement in view of the positive prevailing circumstances. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was a vast country, he said, and it was necessary that MONUC be allowed to deploy the 5,537 men as authorized under resolution 1291 (2000). Cutting the number to under 3,000, as was now being proposed under the new deployment concept, was most unfortunate and tantamount to amending resolution 1291 (2000) through administrative fiat.
He said the parties had spoken in a very clear and unambiguous manner that they wanted peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that they wanted it now. They were prepared to take some risk in doing so and eagerly invited and awaited a commensurate response of the Council, not only in assuming, with the necessary speed, its responsibilities under the Lusaka Agreement, but also in ensuring the full implementation of its own resolutions on the Congo, in particular resolution 1291 (2000).
It was not the time to imagine that every light at the end of the tunnel was necessarily that of an approaching train, he said. The moment to make progress must be seized. "We must not let this chance slip by", he said. "The Congolese people look in great anticipation to your actions so that they may enjoy peace and progress as a sovereign and independent people", he said. "This is the least we can and must do for our brothers and sisters in the Congo. The Council is called upon to assume its responsibility and lead the way." He also appealed to the Council to come to the financial assistance of the Joint Military Commission, a key institution in keeping the Lusaka peace process alive.
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