|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/SC/1234|
|Release Date: 16 June 2000|
|Security Council Meets on Situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo|
NEW YORK, 15 June (UN Headquarters) -- Continuing hostilities in the Equateur and Kasai provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, uninterrupted violence in Kivu and heavy fighting between foreign armies in the city of Kisangani were among the key elements of the Congolese crisis, the President of the Security Council said this afternoon.
Outlining the causes of the worsening situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jean-David Levitte said that as a result of the deteriorating situation, the cost in human lives had soared ever higher. He told the meeting, attended by the Secretary-General as well as the Political Committee formed following the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, that the process of reconciliation among the Congolese parties to the conflict remained blocked, with the Government having renounced the neutral facilitator selected by the parties and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). There was also hostility to the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
The President said that the resumption of hostilities in Kisangani between Rwanda and Uganda had drastically aggravated the situation and seemed to toll the bell for the Lusaka accord. It was unjustifiable for two foreign armies to be fighting on the soil of a third country, a war which had resulted in at least 300 people dead and 1,500 wounded. The presence in the country of the Rwandese and Ugandan forces was becoming a major source of insecurity.
Also referring to the situation in Kisangani, the representative of the United States said there was no excuse for what had happened in that city. The United States was not interested in who had started the fighting. The issue was to stop it permanently and to prevent it from ever starting again. That could only be done with political commitment at the highest level.
He added that the Secretary-General's prioritization of a Rwandan and Ugandan withdrawal in no way diminished the Security Council's longstanding call for all foreign forces to withdraw from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Withdrawal from Kisangani also should not detract from the need for the Government to follow up the peace process. There was also an urgent need to end all support for the Interahamwe and similarly odious armed groups.
On the inter-Congolese dialogue, he said that the Government's renunciation of the neutral facilitator and attacks on the dialogue could not be seen as anything other than an attack on the Lusaka peace process. Differences between the parties to the Congolese conflict should be ironed out, but nobody should attack the process itself unless they were prepared to face the consequences. The Lusaka peace process was an African initiative and not one imposed from the outside, he stressed.
Amama Mbabazi, Uganda's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Political Committee, said that since its signing, the Lusaka Agreement had held, despite various violations. The Political Committee had, at its last sitting in Lusaka, considered and adopted mechanisms for the disarmament, demobilization, resettlement and re-integration of members of all armed groups, and requested the parties concerned to expedite the release and exchange of prisoners of war. That release and exchange was imminent.
Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that the mere presence of uninvited foreign forces on his country's territory implied that no one could guarantee the safety of United Nations forces. His Government had assured uninhibited freedom of movement for the Mission's deployment, based on notification, and was committed to making the inter-Congolese dialogue easier and to creating conditions for efficiency and safety.
Also attending today's meeting were Abdelkader Messahel, Special Envoy of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, who is the current Chairman of the OAU; George Chicoti, Vice-Minister of External Relations of Angola; Andre Bumaya, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation of Rwanda; Eric Silwamba, Minister for Presidential Affairs of Zambia; and Machizenyika Tobias Mapuranga, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe.
Also in attendance were Dominique Kanku of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo; and Claver Pashi of the Rally for Congolese Democracy-ML.
Kamel Morjane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also attended the meeting.
The meeting began at 12:05 p.m. and adjourned at 1:20 p.m.
Council Work Programme
When the Security Council met this afternoon it had before it the Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC)(document S/2000/566) of 12 June covering the period since 18 April.
In it, the Secretary-General invites the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, to demand that the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda withdraw immediately from the city of Kisangani and promptly thereafter from the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The respective armed forces of the two countries should be held accountable for the loss of life and property damage they have inflicted on Kisangani's civilian population, he adds.
The Secretary-General also urges the Council, again under Chapter VII, to demand the subsequent early withdrawal of all other foreign forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as foreseen in the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.
Outlining military developments, the report notes that persistent outbreaks of fighting in Kisangani, Orientale Province, have caused an estimated 150 civilian deaths and more than 1,000 casualties as well as severe property damage. The Rwanda Patriotic Army and the Uganda People's Defence Force have continued to fight despite repeated efforts to arrange a ceasefire.
On 8 June, the Secretary-General says, he and Richard Holbrooke, Permanent Representative of the United States, contacted President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda urging an immediate cessation of hostilities and a withdrawal of forces in accordance with the agreement they signed with MONUC on 21 May. Though they agreed to do so, and the fighting eased, the two armies later resumed combat.
The fighting has been particularly destructive, with both sides using artillery, mortars and automatic weapons, the report says. Large numbers of dwellings, including those occupied by MONUC military observers, have been destroyed or seriously damaged. Electricity and water supplies have been cut off and cholera outbreaks are feared as residents use river water for their needs.
According to the report, serious fighting between the two armies initially erupted in Kisangani in early May, causing heavy loss of life among Congolese civilians. Despite the agreement between the two Presidents -- and a written agreement brokered by MONUC -- to withdraw their forces and demilitarize the city, heavy fighting subsequently broke out again on 5 June, even as the two forces were in the process of pulling back from the city.
The Secretary-General says that on 12 June, reports indicated that Ugandan forces had withdrawn northwards from Kisangani and a cessation of hostilities appeared to have been put in place. United Nations and other humanitarian agencies have arranged for a flight of urgent food and medical supplies to be delivered to Kisangani as soon as security conditions permit. This will require action to secure the airport and provide unloading and delivery services to the agencies who will then distribute the supplies.
According to the report, the Kisangani demilitarization agreement called for Rwandan and Ugandan units to begin withdrawing on 29 May with a view to pulling back 100 kilometres from the city. It was in the midst of those preparations that fighting broke out on 5 June. The plan also called for the deployment of MONUC military personnel to Kisangani's two airports, port and military camps to monitor and verify the simultaneous withdrawal of the Ugandan and Rwandan armed forces to designated locations.
The Secretary-General reports that despite compliance in other parts of the country with the ceasefire agreement of 14 April, starting in early May, elements of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo began in a major southward advance along the Ubangi River in Equateur Province. That advance had continued despite assurances by Movement leader Jean-Pierre Bemba that it would stop. Mr. Bemba had assured the Secretary-General's Special Representative during a meeting on 23 May that his forces had been responding to attacks by the Government and that they could not withdraw without exposing the local people to retaliation.
On 25 May, the report states, Government forces and their allies announced that they had attacked Movement for the Liberation of Congo forces to stem their advance. That clash represented a major ceasefire violation as well as a serious threat to Mbandaka, since the Movement advance to the confluence of the Ubangi and Congo rivers south of the city cut the riverine route linking it with the capital, Kinshasa. While the Government counter-attack has apparently succeeded in driving some Movement for the Liberation of Congo forces back towards their original lines, some Movement fighters are understood to remain in a position to interdict the resupply of Mbandaka by river. In June, the Government and its allies asked the MONUC observer team in Mbandaka to threaten to push Movement troops back if they did not withdraw to the positions held at the time of the signing of the Lusaka Agreement.
In North and South Kivu, MONUC is concerned about reported clashes between armed groups and Rwandan troops, as well as armed attacks on civilians, the report says. The Congolese Rally for Democracy and their allies, who are nominally responsible for security there, seem unable to prevent killings by the former Rwandan Government forces and Rwandan and Burundi groups including the Interahamwe. The local Mayi Mayi group is also involved.
The report states that MONUC has 200 military observers and liaison officers stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 28 in the capitals of surrounding countries. The Mission is examining the possibility of establishing a logistics base and a medical facility in the east of the country, perhaps at Goma. The deployment of United Nations troops in the country presents acute logistical problems, particularly the degraded state of the infrastructure, the effective blocking of the inland waterway system by the conflict and the lack of roads, all of which make it necessary initially to conduct all deployments and sustainment by air.
It is therefore necessary to provide specialized units to prepare and ensure the security and safety of airstrips in the interior, without which deployment cannot take place, the report says. The specialized units concerned include cargo loading and handling, meteorology, airspace management, movement control, water processing, fuel management, air crash rescue and firefighting teams. Currently the most glaring deficiencies are in cargo handling units and air crash rescue capabilities.
According to the report, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations envisages that the first deployments of specialized units and a protection capacity for Kisangani would begin in July. Deployments of the remainder of the Kisangani battalion in Kisangani as well as the specialized and infantry contingents would follow from late July to October.
However, the Secretary-General observes that the repeated undertakings of the government, the rebel groups and the belligerent countries to cooperate with MONUC are not always supported by action. The denial of full freedom of movement to the Mission, and the outbreaks of violence in demonstrations outside its Kinshasa headquarters cast doubts on the Government's attitude towards the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops.
On the inter-Congolese dialogue, the Secretary-General reports that the Government's decision not to take part in the preparatory meeting, its attempts to block the participation of the unarmed opposition in Kinshasa and the chronic shortages and delays in the provision of resources for the operations of the neutral facilitator, former President Ketumile Masire of Botswana, raise serious doubts concerning the future course of the dialogue. Compounding those difficulties is the Government's withdrawal of confidence in Mr. Masire and its request to the OAU to nominate a new neutral facilitator.
Furthermore, the report says, the continued outbreaks of fighting and the difficulties experienced in the inter-Congolese dialogue augur ill for the timely deployment of MONUC's second phase. Deployment is also subject to delays arising from the difficulties faced by the troop-contributing countries. Many of the contingents concerned lack essential equipment, without which it would be irresponsible to deploy them. Consequently, and in view of the recent experiences in Sierra Leone, the Secretary-General has ordered a full review and reassessment of the troop levels and other requirements before deployment takes place.
According to the report, the signing of the status-of-forces agreement between the Government and MONUC during the visit of the Security Council mission in May has failed to result in full freedom of movement for the Mission's operations. The denial of flight clearances for medical evacuations is particularly objectionable. The MONUC had also been denied freedom of movement by the Movement for the Liberation of Congo and the Congolese Rally for Democracy recently.
Kisangani and its people are in urgent need of large-scale humanitarian assistance, the report states. It urges the international community to consider launching a major effort to provide food, shelter and health care, as soon as basic security conditions have been restored, as well as large-scale reconstruction and rehabilitation operations to help repair the damage wrought during the past few days and weeks. It may also be necessary to consider assistance with civil administration. The humanitarian operations should be regarded as quite separate from MONUC.
The Secretary-General expresses shock and sadness at reports of executions, torture, rape, robbery, destruction of property and illegal detentions carried out in various parts of the country. Although the Government has announced a moratorium on the carrying out of death sentences, the arrest of Government opponents, trade unionists and journalists continues and many political prisoners remain in jail. There is disturbing evidence of the excesses of various State security institutions, which have sweeping powers of arrest and detention, while detainees have little recourse to the law.
According to the report, recent outbreaks of violence in rebel-held areas, especially in Equateur Province, reportedly involve severe human rights violations. Reports from local human rights non-governmental organizations in the eastern region of the country say that rebels, the Ugandan and Rwandan armies and non-signatory rebel groups regularly engage in violence, the systematic use of torture and robbery, the restriction of movement and enforced deportation.
On child protection, the report states that the Government rebel movements and armed groups continue to recruit and train children. The children, though armed, are unpaid and have been accused of taking what they need from the local civilian population by force. President Laurent Kabila has yet to sign a decree that would declare the Government's willingness to demobilize child combatants and refrain from recruiting children into its armed forces.
The report says that MONUC's Child Protection Section, together with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other agencies and non-governmental organizations, has been developing plans for the implementation of a series of national immunization days to be held between 7 July and 15 September throughout the country. It is intended to immunize some 11 million children aged 5 years and under.
JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France), President of the Security Council, said it was a testament to the importance of today's meeting that the Secretary-General had delayed his departure for the Middle East in order to attend.
He said today’s meeting had been born of a meeting on 6 May in Lusaka, Zambia, between the Political Committee and seven members of the Security Council. The Lusaka meeting had followed a summit in the Council on 24 January among signatories to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. Richard Holbrooke, Permanent Representative of the United States, had taken the initiative on that dialogue. Today’s meeting attested to the Council’s will to react positively whenever the United Nations was called upon to act in Africa. The United Nations was not abandoning Africa; on the contrary, Africa was the crux of the Security Council’s work.
The difficulties of Sierra Leone and those caused by the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea had caused heavy losses and suffering to those countries, he noted. The difficulties of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone had made some countries reluctant to commit themselves to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But there had been genuine efforts by all countries in the region to achieve a settlement to the Congolese crisis, particularly the outstanding role of President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia.
He said that the Lusaka Agreement signed on 10 July 1999 provided for a settlement of the crisis in 360 days. It was now nearly two years since the start of the conflict and one year since the signing of the Lusaka accord. There had been efforts to end the conflict, including a ceasefire and a disengagement agreement signed in Kampala. The United Nations had fulfilled its part of the contract by deciding, on 24 February, to establish the MONUC. However, despite those efforts, there had been increasingly bad news and drastically negative global results. There were five main elements to that situation.
First, hostilities were continuing in the provinces of Equateur and Kasai, and there was uninterrupted violence in Kivu and heavy fighting in Kisangani, he said. Second, the cost in human lives had soared ever higher. The Secretary-General's report had emphasized the plight of people displaced by the conflict and their food needs, massacres in Kivu and inter-ethnic clashes in the north-east.
Some 1,700,000 people had perished, he said. They had either been victims of massacres, or had died trying to flee the violence or because of the unavailability of humanitarian assistance due to security reasons.
Third, he said, the process of reconciliation among the Congolese themselves remained blocked. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was not cooperating with Sir Ketumile Masire, the neutral facilitator selected by the Congolese parties and the OAU. That was a cause of grave concern. The facilitator had engaged in preliminary assessments and the United Nations had expressed its full support for him. The Security Council would meet tomorrow with his representative, Archibald Mogwe. A settlement of the Congolese conflict must be supported by the Congolese themselves within the framework of dialogue. Failure to respect agreements between the Government and the rebels was unacceptable and ran counter to commitments undertaken.
Fourth, there was hostility to MONUC, he said. The United Nations was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help bring about peace. Fifth, the resumption of hostilities in Kisangani between Rwanda and Uganda drastically aggravated the situation and seemed to toll the bell for the Lusaka accord. It pitted two countries that had been friendly against each other. It was unjustifiable for two foreign armies to be fighting on the soil of a third country. The fighting had resulted in at least 300 people dead and 1,500 wounded. Their presence in the country, motivated by security concerns, was becoming a major source of insecurity.
Stating that recent events had caused deep shock among the international community, he called on Rwanda and Uganda to withdraw and to implement immediately the agreement concluded by the presidents of the two countries in the Council’s presence. The Congolese conflict was at a decisive moment. The Secretary-General's report set the tone. The war in Kisangani must cease immediately so that from that evil, something good might emerge. Kisangani must serve as an electric shock to speed up implementation of the Luska Agreement, which remained the touchstone of the peace process.
He told the members of the Political Committee that the Council hoped to consider the situation in depth with them so that together they could provide a new impetus to the Lusaka accord and see how the present crisis could be overcome. Together they must take the necessary decisions and give back hope to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central Africa, who were waiting desperately for peace. Where there was a will there was a way.
AMAMA MBABAZI, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Uganda and Chairman of the Committee of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Ceasefire Agreement, said that he hoped that this interaction would result in greater and faster engagement of the United Nations the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region had so long waited for. The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement had addressed the two dimensions of the conflict -- the internal Congolese political question, and the regional security concerns of the country itself and those of her neighbours. Since its signing, the Agreement had held, despite various violations. The violations occurred largely because the mechanism the Agreement put in place to manage the implementation process had not been fully operationalized.
The Political Committee, working together with the Joint Military Committee and MONUC, had laid the groundwork for the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement. On 8 April, the plan for the disengagement and redeployment of forces in the Democratic Republic had been adopted in Kampala. Because the Joint Military Committee and MONUC lacked the resources to carry out verification of the information given by each party, the timetable of that plan had not been met. It was expected that when that had been done and new defence positions had been agreed on, the forces would begin to disengage to create the 30 kilometre wide demilitarized zone, he said.
The Political Committee had, at its last sitting in Lusaka, considered and adopted mechanisms for the disarmament, demobilization, resettlement and re-integration of members of all armed groups. The Committee had also requested the parties concerned to expedite the process of release and exchange of prisoners of war. According to his information, all parties had done so and he expected the release and exchange to commence by the end of the week. It could even begin during the deliberations in New York.
The most recent challenge to the implementation of the Lusaka accord had been the fighting between the Rwandan and Ugandan forces in Kisangani, he said. The Committee called on Rwanda and Uganda to immediately bring an end to the fighting and to implement the agreement between them for the demilitarization of Kisangani. Fighting had since stopped.
The Political Committee reaffirmed its strong commitment to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and reiterated its determination for a full and expeditious implementation, he said. It asked the United Nations and the international community as a whole to lend their unqualified support in the implementation of the Agreement.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States), who headed the recent Security Council mission to Central Africa, said that the events of the last two weeks had changed the nature of the Congolese conflict. There was no excuse for what had happened in Kisangani. The first ceasefire between Rwandan and Ugandan forces had been promising, but the resumption of hostilities had had an extraordinarily high level of intensity. The international community would have to clean up the damage, diverting resources away from health, education and other essential needs.
Describing the present ceasefire as fragile, he said there was a gap between the cessation of hostilities and the arrival of peacekeepers. The situation in Kisangani was more dangerous and it would be even more difficult to find peacekeeping. The United States was not interested in who had started the fighting. The issue was to stop it permanently and to prevent it from ever starting again. That could only be done with political commitment at the highest level.
He said that the fighting in Equateur Province between Government forces and rebels of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo was also serious and threatened to bring the war closer to main population centres. There was a need for willingness on both sides to halt the fighting.
Regarding the inter-Congolese dialogue, he said that the Government's renunciation of the neutral facilitator and attacks on the dialogue could not be seen as anything other than an attack on the Lusaka peace process. Differences should be ironed out, but nobody should attack the process itself unless they were ready to face the consequences. While some arguments were justified, the problems could not be solved by attacking the peace process, otherwise the situation might degenerate into warlord-dominated satrapies.
To bolster the peace process, he said, the Secretary-General had recommended that priority be given to the withdrawal of Rwandan and Ugandan forces from the Kisangani area, which was very appropriate given the present situation. But in no way did prioritizing those withdrawals diminish the Council's longstanding call for all foreign forces to withdraw. There was also an urgent need for all parties to end their support for the Interahamwe and similar forces. Support for such odious forces was unacceptable. Withdrawal from Kisangani also should not detract from the need for the Government to follow up the peace process. However, today's discussion should not detract from the legitimate security needs of Rwanda and Uganda.
Everything should be done to strengthen the Lusaka process, which was an African initiative and not imposed from the outside, he stressed. Some had argued that the Congolese struggle and the slow progress of the Lusaka process showed a Congolese predisposition to kill each other. He had heard such arguments made about Kosovo, Bosnia and, in an earlier era, about the great European Powers.
He categorically rejected the notion that Africa was not ready for democracy, that it needed strong men to rule it and that some ethnic groups were predisposed to kill each other. Those notions had been wrong elsewhere, as had the idea of failed States. States did not fail, leaders did. Similarly, much had been made of the problematic nature of African borders. African leaders had made the decision to keep those borders at independence and they must find a way to live within them. They could change them, but not through war. Borders had been changed peacefully in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.
YERODIA ABDOULAYE NDOMBASI, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that the Congolese people, with peace as their lodestar, sought to show their goodwill and were ready to contribute to ending the war and starting a new beginning. The goodwill that all Heads of States signatories to the Lusaka Agreement had shown had led to more recent arrangements such as those of Kampala, which provided for an orderly basis for restoring a climate of safety and security for the Congolese people and the United Nations peacekeeping forces.
War, and the mere presence of uninvited foreign forces, implied that no one could guarantee the needed safety of United Nations forces, he said.. Uninvited elements were occupying the country and engaged in battle among one another. Their resources were unknown and, “flexing their muscle”, they wreaked havoc with the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, flying in the face of the United Nations Charter. Aggression against his country remained key to further developments in a quest for peace. Safety and security for MONUC could not be guaranteed as long as those troops were present.
He told the Council that the Democratic Republic of the Congo needed MONUC. His Government assured uninhibited freedom of movement for the United Nations deployment; but that liberty required being fully informed of the facts. Notification was needed. His Government had to know, for instance, when and where United Nations aircraft operated in Congolese skies. That was not harassment, he clarified, but a way to avoid something unfortunate happening to the very people his country needed. He reiterated his Government’s dedication to the Lusaka Agreement and called for its full implementation.
His Government was in favour of making the inter-Congolese dialogue easier, he said, but it had reasons to conclude that the facilitator no longer promoted implementation or facilitation. A different “incarnation” of facilitation was necessary.
The MONUC, which the Democratic Republic of the Congo had called for, had witnessed massacres that were not under its control. People had expressed profound outrage because of the inactivity and the inability of United Nations forces to prevent the fighting. He understood that students and others had thrown some stones in frustration, and he hoped that those incidents would not be repeated.
He offered the facilitator, Mr. Morjane, his Government’s commitment to let him work in full freedom and security. He called on the Council to implement its own resolutions so that the end of war and the restoration of stability might come about. His Government stood committed to making the inter-Congolese dialogue easier, creating conditions for efficiency and safety. He called upon all to “speed things up”, because the Democratic Republic of the Congo was in a hurry.
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