For information only - not an official document.

5 February 2001

Moment of Opportunity "Must Be Seized" by Democratic Republic of Congo,
Says Secretary-General in Statement to Security Council

NEW YORK, 2 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council's meeting on the Democratic Republic of Congo on 2 February:

We are meeting today to discuss one of the biggest challenges currently facing Africa and the United Nations - the challenge of bringing peace and stability to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to the region around it.

Let me begin by welcoming His Excellency President Joseph Kabila to the United Nations, and congratulating him on his inauguration as head of State of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). I have already had the opportunity of expressing to President Kabila my sincere condolences on the loss of his father.

The Lusaka Agreement, signed in July and August 1999 by six States and three rebel movements, has yet to be translated into action. But for the last two weeks, the United Nations Mission (MONUC) has reported almost no ceasefire violations throughout the country. This is surely a moment of opportunity, which must be seized by the people of the DRC and all who wish them well. The time appears ripe for a resolute effort to implement the Lusaka Agreement, and to start a genuine dialogue among all Congolese on the future of their country.

I hope all the governments concerned, and all their military commanders, will take the necessary steps to ensure that the ceasefire continues. Any regional initiative aimed at achieving this objective deserves our support.

Once a ceasefire has been definitively established, the parties can proceed to carry out the disengagement of forces they agreed to in Harare on 6 December. Within the limits of its current resources, MONUC has already begun to take the measures necessary to support such a disengagement. In my forthcoming report to the Security Council, I will propose the elements of a revised concept of operations enabling MONUC to deploy more fully in support of the disengagement plan. I ask the Council to consider this concept carefully, and to adopt it.

Peace and stability will not return to the DRC and its neighbours unless and until all Congolese parties are engaged in a meaningful dialogue to decide how their country is to be governed. This requires the new Government to show a strong commitment to peaceful negotiation, notably by taking steps to liberalize the political climate in the country. I trust that the new Government is prepared to work with Sir Ketumile Masire, the neutral facilitator appointed under the Lusaka Agreement. Any support that can be provided by other heads of State in the subregion will surely be welcome.

By its resolution 1304 of 16 June 2000, the Security Council demanded the withdrawal of Ugandan and Rwandan forces from the city of Kisangani and, in conformity with the timetable of the Ceasefire Agreement and with the Kampala disengagement plan of 8 April, their withdrawal from DRC territory. I look forward to the early withdrawal of all foreign forces from the DRC, as provided for by the Lusaka Agreement. In future phases of its operations -- with the approval of the Security Council – MONUC will be ready to deploy to assist in this important objective.

The commitment to peace we have observed on the part of the new Government is welcome for many reasons. A cessation of hostilities would permit humanitarian agencies to gain access to populations in need. Greater attention could be paid to human rights and the rights of children, including child soldiers, once the fighting has stopped.

Finally, Mr. President, it remains only for me to wish President Kabila every success. I am sure I speak for the whole international community in assuring him that he will enjoy our full support in his efforts to restore peace and ensure a democratic future for his great country in the heart of Africa.

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