14 February 2001




NEW YORK, 7 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan this morning to the Security Council:

I have had the chance this morning to meet with President Kagame, and we have had a very good discussion. For the second time in less than one week, we are meeting again here in the Council to reaffirm our commitment to bringing peace and stability to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I believe the welcome presence of the President of Rwanda here today should strengthen our resolve to make the most of this opportunity for change and ensure that it gives us new impetus towards a final resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What is clear to this Council, and should be clear to all sides in the conflict, is that no country in the area can hope to enjoy stability while the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues and that all will benefit from its resolution. I therefore wish to commend President Kagame and President Kabila for the statesmanship they showed in meeting last week in Washington to discuss the challenges facing both countries and the entire area.

There are difficult issues of governance, national dialogue, democracy, accountability and reconciliation that need to be addressed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the region as a whole if there is to be a lasting solution in the Great Lakes. There is also the issue of the continued existence of predatory armed groups. Although there is no easy military solution to this dangerous phenomenon, those guilty of the worst atrocities of human rights abuses -- and especially those guilty of genocide -- must not be allowed to escape unpunished. We must understand that all the countries in the region, in particular Rwanda, have legitimate security concerns.

Let me also commend the Government and the people of Rwanda for their efforts to build and renew their nation. Much remains to be done, however. The United Nations will continue to give whatever help it can to Rwanda in carrying out these tasks.

In welcoming President Joseph Kabila during his brief visit last week, many members of the Security Council spoke of the need to seize this opportunity for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition, leaders throughout the region have responded to the latest developments in a way that suggests that they sincerely wish to implement the Lusaka Agreement in all its aspects. I hope we can build on this momentum and on the fact that no major ceasefire violations have been reported over the past two weeks.

I would like to mention one step that will serve as an important confidence-building measure as the United Nations moves to help the parties carry out the disengagement plan signed in Harare in December. The Force Commander of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), Major-General Diallo, is currently discussing with the authorities in Kigali and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the withdrawal of Rwandan forces and their allies from the town of Pweto, on Lake Mweru in Katanga. We understand that substantial, if not complete, agreement has been reached. MONUC is ready to deploy a team of observers to the town once all the arrangements are in place. A withdrawal from Pweto by Rwanda and its allies in accordance with the Harare disengagement plan would help set the tone for the remainder of the disengagement plan. It would also represent an important step towards compliance with Security Council resolution 1304 (2000) of 16 June 2000, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the report I intend to submit to the Council next week, I will propose a revised concept of operations for the deployment by MONUC. I will propose the deployment of additional personnel to monitor and verify the implementation by the parties of the Harare disengagement plan. Meanwhile, MONUC has already begun to take some initial steps which fall within the mandate approved by the Security Council in February 2000. Should the Council approve the revised concept, MONUC will be able to help the parties further in drawing back their forces from the confrontation line. This will reduce the risk of clashes and serve as a vital first step towards an eventual complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.

We may also be on the verge of a new and more constructive stage in the process of bringing an end to the conflict and instability in the region. We should, however, not lose sight of the scale of challenges that remain. Indeed, it is my profound hope that the resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will bring peace to the entire Great Lakes region and, in particular, to Rwanda. We are also taking urgent steps to re-energize the intra-Congolese dialogue, and I hope the summit that is being planned in the region will focus on this aspect of the problem. I think a new opportunity has presented itself and I urge this Council and every country in the region to do everything possible to seize it.

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* Reissued for technical reasons.