22 October 2001


(Originally delivered in French.)

NEW YORK, 19 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the opening of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, Addis Ababa, 15 October:

It is with great pleasure that I send to you my warmest greetings on the occasion of the opening of this Inter-Congolese Dialogue.

I am delighted that Congolese men and women are gathering today in Addis Ababa, in accordance with the agreement concluded in Gaborone in August, to seek a solution to the political crisis which their country is experiencing. I should like to congratulate you all on having organized this important Dialogue, which is aimed at re-establishing peace and stability in a region which is so much in need of them. I should also like to pay tribute to the Facilitator, Sir Ketumile Masire, who has done so much to bring this Dialogue about.

This initiative -— crucial for the future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo -— is being closely followed by your fellow citizens, who aspire to live in peace at last. It is also being followed with great attention by the international community which has contributed generously to the organization of this Dialogue. That is why I encourage you to conduct your meetings energetically, in a spirit of open-mindedness, tolerance and compromise. The Gaborone meeting was marked by just such a spirit. For the first time since the beginning of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congolese have shown that they are ready to sit down at the negotiating table and seriously consider ways of establishing a lasting peace in their country.

This determination must not flag. The Lusaka Agreement, the declaration on fundamental principles of 4 May, and the act of engagement you adopted in Gaborone constitute a solid foundation for your deliberations. The task before you is not an easy one. Genuine national reconciliation is not an event but a process, and it is essential that you demonstrate a sustained political will to build the foundations of a future of peace and stability for present and future generations.

The conflict which has been tearing your country apart for far too long has brought enormous suffering. I welcome the appeal launched in Gaborone for the protection of human rights and fundamental civil liberties, and I urge all parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to respond to that appeal by putting an immediate end to all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and bringing those responsible for massacres and other atrocities to justice.

You are facing great challenges, but the prospects for reconciliation and the re-establishment of peace have never been as great as they are today. The United Nations is prepared to continue to help you and to support a process in which all Congolese men and women would recognize one another. In this spirit, I wish your Dialogue every success.

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