3 April 2003

Secretary-General Commends "Breakthrough", As Agreements on Democratic Republic of Congo Are Formally Endorsed at Sun City Meeting

NEW YORK, 2 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the final session of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, delivered on his behalf by his Special Envoy M. Moustapha Niasse, in Sun City, South Africa on 2 April:

Your meeting today marks a breakthrough, which is potentially of great significance for the Congolese people, and indeed for Africa as a whole. You formally endorsed the All-inclusive Agreement on the Transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which you signed on 17 December 2002 in Pretoria, as well as the Transitional Constitution and the Memorandum on Military and Security of 6 March 2003, both of which complement that agreement. And you endorsed the various resolutions adopted a year ago.

I commend you on your perseverance in reaching these agreements, and bringing the Dialogue to a successful conclusion, in spite of many obstacles and difficulties.

I particularly wish to thank the Facilitator of the Dialogue, Sir Ketumile Masire, as well as President Mbeki, my own Special Envoy, M. Niasse, and the joint mediation team, for their tenacious and determined efforts, which have helped the Congolese parties to reach this point.

Let me also thank the countries of the region, and the donor countries, for their invaluable support.

You are now opening a new chapter in the history of the Democratic Republic. These agreements offer the Congolese people the best chance of restoring peace and promoting national reconciliation that they have had since the beginning of the conflict. If that chance is seized, it will do a great deal to promote peace and stability throughout the Great Lakes region.

Yet no one should imagine that the All-inclusive Agreement will implement itself. The most complex and difficult tasks still lie ahead. During the Transition, the parties will have to prepare for elections, and at the same time address issues that lie at the root of the conflict, such as citizenship and land reform. They will also have to reunify the country, to create an integrated army, to demobilize soldiers, and to demilitarize politics by transforming armed factions into political groups. Even unarmed groups, which until now have been bitter adversaries, will now have to learn to work together for the public good.

And all this will have to be done in a complex and tense environment.

The Congolese parties must, therefore, do everything they can to maintain the momentum that has been achieved. They need to show the same commitment and tenacity in implementing the agreement as they did in negotiating it.

You are going to need all the wisdom, strength and determination you can muster. The spirit that has guided you from Gaborone to Sun City must now inspire you to work together inside the country. The agreement you have signed is your agreement. It is your responsibility to implement it, and to resolve the problems you will encounter in doing so, making use of the institutions that you have decided to put in place.

Most urgently, you need to address the continuing conflict in the east, where the unfortunate population are in a situation that is arguably even worse now than it was before the agreements were signed. This is a moment, not for self-congratulation, but for solemn reflection, and for firm resolution to keep on working together, no matter how great the difficulties and disappointments that lie ahead.

The United Nations will continue to do its utmost to support your efforts. But our support will be of little value unless you yourselves are fully determined to implement your agreements.

I wish you courage and good luck.

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