Press Releases

    11 February 2004

    Major Progress Must Be Achieved in Reform of Security Sector in Democratic Republic of Congo, Deputy Secretary-General Says

    NEW YORK, 10 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of introductory remarks, translated from French, by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the high-level meeting on security sector reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, New York, 9 February:

    It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this important meeting.  I should particularly like to extend a welcome to our friends from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to commend them on the work being undertaken by the transitional Government to restore peace in their country.

    We are meeting today to review the progress achieved in the implementation of one of the fundamental aspects of the transition between war and peace:  the reform of the security sector.

    As in all countries emerging from a civil war, the reform of the security sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is far more than the creation of a unified army, the establishment of a police force, and the disarmament and reintegration of former combatants, enormous as those tasks are.  It is also the creation of a transparent framework for the security sector -- a framework clearly defining the role and responsibilities of the Government and of Parliament in the management of the country’s security.  Major progress must be achieved in that direction prior to the holding of the elections scheduled for the middle of next year.

    These tasks, which are so vital to peace and democracy, may sometimes seem daunting.  But they can be accomplished.  During the past six months, there has been major progress in the transition process and there are also tangible signs of peace and reconciliation which clearly demonstrate the firm political will of the Government.  The reform of the security sector began before the adoption of decrees appointing the members of the military high command, the adoption by the Council of Ministers of the bill on the organization of defence and the armed forces, and the establishment of an integrated police unit and of the bodies necessary for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration operations.

    However, much still remains to be done, and time is short.  This afternoon, we must clearly identify the tasks to be performed and consider how the international community can help the transitional Government to carry them out.  It is not a matter of drawing up a wish list.  What we need is a clear and realistic plan that provides a means of resolving the immediate problems and of drawing up long-term policies with respect to the integration of the armed forces and the police forces, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the strengthening of institutions and the security requirements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The reform of the security sector will not be completed in a day.  But we can and must intensify the process on the ground and, equally importantly, mobilize the support of the international community.

    The Secretary-General fears a softening of support for the Congolese transition process.  Indeed, the donor countries and the international financial institutions which are facing demands from all sides seem to be giving it relatively low priority as though the situation were well in hand.  However, even though the war is over in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the major task remains:  that of building a democratic State.

    It is, of course, primarily for the transitional Government to move forward the process in a transparent manner, without excluding anybody, and in a creative and decisive manner.  Furthermore, the Congolese parties must refrain from any action that might jeopardize the delicate balance the establishment of which required so much effort from all parties and which offers the best chance of bringing the conflict to a close once and for all.  These are the indispensable conditions to enable the international community to play its role in the near future and in the long term.

    We must, therefore, spare no effort to keep up the present momentum, which is promising but fragile.  We must join forces to bring hope to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has suffered for too long, and improve the prospects for peace in a major part of Africa.  I thank you for having taken the time to come here today and I hope with all my heart that this meeting will have a successful outcome.

    * *** *