Press Releases

    1 December 2004

    Security Council Briefed on Mission to Assess Peace Process in Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi

    France’s Ambassador Says 21-25 November Mission Returned “Encouraged”, although Remaining Obstacles Should Not Be Underestimated

    NEW YORK, 30 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council mission to Central Africa, which visited Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Uganda from 20 to 25 November, had returned encouraged, Jean-Marc de La Sablière (France), head of that mission, told Council members this morning.

    Briefing the Council, he said the purpose of the mission was to assess the Congolese and Burundi peace processes, as well as their implications for the region.  It had also provided an opportunity to recall the Council’s support for those processes and for the two United Nations forces assisting them.  The Council had had an opportunity to pass on a message not only of encouragement, but also a message to implement commitments in both countries.  The mission had been welcomed with interest, reflecting the attention given to the Council’s position and actions.

    The Council could not have chosen a better time to carry out the mission, he continued.  On the one hand, it had been part of the effort for regional cooperation, which had been launched with the Great Lakes Conference, held in Dar-es-Salaam on 19 and 20 November.  On the other hand, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi, it had also provided support for the actions being carried out at a key moment, as the transitional process in both countries were entering their final stage.  In Kinshasa and Bujumbura, governments and parliaments were now committed to preparing for the elections.

    Providing an initial analysis of the situation, Mr. de la Sablière said the Council had been encouraged by the determination to move to elections, both among the Congolese and Burundian officials.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the local population had a desire to hold elections.  In Burundi, the spirit of reconciliation and power sharing had also made remarkable progress.

    Comparing the situation today to when the Council last visited Central Africa, in June 2003, the extent of the progress achieved was evident, he said.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the transitional institutions had been set up and were working.  While there had been high and low points, the incidents in Bukavu and Kinshasa had been overcome.  In Burundi, a general ceasefire had been concluded, and calm prevailed over some 95 per cent of the territory, except for rural Bujumbura, where the Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL) were still present.  The framework of the end of the transition and the post-transition period had been widely agreed upon, and the Constitution had to be adopted by the people by referendum on 22 December.

    The feelings of encouragement, however, should not camouflage the feeling that the game was not over, he said.  The difficulties and obstacles should not be underestimated.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, the text of the Constitution had still not been agreed upon.  That was disturbing.  There was much legislative work to be done in both countries, and there was no more time to lose.  Dialogue was needed, and the Congolese and the Burundians had a responsibility for carrying out the transition process.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, further dialogue at the presidential level was crucial.  The international community had to influence things effectively, in that regard.

    It was also crucial that the elections, scheduled for next year, be respected, he said.  The elections should not be undermined by new outbreaks of violence.  That was the meaning of efforts expected from Kinshasa and Bujumbura authorities in the areas of disarmament and restructuring of the police and defence forces.  Much remained to be done in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in that regard.  The creation of new integrated brigades, ten if possible before the elections, as well as a significant integrated police force was a priority.

    In Burundi, things were even more on track, he added.  It was now a question of willingness and determination.  Peace remained fragile in the region.  Instability, which was especially sensitive in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, should not undermine the process under way.  The presence of ex-FAR and Interahamwe Rwandan rebels posed a problem, including for the Congolese themselves. The possibility of organizing elections in Kivu depended on a solution to the problem.  The FNL found support in the Congo from the ex-FAR and Interahamwe. 

    It was also still a problem for Rwanda, he continued. The problem had to be resolved, with the support of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and in a spirit of cooperation and respect for sovereignty of States. That was the essence of the statement Council members had made following the threat of military action by Rwanda. 

    The regional dimension of certain problems strengthened the idea that the success of the Great Lakes Conference must be followed up by swift implementation of Dar-es-Salaam declaration by establishing priorities.

    He stressed that the post-electoral periods had to be addressed as well, as stability after elections had to be preserved. The people in both countries deserved to find the path to stability and development, with the support of international community.  All people in the region deserved a much more resolute approach to the issue of impunity. 

    Concluding, he said that the Council had shown unity in the course of its mission, a unity which was crucial to its action in that region.

    The meeting began at 11:17 a.m. and adjourned at 11:34 a.m.

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