7 December 2005
Security Council Hears Report on 4-11 November Mission to Central Africa
Representatives of Rwanda, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Burundi Also Address Council
NEW YORK, 6 December (UN Headquarters) -- The report of the Security Council's 4-11 November mission to Central Africa was presented to the Council this morning, with the head of the mission describing a new phase for the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the range of challenges facing Burundi as it completed its transition and attempts to consolidate peace.
Representatives from four of the five countries visited - namely, Rwanda, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Burundi -- also addressed the Council today.
The mission's leader, Jean-Marc de La Sablière (France), who had previously briefed the Council on 15 November, focused his remarks on the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the peace process was on the right track, but the elections would require immense efforts, particularly logistical. A tight timetable must be met between the referendum of 18 December and the legislative and presidential elections due to take place prior to the end of the transition period, on 30 June 2006.
The security in the east of the country was another source of concern, owing to the actions of armed groups there, he added. Whether those groups were Congolese or foreign or represented a serious military threat, it was the Congolese people who were the first to suffer. The Council, therefore, should help the country reform its armed forces, and establish the rule of law. The Government should bring its full determination to that task, and the international community and countries of the region should provide their unwavering support.
Deeming the process of peace and national reconciliation in Burundi a "stunning success in the region", he said that Burundians could be proud of their accomplishment. Two questions had been at the heart of discussions there: the role of the international community and the United Nations; and how to consolidate peace. The gradual disengagement of the United Nations presence there, which had been discussed with the Foreign Minister, had been the subject of a consensus. It deserved the support of donors, investors and States in the region.
He said that another main problem was the presence of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL (Forces nationales de libération). On the sidelines, the Tanzanian authorities had undertaken mediation efforts to encourage that movement to join the peace process and return to the negotiating table without delay. One year ago, the Council had said that it was prepared to consider sanctions against individuals who threatened the peace and national reconciliation process in Burundi. If the Government asked for it, the Council members should be prepared to do that.
When the countries of the region took the floor, Burundi's representative said that the peace process had reached a point of no return, thanks to the efforts of the United Nations, the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) and others. Reconstruction and sustainable development were extremely important in the post-conflict period, and he called on the international community to support Burundi in that process. In addition, he hoped Burundi would benefit from the soon-to-be created Peacebuilding Commission.
Uganda's representative focused on the presence of local militias which had failed to integrate, as well as foreign rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Action was needed to deal with those forces. Uganda was concerned that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was like "a conservation area" for those forces, which threatened the country and the region, yet nothing had been done to handle them. He sought a more robust mandate for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to handle the foreign rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adding that the proposed draft resolution before the Council to address that issue was very much welcomed. His bottom line was that those people must be disarmed; the era of voluntary disarmament was over.
Similarly, Rwanda's representative worried that the peace processes in the region had been undermined by the untamed military activities of forces operating on the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They carried out deadly armed attacks in neighbouring countries and regularly committed atrocities against innocent civilians. The instability along Rwanda's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the past decade, created by the unhindered military activities of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, had not been sufficiently addressed. The Council should give the UN Mission a more robust mandate to enable it to embark on a more forceful disarmament of the negative forces.
Emry Jones Parry (United Kingdom) made closing remarks in his capacity as Council President for December. Algeria and Brazil also spoke.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and was adjourned at 11:22 a.m.
The Security Council met this morning in a public meeting to consider the report of its mission to Central Africa, which took place from 4 to 11 November. Led by Jean-Marc de La Sablière (France), the mission visited Kinshasa, Mbuji-Mayi and Kamina in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bujumbura (Burundi), Kigali (Rwanda), Entebbe (Uganda) and Dar es Salaam (United Republic of Tanzania). Members met with the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa.
(The Security Council was first briefed on the mission on 15 November by Ambassador de La Sablière. For details of that briefing, please see Press Release SC/8557 .)
As is customary, a written report by the head of the mission follows its return (document S/2005/716). The report before the Council reviews the aims of the mission in each country it visited. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a key objective was to observe, first-hand, the progress made in the peace and transition process, particularly with regard to elections, security sector reform, the disarmament of foreign and Congolese armed groups, the extension of State authority, and the establishment of the rule of law. The Council noted that there had been several positive developments since its last visit in November 2004.
During the visit to Burundi on 8 and 9 November, the mission congratulated the people and Government for the successful conduct of the electoral process and the peaceful transfer of authority to an elected government, the report says. The mission encouraged all stakeholders to continue to work together in a spirit of dialogue and consensus, and to respect the principle of power-sharing enshrined in the Constitution. It also noted the challenges facing the Government in the post-transitional period in its efforts to consolidate peace.
Also according to the report, the mission recommends that the Council consider the following actions, among others, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: encourage the Parliament to review the draft electoral law on an accelerated basis and approve it in advance before the referendum, so that it can be adopted immediately after the referendum; call upon the Congolese authorities and all political actors to ensure the holding of free, fair and transparent and democratic elections before the end of the transitional period on 30 June 2006; urge all stakeholders, in particular the Media High Authority, to deter hate messages and incitements to violence during the electoral period; urge the Transitional Government to expedite the adoption of reforms, particularly with regard to the transparent and regular payment of salaries; and encourage the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to support the actions taken by the FARDC (the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to step up the pressure on foreign armed groups operating in the eastern part of the country.
Concerning Uganda, the report recommends that the Council, among other things: call on the Government to respect the sovereignty of neighbouring States and refrain from any use of force outside its borders; urge the Government to take further measures to ensure that remnant militias operating in the Ituri district receive no support from Ugandan territory; encourage the Government to cooperate with the United Nations towards resolving the continued threat to regional security posed by the presence of foreign armed groups on Congolese territory; urge the Government to ensure that the arms embargo imposed by the Council on the Democratic Republic of the Congo is respected and enforced on its territory; and encourage the Ugandan authorities to explore all ways and means of resolving the conflict in the north of the country, including the extension of the amnesty law to members of the LRA (Lords Resistance Army), who are not indicted by the International Criminal Court for serious human rights and international humanitarian law violations.
With regard to Rwanda, the mission recommends, among other things, that the Council: encourage the Government to cooperate with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Nations to resolve the continued regional security threat; encourage it to reaffirm publicly all commitments taken with regard to promoting the return of the FDLR (Forces démocratique pour la libération du Rwanda) to Rwanda, including its commitment not to prosecute any returning ex-combatant under 25 years of age; and urge the Government to ensure that the arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of the Congo is respected and enforced on its territory, particularly by establishing stricter border controls to curtail the illegal cross border trafficking of natural resources and arms and the movement of combatants.
The mission recommends that the Council take the following actions, among others, with respect to Burundi: encourage the Government and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to determine the modalities of a gradual disengagement of the peacekeeping presence of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB); encourage the Government and all political actors to engage in the consolidation of peace and national reconciliation by continuing to follow the path of dialogue, power-sharing and consensus; urge the Government to complete the implementation of the programme of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, including the effective reintegration of former combatants; and encourage the Burundian authorities to continue to work with the Special Representative, with a view to establishing a mechanism for ending impunity and promoting reconciliation.
In terms of regional cooperation, the mission would have the Council encourage States in the region to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue and consultations and through the establishment of confidence-building measures and mechanisms. It would also have it urge the participants in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to maintain the current momentum so that the second summit can be held as soon as possible, and to prioritize the expected outcomes of their negotiations with a view to achieving meaningful results.
Introduction of Report
Introducing the mission's report (document S/2005/716), JEAN MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), the head of the mission, said that today's meeting was an opportunity for the representatives of the countries visited to take the floor. Instead of reiterating the comments he made at the briefing to the Council three weeks ago, he would underscore the key lessons drawn from the mission, with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. The report addressed other questions, as well, and also put forth a range of recommendations.
He said that the peace process was on the right track in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but major challenges remained. First of all, the elections would require immense efforts, particularly logistical. A tight timetable needed to be met between the referendum of 18 December and the legislative and presidential elections to take place prior to the end of the transition period, on 30 June 2006. The mission had reiterated during its visit the importance of meeting the timetable. The security in the east was another source of concern, owing to the actions of armed groups there. The mission had talked at great length about that during its visit. Whether those groups were Congolese or foreign or represented a serious military threat, it was the Congolese who were the first to suffer. Thus, the Council needed to help the country undertake reform of the armed forces, so that it would be in a position to fully address that problem. The establishment of the rule of law was a third call for the country's future. The Government should bring its full determination to that task, and the international community and countries of the region should provide their unwavering support.
In Burundi, the transition had been a success, he said. The Burundians could be proud of what they had accomplished. The process of peace and national reconciliation had been a "stunning" example in the region. Throughout the mission's stay in Burundi, two questions had been at the heart of the discussions and concerns: first, the role of the international community, beginning with the United Nations; and how to consolidate peace. The United Nations, whose support had been key in the successful transition, needed to withdraw. The principle of gradual disengagement discussed recently with the Foreign Minister had been the subject of a consensus and should be supported by a commitment from donors, investors and States in the region. That would play a positive role in the service of peace in Burundi.
He said that the second main problem was the presence of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL (Forces nationales de libération). On the sidelines, the Tanzanian authorities had undertaken mediation efforts to encourage that movement to join the peace process and return to the negotiating table without delay. One year ago, the Council had said that it was prepared to consider sanctions against individuals who threatened the peace and national reconciliation process in Burundi. If the Government asked for it, the Council members should be prepared to do that. Draft resolutions were being considered in the Council; there were different conclusions emerging from the mission, which had, overall, been very fruitful. He had been honoured to lead it and he was eager to hear the reactions from the countries of the region.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said the conflicts in the region had now turned a critical corner towards resolution through the combined initiatives of the countries of the region, the African Union and the United Nations. However, there were still major challenges which the Security Council and the countries of the region -- individually and collectively -- must continue to address.
The major achievement in this year had been the successful democratic transition and installation of an elected government in Burundi, he said. The Government of Burundi was on the path of national reconciliation through dialogue, power-sharing and judicial initiatives. There was scope for ONUB to assist the Government in several areas, including building administrative and judicial capacity, and establishing the new police force.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, the United Nations had undertaken one of the largest and most complex transitional and stabilization operations in its history. The electoral process and timetable was on course with a deadline of 30 June 2006. He stressed the need to give the protection of civilians priority, as the country headed towards democratic elections for the first time in 40 years, as well as to reform the security sector. The new national army should help address the problem posed by the presence of foreign armed groups in the eastern part of the country. The FDLR was a growing threat to the Congolese civilian population, a persistent challenge to the authority of the Transitional Government and a chronic threat to neighbouring Rwanda and the stability of the region.
The other major challenge was the neglected humanitarian situation in the region, he said, noting that, reportedly, over 1,000 people died from conflict-related causes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo every day. Over 3.8 million had died there in the last six years from malnutrition and diseases as a result of the war. That dire humanitarian situation added to the graphic history of genocide which claimed nearly 1 million people in Rwanda in 1994 and of hundreds of thousands of refugees in countries like his own for several decades. The Council should provide prompt and needed leadership in the international community in addressing that humanitarian challenge. As refugees had started returning in large numbers to Burundi and some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adequate assistance should be given for safe return and integration in their respective areas of origin.
The Council, he concluded, had the confidence of the Governments of the region and a willing civil society ready to work as partners with the United Nations. Preventing new conflicts, consolidating peace processes and stabilizing the region through peacebuilding should be the shared agenda of the United Nations and the countries of the region.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that considerable progress had been made in Burundi, but many challenges remained to the restoration of peace in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. With perseverance by the key players on the ground and the resolute support of the international community, there was hope for the successful end of the transition in those two countries. The timetable of 30 June 2006 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should definitely be met, in order to remove any pretext among those who were tempted to rekindle the fires of crisis. He urged the Transitional Government to make up for the lags in the reform of the security forces and resolve the material difficulties facing the army and national police. The authorities should also speed up the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, and extend State authority throughout the territory. The constitutional referendum this month was a test case and a key phase in the run-up to credible future elections and the legitimacy of the institutions.
He, meanwhile, commended the desire of the Congolese to rush to register to vote. The holding of the elections for the first 40 years in a country that size, however, posed many logistical challenges, and the international community should contribute to overcoming them. He paid tribute to MONUC for addressing those difficulties, and he urged the Transitional Government to establish the conditions necessary for successful elections, by ensuring that the timetable was met and by ensuring the adoption of an electoral law on schedule. That should be aimed at eliminating exclusion and ensuring compliance with the rules of democracy, transparency and the freedom of expression. The presence of the militias and foreign armed groups in the eastern part of the country was a source of concern for the future of the peace process in the country and the region overall.
He welcomed the robust stance taken with respect to the FADRC, with MONUC's support, to enable the Transitional Government disarm the militias and ensure their repatriation.
Burundi, for its part, had undertaken a crucial phase in the consolidation of peace and reconstruction, he said. Challenges remained, however, making that situation a "top candidate" for the Peacebuilding Commission, once that body was established. In the mid-term, the support of international partners and the donor community was key to enabling a durable peace to take root. He regretted the refusal of the FNL to return to the negotiating table and sign up to the peace process. Everything must be done to bring that group back and end the hostilities. The Council should think about modalities and conditions for a gradual drawdown of ONUB, which would enable it to meet its mandate effectively and in an orderly fashion, and in close harmony with the Burundian Government. He was encouraged by the commitment and determination of the Ugandan authorities to continue to ensure security, especially for the humanitarian assistance providers in the north. He regretted the delay of the Great Lakes region conference and hoped that the spirit behind the preparations would continue.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) noted that considerable progress had been made in the region. The missions carried out by the Council were useful to developing more positive relationships between the Council and the Governments of the regions visited. He underscored the advantages of dialogue between the Council and the countries of the region. The regional component was at the root of the peace agreements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. Leaders of the region would need to continue to advise the Council, since they knew best the challenges facing the region. Dealing with many of the challenges to peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, be they arms trafficking or the exploitation of natural resources, depended on regional cooperation. He was confident in the quality of the leadership of all the countries of the region, and emphasized that the next six months would be very important. He hoped the Council would be able to continue to provide support to the countries of the region.
STANISLAS KAMANZI (Rwanda) said it had been obvious that peace processes in the region had been consistently undermined by the untamed military activities of the negative forces operating on the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from where they had been carrying out deadly armed attacks in neighbouring countries and where they had been regularly committing untold atrocities against innocent civilian populations. The instability along his own country's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the past decade, created by uninterrupted and unhindered military activities by the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, could not be addressed in an appropriate manner, despite the numerous appeals made by his Government to the international community to work out solutions to put an end to that continued threat.
The Council had time and again adopted a stance according to which those negative forces had to disarm voluntarily, he said. His Government's reservations as to the efficiency of such an approach had been vindicated by the little result achieved so far in getting those negative forces to effectively disarm. He expressed his satisfaction with the Council's recent stance that the voluntary disarmament of negative forces had come to its limits and could not be advocated any longer as an efficient way to dismantle the armed groups networks. Beyond that new stance, there was need for decisive and speedy action, in order to turn mere will into tangible outcomes.
He recalled that, in their meeting in Kampala on 21 October, the Foreign Ministers of the Tripartite Plus One Joint Commission countries had called on the Security Council to consider endowing MONUC with a more robust mandate so that they could embark on forceful disarmament of the negative forces. He looked forward to the draft resolution currently being considered in the Council as a breakthrough in that regard. He called on the Council to consider the proposals made by the representatives of the Commission, so as to come up with a truly strong and purposeful resolution.
He said the list recently published by the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) was not comprehensive. It entailed two individuals from the FDLR leadership. Those two individuals were part of a much larger group, which had been constantly acting in violation of the measures provided for in resolution 1596 (2005). He hoped the resolution under consideration would help address that concern and impose the contemplated measures not to a limited number of individuals, but to the armed groups or entities they belonged to. That would be one concrete measure that could contribute to their disarmament.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA (Uganda) thanked the Council delegation that had visited the region. His country was concerned about the presence of negative forces on the Democratic Republic of the Congo's soil. Those negative forces were comprised of both the local militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had failed to integrate, and foreign rebel forces. An action was needed to deal with those negative forces. Uganda was concerned that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was like "a conservation area" for those forces; they were there and nothing had been done to handle them. Obviously, their presence continued to pose a threat to the region and to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He, therefore, welcomed recent moves by MONUC to help that country handle those negative forces. Recently, and as a result of a MONUC operation in Ituri, some of the local militias had fled to Uganda. His country, in turn, had responded quickly by arresting and disarming them.
He said he sought an equally robust handling by MONUC of the foreign rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The proposed draft resolution before the Council to address that issue was very much welcomed. His Government's request had been specific -- to give MONUC a "more robust mandate" to dissolve those negative forces. That might entail empowering the forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with which Uganda would have no problem. His bottom line was that those people must be disarmed; the era of voluntary disarmament was over. That, however, did not close the door for those who wished to voluntarily "come out". Uganda had established an amnesty office in Ituri for that purpose; it would receive and resettle those persons at home, but there must be a cut-off period. Within the framework of the Tripartite Commission and of joint verification mechanisms, the region had moved quickly to address the issue of negative forces. There was a proposal afloat to establish an intelligence-sharing mechanism, provided liaison officers within the armed forces to deal with questions of intelligence, among others, to determine the location of the negative forces and recommend ways of dealing with them.
Meanwhile, his Government was providing security escorts for humanitarian convoys to deliver relief and it had taken steps to reintegrate the 700 internally displaced persons. He appealed to the international community to assist in their resettlement; the camps had been set up only as temporary measures, and they should gradually be dismantled. The issue of the fanatical rebels was, more or less, coming to an end. Those remnants were being dealt with, and soon the countries of the region would cooperate with Uganda to arrest the top leaders of that ferocious group.
LÉONIDAS NKINGIYE (Burundi) said the Council mission to Central Africa bore witness to the importance the Council attached to peace and development in the countries of that region, and lent momentum to the peace process in his country. As for the recommendations to his Government regarding the progressive disengagement of ONUB, combating impunity, and the completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme, he said an agreed road map between the Government and ONUB had been referred to the President, and was set out in an official document (S/2005/736).
As his delegation stated last month, the gradual disengagement of the mission would be carried out in an orderly manner starting 1 January 2006. Areas of cooperation with ONUB were identified, including support for the completion of the DDR process and support for transitional justice, as regards the setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission and a special court. His Government hoped to take advantage of the donors conference to be organized next February, during which its priority programmes for reconstruction and the revival of the economy would be presented. He hoped Burundi's partners would be highly committed to the success of that conference.
As regards the FNL, he reiterated his Government's willingness to find a peaceful solution to that question. In that context, he called on regional initiatives for peace in Burundi, the Council and friendly countries to pressure FNL to return to the negotiating table. The Council should take appropriate action on the letter from the Tripartite Commission regarding MONUC's role in disarming negative forces.
The peace process in Burundi had reached a point of no return, thanks to the efforts of the United Nations, ONUB and others, he stated. Reconstruction and sustainable development were extremely important in the post-conflict period. He called on the international community to support Burundi in that process. In addition, he hoped Burundi would benefit from the soon-to-be created Peacebuilding Commission.
Council President EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) summed up by drawing three conclusions from the discussion. First, there was a strong endorsement for the recommendations set out in the mission's report. It was necessary now to work together to mobilize the endeavours of the United Nations with the countries of the region and give substance to the recommendations. Also emphasized was the importance of the election process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the need to respect the timetable and address security issues, particularly the threat to civilians posed by armed groups. Thirdly, speakers highlighted the need to work with the new Government of Burundi as it moved into a new era of peace.
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