Security Council hears Congo peace mission calls
Security Council hears calls for strengthening peace mission in DR of Congo
A special Security Council mission and several regional players today called for reinforcing the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), especially in the eastern region where factional fighting has recently killed hundreds and sent thousands fleeing their homes.
Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France, head of the mission which returned Monday from a week-long, six-country tour to the region, told the 15-nation body members should study Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendations in his special report on the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and define how it could play the most effective role in the peace process, perhaps with a more robust mandate.
Ambassador de La Sablière said the mission had contacted heads of rebel movements and passed on very strong messages - there would be no impunity for human rights violations.
Ambassador de La Sablière said that in Bunia in the Ituri region of eastern DRC - scene of some of the worst recent fighting between Hema and Lendu ethnic militias and where MONUC had only 700 troops - deployment of the emergency multinational force mandated by the Council at the end of May had occurred more rapidly than planned. It had already produced a return of security, and when it leaves on 1 September, there would be favourable conditions for a more effective peacekeeping mission.
He noted, however, that the number of internally displaced persons would increase in the city, which had been deeply traumatized by massacres that had claimed more than 400 lives in recent weeks. A sizable proportion of the militia units seen on the streets were young children, but the dignity and determination of the representatives in Ituri mediation groups and women's groups demonstrated that the population aspired to peace and reconciliation.
In neighbouring Burundi, which has also suffered from years of conflict, Ambassador de La Sablière said the transition in April in the presidency had made the peace process irreversible. There was, however, not a complete ceasefire and hostilities continued. The mission encouraged Burundians to make the final, difficult gestures that would enable them to establish reconciliation under the Arusha peace agreement.
The delegation also informed rebel movements that had not signed the accord to respect the ceasefire and encouraged the government to provide room for them in the army and institutions, he added.
Speaking after Ambassador de La Sablière, Ambassador Pascal Nyamulinda of Rwanda, one of the DRC's neighbours on the mission tour, also urged the Council to strengthen MONUC and give it a clear mandate. He called allegations that Rwandan forces were operating in Ituri categorically false and fabricated by those seeking to perpetuate destabilization throughout the region.
Speaking for the DRC, Ambassador Nduku Booto said no one was unaware of Rwanda's influence on those supporting the rebel RCD-Goma movement in the North Kivu region, despite what that country's representative had said, and she too urged that MONUC be strengthened.
Last week, MONUC said three days of escalating violence in North Kivu between rival rebel factions, including the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD-Goma) and the RCD-Mouvement de Liberation (RCD-ML), placed local civilians as well as the regional peace process at risk.
Tanzania's Ambassador, Liberta Mulamula, added her voice to the call for reinforcing MONUC. The prospects for lasting peace in the DRC would largely depend on the degree to which the Council could stand up to the process. Any delay could only be detrimental to the peace process to which all parties had committed themselves. She urged the Council to "walk the extra mile" with the Congolese people in their long march to peace and stability.