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28 May 2009 - Briefing by Security Council mission to Africa - DRC - Statement by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(translated from French)

I would first like to thank the Secretariat, the Security Council team, Mr. Alan Doss, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, his deputies and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) in general, as well as President Obasanjo’s team, for organizing the Great Lakes leg of our visit. Given that a detailed account of all our visits and meetings will be included in the report to be distributed by the Council, I shall limit myself to a few observations. In addition to our talks in Rwanda, to which the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom referred earlier, the Council delegation met with Mr. Obasanjo in Addis Ababa. That, too, has already been mentioned.

In Goma, we heard briefings on the reorganization of their forces by the leaders of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), officers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), leaders of the Congolese National Police, and representatives of non-governmental organizations. We also met the Governor of North Kivu and visited the HEAL Africa Hospital, which specializes in treating victims of sexual violence, before moving on to the MONUC camp in Kiwanja.

In Kinshasa, the Council delegation was received by President Kabila, the Congolese Prime Minister, accompanied by the top leaders of his Government, and the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly. We also met with members of Congolese civil society. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and all the representatives of the United Nations agencies briefed us on their strategic working plan for MONUC’s activities over the next few years and on the main activities of the United Nations system as a whole.

From all these talks, the members of the delegation learned the following fundamental lessons concerning the situation on the ground.

First, the situation in the Great Lakes region has improved considerably, particularly thanks to the rapprochement between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as has already been noted. Presidents Kabila and Kagame both clearly expressed their intentions to continue along that path. Among other things, the Economic Community of the Great Lake Countries should be reactivated in order to allow the launch of regional economic projects. The Security Council encouraged that intention. President Obasanjo will pursue his good offices mission between the regional capitals. Moreover, the Security Council mission had the opportunity to express its unanimous support for the initiatives he has already taken and his outstanding work to promote convergence among the various parties.

Secondly, and more sadly, sexual violence remains far too widespread. We were able to see the pain it engenders during our visits to the female victims at the HEAL Africa Hospital. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has already taken some measures, including the adoption of a law on sexual violence, the establishment of an agency to combat all forms of violence, and the creation of funds to help women and promote child protection. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has already launched its fight against impunity, inter alia by involving the International Criminal Court, and we reaffirmed that it must remain a priority.

Armed groups and the FARDC must also cease all their abuses against the population, in particular sexual violence against women. Those who are guilty of violence or recruit children must be arrested. We conveyed that message very clearly to all the authorities we met, at every level. In particular, high-ranking FARDC officers, be they long-time members or newly integrated from rebel groups, must be arrested, tried and imprisoned if they are perpetrators. A new law on the police, which has been under consideration for two years, must finally be adopted.

Having discussed the matter among ourselves, on behalf of the Security Council I gave the highest authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo an initial list of the names of five leaders of the FARDC who have been convicted of sexual violence against a number of women currently being treated at the HEAL Africa Hospital. We asked the President and the Prime Minister, with MONUC’s support, to arrest those five officers and bring them to trial publicly so as to begin restoring the confidence of the civil population.

Another element is security sector reform, which is of great importance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as it is in many post-conflict countries. In order to attain peace, various armed groups have been progressively integrated into the FARDC, but they are very difficult to control. The soldiers are poorly paid, when they are paid at all, poorly housed, poorly fed, poorly equipped and poorly trained. And yet, all the officers we met and MONUC assured us that when Congolese soldiers are treated properly and led effectively, they are very good fighters and fully accomplish their missions while respecting fundamental ethical criteria. We must therefore ensure that they are paid on a regular basis.

There must also be a mechanism preventing those responsible for serious rights violations from remaining in the armed forces, pursuant to the provisions of the relevant resolution. The international community must coordinate its assistance to the Congolese authorities in carrying out a broad training operation in the army and in reforming the police and the justice system in depth. The Council also insisted that Congolese democracy be further entrenched, notably through the organization of local elections. We understood that certain difficulties remain, in particular concerning the law on apportionment of constituencies, but that the elections should be held before next year.

MONUC remains indispensable on the ground. President Kabila and the members of his Government insisted that the reinforcements authorized under resolution 1843 (2008) be dispatched rapidly in order to support the FARDC in operations Kimia II and Rudia II against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, respectively. Based on what we were told by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the 3,000 additional troops authorized should be deployed in June and July. Their contributors have already been identified as Egypt and Jordan.

MONUC has taken serious steps to implement resolution 1856 (2008). Our visit in particular to Kiwanja, where massacres have taken place, allowed us to take note of the measures adopted to better protect civilians. We met a joint protection team, and the officer in charge of the local MONUC unit briefed us on new rapid-reaction mechanisms involving the local population, thereby ensuring that MONUC and FARDC forces can intervene in less than 10 minutes once the alarum has been raised. Of course, that, for now, is limited to a very small area.

MONUC’s mission is certainly very sensitive. Protecting civilians and supporting the FARDC in its fight against armed groups — which unfortunately continue to target civilians — can sometimes be counteractive. A strategic plan of action has been prepared by MONUC, identifying prospects and the conditions for a drawdown of MONUC in the medium term. President Kabila explicitly asked for it. Once the local elections are over, if the situation continues to stabilize, we can start to consider a drawdown of MONUC.

In conclusion, we noted in general that, over the past few months, the situation has been moving in the right direction. The Security Council will have to remain fully mobilized to support those developments. MONUC’s implementation of its strategic plan of action and the development of operation Kimia II require our attention.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU