DR Congo

DR Congo: building peace in Africa and laying the ghosts of the past

Statement in the Security Council on 24 January 2000 by Mr Peter Hain MP, UK Foreign Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Can I thank Secretary Albright and Ambassador Holbrooke both for - convening this debate and for their energetic pursuit of peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and welcome the historic statements made by the Heads of State gathered here today.

Bringing peace to the Great Lakes region matters to Britain. It matters for the UN. And most of all, it matters for Africa. We must end this war. We must bring peace to a region too often torn apart by strife. We, the UN - all of us - have failed Africa in the past. Let us not fail now.

Lusaka is a good agreement. It provides the right formula for peace. And it is Africa's agreement. An African success, that we should all back. It is the only solution. So I welcome what we have heard today from the African Heads of State. Every one has reaffirmed their support for Lusaka and its principles and their commitment to its implementation. This is a strong foundation on which we can now build.

There has been some progress in implementing Lusaka. President Chiluba was right to remind us just how much has already been achieved. The mechanisms to oversee implementation are being put in place. Some observers have been deployed. But I agree with President Chissano of Mozambique that progress has still been too slow. Fighting continues. The national dialogue has yet to get underway. There has been no planning for demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration. The Lusaka timetable has slipped,

We need an updated and realistic timetable, with targets and benchmarks against which progress can be measured, that can form the basis of a partnership between the African parties and the international community. I welcome the work done in Harare to take this forward.

The national dialogue is crucial to the future of DRC and its people. We are delighted that former President Masire has agreed to facilitate the talks. I hope a date will be set now for the start of the dialogue.

I welcome President Kabila's affirmation today of his readiness to begin that dialogue immediately. I welcome too his commitment to see this process lead to free and fair elections and lasting national reconciliation. I call on all Congolese to engage constructively, wholeheartedly and without preconditions.

Former President Masire underlined the need for resources to assist the dialogue. Britain is providing funding. We are prepared to consider further support.

We must move forward on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of the militia groups. Without a credible DDR plan Lusaka will fail. We should now agree a set of political principles to underpin DDR:

  • an end to support for all non-state militias;
  • peaceful reintegration of those fighters from neighbouring states back into their countries of origin, except for those accused of genocide, who should face justice;
  • arrangements to achieve this which are as far as possible co-operative and voluntary;
  • provision for collective action by the parties, if this ultimately proves necessary, to compel militia members who refuse voluntarily to disarm and disband to do so.
  • and international monitoring to give all sides the reassurance they need to make the process work.

I hope we can agree a way forward on DDR based on these principles, this week. If so, we should invite the JMC, OAU, the UN and the World Bank to take these principles forward and, in discussion with the parties, produce a viable and fully worked out DDR plan.

Next, we need to get the mechanisms established by Lusaka to monitor and implement the cease-fire, and eventual troop withdrawal, working better. Those charged with overseeing this - the Joint Military Commission, the Joint Political Commission, the OAU and the LIN - have a crucial part to play. We welcome what they have done so far. We encourage them to work still more closely together to drive the peace process forward. They need to exercise leadership; to hold the parties accountable for their actions.

As President Chiluba has reminded us, Lusaka's implementation mechanisms will only work properly if they are properly resourced. Britain has already provided funding to the JMC. And we have provided personnel to the UN, who are now working closely with the JMC. More resources will be needed. We are looking at what more we may be able to do. We encourage others to do so too.

I agree with President Chissano of Mozambique that we must address the humanitarian situation urgently. It is deteriorating. There is growing hardship. We are willing to help, but we cannot get to all of those most in need. There must be access for NGOs and UN agencies to make the assessments we all need to be able to provide assistance. I call on those concerned to make those pledges here today.

Absolutely crucial - we must agree the next phase of the UN mission - what it should do, what support it should have. We agree with the Secretary General that the next stage of the UN mission should be to deploy a force to monitor the cease-fire and the redeployment of troops to defensive positions. It needs adequate protection and the right logistical support. And it needs to be on the ground as soon as possible.

And we should also reaffirm now our readiness to support, as soon as conditions allow, a full UN peacekeepinq operation in DRC. It is time to bury the ghosts of the past and ensure an effective UN peacekeeping operation. As President Museveni said, the cost of action is high but the cost of inaction is higher still.

But let us be clear on the mandate. I understand why President Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Museveni of Uganda insist that there will need to be Chapter VII authority. I also agree with President Bizimungu of Rwanda that a new Security Council resolution is urgently required. We need a force that will help the parties themselves implement the Lusaka agreement. A force that can do so, provided all the parties continue to show the same political commitment to the agreement, which their leaders have shown today. A force, which will have guarantees of security and co-operation from all concerned. I welcome President Kabila's important commitments today in this regard, and those from all the other African Heads of State directly involved.

The Heads of State have all called for urgent UN deployment. President Chiluba rightly said this morning that there is no peacekeeping that does not have some element of risk. I agree with him.

But those risks must be minimised. Not just to protect individual UN personnel, of whom we have lost too many in recent years. But also to sustain the international momentum behind implementation of Lusaka. The factors, which maximise -the prospects for success, political determination and effective organisation, also serve to minimise risk. Energetic commitment to Lusaka and a speedy wellexecuted UN peacekeeping operation therefore go hand in hand.

Last, we must keep DRC high on the international agenda. As President Mugabe so correctly underlined, there must be no marginalisation or segregation of this and Africa's other challenges.

President dos Santos important contribution to the debate reminds us of the terrible neglect of another African conflict. We must make UN sanctions against UNITA bite and bite now and we support Ambassador Fowler's excellent work.

But the Congo crisis is now the major challenge facing Africa, and one of the biggest facing the United Nations and the international community. Britain will back all those determined to make the Lusaka Agreement work: with finance, practical help, people on the ground and political support.

The Secretary General told the Heads of State this morning that this is their opportunity to serve the African people, and to enlist international support. What you have all said today has done both. Britain will stand with those leaders of Africa who are the peacemakers of Africa. Let us go forward together in partnership.