DR Congo

DR Congo: Press conference by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

Warning that the situation on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo might deteriorate further, Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said at Headquarters today it was crucial that the Security Council consider, without further delay, the request of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) for additional troops.

At a press conference this afternoon, Mr. Mulet said developments in the eastern part of the country had taken a "turn for the worse" since he was there last week, and the current situation was "really, really bad". There had been reports this morning of heavy clashes between the National Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP) and Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), which had begun in a village about9 kilometres north of Goma, capital of North Kivu Province. The resumption of fighting had led to thousands of new displacements, and a MONUC investigation team was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and others to verify the numbers of additional civilians killed in recent days.

He said that, while MONUC had requested up to 3,000 additional troops a few weeks ago, on the other hand, it also believed there was no military solution to the ongoing crisis. The United Nations was actively engaging the parties involved at the political level. The Mission had called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and for the CNDP to return to positions identified in the disengagement plan that MONUC had presented to the parties in early September. MONUC continued to protect civilians, which was its main role, and had also enhanced its positions in and around Goma.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy was scheduled to return to New York on Sunday, 9 November, from the regional summit now meeting in Nairobi, he continued. Mr. Le Roy was expected to brief the Security Council on Tuesday regarding the outcome to his visit to the region, and to present a reconfiguration plan on the military concept in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Asked about reports that Angola had entered the fighting, the Assistant Secretary-General said there had been reports of both Angolan and Zimbabwean troops on the ground, neither of which were true. The misconception might have arisen because some FARDC troops, more disciplined and better organized, had been trained in Angola, and some spoke Portuguese. People on the ground may have mistaken those FARDC troops for Angolans, but that was not the case.

Asked about additional support from the European Union, Mr. Mulet said the Council decided it was not the time to deploy a multinational force there, but it did allow individual countries to provide assistance on a bilateral basis. That was still on the table, and had not been discarded by some member States of the European Union. MONUC did not know if that would happen or not.

Regarding the number of troops requested in the reconfigured military plan presented to the Security Council, he expressed hope that the new plan would have the same numbers as the original one. By the end of the day, MONUC would have around 1,000 combat troops in Goma itself. As of yesterday, it had had 320 additional troops reinforcing those in Goma, and 160 would arrive today. The problem was that there were four different fronts to deal with. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was a vast territory, and it was not that easy to mobilize the troops.

Asked whether the Congolese army had returned in any numbers to Goma or the surrounding areas, he said MONUC wanted to demilitarize Goma and to establish a weapons-free zone inside the provincial capital.

In response to a question about injuries to United Nations peacekeepers, Mr. Mulet said there had been one report of a MONUC soldier injured, but MONUC did not know where it had come from.

Asked about steps to ensure that FARDC was not working with certain rebels, the Assistant Secretary-General said MONUC had been monitoring the situation on the ground for several months, but the issue was the political responsibility of the Government. MONUC's mandate was to work with and support FARDC troops, the legitimate army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For information media - not an official record