6244th Meeting (AM)
In Briefing, Special Representative Cites Challenges Of Protecting Civilians while Supporting 'Indisciplined' Government Forces
Progress in the coming year should allow the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to hone its task of helping ensure the future stability of the vast central African country, Alan Doss, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, told the Security Council today.
"During the first half of 2010, we expect to have more clarity on the evolving situation in eastern DRC, on the impact of measures to enhance the protection of civilians, the integration process and a timetable for elections", he said as he laid out the remaining challenges facing MONUC in a briefing this morning.
Mr. Doss, who is also Head of the Mission, said its current mandate was elaborate and complex, covering a wide range of tasks, but allowing a valuable degree of flexibility in a rapidly evolving political and military environment. However, it had often raised expectations beyond MONUC's resources and capabilities. "I would hope, therefore, that future mandates will simplify the range of tasks that the Mission is expected to undertake."
Introducing the Secretary-General's latest report on MONUC, he said its current mandate, which concentrated almost all its military forces in the east and placed the highest priority on protecting civilians, posed a dilemma. It enjoined the Mission to work with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), which included elements responsible for human rights violations, in order to disarm groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which had been threatening civilians for more than a decade. "There is no easy answer to this dilemma and we are looking towards the Council for clear guidance in this respect."
He said a second challenge was reintegrating former combatants from armed groups into the FARDC and police, because of the recalcitrance of some of those groups, purportedly due to lack of progress on reaching political agreements. While the Government should reach out to those groups, it need not tolerate the existence of militias, he noted. It had the right to use force to impose its authority on those who continued to challenge it, albeit within the framework of international human rights and humanitarian law. At the same time, the Government should make every effort to overcome the shortcomings that had hampered military and police integration, he emphasized.
Eventually, all those efforts would have to be channelled into a comprehensive security-sector reform process at the national level, he said. The police component was on the right track, with a three-year action plan and a 15-year strategic perspective. However, army reform was still at an embryonic stage and the Government's reform plan was under examination in Parliament; once approved, the long-promised discussion with those international partners willing to assist in its implementation should be convened without further delay. Meanwhile, justice-sector reform required renewed momentum.
A third challenge involved refugees and internally displaced persons who had started returning to their homes, many of which were still in volatile regions where armed elements had reportedly set up "protected areas", he said, stressing the importance of making clear that it was the role of the State -- not armed groups -- to provide such protection. He also described ongoing negotiations involving the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi on support programmes for returnees, prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
He went on to emphasize that efforts to stabilize the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo could only be sustained if they were supported by nationwide efforts to consolidate democracy and good governance as a way to promote socio-economic recovery. In the future, MONUC could help create a favourable environment in terms of peace and security, and, together with the United Nations country team and other partners, assist the Government in laying the foundations for longer-term recovery and development.
The Integrated Strategic Framework, currently under preparation, was a pointer in that direction, he said, noting, however, that MONUC and United Nations agencies had few resources, including staff, allocated to the western part of the country because of the focus on the east. That meant that the agencies lacked the capacity to take over the Mission's responsibilities without considerable additional support from the donor community.
Turning to the situation on the ground, he said Government forces had retaken the town of Dongo in Equateur Province and that MONUC had sent a military and civilian team to the area to help prepare the return of the population and the arrival of humanitarian assistance. In the east, efforts continued to focus on containing and reducing the threat posed by the FDLR and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Since the beginning of 2009, more than 1,400 FDLR combatants had surrendered, three times more than in previous years. A growing number of LRA combatants were also surrendering, including Charles Arop, who had commanded operations at the time of the 2008 Christmas massacre at Faradje.
Announcing that operation Kimia II would be completed on 31 December, he said the objective of disrupting and dispersing FDLR forces in order to weaken their control of population centres and their capacity to exploit the country's wealth had largely been achieved, although there had been very serious humanitarian consequences. Because the FDLR remained a potent threat and would punish the population for collaboration if they were allowed to return to their former strongholds, the FARC and MONUC would now concentrate on holding ground while preventing attacks on civilians.
He said the FDLR menace could only be ended by a combination of measures that were beyond MONUC's mandate, including: military pressures together with incentives for surrender; State control of the trade in mineral and other resources; and judicial proceedings against the expatriate elements that continued to fund, encourage and assist criminal activities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latest report of the Group of Experts underscored the importance of cracking down on illegal trading networks that had funded the FDLR and other armed groups, he noted, urging the Governments of the region and beyond to work together to identify ways to control and regulate the trade in minerals and other natural resources, while ensuring that companies importing minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo exercised due diligence.
Emphasizing that the Congolese Government must demilitarize mining areas, prevent its own armed forces from exploiting resources, and prosecute those who had committed human rights violations, he welcomed the arrest of two men indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, who were among the FDLR leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda -- following the arrest in Germany of the group's chairman and his deputy.
MONUC support for the FARDC was contingent upon respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and refugee law, he said, adding that the Mission had adopted a policy setting out conditions for that support. Unfortunately, discipline in the ranks of the Congolese armed forces had worsened with the recent round of integration and demobilization of armed group. "This was the price of peace", he said, reiterating the urgent need for security-sector reform.
Human rights violations continued on a wide scale in the east, particularly in North and South Kivu provinces, he said. Overall displacement remained high and sexual violence continued unchecked, with armed groups and uncontrolled FARDC elements responsible for most violations. Together with other United Nations agencies, MONUC was implementing a multifaceted protection strategy. "Every day in many areas of eastern DRC, MONUC is helping to protect tens of thousands of civilians under the threat of imminent danger", he said. Joint protection teams were being deployed and "must protect" areas identified. Some 58 forward bases were now operational.
In closing, he recounted a recent attack on a MONUC helicopter in Dongo, noting that blue helmets had been wounded, but the crew had still managed to get the craft back into the air and across hundreds of miles to safety. "I would like to put on record the heroism of that Russian helicopter crew, who almost certainly saved many lives", he said, stressing that it was the kind of action MONUC had to carry out every day and which often went unnoticed.
The meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 10:56 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the thirtieth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), dated 4 December 2009, which covers developments since his report of 18 September. It recommends a six-month extension of the Mission's mandate, until 30 June 2010, in its current strength and configuration to permit completion of discussions with the Congolese Government on tasks that must be accomplished before withdrawal can begin.
According to the report (document S/2009/623), there has been uneven progress in bringing stability to the war-wracked east of the country -- a focus of the reporting period -- with military efforts to flush out foreign and residual Congolese armed groups taking a heavy toll on civilians. Joint operations by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the Rwandan military against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which has committed atrocities against civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, have achieved military gains, but they were accompanied by a high humanitarian cost.
The report states that, in response to the Congolese-Rwandan actions, supported by MONUC, the FDLR rebels have carried out brutal reprisal attacks against the civilian population, as well as continuing to resort to banditry, kidnapping and hit-and-run attacks, while often looking for food and medicine. The MONUC supported the joint operation by providing logistical support, including helicopter lift, medical evacuation, fuel and rations. It also provided firepower support to the FARDC, which was critical in keeping the FDLR from reclaiming some areas previously under its control.
Noting that the FARDC have also committed human rights violations, including massacres, the Secretary-General says MONUC has continued to press the Government to take action against impunity in the military, while maintaining its provision of rations and assistance to troops so as to prevent them from living off of the population. "It is essential that urgent steps be taken to improve the protection of civilians, which, while it is the first priority of MONUC, is first and foremost the primary responsibility of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo", he emphasizes.
The Secretary-General also encourages the Council to help coordinate a unified response by all United Nations peacekeeping missions in the region in order to permit more concerted action to protect civilians against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a notorious Ugandan armed group. At the same time, he praises the continued improvement in relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbours, and encourages the Congolese, Ugandan and Rwandan Governments to continue on that path.
Encouraging the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to take concrete steps to address concerns regarding the integration of Congolese armed groups into the FARDC, he urges all parties to the 23 March Agreements to end the fighting in the east and carry out their commitments. There has been very limited tangible progress in reforming the Congolese security forces, and international partners must now work together in a coherent manner to help the Government build professional forces capable of assuming internal and external security responsibilities, in accordance with international norms. As a first step in that direction, the Government is encouraged to work with those partners to build a small, well-vetted, multi-ethnic force of between 15,000 and 20,000 personnel.
According to the report, after the completion of discussions with the Government on the future of MONUC, the Secretary-General will make further recommendations in his April 2010 report, after which the Council can help develop a new mandate that includes the Mission's military drawdown. Meanwhile, he recommends that it focus on support for the completion of operations against armed groups, support for the extension of State authority, coordination of security-sector reform and strengthening of the rule of law and other priorities.
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