DR Congo

Holbrooke testimony before House Committee

U.S. Department of State Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Washington, DC
As prepared for delivery

Mr. Chairman, it is an honor to testify today before your subcommittee. I am particularly pleased to be joined by Susan Rice, our Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, whose efforts have been so critical to the issues we'll discuss today. Mr. Chairman, the participation of you, Congressman Payne, and so many other members of Congress in our deliberations in New York in the last 8 weeks has been of immense importance in helping us formulate an American foreign policy. Your continued interest in African peace and security, and the active work of this committee, is critical. In the coming days and weeks, we look forward to working with you on what is today the most urgent near-term crisis in Africa--the conflict in Congo.

Last December, during our delegation's 11-day mission to ten African countries, two issues were at the top of our agenda: the scourge of HIV/AIDS and the crisis in Congo. On Congo, we met with leaders from every state involved in the conflict. And we returned home convinced that this crisis desperately warrants the attention and efforts of the international community.

Mr. Chairman, the time has come for the UN to take the next steps for peace in Congo. The time has come for the parties to the conflict to realize the full potential of the Lusaka Agreement. And the time has come for the U.S. to lend its support. This committee is aware that on February 7, the State Department notified Congress that the U.S. intends to support a resolution in the UN Security Council to expand the United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). This peacekeeping operation will subsume and expand upon the current United Nations Mission in the Congo. It is imperative that we fulfill our responsibility to help.

No Security Council Resolution expanding the UN's presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo has yet been adopted. We are currently negotiating with other Security Council member states on a resolution, which will be voted upon no earlier than February 23.

Today, we would like to outline the background to the situation in the Congo, how the peacekeeping plan is structured, the U.S. national interest in the operation, and how the risks of the operation have been minimized.


As you know, the U.S. used its presidency of the Security Council in January to focus on a number of African issues, including AIDS, refugees, Angola, Burundi, and the Congo. The culmination of this focus on Africa was the attendance of seven African heads of state at a summit on the Congo and a special session of the Security Council, chaired by Secretary Albright.

The summit and follow-up meetings went well, and all leaders publicly recommitted themselves to the Lusaka Agreement. Democratic Republic of the Congo President Kabila and other signatories reaffirmed their commitment to the inter-Congolese National Dialogue, and former President Masire of Botswana outlined his plans as the neutral facilitator of the process.

But success requires more than just talk. Real progress among the concerned parties deserves international action and support. Action is necessary to prevent further conflict and the resurgence of genocide and mass killing in Central Africa.

The question, then, is how best to help the parties foster peace and stability in the Congo. The UN can and must play a
key role in this process, specifically by deploying the next phase of a peacekeeping operation in the country.

Three-Phase Approach

Allow me to review for you the phased approach to peacekeeping in the DROC. I should stress that this plan reflects what the U.S. Government, including the Department of Defense, has advocated as the best approach. After months of resisting unrealistic peacekeeping proposals for the Congo, we have succeeded in getting the UN to adopt this three-phase approach concept designed in part by U.S. military planners. This approach ties UN deployments to concrete progress on the ground toward the Lusaka Agreement's political and military objectives.

There are three phases to implementation of the Lusaka Agreement. The first phase focused on establishing liaison with the parties, their field commanders and the Joint Military Commission (JMC), and on planning for the deployment of subsequent peacekeeping operations. Phase I was launched August 6, 1999, when the Security Council authorized MONUC--the UN liaison mission of up to 90 UN military liaison officers--the Congo, and the capitals of other African countries with an interest in the conflict.

Implementation of the cease-fire during Phase I was imperfect. The cease-fire has been violated intermittently, with the heaviest fighting in the northwest and around the central town of Ikela. The UN liaison officers have also encountered some setbacks. While 79 of the 90 UN military liaison officers have deployed to the rear headquarters of both sides in multiple locations, they have been barred from other key sites, particularly those located in government-held areas.

That being said, the peace process in Congo is moving forward, albeit slowly. Fighting that was once wide-scale has been contained to a few areas. The international community is galvanized for action. And the parties themselves have renewed their commitments and begun to take the necessary steps for a lasting settlement.

As a result of a meeting of the JMC political committee in Harare on January 18 and the open Security Council session in New York on January 24, the parties to Lusaka reiterated their commitment to the peace process and to providing full security and access for all UN personnel. They also reestablished their calendar for implementation. Significantly, all parties, including President Kabila, called for the immediate deployment of the Phase 11 military observer mission.

The Secretary-General's report of January 14 outlined the fundamental structure and mandate for Phase 11 of the operation in the DROC. It recommended an expansion of the current UN liaison mission of 90 military liaison officers to a 500-member observer mission with force protection and support, which brings the total up to 5,537 military personnel. Upon authorization by the Council, the Phase 11 deployment of the UN Observer Mission in the Congo (MONUC) would begin when key conditions are met, including security, access, and cooperation with UN personnel. No U.S. peacekeeping troops would be on the ground as a part of this operation.

The observers would monitor the implementation of the cease-fire on the ground, assist with the disengagement of troops at certain locations, and assist the JMC with developing the mechanisms to implement further provisions of the Lusaka Agreement. The Phase II operation would not serve as an interpositional force.

Upon the successful completion of Phase II, the UN may recommend a Phase III operation to build on the progress of the National Dialogue and to support full and complete implementation of Lusaka. The precise mission, size and function of a possible Phase III UN peacekeeping force remain undefined, since the UN's role and responsibilities in the peace process would be developed through planning and negotiations during Phase 11. We have stated repeatedly, though, that the UN would not take on enforcement responsibilities, including any potential forcible disarmament of non-state actors.

Let me reiterate: transition to Phase III is not automatic, but would depend on developments during Phase 11, including
significant progress in the national dialogue. Any movement to implement Phase III would require further action in the Security Council and would be subject to a new Congressional notification.

U.S. National Interest

The U.S. has an interest in upholding regional stability and in preventing the resurgence of genocide and mass killing in Central Africa. In particular, the former Rwandan Army (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe militia, who are implicated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide are still operating in the region, significantly contributing to instability. More than a half dozen regional states have been involved in the fighting. Congo is a contagion of crisis: if the conflict there is allowed to fester, efforts to resolve conflicts and promote stability throughout the region--in Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Sudan--will be even more difficult.

Additionally, the political and military vacuum in the Congo has drawn in rogue states such as Libya, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Sudan. These states are seeking a foothold in a destabilized central Africa for weapons sales, political allies, terrorist bases, and access to strategic minerals (including uranium and diamonds).

The fighting further threatens to spark a major humanitarian crisis, with a severe long-term impact on economic growth, investment, and trade for the region. The current conflict is the most violent in Africa, with enormous costs to U.S. political and economic interests.

For all of these reasons, the U.S. has a clear national interest to support the UN's efforts in resolving the multi-state conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and encouraging the evolution of a stable, democratic Congo at peace with its neighbors.

Managed Risks

For purposes of clarity, let me review for you again some key points to keep in mind:

  • This operation will not involve U.S. peacekeeping troops.
  • The observers in Phase II would monitor the cease-fire and verify the redeployment of the parties' forces to defensive positions as agreed in the agreement.

To repeat, transition to Phase III in the future--a peacekeeping mission--is not automatic. Rather, movement to Phase III is dependent on:

  • The parties' observing the conditions of the Lusaka Accords;
  • Disengagement of forces along confrontation lines;
  • Substantial progress on the National Dialogue;
  • The completion by the parties of a viable plan for dealing with nonsignatory armed groups;
  • Further action by the UN Security Council and new Congressional notification.

Finally, I want to assure you that we are aware of the risks of this operation. Any effort toward peace in Congo will not be easy. However, while there are risks involved with the deployment of Phase 11, the risks of inaction are far, far greater. We cannot promise you immediate peace in the Congo. What I can say is that without strong UN leadership in addressing this situation at this moment, there is a high probability--in fact a near certainty--of a catastrophic political and humanitarian disaster in central Africa. Inaction risks the resurgence of genocide and the danger that this proxy war will devolve into a direct war between the many states already involved.


In conclusion, let me point out that this past year has been a dramatic one for United Nations peacekeeping. The new missions in Kosovo and East Timor and the expanded mission in Sierra Leone have not only doubled the number of United Nations peacekeepers in the field, but also have added a new level of complexity to our peacekeeping efforts. Congo is important, but success in these missions is just as critical. We will not allow our concern for Congo to come at the expense of our commitment to fulfilling these other missions.

To sustain all of these UN peacekeeping efforts, we will need the support of other UN member states, the parties to the various conflicts, and most importantly, members of Congress. Without the means to finance our assessed contributions to peacekeeping activities, the UN will be unable to fulfill the mandates of these missions.

The stakes in the Congo crisis are high, and the challenge is daunting. Although we cannot expect the United Nations to impose peace in Congo (a country as large as Western Europe or the United States east of the Mississippi River), it is imperative that the UN do what it can to support the peace process the Africans themselves created. Failure to act may irreparably damage both the capability and credibility of United Nations peacekeeping. The U.S. has ensured that the UN has managed the risks to the greatest extent possible, but risks still exist.

Mr. Chairman, it is absolutely critical that we have the support of your subcommittee and your colleagues for our efforts in the Congo. Your role is crucial to our success, and I thank you again for the honor of addressing you today.