Continuing its month-long special focus
on Africa, the Security Council today held a top-level meeting on the volatile
situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Among 40 speakers taking part in the session, there were seven Heads of State from Africa and ten ministerial-level representatives.
"The presence of so many national leaders reflects the seriousness of the unresolved turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," said US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who chaired the session. The United States holds the rotating presidency of the Council for the month of January.
Noting that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could be described as "Africa's first world war" because of the number of countries involved, Mrs. Albright said she hoped the Security Council session would lead to "decisive progress." She said the United States condemned the violation of the Congo's territorial integrity by foreign troops and was doing its part in helping to resolve the crisis, in part by lending strong support to the Lusaka process and to the work of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, and by working towards the deployment of a phase-two UN peace mission.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his address to the Council, said it was "remarkable" to see so many African leaders gathered in the chamber. They had travelled far, he noted, but the political distance still to be travelled was even greater.
"The Lusaka Agreement remains the most viable blueprint for resolving grievances and achieving a comprehensive negotiated solution," Mr. Annan said, noting that there had been many ceasefire violations and obstruction of UN military liaison officers, undermining confidence in the implementation process. The warring parties, he noted, had to demonstrate the political will to apply the agreement fully, without further delay.
Mr. Annan said the Congolese signatories to the Lusaka Agreement had, with the assistance of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), taken an encouraging step in appointing Sir Ketumile Masire, former president of Botswana, as a facilitator for their dialogue. "His prestige, expertise and moral authority can help reinvigorate the Lusaka process," the Secretary-General said.
For his part, the OAU Secretary-General, Salim Ahmed Salim, stressed that the Lusaka Agreement remained the only expression and instrument of the collective will of the parties in the conflict. "We therefore have a collective responsibility to make it work," Mr. Salim said, adding that the OAU had spared no effort in supporting the regional efforts to end the conflict. He also underscored the inter-linkage between the military and political processes and the urgent need for an effective UN presence in the DRC in the form of military observers and peacekeepers.