DR Congo

"The situation concerning the Democratic Republic of Congo"

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Statement by H.E. Mr. Louis MICHEL, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
New York, 24 January 2000

Madam President,

I am happy to see you chairing this meeting and I would like to thank you as well as H.E. Ambassador Holbrooke for your efforts to lend new momentum to the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo ; I also thank you for your efforts to impress the gravity of this crisis upon the international community. I wish to encourage the initiative you have taken and ensure you of Belgium's support.

Belgium fully subscribes to the efforts made by the European Union, and I associate myself fully with the statement by Portugal as President of the European Union. The Belgian Government considers the European involvement in the peace process and in the stabilization of the region, to be a prime factor for this undertaking to be successful.

On 25 September, during the General Assembly, I announced that Belgium wished to devote special attention to Central Africa and to the crisis in Congo We wish to contribute to dragging this region out of the quagmire of war, insecurity and therefore underdevelopment. My presence here today reaffirms this commitment.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a country the size of a continent, and its stability influences that of the entire African continent and impacts directly on the stability of its nine neighbors. The return to peace and regional stability requires the re-establishment of the respect for fundamental principles, which were reaffirmed clearly by the signatories of the Lusaka Peace Agreement. The first and foremost of these principles is the territorial unity and integrity of Congo and the inviolability of its borders. For Belgium, this is a pre-requisite for the recovery of Congo.

At the same time, Congo's neighbors have the right to live in peace within secure borders, without destabilizing actions being undertaken from Congolese territory.

The other essential factor for the stabilization of Congo is that of national reconciliation. The Lusaka Agreement explicitly laid down the commitment of the Congolese signatories to undertake an internal dialogue leading to national reconciliation, within the framework of freely accepted institutions, including armed forces at the service of the Congolese people.

Madam President,

We did not gather here today at this high level of political representation in order to negotiate a new peace agreement, but on the contrary in order to create an unstoppable momentum leading to the full implementation of the Lusaka Agreement, which entered into force nearly 6 months ago. However, today we observe the slow pace of implementation of the Agreement and the risk that the peace process becomes fragile.

We cannot remain passive. All parties involved, the signatories of the Agreement as well as the international community, collectively or individually, must take their responsibilities. The gravity of the situation and its catastrophic humanitarian consequences require now more than ever that all is done to re-launch the peace process through the implementation of the mechanisms envisaged by the Agreement. It is indeed the only instrument which exists to put an end to the conflict.

Which are the pre-requisites for the resumption and the success of the peace process?

First, the political will of the signatories: the prime responsibility for the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement lies with those who signed it. It is up to them to respect their signature and to carry out what they committed themselves to: respect of the cease fire, withdrawal of troops, a halt to rearmament... The clear demonstration of their political will to apply the peace agreement in good faith and without putting up impediments, is essential to making it possible for the international community to uphold and to encourage their action. This brings me to my second point:

The support of the international community: this is absolutely necessary for making the mechanisms of the agreement work: immediate financial and logistical assistance for the Joint Military Commission, in order to allow it to function on a permanent basis, which is indispensable for the execution of its mission.

In this respect, the contributions pledged should be paid into the Trust Fund without delay. Belgium has contributed 10 million BEF so far and actively encouraged the European Union's to pledge l,2 million EURO without delay.

Also needed is a better coordination among MONUC, the Joint Military Commission and the OAU: I am pleased to see the initiatives taken by the Secretary-general in this respect, in particular the designation of a remarkably experienced Special Representative, Ambassador Morjane, who should be able to count on the political and logistical support of the international Community and the full cooperation of the signatories of the Peace Agreement.

Thirdly, a peace-keeping operation to help the signatories put the Agreement into practice and to allow it to achieve one of its principal objectives, viz. the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Congo. In order to succeed, a peacekeeping operation will have to be sufficiently equipped, with a clear mandate and the necessary logistical and financial resources. I urge the Security Council to seize the occasion the Lusaka Agreement offers and to take its responsibility in this respect. Belgium will contribute financially and logistically, both in its national capacity and with its partners of the European Union.

I urge the Security Council to provide sufficient protection and sufficient means of transportation and communication, so that the observers whose deployment is envisaged in Phase II, can carry out their mission objectively and securely.

The disarmament and the rehabilitation of the members of the irregular armed groups is of the utmost importance and is also the most difficult problem. This will require political mechanisms and economic incentives rather than military solutions.

Fourthly, the inter-Congolese dialogue: its implementation is also essential and urgent. Now that President Masire has been appointed as facilitator, he will bring his prestige as an elder statesman and his long political experience to this indispensable dialogue. Belgium welcomes his designation and will support him.

I call on all Congolese parties involved to build a political system which involves all dynamic elements of society. The international community should not remain on the sidelines while the Congolese attempt to achieve this objective.

In conclusion, I would wish to underline the following:

The concept of African Ownership, which in a recent past was perhaps a reason for the withdrawal from Africa, has demonstrated its relevance through the Lusaka Agreement. This agreement is an African response to an African crisis. Insofar as the signatories of the agreement truly commit themselves, the international community is ready to contribute to its implementation. African Ownership can be neither rejection nor withdrawal. The concept must involve collaboration and partnership.

Our efforts should be seen within the framework of partnership with the countries of Central Africa. This partnership first of all concerns the countries of the region themselves: it is only by the regional stabilization and cooperation beyond the borders that the peace ensured by the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement will be consolidated. On that basis, we are ready to rally our partners, within the European Union and beyond, for a North-South partnership pact which focuses on reconstruction, democracy and development. This pact would fall within the scope of a Conference on

Security and Cooperation in the Great Lakes Region, which could be organized once peace returns to the region.

I would wish that we consider the lessons to be drawn from the Carlsson report. Not only should we help Rwanda to heal the wounds of the past, but we must also ensure that the errors committed in Rwanda are not repeated.

We wish to break the vicious cycle of war, a war which cannot be won by anyone. We must show those who think that they can only improve their lot by taking up arms, that there exists a peaceful alternative based on economic cooperation and development. My country possesses the will and the means to take part in this endeavor.

Thank you, Madam President.