By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- As the United Nations gears up for a major meeting on the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated that a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country would have to be a massive international undertaking.
Annan also warned that the operation might lead to unrealistic expectations about what such a force could do.
The Security Council, under the presidency of U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, has reserved the week of January 24 to discuss the situation in the DRC as part of its monthlong focus on Africa.
On the list to attend from sub-Saharan
Africa are DRC President Laurent Kabila, Angolan President Jose Eduardo
dos Santos, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu,
Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, Namibian Foreign Minister Theo Ben-Gurirab,
Organization of African Unity Secretary-General Salim Salim, and former
president of Botswana Sir
Ketumile Masire, who is the facilitator for the inter-Congolese political negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will chair the meeting, Holbrooke said.
In a written report to the UNSC, Annan said that "with the renewed commitment of the parties to the Lusaka Agreement, fully supported by the international community, diplomatic activity may yet succeed in resolving the crisis. The parties should know -- and the recent fighting has furnished fresh evidence of this -- that there is no military solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"The people of that country, and of the other belligerent states, need peace in order to channel their energies towards development. It is therefore incumbent on the United Nations to continue to do its utmost to support efforts for peace, including the deployment of a peacekeeping operation" in the DRC, he said.
The United Nations has attempted to send military observers into the DRC since the Lusaka cease-fire agreement was signed, but continued fighting and the inability of the observers to move throughout the country have impeded plans for the operation.
The military and security situation in
the DRC has deteriorated in the last few months, the secretary-general
said. There have been reports of heightened military activity by armed
groups, including former Rwandan government forces and Interahamwe militia,
Burundi rebels, and various Mayi-Mayi groups in the eastern part of the
country. Reports form South Kivu strongly suggest the danger of large-scale
violence among different ethnic groups there. At Ikela about 700 Congolese,
Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops have been encircled by rebel forces since December.
According to Annan, thousands of children serve as combatants with the various fighting forces and the recruitment of child soldiers continues, especially in the eastern part of the country.
"It cannot be too often repeated that the Lusaka cease-fire agreement remains the best hope for the resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, for the time being, the only prospect of achieving it," he said.
Annan added that the signatories of the agreement must demonstrate their commitment to the agreement by conducting no new military offenses, guaranteeing the security and freedom of movement of U.N. personnel, and stopping the spread of hostile propaganda, especially incitements to attack unarmed civilians.
Annan warned that the deployment of a U.N. Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) peacekeeping operation "will also create inflated expectations that might well be unrealistic."
Annan did not present any numbers for the expanded peacekeeping force, but said "it would require the deployment of thousands of international troops and civilian personnel" and it "would face tremendous difficulties and would be beset by risks."
"The United Nations can potentially play an important role if it receives the necessary mandate and resources," he said, but "a clear political agreement on the part of all concerned is necessary."
A MONUC peacekeeping operation, he said, should assist the warring parties to complete the disengagement and withdrawal of their forces, provide security for U.N. military personnel, and contribute to the eventual disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants.
Because of the large number of anti-personnel landmines, MONUC must have a demining capacity, he added.
(Note: A Web site on the U.N. Month of Africa can be accessed at the following URL: http://www.usia.gov/regional/af/unmonth/)
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)