EUROPEAN UNION MISSION IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO CONTRIBUTED SUCCESSFULLY TO COUNTRY’S POLITICAL TRANSITION, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
5616th Meeting (AM)
EUROPEAN UNION MISSION IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO CONTRIBUTED SUCCESSFULLY
TO COUNTRY’S POLITICAL TRANSITION, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
But Logistical Challenges Remain; Continued Support Critical for Electoral Process
The European Union’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as it had prepared for its first democratically held elections in more than four decades, had been a “success”, both in the way it had been conducted and in its contribution to the country’s political transition, the Security Council was told this morning.
Briefing the Council on the European Union mission, Javier Solana, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, said the European Union’s intervention -– though not the first in that country –- had come at a crucial time, as the vast African nation entered the final phase of its transition process. The Union had worked very hard for several years to facilitate a democratic transition, for which elections were a key to success. Responding to the United Nations request for support almost a year ago, Europe had deployed a military force -- known as EUFOR RD Congo -- with operational headquarters provided by Germany, a European Union presence based in Kinshasa and force elements in Gabon ready to be deployed as necessary.
The EUFOR intervention, he added, working in close cooperation with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), had been decisive in containing the potential spread of violence at a particularly sensitive moment in the election process. EUFOR had also confirmed its position of neutrality in the eyes of the Congolese population and had reinforced its credibility. Key elements of the mission’s success could already be identified, including the definition of a clear mandate, both in scope and time frame, highly professional troops and an active communication policy, towards both the Congolese population and key actors in the electoral process.
The country’s achievements would be at risk if the international community, or the Congolese people, repeated some of their past mistakes, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said as he briefed the Council. Defining MONUC as the largest, most expensive peacekeeping operation in the world, he noted that early disengagement following elections elsewhere had resulted in the resumption of conflict a few years later, requiring a new, costlier international intervention. Few observers had believed that the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be able to rise to the challenge of ending the conflict and holding its first democratic elections since 1960. As the natural, yet still developing, pole of stability in the troubled region of Central Africa, the resolution of the crisis in the country would benefit Africa more than solving any other of the continent’s current conflicts.
Also briefing the Council, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari noted that the United Nations could be proud of the peaceful conduct of two rounds of elections in July and October, but much still remained to be done. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was now in a post-transitional period, but that was by no means a post-electoral period. Logistical challenges remained, and continued support for the electoral process would be critical.
Welcoming the success of the first democratic elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in more than 40 years, Germany’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, called on all political players to engage constructively in the post-transition process. Appropriate flexible mechanisms should be developed with the new Congolese Government to ensure effective coordination of support and political dialogue. Thanking the people, the Government and the political actors for their confidence in the European force, he hoped that elections would be the first step towards a brighter future for the Congolese people and the entire Great Lakes region.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers agreed on the crucial need for the international community to build on and maintain strong support for the new Congolese authorities in what would be a critical stage in reconciliation and peace consolidation. With important elections still ahead, South Africa’s representative said he looked forward to the new Government taking shape and his Government pledged its continued assistance.
While the United Kingdom’s support for the Democratic Republic of the Congo was strong, it was not, however, unqualified, that country’s representative said. The Council looked forward to the Secretary-General’s recommendations as to how the United Nations should carry forward its support of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the next phase, in terms of following up its mandate there, which expired on 15 February. The principal role should be to maintain stability, allow the new institutions to take root and redirect resources to priorities, namely tackling the armed groups in the eastern part of the country, which were undermining the chances for lasting peace.
As the spearhead of the African renaissance, his country would play its role as a central and pivotal State in strategies aimed at stabilizing the Great Lakes region, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said. The human, material and financial mobilization by the United Nations and the European Union in the country ran the risk of being wiped out, as long as there were dictatorial States in the Great Lakes region. With the establishment of new institutions, the Congolese people were counting on the international community’s continued support.
Also speaking were the representatives of France, Belgium, Qatar, Ghana, Congo, China and Peru.
The Council’s President for January, Vitaly Churkin of the Russian Federation, made a brief opening statement.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 11:44 a.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Security Council President for January, VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation), said that a new page had been turned in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of the changes had been made possible thanks to the international community, the European Union and various regional organizations. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had made an important contribution to the success of the operations, with the joint efforts of the European Union under a mandate of the Security Council. All of those actors had assisted the Government in ensuring safety and security and law and order in the country. Today’s meeting would hear three briefings.
Statement by European Union
On behalf of the European Union and candidate countries, Turkey and Croatia, THOMAS MATUSSEK ( Germany) reported on implementation of the mandate of “EUFOR RD Congo”. A year ago, in late December 2005, the United Nations had requested the European Union to provide additional security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while the country went through the election process. The Union, after close consultation with the country’s Government, had agreed to support MONUC and assist in ensuring security in the interest of a successful transition. In April 2006, the Security Council had adopted resolution 1671 (2006), which had authorized the European force. In July, EUFOR RD Congo had been launched as an autonomous European Union-led operation within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy, with a total of 21 member States. As envisaged in resolution 1671, EUFOR RD Congo had been concluded after four months, at the end of November.
He said that operation “Artemis” in Bunia in the summer of 2003 had proved to be another milestone of cooperation between the Union and the United Nations in the field of peacekeeping in Africa. The two, both at the level of headquarters and country missions, had worked together intensively before and during the operation to provide stability, defuse tensions and deter potential spoilers during critical stages of the election process. The lessons drawn from that experience would be important for their future partnership in the field of crisis management, which was growing ever more intensive. That increasing cooperation must be accompanied by appropriate mechanisms of dialogue and exchange, issues that should be explored in the coming months.
The Union warmly welcomed the success of the first democratic elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in more than 40 years and congratulated the Congolese people on that major step, he said. It called on all political players to engage constructively in the post-transition process. Future cooperation should be based on the new authorities’ strong commitment to good governance and to strengthening the rule of law. Appropriate flexible mechanisms should be developed with the new Congolese Government to ensure effective coordination of support and political dialogue. He thanked the people, the Government and the political actors for their confidence in the European force. He was also grateful to the Government of Gabon, which had allowed the force to use that country as an important base of operation. Hopefully, the successful elections would be the first step towards a brighter future for the Congolese people and the entire Great Lakes region.
JAVIER SOLANA, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, said that the United Nations request of almost a year ago for military support had come at a crucial time, namely the transition period in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as it entered its final phase. It had been essential at that point to create the necessary conditions and security environment to ensure a successful outcome. The European Union had worked very hard for several years to facilitate a democratic transition, for which elections were key to a final success. “We could not fail, and we answered positively to the UN request to put soldiers on the ground,” he said. Specifically, Europe had deployed a military force with operational headquarters provided by Germany, with a European Union presence based in Kinshasa and force elements in Gabon ready to be deployed as necessary.
He said that the deterrent effect of EUFOR had been a significant factor in limiting the number of incidents. Reinforcement by additional force elements from over the “horizon component” in Gabon had been undertaken on several occasions. In addition, a number of deployment operations to the geographically agreed points of application had been undertaken. That had also increased the geographic spread of the force’s deterrent effect. The incident with the greatest destabilizing potential had occurred on 21 August, with an attack on Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s residence. EUFOR intervention, in close cooperation with MONUC, had been decisive in containing the potential spread of violence at a particularly sensitive moment in the election process. In addition, EUFOR had confirmed its position of neutrality in the eyes of the Congolese population and had reinforced its credibility.
The mission had been a success, both in the way it had been conducted and in its contribution to the overall positive conclusion of the country’s transition, he said. Although a proper “lessons learned” review was under way, some key elements for its success could already be identified. Those included the definition of a clear mandate, both in scope and time frame, highly professional troops, a very high degree of interaction with MONUC and an active communication policy, both towards the Congolese population and to key actors in the electoral process. In a wider context, transparency and information sharing with African partners, with the African Union and with other African regional organizations invited to deploy liaison officers, had also facilitated the process.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, reiterated his deep appreciation to the European Union for the assistance provided by EUFOR to MONUC and to the 21 member States and Turkey contributing to the operation. EUFOR had carried out its activities in support of the Congolese people, to ensure a secure environment for the elections held in July and October 2006, in accordance with Council resolution 1671 of 25 April 2006. EUFOR’s presence had been of great value during the critical period of the elections, at which time MONUC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with international partners, had worked with the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission in organizing and conducting the complex endeavour; the largest electoral exercise the United Nations had ever supported.
He said EUFOR had complemented MONUC’s massive effort by adding its extra capacity and flexibility and by helping to address security challenges and any potential escalation of tension. That cooperation had been particularly effective following the violent incidents in Kinshasa in August. EUFOR’s presence had also been an important element in the overall deterrent provided by the United Nations military and police forces on the ground, which, in turn, supported the Congolese National Police. Over 40,000 of them had been trained by MONUC to help create a secure environment for the electoral process.
While acknowledging the European Union’s overall effort, he noted with appreciation the generous assistance of the German Government, which had provided the operational headquarters of EUFOR in Potsdam. He also noted the sizable number of troops deployed by the Governments of Germany and France. The outstanding collaboration between EUFOR and MONUC and between the United Nations Secretariat and the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union served as an example for future collaboration efforts. That collaboration included operational military aspects, as well as the logistical support provided by MONUC to EUFOR in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The deployment of EUFOR was a further demonstration of the Union’s strong support to the international community’s collective efforts in Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. The joint implementation of Council resolution 1671 had produced many positive lessons, including the importance of early coordination at the technical level and of mutual understanding of each organization’s concepts and procedures. The Secretariat was keen to fully exploit the potential of strategic and operational partnerships with various multilateral organizations, including in the pressing area of security sector reform. In that regard, he welcomed the continued support of the European Union Security Reform Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the European Union Police Mission, which continued to provide valuable services in the areas of security sector reform and police planning and training.
He said it was difficult to overemphasize the significance of the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to which the United Nations and the European Union, together with many other Member States, had contributed. Only a few years ago, few observers had believed that the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be able to rise to the challenge of ending the conflict and holding its first democratic elections since 1960. “The credit for these elections goes to the Congolese people, who conducted themselves throughout with patience, courage, great dignity and determination. Their desire for change has been the main driving force of the electoral process.” Credit was also due to the Independent Electoral Commission, which had operated in a war-torn country with little or no infrastructure, poor communications and limited transportation. Despite criticism, pressure and occasional threats from different quarters, the Independent Electoral Commission had carried out in full its historic mission. All international partners should take great pride in having supported the Congolese people and its institutions in successfully passing that milestone.
“MONUC has been the largest and most expensive United Nations peacekeeping operation in the world, with thousands of troops and over 100 aircraft, he said. Five peace accords involving African countries, more than 35 Security Council resolutions, African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) involvement, $500 million in international electoral funding and strong support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had all contributed to the success of the peace process. The European Union had played a crucial role at several critical electoral junctures over the last several years, also deploying operation Artemis in response to a crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003.
The events of the last few months had produced a new positive dynamic in the country, he added. On 30 December, President Joseph Kabila had appointed Antoine Gizenga, former presidential candidate in the first round of the elections, as Prime Minister. He was currently consulting on the formation of a Government, which was expected to be completed by this month. At the end of December, the National Assembly had elected Vital Kamerhe as President of the National Assembly, along with six other members of the National Assembly bureau. All seven were members of president Kabila’s Alliance for the Presidential Majority, the AMP.
In the meantime, in North Kivu, fighting between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the renegade forces of Laurent Nkunda had subsided over the last few days, and discussions -- with United Nations assistance -- were being held between representatives of both sides. While the situation was still volatile, Rwanda’s Government had reported that it was facilitating discussions between representatives of FARDC and the Nkunda group in Kigali. On 4 January, an agreement had been reached in principle to form mixed FARDC brigades by merging the Nkunda forces with other soldiers presently deployed in North Kivu. MONUC continued to encourage the Government to find a peaceful and comprehensive solution to address the causes of the still simmering conflict in the eastern part of the country and, in that connection, had facilitated the establishment of working groups to implement the agreements reached, with a view to resolving the underlying issues.
In Ituri, a new ceasefire between FARDC and the National Integrationist Front, the FNI, led by Peter Karim, had been agreed upon on 2 January after fighting had broken out near the town of Fataki at the end of December. The situation remained very tense, with the United Nations conducting robust operations in support of Government troops.
He said MONUC stood ready to support the newly elected Government as it began to address the many challenges facing the country, including completing the transitional agenda and implementing the provisions of the new Constitution, particularly in regard to strengthening national unity, fostering the democratic process and embarking on a comprehensive governance reform agenda. The Government would continue to be assisted in rebuilding a State free from corruption that ensured the rule of law and good governance, protected human rights and civil liberties, encouraged participation and pluralism, conducted a major security sector reform and was committed to reducing poverty. The continued engagement of the international community was also required to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo complete a comprehensive electoral process, with local elections due in the second half of the year.
He added that the country’s achievements would be at risk if the international community, or the Congolese people, repeated some of their past mistakes. Early disengagement following elections elsewhere had resulted in the resumption of conflict a few years later, requiring a new, costlier international intervention.
“The [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] is the natural, yet still developing, pole of stability in the troubled region of Central Africa,” he concluded. The resolution of the crisis in the country would benefit Africa more than solving any other of the continent’s current conflicts. Moreover, if Africa’s worst conflict could be overcome, then other conflicts could be, too. The United Nations partnership with the European Union and other stakeholders would serve that strategic goal. He was also grateful of the Council’s support for a settlement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had been demonstrated, among other measures, by the Council’s numerous visits to the country.
IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the successful holding of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo towards the end of 2006 was now a matter of historical record. Although elections were never an end by themselves, they were, when credible, a critical part of any democratic process. Holding successful and credible elections was a testimony to what could be achieved when there was collective effort. Charged by the General Assembly with coordinating and supporting all United Nations electoral activity, the Department of Political Affairs, through its Electoral Assistance Division, had been involved with the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2003, when it had conducted the initial needs assessment, which had preceded the establishment of the MONUC Electoral Division.
The role of the United Nations electoral team, which included the UNDP-supported APEC (Project d’appui au processus electoral en RDC), had been to support the Independent Electoral Commission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the Independent Electoral Commission headquarters, as well as in field offices nationwide. On 18 and 19 December 2005, the Independent Electoral Commission, with MONUC’s support, had organized the constitutional referendum, in which the Congolese had voted overwhelmingly to adopt the Constitution that had been promulgated on 18 February 2006. The voter registration exercise conducted between June and December 2005 had resulted in lists containing the names of 25.5 million eligible voters.
The first round of presidential and the national assembly elections had been held on 30 July 2006, he said. The Department of Political Affairs had also conducted several field missions to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006 to assist the MONUC Electoral Division with the operational planning for the 30 July and 29 October elections. In his capacity as United Nations Focal Point for Electoral Assistance Activities, he had visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo in early October, meeting with major stakeholders to encourage an environment of calm, tolerance and national reconciliation during and after the electoral process. In light of the disturbances following the first round of results, he had stressed the need for positive and constructive campaigning and had urged the acceptance of the results by all parties and avoidance of a “winner-takes-all attitude” by the successful candidates.
The presidential run-off and the provincial assembly elections had been subsequently held on 29 October, he said. The conduct of the elections by the Independent Electoral Commission, including the transparency of the count and tabulation process, had been generally praised by international observers, the press and several world leaders. Observers had noted that the elections had reflected the lessons learnt from the first round of elections, including more efficient collection of results from 50,000 polling stations in 12,000 locations and improved training of 250,000 polling workers, in spite of the massive logistical challenges.
The elections had resulted in the establishment of the first democratically elected national institutions in over four decades, “and of this we can be justly proud”, he said. Much still remained to be done, however. The 2002 Global and All Inclusive Agreement called for free and transparent elections to be held “at all levels”, including local elections. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was now in a post-transitional period, but that was by no means a post-electoral period. Indirect elections for senators, governors and vice-governors by the provincial assemblies were expected to take place by the end of the month.
Local elections for municipal and rural councils were expected to be conducted in the latter half of 2007, he said. Several legislative prerequisites were required for that to take place. The organic law establishing the post-transition National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) -- mandated under the Constitution to organize and conduct elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- needed to be passed. Similarly, the law on decentralization that would define the new provinces, as well as the local constituencies for administrative and electoral purposes, must be adopted. Following the passing of the legislative instruments, the Electoral Assistance Division would continue to assist the MONUC Electoral Division to provide capacity-building and support to the new election commission. That effort could take anywhere from 13 to 18 months, depending on the modalities chosen. The actual elections would not be expected to begin before September 2007.
The establishment of local structures and institutions that had been freely chosen by their constituents was essential for the legitimate extension of State authority, improved governance and the building of durable peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He encouraged the Council and other partners to continue to provide the generous assistance rendered during the 2006 electoral process. The logistical challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained, and continued support to the electoral process would be critical in that regard.
OLIVIER LACROIX ( France) said France was pleased at having participated in the force at the end of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s transition. At the end of 2003, France had assumed a leading role in the operation, and the deployment in 2006 of a new European Union-led force had been a major development for the Union in securing its defence policy. He was pleased that it was taking place on the African continent. The success of the country’s transitional process was crucial for Africa as a whole. Beyond the transition period, it would be important for the international community to continue its support, and the European Union and the United Nations would have a role to play in that new period.
He said that the deployment of the EUFOR RD Congo operation had also been a demonstration of cooperation between the Union and the United Nations, cooperation that should deepen, especially in the area of conflict prevention and peacekeeping. He also welcomed the sense of responsibility of the Congolese people that had made the successful elections possible in a generally peaceful climate. That, in turn, had made it possible for the Congolese to take their future into their own hands. Continuing that path would be key to the nation’s successful future.
JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said that the briefing by Mr. Solana had once again reaffirmed that the Security Council had correctly paid attention to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Like previous speakers, he welcomed EUFOR RD Congo, in which Belgium had taken an active part in connection with information capacity. The mission in support of MONUC had made a great contribution in the country, especially in terms of its deterrent effect and for the proper conduct of the electoral process. The force’s intervention in the August events in Kinshasa had showed its ability and impartiality. There had also been excellent cooperation between the Union and the United Nations, and the lessons learned in that regard would prove useful to future collaborations.
He said that the commitment of the European Union in the country should continue in the post-transition period, through a strengthened commitment to security sector reform. At the European Union Council’s meeting on 15 December, members had confirmed the need to continue a coordinating role in that regard, in close cooperation with the United Nations and in support of the Congolese authorities. Belgium duly appreciated the crucial role played by MONUC, and the Security Council should soon deal with the question of the Mission’s revision and extension. He still remained concerned about the eastern part of the country, especially the fighting in East Kivu. Efforts should intensity towards lasting stabilization of that fragile part of the country, built on a political approach.
JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said that, as everyone agreed, the Council would remain closely involved in the situation, even though the elections had already been crowned with success. He earnestly hoped that the new President would be able to complete formation of the new Government and be able to fully discharge his responsibilities. Hopefully, Council members could agree before mid-February on the reconfiguration of MONUC. He, meanwhile, greatly appreciated the role played by the European Union forces in assisting MONUC during the elections. That had helped to stabilize the enormous country. Nevertheless, turmoil continued to beset the nation, especially in the east. Hopefully, that situation would be stabilized by the time the European Union forces withdrew and, hopefully, the new Government would be able to work together with all parties.
In terms of reintegration, he said he welcomed the talks among the three factions in Ituri on the path to disarmament and reconstruction. That would make possible the reintegration of more than 8,000 combatants. He greatly appreciated MONUC’s efforts in those negotiations and hoped that agreements concluded with the militias thus far could be consolidated. He was still terribly concerned about the humanitarian situation. Help was needed for tens of thousands of people displaced from villages throughout the country. Hopefully, the assistance of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and donor countries would continue. Relieving the humanitarian crisis would also help boost national development and prosperity.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said the successful conduct of the elections reflected the people’s desire for peace and development. The consolidation of peace for socio-economic development required enormous efforts to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions. He welcomed the nomination of the Prime Minister and hoped that he would engage in a process of wide consultations in order to enable him to form a Government of national unity. He also welcomed the nomination of Vital Kamerhe as President of the National Assembly.
He expressed concern, however, about the security situation in the eastern part of the country where FARDC and FNI were engaged in conflict. The conflict there had led to, among other things, a large number of internally displaced persons and frequent human rights violations. Widespread impunity was also a source of great concern. He urged both parties to rise above personal interest and allow peace and stability to return to the region.
While commending the United Nations, the European Union and other partners, he said he also complimented the countries of the Great Lakes region for signing a pact that would pave the way for stability in the region. Its implementation would require financial support and follow-up. He reiterated the crucial role of the country’s security and judiciary segments and urged efforts to reform those areas, which would require the assistance of partners.
BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) said he was grateful for the valuable support given to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and pleased with the smooth functioning of the elections in the country. Credit was due not only to the Congolese people, but also to the entire international community. Africa itself had played an active role in the process, including South Africa’s important role in organizing the country’s political dialogue. Africa’s involvement could also be seen through the continent’s presence within the International Committee in Support of the Transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He appreciated the European Union’s commitment to continue its efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as later developments would depend on the international community’s continued vigilance.
While the elections had been an important stage, they were just a stage, and most of the challenges facing the country, including security sector reform, remained ahead, he said. It was necessary to look at the entire process in the framework of the conclusions of the second summit of the Great Lakes Region Conference in Nairobi. It was also important to take into account the regional dimension that the question of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would evoke in the days ahead. He thanked all partners for the great interest they had shown in the development of the country’s electoral process, inviting them to continue their efforts.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) congratulated the country for holding its elections and expressed appreciation to EUFOR for completing its mandate. Although its mandate had expired, he hoped the European Union would continue to support the democratic process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and help the new Government in carrying out security sector reform. At present, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was in the active process of forming a new Government. The international community should give the country the attention it needed. China supported the need for MONUC to continue to play an important role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to maintain the very fragile peace there, and it would continue to assist the country.
EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) said he had heard today a very good example of cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations, and he welcomed the progress made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, it was crucial to build on that and maintain strong support for the new Congolese authorities in what would be a crucial stage in reconciliation and peace consolidation. That was not unqualified support, however, and the Under-Secretary-General had set out what was expected of the Congolese authorities. The Council looked forward to the Secretary-General’s recommendations as to how the United Nations should carry forward its support of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the next phase, in terms of following up its mandate there, which expired on 15 February. The principal role should be to maintain stability, allow the new institutions to take root and redirect resources to priorities, namely tackling the armed groups in the eastern part of the country, which were undermining the chances for lasting peace.
He said that the operation had demonstration the “real world” contribution of European Union policy to tackle international issues in support of and in partnership with the United Nations. As far as the United Kingdom was concerned, a major objective of European security and defence policy was to project a foreign policy and, as appropriate, a military dimension in support of operations out there that conformed to the Union’s own policy. As it was developing, the Union hoped to be able to deploy forces rapidly and efficiently, as it had done in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in “stark contrast” to what it tended not to do in United Nations peacekeeping. Whereas the European Union member States were less active in United Nations peacekeeping, they hoped to be able to build the capacity to rapidly deploy when necessary, thereby contributing strongly to international efforts when needed. The European Union’s battleground concept took that forward and was aimed at deployment within 15 days. The world needed that, but it had rarely been available.
He asked Mr. Solana to comment on whether any lessons could be learned from the European Union on how the United Nations could work with other organizations, including in the setting up of an African Union-United Nations force in Darfur. He also asked whether the Union could be more active in helping to tackle the many different and difficult situations being confronted in Africa.
Like previous speakers, JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) commended the decisive contribution made by MONUC and the significant security, diplomatic and economic presence of the European Union. There was little doubt about the strategic clout of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the African continent. It was important now to plan the next stage and to support the country’s authorities towards the election of provincial and deputy governors. It was up to the international community, development agencies and other countries to shape the future of international cooperation, in order to help the nascent Government in building peace and continue the transition towards an integrated society, leading to development. He was also pleased at the supporting role played by South Africa, and was optimistic that internal security, the rule of law and respect for human rights would be the focus of constant attention of the new Government. Peru would follow the processes of dialogue and peacemaking.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) said that the Congolese people deserved credit for the progress made in their country, and he paid tribute to them for having achieved what they had so far. He looked forward to the new Government taking shape, and he would take its lead in terms of the way forward. He hoped for continued support of the European Union, because the Congo still had a difficult road to travel. As had been said today, there were still critical elections ahead. South Africa pledged its continued assistance to the Congolese. Mr. Guéhenno had cautioned in his briefing about too early disengagement from the country, which he seconded.
ATOKI ILEKA ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) noted that EUFOR RD Congo had been the European Union’s second military intervention in his country. The 2003 Artemis operation had managed to stabilize the security situation in Bunia and made it possible to implement the Global and All Inclusive Agreement. EUFOR, a military force authorized by the Council under its resolution 1671, had been set up by the Union to support MONUC in assisting in the country’s electoral process.
EUFOR’s record was largely a positive one, he said. The elections had taken place and the Congolese people had expressed themselves in freedom, voting in massive numbers. The transitional period had been completed with the inauguration of President Kabila, the first Congolese President elected by direct universal suffrage. The Prime Minister had also been appointed, the National Assembly was being set up and the existing provincial assemblies were ready to get down to work. The elections for governors and senators would take place by the end of the month. The structure of the third republic was slowly being set up. With the success of that endeavour, the United Nations and the European Union had made possible the establishment of a truly democratic space in his country. Several European States were also helping the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the bilateral level in close collaboration with the Union and the United Nations.
It was necessary to point out, however, that the human, material and financial mobilization by the United Nations and the European Union in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ran the risk of being wiped out as long as there were dictatorial States in the Great Lakes region. For its part, his country would play its role as a central and pivotal State in international strategies aimed at stabilizing the region. With the establishment of new institutions, the Congolese people were counting on the international community’s continued support and the future Congolese Government would begin a discussion with the United Nations on that partnership. The international community was invited to continue to provide assistance, including in such areas as security sector reform, the continuation of disarmament programmes, good governance and development, in order for the people to fully benefit from the peace dividends.
He said he was encouraged by the Union’s renewed commitment in that respect. The international community should also continue to help the country in tackling the challenges facing the country, including the illegal exploitation of natural resources and illicit arms trafficking in the region. He paid tribute to the EUFOR personnel for their professionalism. EUFOR’s military officials had returned home at the scheduled time with the confidence of having completed their mission. The Democratic Republic of the Congo today was beginning a new phase with the establishment of democratically elected institutions. Challenges remained, however, and the international community’s continued support was crucial. The international community had not only the opportunity but also the duty not to commit errors of the past, namely a hasty withdrawal. Building on the momentum achieved, the international community should consider the future of his country -- the spearhead of the African renaissance, where peace, justice and stability would prevail.
Briefly responding to questions and comments, Mr. SOLANA said it was true that the vocation of the European Union was to act in accordance with others. Of course, sometimes it had to act alone. It had acted in concert with the African Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations.
To another question, he said that the battleground force was well prepared for rapid and efficient operations, which could open the way for others to follow. He felt that good lessons could be drawn from the way the European Union force had been structured and organized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and more would be learned in the future, which could serve other parts of Africa, particularly Darfur.
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