8584rd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Democratic Republic of Congo

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24-Jul-2019 02:02:55
With new president pledging reform, Democratic Republic of Congo making fains amid fresh violence in east, mission chief tells Security Council at 8584th meeting.

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More than six months after its presidential elections, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is making satisfactory progress along the road to peace and stability, but many concerns remain, particularly in the east where armed groups remain active amid a renewed outbreak of Ebola, the Security Council heard today.

Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), speaking via video-teleconference from Kinshasa, pointed to President Félix Tshisekedi’s reform agenda and improved relations with neighbouring countries as positive developments since his election on 30 December 2018. Talks are meanwhile continuing on the formation of a Government after the appointment of a Prime Minister on 20 May.

However, she expressed concern about the situation in Ituri province, saying spoilers there are attempting to play on ethnic tensions to stir intercommunity violence. Attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces are exacting an intolerable toll on civilians, while in North Kivu, armed groups are responsible for sexual violence and other atrocities. On the Ebola epidemic that has claimed more than 1,700 lives, she said isolated cases in Goma and across the border in Uganda have heightened concerns about its spread, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare an international public health emergency.

Reviewing the Mission’s efforts, she said its military and police components are supporting Congolese security forces in responding to armed groups. The various United Nations agencies in-country are meanwhile coordinating their response to the humanitarian crises. A great deal of work remains in charting MONUSCO’s drawdown and exit, she explained, noting that an independent strategic review — requested by the Council through resolution 2463 (2019) and due by 20 October — will clearly outline the challenges that remain.

Briefing the Council in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council committee overseeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo sanctions regime, Kuwait’s representative detailed work over the past 12 months, as well as his visit to the country earlier this year. He noted that several interlocutors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo believe the sanctions list should be updated to identify current spoilers of the political transition and those committing grave human rights violations. He also reported a difference between the rhetoric of the former authorities and the incoming President’s public statements on MONUSCO’s work.

During the ensuing debate, Council members praised the new President’s efforts, including those to improve relations with neighbouring States in the Great Lakes region, while also expressing concern about the security and humanitarian situations, including the Ebola outbreak. Many strongly condemned attacks by armed groups on Ebola response teams.

The representative of South Africa reiterated the need to support MONUSCO’s efforts to stabilize the country’s east and to establish a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process for former combatants. Despite instability in the east, a positive trend has been observed, he said, with President Tshisekedi redefining his strategic approach to conflict resolution and peacebuilding at home and in the region.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative welcomed socio-political progress and encouraged authorities to form a new Government and enact reforms. He called on international partners to support the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. The Ebola crisis requires diligent and appropriate measures, and he encouraged humanitarian organizations, donors and other partners to step up assistance.

Similarly, Equatorial Guinea’s delegate acknowledged the President’s efforts to build peace, the rule of law, democracy, and social and economic development, while also responding to armed groups. She expressed concern, however, at the destabilizing activities of armed groups and intercommunity violence. She also called on the international community to prioritize the fight against Ebola by providing sufficient funding for the humanitarian response.

Belgium’s delegate said MONUSCO and the new sanctions regime must continue to contribute to the protection of civilians, and restoration of the rule of law and State authority. With the independent strategic review under way, Belgium expects to see benchmarks to measure the ability of Congolese to carry out tasks now being undertaken by the Mission.

The representative of Indonesia — which has more than 1,000 troops deployed to MONUSCO — called for sustainable humanitarian assistance. Welcoming WHO’s declaration of the international emergency, he said the agency and the Government must have the economic support required to prevent further Ebola outbreaks. It is deeply troubling that the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources remains a funding source for armed groups.

His counterpart from the United States emphasized that the flow of arms and the illicit trade in gold and other precious metals helps to perpetuate the violence. “We remain concerned that the Congolese generals under United States sanctions continue to participate in illicit gold trafficking,” she said, adding that the United States is the largest financial contributor to efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak.

Rounding out the discussion, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the President is focused on fulfilling promises made during the election campaign. The presence of foreign and national armed groups remains a grave concern, and the Government hopes the Group of Experts will shed light on the provenance of large numbers of sophisticated weapons acquired by armed groups despite 10 years of sanctions. Hailing the new dynamic in the Great Lakes region, he said that positive trend will help to combat trafficking in weapons and natural resources.

Noting that MONUSCO has been in his country for 20 years, he stressed that the independent review’s recommendations must not jeopardize the gains made. Operational efficiency must be strengthened with quality and properly-equipped troops. On the Ebola outbreak, he pointed out that while the country has faced the epidemic 10 times, this is the first time it has occurred in a conflict zone. He reassured the Council of his country’s determination to end it.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Poland, Germany, China, Kuwait (in its national capacity), Russian Federation, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom and Peru.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended 12:06 p.m.

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