Security Council mission Briefing by Security Council mission to Africa (14 to 21 May 2009)
|(The Presidency changes each month to the next member in alphabetical order)|
|Mr. Du Xiaocong
|Sir John Sawers
|Mr. Hoang Chi Trung
Adoption of the agenda
Security Council mission
Briefing by Security Council mission to Africa (14 to 21 May 2009)
The Security Council will now begin its consideration of the item on its agenda. The Council is meeting in accordance with the understanding reached in its prior consultations.
At today’s meeting, the Council will hear briefings by the four ambassadors who led the Security Council mission to Africa: His Excellency Sir John Sawers, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, and His Excellency Mr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Permanent Representative of Uganda, who together headed the mission to Ethiopia in connection with the African Union and to the Great Lakes region in connection with Rwanda; His Excellency Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France, who led the mission to the Great Lakes region in connection with the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Her Excellency Ms. Susan Rice, Permanent Representative of the United States of America, who led the mission to Liberia.
I would like to welcome the return of the members of the Council and the Secretariat who took part in the mission to Africa.
I now give the floor to Mr. Ruhakana Rugunda, in his capacity as joint leader of the mission to Ethiopia in connection with the African Union.
It is a pleasure for me to report on the leg of the Security Council mission to Africa that covered the meetings at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa. It was a pleasure for me to co-lead that segment with my colleague, Ambassador John Sawers, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom.
The visit by members of the Security Council to the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa was within the framework of cooperation between the Security Council and the African Union under Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations. The meeting, which was the third between the two bodies, reviewed the situation in Sudan and Somalia, the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government and the financing of peacekeeping operations in Africa. The meeting was co-chaired by the Permanent Representative of Burundi to the AU, who is also the Chairperson of the AU Peace and Security Council; my colleague, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom; and myself.
On the situation in the Sudan, the meeting noted that the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), as a hybrid mission between the African Union and the United Nations, was a concrete expression of the commitment of the two organizations to work closely together. The members of the Council expressed concern at the humanitarian situation in the Sudan. It was noted that the Sudan was now entering a critical phase, with elections planned for 2010 and a referendum for 2011. As such, the Sudanese parties should be strongly encouraged to overcome any obstacles to the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
On Somalia, the meeting noted that, while there had been some progress on the political front, the security situation remained precarious. The meeting reaffirmed that the Djibouti Agreement represented the basis for the resolution of the conflict in Somalia and stressed the importance of broad-based and representative institutions established through a political process that was ultimately inclusive of all. The meeting commended the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for its contribution to peace and security in Somalia and underscored the need for the strengthening of AMISOM and the effective development of the Transitional Federal Government’s security forces.
Turning to the question of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa, the meeting welcomed the adoption by the Security Council of a presidential statement (S/PRST/2009/11) on 5 May 2009. The statement expresses concern about the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government in a few African countries and welcomes the preventive measures undertaken by the African Union and subregional organizations against unconstitutional changes of government.
On the financing of peacekeeping operations in Africa, the members of the Council underlined the importance the Council attaches support for the development of African capacity in peacekeeping, as demonstrated by the support package being developed for AMISOM. Both bodies look forward to the report to be submitted by the Secretary-General in September 2009 in accordance with the Council’s presidential statement (S/PRST/2009/3) of 18 March 2009, as well as to the AU’s input in that report.
While in Addis Ababa the members of the Council also met with Mr. Ping, Chairperson of the African Union, as well as with Ambassador Lamamra, the Commissioner for Peace and Security. The members of the Council also met with His Excellency Mr. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and discussed the peace and security situation in the region. In addition, the members of the Security Council also met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on the Great Lakes region, with regard to the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Great Lakes region. I believe that my colleague the Permanent Representative of France, who led the leg of the mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will say something about that.
The conclusion that can be drawn from the visit to the AU is that the meetings between the two bodies are useful in strengthening cooperation, in particular in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, including the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law and the constitutional order in Africa. In order to facilitate closer cooperation and the desired partnership, the two bodies should work closely together to agree upon the optimal modalities for the organization of their future consultations, including their next consultative meeting, which is due to be held in New York in 2010 on a date to be agreed upon.
I now give the floor to His Excellency Sir John Sawers in his capacity as joint leader of the mission to the Great Lakes region, in connection with the Council’s visit to Rwanda.
Ambassador Rugunda has given a good account of our discussions with the African Union (AU). As the co-leader of that leg, I should like to add two thoughts.
First of all, the substance of our discussions with the African Union, in particular on the situations in the Sudan and Somalia, demonstrated the depth of the relationship between the United Nations and the African Union and the ways in which it is becoming more substantive. We are seeing the United Nations and the AU working together to tackle the crises in Darfur, where we have the first joint United Nations-AU hybrid peacekeeping operation — which has its problems, of which we are aware, but which shows the United Nations and the AU working together — and in Somalia, where the United Nations is funding logistical support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Those issues are some of the most pressing on the Council’s agenda. As Ambassador Rugunda has said, it is important that we reflect on the nature of our consultative exchanges with the African Union Peace and Security Council, in order that we get the most out of them, that the African Union partners get the most out of them and that we can make the best and most effective use of our joint operations and policies and our work together.
We travelled to Rwanda following our meetings in Ethiopia. Along with our visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about which Ambassador Ripert will report, I think that was the tenth visit of the Security Council to the Great Lakes. That reflects the level of attention that the Council gives to resolving the ongoing problems in that region. It was, as ever, invaluable to see at first hand the situations we are dealing with.
There have of course been substantial changes since the Council was in the region in June 2008. There was relative calm at that time, a year ago. But that gave way, in the early autumn, to a crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which continued until the end of the year. It was the decision in early 2009 by the Governments of both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to work together to address the shared problem of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and the presence of other armed groups in the region that helped to reshape the political landscape. Our visit afforded us an opportunity to encourage both Governments to continue to reinforce their cooperation, as well as to see the effects of that improved regional dynamic on the ground.
We were all moved by our visit to the Kigali Genocide Museum, which gave us some sense of the continued resonance of the horrific events of 1994 on events today. We also made a brief but encouraging visit to the Mutobo rehabilitation camp, where we met several hundred former FDLR combatants, many of whom had returned to Rwanda as a result of the joint operations between the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The ex-combatants gave the impression of being relieved to be back home in Rwanda. Their stories of the misinformation circulating in the Congolese bush and their pleasant surprise at how positive their treatment was underlined the need for renewed focus on our efforts aimed at the demobilization and disarmament of rebel groups.
The highlight of our time in Rwanda was the frank and wide-ranging discussion with President Kagame. The Council set out its strong support for the rapprochement between his Government and that of President Kabila. We also encouraged President Kagame to further deepen the relationship, as we also did later with President Kabila.
President Kagame was encouraged by the progress made in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in the past six months, and he hoped that the political, military and economic cooperation with the Democratic Republic of the Congo would continue. In President Kagame’s view, the joint operations that they had carried out had had an impact on the root causes of the problems in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. He supported that being maintained by regional actors and the international community, although he was not entirely confident that the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) would be able to play the sort of partnership role with the armed forces of that country that the Rwandan forces had played.
Nonetheless, we came away optimistic that the progress made in the normalization of relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda could be sustained. We now need to ensure that the transformative potential of genuine cooperation can be realized and that it can provide a peace dividend for civilians across the region.
I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France, who led the mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I would first like to thank the Secretariat, the Security Council team, Mr. Alan Doss, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, his deputies and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) in general, as well as President Obasanjo’s team, for organizing the Great Lakes leg of our visit. Given that a detailed account of all our visits and meetings will be included in the report to be distributed by the Council, I shall limit myself to a few observations. In addition to our talks in Rwanda, to which the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom referred earlier, the Council delegation met with Mr. Obasanjo in Addis Ababa. That, too, has already been mentioned.
In Goma, we heard briefings on the reorganization of their forces by the leaders of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), officers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), leaders of the Congolese National Police, and representatives of non-governmental organizations. We also met the Governor of North Kivu and visited the HEAL Africa Hospital, which specializes in treating victims of sexual violence, before moving on to the MONUC camp in Kiwanja.
In Kinshasa, the Council delegation was received by President Kabila, the Congolese Prime Minister, accompanied by the top leaders of his Government, and the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly. We also met with members of Congolese civil society. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and all the representatives of the United Nations agencies briefed us on their strategic working plan for MONUC’s activities over the next few years and on the main activities of the United Nations system as a whole.
From all these talks, the members of the delegation learned the following fundamental lessons concerning the situation on the ground.
First, the situation in the Great Lakes region has improved considerably, particularly thanks to the rapprochement between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as has already been noted. Presidents Kabila and Kagame both clearly expressed their intentions to continue along that path. Among other things, the Economic Community of the Great Lake Countries should be reactivated in order to allow the launch of regional economic projects. The Security Council encouraged that intention. President Obasanjo will pursue his good offices mission between the regional capitals. Moreover, the Security Council mission had the opportunity to express its unanimous support for the initiatives he has already taken and his outstanding work to promote convergence among the various parties.
Secondly, and more sadly, sexual violence remains far too widespread. We were able to see the pain it engenders during our visits to the female victims at the HEAL Africa Hospital. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has already taken some measures, including the adoption of a law on sexual violence, the establishment of an agency to combat all forms of violence, and the creation of funds to help women and promote child protection. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has already launched its fight against impunity, inter alia by involving the International Criminal Court, and we reaffirmed that it must remain a priority.
Armed groups and the FARDC must also cease all their abuses against the population, in particular sexual violence against women. Those who are guilty of violence or recruit children must be arrested. We conveyed that message very clearly to all the authorities we met, at every level. In particular, high-ranking FARDC officers, be they long-time members or newly integrated from rebel groups, must be arrested, tried and imprisoned if they are perpetrators. A new law on the police, which has been under consideration for two years, must finally be adopted.
Having discussed the matter among ourselves, on behalf of the Security Council I gave the highest authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo an initial list of the names of five leaders of the FARDC who have been convicted of sexual violence against a number of women currently being treated at the HEAL Africa Hospital. We asked the President and the Prime Minister, with MONUC’s support, to arrest those five officers and bring them to trial publicly so as to begin restoring the confidence of the civil population.
Another element is security sector reform, which is of great importance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as it is in many post-conflict countries. In order to attain peace, various armed groups have been progressively integrated into the FARDC, but they are very difficult to control. The soldiers are poorly paid, when they are paid at all, poorly housed, poorly fed, poorly equipped and poorly trained. And yet, all the officers we met and MONUC assured us that when Congolese soldiers are treated properly and led effectively, they are very good fighters and fully accomplish their missions while respecting fundamental ethical criteria. We must therefore ensure that they are paid on a regular basis.
There must also be a mechanism preventing those responsible for serious rights violations from remaining in the armed forces, pursuant to the provisions of the relevant resolution. The international community must coordinate its assistance to the Congolese authorities in carrying out a broad training operation in the army and in reforming the police and the justice system in depth. The Council also insisted that Congolese democracy be further entrenched, notably through the organization of local elections. We understood that certain difficulties remain, in particular concerning the law on apportionment of constituencies, but that the elections should be held before next year.
MONUC remains indispensable on the ground. President Kabila and the members of his Government insisted that the reinforcements authorized under resolution 1843 (2008) be dispatched rapidly in order to support the FARDC in operations Kimia II and Rudia II against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, respectively. Based on what we were told by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the 3,000 additional troops authorized should be deployed in June and July. Their contributors have already been identified as Egypt and Jordan.
MONUC has taken serious steps to implement resolution 1856 (2008). Our visit in particular to Kiwanja, where massacres have taken place, allowed us to take note of the measures adopted to better protect civilians. We met a joint protection team, and the officer in charge of the local MONUC unit briefed us on new rapid-reaction mechanisms involving the local population, thereby ensuring that MONUC and FARDC forces can intervene in less than 10 minutes once the alarum has been raised. Of course, that, for now, is limited to a very small area.
MONUC’s mission is certainly very sensitive. Protecting civilians and supporting the FARDC in its fight against armed groups — which unfortunately continue to target civilians — can sometimes be counteractive. A strategic plan of action has been prepared by MONUC, identifying prospects and the conditions for a drawdown of MONUC in the medium term. President Kabila explicitly asked for it. Once the local elections are over, if the situation continues to stabilize, we can start to consider a drawdown of MONUC.
In conclusion, we noted in general that, over the past few months, the situation has been moving in the right direction. The Security Council will have to remain fully mobilized to support those developments. MONUC’s implementation of its strategic plan of action and the development of operation Kimia II require our attention.
I now give the floor to Ms. Susan Rice, in her capacity as leader for the mission to Liberia.
It was indeed an honour to lead the leg of the trip that went to Liberia. I want to begin by expressing publicly our gratitude to and admiration of Ellen Løj, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, who, despite the most adverse circumstances — including our whole programme having to be scrapped at the last minute due to thunderstorms — had in her pocket a very well crafted plan B that enabled the Council mission nonetheless to have a successful visit to Liberia.
The purpose of our visit was to help reaffirm the Council’s support for the Government and people of Liberia and for the efforts of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to promote peace and security. We also sought to assess the capacity of Liberia’s national security sector and to learn more about efforts to combat gender-based violence.
We met with the United Nations country team on the night of our arrival and the International Contact Group on Liberia, a group of ambassadors and representatives of international organizations who are empowered to support the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Liberia. The group warned that peace and security in Liberia remain extremely fragile, largely because of the country’s weak national security institutions, and that the justice and corrections systems are inadequate, all of which we had the opportunity to witness for ourselves on the following day.
On that next day, 20 May, we met with, in the first instance, an inspiring group of women: the Indian formed police unit, which is an all-female force that consists of women who are simultaneously samurai — who can use their bare hands to break bricks that are burning — and beautiful dancers and artists. That was quite impressive. This all-female police unit protects key installations in Monrovia, conducts joint patrols and mentors the unarmed Liberian National Police. The high visibility of this Indian formed police unit, we have learned, has helped motivate more Liberian women to apply for law enforcement jobs. In sum, we applauded that unique unit, and we hope that others will be inspired by it, as we were.
We then visited the Monrovia Central Prison and I think it is fair to say that we were shocked and concerned by the state of the older male wards there, which are remarkably congested, with limited sanitary facilities, far too many inmates crammed into too few spaces and not enough corrections officials. Several of the prisoners told us about the extraordinary length of their pre-trial detainment. And, according to Liberia’s Minister of Justice, the prison does not always hold its captives. Indeed, a few days before we arrived, there was yet another jail break from that facility, involving more than 100 prisoners.
We then visited a training centre for former combatants, part of a United Nations-supported reintegration programme. About 375 predominantly female former combatants have benefited from this programme, which includes vocational training, adult literacy classes, business values training, computer literacy and health and HIV education.
The Security Council mission also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the international business community in Liberia. Those individuals noted that a strong, stabilizing United Nations presence had helped sway their decision to invest in Liberia. We cautioned them not to grow too dependant on UNMIL, since eventually, obviously, it will have to be withdrawn. But it was interesting to witness representatives of the business community engaged in renewable energy technologies as well as in traditional sectors such as rubber and mining.
We met with UNMIL, of course, and its senior military and police commanders gave us a sober assessment of the security situation in Liberia. They characterized the overall situation as calm but unpredictable. They noted that demonstrations often turned violent. Crime, gangster activities, armed robberies and sexual violence remain widespread, and rape, as we heard repeatedly, is a particularly urgent challenge, with most reported victims under the age of 14 and some victims under the age of 2. UNMIL noted several potentially destabilizing events on the horizon — including the anticipated release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in June, the trial against former President Charles Taylor and Liberia’s presidential and legislative elections in 2011 — that could stoke tensions and potentially be exploited by spoilers. They also informed us that more than 14,000 former Liberian soldiers and police personnel had not found alternative livelihoods since the end of the war.
At the Police Training Academy, we witnessed police recruits from the Emergency Response Unit engage in hostage rescue and law enforcement exercises. This Emergency Response Unit is meant to be a mobile armed force — an elite force within the police — to respond to large-scale internal security incidents. But of the 500 officers planned for this contingent only about 200 had been trained and vetted. The United Nations commanders also noted that the Armed Forces of Liberia, which comprise 2,000 vetted personnel trained by the United States, are progressing but are not expected to be fully operational until 2012.
Finally, towards the end of the day we met with Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or at least three representatives of the Commission, who explained that they had identified up to 100,000 alleged perpetrators of crimes during the conflict. They had taken some 20,000 statements from witnesses and were planning a national conference on reconciliation. They warned of the potential for violence once their report is released, but affirmed that despite the risk of violence they would publicize their findings and recommendations unvarnished. They also argued against the easing of Security Council sanctions on named individuals under the Liberian sanctions regime, stressing that those individuals had been given the opportunity, and had been encouraged, to come before the Commission and share their experienced but had refused to do so, and that the maintenance of those sanctions was an important part of the effort to combat impunity.
Of course, the highlight of our visit was our meeting with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and members of her Cabinet. The President noted that the past six years had brought continued progress towards national recovery and a consolidated peace, but that the country’s security situation remained fragile and its challenges major. The President outlined the four elements of Liberia’s poverty reduction strategy: peace and security; economic development; governance and the rule of law; and infrastructure and basic services. Her Ministers discussed the tenuous security situation and their efforts to establish viable national security forces and to establish the rule of law. Finally, the President also outlined the Government’s efforts to reduce sexual violence against women and noted the economic potential of the country in the mineral, agricultural and forestry sectors.
In conclusion, we found that the Security Council, having urged the Government of Liberia to step up its efforts to assume full security responsibilities, had a substantial distance yet to go. UNMIL’s presence remains of critical importance at present, but the Government needs to be supported and encouraged to take accelerated steps to build the security capacity of its police and army so that UNMIL can complete its mandate in a timely fashion.
I thank Ambassador Rice for her briefing, which, among other things, aroused feelings of envy in those of us who were not able to take part in the mission.
On behalf of the Council, I should like to express appreciation to all of the members of the Security Council and the Secretariat who participated in the mission, which was very ably led by Ambassadors Rugunda, Sawers, Ripert and Rice, for the manner in which they discharged their important responsibilities on behalf of the Council.
Although there are no names on my list of speakers, I see that Ambassador Urbina is insisting on his right to take the floor, and I call upon him now.
As indicated in informal Council consultations, I should like to make a brief statement.
The existence of unwritten standards whose interpretation remains at the discretion of the Secretariat does not contribute to orderliness or productivity in the work of the Security Council. No Member of the Organization is unaware of how Costa Rica, as well as Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland — the so-called Small Five group — have worked to improve the Security Council and its methods of work. The circumstances that compel me to take the floor at this meeting relate to working methods, transparency in the decisions that affect the practical work of the Council and, in particular, the legal equality of the rights and obligations of Council members.
With regard to the recent Council mission to four African countries, I wish to comment briefly on two circumstances that, in our opinion, should be changed. The first relates to the right that every delegation should have to obtain the expertise it deems necessary to better carry out its work in the Council, and the second to the process of negotiating the terms of reference of the mission. In both cases, I am sorry to say, there are double standards vis-à-vis the members of the Council: the permanent members on the one hand and the elected members on the other.
I shall briefly describe the circumstances that lead to that conclusion. With all due prior notice, my delegation indicated to the Secretariat its interest in taking an expert on the mission, fully paying all expenses. Initially, the Secretariat replied that it could not agree to that request because the presence of our expert would diminish the space allocated to members of the press. We considered that argument unacceptable. The basic purpose of the Council missions is to contribute to the work of the Council, and it is the delegation that ensure the quality of the Council’s work, not the press.
In a second instance, the same staff member also rejected the inclusion of our expert and those of at least two other delegations that wanted to take experts, invoking an unwritten rule according to which only the heads of delegation for each of the visited countries would have the right to bring in experts and would, of course, have to cover the costs involved.
Given the rationale provided for the second response, my delegation and the other two interested delegations agreed not to take our experts. Nevertheless, to our surprise, during the mission to Africa, we were able to note the presence of security officers for a specific delegation. In order to avoid a misunderstanding and unnecessary discussion, I would like to say that my delegation understands the need for some delegations to take security staff on Council missions. Not only do we understand that necessity, but we support the inclusion of such security personnel in the travelling group. We also understand the need for members of the media to accompany us. What we do not understand is the exclusion of experts of missions that work in the Council. What we find unacceptable is the denial of room for experts while there seem to be no apparent restrictions on security staff and journalists, or worse yet, that they participate at the discretion of the Secretariat. Again, the quality and the work of the Council are ensured by the delegations, not by security personnel or members of the press. All discrimination in that respect should cease.
The second issue on which I would like to comment has to do with the double standards, again, applied by the Secretariat to the members of the Council. As the Council knows, my delegation led the mission to Haiti this year. The preparation for that mission required intensive work by my delegation, with unwavering support from the Secretariat, for which we are grateful. They resulted in a transparent process of early negotiation of the terms of reference, which were agreed upon by all the delegations through broad participation and with adequate time for discussion. In our view, all missions of the Council should be prepared in this fashion.
But that was not the case for Africa. For that mission, some of the terms of reference were adopted very shortly before the departure date and, although most of the suggestions were ultimately accepted, the process did not benefit from the transparency or the necessary time for reflection enjoyed by the earlier mission.
The two situations to which I have referred arose because both were ruled by unwritten regulations that can be interpreted arbitrarily, to say the least. That should end. The Council should adopt clear standards guiding everything related to Council missions. In order to help the work of the Council and the establishment of objective rules that will enable all of us to grasp the situation, my delegation will address a letter to the President of the Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions so that the Working Group can prepare a set of standards to be circulated to the members.
As President of the Council, I am obliged to note the following. First of all, Ambassador Urbina felt it necessary to interpret in his own way the results of the discussion of this issue that took place very briefly during the Council’s consultations. At that time, Ambassador Urbina agreed to my conclusion that this issue needed to be discussed further in preparing for forthcoming missions of the Security Council.
Secondly, as President of the Council, I am compelled to point out that the preparations for this meeting did not involve an understanding that we would discuss procedural issues for preparing Security Council missions in a formal meeting of the Security Council.
Thirdly, as President of the Security Council and as the Permanent Representative of a permanent member of the Council, I am compelled to express regret that, in his remarks, Ambassador Urbina sought to introduce some sort of artificial dividing line between permanent members of the Security Council and the elected members of the Security Council, and between Member States and the Secretariat, with which we cooperate very closely in preparing for missions of the Security Council.