Solution to conflict in DR of Congo 'in sight,' Security Council mission says

Solution to conflict in DR of Congo 'in sight,' Security Council mission says

A Security Council delegation visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) said today that a solution to the conflict in the Great Lakes region "seems to be in sight" and stressed the urgency of taking advantage of the current window of opportunity.

The statement by the 12-member mission was issued in Kinshasa following meetings over the past few days with high-level DRC representatives, including President Joseph Kabila.

"The ceasefire is holding and the parties to the conflict, with one exception, have disengaged their forces in accordance with the agreement they have signed," the statement said, referring to the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement of 1999.

"The parties to the conflict are working with the MONUC [UN Mission in the DRC] to prepare detailed plans and precise timetables for the total withdrawal of all foreign forces, and for the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, resettlement and repatriation of the armed groups," the Council delegation said. It added that in meetings today and tomorrow with the Political Committee of the Lusaka accord signatories it would determine whether the conditions had been met for MONUC to enter into phase III, which includes disarmament and demobilization.

On the political front, the Council mission reported that the inter-Congolese dialogue had "moved forward" with the adoption on 4 May of a declaration on fundamental principles for the DRC's internal political negotiations. It also welcomed the measures to liberalize the political environment announced by President Joseph Kabila. Calling on the parties to fully implement their commitments, the Council mission noted that several important steps remained, including the demilitarization of Kisangani and the collocation of the Joint Military Commission established by the Lusaka Agreement with MONUC.

Stressing the urgent need for economic assistance, the Council delegation said that the "unacceptable" looting of the country's natural resources must stop immediately. "Those resources belong to the Congolese people," the statement said, urging all countries involved to cooperate with the panel mandated by Security Council to investigate the illegal exploitation of natural resources. "The Security Council intends, if no progress is made within three months, to consider the measures necessary to put an end to this illegal exploitation."

The Council mission also called for full respect for human rights by all parties and said it intended to recommend that human rights observers be stationed with each MONUC contingent. "Whatever the outcome, war criminals must be held accountable," the statement said. "There will be no impunity."

During a press conference before departing Kinshasa, Ambassador Jean-David Levitte of France, who is leading this mission, announced that funding would be available for 40 small development projects where MONUC has a presence.