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Security Council discusses situation in DR of Congo

Security Council discusses situation in DR of Congo

UN Security Council in session
Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) was intended to demonstrate the Security Council's commitment to the operation and to a resolution of the conflict in the Great Lakes region, the Council was told today as it met to discuss Mr. Annan's proposals.

Presenting the Secretary-General's eighth report on MONUC, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, said the proposed extension of the Mission was also designed to facilitate the recruitment of civilian staff of the necessary high quality by ensuring greater continuity.

The function of many of the proposed civilian staff would be to gather as much information as possible on the situation in the DRC, Mr. Guéhenno said. At the same time, through its public information operations, MONUC would explain to the Congolese parties and people what it and the broader international community were doing in the country. The human rights, humanitarian and child protection personnel would also have a great deal to do in terms of helping to improve the quality of life of the Congolese people, he stressed.

The plight of children in the DRC was also highlighted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, who briefed the Council on his recent trip to the DRC. Mr. Otunnu said that the massive use of children as soldiers in the DRC had become "a plague," and proposed a complete stop to all participation in armed forces of young persons under 18; the establishment of a mechanism to monitor the application of the above commitment and the organization of a major public awareness campaign to sensitize the military, civil society and local communities.

The Special Representative also proposed that joint visits by MONUC, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and military authorities be undertaken to military camps and barracks, and that the necessary structures be established for demobilization, rehabilitation, reception and reintegration of child soldiers. These recommendations, he said, had been accepted by all political and military leaders in the country.

For his part, Leonard She Okitundu, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the DRC, said there had been delays to disengagement because of the continuing refusal of one party to the Lusaka process to act in compliance with the Kampala plans and the Harare sub-plan. He noted that if the relevant provisions of Council resolution 1341 (2001) were not heeded, the Council had the duty to respond vigorously.

During the day-long debate, in which representatives of more than 20 States took part, speakers acknowledged the cautious optimism about developments in the country as expressed in the report of the Secretary-General. They noted, however, that the improvements seen were far from irreversible and that all efforts should be made by the parties to fully comply with the Lusaka Agreements.