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DR of Congo: amid positive signs, concerns remain, Security Council told

DR of Congo: amid positive signs, concerns remain, Security Council told

The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is "favourable in many ways" yet serious human rights violations continue to occur, the United Nations Security Council was told today.

Hedi Annabi, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in a briefing to the Council that the ceasefire had been holding since January, and that Namibia had been withdrawing its troops according to schedule. Rwanda, he said, had also pulled out a significant number of soldiers.

On the political front, the preparatory meeting for the 15 October inter-Congolese Dialogue in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was held in a "constructive environment" from 20 to 24 August in Gaborone, Botswana, Mr. Annabi said. Representatives from all parts of the DRC took part in the preparatory meeting, agreeing on issues related to the liberalization of political life, freedom of movement, the reestablishment of communications, the protection of persons and natural resources, and the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Still, there were areas of concern, the Assistant Secretary-General said. In territory controlled by the RCD (Congolese Rally for Democracy) in North Kivu, the climate of insecurity had worsened amid movements by armed groups towards Rwanda, and arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial executions by the authorities continued. In South Kivu, daily clashes occurred this month between forces from the RCD and armed groups, resulting in killings, lootings and displacement. In territory held by the MLC (Congolese Liberation Movement), the human rights situation was also deteriorating, he said.

Mr. Annabi also flagged the problem of a lack of access for relief organizations. "In general, humanitarian agencies have access to less than half of the two million internally displaced people because of security conditions," he said. On the positive side, MONUC's "peace boat" escorted the first aid convoy from Kinshasa to Equateur province on 31 July, carrying 650 tonnes of medical, educational and other supplies.

Overall, the tasks remaining before the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) were "complex and difficult," Mr. Annabi said, noting that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had outlined those tasks in his 8 June report and the parties in the DRC had gone a long way in helping to implement them. They had agreed to demobilize, for example. However, they had not yet provided all the information needed for demobilization to take place.

During the discussion that followed, Council members expressed widespread support for the successful outcome of the preparatory meeting and the upcoming inter-Congolese dialogue, which many stressed was one the few paths forward for peace in both the DR of Congo and the Great Lakes Region. There were repeated calls for the immediate appointment of a humanitarian coordinator for that country, as well as numerous strong condemnations for the human rights abuses that were still being inflicted on women and children. The need to demilitarize Kisangani was stressed as was the need to implement phase three of the deployment of MONUC.