As the Security Council met today on ways of moving the peace process forward in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the 15-member body that the armed clashes in the eastern part of the country must end if the conflict-ridden nation - and the region as a whole - was to have a chance at reconciliation.
"First and foremost, the fighting in the east of the country must stop," he said in his address at the meeting, attended by the Political Committee of the Lusaka Agreement, which was signed in July 1999 by six countries and three rebel movements in the Great Lakes region in an attempt to bring an end to the civil war. "No one should give any further support to the armed groups that continue to fight in the east, and no one should take any further aggressive action against them."
At the same time, Mr. Annan said, everything possible must be done to create conditions that will encourage former combatants to return voluntarily to their homes, and enable them to be safely settled. The DRC and Rwanda must reach an understanding on the process of disarming the combatants, and the creation of a coordination mechanism to facilitate their transition to reintegration into civil society.
Noting that Kisangani must be demilitarized in accordance with Security Council resolution 1304, the Secretary-General said that he intended to strengthen the military presence of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) to facilitate the demilitarization of that city. He also voiced concern over the decision of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD) and the Movement de Libération du Congo (MLC) to establish a special joint force based in Kindu, stressing that the city must in no case be used for the launching of military operations.
The Secretary-General said he was encouraged by the pullout of Namibian troops and strongly urged the Angolan, Zimbabwean and Rwandan Governments to do the same. Describing the reopening of the Congo River and its tributaries as the most important single step to unite the country and stimulate its economic and social life, the Mr. Annan called on all parties to help MONUC do its part in achieving that objective, notably dismantling checkpoints and removing barriers to free movement.
On the issue of reconciling opposing Congolese factions, the Secretary-General urged members of the Political Committee, especially the Congolese parties, to support the neutral facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue, and welcomed South Africa's willingness to host the dialogue when it resumed.