With Congolese parties signing a ceasefire agreement today for the northeastern region of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council to consider quickly deploying a multinational emergency force to help stabilize the volatile situation in the town of Bunia.
In a letter this morning to the President of the Council, the Secretary-General said he considered it likely that the situation could worsen. He asked that members of the 15-nation body urgently consider his proposal for the rapid deployment of a highly trained and well-equipped multinational force to provide security at the local airport as well as to other vial installations and to protect the civilian population.
The Council's President for the month of May, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, confirmed in a statement to the press that some UN Member States have been approached by the Secretary-General to participate in this force. A UN spokesman, meanwhile, said the search for troop contributors to the multinational force "continues to go well," with generous responses from several Member States offering both troops and logistical and financial support.
In his letter, Mr. Annan expressed his "deep concern" about the rapidly deteriorating situation in and around Bunia, which has become the stage for major violent clashed between rival Lendu and Hema militia groups, which has been exacerbated by outside interferences.
"This force would be deployed for a limited period until a considerably reinforced United Nations presence could be deployed," Mr. Annan writes, adding that it would be authorized under the Chapter VII enforcement provision of the UN Charter.
Because the situation in Bunia threatens to undermine the peace process in the DRC, and thereby threaten international peace and security in the region, Mr. Annan said, "the international community must act decisively."
The Council met Friday in closed session to discuss the situation in the DRC. During its meeting, Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations Jean Marie Guéhenno reported that the situation in Bunia continued to be volatile, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said. Attempts by the UN to broker a local ceasefire have so far been unsuccessful, although there was no fighting in the town today.
Meanwhile in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the DRC, Amos Namanga Ngongi witnessed the signing of an agreement to cease hostilities in Bunia and re-launch the Ituri peace process.
The signatories included President Joseph Kabila, representatives of the democratically elected Ituri Pacification Commission - which rival militia and tribal groups agreed to set up late last month to manage the region until a new post-war national government takes over - and leaders of the various armed groups who have been fighting for control of the region's administrative capital, Bunia.
By the agreement, the parties also recommitted themselves to the political process, agreed to canton their troops within their respective headquarters and supported the immediate deployment of a multinational force.
In his press statement, Ambassador Akram also said that Council members demanded that all states in the region express their commitment to extend support for the possible deployment of this force.