Security Council mission both heartened and wary on peace prospects for Central Africa

30 November 2004
Amb. de La Sablière briefs Council

The United Nations Security Council mission to Central Africa has returned home heartened by the progress made in efforts to bring peace to the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi, but fully aware of the considerable difficulties on the road ahead, its leader said today.

"We are encouraged but that must not camouflage, hide our feeling that we are not yet at the end of the game since the difficulties, the drawbacks must not be underestimated," French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière told an open meeting of the Council ahead of the presentation of the mission's report.

On the plus side he cited the "widespread determination" of the parties in both countries to proceed to elections, the "astonishing progress" in Burundi in reconciliation and power sharing, and the mere comparison of the situation today with that prevailing at the time of the Council's last mission in June 2003.

"I call it 'a key moment' since the transition mechanism in both countries is entering its final phase," he said.

But Mr. de La Sablière also noted that there was as yet no agreement in the DRC on the constitution, that much legislative work remains to be done in both countries and that it was vital that the elections scheduled for next year not be compromised by a new flare-up of violence.

That was why the Council set up the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) in May and greatly reinforced the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), he stressed.

He noted that the situation in eastern DRC was particularly "sensitive" with the presence there of Rwandan rebels, who were also supporting the rebel Front National de Libération (FNL) in Burundi. In June rebels briefly seized the eastern DRC town of Bukavu in a fresh outbreak of ethnic fighting, leading to a flood of refugees into Burundi.

During its stay in the region the mission met with the leaders of DRC, Burundi, Rwanda - scene of the Hutu extremist genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus which claimed some 800,000 lives a decade ago and inflamed tensions in both the DRC and Burundi - and Uganda, which hosted many of the refugees from the crisis.

Both Rwanda and Uganda later had troops embroiled in the fighting in eastern DRC and Mr. de La Sablière stressed that the world body had just a week ago called on Rwanda to respect international law and state sovereignty following its threat to strike against rebels based in the DRC.


Video of Council meeting [19mins]


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