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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents, 2

Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 970915
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains excerpts on the Democratic Republic of Congo from a Sept. 11 press conference by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, concerning the mission to investigate human rights abuses in eastern Congo, and two statements by UN agencies on the withdrawal of the UNCHR from operations in eastern Congo.
UN Press Releases are available on the Web at


Press Release SG/SM/6321
11 September 1997




QUESTION: Regarding the so-called democratic Congo, why have you been so soft with [President Laurent] Kabila, giving in to all his demands? What is the rationale behind this policy? And also, what do you realistically expect from the mission?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: First of all, I think it is wrong to say that one has been soft with Kabila. To come up with an approach and a persistent effort to put a team down and to ensure that we get to the truth and find out what happened, and take whatever steps are necessary, and by doing that also send out a message that impunity cannot be allowed to go unpunished, and that we cannot accept a world in which men can be so inhuman to each other and not be sanctioned. If we had accepted the original rejection -- that [Roberto] Garretón could not go in -- we would not have a team in today.

We have a team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is not smooth sailing. President Kabila indicated he was prepared to accept them. The team is there. We are going to test the seriousness of the Government, and we are determined to get to the facts. If it gets to a situation where it is impossible for us to do our work, then, of course, we have to draw the right conclusions.

Yes, we have had very mixed signals from different ministers in the Republic. Each one says something different. But in the end President Kabila himself finally wrote to me, cutting through the confusion, and said "We will let you go ahead with your work." The team is there and will be starting its work soon. If the difficulties persist, and they are not allowed to do their work, then the facts will be there for the whole world to judge.

QUESTION: How long are you willing to wait?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think this idea of time -- it's not just a question of time, you have to link this to progress, to achievement, to facts and actions on the ground. I'm one of those who has always been uncomfortable with the tendency to set arbitrary deadlines. I did, in fact, in my correspondence indicate a deadline, and, of course, you noticed that in his response to me he was upset that I had given him an ultimatum. On the other hand, I could not let the team sit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a long time without being able to get their work done.

So, yes, I did indicate that if we did not get a signal from him personally that they could move on with their work, I would have no option but to instruct them to leave and let the Council and the world decide what should be done. And that was when I got his letter indicating we can proceed.

But I am not prepared to give you a timetable as to when I will withdraw them. It will depend very much on what happens on the ground.


QUESTION: I take it that there is a lot of wishful thinking after Kabila's military victory that a sort of friendly government in the region would help to bring stability to all of its neighbours. It has been a couple of months now. The Angola peace process is in trouble. Congo-Brazzaville is at war. Rwanda is increasingly destabilizing Burundi and the Congo. Could you give us your assessment of what you think the prospects for stability in that region are and then, more specifically, if you can give me an assessment of your view of the human rights record of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), both in eastern Congo and at home?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me first say that we are dealing with new regimes which, to some extent, are fragile and not very well established. We must also remember, psychologically, that President Kabila himself and some of the people who are with him were involved in Congolese politics in the early 1960s. Some were with [Patrice] Lumumba when he was killed. For some of them, they believe that the international community deprived them of a chance to rule Congo and they are very mistrustful that if they are not careful it can be done a second time.

And so we need to understand this mistrust and have a certain patience with a regime that is trying to take over in a country that has more or less collapsed, with no infrastructure and very serious and difficult problems. I also hope, in time, they will come to understand that the international community understands their needs and the problem and would want to help the Congolese people, who have real needs, and work with us in a spirit of trust and understanding that the international community can help and would want to help. That is by way of background.

And I think that, in my own discussions with them, they do realize that they need the international community, and that, for them to get the cooperation of the international community, certain things have to happen. But I cannot help but agree with you that the record and the pattern in the region is disturbing. And, in fact, if the international community is going to make a difference, we need to come up with a strategy that will lead to regional stability. We cannot approach it on a country-by-country basis. And it was for that reason that there has been talk for a considerable period about organizing an international conference on the Great Lakes region. We need to work on the regional basis and also help the individual countries with their reconstruction, political reconciliation and, hopefully, set them on the road to democracy and prosperity, because there are resources and the region is quite rich.

My concern is, if we do not manage to bring that large region under control, many other countries in the region will be unsettled. And today, when we talk of the Great Lakes region -- originally we were talking of Rwanda, Burundi, to some extent eastern Congo -- we are looking at Rwanda, Burundi, problems in Congo-Brazzaville and tensions in the Central African Republic. And, of course, you did touch on Angola, which also shares a common border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And this is why we need to take a broader view of what the international community needs to do. But, for us to be able to assist the people, we need to convince the governments to put aside this mistrust for the international community and really work with us, because they cannot do it alone. They need help and they need help badly.

QUESTION: On the RPA, your concerns, your assessment of your human rights role both in eastern Congo and ...

SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think the reports from the human rights monitors and the human rights groups indicate that there have been major abuses on both sides, yes.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees

UNHCR Suspends Congo-Kinshasa Operations

September 10, 1997

Geneva - High Commissioner Sadako Ogata announced on Tuesday UNHCR is suspending its operations for Rwandan refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that the most basic conditions for protecting them have now ceased to exist.

Speaking to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council in New York, Mrs. Ogata also said she is despatching a senior-level delegation to Rwanda to assess conditions of returns and the situation of imprisoned returnees. She said grave security constraints on the monitoring of returnees have reached a point that UNHCR can no longer ensure the most basic form of protection.

"We cannot protect refugees if the host governments do not abide by the principles and standards of laws, which means that refugees have to be protected, and that those who do not volunteer to go back have to be examined," she said.

Bill Richardson, Security Council president and U.S. ambassador, said the council supports in "the strongest terms" Mrs. Ogata's move. Mrs. Ogata made the announcement after agreeing with the UN Secretary-General to review UNHCR's operations in the former Zaire. It followed the expulsion of more than 700 Rwandan and Burundi refugees in a predawn military operation at UNHCR's transit centre in Kisangani in central DRC on 4 September.

"There are no more refugees in the centre," she said. "This kind of situation obliged us to suspend the operation." Suspension will be gradual in other areas. It will immediately affect search and rescue operations for Rwandans and screening. Assistance to Congolese, Angolan, Burundi and Ugandan refugees will continue in the DRC. Repatriation of Congolese from Tanzania also continues.

The High Commissioner said resumption of UNHCR's activities in the former Zaire will depend on the DRC government's willingness to provide UNHCR with concrete guarantees it will treat Rwandans according to humanitarian standards and allow due process in the examination of refugee claims. She said staff security must be ensured.

There are about 40,000 Rwandans and a handful of Burundi refugees whose locations are known to UNHCR in 10 countries in central Africa. Since the massive repatriations from ex-Zaire to Rwanda in November, UNHCR has helped 250,000 Rwandans to return to their country. This number includes more than 61,000 airlifted to Rwanda.

Aside from its help to returning Rwandans, UNHCR also is involved in the rehabilitation of water systems, schools, roads and bridges in areas that used to host refugees in the former Zaire.

12 September 1997

Press Release AFR/15 IHA/634


NEW YORK, 12 September (DHA) -- Following is a statement on the situation in the Great Lakes region issued today by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee chaired by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator. The Committee comprises United Nations agency heads of the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as well as representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, InterAction, and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies.

"The Inter-Agency Standing Committee is gravely concerned over the erosion of respect for humanitarian principles and human rights which increasingly affects humanitarian operations in the Great Lakes region of central Africa. In this connection, the Committee endorses the decision taken by the High Commissioner for Refugees to suspend her Office's protection and assistance activities for Rwandese refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Committee agrees that those activities should be resumed only after guarantees have been received from the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that humanitarian principles will be respected and the security of staff ensured.

"The Committee calls upon all parties in the region to ensure access to affected populations, the security of humanitarian workers and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. The UNHCR, other concerned humanitarian agencies and human rights observers must be permitted full access to refugees who have returned to their countries of origin to ensure that their rights and safety are respected. In addition, the Committee urges all parties to support the current investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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