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Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents, 2
Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 970915
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
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 http://www.un.org/News/Press
Press Release SG/SM/6321
11 September 1997
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN
AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS ON 11 SEPTEMBER
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
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
"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
INTER-AGENCY STANDING COMMITTEE ISSUES STATEMENT ON REFUGEES,
HUMAN RIGHTS, HUMANITARIAN LAW AND PRINCIPLES IN GREAT LAKES REGION
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,
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