In January the DRC experienced a historic event [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 18 March 2019
I would like to begin by joining previous speakers in expressing France’s condolences to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the wake of the horrific crash that occurred in the Kasai region, and to Indonesia following the natural disasters that have once again plunged the country into mourning.
I want to warmly thank Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and Ms. Anny Modi for their very informative interventions. At a time when the Security Council is preparing to renew the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), it is important for us to have a clear assessment of the situation in the country, MONUSCO’s implementation of its mandate and the issues facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the coming months.
In January the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced a historic event, the first peaceful change of a Head of State since the country gained independence. The Security Council, which has followed the electoral process very closely, congratulated the Congolese people on their conduct and sense of civic duty on the day of the election. Since taking office, President Tshilombo Tshisekedi has undertaken a number of important steps aimed at achieving peace and national reconciliation, opening the political space and ensuring respect for the law and for human rights in particular. The release at the end of last week of 700 prisoners imprisoned for political reasons is the latest example of that. France welcomes those initial important decisions and encourages the new authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to continue to fulfil the commitments made by the President.
The next steps in the institutional life of the country must happen very soon and will also be an opportunity to demonstrate the new directions that the country is taking, including with the legislative and provincial elections in the areas where people were unable to vote in December, the formation of the new Government and the organization early next year of the first local elections in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As Ms. Modi emphasized, women’s participation in that process can and must still be improved.
President Tshisekedi has also pledged to work to end the conflicts afflicting the country, particularly in the east, and the intercommunal clashes that have recently affected various regions, with a view to helping the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s various communities coexist peacefully. A number of armed groups have expressed their willingness to lay down their arms, and several hundred combatants have already done so since January. This new development will be hopeful if we work collectively to do what must be done to ensure that those combatants can be disarmed and properly reintegrated into civilian life and their communities.
MONUSCO has an important role to play in all those aspects, and I want to once again commend the exemplary commitment of Ms. Zerrougui and her entire staff and team. The Council has mandated MONUSCO to protect civilians and support the Government in its fight against armed groups. We need the determined involvement of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the countries of the region as part of an approach that combines military pressure, if necessary, and dialogue so as to normalize the situation throughout the country.
There are a number of important challenges that must still be addressed. Several of the country’s regions continue to suffer from predatory activity by both Congolese and foreign armed groups financed by the illegal exploitation of natural resources. France urges both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and all of the countries in the region to act concertedly and resolutely to end such trafficking and cut off the resources that enable such groups to continue their abuses.
Certain kinds of community tensions have sometimes degenerated into extremely serious violence, as was the case in Yumbi in December, where crimes against humanity may have been committed. France calls on the Congolese authorities to do everything to ensure that the perpetrators of those heinous crimes are held accountable for their actions. It will also be crucial to ensure that the new authorities shed light on the human rights violations committed during the election period.Sexual violence against women is still too often used as a weapon of war, as Ms. Modi mentioned. France encourages the Congolese authorities to prosecute the people responsible and to provide the necessary support to the victims.
The Ebola epidemic continues to rage in the country’s eastern regions and must be dealt with. I want to once again commend the exemplary commitment of the Congolese authorities and humanitarian actors, coordinated by the World Health Organization, in combating the epidemic, and the support provided by MONUSCO. On behalf of France, I once again firmly condemn attacks targeting humanitarian personnel who are assisting the sick. They must continue to receive our full support.
All the changes and challenges that I have mentioned will require the United Nations to adapt its engagement in the country and reconfigure its modes of action in order to give the best possible support to the restoration of peace and stability throughout the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That will mean reconfiguring MONUSCO as well. For that reason, in the draft resolution that France will submit early this week to Council members on the renewal of the Mission’s mandate, we propose conducting a strategic review of MONUSCO. In the spirit of the Secretary-General’s initiative on peacekeeping, we believe it is crucial to ensure that the Council can rely on a thorough assessment of the situation and the related needs in order to reconfigure MONUSCO by the autumn and begin the transition to other forms of long-term support. The reconfiguration should of course be undertaken in close coordination with the Congolese authorities, in accordance with President Tshisekedi’s commitments and priorities.
For the past 20 years the United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, subsequently, MONUSCO have supported the Democratic Republic of the Congo on its path to recovery and national reunification. January’s peaceful transfer of power shows that another stage has been reached. We must now adapt MONUSCO to the challenges of the years to come so that it can eventually withdraw and so that the Congolese authorities are fully capable of providing security and establishing the right conditions for their people’s development throughout the country. In support of that transition, it will also be the Security Council’s job to consider the shape that the United Nations presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo might take.
I would like to conclude by paying tribute to Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán, who sacrificed their lives for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and worked tirelessly to improve the lot of the Congolese people. We encourage the Congolese authorities to spare no effort in supporting the United Nations monitoring mechanism to ensure that the perpetrators of those crimes be tried and sentenced.