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15 May 2010 - Security Council Mission to the DRC: Press briefing in Kinshasa by Mr. Géraud Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(Unofficial translation)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations. The Security Council has asked me to lead this meeting. The Security Council is represented in full. Starting from the left: the Representative of Russia, the Representative of the United States, the Representative of Japan, the Ambassador of Austria, the Ambassador of Uganda, the Ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Representative of Lebanon, the Representative of Nigeria, the Representative of Gabon, the Representative of Mexico, the Ambassador of Brazil, the Ambassador of Turkey, and the Representative of the People’s Republic of China.

This Security Council mission aimed to initiate a dialogue with the authorities, the general population and society of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the future of the United Nations presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This was a very intense visit during which we were firstly privileged to be able to meet with the President of the Republic and have lunch with him today. We extend our thanks to him. We also met the Prime Minister and many members of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the President of the Senate and the leaders of the main political parties, and the President of the National Assembly together with the office of the National Assembly.

We also met with both Congolese and international non-governmental organizations. We met with representatives from civil society and lastly we have just had a round table discussion with all of the UN agencies and funds represented in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was therefore a short but extremely intense and useful visit.

Why are we here? We are here because the Security Council will soon have to take major decisions on the renewal of MONUC’s mandate. We therefore came to discuss this important deadline with the Congolese authorities in order to determine together how best to reach our common objective which is lasting peace in the Congo.

We of course recognize that considerable progress has been made since the arrival of MONUC; we signaled our gratitude for this to the Congolese authorities. This gratitude should also be extended to the entire Congolese society which has worked to achieve this goal. At the same time, we must also recognize that the situation remains fragile and that consequently all changes with respect to the presence of the United Nations must be introduced gradually in order to avoid further instability.

We support the ongoing efforts in the area of security sector reforms. We also support the "zero tolerance" policy against impunity. We signaled to our discussion partners that we are open to a discussion on the gradual reconfiguration of the UN presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have to say that our discussion with President Kabila and the Prime Minister on this topic was particularly useful.

We discussed the need to continue our discussions and, within this context, we are convinced that the United Nations’ decisions would benefit from regular analysis of the situation on the ground which must result from regular dialogue with the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United Nations. We want to develop a genuine partnership; we want to work with the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to consolidate peace and security in the region in order to ensure the protection of the civilian population and to enable the reconfiguration of MONUC. We will of course take into consideration today’s exchanges in our upcoming discussions at the Security Council on MONUC’s mandate, which, I would like to remind you, must be renewed by the end of the month.

Thank you.

Q. Mr. Ambassador, in practical terms, will MONUC begin its withdrawal by June 30?

We did not come here to discuss MONUC’s withdrawal, we came here to determine together with the Congolese authorities and the entire Congolese society the most effective configuration of MONC in the future in order contribute to the stabilization of the country. In order to achieve that, we came to listen to the Congolese authorities’ opinion, to listen to the non-governmental organizations’ opinion. We will return to New York, and on the basis of what we have heard, we will make a decision. It’s clear that MONUC will not remain in the Democratic Republic of Congo indefinitely. But if MONUC withdraws then it must be done based on a "win-win" situation, i.e. the Congolese State must be capable of taking over, of restoring sovereignty over the entire territory. We must therefore develop a partnership between MONUC and the Congolese authorities.

Q. Mr. Ambassador, you talk about a fragile situation, about gradual changes, but the Congolese authorities are clear: MONUC must present a plan for withdrawal.

The Congolese authorities have not demanded the withdrawal of MONUC. The Congolese authorities have asked for a reconfiguration, a change in MONUC’s mandate. It’s on this basis that we are working. The situation on the ground has improved. MONUC’s missions, the configuration of MONUC must therefore be in line with this new situation on the ground. As you said, the situation in the area of security has improved but it remains fragile; armed groups remain. But we must also work towards improving stability, towards the reconstruction of the Congolese State.

Q. You had lunch with the Head of State, you talked with him. What did he say in concrete terms with respect to the withdrawal of MONUC?

I think that there is strong agreement between the Congolese authorities and the Security Council, meaning that when MONUC withdraws, this withdrawal must be executed under the best possible conditions, we must maintain continuous dialogue with the Congolese authorities based on the situation on the ground. The Congolese authorities agree on this point. It’s not a question of being guided or directed by an artificial calendar, by artificial figures. It’s a question of knowing whether MONUC can withdraw from a particular area because the Congolese authorities are able to guarantee the security of the population. We need to use a pragmatic approach. The President of the Republic and the Prime Minister stated that this was a pragmatic approach. We need to use a pragmatic approach based on the reality on the ground. We are not following an artificial calendar; we are working based on the facts on the ground.

Q. In a communiqué, the Congolese government indicated that with respect to the withdrawal of MONUC, it wanted it to take place during the 18 month period from June 30, 2010, to December 31, 2011. That is very precise, they give figures and dates. A rapid withdrawal of 200 MONUC personnel beginning June 3 was mentioned. What is the status of this withdrawal and will you agree to what the Government is demanding?

Concerning the 18 month period, we discussed this with the Congolese authorities; they said this was not a figure carved in stone. All this depends on the situation on the ground. The Security Council listened to the Congolese authorities, to civil society, to the non-governmental organizations; it listened to the President of the Senate, the President of the National Assembly. The Security Council will, on this basis, make its decision at the end of the month in New York.

Q. The entire Congolese population knows that you came here to talk about the withdrawal.

Our strategy is based dialogue and partnership. The Congolese authorities have every right to feel that the format of MONUC should change, that the format of the UN presence should change. We listened to what they said and we are going to continue this dialogue.

Q. What was the topic of your discussions with civil society?

It was part of the debate that we had. But I would now like to give the floor to the Ambassador of Austria who talked extensively with the NGOs.

Q. I would like to know what you understand by the reconfiguration of MONUC’s mandate: do you mean the withdrawal of MONUC or a reduction in the number of Blue Helmets; will you put more Blue Helmets in the pockets of insecurity? Lastly, are you satisfied with the work that MONUC has carried out during these 10 years in the DRC?

Regarding MONUC’s work you may still believe that mistakes were made, but I think you have to be fair. These are extraordinarily difficult situations; let’s not forget that the MONUC troops came from a long way away and this region didn’t have anything to do with them. They dedicated themselves to and made a major contribution to the stabilization of the country and, in addition, even risked their lives. I think we have to remember what the situation was like 10 years ago and what the situation is like now.

The reconfiguration could take several forms and we need to discuss them. It may seem strange to you but genuine discussions are taking place within the Security Council; there are sometimes disagreements but we will reach an agreement. It may relate to the number of troops: should we keep the number of troops at this level. It could relate to the area of deployment, it could relate to the name of the force, whether we should change it or not. But what’s behind this and what is much more important is the force’s missions. For now, the essential missions of the force are the security missions. How should we transition from a security phase to a phase of stabilization and reconstruction of the State? We are currently in a transition phase. MONUC is not going to withdraw overnight. It won’t be there one day and gone the next. We will therefore have a transition phase which will allow the institutions of the Congolese State to increase their capacity in the areas of deployment thus allowing MONUC to withdraw. How long will that take? Let’s be practical about this; it will depend on the situation on the ground. If it could be done in three months we would be the first to celebrate since MONUC is a complex operation; it’s the UN’s most costly operation. If it requires more time, then it will be carried out over a longer period. But there is no artificial calendar; the important thing is the reality on the ground.

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