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Region's peace process on track but obstacles remain, envoy says

[Cote d'Ivoire] Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, France's Representative at the United Nations. IRIN
Jean-Marc de La Sabliere.
In an assessment of the situation in Africa's Great Lakes region, the UN Security Council said on Tuesday it was encouraged by the determination of officials in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to move on to elections. In a statement issued from New York City, the Council said the assessment came at the end of a visit to the region by the ambassadors of the 15-member Council from 20 to 25 November. Briefing the Council on the visit, the head of the delegation, Jean-Marc de La Sablière, who is the French ambassador to the Council, said the members returned from the mission "encouraged". "In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the local population had a desire to hold elections," he said. "In Burundi, the spirit of reconciliation and power sharing had also made remarkable progress." Besides Burundi and the DRC, the Council members also toured Rwanda and Uganda during their visit. De La Sablière told the Council that the purpose of the mission was to assess the DRC and Burundi peace processes, as well as their implications for the region. The visit had also provided an opportunity to recall the Council's support for those processes and for the two UN forces assisting them, he added. "The Council had an opportunity to pass on a message not only of encouragement, but also a message to implement commitments in both countries," de La Sablière said. "The mission had been welcomed with interest, reflecting the attention given to the Council's position and actions." He added that the Council could not have chosen a better time to carry out the mission. "On the one hand, it had been part of the effort for regional cooperation, which had been launched with the Great Lakes conference, held in Dar es Salaam on 19 and 20 November," he said. "On the other hand, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi, it had also provided support for the actions being carried out at a key moment, as the transitional process in both countries were entering their final stage." De La Sablière said that in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, and in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, governments and parliaments were now committed to preparing for the elections. Comparing the situation to when the Council last visited Central Africa, in June 2003, the extent of the progress achieved was evident, he said. Transitional institutions have been set up and are working in the DRC, despite "high and low points", he said in reference to fighting that broke out in June in the eastern town of Bukavu and two coup attempts in Kinshasa. In Burundi, he said, a general ceasefire has concluded and calm prevailed over 95 percent of the territory, except for the province of Bujumbura Rural, where rebel fighters loyal to the Forces nationales de libération (FNL), of Agathon Rwasa, continue to fight government forces. However, De La Sablière said the feelings of encouragement should not camouflage the feeling that "the game was not over". He said: "The difficulties and obstacles should not be underestimated. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, the text of the Constitution had still not been agreed upon. That was disturbing." De La Sablière said dialogue was needed, and the Congolese and the Burundians had a responsibility for carrying out the transition process. In the DRC, further dialogue at the presidential level was crucial, he said. The international community had to influence things effectively, in that regard, he added. It was also crucial that the elections, scheduled for April 2005 in Burundi and June 2005 in the DRC, be respected, he said. "The elections should not be undermined by new outbreaks of violence," he said. In Burundi, things were even more on track, De La Sablière added. It was now a question of willingness and determination he said. Noting that peace remained fragile in the region, De La Sablière said instability, which was especially sensitive in the eastern part of the DRC, should not undermine the process under way. He said the presence of former Rwandan army soldiers, known as the ex-FAR and a Rwandan militia known as Interahamwe, posed a problem, including for the Congolese themselves. He said this was also still a problem for Rwanda and that it had to be resolved, with the support of the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, "and in a spirit of cooperation and respect for sovereignty of states". That was the essence of the statement Council members had made following the threat of military action by Rwanda. De La Sablière said the regional dimension of certain problems strengthened the idea that the success of the Great Lakes conference must be followed up with swift implementation of the Dar es Salaam declaration by establishing priorities. He said the post-electoral periods would have to be reviewed as well, as stability after elections had to be preserved. "The people in both countries [DRC and Rwanda] deserve to find the path to stability and development, with the support of international community," he said. "All people in the region deserve a much more resolute approach to the issue of impunity."

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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