Thank you for convening this timely and important debate on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I wish to extend a most cordial welcome to Minister Raymond Tshibanda and thank him for his statement, which we heard with great interest. It illustrated the significant progress made in several decisive areas and it clearly reflects the commitment of the Government of the DRC to tackle the challenges that still lie ahead.
I also wish to thank the Secretary-General for his important statement, As a member of the EU, Portugal naturally shares the position that will be later expressed by Mr. Pedro Serrano (EU).
Allow me also to reiterate Portugal’s condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of those who lost their lives in the recent plane crash while serving the UN and the international community.
Despite the substantial challenges that the DRC faces, there is a positive structural trend which it is essential to foster. To do so, it is critical to continue enhancing security and improving the protection of civilians. In this regard we express our satisfaction with the stability achieved in the vast majority of the country and the progress toward the neutralization of foreign and other armed groups, namely through the processes of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation.
The activity of armed groups remains an intolerable source of instability and violence in the Kivus and in the Province Orientale, and is at the root of continued violations of human rights. We remain concerned with the recruitment and use of children and we call upon the DRC Government to implement the recommendations of the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict. We also remain concerned by the high number of cases of sexual violence against women and girls in the DRC as mentioned by the Secretary-General. However, it is significant that the authorities of the DRC have shown the political will to investigate the cases of sexual violence that led to the trials and convictions of officers of the FARDC. We strongly support their fight against sexual violence and impunity, as well as their defense of fundamental human rights. In this regard, I would like to pay a special tribute to the efforts being developed by SRSG Wallstrom in this field.
The reform of the security sector and upholding the rule of law are essential to overcome these challenges. Therefore, we encourage the DRC Government to continue pursuing these processes, in an integrated way, closely coordinated with its international partners. Allow me to underline the role played by EUSEC, led by a Portuguese General, in security sector reform.
The upcoming presidential and legislative elections will be a key moment in the stabilization and peace consolidation of the DRC. I paid special attention to what Minister Tshibanda said on this important point. It seems to me that it is particularly important that the national authorities hold and keep up an enhanced dialogue with the opposition and the international community, in order to ensure an environment that is conducive to a peaceful, free and fair electoral process. In this regard, I commend the efforts of MONUSCO, both in logistical and technical terms, and underline the EU’s support to this process.
The fulfillment of the medium and long-term expectations of the Congolese people depends on furthering institution-building and economic and social development. Only with legitimate, credible and resilient institutions will a State be able to discharge its functions. Only with economic and social development will a State be able to sustain peace.
Bearing in mind the decisive importance of national ownership, the primary responsibility in these endeavors rests naturally with the people and the Government of the DRC. But, as we heard today, the International Community stands ready to continue to work with the DRC in this process, and we welcome the enhanced dialogue and close cooperation between the Government of the DRC and MONUSCO.
I would now like to focus on two key challenges facing the DRC which have a regional dimension and that can only be addressed through effective regional cooperation.
Firstly, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which is responsible for an intolerable humanitarian tragedy in Central Africa. We welcome the efforts of the African Union, namely the recent joint experts Mission to LRA-affected regions. Moreover, we commend the Secretary-General for dispatching the multidisciplinary mission which will soon visit the region to assess the LRA threat. We look forward to hearing its recommendations to strengthen and better coordinate UN and African Union’s efforts to help address this threat.
Secondly, the illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources of the DRC, which fuels conflict and instability, and deprives the Congolese people from benefiting from their country’s assets. The results of the Lusaka summit of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region are encouraging. We welcome President Kabila’s pledge for a “merciless fight against the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Great Lakes Region” and hope that it will soon bring about tangible results, in a regional framework.
In dealing with these and other threats, it is, thus, fundamental to further enhance regional cooperation and support the efforts of the African Union and of sub-regional organizations. We hope that the work of the UN Office in Central Africa (UNOCA) will be instrumental in this regard.
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Monsieur le Ministre,
Permettez-moi de m’adresser à vous personnellement, en rappelant les paroles de Dag Hammarskjold, et je cite:
« La poursuite de la paix, avec ses épreuves et ses erreurs, ses succès et ses revers, ne peut jamais être relâchée ni abandonee », fin de citation.
Les Nations Unies et la République Démocratique du Congo ont fait déjà un long chemin ensemble. Il s’agit d’un partenariat stratégique qui a pour but la paix et le progrès du peuple congolais, ainsi que la stabilité de cette vaste région. Le Portugal félicite le Gouvernement de la RDC pour les progrès enregistrés et l’encourage à persévérer sur cette voie, face aux défis qu’il faut encore surmonter. J’ai pris bonne note de l’appel du Ministre Tshibanda et je veux l’assurer de notre appui sans faille dans la poursuite des objectifs qu’il a énonces et que nous partageons entièrement.
Je vous remercie.