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Great Seal logo Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC July 12, 2000


As prepared for delivery

Mr. Chairman, it is an honor to be here today to testify before your committee. Your continued interest in African issues, and this committee's leadership, are absolutely essential in our common effort to help the people of Africa develop a future of peace, prosperity, and freedom. As you know, Mr. Chairman, along with President Clinton and Secretary Albright, I have made Africa one of my highest priorities during my tenure in New York. To my mind, there is no collection of states in greater need--or where our efforts could do more good--than those of Africa.

Beyond a doubt, Africa is the main arena for most of the UN's operations whether we're talking about helping to prevent, stabilize, or resolve conflicts; promoting democracy and rule of law; fighting disease; assisting refugees both internally and across borders; providing development assistance; or helping establish education and job training programs. Through the UN and other international institutions, as well as bilaterally, the United States has a critical role to play. Of course, there is a lot that the United States does that falls outside the purview of the UN, and we look for leadership from and work very closely with the State Department's Africa Bureau, which is ably led by my colleague Susan Rice. Today Susan is in Lome, Togo to attend the Organization for African Unity (OAU) summit, so I'm pleased to be joined here by her principal deputy, Nancy Powell.

Mr. Chairman, it was just over a year ago that I first testified before this committee in my nomination hearings to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In those hearings, I pledged that I would do all I could to renew and revitalize America's relationship with the United Nations. We agreed that the UN was flawed but indispensable, and that to warrant continued American support, it needed to implement serious reforms.

While the UN still has a long way to go, the last year has seen some important progress. Most important, of course, was our agreement last November over our financing for the UN. And as we discussed last January when you, Senator Biden, Senator Warner, and many members of this Committee came to New York, and again in March, when you hosted the entire UN Security Council for an historic meeting in this very room, we have an ambitious agenda for UN reform. In recent months, we have proposed ways to strengthen the role of the Secretary General and make the Department of Peacekeeping Operations more effective, efficient, and financially equitable. I have been intensely involved in negotiations to revise the peacekeeping scale of assessments, and am hopeful that we will come to an agreement by the end of the year.

Mr. Chairman, the UN needs to implement these reforms so that it is better able to help people in need in places like Africa. The past year has been one of remarkable hardship for far too many Africans. We've seen conflicts fester in Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Burundi. We've seen the HIV/AIDS pandemic explode, the challenges of refugees and the internally displaced grow even larger, massive flooding in Southern Africa, and a drought of historic proportion in East Africa. And we've seen the fragility of democracy in places like Zimbabwe. All this means that the UN's commitments--and our responsibilities--to Africa have increased exponentially. And this means that what happens in Africa has greater relevance for the United States.

Mr. Chairman, we have an interest in helping Africa become more peaceful and prosperous. We have an interest in helping Africans resolve their conflicts and rid their societies of horrible diseases like HIV/AIDS. And we have an interest in helping Africa's people build societies based on democracy, liberty and political freedom.

Despite Africa's profound troubles, we cannot simply build a wall around a continent--particularly in a world defined by globalization, where borders are even more permeable and the old rules of international politics even less applicable. The mantra "African solutions for African problems" no longer captures either the breadth of the challenge or the effort required for a solution. Africa's problems are the world's problems--and we have to work together globally to find the right solutions.

We must also not lose sight of Africa's potential. The transition to democracy in Nigeria contrasts sharply with the instability of the Congo; for every tumultuous election--like last month's in Zimbabwe--there is a smooth process--as in Senegal. Their success requires regional stability--and therefore global action.

Perhaps nothing is more illustrative of this point than the scourge of HIV/AIDS and what it's doing to Africa. As recently as a year ago, few would have considered AIDS as part of a discussion of foreign policy (indeed, our idea to hold last January's special Security Council session on AIDS was initially met with some resistance, including from inside the U.S. Mission). But today, few doubt that HIV/AIDS is a top-shelf national security issue, particularly as it relates to Africa.

Last week in the Security Council, I introduced for the United States an historic resolution on HIV/AIDS. If passed, it will be the first Security Council resolution focused exclusively on a health issue. It recognizes that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is so widespread and menacing that it poses a threat to international stability and security. The resolution's ultimate goal is to increase international intensity and coordination against HIV/AIDS and therefore calls for a number of measures to address the pandemic on all fronts, on all continents, in the civilian. and military populations.

Our resolution urges UN member states to create effective long-term domestic strategies to prevent further spread of HIV. It also calls on the UN to ensure robust training to protect peacekeepers from contracting and spreading HIV, and urges member states to institute voluntary and confidential testing of all civilians and the military, especially peacekeepers. Finally, it asks the Secretary General to develop the means to track nations' HIV/AIDS policies in military forces around the world.

Mr. Chairman, these efforts exemplify one of the primary purposes for which the United Nations was created over a half-a-century ago--to galvanize international action to meet common threats. AIDS is not just the problem of a single country or a single continent. You cannot deny AIDS a visa; you cannot place in embargo on it; you cannot stop it at the border. That's why it is imperative that we work together. Today, in Durban, South Africa, international AIDS experts from the around the world are meeting to discuss ways to address this horrible plague. And in its remaining months in office, the Clinton Administration will continue to work hard to build on this momentum, and we'll be looking for your leadership and support.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to HIV/AIDS, one of the greatest challenges the UN faces in Africa is in conflict resolution. As I've said many times before, peacekeeping is the core task for which the UN was formed, and it is the one upon which the UN will ultimately be judged. So we must help it get peacekeeping right. Right now in Africa, the UN is working to reinforce fragile peace agreements in three key areas: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, and Sierra Leone. Allow me to discuss each briefly in turn.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we're working to revitalize the sagging Lusaka peace process. Unfortunately, despite major UN efforts both in New York and the field, the parties have made little progress toward implementing the terms of the Lusaka Agreement. Fighting continues in Equateur province in violation of both the Lusaka and Kampala cease-fire agreements. Kabila's government has persistently blocked organization of the National Dialogue, which is intended to reach an internal settlement among the Congolese parties. In June, the Kinshasa Government went so far as to order its police to forcibly close the Kinshasa office of the facilitator, former Botswanan President Masire. And the recent fighting between Rwanda and Uganda in Kisangani severely undermined the peace process.

In the light of these developments, UN Secretary General Annan has determined that the UN should not yet move to the next phase of peacekeeping--MONUC personnel do not yet have the security, freedom of movement, and cooperation from the parties necessary for them to effectively carry out their mandate in the Congo. At this time, therefore, the UN does not intend further deployments of MONUC beyond the 257 military observers now in the field. We fully support this decision--after all, we pushed the UN to adopt the phased and conditional approach last winter.

We are also examining alternatives to help stabilize the situation in Kisangani, which is deplorable. Mr. Chairman, I and six of my Security Council colleagues were in Congo last May when fighting initially broke out. We were then able to negotiate an interim cease-fire, and we have worked tirelessly with Presidents Museveni and Kagame to forge a lasting solution. UN Security Council Resolution 1304 calls on Rwanda and Uganda to adhere to the demilitarization of Kisangani. It also demands the departure from the city of the armed rebel Congolese forces allied with either Rwanda or Uganda.

Mr. Chairman, the good news is that Rwandan and Ugandan troops have withdrawn from Kisangani, monitored by MONUC observers. Moreover, the Ugandans and Rwandans are now embarked on a serious effort to reconcile their differences. At the same time, however, rebel RCD-Goma rebel forces remain in Kisangani, concerned that either the government or other rebel forces might seek to take advantage of the military vacuum created by Ugandan and Rwandan withdrawal. The total demilitarization of Kisangani and a larger MONUC presence in the city are currently under review in New York.

In Ethiopia and Eritrea, the United Nations should be there when the two sides decide to bring an end to this deeply tragic and truly unnecessary conflict. While there is a formal cessation of hostilities agreement in place, much work lies ahead to nail down a comprehensive and lasting peace. Negotiations have continued, including last week here in Washington, and I think an agreement is within sight.

In New York, the Security Council and the Secretary General have begun planning for a possible peacekeeping operation focused on the Ethiopia-Eritrea border. Mr. Chairman, the United States intends to support a resolution in the Security Council authorizing the deployment in Ethiopia and Eritrea of up to 100 UN military observers. We will soon notify Congress of this. We anticipate that if progress continues, it could lead to a regular UN peacekeeping operation for Ethiopia and Eritrea.

And in Sierra Leone, we're continuing to work to revitalize the UN's efforts after the RUF savaged the Lome peace process, took hostages and attacked UN peacekeepers. The situation remains tense, although it has stabilized somewhat since fighting resumed in May. We are working closely with the British to coordinate next steps. Some 2 weeks ago I met with Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and other British officials in London to discuss our common approach. Our main priority right now is to strengthen UNAMSIL and the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), so they can defend a perimeter around Freetown and the Lungi peninsula. Eventually, we anticipate that a revitalized and strengthened UNAMSIL will fill-in behind an advancing SLA.

Our broad objective is to ensure that regional and international forces in Sierra Leone, together with the SLA, have the capacity to disrupt the RUF's control of Sierra Leone's diamond producing areas and prevent it from threatening Sierra Leone's Government and terrorizing its people. Right now in New York we are reviewing a draft Security Council resolution and debating the possible modification of UNAMSIL's mandate. Without an expanded mandate, allowing for a more robust force to deal with the growing RUF threat, we do not see the rationale for expanding UNAMSIL to 16,500 troops.

In the meantime, Mr. Chairman, we are actively examining all options for bolstering West African participation in Sierra Leone. We are providing $18 million in drawdown assistance and $2 million under the UN Participation Act to support peacekeeping activities in Sierra Leone. Much of it is targeted for the West Africans. We're also stepping-up our diplomatic engagement. In two days, Under Secretary Pickering will lead a week-long, inter-agency mission to West Africa. This is an extremely important mission--one that will, among other things, lay the groundwork for President Clinton's visit to Nigeria next month. Under Secretary Pickering and his team will meet with the leaders in Abuja, Accra, Freetown and Bamako to discuss our common approach and clarify the extent of potential U.S. assistance. They will also meet with President Taylor in Monrovia, clearly stating our concerns about that country's role in Sierra Leone.

We're also very concerned about assuring that Foday Sankoh and others suspected of major war crimes in Sierra Leone are held accountable. There is wide agreement that Sankoh and other rebel leaders need to be subject to a legitimate judicial process; that the trial should have substantial international involvement; that the proceedings should be based on the principle of law and insulated from politics; and that the process begin quickly. We do not seek to create a third international war crimes tribunal, but we do believe that those accused should be tried under a system that is part of the international war crimes structure. Our goal is to create a UN Security Council umbrella over the process and to ensure that there is accountability for the serious criminal violations against the citizens of Sierra Leone and the UN peacekeepers.

Mr. Chairman, it is these three conflicts--Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, and Sierra Leone--that comprise the core challenge for UN peacekeeping in Africa today. We are under no illusions that success in any of these operations will be easy or quick. These conflicts have been long and bloody and brutal; they've left deep psychological and social wounds that will take some time to heal.

But because these missions will be difficult cannot be an excuse for the UN not to try. If the UN acts, the odds of success may only be 50-50; but if it steps aside, failure is almost certain. And we should be careful not to conflate these crises. Each present unique and daunting challenges; they are as different in scope and kind as East Timor, South Lebanon, and Kosovo. A setback in one does not intrinsically mean weakness in another.

Mr. Chairman, while the conflicts in Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, and Sierra Leone are currently the main focus for UN peacekeeping in Africa, there are other African conflicts that the UN, the Clinton Administration, and this Committee remain deeply concerned about.

--In Burundi, we continue to support facilitator Nelson Mandela in his efforts to implement the Arusha agreement. All of the core issues are now on the table and are being seriously discussed by the parties. But some fundamental questions are still far from resolution, confidence and trust levels are still quite low, fighting on the ground continues, and the armed rebels have not yet signaled a clear intention to engage fully into the Arusha process. In short, a lasting peace agreement is within reach but there is still a ways to go.

--Sudan is one of the world's most depressing and distressing stories and, as you know, has one of the continent's (if not the world's) most egregious human rights records. The indiscriminate bombing of civilians in unacceptable. An already abysmal humanitarian situation there has been made worse by a new influx of refugees from the fighting in Ethiopia and Eritrea. We also remain very concerned about Sudan's continuing support for terrorism. Sudan has not yet complied with Security Council Resolution 1044, which called on it to end support for terrorism. We are engaging in a dialogue with Sudan on this issue, outlining our specific concerns and requirements. In the meantime, the sanctions on Sudan will remain in place. The Security Council will consider the future of sanctions toward the end of this year, and will make a decision based on Sudan's compliance with Resolution 1044. For the United States' part, our position is quite simple: we would be willing to support a meaningful Security Council response if and only if Sudan takes meaningful steps to end its relationship with terrorists.

--And in Angola, more must be done to address the horrible humanitarian situation there. Last December in Luanda, Senator Feingold and I saw first-hand the truly harrowing conditions Angola's people must live under. More than one-sixth of Angola's population remains internally displaced--which is second only to Sudan. Starvation still takes the lives of hundreds of Angolans a day.

Mr. Chairman, in closing, I'd like to stress that if we expect the UN to get peacekeeping right in Africa and elsewhere, we cannot tie one hand behind its back. If the African people and their leaders establish peace agreements that are viable, if they muster the courage to create lasting solutions for their differences, we should be there to support them.

Unfortunately, rather than providing support, we're dangerously close to scaling back. The growing chance that there will be insufficient funds to pay our UN assessments for African peacekeeping is a serious problem. The House mark for FY 2001 for paying UN bills for peacekeeping is a one-third cut from the request and specifically targets Africa peacekeeping. Mr. Chairman, this simply makes no sense: capping UN peacekeeping at $498 million--as the House CJS bill did--ignores the fact that demands for peacekeeping funding are growing, not shrinking.

Mr. Chairman, lack of financial support to these missions will only weaken them, and thereby undermine U.S. efforts to advance our interests in Africa. This arbitrary cap will hamper the next Administration in advancing its foreign policy agenda from the very beginning. Also, this Committee knows that UN members follow the Congressional funding actions closely--you saw this first-hand earlier this year during your meetings with my fellow UN ambassadors in New York and Washington. Under-funding our ability to pay UN assessments harms our ability to shape the peacekeeping agenda and reduces our credibility when we attempt to push for UN reforms--including those reforms called for in the Helms-Biden legislation. So I hope that this Committee will work with us toward full funding of our peacekeeping requirements.

Again, I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and this entire Committee for its dedication and leadership on advancing America's interests in Africa and at the United Nations. I think we can all agree that what's happening in Africa today warrants our concern and action. And I know we agree that we have an interest in making the United Nations more efficient and effective. The days ahead will require all of us to make tough decisions, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to working with you.

[end of document]


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