|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Welcoming Remarks at the UN Security Council Session on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
New York, New York, January 24, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Ambassador Holbrooke. Mr. Secretary General, distinguished Heads of State, Security Council colleagues, excellencies and friends, this Council feels like home to me. I had the honor of presiding over the Council many times as Permanent Representative of the United States of America. As Secretary of State, I am proud to have been in the Chair during the Ministerial Session on Africa in 1997 and to participate in the follow-up session in 1998.
I spent many long hours here discussing important issues of war and peace. Memory softens judgment, so I cannot recall a single dull moment. But it is fair to say that the deliberations this month on Africa are a particularly creative use of this Council chamber. And I am especially pleased to be able to preside over today's session.
Notable, as well, was the special appearance last Thursday of the Chairman of our Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the presence Friday of the full Committee for a hearing. I believe it was very useful for you to hear all their views directly, and for them to hear those of Council members.
Chairman Helms is a man of conviction and strong advocate of a distinct point of view about the United Nations and America's relationship to it. He and I have made a point of working together where we can, and making sure that when we disagree, we do so agreeably.
So let me be clear: only the President and the Executive Branch can speak for the United States. Today, on behalf of the President, let me say that the Administration, and I believe most Americans see our role in the world, and our relationship to this organization, quite differently than does Senator Helms.
We believe in leading WITH other nations, whenever that is possible. We strongly support the United Nations Charter and the organization's purpose; we respect its rules, which we helped write; we want to strengthen it through continued reform; and we recognize its many contributions to our own interest in a more secure, democratic and humane world.
The UN also provides a vital forum for the consideration of matters affecting security and peace. And that is what has brought us here to this extraordinary session today.
The presence of so many national leaders reflects the seriousness of the unresolved turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and their commitment to peace. Because of that nation's location and size, and because of the number of countries involved, the conflict there could be described as Africa's first world war. The continent cannot hope to meet the aspirations of its people until this war is history.
In today's session, and in succeeding days, I hope we will make decisive progress. But if that is to happen, reciprocal actions will be required.
The parties must detail in a credible fashion their plans for meeting the commitments they have made. The Council and the international community must respond with their plans for supporting the transition from conflict to cooperation.
We start with a firm foundation for progress in the form of the Lusaka Agreement. The leaders here today deserve great credit for negotiating and signing that agreement. President Chiluba merits high praise for his diplomatic skill in facilitating it. And the United States strongly supports the Agreement, and urges all parties to live up to their obligations under it.
Under the Lusaka principles, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Congo will be restored and thereafter respected.
The all-important process of dialogue within the Democratic Republic will go forward.
Foreign troops will be required to withdraw in a lawful and orderly manner.
Concrete mechanisms will be established to ensure that the Congo will not be used as a safehaven for illegal armed groups from any country.
These are the steps that can guide Central Africa down the path to security for all. This is the way to fulfill the region's vast economic potential. This is the option the overwhelming majority of people urgently desire. No one will gain from continued conflict. No one will lose what is rightfully theirs from peace.
The primary responsibility for implementing these steps rests with the parties, including the rebel groups. The international community, including the United States, can and does condemn the violation of the Congo's territorial integrity by foreign troops, but we cannot compel the withdrawal of those troops. Nor can we conduct an internal dialogue. But we can help to make your responsibilities easier to fulfill. And the United States is doing its part.
First, we have lent steady and strong diplomatic support to the Lusaka process.
Second, we are providing $1 million to assist the work of the Joint Military Commission. And we urge cooperation by all parties in working with the JMC to implement the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter and in accordance with the Lusaka agreement.
Third, we will work with Congress to provide $1 million this year to support President Masire's effort to facilitate the Congolese national dialogue.
This is vital, because such a dialogue can be a critical step, not only towards ending the current conflict, but also in preventing future ones. It can lay the foundation for political processes in the Congo that have broad public support, and for institutions of government that could make the Democratic Republic as democratic in practice as it is in name.
Fourth, the United States strongly supports Special Representative Morjane's efforts to curb human rights abuses, prevent atrocities and expand humanitarian relief. The most disturbing aspect of the conflict in the Congo has been the horrific abuse of fundamental human rights by all sides. We have even heard credible reports recently of women being buried alive in Eastern Congo.
There is no rationale of past grievance, political allegiance or ethnic difference that excuses murder, torture, rape or other abuse. Here, today, together, we must vow to halt these crimes and to bring those who commit them to justice under due process of law.
Finally, provided our efforts this week result in renewed impetus towards implementation of the peace agreement, we will consult with our Congress and work to achieve a swift Council consensus on authorizing deployment of a phase-two UN peace mission.
To succeed, any such mission must be based on commitments from the Lusaka signatories on the key issues of access, security and cooperation. As the Secretary General will attest, we have learned much over the past decade about the "do's" and "don'ts" of UN missions. We must apply those lessons firmly and realistically in this case. But we must also be resolute in our determination to help the Congo move from war to peace.
Once again, I congratulate the Secretary General and Ambassador Holbrooke for convening this session. I am pleased that so many leaders are here.
I look forward to a very productive discussion. And to a dialogue that will help us all move further down the road to stability and prosperity in the Congo and all of Africa.
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