Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (95)

Damien English


81 Mr. English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4280/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

: The overall political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to be marked by steady progress in the implementation of the Sun City peace accords, concluded in South Africa last April. The new transitional government comprising representatives of the government of President Kabila and of the main rebel groups has now been in office for over six months and is developing a strong sense of coherence in discharging its responsibilities. The transitional government's programme of work covering the transition period to 2005 was approved last December by the interim parliament established last July. There are also encouraging signs of a progressive normalisation of relations between the DRC and its neighbours. An important development in this regard was the meeting on 25 September 2003 between the DRC, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda in the presence of UN Secretary General Annan in which the four countries agreed to refrain from interference in each other's affairs and to prevent arms shipments to warring groups in the eastern area of the DRC.

While the overall security situation in the DRC has improved immeasurably since the signing of the peace accords, there continues to be concern over the situation in the Ituri and north and south Kivu regions which remain plagued by sporadic violent killings, notwithstanding the efforts of MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission. Such incidents demonstrate the need for the newly formed transitional government to establish its presence throughout the country and, in particular, in the eastern and north eastern regions. The transitional government has committed itself to send 3,000 police officers to the Ituri region, a decision which I welcome. I also welcome the release of European development funds totalling €205 million to support the transitional government in institution building, constitutional reform and the strengthening of the rule of law, as well as funding for health services and debt relief.

Ireland, along with our EU partners, will continue to encourage the transitional government in Kinshasa to consolidate its authority throughout the territory of the DRC and to hasten the process of creating an integrated national army and police force. Specifically, as regards the envisaged integrated police force, the EU is providing support, in a two phase project, towards the establishment of an integrated police unit in Kinshasa, with the emphasis in the initial phase on training and rehabilitation of the training infrastructure.

The European Union has already made a substantial contribution to restoring peace and security in eastern DRC through deployment of the EU led emergency multinational force, operation Artemis, to the town of Bunia in Ituri last June. Operation Artemis, the first EU operation to undertake implementation of Petersberg Tasks outside Europe, was deployed at the request of the United Nations Secretary General and on foot of UN Security Council Resolution 1484. In September, Operation Artemis handed over control of Bunia to a strengthened United Nations mission in the DRC, MONUC, having fulfilled its mandate of restoring stability to the town. Ireland contributed five army officers to Operation Artemis and a proportionate share of the costs. Ireland is currently providing two army officers who serve as military observers with MONUC.

Ireland fully intends to sustain the positive engagement of the EU in the DRC and the great lakes region during our Presidency. We will work to prepare the proposed great lakes conference which is currently scheduled to take place in November 2004. The conference will focus on peace, security, democracy and development in the great lakes region and will be held under the auspices of the African Union and the UN.

As further evidence of Ireland's commitment to the DRC, we will ensure that the office of the EU special representative to the great lakes region is utilised to the full in promoting EU policy in the region. In addition, my Department continues to avail itself of bilateral meetings with regional and pan-African parties to stress Ireland's support for the peace process in the DRC and to encourage others to support fully the transitional institutions in that country. The Government will also continue its constructive engagement in providing substantial humanitarian assistance in response to the enormous suffering caused by conflict and natural disasters in the DRC. Development Co-operation Ireland, DCI, has delivered over €5.5 million in emergency and recovery humanitarian aid for the people of the DRC since 2000, while a further estimated €1.1 million will be made available under DCI's multi annual programme scheme.