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USIS Washington File

15 December 1999

U.S. Supports Peacekeeping in DROC, Holbrooke Says

(But seeks to avoid peacekeeping disasters of past missions) (840)
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- The United States will support international
peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC), but not until
the warring parties adhere to the peace agreement and the mandate of
the mission is clear, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United
Nations Richard Holbrooke said December 15.
Talking with journalists after a Security Council session on the U.N.
in Africa, Ambassador Holbrooke said, "We don't want to repeat the
errors and tragedies of Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda, and therefore we
would like to see the parties to the Lusaka Agreement act to implement
those provisions as quickly as they can."
"This time," Holbrooke stressed, "we want to work with the OAU
[Organization of African Unity] and the U.N. to get it right."
At the same time, he made plain that the international community
cannot impose a settlement in the Congo.
"The outside world cannot go in and end the fighting in a vast area
where roads don't exist, where transportation is difficult, where
people can get swallowed up in the vastness of the Congo," he said.
"But we are going to be there to help bring peace back to this
enormously important area. But how we will be there is what we are
working on now."
Calling the Lusaka accords, signed by the parties in August 1999, "an
excellent agreement," Holbrooke noted that the peace plan was "made by
the Africans themselves for an African problem. We support it.
"If the parties involved will work with us to carry it out, we will be
there to work on peacekeeping," the ambassador said. But he pointed
out that "right now, the Lusaka agreements are being ignored or
violated in important provisions."
The Security Council approved in principle a peacekeeping mission for
DROC and authorized sending a small group of military observers, known
as the "Joint Military Commission." However, the observers have been
unable to deploy throughout the country.
The United States is contributing $1 million to the Joint Military
Commission and the money for a Congo peacekeeping operation has been
set aside by Congress, the ambassador said. But he added that "right
now there are a lot of unanswered questions.
"We can't just ask young men and young women from many countries in
the world to go into conditions of extreme uncertainty and great risk
to themselves in Congo, which has been a graveyard for the U.N. in the
past, without getting it right," he said.
Since he returned from Africa, Holbrooke said, he has been conferring
with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, members of the European Union,
African ambassadors, and OAU officials, as well as Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright and other senior U.S. officials, about the DROC
Holbrooke, who will preside over the Security Council in January, had
announced earlier that he would focus on Africa during his presidency.
He said that he intends to have "an intense series of public and
private Security Council meetings" that will focus on the region as a
whole, and especially on DROC.
Holbrooke said he hopes "high-level" representatives from the region
will participate in the January meetings and that the meetings will
result in "real achievements, not just talk."
One area he intends to stress, the ambassador said, will be "the
imposition of a tighter, stronger sanctions regime" on the rebel group
UNITA in Angola.
"The United States is going to redouble its efforts on sanctions,"
Holbrooke said. "We look forward to learning ... how the United States
can better contribute" to the effort to end UNITA's ability to sell
diamonds to finance its war effort.
The United Kingdom, which holds the rotating presidency of the council
for the month of December, scheduled two public sessions on Africa.
After the general discussion on Africa December 15, the council will
look at the situation in DROC on December 16.
"I think it is symbolic that the United States and the United Kingdom
end the century and begin the next century with months at the Security
Council focused on Africa," Holbrooke said.
"The number one problem Africa must deal with among all the other
problems that we are here to discuss is the question of the spread of
HIV/AIDS," Holbrooke said. "I cannot stress to you how serious it is."
"This is not just a health issue. It is a security issue. It is an
economic issue. It is an issue that will not go away. ... It is a
legitimate part of our discussion here in the Security Council," he
What needs attention most, the ambassador said, is the
destigmatization of AIDS.
Of the 10 countries he visited during his tour of Africa (November
29-December 12), only Uganda was "fully on board" on eliminating the
stigma attached to discussing AIDS, the ambassador said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

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