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Great Lakes Policy Forum—Meeting Summary—February 4, 1999

Discussant: I. William Zartman, he Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Presider: Susan Collin Marks
Speakers: Baudoin Hamuli, Minister of State for Regional Cooperation, Uganda, CNONGD, Thierry Landu, Groupe Amos, Jeanine Mukanirwa, Goma Women Organization, Amama Mbabazi, UNOCHA, and Alessandra Humme
February 4, 1999
Council on Foreign Relations

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[Note: A transcript of this meeting is unavailable. The discussion is summarized below.]

This Great Lakes Policy Forum meeting featured a report from Alexandra Humme, Great Lakes unit of UNOCHA, on her recent mission to the region in coordination with Deputy Under-Secretary General Martin Griffiths, and from Baudoin Hamuli, general secretary of the Congolese Association (CNONGD), on the peace efforts of the Congolese civil society. The meeting also featured a presentation by Mbabazi, Ugandan Minister of State for Regional Cooperation, who has represented his government in many of the recent regional negotiations. Dr. I. William Zartman of the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University was the discussant and Susan Collins Marks of Search for Common Ground was the facilitator.

This past month’s Great Lakes Policy Forum was supposed to be a special session on “International Support to Congolese Civil Society,” however, during this February meeting the discussion of this topic is not possible and, therefore, has been postponed until the next Great Lakes Policy Forum meeting set for March 4. Information regarding the activities of Congolese civil society will be provided separately.

U.N. humanitarian operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The mission of the under-secretary general of the United Nations was to evaluate the present need for further U.N. humanitarian operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and to discuss the basis on which U.N. assistance could be provided in all areas in the Congo. For example, currently 200,000 people are internally displaced in the DRC and only about 60,000 can be reached.

The objective for U.N. missions was to discuss with the government and the rebel representatives the need for U.N. operations to provide support in the areas both under government and rebel control. For example, in the eastern part of the country communication and humanitarian relief efforts are very limited and assistance is urgently needed. Since the conflict began last year, the United Nations has not been able to provide any support to the eastern part of the region, due to the security situation.

During their tour, the U.N. agency representatives have presented the “Principles of Engagement” that had been drafted previously in consultation with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and donors. Those principles reflect international humanitarian law, and the fact that the effects of the war on the civilian population must be minimized and humanitarian aid provided everywhere in the country.

The acceptance of humanitarian aid in the eastern, and in all parts of the country where assistance is needed, was acknowledged by both sides. However, assistance to the eastern region of the DRC would have to be provided without the protection of government forces.

Regarding the opening of any new U.N. offices in the region, it has been decided that future U.N. operations in the DRC will follow a more cooperative approach with existing NGOs and humanitarian operations already on the ground. The United Nations will not deploy another massive humanitarian aid campaign such as those following Rwanda’s genocide. A clear message from local NGOs working in the DRC was that U.N. involvement should support their efforts and collaborate with those organizations. These NGOs have been working in the country over the past years and may have a clearer understanding of the situation. Collaboration between local and international organizations would also assist local actors in carrying out the work of U.N. agencies and other international organizations in the event that they are withdrawn suddenly for security reasons.

To facilitate such collaboration it was decided that a joint-local and U.N. office would be established in Goma, and that offices should one day be established in Bukavu and Uvitra.

Ugandan positions in the crisis in the DRC

Uganda has a military presence in the DRC for security and humanitarian reasons. The security reasons relate to the joint borders between the two countries. Ugandan national security is also threaten by events in the Sudan and DRC.

Uganda is concerned for humanitarian reasons with the DRC due to reports regarding the possibility of further genocide and crimes against ethnic communities.

Any comments please contact Veronique Aubert

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