Dáil Éireann - Volume 626 - 25 October, 2006

Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the present position in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the initiatives proposed at EU level to help alleviate the suffering of innocent people in that country; his views on reports of effective plundering of the country’s resource’s and riches by states of the first world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34490/06]

Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent he and his colleagues at EU of UN level have studied the allegations of genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; if provisions have been made with a view to engaging the worldwide community in an effort to deal with the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34618/06]

Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the UN or EU will take action to deal with allegations of euthanasia, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the progress on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34846/06]

Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if action will be taken to assess [704] the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34847/06]

  Mr. D. Ahern: I propose to take Questions Nos. 114, 129, 215 and 216 together.

The first round of voting in presidential and parliamentary elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took place on 30 July, with an estimated turnout of just over 70%. These were the first multi-party elections in the DRC in over forty years and took place in a generally peaceful environment. International observers, including the EU and the UN, have generally pronounced themselves satisfied that the elections were conducted in an open and fair manner.

A run-off election between the two leading contenders in the presidential poll, President Kabila and Vice-President Bemba, will now take place on 29 October.

It is important that the electoral campaign leading up to the second round of voting on 29 October should be conducted in a orderly and peaceful manner and that there be no repetition of the violence which marred the announcement of the first round results on 21-22 August. The EU, along with other international partners, played a major role in securing agreement on a code of conduct for the current electoral campaign which now needs to be fully respected and implemented. It is also vital that all parties respect the democratic verdict of the electorate, once delivered, and that the emphasis in the post-election period should be on consensus building and ensuring the maximum political support for whatever new government emerges from the elections.

Ireland and its EU partners have invested heavily in support of the elections and the successful conclusion of the transition process in the DRC. Nationally, Ireland has contributed a total of €1.3 million in support of the DRC electoral process. Ireland is also contributing seven members of the Permanent Defence Forces who are serving with the EUFOR mission which the EU has deployed, at UN request, in order to provide support, if required, to the UN MONUC peace-keeping mission throughout the electoral period. The EU also deployed a 250-strong election observation mission, including two observers from Ireland, to monitor the elections. Observers from this mission will be present for the second round voting on 29 October.

The DRC will continue to face considerable challenges in the post-election period and it will be important for the international community to remain engaged in support. Greater progress needs to be made in tackling impunity and establishing an effective system of justice. It is particularly important, in this regard, that the new government should fully support the ongoing investigation of the International Criminal Court [705] into those serious crimes and human rights violations committed in the DRC since the Court’s establishment on 1 July 2002. One individual has already been indicted by the ICC and is currently in custody in The Hague awaiting trial.

Other priority areas for the new government, supported by the international community, will include ending the threat posed by illegal armed militias in eastern DRC as well as security sector reform and completing the integration of national armed and police forces. The EU is already offering extensive support in this area though the EUSEC and EUPOL ESDP missions and has also agreed to coordinate international efforts in the future in support of security sector reform.

The illegal exploitation of its considerable natural resources was a major contributory factor to the conflict in the DRC and it is important that the international community should work with the new government to ensure all necessary measures are taken to combat such illegal exploitation. The issue of illegal exploitation of the DRC’s natural resources was extensively studied by a UN Panel of Experts in 2002-2003 which made a number of practical recommendations for combating such exploitation. The UN Security Council has, as yet, failed to take any action endorsing these recommendations.

The illegal exploitation of its considerable natural resources was a major contributory factor to the conflict in the DRC and it is important that the international community should work with the new government to ensure all necessary measures are taken to combat such illegal exploitation. The issue of illegal exploitation of the DRC’s natural resources was extensively studied by a UN Panel of Experts in 2002-2003 which made a number of practical recommendations for combating such exploitation. The UN Security Council has, as yet, failed to take any action endorsing these recommendations. A positive development in this regard is the planned agreement on certification of natural resources which is likely to be approved by the eleven countries, including the DRC, participating within the framework of the UN and African Union-sponsored Great Lakes Conference, the second Summit of which is due to take place in Nairobi next December. The successful holding of this Summit will itself be a major confidence-building measure and should contribute to underpinning security in the DRC and throughout the region.

Given the scale of the conflict in the DRC, which is estimated to have resulted in at least 3.5 million deaths and has left three million people still internally displaced, it is evident that substantial support from the international community will be required in order to help confront the challenges of reconstruction which lay ahead. The EU, through the European Development Fund, is committed to provide approximately €500 million in development and recovery assistance to the DRC for the period 2003-2007, of which over [706] €150 will be committed this year. This year’s figure includes a substantial programme of rehabilitation amounting to €65 million in eastern DRC which continues to experience significant levels of insecurity.

The Government, for its part, has contributed almost €12 million for emergency and recovery activities in the DRC since 2003, with €6.1 million provided to date in 2006. Ireland has also decided to provide financial support for the World Bank-administered Multi-Country Demobilisation and Rehabilitation Programme (MDRP) which spearheads international efforts to bring about demobilisation and rehabilitation of former combatants throughout the Great Lakes region. Financial support from Ireland to the MDRP in 2006 will amount to €500,000. Ireland is committed to continuing to support the DRC, including through provision of emergency and recovery assistance as well as any other forms of assistance deemed appropriate, as that country moves into what I hope will be a new era of democracy and development.

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 89.