Magazine article UN Chronicle

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Article excerpt

Marking the end of a successful seven-month military campaign to take control of Africa's third largest country and to oust its President Mobutu Sese Seko, who had ruled Zaire since taking power after a military coup in 1965, the head of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire/Congo (ADFL), Laurent Desire Kabila, arrived on 21 May 1997 in Kinshasa to take control of the country. Since President Mobutu had given up power on 16 May and, subsequently, left the country, Mr. Kabila assumed the functions of the President of the new Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and introduced parts of its new Government in the evening hours of 22 May.

Although the Alliance's advance to Kinshasa remains clouded by charges of serious human rights violations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 19 May expressed satisfaction that the transfer of power had taken place in Kinshasa "without major loss of life". As he called for continued restraint from all parties, he appealed to Member States to extend generous assistance to the Governments and peoples of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa.

Mr. Annan expressed trust that the Government of the DRC "would be broad-based, including other political groups, and that the new authorities will work for political reconciliation, democracy and prosperity for the peoples of the country", according to his Spokesman, Fred Eckhard. "The Secretary-General expects the new authorities to work closely with the United Nations and the international community in assuring that the human rights of all are fully respected and that the victims of the conflict, in particular refugees, receive all necessary assistance", he said.

The Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to the Great Lakes region, Mohamed Sahnoun of Algeria, had met with President Kabila in Lubumbashi on 18 May and had received assurances on his cooperation with international organizations.

Mr. Annan, the Security Council and the United Nations system, along with the OAU, other regional and international actors, as well as South Africa, France and the United States, had been doggedly pursuing a peaceful resolution to the conflict. As fighting spread, Mr. Annan on 16 April stressed that "if we don't manage change in Zaire, we may lose control of it".

The various efforts reached a breakthrough in late March at the summit meeting of the Central Organ of the OAU's Mechanism for Conflict Prevention Management and Resolution, in Lome, at which ADFL and the then existing Government agreed to open direct talks in South Africa. Those talks began early the following month. The relatively peaceful changeover in Kinshasa was in part due to those external interventions.

Obstacles to Investigative mission

United Nations human rights officials in Geneva on 12 May voiced strong objections to actions by the Alliance, which made it impossible for a United Nations team to investigate human rights violations in the eastern part of Zaire, as mandated on 15 April by the Commission on Human Rights.

Ralph Zacklin, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights/Centre for Human Rights in Geneva, deplored the fact that obstacles created by ADFL had effectively prevented the Joint Investigative Mission from entering the area. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.