Statement by Mr. Tom Kitt TD, Minister of State for Development Cooperation and Human Rights
19th August 2003.
There has been considerable recent criticism of Ireland's programme of assistance to Uganda, based in particular on Uganda's involvement in the DRC. The issues involved are complex and compelling, as highlighted most recently by Sam Kiley's Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, “Congo's Killing Fields”.
No one could be unmoved by the scenes of human suffering depicted in the documentary. And no one could view without anger the outrages committed by militias in the area. I myself met refugees from the conflict during a recent visit to the region and was appalled by their stories.
It is, I think, important to set out clearly the Irish Government's position on the matter.
The Government has been deeply concerned with the conflict in the Congo and has used its strongest influence, with all our partners, in addressing it over a considerable period, during our membership of the UN Security Council, and since then.
It has been our firm view and that of the international community that to end the conflict and build a vested interest in peace, there must be an inclusive and comprehensive peace process. And, in all its dimensions, that is what we have been striving to promote in the DRC:
- With our EU partners we have supported the putting in place of a new interim administration, the Transitional National Government, which recently took office and involves all parties, as the first step in restoring administrative control to the areas like Ituri, which featured in the documentary.
- We have supported the deployment of an EU-led force, the Interim Emergency Multinational Force, in the region, which has a strong peace-enforcement mandate and which has helped restore order to the region.
- In succession to the EU force, which departs in September, we are supporting the deployment of sizeable reinforcements to the UN force (MONUC), which will bring its total strength to 10,800 personnel and again, like the EU force, it will have a robust peace-enforcement mandate. Ireland has contributed military observers to both forces.
- In line with UN Security Council Resolution 1484 of 30 May last, which demands “the cessation of all support, in particular weapons and any other military material, to the armed groups and militias”, we are pressurising all parties to the conflict, especially those with whom we are engaged through our development programme, to play a full, constructive role in support of that process. And one result of that international pressure, which is of no small significance, has been the verified withdrawal of all foreign forces from DRC soil, including the Ugandan army.
- In addition, Ireland is a strong supporter of UN Security Council Resolution 1493 of 28th July last, which has put in place an arms embargo on the Kivu and Ituri districts of the DRC.
Clearly the involvement of the Congo's neighbours in the eastern region – taken with the linkages to the Rwandan Genocide, the breakdown of all vestiges of law and order following the collapse of the Mobuto regime, and the attacks from the DRC on Uganda itself - has greatly exacerbated the regional and tribal divisions, promoted a wider conflict and let loose corrupting influences leading to the outrages which were so graphically portrayed on the Channel 4 documentary.
While a number of countries have been involved in the DRC, a particular concern to me as Minister was the role played in the DRC by Uganda, one of Ireland's partner countries in Africa. I have been strongly critical of Ugandan involvement in the DRC and condemn publicly the role of any government in fomenting conflict in the country.
My Department has kept our programme in Uganda and in the region under constant review for a number of years. In reviewing such a complex and difficult issue, I have had to weigh up what offers the greatest prospect of bringing peace to the afflicted people portrayed in Mr. Kiely's documentary. I have concluded so far that this interest is served by continued engagement in Uganda. The complete withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the DRC earlier this year can be attributed in considerable measure to pressure from Ireland and other donors. Ireland's influence would not have been possible without the leverage of our excellent, poverty-oriented aid programme.
Taking account of public concerns provoked by recent revelations and by the documentary on Sunday, I have asked my officials to strengthen the review process through consultations with all stakeholders, including the international agencies, the NGOs and the Ugandan authorities themselves. This review must take account both of the poverty focus of our programme in Uganda and the political background against which it operates.
I believe that, both directly in the region and through the United Nations, Ireland has played a constructive role in trying to bring stability to this troubled region. The images portrayed by Sam Kiley do motivate us to redouble those efforts to contribute towards a lasting peace in the DRC.