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Ambassador Susan Rice on mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Stakeout, on the mass rapes and attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations

New York, NY
August 26, 2010


I just want to take this opportunity to reiterate from the U.S. point of view our strongest possible condemnation of the rapes and attacks that occurred against scores of innocent civilians.  We are horrified, and we are outraged, and that led us, in conjunction with the French, to request this detailed briefing this morning.

It was a disturbing briefing, both for what we learned and what we don’t know still.  We are pleased that the Council swiftly and without any difficulty issued the statement that you’ve heard Ambassador Churkin deliver.

But the fact is that many questions were posed, some very poignant questions, including by me and others.  The Secretariat was clear in acknowledging that things did not occur as they should have, but we await answers from Assistant Secretary-General Khare and Margaret Wallstrom as to what was the actual sequence of events, where there may have been shortcomings in processes and procedures, and what steps can be taken going forward to ensure more effective, real time, advanced communication of threats to the civilian population.

I traveled with the Council last year to eastern Congo.  We met with victims of rape in Goma, we went out to villages in North Kivu, and camps where, then MONUC, now MONUSCO, had in place processes and procedures, which we were told were designed to provide early warning and rapid response.  We learned today that in many instances those procedures have worked; in this instance clearly they did not, and we need to know why and what mechanisms might be put in place to ensure that this type of horror is not repeated again and again.

I’m happy to take a few questions.

Amb. Susan Rice

Amb. Susan Rice

Reporter: (inaudible) early warning, story in today’s Times saying there was in fact,  DSS email saying rebels, where does it say that MONUSCO didn’t in fact go—we were told that on August 7 they went on a patrol in another direction away from the villages.  What does the U.S. think of that and what steps should be taken?

Ambassador Rice: The U.S. is asking, and I asked myself, that very question, based on the New York Times report, if there was in fact some understanding of insecurity or rebel presence, what response did MONUSCO take and what response should they have taken.  And we await the answer to that question.

Reporter: What about that email?

Ambassador Rice: We didn’t ask for the email.  I’m less interested in, you know—I believe there was such an email.  I have no reason to doubt it.  The question is, you know, what was done in response and why.

Reporter: Ambassador, if you pardon me, I have a Sudan-related question.  In dispatching Lyman to CPA talks by the State Department.  Does this signal any developments within the talks or anything in it, is there any sort of thing about the timing, or does it sort of just buttress the U.S. effort?

Ambassador Rice: It signifies that the United States is deeply and thoroughly committed to doing all we can to support full implementation of the CPA.  The referendum is drawing close, preparations are behind.  And we are stepping up efforts across the board to support effective implementation through the good diplomacy of General Gration, but also through a more enhanced presence on the ground that can sustain our efforts to work with both parties to resolve outstanding issues and prepare for the referendum.

Reporter: Are there specific developments?

Ambassador Rice: No.

Reporter: On DRC, what does the U.S. think that MONUSCO could do in terms of communicating with civilians?  People talked about satellite phones, flares, what are the ideas you have? And on Sudan, it’s up to you.  The Sudan question is just the Government of Sudan or the local authorities have said they want to move the Kalma camp to another location.  What does the U.S. think of that and of the expulsion of UN personnel from West Darfur, including for distributing rape detection kits as is alleged from the UNHCR people in West Darfur?  Does the US—what’s the response to I guess the moves of local authorities to make those expulsions.

Ambassador Rice: Focused on Congo.  We did discuss, and I myself raised in the form of brainstorming, some possible ideas for how to enhance communication between remote villages where there’s no cell phone coverage and you know, a company forwarding operating bases of MONUSCO.  And I don’t want to put any of them out as considered proposals, but certainly radios and satellite phones are among the tools out there that could conceivably be utilized. How feasible they are, whether the radio coverage in dense bush is feasible, at what distance, whether the costs of cell phone—or satellite phone—usage are prohibited, I don’t have the answers to those.  But those are the kinds of ideas certainly that members of the Council are starting to generate.  We expect further insights and ideas from MONUSCO and we’re going to come back to this and insist that there be both a greater understanding than I frankly feel exists in the Council as to the extent and the limitations of MONUSCO’s ability to communicate with outlying villages and then some very specific steps that can be taken to enhance that communication.

With respect to Darfur, I think we’ve seen that there have been some steps taken to address what was a very pressing concern some 10 days ago or so about both circumstances in Kalma and the UN’s humanitarian presence.  I think the Secretary-General and his spokesman have addressed those.  Obviously the U.S. view is that any efforts to deal with the circumstances of IDPs needs to be voluntary and safe and consistent with humanitarian principles and humanitarian law.

Reporter:  Yes, you were talking about a brainstorming on how to improve communications in remote areas, but was there any discussion about communications on the ground?  Because the thing that sort of leaped out at me most was that these guys actually went through the village twice – once while the rebels were still in the area and no one said anything to them.  I mean, was that raised?

Ambassador Rice:  Yes

Reporter:  Are they proactive in asking villagers?  Are they trusted?

Ambassador Rice:  The question was raised and we await a satisfactory answer.

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Welcome! Who am I?

Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.