Statement by SRSG Lakhdar Brahimi

In the name of Allah, the compassionate and the merciful.

Mr. Chairman,
Your Majesty Mohammed Zither Shah
Your Excellency Chairman Hamid Karzai
Distinguished Members of the Loyal Jirga
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Secretary-General and my colleagues at UNAMA,
I would like to congratulate the people of Afghanistan on the opening of the Loyal Jirga, a traditional Afghan institution held to find Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.

My congratulations also to the Chairman and Members of the Independent Commission who, for almost 5 months now, have worked so hard to make this gathering possible.

And congratulations to His Excellency Hamid Karzai and his colleagues, the members of the Interim Administration who, in a few days, will complete with honor and distinction the historic, important and difficult mission entrusted to them. In just under six months, they have set Afghanistan back on track and established the foundation upon which, God willing, the Transitional Authority will consolidate peace and establish lasting stability.

Through his tireless activities, Chairman Karzai has projected the image of the Afghanistan of the future and helped his country and his people regain their dignity and respect in the eyes of the world. And thanks to his dedication, his sincerity, his honesty and his genuine commitment to both universal and Afghan values, he has earned for himself the respect and affection of all Afghans.

Chairman Karzai also deserves our gratitude for one additional reason. Many, over the dark years of war and conflict, called for the convening of a Loyal Jirga. Few people have worked as hard as Chairman Karzai to make it happen.

And so, as the Loyal Jirga begins its proceedings allow me to congratulate you, the delegates to this historical gathering. There is no precedent for a Loyal Jirga such as this –a Loyal Jirga based on centuries-old Afghan traditions, but incorporating the principle of elected representation, to ensure that as many people as possible participate in national decision-making. People from cities and villages; women and men; lemma, intellectuals and professionals; refugees and displaced persons – all have a voice in this Emergency Loyal Jirga.

Was the process perfect? By no means. Indeed, there were many attempts to subvert or unfairly influence the process. There were even cases of violence, arrest, torture, and, alas, murder. We respectfully salute the memories of those who lost their lives, and present our condolences to their families and friends. Andre express our sympathy to all those who were victims of injustice or violence.

But is it not remarkable that, in country that has just emerged from three decades of brutal conflict and lawlessness, so many Afghans – though unarmed, powerless and often poor – had the courage to resist interference; that some of you and your fellow Afghans walked for hours, even days, to reach meeting centers, insisting that your voices be heard; and that so many fought – not with guns, but with their courage and their votes– to preserve the integrity of this national process?

And while every instance of intimidation and violence that did take place is deeply regrettable, and was condemned and must be condemned again in the strongest possible terms, let us not forget that these popular meetings took place in almost 400 Afghanistan – sometimes involving gatherings of 10to 15 thousand people. And yet, most of the process took place in a peaceful, orderly and free atmosphere.

In six short months, and on the heels of almost three decades of bitter and divisive conflict, it would have been utterly unrealistic to expect a process that ran 100% smoothly– if, indeed, such a thing exists anywhere in the world.

There is so much that you, the delegates to the Loyal Jirga, have to accomplish this week.

Mr. Chairman, honorable delegates,

I think that I speak in the name not only of the United Nations, but also of Member States and the International Community as a whole, when I say that we, like your own people, expect much from your Assembly and pray fervently for your success.

Many members of the international community are present today, to witness this historic moment. Many have provided significant financial support for the Loyal Jirga. I would like to recognize, in particular, the generosity of the Governments of Germany, the United States, Japan, Great Britain and the other Members of the European Union, Norway and His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan. Indeed, we gratefully recognize the support and encouragement of all nations represented in Afghanistan.

And I wish to express my warm gratitude to those international monitors who accompanied the process and contributed to its success during the last few critical weeks. Some of these monitors are here with us today, and I would like to salute and thank them again.
Many of them are well-known friends of Afghanistan — academics, journalists, NGO and human rights workers — who have been supporting Afghanistan for many years. Their presence is an expression of confidence in Afghanistan and in this Loyal Jirga.

I hope that I will also be permitted to recognize my own colleagues at UNAMA, and the UN family as a whole, who have worked extremely hard, up and down the country, and made significant contribution to this process. They are present here today, and they continue to work and pray for your success.

Like all political processes throughout the world, the campaigns of the past weeks involved strong competition between neighbors and friends to gain access to this Assembly. We all know that political processes often divide, rather than unite people. But the difficult part of the process – the battles over seats– is now over. What takes place from this moment onward should be an exercise in national unity.

The delegates to the Loyal Jirga represent millions of other Afghans, who could not fit into this tent. In the next days, those of you present here must ensure that you speak for all the people of Afghanistan. You come from different cities, provinces, tribes and ethnic groups, but you are all Afghans, who share a long and rich history. Many of you were Mujahidin who struggled side by side to preserve your country’s honor, dignity and independence. All of you have lost friends and family members to the conflict. Allot you bear the scars of your country’s past.

The entire world has followed the suffering of the Afghan people over the past 23 years. Their eyes are upon you today. But far more important is the fact that the eyes of your fellow Afghans are upon you.
And I mean that literally, because TV and Radio Afghanistan are broadcasting this and all open sessions of the Loyal Jirga live across Afghanistan.You are here today as their representatives and their spokespeople. Although they have faced up to the adversity of the past with pride and dignity, your people have had enough of hatred and war. Their hearts are full of hope that this Loyal Jirga will mark a turning point for Afghanistan.

The members of this Emergency Loyal Jirga must work together to find Afghan solutions to the problems of Afghanistan. This is a heavy responsibility, but it is the only way to end the suffering of your people and ensure peace, stability and prosperity in your country.