First patrol boats for Congo River arrive in Kinshasa, UN Mission says

First patrol boats for Congo River arrive in Kinshasa, UN Mission says

The United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC) today reported that it had received the first patrol boats for use on the Congo River, which will allow a resumption of riverine traffic between the East and West of the country.

The UN Mission said the arrival of the boats marked an important step in the re-opening of the Congo river to navigation - a development that was also highlighted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan during a meeting of the Security Council in New York today.

"We are now faced with a genuine window of opportunity for peace and security in the DRC," Mr. Annan told the Security Council. "An important signal has been the re-opening of the river network in the DRC for humanitarian and commercial exchanges between Kinshasa and Kisangani."

The fast boats will be used by a Uruguayan Riverine Unit that is expected to arrive early next month. The first barge leaving Mbandaka for Kisangani was scheduled for 7 June.

In his statement to the Council today, Mr. Annan also commented on the obstacles facing the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC. "The Democratic Republic of Congo - a vast and impoverished country devastated by conflict and with virtually no infrastructure - presents an immense operational, administrative and logistical challenge to any outside mission," he said.

A "major challenge" ahead for the Mission will be the process of withdrawal of all foreign troops, and the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement of armed groups, the Secretary-General said, noting that the parties would be finalizing plans for the withdrawal "in the near future," and that the planning for the MONUC operations had already begun.