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.