The United Nations Security Council today said that the Inter-Congolese dialogue commencing in Sun City, South Africa, was "an essential element to achieving lasting peace" in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In a formal statement read out in an open meeting by the Council’s current President, Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico, the 15-member body called on all Congolese parties to participate in the process in a “constructive spirit.” Late last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan made the same point, describing the dialogue as "a unique opportunity” for the Congolese parties to engage in substantive political discussion and emphasizing that they had primary responsibility for ensuring the success of the process.
Reiterating its call for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the DRC territory, the Council urged all the parties to the conflict in the country "to display their political will in order to achieve a peaceful settlement and reconciliation." It also stressed that the process of disarming, demobilizing, repatriating and reintegrating the armed groups was another key element for the settlement of the conflict.
In that context, the Council requested the UN mission in the country, known as MONUC, to make an initial assessment of the number of members of armed Rwandan groups that remain in the DRC by the end of March. At the same time it called on the DRC Government to fulfill its commitments on repatriation of ex-combatants in Kamina, in the country's south.
In another development, the commencement of the dialogue was a major focus of Radio Okapi - a 24-hour radio station created by MONUC and non-governmental organization Foundation Hirondelle - which began broadcasting in four languages today from its studios in Kinshasa, Kisasngani and Goma.