A commercial cargo barge has arrived in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 1,300 kilometres from the capital, Kinshasa, marking the effective re-opening of the Congo River after four years of suspended civil river traffic due to war, according to the United Nations mission in the country.
The UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) welcomed the first commercial convoy on the Congo River since 1998. To the cheers of jubilant crowds along the river banks, the convoy, with 4,500 tons of goods, arrived at Kisangani on Sunday, after a 19-day voyage from the capital.
MONUC chief William Swing, who travelled to Kisangani to join with thousands of local citizens in welcoming the convoy's arrival, hailed the event as "an important moment in the physical and geographical reunification process of this vast and beautiful country." He added that rehabilitation of the waterways would be a major challenge for the new Congolese Government, "for free movement of people and goods is an essential part of the rule of law."
MONUC said that the arrival of the convoy is expected to have an immediate impact on local price levels and is an important commercial incentive for business people to boost production.
The Mission has been making intensive efforts over the past years to reopen the Congo River to restore freedom of movement. Under the escort of the Mission, a dozen humanitarian convoys had sailed through the river prior to the first commercial barges.