The head of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) said today that the pacification of that country was going well - "probably better than could have been reasonably expected."
"I'm encouraged overall by what I found when I arrived in [the capital] Kinshasa," MONUC chief William Lacy Swing said at a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.
"When I left two years before, the wars were still raging, the foreign armies were still on the territory there," he added. "Today all those who were fighting are now in the same government. All the institutions foreseen under the constitutional transition have stood up. There is a government that is functioning and meeting regularly."
Mr. Swing also reported progress on the nation's international debt. "International support for the transition is probably as strong or stronger has been since independence," he said. "The international finance institutions have agreed to write off the greater percentage of a $14 billion debt so that they are able to use their money for developmental purposes [and] reconstruction.
"Overall, whereas there has been some slippage in the timetable…I think it has gone at least as well and probably better than could be reasonably have been expected, understanding that a year ago the country was at war," he said.
Earlier, Mr. Swing had presented a budget request of $670 million, an increase of some 11 per cent over last year's budget, due the mission's expanded role in supporting demilitarization, returning former combatants to civilian life and helping with elections. He said he would also soon have an increase in troop strength, from 8,700 to 10,800, to make up for the French-led European troops which were withdrawn last month.