The United Nations and its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have nine months to accomplish crucial objectives in the country’s political transition – organizing credible elections, maintaining peace and security and addressing the devastation wrought by war, senior UN envoy William Lacy Swing said today.
“Our biggest challenge is that of time,” he told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York as he reviewed the recent work of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), established in November 1999.
“That, I think, is really what lies before us: whether we and the international community in the Congo, working together, can ensure that the remaining nine months of the transition are sufficient to accomplish these objectives overall to arrive at conditions of stability and legitimacy before the end of the transition on 30 June 2006,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General said.
Saying he was explaining, not complaining, he responded to persistent questions about the likelihood that the Security Council would increase the 16,900-strong MONUC force by saying: “The province of Kinshasa is about the size of Kosovo, where we had 46,000 troops. Ituri district, where we have 4,800 troops, is the size of Sierra Leone, which had 17,500 troops.”
In addition, DRC is five times larger than Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Liberia and Sierra Leone put together, with twice the population, Mr. Swing pointed out.
The Security Council has authorized a force of 7,090 for Cote d’Ivoire, 5,650 for Burundi and 15,000 for Liberia.
With MONUC stationing 80 per cent of its forces in the troubled eastern DRC, Mr. Swing said it had created the first-ever UN divisional headquarters in Kisangani, bringing the peacekeepers two hours closer to the conflict areas of Ituri and the Kivus. Meanwhile, though, the rest of the vast country – Equateur province, which is larger than France, Bandundu, the Kasais, Bas-Congo and Kinshasa – has three UN battalions, he said.
“I work with what I am given and we try to make the adjustments that we need to make,” he said.