United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today stressed the need for all Congolese to work together as he congratulated Joseph Kabila on his inauguration as President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following the recent elections, the first democratic polls in the strife-torn country in more than 40 years.
The Security Council also welcomed Mr. Kabila’s inauguration, as well as urging all political parties to work together and highlighting losing candidate Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s commitment last month to continue to be involved in politics “within the framework of the institutions.”
Mr. Annan also told the country’s leaders that their people expect them to make a clean break with the past, which includes a brutal six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives through fighting and attendant hunger and disease. Factional clashes have remained a problem since the end of the war, especially in the east.
“The Congolese people have understandably high expectations. They are looking to their leaders and elected officials to deliver a peace dividend, and to make a clear break with the past. They want to live in a new Congo: a State in which they have access to basic services,” Mr. Annan said in a statement read out by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno at the ceremony in Kinshasa.
“To achieve these goals, I encourage the Government to work closely with the Congolese people and civil society throughout the country to stimulate economic growth,” he said. Stressing the importance of reconciliation, he urged the Congolese people “to work together to resolve their differences peacefully, through legitimate channels, and thereby avoid renewed upheaval that could keep the country from pursuing the new path it has chosen.”
Mr. Annan also renewed the UN’s pledge to continue assisting the DRC following the two rounds of elections, which were the largest and most complex polls that the world body has ever helped organize and were aimed at cementing the country’s transition to stability.
After meeting in closed consultations in New York to discuss the DRC, this month’s Security Council president, Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, read out a presidential statement in which the 15-member body also expressed concern over recent hostilities in the east of the country, as well as calling on all donors to continue assistance.
“The Security Council welcomes Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba’s commitment, in his statement on 28 November 2006, to continue to participate actively in Congolese politics within the framework of the institutions of the Republic,” Mr. Al-Nasser said.
“[It] …reiterates the need for all political parties to act responsibly after the elections within the framework of democratic institutions and the rule of law… The Security Council expresses its serious concern at the recent hostilities launched by non-integrated army units… in the North Kivu province… It calls on these units to cease their hostilities.”
In the past few weeks, fighting and tension have increased with supporters of Mr. Bemba taking to the streets to protest the results of the 29 October run-off election. Mr. Annan has called on both sets of supporters to accept the election results and last month peacekeepers from the UN mission in the DRC (MONUC) shot into the air to disperse a violent demonstration by Mr. Bemba’s men in Kinshasa.
MONUC currently has over 18,000 uniformed personnel in the DRC to help the country.