Despite ‘enormous’ challenges, DR Congo could spur regional development: UN official

11 December 2006

Despite its recent landmark elections, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) still faces “enormous” challenges in recovering from a brutal civil war, however, with all its natural resources the massive African country could spur development in the whole region, a senior United Nations official said today.

The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC, Ross Mountain, described the polls, which were the first democratic elections in 45 years, as historic, adding that “on the basis of where we find ourselves now, we’re not pessimistic about the next steps.”

“The country… faces very many challenges, after so many years of neglect. It is not a permanent basket case however… the riches of this country, in minerals, timber, water power – it has 10 per cent of the world’s water power potential, means that it has the makings of a motor of development in Central Africa, it has nine neighbours,” he told reporters in New York.

Pointing to President Joseph Kabila’s acceptance speech last Wednesday, Mr. Mountain welcomed his commitment to work on dealing with the myriad challenges ahead, and also acknowledged the intention of the runner-up, Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, to become an opposition politician.

“The challenges are enormous, we’re very encouraged by the acceptance statement by the newly elected President who underlined the challenges, particularly in the area of corruption, dealing with social services and the like,” he said, while also calling for donors to keep assisting the country.

“And I believe the international community has a vital continuing role in supporting the new Government now to ensure that the long-suffering population of this country can look forward to a better future.”

The elections in the DRC, which ended with the 29 October run-off poll, were the largest the UN has helped organize and were aimed at cementing the country’s fragile stability after a brutal six-year civil war, which cost 4 million lives through fighting and attendant hunger and disease.

Last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed the need for all Congolese to work together as he congratulated Mr. Kabila on becoming President, a theme that was echoed by the Security Council.

 

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