19 June 2006

Security Council Told Last Week's Mission to Democratic Republic of Congo Demonstrated UN Resolve to Ensure 30 July Elections Fully Successful

NEW YORK, 16 June (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week, just ahead of the first presidential and parliamentary elections there in 45 years, had demonstrated the importance of what was at stake and its resolve to give the Congolese its utmost support for fully successful elections, the head of that mission, Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France, told the Council today.

He said in an open briefing following the 15-member mission's return last week from Africa, with visits to the Sudan and Chad, that the historic elections on 30 June would mark the end of the transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The success of that important phase of recovery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would affect the stability of not only the country, but the whole region and possibly the whole continent, owing to that country's location and size and abundant natural resources in the heart of Africa.  For its part, a tremendously motivated Council would continue to work side by side with the Congolese people.

He said that the Council had accurately assessed the risks and tasks involved in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it should be fairly confident of a positive outcome.  The Congolese had registered to vote in the elections in great numbers, and their expectations were tremendous.  It was important for them to see a lasting change.  That was why the mission had stressed the need not only to preserve the gains that had been made, but to ensure that those could be built upon by the legitimacy conferred by the elections and the establishment of credible institutions as soon as possible, thereafter.

Winners must be generous and losers must accept the electoral verdict, he said.  Distorted reports in the media during the campaign should be suppressed, and access to the media should be granted to less important candidates and smaller political parties.  Serious acts of intimidation against journalists and candidates must end.  While it was not the Council's responsibility to get involved in the political debate, it could remind the Congolese people that inclusion was extremely important to ensure that everyone contributed to the many challenges before them.  He saw those challenges as follows:  the speedy establishment of an integrated and professional national army, properly equipped and paid; the settlement of the acute problems associated with the armed groups in the east; and the putting in order of the country's administration.

Concerning security, violence persisted in the east, in Ituri, and the armed groups in Kivu were still not fully controlled, but Mr. de La Sablière said he did not think that the continued violence would significantly disrupt the elections.  In addition, police training, in which some 50,000 police officers had participated, had been effective, making it possible to keep the army's role to a minimum and only in some still unstable areas.  Moreover, the European reserve force on stand-by -- as authorized by the Security Council on 25 April for four months after the first round of upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections -- was in place and ready to contribute to the efforts of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to maintain law and order.

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