27 March 2006

Flame from Burning Weapons a Symbol of Renewed Hope for Congolese People, Says Secretary-General at Brazzaville Ceremony

(Delayed for translation of text, originally delivered in French.)

NEW YORK, 20 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the weapons-burning ceremony in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, on 20 March:

After a decade marked by fratricidal conflict, the Republic of Congo has overcome its differences and united its sons and daughters around an ambitious peace plan -- a plan that the United Nations is following closely and fully supports.

On the occasion of this weapons-burning ceremony, I wish to congratulate President Sassou Nguesso and the Government and people of the Congo for their deep commitment to the process of dialogue and reconciliation.  Peace, security and stability are essential preconditions for sustainable development that is beneficial to all.

That is why I welcome the Government's weapons-collection operations, conducted with the financial support of the European Union and the technical assistance of the United Nations.

In December 2005, in partnership with the United Nations system, the Congo launched the programme entitled "Weapons Collection for Development".  The initial results are very encouraging.  On 10 March 2006, 180 operations were conducted, leading to the collection of 80,000 pieces of ammunition, 800 weapons and 500 grenades of various types from former combatants and civilians.

The process is under way and it must be maintained!

This means that we must also make progress on the other elements of the national programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.  The involvement of all parties in this process, especially young people, can only serve to strengthen it.

It is my fervent hope that the flame that we shall soon see rise from the pile of burning weapons before us shall be the symbol of renewed hope for the Congolese people and an inspiration for all peoples that continue to be the victims of armed conflict in Africa and elsewhere.  I urge you, in your capacity as President of the African Union, to bear this message of hope and peace with you wherever you go.

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