21 March 2006

Loss of Peacekeepers in Democratic Republic of Congo Reason to Press on, Succeed in "Noble Mission", Says Secretary-General at Kinshasa Memorial Service

NEW YORK, 21 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the memorial for fallen United Nations peacekeepers at the headquarters of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), Kinshasa, 21 March:

Good morning dear peacekeepers,

It is wonderful to be here with you today.  I think my wife and the team travelling with me from New York are all extremely happy to be here.  As a former peacekeeper myself, I know what you men and women go through, whether you are with the military or with the civilian.  I also know how difficult it is sometimes to mould the two cultures into one and have one chain, one mission, with one objective, but I hope over the months you have learned from each other, and you are now a team, I know.

I used to tell my own stories as head of peacekeeping operations, years ago, trying to mould military and civilian into one composite, dynamic, productive, hard-working team and some of the challenges.  You probably have all seen this.  At the beginning, when I convened a meeting, the soldiers were always on time and the civilians were late.  The other thing was, the civilians did lots of talking and soldiers said very little.  After a while, as the culture begins to gel, the civilians begin to be more punctual and the military begin to ask more questions.  And they get on extremely well and work as one team with one mission.  And this is what I know you have been able to create here.

Almost all of you, except our Congolese brothers and sisters, have come from far away, far away to be part of a noble mission, far away in the service of peace.  And, as we all witnessed, some of our colleagues have paid the ultimate price, giving their lives in the service of peace.  To their families, their loved ones, we offer our deepest condolences and sympathies, and may their souls rest in peace.  But, I think their loss and their death gives us additional reasons to press on, to succeed in this important mission, so that their deaths will not have been in vain.

It is unfortunate that, today, we work in a world that is not risk-free, and we have to always attain security and be conscious of our environment.  But, that risk should not deter us from carrying on the mission we are here to undertake.  I know that the Government and the people of this country appreciate the contribution you have made.

We are now at a critical stage, and come June we will be organizing elections.  Elections, in a huge country with little infrastructure, and this poses major logistical challenges -- if not [a] nightmare.  But, I know you ladies and gentlemen are up to the task and you will do your best to ensure that we do organize the best possible elections under these difficult circumstances.

This is the first time in 45 years the Congolese are going to have a chance to vote, to have a chance to have a say in who leads them, to have a say in who governs them and this is an incredible opportunity, and you are no little part of that gift that they'll have for June of this year.  So, let's make it work and let me say, on behalf of all your colleagues in New York and around the world, how proud we are of the work you do here and thank you all very, very much.  And, I would also want to applaud your leader, Bill Swing, who has been leading this Mission with dedication and skill and wisdom.  And, of course, the Force Commander who, by his side, has been able to make this Mission what it hopes to be.  We have many challenges, but I have confidence in you.  So, let's move forward and complete our mission.

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