23 March 2006

Democratic Republic of Congo "Resolutely along Path to Peace", Says Secretary-General in Kinshasa Address

NEW YORK, 22 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is an address by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Congolese people in Kinshasa, 22 March:

It is a great pleasure for me to be in your beautiful country once again.  I wish to thank the President, the Government and the people of the Congo from the bottom of my heart for the warm welcome extended to all of us:  my wife, my delegation and myself.  I trust that this welcome betokens a relationship of trust between the United Nations and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Permit me first of all to express my satisfaction at the amount of ground covered since my last visit.  The progress achieved is encouraging.  Today the Democratic Republic of the Congo is resolutely on its way along the path to peace.  The country is reunified.  The State has begun to redeploy its administration over a large portion of the territory.  A new Constitution was adopted last month, following the December 2005 referendum.  And the signing of the electoral law, on 9 March, opened the way for the holding of democratic elections that will bring to an end the transition begun in 2003.  For the first time in 45 years, the Congolese will be called upon to choose their leaders, and they have registered to vote in large numbers.

In order for people's hopes not to be disappointed, it is essential that the elections be seen by all as free, open and transparent.  Only the creation of a climate of confidence and security that favours the effective participation of all political parties will strengthen the credibility of the democratic process and guarantee lasting political stability.  I am confident that the Congolese authorities and people will have the wisdom to refrain from words of hate or provocation.  Any use of incendiary political rhetoric must be condemned.

The Congolese people have shown their determination to overcome the divisions of the past and build a common future.  The political leaders must measure up to that ambition and never, at any point in the electoral process, lose sight of the greater interest of the nation.

In this context, I should like to pay homage to the Congolese people, who have made a fundamental contribution to the peace process, not least in preparing for the elections.  That commitment must be maintained.  A united, committed society is the best guarantee of development that will benefit everyone.  In particular, I encourage women, who have borne so much responsibility and paid such a heavy tribute throughout the conflict, to demand their full place in society.  It is of the utmost importance for them to participate actively in the efforts  towards the consolidation of peace and towards reconstruction, and such participation must include a role in the decision-making processes.

The post-electoral challenges are in fact considerable.  Consolidating the democratic process will require a long-term commitment to institutional stability and sustainable development.

Effective control of resources, proper management of public enterprises and the thoroughly transparent, regular payment of civil servants are indispensable if any progress is to be made along the path of development -- development based on participation, necessarily integrating economic, social and environmental dimensions and not excluding any region.  Another significant challenge facing the new authorities will be to restore the authority of the State over the entire territory and impose the rule of law; this will mean strengthening Government support to local governments in order to enable them to provide basic public services to the population.

We must also think about the security of the population and the stability of the region in the period after the elections.  It is for this reason that I strongly urge you to speed up the process of reforming the security services and setting up a credible Congolese army and police force that are both professional and integrated.  They will have a vital role to play in providing security for the population and consolidating measures for building confidence with the neighbours of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, more generally, in ensuring the security of the new institutions that will take over at the end of the transition period.  The reform of the armed forces and the police must go hand in hand, moreover, with the acceleration and strengthening of the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

During this delicate electoral period, looking back at the ravages of the past, I realize that it may seem difficult for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to restore normal relations with its neighbours quickly.  Yet it is essential for peace and stability in the Great Lakes region that the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbours find once again ways to live together in peace and restore relations of trust as quickly as possible.  Here the United Nations places a great deal of hope in the process embarked on within the framework of the International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes region.

Rest assured that I, for my part, will continue to draw the attention of the international community to the humanitarian and development problems that face the region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in particular.  Even now I call on donors to support the implementation of the 2006 humanitarian plan of action and to show still more generosity this year than last.

Beyond the important challenges yet to be taken up, the international community cannot but be pleased at the progress realized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent months in preparing for the elections.  Those developments are the result of the efforts and determination of an entire people to express their collective will to live in peace.  They are a tribute to you.

Let me finish on this optimistic note and assure you once again that you have the support of the United Nations in your quest for a better future for all Congolese.

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