UN chief addresses DRC Parliament in landmark visit

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon on Saturday called for a ”good governance pact” in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in an address to the National Assembly at the start of a landmark visit to show support for President Joseph Kabila’s young democracy.

”I would like to invite you to work out a pact with yourselves and the people you represent as well as with all your international partners,” he said in a keynote speech to 365 members of the 500-strong assembly.

”This would be a kind of good governance pact, because restoring the state’s authority and ensuring the primacy of the rule of law across the country are indispensable for consolidating peace and democracy.

”To be a healthy and thriving democracy needs a real political opposition in which everyone can express himself freely and without fear of being intimidated. This is also good governance,” he told the lawmakers.

Ban arrived earlier on Saturday in the Central African country of 58-million people, where the United Nations fields its largest peacekeeping mission.

The mission, known as Monuc, has since 1999 helped maintain peace in the vast mineral-rich country — the size of Western Europe — following a devastating war that drew in half a dozen neighbouring countries.

The country last year held successful UN-supervised presidential and National Assembly elections, the first democratic polls in 40 years.

Ban’s two-day visit is part of a nine-day, seven-nation tour, his first since foreign trip since taking office on January 1.

The South Korean said he chose the DRC to start his first visit to Africa to ”pay tribute to the courage and determination of the Congolese people”.

Ban also underscored the need to re-establish security throughout the country to foster lasting stability, singling out the creation of ”a professional, well-paid and well-equipped army and police as a priority”.

He emphasized the need ”to deal resolutely with the issue of foreign armed groups, which continue to operate in the country and to commit crimes against the population”.

The UN peacekeeping mission ”stands ready to assist the government in finding a solution to this urgent question”, Ban told the assembly.

Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are still operating in eastern DRC.

Many members of the group are believed to have taken part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which left about 800 000 people dead, most from the minority Tutsi ethnic group, according to UN figures.

Before addressing the assembly, Ban met with Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga and National Assembly speaker Vital Kamerhe.

The UN secretary general flew in from Paris, where he attended an aid conference for Lebanon, on the third leg of a tour that will later take him to Addis Ababa for an African Union summit, then to Kenya and finally to The Netherlands.

During a refuelling stop in Cairo, where he held a brief meeting with Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials, Ban told reporters that there had been ”very encouraging developments” in DRC, referring to last year’s elections.

”But much more needs to be done. The international community needs to nurture this young democracy,” said Ban.

Ban also said he also came to show support to the UN peacekeeping mission’s nearly 20 000 military and civilian personnel that continue to play a critical role in building DRC’s national institutions, particularly its nascent security forces.

Stressing the vital contribution of Monuc to DRC’s still fragile democracy, the secretary general ruled out any downsizing of the force at a time when the UN is looking for extra troops for a planned joint peacekeeping operation with the AU in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region. ‒ AFP



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Gerard Aziakou
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