United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his first official visit to Africa, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
KISANGANI, 29 Jan 2007 (IRIN) - War-related humanitarian problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) can only be solved in an atmosphere of lasting peace and stability, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during a two-day visit to the country.
"A stable security situation is indispensable to the return of total peace and stability in DRC ... By creating such an environment on the political, economic and social levels, the United Nations and the international community will be encouraged to continue working for prosperity and development with the Congolese government," Ban said on Saturday.
He said he had spoken to DRC President Joseph Kabila and other government officials and stressed the need to enhance security and protect human rights. He said special attention needed to be paid to the problem of sexual abuse. He also called for greater representation of women in parliament. "In this way, you will arrive at social and economic development," Ban said.
Although the 18,473 troops - including 776 military observers and 1,075 police - serving with the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) had played a major role in the DRC's stabilisation, Ban said it was important that the Congolese army and police take over. That, however, would only be possible when the DRC army and police were properly trained and a timetable for the handover had been worked out with the government.
MONUC has deployed 14,500 troops in the troubled east and northeast of the country to help secure these areas against armed groups.
Ban reiterated that it was not the intention of the UN and the international community to abandon DRC, but the world body would help the government in its efforts to reform Congolese society.
On Saturday, Ban visited a paediatric hospital at Kalembelembe, where 589 children living with HIV/AIDS are being cared for with the support of UN agencies.
"I met dedicated doctors and nurses there; I am proud to see that the UN is represented by its agencies in this important project that also involves public and private sector partners," Ban told reporters.
Mado Wambio, whose child has been at the hospital for two weeks being treated for measles, expressed her appreciation of Ban's visit. "I am comforted by Mr Ban, who held the hand of my child and mine and wished us good luck," she said.
In the 150-bed hospital, HIV-infected children shared rooms with other patients to avoid stigmatisation, according to Catherine Akele, the director of the hospital. Nongovernmental organisations are supporting the construction of facilities for surgical and neo-natal services.
Ban urged Congolese authorities to practise good governance and fight against impunity so that the public could regain its confidence in the government and reap the dividends of peace.
He left DRC on Sunday for the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to attend the African Union summit, where continental security issues are expected to dominate.