The United Nations will stand by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as it consolidates peace, but ultimately future stability lies in the hands of the Congolese people, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told parliamentarians in the capital, Kinshasa.
Saying he was honoured to be speaking in the country at such a crucial moment in its history, Mr. Ban said on Saturday that he chose to visit the DRC – the first he traveled to in Africa since becoming Secretary-General at the beginning of this year – in order to pay tribute to the “remarkable courage and determination” of the Congolese people.
“Now, DRC is a true source of hope for all of Africa,” he told a meeting of the National Assembly, while acknowledging the “gigantic” tasks ahead, including improving health, education, basic services and infrastructure across the massive country, while providing jobs and using revenue generated from natural resources for improving living conditions.
Mr. Ban, who is from the Republic of Korea, recalled his own childhood growing up in a war-ravaged country where reconstruction was achieved step by step thanks to the discipline of its leaders, the hard work of its people and the support of the international community, led by the UN. “You can count on us,” he said, pledging to help the DRC push back poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination.
“But as strong as the support of the international community may be, the key to a better future in DRC is in your hands,” he said, urging those present to enter into a contract with themselves and the people they represent, as well as global partners. This should focus on good governance, he added, because re-establishing State authority is key to consolidating peace and democracy.
True democracy, he stressed, requires a genuine political opposition where all can freely express themselves without fear of intimidation. “I ask therefore that all of the parties represented in this august Assembly and all the leaders of the country work together, placing the interests of the Congolese people above all.” He voiced hope for the full participation of women and said Parliament should examine decentralization laws so that local and municipal elections can be held as soon as possible.
Mr. Ban also emphasized the need to protect human rights and improve the justice system, ensuring that it is capable of protecting against abuses – including sexual violence – and ending impunity.
Given the importance of re-establishing security, he said the creation of an army and police is essential so that the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) can transfer its responsibilities to the Government based on an agreed timetable.
Creating a true national army requires first that all former combatants be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into Congolese society, he noted. In parallel, it is essential to resolutely tackle the problem of armed foreign groups which continue to operate in the country and to commit crimes against the people.
Mr. Ban had echoed these themes in comments made to reporters during a stopover in Cairo on Friday, when he pledged the world body's support for the Congolese people. “The United Nations will be standing behind the DRC in their effort for more democracy and realizing economic and social development,” he said.
Last year, the DRC held its first democratic elections in more than four decades, the largest and most complex polls that the UN has ever helped to organize. The process crowned a seven-year UN effort to bring peace and democracy to the vast country after a brutal six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives through fighting and attendant hunger and disease, widely considered the most lethal conflict anywhere since the Second World War.