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W.Swing: An expensive peace is better than any war

MONUC | Published on September 21, 2007

On International Peace Day this Friday 21 September 2007, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for the DRC William Swing explains the significance of the day for MONUC and the DRC, and his hopes for the future of the country.

On International Peace Day this Friday 21 September 2007, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for the DRC William Swing explains the significance of the day for MONUC and the DRC, and his hopes for the future of the country.


What is the significance of this day?

I believe that this year in particular the day of peace has a major importance for Congo. Why? Because if you make a contrast with last year, this year there are now legitimate institutions installed resulting from the elections, that are working for the third republic.

Last year, one was in a full electoral campaign, one did not know the conclusion, now one knows it. It is the first time in more than forty years that the DRC can say to the world that it had good elections and institutions which are legitimate. This has created a very solid base for the future.

What did MONUC do for peace in the DRC?

We did all we could and all that was asked of us. Initially, we had to work closely for the elections with the electoral commission, we provided almost all logistics to ensure the elections, with a fleet of more than 100 planes and thousands of vehicles. We spent a lot of our resources to support the Congolese people, and with the international community and the Congolese National Police we trained more than 60,000 Congolese National Police to ensure security during the elections.

Radio Okapi, our radio of the United Nations, engaged in civic education to support the people and the institutions.

Do you believe that the DRC is now on the way to peace?

I have no doubt. They have very solid base with the elections, they are in the process of training a republican army with the assistance of the international community. We are training 11 brigades for military operations against those which want to disturb the country, they are well trained in the area, in Africa, in the world. They have a very active diplomatic regional policy, and I don't doubt that a durable peace will prevail.

Can one have durable peace without economic development?

I believe that both go together. I believe that without stability, there will be no economic development, but also stability is at risk without economic development.

Here, it is necessary to make a great distinction between Congo and the other countries in the process of post conflict, because this is a country which has immense riches. I always say it is a cruel irony as the Congo is one of the richest countries in Africa, which has become one of the poorest countries in the world. That should be reversed.

They have more than 50% of all forests in Africa and 10% of all hydro-electric capacity in the world. They have copper, cobalt, gold and diamonds. All this is very well-known, and I do not doubt now that they will develop these resources.

For MONUC, what was the price paid for this peace?

The most expensive peace is cheaper than the cheapest war. We have spent almost a billion dollars per year to maintain this mission, but the benefits are much more important. We have paid with the lives of 35 soldiers, with many others wounded during the various clashes and ambushes.

But I believe that we all are satisfied that the United Nations investment is a very good one.

With your long experience in the DRC, what was the most joyful moment on the road to peace?

It's difficult to choose, but if I must choose only one example, I would say the elections. I was inspired to see the Congolese people going to the ballot boxes. Initially, they traveled to register to vote, with some people making a thirty or forty kilometre journey on foot. Then to vote for a Constitution, a piece of paper that the majority had never considered and nobody read, because it was the way towards a better future. They then repeated the journey two more times in October and July. That inspired me because it showed the determination of people who had suffered too much and for too long.

You had difficult moments, and you risked your life to build the road to peace. How does it feel to put your life in danger in the service of peace?

I would say that when I set out to something in my modest way, I try to do it. The problem here it that one always remains a foreigner, one does things with the best intentions but sometimes one does not make good judgments.

We are content that we came out with a good performance. It is a reward for me for all the efforts we made. But I never really found myself in moments that were too difficult or too unpleasant. Above all I'm very honoured as somebody who was able, at my age, to witness a really historical moment, because it's Congo and not another country. It's the Congo which has the potential to give more to the whole continent of Africa. This is what inspires us day after day.

Were you honestly afraid at any time?

Without exaggerating too much it was the concern that after all these investments, all would fall into the sea. But after a certain time we knew that there was nothing which can stop the process, and everything will move forward.

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