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DR of Congo: Annan honours fallen peacekeepers

DR of Congo: Annan honours fallen peacekeepers, lauds UN role in coming vote

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the United Nations is fielding one of its largest peacekeeping forces, with nearly 17,000 uniformed personnel, and helping to organize elections in the biggest and most expensive such operation it has ever undertaken.

Together with his wife, Nane, he immediately made for the headquarters of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) to lay a wreath for peacekeepers who have fallen during the world organization’s effort to cement the vast country’s transition to peace and democracy after a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives.

“As we all witnessed, some of our colleagues have paid the ultimate price, giving their lives in the service of peace,” he declared. “But I think their loss and their death gives us additional reasons to press on, to succeed in this important mission so that their deaths will not have been in vain.” Mr. Annan, who arrived in Kinshasa, the capital, from the neighbouring Republic of Congo across the Congo River on the fourth leg of his current mission in Africa, spoke of MONUC’s role in organizing elections in a huge country with little infrastructure, the first time in 45 years that Congolese will have a chance to vote in multiparty open polls.

“This poses major logistical challenges – if not [a] nightmare. But I know you ladies and gentlemen are up to the task and you will do your best to ensure that we do organize the best possible elections under these difficult circumstances,” he said of the vote scheduled for 18 June.

“This is an incredible opportunity and you are no little part of that gift that they'll have for June of this year.”

Mr. Annan then received a briefing from his Special Representative William Swing, Force Commander for eastern DRC Patrick Cammaert, and the other senior Mission staff. He met later with President Joseph Kabila to discuss the political situation in the country, the elections, reform of the army and economic reconstruction, as well as UN reform.

Mr. and Ms. Annan then visited a centre for street children, former child combatants and other exploited or abused children, which is supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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