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DR Congo: UN mission head optimistic on elections

DR Congo: head of UN Council mission optimistic on upcoming elections

Upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are moving ahead under good conditions, but technical problems should be expected, equal media access for all parties must be assured and the poll must be followed by speedy development of national institutions, the head of a Security Council delegation just back from the central African country told the 15-member body today.

“The train is on the right track and now it needs to pull into the station,” Jean-Marc de la Sablière, France’s ambassador to the UN, said of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 30 July, the first in the vast country in 45 years and the largest and most complex electoral-assistance mission undertaken thus far by the UN.

Mr. de la Sablière said that the Council had accurately predicted the risks and tasks involved in the election and it should be fairly confident of a positive outcome. Technical problems would likely arise, in view of the sophisticated electoral system chosen by the Assembly and the vast size of the country, but the Congolese people are highly committed and the work done by the electoral commission and the UN mission in the DRC (MONUC) is extremely professional, he said.

On security, he noted that violence persists in the eastern Ituri region and armed groups in the eastern Kivu provinces were not yet fully controlled, but he maintained that neither of those factors are capable of significantly disrupting the elections.

He added that police training of some 50,000 officers had been carried out and the role of the army in providing security for the elections will be reduced to a minimum and only in some still unstable areas. In addition, the establishment of a European reserve force on stand-by as authorized by the Security Council is in place and ready to assist MONUC.

Mr. de la Sablière said that throughout the Council’s visit he had stressed that the elections should be free, transparent and fair and that distorted media messages should be avoided, and that that all parties, especially the smaller ones, should have access to the media.

The mission, he said, had also stressed to Congolese officials the need to quickly set up vital national institutions following the elections, including an integrated and professional national army and a credible Government administration, which could, among other things, protect the country’s bountiful natural resources for the needs of its people.

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