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Annan Calls For End To Intimidation In Congo

Annan Calls For End To Intimidation In Congo

With the largest and most challenging elections the United Nations has ever helped organize slated to take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in little over a month, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for full transparency of the process, voicing concern at reports of intimidation, corruption and detentions.

Any attempt to manipulate the process, including through restrictions on the freedom of the national and international press, the intimidation of voters and arbitrary arrests, cannot be tolerated and should be strongly condemned, he says in his latest report on the poll that aims to cement stability in the vast country after a disastrous civil war.

The six-year civil war cost 4 million lives through fighting and attendant hunger and disease – widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II and the security still remains tenuous in several parts of the country, notably in the east, as Mr. Annan notes in the report to the Security Council released today.

Terming the elections historic, he strongly encourages” Congolese political leaders to show a spirit of reconciliation and renewal, calls on the national police to take the necessary security measures to prevent possible violence, and warns of a twofold security challenge – inter-party tensions in large cities and the volatility in the eastern rural areas.

The Congolese electorate of 25.5 million voters will be called upon, for the first time in
45 years, to cast their vote in some 50,000 polling stations for some 33 presidential, over 9,000 national legislative and over 10,000 provincial assembly candidates, in polls that will cost hundreds of million dollars.

Risks of violence during the forthcoming elections are potentially high,” the Secretary-General writes.Security sector reform efforts remain largely incomplete and most of the former belligerents maintain a military capacity with which they could challenge electoral results. The deployment of the (presidential) Garde républicaine to parts of the country has raised concern about possible intimidation of certain candidates.”

He notes that despite some progress, the political and security situation in Ituri, the Kivus and Katanga, all eastern provinces, remains tenuous with militia fighting continuing to affect civilians. Joint operations by the national army, known by its French acronym FARDC, and the UN mission in the DRC (MONUC) have improved the overall situation in the Kivus, with progress made in containing and disarming militias.

But there are a number of intransigent armed groups in the area that continue to pose a threat to the populations and MONUC intends to intensify operations against these remaining elements after the elections.

Meanwhile, FARDC has engaged in widespread, serious violations of human rights” partly due a somewhat ineffective integration of the national army, particularly given the lack of political will, the mismanagement and diversion of funds earmarked for salary payments, and inadequate training and logistical support.

I urge the Congolese authorities and bilateral donors, including the European Union and others, to accelerate the establishment of a reformed army and police force and to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are swiftly brought to trial by an independent and credible justice system, he writes.

Mr. Annan notes that the humanitarian crisis in DRC remains severe, with a large number of internally displaced persons and while the UN and its partners have invested much effort and resources to mitigate the worst aspects, donors have pledged only 14 per cent of the $682 million needed for this year's humanitarian action plan.

He also stresses the importance of vital importance of continued aid after the elections. The sustained engagement of the international community, and the establishment of follow-up peace consolidation mechanisms, will be critical, he says.

The future Government must establish a national action plan, including benchmarks and coordinated programmes of donor support targeted at key objectives, such as poverty reduction and security sector reform.

As for UN involvement, Mr. Annan says he intends to provide the Council, after a possible second round of the presidential poll in October, with proposals for MONUC's post-electoral role, including critical areas such as the extension of State authority, security sector reform, protection and promotion of human rights, protection of civilians and the provision of overall security.

Ends

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