More troops 1year extension recommended for UN mission in DR of Congo

With the parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the United Nations standing at the intersection of peace and war, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the mandate of the UN mission in the country be extended until next June and that its authorized military strength be boosted to nearly 11,000 troops.After nearly five years of continuous fighting in the DRC, securing a successful transition and a lasting peace will require the utmost cooperation between Congolese leaders and the Organization, the Secretary-General writes in his second special report to the Security Council on the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC).He stresses that with the definitive and successful conclusion of the Inter-Congolese political negations this past April, the region’s peace process has now moved beyond the Lusaka framework and begun a new chapter that, more than ever, will require the comprehensive engagement and assistance of the UN and the wider international community.The immediate priorities, especially those related to the security arrangements in Kinshasa and peace initiatives in the volatile Ituri district, clearly require further resources for MONUC, Mr. Annan says, recommending that the Mission’s mandate be extended for another year, until 30 June 2004, and that its authorized military strength be increased to 10,800.Mr. Annan also recommends that the number of civilian police personnel be increased to 134 from the current level of 100. He adds that between six and 48 additional officers may be needed depending on which method of training is chosen for the force. Other specialized personnel to support MONUC’s immediate priorities in the coming weeks and months – including helping the parties establish the transitional Government and assisting and sustaining peace initiatives in Ituri – will also have to be augmented.“The magnitude of the challenges should not to be underestimated,” Mr. Annan observes. “The country is still divided, military hostilities continue in the east, the population is traumatized by years of conflict, the country is poverty stricken and State services and infrastructure are non-existent.” MONUC, he continues, is well, if not uniquely placed to play a central role in assisting the parties through the transition period.“For this reason I believe that the main focus of MONUC should now shift to facilitating and assisting the transitional process, and should be reconfigured accordingly,” Mr. Annan stresses. Still, many other challenges stand in the way of transition, chiefly the brutal conflicts in the Kivus and in Ituri, where a “humanitarian catastrophe threatens to derail the overall peace process.” While Uganda’s recent withdrawal from Ituri was welcomed, that country and other actors must recognize their accountability for the actions of the armed groups they helped create, and must stop supplying them with arms, refuge and other support.With that in mind, the Secretary-General recommends the possibility of imposing an arms embargo be considered in Ituri as well as the Kivus, with an exemption for the equipment of members of the future integrated armed police units. “The challenge at hand is enormous,” Mr. Annan writes, adding that it is up to the Congolese people themselves to keep the peace process vibrant, dynamic and successful. “The international community and MONUC will follow their lead and provide the necessary assistance in translating the vision of peace into a reality.” read more

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