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Last Updated: 07/12/2006Not expecting Serious Trouble
The UN, through its mission in the DRC, has embarked in its most ambitious electoral-support endeavor yet. Rafael Velasquez our South Africa correspondent had the opportunity to meet up with General Mujahid Alam, Head of the Pretoria Liaison Office of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), to discuss the ongoing preparations for the upcoming elections in an exclusive interview.
MONUC’s General Mujahid Alam tells Rafa Valsquez that he is "not expecting serious trouble" in this exclusive interview
The UN, through its mission in the DRC, has embarked in its most ambitious electoral-support endeavor yet. I had the opportunity to meet up with General Mujahid Alam, Head of the Pretoria Liaison Office of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), to discuss the ongoing preparations for the upcoming elections.
RV: One of the former rebel groups, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), seems very unpopular and is likely to loose most of its current power in the upcoming elections. This has in the past meant and upsurge of violence in the east and could present a challenge to the elections and the transition in the DRC. What can be done, what is being done and what do you expect will happen regarding this issue?
GMA: You see, the way we look at it in the UN and MONUC is that, for us, all the political parties, all the political players are equal, and we treat them equally with due respect. We wish for them the best in the elections. At this stage it is difficult to say what would be the outcome of the elections, because there are no scientific polls being carried out, so whatever estimation one can make, it is of a generalized nature, but you are right, the RCD, which is a major player now in the transitional government, may not come out very strongly in the elections. It is quiet possible that this may happen to other parties, it may happen with the MLC which also has a vice-president and is also a major player. This might even be the case for the PPRD which, you know, is the party of president Kabila. So one doesn’t really know, but overall I would share your concern. Irrespective of whether it is RCD, MLC or any other party, if they do not do well in the elections and they do not have the same influence politically as they do now, there could be a factor for major concern if the future policy of the elected government in the DRC is not a policy of inclusivity. That is the message that we are sending to all of them. Irrespective of the outcome of the elections a situation where the winner takes all will not really work in a country like the DRC, which is still only now trying to come out of such a prolonged period of problems. Irrespective of which party wins or which parties loose there has to be a policy of inclusiveness. A political system will have to be formed where all the major key players feel that they have a stake in the future of the country. This is something that needs to be addressed and that is the message of the UN and MONUC through the head of our mission, ambassador Swing. We all are giving this message to all the major players, from president Kabila to the deputy presidents to all the major parties. We do not expect any serious trouble in the post-electorate situation irrespective of which party looses if this whole situation is handled in a very pragmatic and prudent manner. If there is a willingness for accommodation, if there is a willingness for tolerance then we feel that the situation will remain under control but if these recommendations are not taken into consideration then of course this could lead to some problems, but it is premature to say that only the RCD may loose in the east and that it may revert to creating problems I think it will not really be fair to say that at this stage.
RV: Etienne Tshisekedi’s
GMA: Etienne Tshisekedi’s case is different from that of the RCD or MNLC or other parties in the sense that Etienne Tshisekedi and his party, the UDPS, did not take part in the voter registration (they boycotted it), subsequently when the electoral schedule was announced they again abstained from participating –they said that they did not want to be a part of this electoral process–. Now, this has happened despite all possible efforts made by the UN, MONUC the AU, the EU and the government of
RV: The role of media in peace conflict and peacebuilding is a subject of growing interest. How is MONUC’s radio station, Radio Okapi, ‘gearing up’ for the upcoming elections?
GMA: This is one of the priority areas for us. Civic education, public information, the outreach campaign, and support to the media are absolutely major priorities for us and a lot of efforts have been put into this. As you know, the national media of
RV: Speaking of logistics, you job sounds impossible. You are looking at holding the first elections in 45 years in a country the size of
GMA: Logistics for the elections are, I think, the biggest challenge for MONUC for the UN and for the International Community. I have no hesitation in saying that. You yourself said it, 60 million people, a country the size of
On the exploitation of natural resources:
RV: In 2001, you were a member of the Panel of Expert for the DRC established by the UN to investigate the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth. The DRC is Africa’s most resource-rich country in
GMA: A lot needs to be addressed, a lot more needs to be done regarding the illegal exploitation of DRC’s natural resources. The current situation is far from satisfactory. The DRC resources are still being exploited and plundered both by internal as well as external actors. A lot more has to be done, the resources of the country should be utilized for the benefit of the country, as a matter of priority, as a matter of principle, there is no doubt about it. However, the governmental structures are still very weak. The system, the rules and the laws are still very weak. The political will to address this problem needs be strengthened the country needs a lot of support from outside, it does not have the technical or the administrative expertise to ensure that mining licenses, for example, or prospecting licenses are given in a proper, transparent way. Whatever production there is, mineral extraction or any other activity, there needs to be proper accountability, whatever taxes have to be paid, whatever duties have to be paid. Very little of that is being done at the present, but we hope that after the elections with the newly elected government these things will slowly then start materializing. But as I said, will the country itself be able to do it? Not it all, they will need a great deal of support from outside, from outside intuitions from outside countries and all to make sure that this illegal exploitation and plundering of resources is stopped. Yes, some of the neighboring countries have a role to play, they had their hands in this as we all know, exploiting the DRC’s resources, and they need to be pressured and make sure to stop this completely, completely.
On sexual exploitation by peacekeepers:
RV: As a military consultant and analyst with the UN Secretary-General’s Investigative Team to the DRC you investigated allegation of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. What has the UN done to prevent and punish the perpetrators of sexual exploitation and abuse among its peacekeepers?
GMA: Let me say that sexual exploitation and abuse is an offense, a crime which we at the UN, MONUC and the head of our mission, totally condemn. There can be absolutely no question of tolerating it, no question of impunity, no question of accepting it. This has been an insult on the name of the UN. We are very determined to stamp it out, to take the strongest possible actions against any offender and a lot of measures have been put in place to do this. Starting right from the Secretary-General and UN headquarter in
The International Community and the DRC
RV: Former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali was strongly criticized by some and strongly praised by others for exposing the double standards of the international community when facing the atrocities in
GMA: I don’t know whether one can call it double standards, but I must say that the apathy of the International Community towards the DRC for a long, long time has been certainly a matter of very serious concern. There are estimates which consider that in the last four, five, six years -ever since these recent problems- almost 4 million people have lost their lives. Even today, 1500 people on an average loose their lives daily, due to disease, hunger and poverty. This is absolutely scandalous, and it is shameful that this kind of situation has been allowed to exist for so long, but as you know the international community also in the last 5- 6 years has invested a great deal in the DRC. Yes, per capita it is not enough, a lot more needs to be done but a lot has been done a lost has been put into place, the present international support and commitment towards the DRC is unprecedented, it has never been there before and this is something that needs to be capitalized, something that needs to be consolidated. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly that the outside world still does not know, it is still not fully aware of all the misery, all the depravation all the humanitarian crises that still exists in the DRC. I feel they need to be aware of it, it is the biggest, largest, ongoing human tragedy in the world and the outside world needs to be made aware of that. I think
RV: Thank you for your time General.
GMA: Thank you.