30 June 2006 Saying that armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) still threaten elections in the vast central African nation where political campaigns officially kicked off today, the United Nations Security Council today decided to extend until 30 September its authorization for a strengthened peacekeeping force in the country.
The Council, through a unanimously adopted resolution, stressed the temporary nature of the increase in military and police strength of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), and once again called on all Congolese institutions and parties to ensure that the elections are free, fair, peaceful and timely.
The poll, slated for 30 July, is the largest and most expensive electoral assistance operation the UN has ever undertaken, and the Security Council in October 2005 authorized an increase of MONUC military personnel by 300 staff.
The authorization resulted in an April deployment to Katanga Province, where continued fighting has slowed the extension of national authority, in a region still feeling the after-effects of the devastating, six-year war which tore through the country.
Overall MONUC has nearly 18,000 uniformed personnel in the DRC.
Marking the official start of the election campaign, the mission called for all parties to ensure a calm, serene and constructive atmosphere for the poll, along with free and fair media access to voting facilities.
It also called on Congolese politicians and political parties to refrain from hate messages, adding that this unique moment should be one of national unity, and not one of national division.