27 July 2006 Just a few a days ahead of historic elections planned for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a major rebel coalition plaguing the eastern part of the country has agreed to put down its weapons in a breakthrough brokered by the United Nations.
The UN Mission in the country (MONUC) said that the move by the rebel coalition Mouvement Revolutionnaire Congolais (MRC), which consisted of regrouped combatants from other armed militias that had previously disbanded, will make relocation easier for displaced persons in the troubled Ituri District and allow many more to vote in the elections.
William Lacy Swing, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC, welcomed the agreement, signed yesterday in Bunia by the Congolese Government and the MRC in the presence of UN officials, calling it a major step forward for the elections and for peace. He urged other rebel groups to follow the example and lay down their weapons.
In the past few months, UN peacekeepers have been backing the Congolese national armed forces as they fought to disarm or expel such groups from Ituri and the two Kivu provinces in the eastern part of the vast country.
Thousands of people fled the conflict in those areas, much of which had been controlled by militias since the multi-factional and multinational fighting of the Congolese civil war in the late 1990s.
In Sunday’s elections, the first in the country in 45 years, 25.5 million voters are expected to cast ballots at 50,000 polling stations in an election involving some 33 presidential, over 9,000 national legislative and more than 10,000 provincial assembly candidates.
It is considered to be the most complex electoral-assistance mission ever undertaken by the UN.