NEWSMAKER: top UN official in Afghanistan stresses need for reconciliation

Special Representative Kai Eide

3 August 2009 – Political reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan must accelerate after this month’s presidential elections, the top United Nations envoy to the country has stressed, warning that regardless of the result of the poll, military operations will not bring durable peace.

“I’m repeating over and over again that it is an illusion to believe that it is primarily military forces that can bring that conflict to an end. It is political efforts that have to be at the top of our agenda,” said Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, in an interview with the UN News Centre as part of its Newsmaker profile series.

“I’m pleased to see that it is gradually being understood more broadly in the international community,” said Mr. Eide, adding there is “still some way to go in order to understand that what we do has to be based on a political strategy and not on a military strategy.”

Mr. Eide, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that the most important challenges the new Government will face after the 20 August elections are to maintain stability in the country and to ensure that all candidates accept the results.

“We could be in a situation where it would take almost four weeks before the counting and complaints process is over and the final results have been certified,” noted Mr. Eide.

Characterizing the Afghan election as by far the most difficult and complex he has ever seen, illustrated by the use of over 3,000 donkeys to deliver ballot papers to the most remote regions, Mr. Eide noted that although flaws existed in the process, the campaigns were dignified and the political debate intense.

In addition, the “security organizations – the Afghan army, the Afghan police and ISAF – are doing their utmost with the Election Commission to identify and try to open as many as possible,” said Mr. Eide.

“It is tremendously important that we are able to open as many centres as possible, so that the elections are open to all Afghans,” he said. “That is quite a challenge but it’s our ambition in order to have credible elections that are accepted by the people.”

The Special Representative stressed that reconciliation efforts should be launched as soon as a new Government is formed, and that it should be left up to the next administration to direct any bid to heal the nation's divisions.

"A political process should be opened with all parts of the population as soon as possible and that would have to include insurgents," he said.

“The biggest challenge, of course, is the ongoing armed conflict and to bring that to an end,” said Mr. Eide, adding that when Afghanistan enters “a calmer season on the battleground, we have half a year in order to get that peace process under way.”

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