Thursday, July 27, 2006

DRC militias to disarm on elections' eve

Some good news on the eve of the hopefully historic vote in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which will be the closest thing to free elections the country's had since independence.

Three main militia groups in the eastern Ituri province have agreed to disarm and integrate into the Congolese national army. It is expected that the agreement will allow tens of thousands of people in the region to vote.

Huge logistical challenges remain. Africa's largest country will house over 50,000 polling stations, the full list of which hasn't even been made public yet.

The deputy head of the UN mission in the DRC has stated that the organization will need to remain in the country after the elections and expressed fears that peacekeepers would be hastily redeployed away from the central African nation to Lebanon.

But he praised the progress made in the DRC in the last four years.

"Look where we've come from four years ago: (then) the main protagonists for the presidential election were militia leaders who had divided up the country and their followers were killing each other in the hundreds," he said.

"Four years later, they've coexisted in a transitional government and they are now competing peacefully to lead the country."

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