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Security sector reform in DR of Congo vitally important - UN peacekeeping chief

31 March 2004 Security sector reform is of high priority in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as prisoners escape from the jail in Bunia and Ituri in the east, but the Transitional Government coordinated well in defeating an incursion into Kinshasa last weekend, the United Nations chief of peacekeeping said today.

Under-Secretary General Jean-Marie Guéhenno told journalists, after briefing the 15-member Security Council on the latest report on the DRC that the prison escapes "show that the police are not effective.

"Much more work needs to be done to put together an efficient police force throughout Congo. There is legislative action that needs to be taken. There is practical action that needs to be taken," he said.

Positive developments have taken place as the Transitional Government appointed governments and district administrators, but the process has not been finalized, so he told the Council that there has been some progress, but it has been much too slow, he said. The international community needed to help the country build capacity, since one of its tragedies was its lack of capacity.

"It's one thing to have a government in Kinshasa, it's another to have a state that governs throughout the country," he said.

Asked about the 12-hour incident in Kinshasa over the weekend when forces said to have come by river attacked military and air force camps, the navy's river sector and other districts, Mr. Guéhenno said, "The good news is that when the incident occurred in Kinshasa last weekend the Transitional Government showed its unity and they made a point of consulting with each other so that that incident remained an isolated incident."

Any explanation of the incident before the DRC's Government Commission of Inquiry finished its inquiry was pure speculation, he said.

In statement to the press, the Council's President, Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France said the members appealed to "the Congolese leaders in particular to take the steps necessary for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, reform of the security sector, the full re-establishment of the State authority and the successful organization of elections."

Meanwhile, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 foreign ex-combatants remained there, mainly from Rwanda.

It also said the UN, along with the DRC Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), would launch a barge on Thursday to provide long-awaited medical assistance to riverside villages in the northwest of the country.

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