Netherlands should participate in EU Congo mission

28 June 2006

Netherlands should participate in EU Congo mission

SP Members of Parliament today voted in favour of sending fifty Dutch soldiers to participate in a European military force aimed at guaranteeing the security of the forthcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The soldiers will remain in the DRC and neighbouring Gabon until November. Party foreign affairs spokesman and Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel said: “It is good that we are lending support to honest politicians who want to rebuild their country.”

On 30th July the first presidential and parliamentary elections in the Congo's history will be held. This is a milestone in the political development of a country which, rich in raw materials, was ravaged by an enormous war as recently as 1998 to 2002, a war which cost millions of lives.

Since 2002 attempts have been made under difficult conditions to stabilise the political situation and bring some normality to people's daily lives. The elections should give a decisive answer to the question of this huge country's political power relations.

Harry van Bommel“The SP voted in favour of this mission because political relations in the Congo must be given the chance to develop further,” explained Harry van Bommel. "Elections are the most appropriate way to bring this about, but their organisation is a massive job in such a big country and one which has been so thoroughly devastated. We consider the situation now safe enough for the soldiers to be able to perform their task effectively.”

At the request of the UN, the European Union has assembled a peacekeeping force which, for a period of four months, will contribute to ensuring that the elections proceed peacefully. The force will be active in the region of the capital city, Kinshaha, complementing the work of the UN force, MONUC, already for some years active in the east of the country. .

“We have to wait and see to what extent the existing relations of power in the Congo will be maintained by the elections,” Van Bommel added. ”It's clear that corruption and nepotism are rife. It's also clear that numerous international corporations and many rich countries want to expand their interests in the country. The SP is demanding that the Netherlands write off the DRC's €230m debt as speedily as possible. This is an unlawful debt, because it concerns money lent long ago to the dictator Mobutu, and neither the impoverished population nor the new government can any longer be held responsible for it. In addition we want to offer our support to corruption-free, honest politicians seeking to rebuild their country.”

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