Congo’s Elections Could Shape Africa, Head of UN Force Says

“The upcoming national election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is not only a huge logistical undertaking but could shape the future of the rest of Africa, says former U.S. ambassador Bill Swing, who now heads up the 17,000-man United Nations peacekeeping force MONUC.Success in the Congo will change the face of Africa,” Swing told the Washington File during an interview in his office at MONUC headquarters, located in central Kinshasa.”

During a diplomatic career that spanned four decades, Swing served as U.S. ambassador to five African nations. After retiring in 2001, he agreed to head up MONUC, the U.N. peacekeeping force mandated by the 1999 Lusaka Accords that ended a war that had embroiled the DRC and seven other nations.

In December 2002, political factions warring within DRC signed an agreement in Sun City, South Africa, that established a transition government and set a timetable for national elections.

“Everything about DRC is huge and significant,” Swing said. The country has numerous other nations bordering it, is one of the wealthiest in mineral resources and is culturally and ethnically diverse. For example, with 58 million people, the DRC has the largest French-speaking population after France.

“So, the effect of successful [July 30] elections here in unleashing the political and economic energy of this nation could have an enormous impact on the rest of Africa,” Swing said. [Link]