The successful elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2006 were a major step forward in securing lasting peace in the DRC. The people of the DRC have a democratically elected President, parliament and provincial assemblies for the first time since 1960. However, the elections are only the first step towards peace and the DRC Government, with co-ordinated support from international partners, will need to tackle several priority issues to maintain the political settlement achieved through the elections and consolidate peace and security:
Reform of the army, police and justice system, to ensure they provide security for DRC’s citizens and legal and peaceful means of addressing grievances and resolving disputes;
Ensuring the new democratic system is as inclusive as possible so that all groups feel their voices are heard and that the Government are accountable; and
Ensuring that the Government delivers early and tangible benefits to DRC’s population.
I believe that now is a time for cautious optimism for the DRC. Success or failure at sustaining peace ultimately depends on the choice of DRC’s politicians, however, the international community can continue to provide vital political, technical and financial support to help increase the chances of success. DFID has rapidly increased its support to the DRC, from £5.56 million in 2001-02 to £67 million available this year.