Long years of conflict have left the Democratic Republic of Congo's economy and infrastructure in ruins. Following the 2006 historic elections, the Congolese government embarked on an active reconstruction drive to rebuild the vast country but South Africa's Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Aziz Pahad, says peace and stability is a pre-requisite for the DRC's successful reconstruction, as well as to ensure lasting peace in the Great Lakes region. Pahad says the importance of a prosperous DRC cannot be over-emphasised.
"It is good to note that since our last meeting, a round table peace conference held in Goma in Eastern DRC, the Engagement Act which was signed on Janusry 24 2008, provides an historic opportunity for the government, the local movements and civil society to cement peace and development in the region. I hope that during this session we will get an assessment of progress made and the problems experienced in implementing the Engagement Act."
Pahad says Pretoria will continue to play an assisting role. Two years ago the Congolese government identified key priority sectors that could fast track the reconstruction process. These have also found voice in the DRC's co-operation agreements with South Africa in the areas of health, education, employment, water, infrastructure development, as well as defence and security.
More departments involved
"It's also in these sectors that we've witnessed phenomenal growth of participating government departments in the four sub commissions of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) to include more departments which were initially not part of this process. It's important that at this 5th session we critically look at these agreements and evaluate what achievements we have made since the 4th session," said Pahad.
During last year's binational meeting in Kinshasa, deals were signed that included the rehabilitation of the Congo's airports, the construction of new railways lines and repairs to ports in two regions. The health ministries agreed to collaborate in immunisation programmes and the exchange of expertise. South Africa also agreed to provide funds for the rehabilitation and modernisation of the Inga Hydro-electric Dam, which is one of the biggest projects to be implemented under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).
South Africa and the DRC already have 27 agreements in place and three more are expected to be signed later today when Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Joseph Kabila gather around the discussion table.