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24 June - Much of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) currently enjoys a measure of peace but a number of challenges remain, particularly in the violence-prone east of the vast African nation, according to the outgoing United Nations envoy there.

“I am leaving the DRC with a feeling of satisfaction that we have accomplished much together, but also knowing that there still remains a lot to do,” Alan Doss, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in the DRC, told members of the press in the capital, Kinshasa, yesterday.

Mr. Doss, whose term as head of the UN mission in DRC (MONUC) expires at the end of this month, cited a number of the gains achieved during the past two and a half years.

“I have had the privilege of participating and assisting in the quest for lasting peace, a goal to which the Congolese Government and its people have for several years been committed. Of course, this peace is not yet complete, but much of the country enjoys a measure of peace today,” he stated.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people have been able to return to their homes, said the Special Representative. In addition, violence has been significantly reduced in several areas which are now more accessible to humanitarian organizations.

Thousands of combatants have also been demobilized, including from the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – of whom 2,300 have been repatriated to Rwanda – as well as hundreds of child soldiers, many of whom have rejoined their families.

“The international community has played an important role during and throughout this whole process, but this has only been made possible, thanks to the commitment of the Congolese authorities and people,” said Mr. Doss.

At the same time, he noted that the violence against civilians, particularly in the eastern Kivu provinces and some areas of Orientale province, remains a concern.

In a resolution adopted last month, the Security Council agreed to transform MONUC into a stabilization mission, and authorized the withdrawal of up to 2,000 UN military personnel – from an existing strength of 19,815 – by 30 June from areas where security has improved enough to allow their removal.

In addition, it authorized the new operation, which will be known as the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), to stay in the country until 30 June 2011.

Mr. Doss pointed out that the Council had insisted that MONUSCO continue to give priority to the protection of civilians, especially women, who are in danger.

“Resolution 1925, however, explicitly recognizes the progress that has been made over the last ten years and this must be reflected in a qualitative but also strategic change in UN support for this country,” he added. “That is what is expressed through the stabilization and peace consolidation tasks assigned to MONUSCO.”