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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2006: African Affairs Remarks

Remarks to the Graduation Ceremony of FARDC Field Officers

Jendayi Frazer , Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Remarks Given at the Centre Supirieur Militaire
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
April 3, 2006

Good afternoon, and thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for that kind introduction. Your Excellency Minister of Defense, Dr. Onusumba, Lieutenant General Kisempia, Armed Forces Chief of Staff, U.S. Training Team Leader Colonel (ret.) Paul Tate, I am pleased to join you today at this historic ceremony. Graduates, It is a privilege to be here on your graduation day. As someone with a keen interest in security issues, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address so many officers of the emerging, professional Congolese Army.

This is a day of transition for you, and this is also a period of transition for your nation. The continent of Africa is brimming with potential. Now that you have completed your training, your nation will look to you for help to fulfill the promise of a better Congo.

U.S. TRAINING

Seventy-five of you have just completed training sponsored by the United States government, and today we celebrate your achievement. By the end of July, the United States will have trained about 200 staff officers through this program.

The staff operations training you have received from your American instructors is based on real world scenarios. You are prepared to be leaders in the newly integrated brigades of the Congolese Army and you can capably plan and execute successful combat and regional stability operations. You are prepared to help lead your nation toward its future.

SECURITY SECTOR REFORM

In the interest of national security and stability, Congo needs a unified, professional Congolese military and police force. The government has the responsibility to protect its citizens, its resources, and its borders. As a complement to good policies, elected leaders need help from security forces they can rely on.

Professional members of the military recognize that their first allegiance is to the national Constitution and the ideals expressed therein. A soldier is bound to defend the institutions that keep his nation free.

Establishing a unified military in the service of the nation is essential for the success of a new democratic Congo , one in which the rule of law prevails, the security of all Congolese can be assured, and human rights are respected. This is the challenge you face, as officers and leaders of the new Congolese army.

ELECTIONS & THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

This is a new day for Congo . After four decades of waiting, the people of Congo will soon have the opportunity to elect their own leaders.

A responsive government, chosen by its own people, is best suited to meet the needs and carry out the wishes of its people. Democracy allows for dissenting opinions and accounts for the protection of minorities. Regular elections also allow for the peaceful expression of differing views and a reflective tally of national priorities.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is on track to become a truly democratic nation. The widespread public interest in elections is inspiring. I'd like to congratulate the nearly 26 million Congolese, who have registered to vote. I understand that some men and women have walked for many kilometers to the nearest registration center just to do so.

Your commitment to democracy was clear on December 18, when millions turned out to approve the proposed national constitution that established the legal foundation for an elected government.

The Independent Electoral Commission has been doing a remarkable job organizing the electoral process. All Congolese can be proud of the Commission, which is striving for a free and transparent election process, with relatively limited resources and time, in a challenging logistical environment.

The long-awaited elections will be held soon, per the Sun City Accords. Successful elections are an essential step toward instituting a culture of democracy, establishing the rule of law, and ending impunity in the DRC.

A democratic and prosperous Congo would also have positive ramifications for your nine neighbors. A peaceful Congo would have a stabilizing effect throughout the central Africa region.

CONCLUSION

We are living in extraordinary times. History has opened a window of opportunity for the people of Congo.

In the past, this nation has experienced great hardship, but the future offers hope. Congolese citizens are affirming their interest in representative government by registering to vote in massive numbers and participating in elections.

The people of Congo deserve a responsive government and professional military that preserve domestic tranquility and normal relations with their neighbors. There is good reason to believe that these improvements are coming, and everyone here is part of that solution. You have worked hard. Your families are proud. Now is the time to earn the pride of your nation. Congratulations.



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