- The World Bank has pledged further support to efforts by countries emerging from conflict in Africa to foster good governance and transparency in the natural resources sector that has often fueled violence, World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said Tuesday after his first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pledging World Bank support to demobilisation and reintegration programmes similar to the one that has helped hundreds of thousands of ex-combatants reintegrate to civilian life in countries of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Mr Zoellick urged African leaders to do everything to curb the illicit trade in precious metals, noting the trade funds militia groups and fuels the steady flow in illicit small arms and light weapons that often trigger a relapse into conflict.
“Post-conflict countries face a big risk of falling back into conflict and so we must do everything we can to stop the exploitation of resources becoming a cause of violence,” Mr Zoellick said. “My visit helped me better understand the development challenges of the Democratic Republic of Congo and was intended to reaffirm World Bank support for the country’s efforts to consolidate peace, and transition quickly from emergency assistance to sustainable development,” he added.
During the visit, the first lap in a tour of three African countries, Mr Zoellick held talks with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, the country’s Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito, and key cabinet members whose ministerial departments work directly on World Bank-funded development projects.
The World Bank president encouraged the government to sustain efforts to achieve debt forgiveness by reaching the completion point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in March 2010. This would lighten the burden of debt servicing and create the fiscal space that could help DR Congo fund crucial social and economic development programs, notably infrastructure investments.
Commending the DR Congo for adopting a Governance Contract in 2007, Mr Zoellick encouraged the country to stay the course of the difficult but rewarding reforms needed to achieve good governance objectives. He notably pointed to the need for the government to complete the ongoing review of mining contracts in a way that safeguards the country’s aim of increasing revenue as well as that of investors, making the sector more attractive to private investors.
Mr Zoellick also held discussions with diplomats, representatives of the donor community, the private sector and civil society. “I learned a lot from my discussions with them and got a chance to hear, first hand, what we need to do to ensure improved donor coordination as we work together to promote the social and economic development of this country,” he said.
Mr Zoellick also visited the Inga hydropower plant in Bas Congo and promised World Bank support to work with other donors, the private sector, the government and other stakeholders to rehabilitate existing infrastructure as well as tap the under-utilised potential of energy sources such as Inga.
The World Bank President also stressed that large-scale energy projects, such as Inga, should not overshadow the importance of small-scale projects, which serve the most vulnerable Africans, noting that small-scale energy projects can contribute to the prevention of some of the 10 million premature deaths of women and children that are likely by 2030 if nothing is done to limit the health impact of smoke from wood fires used for cooking.
He also noted the need to adopt environmentally-sound schemes that must protect biodiversity and fisheries when energy projects are built on a river such as the Congo, which is the second richest river in the world for fish.
While in Goma, he further noted that a World Bank-funded project is helping young girls and women who were victims of sexual violence heal from the scars as they attempt to resume a normal life. “Peace is crucial for the reconstruction of this country, and particularly for the reconstruction of this province,” he said. “Sexual violence cannot be tolerated, must be denounced and punished, and every effort must be made to restore the dignity of young women who have suffered sexual violence,” Mr Zoellick said.
The World Bank President, who left DR Congo over its land border from Goma into Rubavu in neighbouring Rwanda for the second lap of his three-nation African tour, was accompanied on his trip by the Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region, Obiageli Ezekwesili, the director of operations for the Africa Region, Colin Bruce, and the Country Director of the World Bank for Congo Republic and DR Congo, Marie-Francoise Marie-Nelly. He will go onto to Uganda from Rwanda for the third and final lap of his tour.
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