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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
UN praises Congo advances
DR Congo President Joseph Kabila during the country's independence celebrations
Joseph Kabila has led Congo since his father's death
ByEast Africa correspondent Ishbel Matheson

The United Nations has praised the enormous progress that has been made towards ending the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN's chief of staff in Congo, Colonel David Mayor, said in the past six months had, in the main, pulled back from the front line and were observing a ceasefire.

The United Nations has also stepped up its involvement in the Congo.

Before Laurent Kabila's death the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo was going nowhere.

Progress

The former president seemed to have no interest in an end to the war but under his son Joseph there has been tangible progress.

A ceasefire is now in place and UN monitors have fanned out across the country to oversee troop withdrawals from the front line.

After months of frustration the United Nations mission in Congo has a new dynamism.

The peacekeeping force is small, just 2,500 military personnel in a country the size of western Europe. But even so the UN is determined to make its presence felt.

River open

On the Congo river at the strategic town of Mbandaka, Uruguayan soldiers patrol in gleaming white speed boats. It is a confidence building measure.

Congo river in Kisangani
The Congo river is being reopened for trade
The war stopped trade along the river - a lifeline for many rural communities.

The United Nations presence assures people that it is safe to begin again.

Across the country the blue berets have been welcomed enthusiastically by ordinary Congolese who are heartily sick of the war.

But the mission is also in danger of raising unrealistic expectations.

The Security Council mandate is limited to observing, not enforcing the peace process.

If war should break out again the Congolese people will not be able to rely on the United Nations to protect them.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ishbel Matheson
"Joseph Kabila's charm offensive seems to be working"
See also:

04 Jul 01 | Africa
Kabila in peace talks
30 Jun 01 | Africa
Belgium resumes DR Congo aid
26 Jan 01 | Africa
Kabila promises peace efforts
21 Jun 01 | Africa
In pictures: Historic Congo trip
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