1 July 2010Reflecting the strides made by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over the past decade, the United Nations peacekeeping mission entered a new chapter today, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paying tribute to the commitment demonstrated by blue helmets in bringing peace to the region. Last month, the Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the withdrawal of up to 2,000 UN military personnel – from an existing strength of 19,815 – by today from areas where security has improved enough to allow their removal.From today, the UN mission will be known as the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and will stay in the DRC only until 30 June next year.“The emphasis is on stabilization and consolidating peace,” Mr. Ban said at the unveiling of a plaque during the introduction of the mission’s new phase in the capital, Kinshasa, yesterday.He vowed that the UN will continue working with the DRC “to guide the progressive withdrawal of military peacekeepers in a way that does not jeopardize the gains the country has made.”The Secretary-General emphasized the need to continue ensuring protection for civilians, especially women.He also called on all parties, including Government forces, to put an end to sexual violence, which he called the “most serious denial of fundamental human rights.”At the event, Mr. Ban recognized the dedication of peacekeepers who have served in the DRC, hailing the 157 men and women who have paid with their lives for the cause.“Let us honour their memory by ensuring that together we can build the stability that the country needs to realize its great potential.”Also in Kinshasa yesterday, the Secretary-General met with representatives of civil society, which he said is “critical to stability, to reconciliation in the wake of conflict, to a healthy democracy, and to human rights.”He expressed his condolences on the death of prominent rights defender Floribert Chebeya, whose body was found on the outskirts of the capital last month after he was summoned to a police station.So far, the chief of the national police has been suspended and several officers arrested in connection with the murder of Mr. Chebeya, who headed the non-governmental organization (NGO) known as Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless).The slain defender’s work focused on human rights abuses in the DRC, including corruption in the military and the links between militias and foreign political forces.“His courage was an inspiration for all who are dedicated to upholding human rights and defending public freedoms,” Mr. Ban said at yesterday’s meeting. “I hope his death will be investigated thoroughly, transparently and independently, with full respect for due process and the rule of law.”The Secretary-General noted that the health of a country can be gauged by its “willingness and ability to carry out its human rights commitments,” stressing the importance of States to provide the conditions necessary to allow rights defenders and journalists to carry out their work, unhindered.“The United Nations will stand by your side,” he told the civil society representatives. “Our priority is to see Africa achieve its potential.”
(Update)Reaction tonight to the story we first broke tonight at six — as the mayor of Hamilton now says he’s not ruling out running again for the city’s top job in the fall election.Mayor Bob Bratina: “Well, you can’t rule anything out ever, I mean, never say never.”Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina isn’t saying yes. But he’s not saying no when it comes to running again for leader of the city in the fall election. This not so clear cut answer follows the news that the federal riding association has effectively ended his bid to run as a Liberal. But the possibility of Bratina’s bid isn’t fazing the other candidates.Brian McHattie: “When i signed up to run on January 2nd, Bob Bratina was still the mayor. I was running against him at that point. He pulled out, and if he comes back in, fair enough. I don’t mind, one way or the other.”And Fred Eisenberger, who lost to Bratina in the last election, says whether or not Bratina runs again is of no consequence to him as he decided long before to run for mayor.Politcial opponent’s opinions aside, what really counts is what voters think and the ones we spoke to seem to be on board with Bratina.“I’m excited. I think he’s a great guy. I really like having him around. I really hope he does go again.”“I think it would be great if he ran.”“I really think Bob Bratina has done a wonderul job for the period of time that he’s been there. But I also think there are other avenues Bob Bratina would wish to be.”And Bratina is clear about his current political ambitions, at least federally: “My intention right now is to seek a federal nomination for the Liberals. But that time for me is still some time away.”Bratina did tell CHCH News today that he’s open to representing the Liberals in other Hamilton ridings, like Hamilton East where he grew up. As for the municipal election, it’s not too far away. There are just over three months until election day, so if Bratina does decided to run, the clock’s ticking.