Congratulatory Remarks by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Sue van der Merwe on the Occasion of the 45th Anniversary of the National Day of the DRC on 30 June 2005, Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria

Your Excellency, Ambassador M'poko
Excellencies
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives of International Organisations
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

Bon Soir mesdames, monsieurs, Excellences, c'est vraiment un plaisir d' etre parmi vous ce soir.

On this auspicious occasion, the celebration of the National Day of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it is my honour to wish Your Excellency, the Government and the People of the DRC warmest greetings and sincere congratulations, on behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of South Africa.

For the DRC, as for South Africa, the road to peace and democracy has indeed been one of struggle. South Africa's recent celebration of ten years of democracy served as a recollection of our hard-earned freedom. We suffered many trials and encountered many obstacles as we worked towards our first democratic elections. We understand that the implementation of democracy does not happen overnight. It is a difficult, yet not insurmountable process provided the will exists.

When the people of the Congo achieved independence in 1960, the future appeared bright indeed. In his independence speech, foremost leader of the then newly democratic Zaire, Patrice Lumumba stated that:

The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed, and our country is now in the hands of its own children.

Together, my brothers, my sisters, we are going to begin a new struggle, a sublime struggle, which will lead our country to peace, prosperity, and greatness. Together, we are going to establish social justice and make sure everyone

He went on to say:

We are going to keep watch over the lands of our country so that they truly profit her children. We are going to restore ancient laws and make new ones, which will be just and noble.

And for all that, dear fellow countrymen, be sure that we will count not only on our enormous strength and immense riches but on the assistance of numerous foreign countries whose collaboration we will accept if it is offered freely and with no attempt to impose on us an alien culture of no matter what nature.

As in many of our fellow African countries, the first Democratic Republic of Congo was, however, short-lived. Even though this is no cause for jubilation, as South Africa we recognise the important contribution that the DRC could play in the rebirth of our continent. The DRC is indeed the economic lung of our continent's revival. It is to Africa, what the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is to Latin America. We will therefore tirelessly strive to support the restoration of the DRC to the vision that Lumumba for it at independence. We have consistently proclaimed that our foreign policy is firmly anchored on an African agenda, and the restoration of the "sublime struggle, which will lead the DRC to peace, prosperity, and greatness" is realised.

The signing of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement in December 2002, the peace process was born that was to mark the resolution of war in the Congo. South Africa has pledged its support to the efforts of the Transitional Government and its endeavours to advance the organisation of democratic elections, that will mark the end of the transitional process. As we speak many of our government officials, civil society organisations and private individuals go in and out of the DRC. We need to encourage these people to people interactions for the sake of promoting more understanding between of two countries.

The potential for good is immense. The growing interconnectivity amongst our people is nurturing the realisation that we are all part of the same race, the human race. It is our wish that our partnership, and indeed friendship, be strengthened as we work together for the reconstruction and development of the Democratic of Congo. Our 16 bilateral agreements, covering health; public administration; diplomatic relations; economic co-operation; defence and security; electoral assistance; agriculture and fiscal issues, confirms a strong bilateral relationship of mutual interest.

We welcome the support of the African region and of international partners in the implementation of development goals in the DRC. We are convinced that the outcome of democratic elections in March 2006, will mark the beginning of a triumphant future for the people of the Congo.

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, let us raise our glasses in a joint toast to the health and well being of His Excellency, President Kabila and the people of the DRC.

I thank you.

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