Wednesday, April 04, 2007

World Bank Approves Funding for Congo's Capital

World Bank approves funding for Congo's capital

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - The World Bank board on Thursday approved $180 million to help rebuild the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, and said it would go ahead with project plans despite recent deadly violence.

Pedro Alba, the bank's country director to Congo, said the fighting between a former rebel faction and government troops in Kinshasa was regrettable, but added that the poor should not have to suffer because of it.

The grant funding for Kinshasa will help restore running water, rehabilitate roadways, help parents pay for primary schooling, and provide bed nets to residents to prevent malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that is Africa's biggest killer.

"These projects have been under preparation since December last year and the approval will allow us to provide assistance to Congo's poor," Alba told a conference call.

"The regrettable clashes in Kinshasa last week should not prevent poor people access to water, roads, bed nets and education, and we urge all parties, including the government, to work together to create a political environment in which poverty reduction and development activities can be carried out," he added.

While the brunt of Congo's civil war was in the east of the country, Kinshasa has experienced occasional flare ups of political unrest. Years of neglect have left it in ruins.

Last year, President Joseph Kabila won the country's first democratic elections in over four decades, following years of corrupt leadership and a 1998-2003 war that killed an estimated 4 million people through conflict, war and disease.

The World Bank grants are part of a new "rapid response" policy that the World Bank -- hoping to offer people proof of a peace dividend -- approved last month to deliver aid more quickly to countries emerging from war and disaster.

World Bank officials acknowledged the unrest could recur in Kinshasa, amid the lingering tensions between Kabila's government and groups loyal to former presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba, who sought refuge in the South African embassy during the violence.

But the officials said they were confident they could implement the rebuilding projects with the help of special agencies and development groups.

They said the World Bank could now proceed with discussions with Congo's government on a more formal lending program, which could be concluded by mid-year.

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