UN Set to Approve Gradual Withdrawal of Peacekeepers from Congo

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The UN Security Council is poised to endorse a request from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday, signaling the commencement of a phased withdrawal of peacekeepers starting later this month. This move comes despite ongoing concerns from the United Nations regarding escalating violence in the eastern region of the country.

The vast and conflict-ridden DR Congo is on the brink of hosting high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections on Wednesday, coinciding with the expiration of the annual mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission, Monusco.

The Congolese government has persistently advocated for an “accelerated” withdrawal of UN peacekeepers, urging the process to commence by the end of 2023 rather than the initially planned end of 2024. The government perceives Monusco as ineffective in safeguarding civilians from armed groups and militias that have plagued the eastern DRC for three decades.

Similar sentiments have been echoed by other African nations, notably Mali, which has called for the emergency departure of the UN Minusma mission. While some Security Council members, including the United States, have voiced skepticism about the readiness of Congolese forces to replace Monusco in ensuring population security, the DRC aims to press the Security Council for a faster withdrawal, albeit with less forceful rhetoric than Mali.

Despite acceding to the DRC’s demands, the Council is expected to underscore its “concern over the escalation of violence” in the east and “tensions between Rwanda and the DRC,” as outlined in a draft text seen by AFP.

If adopted as anticipated on Tuesday, the Council will decide to “initiate the gradual, responsible, and sustainable withdrawal” in line with a plan agreed upon in November between Kinshasa and Monusco. The initial phase involves withdrawing peacekeepers from South Kivu province by the end of April 2024, with the process set to commence “before the end of 2023.”

Soukaina Sghir

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