The decades-old United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo could be reduced in certain areas over the next few years, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said in a report.
The report, published this week and obtained on Wednesday by AFP, outlined ways the drawdown could proceed without setting a deadline for total withdrawal.
The peacekeeping mission, called MONUSCO, had been present in DR Congo for more than 20 years, with an annual budget of about $1 billion and about 15,000 peacekeepers.
Titled ‘Joint Strategy on the Progressive and Phased Drawdown of MONUSCO,’ the report — which was approved on October 19 by the mission and the Congolese government — called for a gradual withdrawal from several regions.
But the report also saidthat the mission will ‘gradually consolidate its footprint’ in three provinces where there was still active conflict – North and South Kivu, in the east, and northeastIturi.
‘The government agreed that the mission should be able to withdraw from the Kasai region, which is in a phase of post-conflict consolidation, by June 2021,’ Guterres said.
In the south-eastern Tanganyika province, ‘recent improvements in the security situation should enable the mission to reduce its military footprint in 2022,’ he said in the report.
A military pull-out in both regions will have to be matched by a temporary increase in MONUSCO police presence and a strengthening of its civilian component, the UN chief said.
In Ituri, where violence had doubled since January, the UN military presence will be kept at its current level.
A withdrawal in that area won’t be possible without a peace process with the armed group Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri, its demilitarisation, and progress in the fight against impunity, Guterres added.
For a general peacekeeper withdrawal, several conditions will have to be met – the threat posed by armed groups will have to be contained by Congolese security forces and the political process leading to elections in 2023 will have to continue in a peaceful manner, Guterres said.
In the report, he said that the Congolese government was committed to developing the rule of law by bringing the perpetrators of abuses to justice.
He also said that Kinshasa ‘has clearly signalled its intent to pursue a new, community-based national Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration approach’ for armed groups that agree to lay down their weapons.
In North Kivu, ‘maintaining a strong MONUSCO presence in the medium-term remains essential,’ Guterres said.
In South Kivu, according to him, a lasting peacekeeper withdrawal would require a development of state authority and a reduction in the capacity of armed groups, including having foreign fighters return to their countries of origin.
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