UN expands Congo peacekeeping force in view of departure

Commentary

UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to extend the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo in view of its eventual departure, and to lift reporting obligations for some arms purchases that Congo’s foreign minister recently called “unjustified and humiliating” .

The individual resolutions were passed amid deteriorating security in Congo’s mineral-rich eastern region, a region teeming with rebel groups and an increase in violence and civilian killings that have uprooted tens of thousands of residents.

The resolution extending the UN peacekeeping force known as MONUSCO until December 20, 2023 strongly condemns all domestic and foreign armed groups operating in the country and demands an immediate halt to all violence and destabilizing actions “and the illegal exploitation of and trade in natural resources. ”

It also demands the immediate withdrawal of M23 rebels, who have been fighting a coalition of armed civil defense militias in the east for more than a year, as agreed at a mini-summit in the Angolan capital Luanda in late November and endorsed by the African government. Union. It also expresses concern over reported links between Uganda-based Allied Democratic Forces rebels and “terrorist networks” in eastern Congo.

The Security Council said Congo “continues to suffer from recurring and evolving cycles of conflict and continued violence by foreign and domestic armed groups, exacerbating a deeply concerning security, human rights and humanitarian crisis, as well as intercommunal and militia violence”. areas of the country.

He expressed deep concern about the humanitarian situation in the country, leaving an estimated 27 million Congolese in need of assistance, a growing number of internally displaced people now estimated at 5.7 million, as well as 523,000 refugees from other nearby countries, and 1 million refugees from Congo elsewhere in Africa due to ongoing hostilities.

The resolution urges all Congolese political players to implement “critical governance, security and economic reforms” and to honor President Felix Tshisekedi’s commitments to pursue national unity, to uphold the rule of law. and respect human rights, fight corruption and development programs to reduce poverty.

It urged the government to hold accountable those responsible for violating human rights and international humanitarian law. It strongly condemns sexual violence, particularly by armed groups, welcomes the government’s efforts to combat and prevent the scourge, and urges the government to step up its efforts to combat impunity for rape and other sexual abuses .

The resolution maintains MONUSCO’s troop ceiling at 13,500 military personnel, 600 military observers and staff officers, and approximately 2,000 police officers.

MONUSCO’s mission, streamlined in Tuesday’s resolution, is first to protect civilians threatened by violence, second to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate combatants, and third to provide strategic and technical advice on the reform of the Congolese security sector.

US Vice Ambassador Robert Wood, noting that the United States is the largest financial contributor to MONUSCO, said his administration voted in favor of the resolution because it maintains human rights as “a priority task” for the mission.

In April, East African leaders decided to send a regional force to eastern Congo to deal with the tensions and violence fueled by the armed groups.

Wood said the resolution “critically” urges regional forces to coordinate operations with MONUSCO.

The UN peacekeeping force was the target of deadly summer protests by residents who said armed groups still roamed the east and the UN force was not protecting them. The peacekeepers were also accused of retaliating against the demonstrators, sometimes with violence.

Following the anti-UN protests, President Tshisekedi convened a meeting to reassess MONUSCO’s presence. The government called for a review of the transition plan for MONUSCO, and Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula later named 2024 as the target for the force’s withdrawal.

The Security Council encouraged the UN and the Congolese government, in cooperation with civil society, “to identify as a priority concrete and realistic steps to be taken to create the minimum security conditions to enable the responsible and sustainable exit of MONUSCO .” It called on MONUSCO and other UN personnel in Congo to work together on priority actions in preparation for the force’s departure.

Wood, the US envoy, said the UN, Congolese officials and civil society should agree on any further steps towards the eventual capture of MONUSCO, and that they should “prevent vulnerable populations from being exposed to further harm “.

Congolese Lutundula earlier this month urged the council to remove the obligation for the government to notify the Security Council Sanctions Committee of certain arms purchases.

The second short resolution removes this requirement, a move welcomed by Russia, China and others who had advocated ending reporting.

Gabon’s UN ambassador, Michel Biang, said ending the demand will “remove all obstacles facing the Congo” to provide an appropriate and effective response to armed groups that plunder resources and commit atrocities against civilians in the country. East.

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