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23 Nov, 2023 11:24

UN withdraws peacekeepers from DR Congo

After a mission lasting over two decades, the government has asked the force to begin pulling out
UN withdraws peacekeepers from DR Congo

The presence of peacekeepers in DR Congo will come to an end, Bintou Keita, head of the UN mission (MONUSCO), agreed with Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula on Tuesday.

A request to remove the 15,000 UN soldiers from the African country was made in September by President Felix Tshisekedi at the UN General Assembly. He said they had failed to rein in conflicts in the nation’s east, declaring “it’s time for our country to take its destiny fully in hand.”

Protests demanding MONUSCO’s withdrawal emerged in late July 2022, amid accusations by Congolese politicians and civilians of failing to take action to end the fighting. On July 26, UN peacekeepers opened fire during a protest in Goma, North Kivu, leaving 15 people dead and 50 others injured.

According to a MONUSCO report, the pull out will be executed in three stages with the assistance of the DR Congo’s international and other partners.

“This document contains a plan for the disengagement of the MONUSCO Force, and a plan for transferring tasks and responsibilities from MONUSCO to the Government of the DRC. We also foresee a quarterly evaluation mechanism to enable regular stocktaking of the situation and minimize any sudden disruptions that could lead to a security vacuum,” Foreign Minister Lutundula said.

Bintou Keita stated that the UN “remains determined to work with the Congolese authorities towards an accelerated withdrawal of MONUSCO that consolidates the gains made during the Mission’s presence in the DR Congo.”

Lutundula said on national television that the deal signifies the end of a partnership “which has proved its limits in a context of permanent war, without the longed-for peace being restored to eastern Congo.”

The issue of instability in the country is front and center as it heads for presidential and parliamentary elections on December 20. President Tshisekedi kicked off his campaign with a speech that accused Rwanda of destabilizing DR Congo.

Dozens of armed factions have been active in Eastern Congo for decades. According to UN experts, there is “substantial evidence” that Rwanda is providing support to the M23 rebel group, which Rwanda denies.

The UN stabilization mission has been working in DR Congo since 1999. Its primarily focus has been to protect civilians from armed groups and support the government’s efforts to stabilize the situation in the east.