UN chief proposes drawdown of 2,000 UN peacekeepers from DR Congo by June

April 6, 2010 11:16 am 

UNITED NATIONS, April 6 — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon proposed a drawdown of 2,000 UN peace-keepers from its 20,000- strong troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the end of June this year, according to a report released here Monday.

"The Democratic Republic of the Congo has made notable progress, considering the formidable challenges it has overcome during the past 15 years," Ban said in his latest report to the Security Council on the force (known by the French acronym MONUC), recommending that the mission be extended for another year from its current expiry date of May 31.

"The country has come a long way, emerging from what was widely described as 'Africa's First World War,' which involved nine foreign armies and numerous domestic and foreign armed groups fighting on its soil, and ending the balkanization that threatened its very existence," he added.

Ban proposed that the Council immediately authorize a drawdown of 2,000 troops by June 30 from the more stable, mainly western and central provinces, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the country's independence.

But the UN said it disagreed with the Congolese government's proposed date of August 30, 2011 for the final withdrawal of the mission, which has helped restore a measure of stability and democratic process to a country torn apart by years of civil war and revolts that resulted in the greatest death toll since World War II — some 4 million people killed by the fighting and the attendant starvation and disease it produced.

Ban highlighted the "significant challenges" still facing the national government, including continued fighting with rebels in the Kivu provinces in the east, where human rights violations are rife, weak government institutions, the urgent need for training and reform in the national army and police, and socio-economic hardship in urban areas, compounded by the global financial crisis, that remains a source of potential instability, including in Kinshasa, the capital.

"I fully respect the Government's vision regarding the full exercise of its sovereignty and the need to empower national institutions and build their capacity to assume responsibility for the tasks that MONUC is currently performing," Ban wrote in the report.

"In this regard, however, a responsible exit strategy for the military component of the Mission must be anchored on building sustainable capacities for the rule of law and security institutions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular to consolidate the full exercise of the country's sovereignty," Ban said.

Under Ban's proposal the June drawdown would cover eight provinces, with the remaining troops concentrated in North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale provinces. At the same time joint reviews would be held with the Government, beginning in early September, on the modalities and timelines for the successive drawdown phases, including "essential" joint agreement on specific benchmarks for measuring progress towards accomplishing agreed urgent tasks.

The decade-old MONUC is tasked with protecting civilians in DRC, where over 1.25 million people have been uprooted or re-displaced by violence in the eastern part of the country and the volatile security situation has hampered aid agencies' efforts to provide assistance.

In reconfiguring MONUC's mandate, Ban recommended that "the protection of civilians remain at the top of the mission's priorities." (PNA/Xinhua)

ALM/ebp

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