DRCongo calls for halving number of UN peacekeepers
The mandate for the 20,000-strong peacekeeping force expires in March, but the United Nations envisions a cut of only 1,700 troops, citing a fragile security situation in the DRC. Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda yesterday told the UN Security Council that Kinshasa and the United Nations have been negotiating the peacekeeping mission's "orderly and definitive" exit.
He noted that the army will send reinforcements in a few months to help its forces fighting rebels in the country's east, allowing the government to take full charge of the security in that region.
"The DRC government has set an ambitious goal," he said, "to create the conditions that will permit, by the end of this year, the removal of half the UN peacekeeping troops deployed in our country without affecting security or stability."
"We never asked for a hasty or disorderly exit of the peacekeepers, but we are not willing to compromise on the sovereignty of our country," Tshibanda added.
The central African country has long called for a plan leading to the total withdrawal of peacekeepers. US Ambassador Samantha Power voiced concern this week over DRC government efforts to limit cooperation with the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO.
In March 2015, the UN reduced the peacekeeping force by 2,000 soldiers, although it can increase the force up to 21,000 if needed. Tshibanda also said the DRC government was not willing to allow outside forces to influence its elections calendar.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that he was "very concerned" about a political impasse in the country, citing a risk of violence if credible elections are not held on time.
Although the DRC is scheduled to hold elections in November, the chances of them taking place are growing dimmer. Critics of President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, suspect him of planning to extend his rule after his mandate runs out at the end of the year.