MONUSCO ends South Kivu operations

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United Nations peacekeepers have ceased operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) restive South Kivu province after more than 20 years.

“MONUSCO,” a mission statement has it, “began winding down its operations in South Kivu in January 2024 and from 1 May 2024 the mission’s mandate, including its responsibility to protect civilians, ceases in this province. Only the uniformed personnel required to provide security for UN staff, facilities, convoys, installations, and equipment will be maintained in the province, until MONUSCO’s withdrawal is finalised”.

The “disengagement” of the longstanding United Nations mission in the DRC has, to date, seen two military bases transferred to national authorities. Of the remaining seven military bases, five (Mikenge, Minembwe, Rutemba, Uvira and Kavumu) will be transferred to the DRC’s armed forces between May and June 2024, while two (Baraka and Sange) will be closed this month (May). Additionally, another 15 MONUSCO installations will be transferred or closed.

“Despite a slippage in the chronogram for base closure and transfer, all uniformed personnel will be repatriated by 30 June 2024, leaving only a residual team of civilians to work on the transition,” the statement further reads in part.

Bintou Keita, MONUSCO Head and Special Representative of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, repeated what she said at the recent departures of Chinese and Pakistani contingents, saying the South Kivu exit was not “synonymous with the departure of the UN from the DRC”.

It is a reconfiguration of the UN presence in support of the people and government of the DRC. Following MONUSCO’s departure, UN agencies, funds and programmes will continue to provide support in line with their respective mandates, she said.

At the same time a UN standing committee on the DRC warned “crushing levels of violence and displacement were fuelling unprecedented civilian suffering”.

A statement dated 30 April has it “decades of conflict and the resulting humanitarian emergency have exhausted and traumatised millions of civilians”.

“In the last few months, more than 700 000 people have been forced to flee their homes, bringing the total number of displaced people to an all-time high of 7.2 million.”

Twenty signatories to the statement, representing the UN Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC) for the DRC, note ending the escalating the humanitarian crisis in the DRC requires addressing its root causes: conflict, exploitation of natural resources, illicit financial flows, prevailing gender inequality and development deficits.