The UN Security Council will “soon” be presented with a joint strategy for the progressive and phased drawdown of MONUSCO, according to Leila Zerrougui, head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
She told the Security Council this week President Félix Tshisekedi was requesting a progressive transfer of tasks from the mission to government.
The DRC government agrees, in the coming years, that MONUSCO will consolidate its footprint in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces where conflict persists, while continuing its good offices work and institutional strengthening at national level, Zerrougui said.
She sees MONUSCO able to withdraw “relatively soon” from the Kasai region, while an improved security situation should enable it to scale back its military presence in Tanganyika.
MONUSCO remains focused on improving implementation of its protection-of-civilians mandate – including deploying new technologies such as unarmed drones – alongside working with local communities and civil society to promote reconciliation and monitor human rights.
She appealed to the Council to support MONUSCO efforts to foster a community-based approach to reintegration of ex-combatants in the east of the country.
This involves building the resilience of communities receiving ex-combatants and providing for legitimate needs, while removing incentives for former fighters to form and join armed groups.
“It is vital we avoid repeating the experiences of the past when large numbers of ex-combatants were granted amnesty and integrated into the Congolese security forces, where the prospect of obtaining a rank was an incentive to form an armed group,” she said.
MONUSCO’s mandate dates back to July 2010, when it took over from an earlier UN peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
It had just over 18 000 deployed personnel as of August, including more than 13 000 contingent troops. Its approved budget for the 12 months to June 2020 was $1.09 billion.
South African soldiers are mandated to deploy with MONUSCO until at least December this year, with the responsibility currently falling to 15 SA Infantry Battalion from Thohoyandou. The Limpopo–headquartered unit replaced the Zeerust, North West-headquartered 2 SA Infantry Battalion, which served an extended period in the central African country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The other major South African component of MONUSCO is the SA Air Force (SAAF) composite helicopter unit (CHU) at Goma in eastern DRC. The unit’s combat support Rooivalk and medium transport Oryx rotary-winged aircraft are widely acknowledged as making a significant contribution to MONUSCO’s overall success.
On 6 October, Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa, on behalf of Niger, Tunisia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines & South Africa (A3+1), said during the Security Council Meeting on the DRC that “although some progress has been witnessed in the stabilisation and strengthening of state institutions, the A3+1 remains concerned by the prospect of a hastened and rushed drawdown of MONUSCO. It is our view that the drawdown of MONUSCO should be occasioned on the elaborate plan aimed at improving the capacity of the state to deliver while MONUSCO reduces its presence in the country.”
“Any drawdown of MONUSCO should be based on the positive evolution of the situation on the ground for the handover of MONUSCO tasks to the DRC Government.”