The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the world body’s largest peacekeeping and peace support mission – MONUSCO – in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to 20 December this year.
According to the mission website the resolution adopted by the Security Council entrusts Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit the outcomes of a strategic review into MONUSCO no later than 20 October. While not specified in the statement the review in all probability has to do with resizing the mission. This is in response to US President Donald Trump’s plan to cut down funding to the world body more than two years ago.
Subsequently a South African Development Community (SADC) delegation went to UN headquarters in New York to discuss how any proposed downsizing of MONUSCO and particularly its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) would be affected. The FIB is staffed by SADC members Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania. SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operation Chief, Lieutenant General Barney Hlatshwayo was part of the delegation.
There has been no official word from the world body or the South African Department of Defence on any changes to the South African and SADC components of MONUSCO. Insiders maintain Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula wants the SA Air Force (SAAF) composite helicopter unit with Oryx medium transport and Rooivalk combat support machines to remain. “If the South African helicopters are not wanted or needed then the South African battalion of the FIB will come home,” a reliable defence source said last year.
Indications of possible downsizing come from the MONUSCO statement which states, in part, “the need to progressively transfer the tasks of MONUSCO to the Congolese government and the UN country team, so the mission can ‘with favourable developments’ leave the country according to a plan of responsible withdrawal”.
MONUSCO came into being in July 2010 and took over from the previous UN mission – MONUC – in according with UN Security Council resolution 1925.
As of January this year there were 20 500 personnel deployed to the mission. These comprised 15 255 contingent troops. 2 970 civilians, 1 362 police, 414 UN volunteers, 269 staff officers and 231 mission experts according to the UN Department of Peacekeeping.
MONUSCO is authorised to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate as far as protecting civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders from physical violence. This saw the establishment of the FIB as the first ever UN peacekeeping force to be given an offensive mandate in 2013.