The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has closed nine field offices since peaceful transfer of power in the 2018 presidential elections, the world body’s top official there told the Security Council.
At the same time Leila Zerrougui, UN Secretary-General special representative and head of the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) said a new strategy for the mission’s eventual closure recognises and is tailored to differing realities on the ground and security needs in each province.
“The drawdown and ultimate withdrawal of MONUSCO figured prominently in our discussions with government in recent months,” she told the Security Council this week.
The discussions outcome is a joint strategy representing a common vision for the mission’s gradual, responsible and sustainable drawdown and exit.
MONUSCO is currently present in six provinces, in addition to its Kinshasa headquarters, she said, explaining the joint strategy is tailored to province-specific situations and aims to progressively consolidate the mission’s footprint in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, most affected by conflict.
By June 2021, MONUSCO will withdraw completely from the Kasaïs and by June 2022 it will be able to withdraw from Tanganyika, if stability is maintained.
“Ultimately the primary responsibility for protection of civilians is with State authorities,” she said adding the sustainability and tempo of MONUSCO’s transition hinged on government capacity to assume security responsibilities and strengthen its institutional presence across the country.
On the political situation, Zerrougui said the DRC is going through a period of heightened political tensions, marked by persistent differences in the governing coalition.
In view of these tensions, MONUSCO met over with representatives of political forces and civil society encouraging them to resolve their differences through dialogue and avoid provocations likely to incite violence, she said.
In a Security Council discussion, members exchanged views on MONUSCO’s reconfiguration, including the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), a military unit in the mission authorised to take offensive action according to a UN statement.
France’s representative said MONUSCO must focus on areas where the situation is most volatile, stressing the drawdown must be strategic and sequenced, with reforms in the justice and security sectors prioritised, as well as development and the engagement of women. The mission should be deployed most effectively, with reconfiguration of the FIB. A renewed partnership with government is also needed, he added.
The US representative welcomed progress the Congolese government made in governance and gender equity. More progress is needed in disarmament and reintegration, as well as planning for a responsible drawdown and transition. He urged the UN to move forward with mandated enhancements to the FIB.
Estonia’s delegate said the international community must be aware of MONUSCO’s numerous responsibilities, including protecting civilians, advancing women, peace and security, addressing violations against children and supporting security sector reform. “A refocusing of MONUSCO and gradual transfer of its responsibilities has to ensure there are not setbacks in the progress achieved,” he said.
The DRC representative told how government is implementing a threefold strategy toward building defence and security capacity through security sector reform, promoting national reconciliation and activating regional diplomacy to defuse tensions. He called for an increase in resources so the FIB will be equipped with a special unit to rapidly respond to situations on the ground.