Congo pull-out would undermine aid work: UN

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A hasty withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Democratic Republic of Congo will undermine humanitarian work in the restive central African state, the top UN aid official says.

Rebel insurgencies continue in the former Belgian colony despite years of UN-backed operations, and violence has displaced 1.4 million people in the eastern Kivu provinces.

The UN is resisting pressure from Congolese President Joseph Kabila to start pulling out its force, known as MONUC, by the 50th anniversary of Congo’s independence on June 30 amid worries government troops are unable to fill the gap.
“Our preference is for MONUC to stay and for any discussions of withdrawal to be based on not an arbitrary timetable, but on the accomplishment of what MONUC is there to do,” UN humanitarian chief John Holmes told reporters.
“We are worried by the prospect of a rapid or premature withdrawal of MONUC because MONUC is very important for our activities in the sense of providing stability, providing security for humanitarians.”

UN peacekeepers have been in the central African nation since a 1998-2003 war that killed millions and the force has grown into the world’s largest global peacekeeping mission.

Congo’s government says it is time for UN forces to pull out because of evidence that its own army is prepared to take over MONUC’s role.

Aid groups have said, however, that government soldiers — many of them former rebels integrated into the army — have also committed atrocities against civilians, including rapes and summary executions.

During Holmes’ visit to south Kivu, a region in Congo’s east where Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels are active, a villager told him she was afraid of government forces in the next town.
“The 14th brigade, which is based in Kitutu and has a bad reputation, must be taken out for our protection,” she told him.

Belgium’s ambassador to Kinshasa, Dominique Struye de Swielande, said this month he was concerned about a hasty withdrawal of MONUC forces.

The United Nations said in a press release on Saturday that aid groups are providing help to about 70% of the people who need it in the Kivu provinces despite rampant insecurity.

Source: www.af.reuters.com