DRC approaches UN on force withdrawals

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have approached the United Nations about scaling down the large UN mission in the country, government spokesperson Laurent Mende said on Thursday.

”Our ambassador to the United Nations has taken steps in this direction, at the request of the government, to try to see these things in the light of a reconfiguration” of the Monuc peacekeeping mission, Mende said.

Monuc, which has been in the DRC since 1999, is today the biggest UN peacekeeping mission in the world. By mid-January, it will include almost 20 000 UN troops after the end of the deployment of reinforcements of 3 000 men.

”We’re expecting a timetable by the first half of 2010 for a progressive withdrawal. I believe that this is what the UN has in mind. The numbers and the dates will be settled in discussions” at the UN in New York, Mende said.

The UN Security Council is due to renew Monuc’s mandate at the end of December. ”The discussion will be about reconfiguration and the new mandate,” UN spokesperson Madnodje Mounoubai said.

”The renewal of the mandate for six months instead of a year could be a first thing, since there are sites where Monuc’s presence is no longer justified since the state has recovered some capacity to manage the situation,” Mounoubai said.

Asked about the request by the DRC authorities, French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said that ”Monuc must be the object of a reconfiguration, which will eventually lead to the reduction of certain staff.”

”We believe that it is nevertheless premature, at this stage, to envisage a withdrawal of Monuc from the DRC,” Valero added.

The bulk of Monuc’s military contingent is based in the east of the country, which remains highly unstable and prone to violence.

The UN troops help the DRC army to hunt down different armed groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). — Sapa-AFP

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