/ 24 December 2009

UN extends mandate of DRC peacekeepers

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in the strife-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by five months and tasked it with better protecting civilians.

The 15-member body voted unanimously to extend the mandate of Monuc, the largest peacekeeping force deployed by the UN, until May 31, with the intention to extend it after that for a further year.

Resolution 1906 keeps the strength of the force at its current level of 21 000 troops and police.

It sets three main tasks for Monuc: ensuring the effective protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and UN personnel; disarming, demobilising and reintegrating foreign and Congolese armed groups; and supporting security-sector reform led by the DRC government.

It also urges the DRC government ”to effectively protect the civilian population, to develop sustainable security-sector institutions which fully respect the rule of law and to ensure respect for human rights and the fight against impunity”.

Human rights and independent groups have criticised a UN-backed government offensive against Rwandan Hutu rebels of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in eastern DRC.

Human Rights Watch said the offensive had led to more than 1 400 civilians being murdered this year by both Congolese troops and rebels.

Kinshasa has rejected the report.

UN special envoy to DRC Alan Doss said last week that the operation, codenamed Kimia II, would be wrapped up by year’s end.

The French-drafted text also asks UN chief Ban Ki-moon to conduct a strategic review of the situation by April 1 and to determine, in close cooperation with Kinshasa, how to reconfigure Monuc, ”in particular the critical tasks that need to be accomplished before Monuc can envisage its drawdown without triggering a relapse into instability”.

It postpones a decision for a gradual withdrawal of Monuc, which has been deployed in the country for the past 10 years.

Kinshasa had asked for a six-month extension of the mandate so that by next June, which will mark the 50th anniversary of independence for the former Belgian Congo, a gradual year-long drawdown can begin.

About two million people are believed to have been killed in 10 years of warfare, according to NGOs. — Sapa-AFP