Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

The United Nations has initiated the withdrawal of MONUSCO peacekeeping forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), marking a significant development in the region’s security landscape.

In a formal ceremony at the Kamanyola base, situated near the borders with Rwanda and Burundi, the transfer of the first UN base to national police was observed by an AFP team. During this event, the flags of the United Nations and Pakistan, representing the peacekeepers’ home country, were replaced by those of the DRC.

Despite concerns raised by the United Nations regarding the prevalent violence in eastern DRC, the government in Kinshasa has insisted on the withdrawal of the UN force. Kinshasa perceives the UN’s peacekeeping efforts as inadequate in safeguarding civilians from the armed groups and militias that have plagued the eastern region for decades. This decision follows the UN Security Council’s vote in December to accede to Kinshasa’s request for a gradual pullout of the MONUSCO mission, which has been stationed in the country since 1999.

Currently comprising approximately 13,500 soldiers and 2,000 police personnel deployed across the eastern provinces of Ituri, South Kivu, and North Kivu, the UN force is set to execute the withdrawal in three phases, subject to regular evaluations. The initial phase will witness the departure of military peacekeepers from South Kivu by the end of April, followed by the withdrawal of civilian staff by June 30. By May, all 14 bases in the province are slated to be handed over to DRC security forces.

Interim MONUSCO commander in chief, Diouf Khar, characterized this moment as “historic,” emphasizing the commencement of the withdrawal process from Kamanyola due to the relative stability observed in the area. However, opinions among the local populace in Kamanyola appear divided regarding the implications of the pullout. While some express concerns about a potential security vacuum, others welcome the Congolese government’s decision while acknowledging apprehensions about its economic impact.

Amidst the withdrawal, North Kivu faces the resurgence of Tutsi-led M23 rebels, intensifying conflicts in the region. Despite the challenges, the UN stresses its support for the DRC armed forces and underscores the importance of reinforcing them to ensure civilian protection. With millions displaced by the ongoing fighting in DRC, the completion of the withdrawal, as desired by the DRC government, remains contingent upon subsequent phases and ongoing evaluations, with South Kivu being the first in line for the transition.

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