Planning for a drawdown of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is well underway, but much work still remains to be done to put the country firmly on the path to long-term stability and sustainable development, the Security Council heard today.
Leila Zerrougui, Head of the UN's Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), urged Council members to continue to support its efforts to help the Congolese government and people maintain the gains made since its establishment in 2010.
Discussing the political situation, she said that in the peaceful transfer of power that following the 2018 elections, the political class accepts - "and even appreciates" - the opportunities offered by the ruling coalition between the Cap pour le Changement (CACH) and the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC).
However, in addition to persistent tension between coalition members, there is a risk that politicking and positioning ahead of elections in 2023 will overshadow the governance reforms and stabilization measures that the Democratic Republic of the Congo needs, she said.
"The current political dispensation remains fragile and could yet unravel," she said. "At the same time, it has the potential to sustain and advance the gains which have already been made - should all actors work towards this goal."
Ms. Zerrougui said that she is sparing no effort in exercising her good offices, meeting regularly with stakeholders from across the political spectrum, urging them to focus on implementing reforms to address the pressing needs of the Congolese people.
Thin line of stability
"In doing so, I have sought to impress upon all my interlocutors that there is a difference between normal political competition and behaviour that undermines the stability of the country," she said.
On the future of MONUSCO, she said that the Council will soon be presented with a joint strategy for its progressive and phased drawdown, with President Félix Tshisekedi requesting a progressive transfer of tasks from the Mission to the Government.
Elaborating, she said that the Government agrees that in the coming years, MONUSCO will gradually consolidate its footprint in the three Congolese provinces - North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri - where conflict persists, while also pursuing its good offices work and institutional strengthening at the national level.
Withdrawal 'relatively soon'
Meanwhile, she added, MONUSCO should be able to withdraw "relatively soon" from the Kasai region, while an improved security situation should enable the Mission to scale back its military presence there in Tanganyika.
She went on to say that MONUSCO remains focused on improving the implementation of its protection-of-civilians mandate - including by deploying new technologies such as unarmed drones - alongside working with local communities and civil society to promote reconciliation and monitor human rights.
She also appealed to the Council to support MONUSCO's efforts to foster a community-based approach to the reintegration of ex-combatants in the east of the country.
That approach involves building the resilience of communities receiving ex-combatants and providing for legitimate needs, while also removing incentives for former fighters to form and join armed groups.
Avoid past mistakes
"It is vital ... that we avoid repeating the experiences of the past," when large numbers of ex-combatants were granted amnesty and integrated into the Congolese security forces, where the prospect of obtaining a rank was an incentive to form an armed group, she said.
MONUSCO's mandate dates back to July 2010, when it took over from an earlier UN peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
It had just over 18,000 deployed personnel as of August, including more than 13,000 contingent troops. Its approved budget for the 123 months to June 2020 was $1.09 billion.