Congo-Kinshasa: UN Peacekeeping Mission in DRC Is to Withdraw 'As Quickly As Possible'

A MONUSCO patrol in North Kivu (file photo).

The top United Nations official Jean-Pierre Lacroix ended his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday saying that the peacekeepers should withdraw from the conflict-torn country "as quickly as possible" yet responsibly.

The UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, ended on Wednesday evening a 5-day visit in the whole of the DRC including a tour of the conflict-ridden region of Ituri, in the north-east side of the country.

He addressed reporters in the capital Kinshasa, and called on a "responsible" and reasonably quick withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as MONUSCO.

"In Ituri, but also in other provinces where we are present, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are protected today almost exclusively and often exclusively by the presence of Monusco," Lacroix said.

"And if the mission left tomorrow, these civilians would be in very serious danger of being massacred," he added. "The people we met in these camps, in these sites for displaced people, tell us: 'stay, above all don't leave'."

He also warned that Congolese leaders had to step up their own response to armed groups to avoid creating a "security void that would be fatal".

"Everyone has been concerned by the violence that occurred during recent demonstrations. Many of our interlocutors are concerned about hate speech, xenophobic rhetoric, misogynistic rhetoric and discourse based on ethnic confrontation, and of course it is essential to put an end to such rhetoric", concluded the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations.

Controversial mission

The MONUSCO has been present in the central African country since 1999.

It's regularly criticised by Congolese people for being inefficient and powerless.

It currently has about 16,000 uniformed personnel, mainly deployed in Congo's east, a mineral-rich region that militias have plagued with violence for three decades.

It is one of the largest and costliest peacekeeping mission in the world, with an annual budget of around $1 billion.

The UN has increasingly received sharper criticism in the recent years in the DRC, where many people perceive the peacekeepers as failing to prevent violence.

Dozens of people were killed during anti-UN protests only last year.

Disarm and demobilise

Jean-Pierre Lacroix also noted that there is a need to act "very quickly" in DRC with regard to the programme of disarmament and demobilisation of armed groups.

Yet, the political climate has been really tense these past six months in the country, as the next elections are scheduled for the end of the year.

The UN diplomat admitted he had contacts with opposition and government actors, but did not dwell further on the political aspect, according to RFI's correspondent in Kinshasa.

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