The United Nations Security Council is divided over the future size of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) amid political uncertainty in the country.
The council met March to discuss the issue and after the closed door meeting, British ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, who holds the council presidency this month, told reporters that there were diverging views on whether to reduce the number of Monusco peacekeepers.
“There was some support for a reduction in numbers, but also some concern that this year in particular, with elections coming up by the end of the year, is not the moment to reduce in any way the ability of Monusco to provide protection of civilians,” Mr Rycroft said.
Monusco is the UN’s largest mission with around 20,000 boots on the ground in the DR Congo over the past 18 years. It is also the most costly, with an annual operation budget of more than $1.2 billion. The US, which is the major funder of UN peacekeeping operations, holds the view that Monusco needs to be scaled down, in line with the new US administration’s policy of reduced funding for UN operations.
The Security Council is expected to renew the Monusco mandate by the end of this month, as it is due to expire on March 31. The DR Congo government also favours a reduction in the peacekeepers numbers.
“For most of the residual security challenges, Monusco, except for the special intervention brigade, is no longer the answer. Virtually all the actions to be taken relate, ultimately and mainly to the government of the DR Congo,” Léonard She Okitundu, the DR Congo minister of foreign affairs told the UN Security Council.
Mr Okitundu maintained that in all the zones concerned, including the south and north Kivu, the reduction of forces was justified, “except of the Civilian Personnel Protection Unit.”
The council is due to decide on this on March 29. Maman Sambo Sidikou, the special representative of the Secretary-General and Monusco’s head, has warned that reducing the contingent would be sending a bad signal.