DRC- MONUSCO: Progressive withdrawal of UN force kicks off

Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Kamanyola, DR Congo
After 25 years of presence, the departure of the UN peacekeepers was formalized in December 2023 by the UN Security Council, despite its concerns about the escalation of violence in eastern Congo.
On Wednesday February 28, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco) began its withdrawal from the country, as demanded by Kinshasa, which considers it ineffective.
During a ceremony at the Kamanyola base, close to the Rwandan and Burundian borders, the flags of the United Nations and Pakistan, the countries of origin of the peacekeepers in charge of the mission, were replaced by those of the DRC.
Monusco (ex-Monuc), which currently has around 15,000 peacekeepers, is still present in the region’s three most troubled provinces, South and North Kivu, as well as Ituri. For a withdrawal that the UN and Kinshasa say they want to be “orderly, responsible and sustainable”, a three-phase “disengagement plan” has been adopted.
The first phase will see Monusco withdraw from South Kivu by April 30 for its military and police personnel, and by June 30 for its civilian component. Before May, the UN force is therefore expected to leave its 14 bases in the province and hand them over to the Congolese security forces.
Kamanyola is the first base to be handed over to the National Police (PNC).
In the city of a hundred thousand inhabitants, opinions are divided on this departure.
“I’m neither hot nor cold about it,” says Ombeni Ntaboba, president of the local youth council.
Every evening, he says, “we’d see them driving around in armored vehicles towards the Ruzizi plain”, a border strip under threat from residual armed groups. “But there is still insecurity, armed robbery, kidnapping…” continues the young man.
“We welcome the Congolese government’s decision”, says Mibonda Shingire, a human rights activist, who only fears the “negative impact on the economy”, since some Kamanyola residents had “jobs at the Monusco base”.
Some, like teacher Joé Wendo, fear the “security vacuum” left by the departure of the Pakistani peacekeepers from Kamanyola. “With their presence, we were still safe from Rwandan invaders”, he says.
Monusco’s withdrawal from the eastern provinces, which have been plagued by chronic armed violence for 30 years, is taking place at a time when North Kivu is experiencing a crisis peak since the resurgence, at the end of 2021, of the M23 (“March 23 Movement”) rebellion, which, supported by Rwanda, has seized vast swathes of territory.
Humaniterre with AFP


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