Sunday, May 30, 2010

United Nations To Slash Strength Of Peacekeepers In The Democratic Republic Of Congo

UN To Slash Strength Of Peacekeepers In DR Congo

Friday May 28, 2010 15:18:00 EDT

(RTTNews) - The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Friday has voted unanimously to slash the number of UN peacekeepers serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Even though the 15-member group adopted a resolution to withdraw troops in line with security requirements in the mineral-rich country, it has deferred a decision on a total pull-out until next year. Congolese President Joseph Kabila had demanded a full withdrawal of UN troops from the country, before the 2011 presidential elections scheduled to held late in the year.

The UNSC mandate will enable the withdrawal of up to 2000 peacekeepers by June 30 and from July 1, the force currently known as Monuc, will be rechristened UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DR Congo (Monusco).

Monusco will include around 19,80 military personnel, 760 military observers, 390 police personnel and 1,050 personnel of formed police units, mostly in a supportive role with Congolese forces carrying out main tasks.

UN forces were first sent to Congo in 1999 as part of efforts to deal with the raging civil war there. The peacekeepers have also been fighting militias looting DR Congo's rich mineral resources since the conflict ended in 2003. Almost all the armed rebel gangs have since been disarmed and disbanded.

The threat of sexual violence in Congo continues to be a major issue with UN estimates indicating the violation of more than 8000 women in 2009. As a result, Monuc personnel currently escort women to market places to prevent sexual violence against them.

The UN resolution sees the future role of its peacekeeping force in Congo in line with operational progress in eastern Congo and the Congolese government's ability to protect civilian life and ensure its authority.

The UN currently has a strong contingent of over 20,000 peacekeepers in Congo, tackling multiple issues including problem related to its own image. UN personnel in Congo have been accused of slackness in operations, human rights violations, collusion with gold smugglers, as well as charges of sexual abuse against its members.

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