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Annan calls for one-year extension of UN peacekeeping mission in DR of Congo

Annan calls for one-year extension of UN peacekeeping mission in DR of Congo

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), which, in the face of serious difficulties, “continues to serve the international community well,” should be extended for a further year, according to a new report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), which, in the face of serious difficulties, “continues to serve the international community well,” should be extended for a further year, according to a new report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Mr. Annan writes that the Mission’s accomplishments over the past 12 months “in extremely challenging and sometimes hazardous conditions confirm my view that it remains the best instrument for carrying out the wishes of the Security Council.” He also recommends that the Council increase MONUC’s authorized strength by 400 troops to undertake key tasks in Kisangani and Kindu.

Looking to the broader picture, the Secretary-General recalls that the Security Council has mandated MONUC to take action to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence. “Yet MONUC troops currently deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC] are not equipped, trained or configured to intervene rapidly to assist those in need of such protection.”

Despite the deployment of additional MONUC troops to Kisangani, the Mission faces a “significant dilemma,” since public expectations that it will protect civilians from violence will also rise, the Secretary-General says. “While MONUC will do its utmost, it does not have the means to provide broader protection to civilians at large,” he points out.

If MONUC is to more effectively protect civilians under imminent threat of violence, the Security Council will have to consider adjusting the Mission’s strength with a view to “considerably” reconfiguring and re-equipping contingents so that they can intervene more actively, according to the report, which stresses that local authorities have “the basic responsibility of providing protection to civilians.”

While the reduction in the number of foreign forces in the DRC’s territory is encouraging, the conflict cannot be resolved without the total withdrawal of all foreign forces, Mr. Annan stresses. He points out that countries with forces inside the DRC should withdraw them in an orderly manner as soon as possible, and allow MONUC to monitor and verify the withdrawal. The Mission, he adds, is current examining the feasibility of a proposed “curtain” of troops along the DRC’s borders with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda to serve as a border security zone.

The Security Council is expected to consider the report before the expiration of MONUC’s current mandate on 15 June.