Citing ongoing security challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended extending the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the vast country for one more year, suggesting that a drawdown could commence following the holding of local elections.
In a new report to the Security Council, Mr. Ban paints a mixed picture of progress in the DRC, which has shown signs of good governance and stability but still faces long-standing security challenges in its volatile eastern region.
In the east’s North Kivu province, clashes have increased between elements loyal to renegade commander Laurent Nkunda and Government troops, known as FARDC, Mayi-Mayi groups and other armed militias, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). North and South Kivu host the majority of DRC’s 1.2 million displaced persons, according to the report.
“In addition to precipitating a humanitarian crisis, the fighting in North Kivu has raised serious human rights concerns,” the Secretary-General writes. These include confirmed reports of mass graves and continuing evidence of the recruitment of children into armed groups.
Mr. Ban notes that the rule of law and respect for human rights, “in particular by security services,” must be strengthened.
He emphasizes the need to fight impunity within the security services and calls on the Government to take advantage of the assistance offered by MONUC and other international partners to ensure justice for crimes and rights abuses.
The many challenges facing the country require the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) “to maintain a robust capacity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and a continued police, rule of law, human rights, political and civil affairs presence throughout the country.”
The Secretary-General recommends renewing MONUC’s mandate for one year with the current level of uniformed personnel – now nearly 18,400 troops and police, in addition to a full complement of civilian staff – at least until the end of local elections expected to be held in the second half of 2008.
A gradual drawdown of the mission’s strength would be subject to progress towards broad benchmarks, including the successful completion of the local elections “and, most importantly, towards ensuring the security of the population.”
At the same time, the report points out that the problems in the eastern DRC must be addressed through a regional approach. Mr. Ban has designated Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios to address the issue, in close coordination with the top UN envoy to the DRC, William Lacy Swing.