The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for a year, with the force now scheduled to stay at least until 30 June 2012.
The Council resolution, adopted unanimously, “reaffirms that the protection of civilians must be given priority” by the mission (MONUSCO), which last year succeeded an earlier mission known as MONUC.
The mission has almost 20,000 uniformed personnel, including some 17,000 blue helmet military personnel, more than 1,000 police officers and almost 1,000 international civilian staff.
Earlier this month, Roger Meece, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, told the Council that there have been significant improvements in security in the African country, but many challenges remain before stability can be restored in conflict-affected areas, especially in the north and east.
Today’s resolution stresses that any future re-configurations of MONUSCO should be determined by the situation in the ground and on whether the DRC and the mission have achieved certain objectives, such as consolidating State authority across the country and reducing the threat from armed groups in North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale provinces.
It also calls on the Government and other parties to ensure that elections scheduled for November are free, fair, credible and transparent.
The Council members say the DRC’s independent national electoral authorities as well as the country’s political parties must quickly adopt and implement codes of conduct and ensure that national and international observers are accredited.
MONUSCO is tasked with providing technical and logistical support, as requested, to Congolese authorities in the staging of the elections.
Welcoming the extension of the mission’s mandate, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, noted that the Security Council resolution had explicitly condemned sexual and gender-based violence in DRC and reiterated the urgent need for swift prosecution of all perpetrators of human rights abuses.
“Given the significant security challenges that remain in the country, it is crucial that the United Nations have a continued peacekeeping presence in the Congo. The recent mass rapes in Fizi in South Kivu highlight that Congo’s women are particularly vulnerable,” said Ms. Wallström in a statement.
She also took note of the fact that the resolution stressed the need for reforming DRC’s security sector, which, she added, meant not only better coordination of donors’ efforts, but also improved vetting and proper integration of ex-combatants into the national army.
“Moreover, resolution 1991 accurately expresses concern at the promotion within the Congolese security forces of well-known individuals responsible for serious human rights abuses,” said Ms. Wallström, expressing her appreciation of MONUSCO’s efforts to improve peace and stability in the country.
She also encouraged the UN to strengthen monitoring and reporting for incidents of sexual violence and voiced her support for the peacekeeping mission’s engagement with armed groups to elicit concrete commitments from them to refrain from sexual violence as a weapon or tactic of war.
The primary responsibility for the security and protection of civilians, however, lay with the DRC Government, she added, stressing the need for vigilance to ensure that sexual violence is not used as a tool of political intimidation in the run-up to and during elections later this year.