NEW YORK – The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted the resolution initiating the phased down of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2024.
All the 15 members voted in favour of the resolution tabled by France.
The council, however, extended MONUSCO’s mandate until December 20, 2024 to allow for the drawdown. The decision, the UN said, sets out a comprehensive disengagement plan that includes three distinct, successive phases and the gradual handover of responsibility to the DRC government.
” MONUSCO will remain there until 20 December 2024 with a core mandate that includes protecting civilians, supporting security sector reform, and assisting in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes,” the statement said.
The Council vote came on the eve of the general election in the DRC and amid escalating insecurity in the eastern region linked to the M23 rebel group, among other rebel groups reportedly backed by Rwanda, as well as in the Greater Katanga region and in Mai-Ndombe and Tshopo provinces.
The resolution recognizes Congolese efforts towards protecting and respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while demanding that armed groups “cease immediately all forms of violence, other destabilising activities and the illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources”. The M23 are also urged to halt any further advances, the statement added.
The Council reaffirmed that the elimination of the threat posed by armed groups requires an integrated regional approach and strong political engagement.
Members also called on the Congolese Government to cooperate fully with MONUSCO personnel and ensure their safety and security during the withdrawal process.
DRC in September 2023 called for the fast tracking of withdrawal of MONUSCO, which took over from an earlier UN operation in 2010 to help quell insecurity in the eastern region, this year.
“It is to be deplored that peacekeeping missions deployed for 25 years … have failed to cope with the rebellions and armed conflicts. This is why have I instructed the government of the republic to begin discussions with the UN authorities for an accelerated withdrawal of MONUSCO … by bringing forward the start of this progressive withdrawal from December 2024 to December 2023,” President Tshisekedi told the told the UN General Assembly.
In a statement issued after the Council meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Congolese authorities, political leaders, civil society and the independent electoral commission to ensure that all eligible voters have access to the polling stations and cast their ballots freely without fear of intimidation or political persecution.
Reacting to the resolution, the US, a key player in the peace and stability in the DRC, said the coming days and months mark a pivotal moment for the DRC and MONUSCO.
“Members of this Council will be watching very closely as the DRC government looks to assume full responsibility for the protection of its civilians, as MONUSCO draws down. By working together, the DRC and MONUSCO can bring more than two decades of peacekeeping to a dignified and sustainable close, ushering in a new chapter of peace and prosperity for the country and its people,” Ambassador Robert Wood, Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs, said.
In December, the Kenya-led East African Community Regional Force that was deployed to restore peace and stability completed its withdrawal after Kinshasa declined to extend its mandate, saying it was ineffective in dealing with the rebels.
On November 17, ZDRC signed an agreement to allow the deployment of Southern African Development Community (SADC) forces following discussions and approval in Windhoek, Namibia, on May 7, 2023.
In regard to the elections, Ambassador Wood said it is up to the DRC government to ensure that all Congolese can safely and meaningfully participate in elections, regardless of political affiliation and without fear of violence or reprisal.
“It is incumbent on Congolese institutions to fulfill their constitutional mandates with the independence and integrity that the Congolese people expect and deserve,” Wood said.