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UN renews smaller DR Congo peacekeeping force

By AFP

Added 1st April 2017 10:17 AM

The council voted to approve the MONUSCO mission for another year and asked that a review of its strategy be completed by September.

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UN renews smaller DR Congo peackeeping force

The council voted to approve the MONUSCO mission for another year and asked that a review of its strategy be completed by September.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Friday to renew the mandate of the peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but cut its numbers.

The council voted to approve the MONUSCO mission for another year and asked that a review of its strategy be completed by September.

And members warned President Joseph Kabila that his government must honor a power-sharing deal with the opposition and allow key elections to go ahead.

"We continue to see increasing tensions and insecurity, throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo," said Britain's Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who chaired the council this month.

"And we continue to see a clear link between the escalation of local conflicts, and national politics," he told his colleagues after the vote.

Strategy review

The resolution reduces the authorized size of the military component of the mission to 16,215 troops from 19,815.

But officials stressed that the force is already below strength and in practice fewer than 500 will come home from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The United States, which will assume the rotating presidency of the Security Council on Saturday, has called for a deep review of the strategy behind all the UN peacekeeping missions.

And Washington, which currently funds more than 28 percent of the peacekeeping budget, is seeking to cut costs and improve the efficiency of the missions.

The US mission to the United Nations, under Ambassador Nikki Haley, will lead the council in April.

And Haley has been clear that she will seek savings in the peacekeeping budget while launching a deep strategy review of every UN mission.

Some missions, such as those in Haiti, Liberia and Ivory Coast, are expected to be wound up and the biggest -- in the DRC -- is under scrutiny.

Arms embargo?

Haley said the attitude of Kabila's government, which she has branded "corrupt," made MONUSCO's job impossible and vowed to hold him to account.

"We can't work in spite of the government. We need to hold the government accountable," she told reporters the day before the vote.

"And whether that's us moving forward with an arms embargo, whether its sanctions, we've got to do something to let them know that this is not OK."

On the last day of 2016, Kabila signed a deal to share power with the opposition as officials work to set up national elections later this year.

The agreement was never fully implemented -- despite international pressure -- and an opposition umbrella group has called for a general strike from Monday in protest.

Kabila first took power in 2001 to replace his assassinated father as war ravaged the country.

His unwillingness to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate last year led to protests in which at least 17 people were killed.

Under a deal brokered by the country's influential Roman Catholic bishops, Kabila was allowed to stay in office in tandem with a transitional body and a new premier.

But talks on implementing the accord appear to have broken down, and violence has flared.

Last week, 39 police were killed in an ambush by rebels in the remote central region of Kasai.

In a separate incident, two foreign UN experts, an American and a Swede, were killed in the same region.

Diplomats at the United Nations told AFP that the murdered pair had been investigating reports of mass graves.

On Tuesday, the UN, the European Union and the African Union called for an opposition figure to be named premier as had been agreed under the December 31 deal.

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