Thu, Apr 15, 2010 - Page 6 News List

UN pullout from DR Congo next year premature: envoy

CONCERNSThe French envoy said a UN Security Council delegation would hold talks with DR Congo officials this week to discuss the transition

AFP , UNITED NATIONS

A withdrawal of the UN mission from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) next year sought by Kinshasa would be “premature,” French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud said on Tuesday.

The 20,000-strong force known as MONUC — the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission — “will not remain indefinitely,” Araud said, adding that a withdrawal must be done “right rather than quickly.”

Kinshasa has asked for a complete pullout of MONUC by late August next year, with the first departure of a contingent before June 30 of next year, when the DR Congo celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence from Belgium.

Araud said all 15 UN Security Council members “have expressed concern about the date of 2011” and judged it “premature.”

He said that a UN Security Council delegation he would lead would start a two-day visit to Kinshasa on Saturday “with an open mind.” Seven ambassadors will be among the participating delegates.

Delegates will hold talks with DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, government ministers, parliamentarians and members of civil society, as well as with officials from MONUC and other UN agencies on the ground. All council member states will be represented on the trip.

“We have to discuss with Congolese authorities the transition which will lead to the withdrawal of MONUC,” the French envoy said. “This moment has not to be decided in an artificial way ... For the moment, the situation remains extremely fragile, so we have to do it right rather than to do it quickly.”

Araud said the talks in Kinshasa would focus on “the best way” to have the DR Congo army, police and justice exert effective state authority over the huge, mineral-rich central African country as a prelude to a MONUC withdrawal.

In a recent report to the council, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a complete MONUC pullout would depend on whether a series of strategic goals could be met.

These include protecting civilians from sexual violence and other threats, increasing the number of trained DR Congo police units and reducing threats posed by armed groups such as Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army.

Earlier on Tuesday, UN envoy to DR Congo Alan Doss told the council it would be “operationally feasible” to begin the first stage of a drawdown from the country’s west, center and southeast before June 30 as recommended by Ban.

Joint reviews by the UN and Kinshasa in September and in March next year should focus on progress on military operations against armed groups and restoration of state authority in areas cleared of gunmen, he said.

The reviews “would be the trigger for the planning of subsequent phases of the drawdown based on the principle of national self-reliance put forward by President Kabila,” Doss said.

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