Despite persistent concerns about violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN Security Council is expected to give its approval on Tuesday to an early but gradual withdrawal plan for the peacekeepers from the country starting from late 2023, in line with Kinshasa’s requests.
In this context, the Congolese government has been demanding an « accelerated » withdrawal of the peacekeepers for several months, planned to begin by late 2023 instead of late 2024, citing the inefficiency of the UN force in protecting civilians from armed groups and militias operating for three decades in the eastern DRC.
Some Council members, especially the United States, have expressed doubts in recent months about the preparedness of the Congolese forces to ensure the security of the population as a replacement for MONUSCO.
If the draft resolution is adopted as planned on Tuesday, the Council will decide to start the « gradual, responsible, and sustainable » withdrawal of the mission, in line with a plan agreed upon in November between Kinshasa and MONUSCO. The first phase involves the complete withdrawal of peacekeepers from the South Kivu province by the end of April 2024, starting « before the end of 2023. »
From May 2024, MONUSCO will be present only in North Kivu and Ituri. As of July 1, its personnel will be reduced by approximately 2,350 individuals (out of an authorized maximum of about 13,800 military and police personnel).
The potential continuation of the withdrawal will be decided based on an assessment of the first phase, expected by the end of June 2024. MONUSCO, present since 1999, will not have its mandate renewed by Kinshasa, which plans to replace it, notably with troops from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).