UN Security Council supports wind-down of Congo peacekeeping mission

KINSHASA (Reuters) -The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution starting to wind down its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The U.N.’s news service said in a post on social media platform X that all 15 members voted in favour of the resolution.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi said in September at the U.N. General Assembly that he had asked his government to fast-track the withdrawal of the peacekeeping mission to ensure it begins at the end of the year.

The mission, called MONUSCO, took over from an earlier U.N. operation in 2010 to help quell insecurity in the eastern part of the Central African country, where armed groups fight over territory and resources.

But its presence has become increasingly unpopular for what critics say is a failure to protect civilians against militia groups, sparking deadly protests.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Tuesday laying out MONUSCO’s “responsible and sustainable” withdrawal in three phases over the course of 2024.

The plan must be accompanied by a “simultaneous strengthening of the state’s capabilities and authority”, including the presence of security forces to avoid security gaps, the resolution said.

It noted that it would be ready to consider further steps of the withdrawal at the end of the first phase depending on the government’s progress towards criteria set out in the disengagement plan.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Last week, it asked the U.N. to allow MONUSCO to help with the logistics of organising national elections on Wednesday.

MONUSCO had more than 12,300 troops and around 1,600 police deployed in Congo as of February 2023, according to its website.

Frustrations against the mission were stoked by the resurgence last year of a rebel group known as the M23 in Congo’s rebel-plagued east, which has displaced thousands.

(Reporting by Fiston Mahamba and Sonia Rolley Writing by Sofia Christensen,Editing by Alexander Winning and Ed Osmond)