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UN draft on Congo would cut peacekeeping force by 2,000

March 25, 2015

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Thursday on a draft resolution that would cut the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo by 2,000, far less than President Joseph Kabila has wanted.

The draft resolution obtained by The Associated Press defies Kabila’s wish that the U.N.’s largest peacekeeping force shrink by at least 7,000.

The vote comes amid weeks of tension after the U.N. backed out of a planned joint operation with Congo’s military against a rebel group, saying the two Congolese generals in charge have been involved in “massive human rights violations.”

Last week, Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda told the Security Council that the time has come for Congo to “assume full responsibility” for its own security, indicating that his country wants the peacekeepers to leave. The top U.N. envoy to Congo, Martin Kobler, warned that making the peacekeeping mission leave Congo too early would be disastrous.

Kobler said the tensions have affected other areas of cooperation in the $1.3 billion, 21,000-strong mission. The U.N. and Congo were talking this week on how to reduce the mission, with an aim of an eventual exit.

The draft resolution would extend the $1.3 billion, 21,000-strong peacekeeping force for a year and says its exit from Congo should be “gradual and progressive.”

The draft also says that the mission’s force intervention brigade, which has a unique mandate in the U.N. peacekeeping system to take offensive military action against rebel groups, can act “either unilaterally or jointly with” the Congolese military.

The draft notes in particular the threat from the FDLR rebel group, whose defeat the U.N. sees as key to security in eastern Congo. The mineral-rich region is home to multiple armed groups.

Congo’s military has gone ahead on its own in recent weeks with operations against the FDLR, a U.N.-sanctioned group that includes Hutus who committed the 1994 Rwanda massacres.

The draft resolution points out that overall, almost a half-million Congolese have been displaced by the various armed groups in the eastern part of the country.

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