United Nations extends DRC peacekeeping mission mandate

UNITED NATIONS – The Security Council has extended the mandate of the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for another year but reduced the number of troops.

In a resolution unanimously adopted this week, the 15-member body decided to keep the UN Organization Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) until 31 March 2018, but approved 16,215 military personnel, 660 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel, and 1,050 personnel of formed police units.

In a previous mandate extension, the Council approved 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel, and 1,050 personnel of formed police units.

The Council also decided that the strategic priorities of MONUSCO are to contribute to the protection of civilians and support the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement on the electoral process.

In that regard, the Council called on the government of the DRC and its national partners, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), to ensure a transparent and credible electoral process, in fulfilment of their primary responsibility to create propitious conditions for the forthcoming elections.

The Council tasked the Mission, with, among other responsibilities, ensuring effective and dynamic protection of civilians under threat of physical violence, including by preventing, deterring, and stopping all armed groups and local militias from inflicting violence on the populations.

The Secretary-General was requested to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance of MONUSCO with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council fully informed through his reports to the Council about the Mission’s progress in this regard.

It also urged troop-and police-contributing countries to take appropriate preventative action including pre-deployment awareness training, and to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel.

Meanwhile, the remains of two UN investigators and their Congolese interpreter who went missing two weeks ago have been found in DRC’s Kasai-Central province, the government and the UN said.

American Michael Sharp, Swede Zaida Catalan, interpreter Betu Tshintela, driver Isaac Kabuayi, and two motorcycle drivers disappeared in the restive province on March 12.

In a statement issued in New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres confirmed that the remains of the two investigators had been found and said the world body would conduct an inquiry.

“Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC in order to help bring peace to the country and its people,” the UN chief said.

The UN researchers were looking into recent large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups when they went missing.

Guterres said the United Nations would cooperate with Congolese authorities in searching for the four Congolese nationals who accompanied the UN officials.

“In case of criminal acts, the United Nations will do everything possible to ensure that justice is done,” the UN chief said.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said one of the bodies, that of the woman, had been beheaded.

The confirmation came a day after Sharp’s father, John Sharp, wrote on his Facebook page that the bodies of two Caucasians had been found in shallow graves in the search area, saying there was a high probability the dead were his son and his son’s colleague.

The disappearance is the first time UN experts have been reported missing in Congo, Human Rights Watch said.

Parts of Congo, particularly the east, have experienced insecurity for decades, but violence in the Kasai region in central Congo represents a new expansion of tensions. The Kamwina Nsapu militia has been fighting security forces since last year, with the violence increasing after security forces killed the militia’s leader in August.

More than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced since then, according to the UN.

Militias have been blamed for atrocities and government forces are accused of attacking civilians.

The militia reportedly killed more than 40 police officers in an ambush last Saturday and only spared those who spoke their local language. They were reportedly beheaded.   UN News/Al Jazeera.

April 2017
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