The UN has begun reviewing the mix of troops under its heavily-criticised peace-keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a senior official has said.
Mr Ban Ki-moon’s deputy spokesperson, Mr Eduardo del Buey, told this newspaper by email that the Security Council has formally asked the Secretary-General to provide alternatives on troop composition, and possible redeployments, to strengthen MONUSCO’s performance.
“The United Nations Security Council has requested the Secretary-General to report on options and their implications for the possible redeployments, in consultation with troop and police-contributing countries of Monusco contingents,” he wrote.
The United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in DRC, better known by the acronym Monusco, is a 19,154-strong force deployed primarily to protect civilians in eastern DR Congo that is threatened by a plethora of hazardous rebel outfits and other armed gangs.
It’s the world’s largest, and with a $1.4 billion annual budget, the most expensive peace operation running.
Following the flare up in violence from April, resulting in M23 rebels’ brief capture of Goma City in November, regional leaders – particularly Presidents Museveni and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete - questioned the competence and usefulness of the peace-keepers.
As the DRC situation deteriorated, the heads of state and government under the 11-member International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) regional bloc, held back-to-back summits in Kampala, where they unanimously voiced concern about Monusco’s inability to pacify the restive region.
There were initial reports that Uganda offered to provide the required troops to calm eastern DRC, and run the military show at half the current Monusco budget, if the mission’s mandate changed from peace-keeping to peace-enforcement.
This would allow ground troops to launch proactive offensives.
In his December 14 email, Mr Buey noted that Uganda had not formally requested to provide all troops for Monusco’s operations – in the event present troop-contributing countries pulled out of the mission when the mandate shifts to enforcement.
He wrote: “No such offer has been made by the government of Uganda to the United Nations [and] only the Security Council can decide to change, or not, Monusco’s mandate.”
The Ugandan military scaled the heights in peace enforcement when it airlifted troops, as the largest contributor to Amisom, to chase al-Shabaab fighters and restore sanity in Mogadishu capital, before choosing to attack the militants in Somalia’s countryside.
Initial reports suggested that President Museveni, buoyed by the military victories in the Horn of Africa nation, sought UPDF’s involvement in pacifying DRC during a meeting with Ms Susana Malcorra, the UN secretary-general’s Chef de Cabinet, who visited Kampala to the November 24 at the 5th extra-ordinary ICGLR Heads of State and Government summit.