President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) says he has asked his government to fast-track the withdrawal of a United Nations peacekeeping mission to ensure it begins at the end of the year.
The mission, called MONUSCO, took over from an earlier UN operation in 2010 to help quell insecurity in the DRC’s east where armed groups fight over territory and resources.
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But its presence has become increasingly unpopular in recent years for what critics have said is a failure to protect civilians from violence, sparking deadly protests.
“It is to be deplored that peacekeeping missions deployed for 25 years … have failed to cope with the rebellions and armed conflicts,” Tshisekedi, who is seeking re-election in polls planned for December, told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.
“This is why … I instructed the government of the republic to begin discussions with the UN authorities for an accelerated withdrawal of MONUSCO … by bringing forward the start of this progressive withdrawal from December 2024 to December 2023,” he said.
At least 56 people were killed and dozens wounded in an army crackdown on violent anti-UN demonstrations in the eastern city of Goma last month. Another protest in July 2022 resulted in more than 15 deaths, including three peacekeepers in Goma and the city of Butembo.
“People have expectations that if their government is unable to protect them, at the least, the UN will do it, but over the years, the UN was unable to prevent attacks or to respond to them adequately, so they [citizens] feel like they [the UN] are useless,” Amnesty International’s Jean-Mobert Senga told Al Jazeera.
Tshisekedi’s pronouncement, came just weeks after the seven-nation East African Community (EAC) extended the mandate of a regional military force deployed to quell violence in eastern DRC.