Back from DRC, Security Council set to review mandate of UN force

09:08, May 18, 2010      

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Members of the UN Security Council have wrapped up what they called an "extremely intense" listening tour in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to study options for the future of the United Nations mission there, whose mandate expires at the end of the month.

"We are not here to negotiate and we are not here to talk about withdrawal. We are here to listen to the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo," said Ambassador Gerard Araud of France following a meeting with Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito, UN officials said here.

The Council delegation, led by France, also met with President Joseph Kabila and leaders of the two chambers of Parliament.

"The mission of the Security Council was to begin a dialogue with the authorities, population and civil society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the future of the United Nations presence," Araud has told journalists over the weekend in the DRC capital, Kinshasa.

Noting that substantial progress had been made since deployment of the mission, known as MONUC, in 1999, Araud said that members " recognize that the situation remains fragile and that therefore any development of the UN presence should be done gently to avoid further instability."

He said that his delegation and the Congolese leadership have agreed to remain open to further discussions on the reconfiguration of the UN presence in the country.

During their discussions with the Congolese leadership, Araud said, the Council delegation reiterated the UN's support for the ongoing security sector reform and the UN policy of zero-tolerance against impunity.

In addition to government leaders, the Security Council delegation met MONUC's leadership, the UN Country Team -- comprised of UN agencies and programs active in the country -- and members of Congolese civil society.

UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon recommended in his latest report that the 20,000-strong MONUC force begin a drawdown of troops by June 30. The government has proposed a total withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces by Aug. 30, 2011.



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