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UN Peacekeepers commence withdrawal from eastern DR congo

UN Peacekeepers commence withdrawal from eastern DR congo

UN Peacekeepers commence withdrawal from eastern DR congo

UN Peacekeepers commence withdrawal from eastern DR congo

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  • The first UN base, Kamanyola, was handed over to national police, replacing the flags of the UN and Pakistan.
  • Despite UN concerns about rampant violence in the east, the DR Congo demanded the withdrawal.
  • The “disengagement plan” will occur in three phases, with completion contingent on regular assessments.
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A news agency team witnessed the United Nations initiating the withdrawal of MONUSCO peacekeeping forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo by handing over a first UN base to the national police.

The official ceremony at the Kamanyola base, near the Rwandan and Burundian borders, involved replacing the flags of the United Nations and Pakistan, the countries of origin of the peacekeepers in charge, with those of the DRC.

Despite UN concerns about rampant violence in the east of the country, the DR Congo demanded the withdrawal. Kinshasa considers the UN force to be ineffective in protecting civilians from the armed groups and militias that have plagued the east of the vast country for three decades.

In December, the UN Security Council voted to accede to Kinshasa’s demand for a gradual pullout by the MONUSCO mission, which arrived in 1999. The UN force currently comprises around 13,500 soldiers and 2,000 police deployed across the three eastern provinces of Ituri, South Kivu, and North Kivu.

The “disengagement plan” will occur in three phases, with completion contingent upon regular assessments. The first base to be handed over is located at Kamanyola, on the border with Burundi. Phase one aims to witness the departure of military peacekeepers from South Kivu by the end of April and civilian staff by June 30.

Before May, the UN force will vacate its 14 bases in the province and transfer them to DRC security forces. On the eve of the first step in the pullout, opinions in Kamanyola, with a population of about 100,000, appeared divided. Ombeni Ntaboba, head of a local youth council, expressed that he was not too concerned.

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Every evening, he said, “We see them out in their armored vehicles around the Ruzizi plain,” where armed groups operate along the border.

“But the level of insecurity is still the same, with armed robberies and kidnappings.”

Mibonda Shingire, a rights activist, expressed, “We salute the Congolese government’s decision,” while admitting to fearing the impact on the local economy due to the many people employed by MONUSCO.

Others, such as Joe Wendo, expressed concern about a “security vacuum” once the Pakistani troops deployed to Kamanyola depart. He stated, “Their presence at least protected us from the Rwandan invaders.” The withdrawal coincides with North Kivu facing the resurgent Tutsi-led M23 rebels who have seized swathes of territory. Intense fighting resumed last month around Goma, North Kivu’s capital. However, local people criticize the UN troops more than they praise them.

And MONUSCO has recently felt the need to point out that it “supports Congo’s armed forces… defends its positions… facilitates secure passage for civilians.”

“The departure of the MONUSCO blue helmets concerns us when the country is at war with the rebels backed by our Rwandan neighbors,” said Beatrice Tubatunziye, who leads a development association in Kamanyola.

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She said she wanted to believe that Congolese forces “will quickly be able to fill the void.”

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