A controversial UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has ended, replaced by a revised five-month mandate.
The decision for a mandate of five, rather than a proposed 12 months, was welcomed by the DRC government on Tuesday, after the mission, known as Monuc, drew condemnation in 2009 for alleged abetting of crimes by Congolese forces in the Eastern North Kivu region.
“It conforms with the wishes clearly expressed by President Joseph Kabila to see the United Nations submit to our country a progressive schedule for withdrawing Monuc forces by June 30, 2010, at the latest,” Lambert Mende, the information minister, said.
Monuc has been fighting the Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) alongside the Congolese forces.
Monuc will now focus on training military forces in order that they will replace them later in the year.
There are currently about 20,000 Monuc troops in the DRC, the biggest UN peacekeeping force in the world. Troops were first deployed following the 1998-2003 civil war in which millions of people are alleged to have died.
Dunia Amuli, a lieutenant in the DRC army, said that the joint Kimya 2 operation, carried out over the past nine months, had helped to ease the dire humanitarian situation in the country.
“The operation is successful. We have won. We have chased the enemy far away,” he said.
However, citizens and human rights groups have criticised the mission for lending too much support to the army which is accused of widespread rape and killings, alongside such crimes allegedly committed by the FDLR.
It has also been said that little security has been imposed in the mineral-rich nation.
Bitereyeho Biguma, a 75-year-old who was displaced from her home by FDLR attacks and is now has living in a camp, said: “We have many problems. There is no peace here. We can’t return to our homes as long as there is no security. We need help.”
Monuc denies that its operation has enervated an already disastrous situation.
Arvind Bhatia, a Monuc deputy commander in the North Kivu Brigade, said: “The human rights violations here would have been more were it not for our involvement in the operation.”
Opposition forces are said to continue to use the country’s gold and other mineral resources to fund their activities.
The Security Council approved the resolution to impose the five-month mandate on December 23, and have asked Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, to complete a review of the situation by April 1.