The UN Security Council has voted to cut 2,000 troops from the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo despite calls from the country for a bigger drawdown.
The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution that provides for the troop cuts in the 20,000-strong MONUSCO force, the UN’s biggest peace operation.
The vote came after Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda last week told the council that it was time for Kinshasa to take “full responsibility for its security” after 16 years of UN troop presence in the country.
President Joseph Kabila, who is headed for elections in November 2016, had sought an immediate cut of 6,000 troops and a clear commitment to shut down the UN peace operations in the near future.
Tensions have been rife between Kinshasa and the United Nations over how to deal with rebel groups in the east and security concerns ahead of the elections seen as a test of democracy in the DR Congo.
The resolution drafted by France endorsed a recommendation from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who said the drawdown would not affect the security situation, the AFP news agency reported.
The troop reduction did not affect the UN-mandated ceiling of about 21,000 forces, which suggested that the Security Council could decide at a later time to again boost UN troop presence in the DR Congo.
The cut will become permanent “once significant progress has been achieved regarding the priorities of MONUSCO’s mandate” including the fight against Hutu rebels.
The measure renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until March 2016 and kept in place an intervention brigade comprised of crack troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi that plays a key role in strengthening the mission.