In a move marking a potential turning point for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to begin an early withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO. This decision, met with mixed reactions in the war-torn region, paves the way for a gradual transition of security responsibilities back to Congolese authorities.
The resolution calls for the phased drawdown of MONUSCO troops, with an initial reduction of peacekeepers in South Kivu province by the end of April 2024. By July 1, 2024, the overall force strength will be reduced by approximately 2,350 personnel, representing about 18% of the current deployment. The complete withdrawal is expected to be finalized by June 30, 2025.
This accelerated timeline departs from the previously agreed-upon plan for MONUSCO’s exit, which envisaged a gradual drawdown concluding in 2024. However, Congolese authorities, led by President Felix Tshisekedi, have long pushed for a faster handover, citing improved security conditions in certain areas and a desire for greater national sovereignty.
“The Congolese people are ready to take charge of their own security,” declared Tshisekedi’s spokesperson, Tina Salama. “The presence of peacekeepers has been instrumental in stabilizing the country, but it is time for us to stand on our own feet and build a lasting peace.”
However, the decision raises concerns among some observers who warn of potential instability in the Eastern DRC, where armed groups and conflict remain prevalent. UN Secretary-General António Guterres voiced caution, emphasizing the need for a “conditions-based” approach to ensure sustainable peace before a complete withdrawal.
“While progress has been made, significant challenges remain, particularly in the east,” Guterres stated. “It is crucial that the Congolese government makes demonstrable progress in strengthening its security forces and addressing the root causes of conflict before a full exit of MONUSCO.”
The success of this transition will hinge on several factors, including the Congolese government’s ability to effectively deploy its own security forces, continued international support for security sector reform, and addressing the underlying grievances fueling conflict.
The path forward for the DRC remains uncertain. The early withdrawal of MONUSCO presents both opportunities and risks, demanding a concerted effort from all stakeholders to ensure a peaceful and stable future for the nation. Only time will tell whether this marks a turning point towards self-reliance or a premature withdrawal with potentially dire consequences.
As the eyes of the world turn towards the DRC, the coming months will be crucial in determining whether this historic decision paves the way for a brighter future or triggers a resurgence of violence in a region yearning for lasting peace.