UN considering drawdown of DR Congo mission


United Nations (United States) (AFP)

The United Nations is considering a drawdown of its large peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo and charting a course towards an exit strategy, a senior UN peacekeeping official said Thursday.

After presidential elections in December that ended Joseph Kabila's rule and improved security, the 16,000-strong mission known as MONUSCO can be reconfigured, said the official, who asked not to be named.

"We are looking at a gradual process of adjusting the MONUSCO -- probably downsize it," the official told reporters.

"We have to work together with the Congolese on a path toward a gradual exit strategy."

Kabila had repeatedly called for MONUSCO to pull out of his country but new President Felix Tshisekedi has said the force should be "better armed" and has offered to cooperate with the United Nations on next steps.

The Security Council must decide later this month on renewing the mandate of the peacekeeping mission, which ranks among its costliest, with a budget of over $1 billion annually.

UN diplomats said the MONUSCO mandate could be renewed for seven months to allow negotiations on the future of the force.

Discussions on drawing down MONUSCO come as the United States, the number one financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, is seeking to reduce its share of the UN budget for peace operations.

US national security advisor John Bolton in December said the United States will seek to wind down long-running UN peacekeeping missions that do not bring long-term peace.