The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, which has aided in the fight against rebels for over two decades before being asked by the Congolese government to depart, announced on Saturday that it will complete its withdrawal from the Central African nation by the end of 2024.
The withdrawal process, consisting of three phases, will commence in the South Kivu province, where at least 2,000 security personnel will leave by the end of April as part of the initial phase, according to Bintou Keita, the head of the mission known as MONUSCO. Subsequently, forces in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces will also withdraw.
“After 25 years of presence, MONUSCO will definitively leave the DRC no later than the end of 2024,” Keita stated at a media briefing in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. She emphasized that the mission’s conclusion will not signify “the end of the United Nations” in the country.
The U.N. and Congolese officials collaborated on a disengagement plan for the “progressive, responsible, honorable, and exemplary withdrawal of MONUSCO,” according to Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula. Lutundula also outlined the modalities for the “gradual transfer of tasks from MONUSCO to the Congolese government.”
The MONUSCO force arrived in Congo in 2010, succeeding an earlier U.N. peacekeeping mission, with the mandate to protect civilians and humanitarian personnel and to support the Congolese government in stabilizing and consolidating peace.
Despite this mission, many Congolese feel unprotected from rebel attacks, leading to protests against the U.N. mission and other entities that have occasionally turned deadly.
Eastern Congo has been plagued by over 120 armed groups vying for control of the region’s resources, such as gold, and seeking to defend their communities, some of which are covertly supported by Congo’s neighboring countries. This violence has resulted in widespread mass killings and the displacement of nearly 7 million people.
Following a disputed election, the Congolese government requested the U.N. mission’s departure, citing the limitations of the security collaboration in achieving lasting peace in eastern Congo. The government has also instructed an East African regional force, deployed last year to assist in ending the conflict, to leave the country for similar reasons.