UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday that cuts the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo by 2,000, a far smaller reduction than what Congo President Joseph Kabila has wanted.
The resolution defies Kabila’s wish that the U.N.’s largest peacekeeping force shrink by at least 7,000.
The vote comes amid weeks of tension after the U.N. backed out of a planned joint operation with Congo’s military against a rebel group, saying the two Congolese generals in charge have been involved in “massive human rights violations.”
Last week, Congo Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda told the Security Council that the time has come for Congo to “assume full responsibility” for its own security, indicating that his country wants the peacekeepers to leave. The top U.N. envoy to Congo, Martin Kobler, warned that making the peacekeeping mission leave Congo too early would be disastrous.
The resolution extends the $1.3 billion, 21,000-strong peacekeeping force for a year and says its exit from Congo should be “gradual and progressive.”
It also says that the mission’s force intervention brigade, which has a unique mandate in the U.N. peacekeeping system to take offensive military action against rebel groups, can act “either unilaterally or jointly with” the Congolese military.
The resolution notes in particular the threat from the FDLR rebel group, whose defeat the U.N. sees as key to security in eastern Congo. The mineral-rich region is home to multiple armed groups.
Congo’s military has gone ahead on its own in recent weeks with operations against the FDLR, a U.N.-sanctioned group that includes Hutus, who committed the 1994 Rwanda massacres.
The resolution says the cut of 2,000 peacekeeping troops would be made permanent only after “significant progress” in the fight against the FDLR.
Congo’s ambassador, Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta, told the council Thursday that he objected to language in the resolution that “accuses the Congolese army of collaborating with the FDLR,” but he thanked the U.N. for its overall efforts in helping to bring some peace to the region.
The ambassador said the resolution gives room to discuss the “misunderstandings” between the U.N. and his country.
The resolution notes that almost a half-million Congolese have been displaced by the various armed groups in the eastern part of the country.
Associated Press writer Saleh Mwanamilongo at the United Nations contributed.
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