The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) told the Security Council today that the first stage of withdrawing blue helmets from the country by July is operationally feasible, " but the safety of civilians under threat from militias and criminals remains a priority.
Violence against civilians is increasingly perpetrated by criminal elements in North and South Kivu [provinces], which points to the need for an enhanced police presence to secure public order, " said Alan Doss, the Secretary-General`s Special Representative for the DRC and head of the UN mission to the country (MONUC).
He noted that a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), high levels of sexual violence against women and attacks on humanitarian workers " in the Kivus and parts of Orientale province are of deep concern " to MONUC.
However, close to 1 million IDPs have already returned home and the economic tempo in several territories of the Kivus has picked up, Mr. Doss added.
The national army, backed by MONUC peacekeepers, has been fighting mainly Rwandan Hutu rebels and a collection of other insurgent groups in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu. MONUC, which has been in DRC since 1999, is working to restore order across the vast country, but tensions persist in the far east. MONUC is in the process of preparing a drawdown of troops, which will begin by 30 June, as recommended in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon`s latest report, and with support from the DRC President, Joseph Kabila.
The Secretary-General proposed withdrawing 2,000 troops from the 20,000-strong peacekeeping force by June, emphasizing that despite violence and human rights abuses, Congolese authorities have made progress in restoring a measure of stability over much of the country.
Mr. Doss told the Security Council " which plans to visit the DRC later this month " that following the drawdown, a joint Government and MONUC team would review the security situation in September and again in March next year, to plan subsequent phases.
The review would focus on progress made on military operations against armed groups, deployment of security forces to assume MONUC protection tasks, and the establishment of State authority in areas freed by armed groups.