The first group of United Nations troops could leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by the end of June, as requested by the government, the world body's top peacekeeping official said here Friday following a visit in the DRC.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy was in the DRC this week as part of a technical assessment mission, during which he also met with President Joseph Kabila and other officials to discuss the future of the UN mission, known as MONUC.
Following a closed-door briefing to the UN Security Council on his trip, which also included a visit to Chad, Le Roy told reporters that the DRC government has requested that the first drawdown of MONUC take place around June 2010 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the country's independence.
"There was clear agreement on the critical tasks to be implemented before MONUC would eventually leave the DRC. But the first troops might be able to leave -- those from the West –- around 30 June 2010," Le Roy stated.
The 10-year-old MONUC, whose mandate is up for renewal in May, is tasked with protecting civilians in the DRC, where over 1.25 million people have been uprooted or re-displaced by violence in the eastern part of the country and the volatile security situation has hampered aid agencies’ efforts to provide assistance.
The mission also supports operations by the national armed forces, primarily logistical support limited to Congolese operations that are underway, including such things as fuel, transport and evacuations of wounded personnel.
It is currently supporting Operation Amani Leo, which technically began on Jan. 1 but has moved into an operational phase recently, against the mainly Rwandan Hutu rebel group FDLR in eastern DRC.
There are also operations taking place in the east by Congolese forces against the rebel Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
"In the east, it would take much more time before we can think of withdrawing military forces from there," said Le Roy.
On Chad, the UN peacekeeping chief said he proposed to the Council on authorizing a two-month technical rollover of the mandate of the UN mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, known as MINURCAT, whose mandate expires on March 15.
The government of Chad had called for the withdrawal of the military component of MINURCAT, which was set up in 2007 after tensions increased along the border with Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.
Le Roy said the two-month extension, which was agreed with the Chadian Government, would "give some time to try to find agreement with the Chadian authorities on the future of MINURCAT in Chad," adding that many Council members stressed the importance of keeping the mission on the ground.