DR Congo

Kofi Annan proposes expansion for UN peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo

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Against the backdrop of a deteriorating situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed an expansion of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the country.
In a just released report to the Security Council, Mr. Annan recommended the deployment of a total force of 5,537 UN troops. That proposal, he stressed, was based on the assumption that the parties to the conflict would respect the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement and the relevant Security Council resolutions.

The force would be concentrated around four reinforced infantry battalions and located at four separate sites, identified provisionally as Mbandaka, Mbuji Mayi, Kisangani and a point yet to be determined in the south-east of the country.

According to the report, the military tasks of the expanded force, known by its acronym MONUC, would include, among others, liaison at the field headquarters of all the parties' military forces, monitoring the cessation of hostilities, investigation of Ceasefire Agreement violations and verification of the disengagement of the parties forces.

At the same time, the Secretary-General noted that UN formed units "would not serve as an interposition force nor would they be expected to extract military observers or civilian personnel by force." They also would not have the capacity to defend the civilian population from attack.

Highlighting the worsening humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the report said nearly a million people were now internally displaced and there were more than 300,000 refugees from six of its nine neighbouring countries. Recent humanitarian assessments showed that over 2.1 million people affected by the conflict faced "critical food insecurity," Mr. Annan said.

The current "rigid monetary policies" of the government also impeded traditional commercial activity and the import of foodstuffs. The official exchange rate imposed "very heavy costs" on the UN mission and other UN agencies, and some of them had had to consider suspending their operations.

The Secretary-General reiterated his view that the Lusaka Agreement remained the best hope for the resolution of the conflict, adding that the leaders of the countries concerned would soon have a unique opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to it, referring to next week's planned Security Council session.