The United Nations is considering a drawdown of its large peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo and charting a course towards an exit strategy, a senior U.N. peacekeeping official said Thursday.
After presidential elections in December that ended Joseph Kabila’s tenure as president and improved security, the 16,000-strong MONUSCO mission can be reconfigured, said the official, who asked not to be named.
“We are looking at a gradual process of adjusting the MONUSCO – probably downsize it,” the official told reporters.
“We have to work together with the Congolese on a path toward a gradual exit strategy.”
Kabila had repeatedly called for MONUSCO to pull out of the country but new President Felix Tshisekedi has said the force should be “better armed” and has offered to cooperate with the United Nations on next steps.
The Security Council must decide later this month on renewing the mandate of the peacekeeping mission. U.N. diplomats said MONUSCO’s mandate could be renewed for seven months to allow negotiations on the future of the force.
Discussions on drawing down MONUSCO come as the United States is seeking to reduce its share of the U.N. budget for peace operations.
The U.S. is the top financial contributor to the U.N.’s $6.7 billion peacekeeping budget, providing 28.5 percent of funds. China contributes 10.3 percent, Japan 9.7 percent, Germany and France 6.3 percent each, and the United Kingdom 5.8 percent.
However, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres in January warned that almost $2 billion in contributions to the U.N. peacekeeping budget were unpaid, and that cash balances then covered less than two months of operations.
More than 100,000 peacekeepers are deployed in 14 missions worldwide, including major operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and South Sudan that cost more than $1 billion annually to run.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has taken a harder line on U.N. funding, cutting contributions and pushing for cost-saving reforms. It is also seeking to streamline peacekeeping operations to reduce costs and make them more effective.
National Security Advisor John Bolton in December said the U.S. will seek to wind down long-running U.N. peacekeeping missions that do not bring long-term peace.
The U.S. has also resisted new U.N. funding for peacekeeping initiatives led by African organizations.
Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Cohen said it was “premature” to decide on regular U.N. funding for African missions, and the U.S. proposed 11 conditions for the funding, including one that would cap U.N. financing at 75 percent. The deadline for a decision on the proposal was pushed back to December 2019.
In February, leaders of the G5 Sahel group of African nations again called for regular U.N. funding and other aid to help tackle cross-border jihadist insurgency in the region.
Guterres has pledged to pursue support for the G5 Sahel Joint Force. Guterres, as well as France, has lobbied for regular U.N. funding, but the U.S has pushed back against direct funding for the force.
Despite almost doubling U.S. assistance to the G5 Sahel member states to almost $111 million, that support to Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger takes the form of “bilateral security cooperation efforts,” rather than direct funding for the joint force, a U.S. Africa Command spokesperson told The Defense Post in November.
With reporting from AFP