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Chinese Peacekeepers Pulling Out of DR Congo

Chinese peacekeepers with the UN stabilization mission in eastern DR Congo attended a departure ceremony on Tuesday as the force withdraws from the war-torn region.

The 15,000 MONUSCO troops deployed in the vast central African country started to leave in February at the request of the Kinshasa government, which considers them ineffective.

The disengagement is to be carried out in three phases this year. Under phase one, military and police peacekeepers from 14 bases in South Kivu are set to leave by the end of April. Civilian staff are to go by June 30.

North Kivu, where M23 rebels have seized swathes of territory, and Ituri provinces are set to follow.

The 220-strong Chinese contingent is made up mostly of civil engineers and doctors.

MONUSCO head Bintou Keita praised the Chinese, saying: “Their know-how, professionalism and discipline enabled them to overcome challenges in sometimes very difficult conditions.

“Their commitment has been instrumental to promoting peace and security,” in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she told the gathering at a base on Lake Kivu, close to the provincial capital Bukavu, that the Chinese had occupied since 2003.

The Chinese, who worked mainly on engineering projects, repairing roads and upgrading bridges, are due to leave DRC after about 10 days.

“You have to say that illegal armed groups still cause havoc in the east of the Congo,” Beijing’s ambassador Zhao Bin said at the ceremony.

China “urges all these armed groups, including M23, to end the violence and atrocities and withdraw from occupied areas,” he added.

Some 270 Pakistani peacekeepers on February 28 handed over to Congolese police the base they used at Kamanyola, near the borders with Rwanda and Burundi.

The mission was set up in 1999 in a bid to halt the second DRC war, which saw local forces backed by Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe fight rivals supported by Uganda and Rwanda.

At its peak there were 20,000 UN troops in the country. More than 270 MONUSCO peacekeepers have been killed, according to UN figures.

Kinshasa has long accused MONUSCO of failing to protect civilians from the armed groups that have plagued the east of the country for three decades.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths are blamed on the succession of conflicts since the 1990s and millions of people have been displaced.

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