The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is today (31 March) expected to agree to reduce the number of military and police of the Monusco peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by about 7%, equating to around 1,500 personnel.
Human rights organisations this week urged the UN to renew the largest mission in the world's mandate amid a continuing deterioration of the security situation in the DRC, against a backdrop of clashes between rebel factions, political turmoil and rampant corruption.
But the United States, by far the largest contributor to the UN's most costly mission, is intent on a significant reduction in funding of the UN peacekeeping missions. President Donald Trump's administration said that the current 19, 815 peacekeepers are too costly but also too inefficient for their numbers to be kept unchanged. The US suggested reducing the personnel to 15,000.
Earlier this week, the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told Associated Press news agency that the UN is partnering with a "corrupt" government in Kinshasa, saying Monusco "is helping a government that is inflicting predatory behaviour against its own people".
France, which led negotiations for the renewal of the Monusco's mandate in recent weeks, urged for a minimum reduction saying drastic cuts in staffing and budget allocated to the mission would amount to "playing with fire", given the ongoing political crisis and the crucial elections scheduled for the end of the year.
According to a draft resolution, seen by Agence France Presses (AFP) news agency, the UN will settle for a reduction of some 1,500 Monusco personnel - from 19,815 to 18,316. This figure includes military personnel, military observers, police personnel and members of formed police units.
The UN is expected to vote at 12:00 EST.
"Most importantly, this figure was decided after a study of the situation on the ground and of the mission's mandate and its needs. This has not been reduced without reflection, it preserves the ability of the mission to operate," a diplomat, quoted by AFP, said.
Of the 18,232 peacekeepers (excluding police personnel and observers) actually authorised to be deployed on the ground in the DRC, only 16,215 would be deployed on the ground under the draft resolution. However, according to diplomats, the actual number of Monusco peacekeepers on the ground in DRC is currently only 17,000.
There are fears that armed groups may be trying to capitalise on the prevailing political uncertainty to cause widespread violence and instability in an already fragile country. Political tensions in the country escalated last year when President Joseph Kabila was accused of manoeuvring to remain in office beyond the end of his second term.