UN Votes to Trim Congo Peacekeeping Mission Criticized by U.S.By
Congo is the most expensive of 16 UN peacekeeping missions
U.S. envoy Haley seeks case-by-case review of peacekeeping
The United Nations will trim personnel and spending on its most expensive peacekeeping mission as the global body faces increasing pressure from the Trump administration and from other nations to rein in costs.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved an 18 percent cut to the troop ceiling of the its peacekeeping effort in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has an annual budget of $1.2 billion. The resolution lowers the mission’s troop ceiling to 16,215 from a current cap of 19,815. The U.S. had sought a steeper reduction -- to 15,000 troops -- according to three diplomats.
The 15-member Security Council renewed the UN’s mission in the country, allowed for replacement of some troops with specialized units and authorized the force to intervene in all parts of the country if needed. Under the previous mandate, the force’s area of operation was limited to the eastern part of the country.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, has said U.S. funding to the world body will be cut and signaled that peacekeepers are a likely target. The cost of the 92,000-strong peacekeeping force has surged over the past two decades to about $8 billion. About 28 percent of that is paid by the U.S., more than the combined payments by China, Japan and Germany, the next three largest contributors.
Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, said on March 29 that the peacekeepers were aiding a Congolese government that is “corrupt and preys on its citizens.”
“The UN peacekeeping mission is mandated to partner with the government," Haley said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "In other words, the UN is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behavior against its own people. We should have the decency and common sense to end this."
The UN debate comes as the Democratic Republic of Congo is embroiled in a political crisis. Under a Dec. 31 agreement between the government and opposition groups, President Joseph Kabila can remain in power until overdue elections are held at the end of this year, but the implementation of the deal has stalled. The country, a major producer of copper, cobalt, gold and tin, has never had a peaceful transfer of power.
UN peacekeepers have mainly been deployed in eastern Congo, where as many as 70 armed rebel groups continue to operate more than a decade after the end of civil war in the country.
Beyond the troop and budget cuts, the UN resolution introduces more specific performance indicators to help guide decisions about the Congo mission in the months ahead. A strategic review by September may allow for more cuts.
Haley has said she will review all 16 UN peacekeeping missions on a case-by-case basis. The Congo mission is the first to come up for renewal since she took over in January as President Donald Trump’s envoy.
According to UN data, 107 peacekeepers have died while taking part in the Congo mission since 2010, including nine last year. This week villagers discovered the bodies of two UN investigators, from the U.S. and Sweden, and their Congolese interpreter, who went missing this month in Kasai Central province, an area engulfed in a violent uprising.
— With assistance by Thomas Wilson