The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously backed a resolution that tasks the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo with helping to prepare elections and avoid deadly violence. France presented the measure that renews the mandate for MONUSCO, the UN’s biggest peacekeeping mission, until March 2019 and emphasizes the need to protect civilians as the DR Congo heads toward historic elections in December.
The resolution “underscores the need to do everything possible to ensure that the elections on 23 December 2018 are organized with the requisite conditions of transparency, credibility and inclusivity and security.” The council requested that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres make plans for beefing up the peacekeeping mission if needed, “looking at all options” such as sending reinforcements from other missions.
Guterres will report to the council in 90 days on the contingency planning. The vast mineral-rich African country is heading toward historic elections on December 23 that are to pave the way for a transfer of power from President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001. Kinshasa authorities have set a date for the vote but Kabila has not clearly stated whether he will step aside, raising fears that the country will slide into all-out violence.
Under the resolution, MONUSCO would be tasked with supporting the electoral process, including the registration of voters, the vote and a transfer of power on January 12. The mission will provide technical assistance and logistical support for the elections and help train the Congolese police on providing security for the polls. Crucially, the mission will monitor human rights abuses and report to the council.
Under pressure from the United States, the council last year reduced the troop ceiling for MONUSCO by some 3,600 military personnel. This year, the ceiling remained unchanged, with 16,215 military personnel, nearly 1,450 police and 4,000 civilians.