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UN Mission Closes Major Eastern Office in DR Congo

© AP Photo / Justin KabumbaUnited Nations peacekeepers in DR Congo, North Kivu province
United Nations peacekeepers in DR Congo, North Kivu province - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 26.06.2024
The United Nations mission in DR Congo closed its main office in conflict-riddled South Kivu province on Tuesday, according to an AFP journalist, as it continues to withdraw its troops from the east of the country.
The first UN peacekeepers were deployed to the country in 2003, but some 15,000 troops started to leave in February at the request of the Kinshasa government, which considers them ineffective.
At the government's request, the UN passed a resolution in December 2023 to withdraw its peacekeepers from South Kivu by the start of May.
"Despite the many challenges we have faced, the withdrawal of troops and equipment has been orderly, and given the time pressure, the first phase has been largely successful," Bintou Keita, who heads the MONUSCO mission, said in a statement.
MONUSCO said at the end of April that it would be ceasing its operations in the province. UN troops still remain in the troubled North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the east of the country. It is not clear when they will pull out of these provinces.
MONUSCO has transferred to authorities or closed seven of its bases in the South Kivu province since it first began pulling out of the area in January 2024, the body said in a statement.
It added that it has "ceased operations" in three other bases, and their transfer to Congolese armed forces "will be finalized in the coming weeks."
During a ceremony to mark the closure of the Bakavu office, Interior Minister Jacquemin Shabani recognized "the very commendable work done by MONUSCO on its behalf."
"When it arrived in 1999, the country was divided into three parts, two of which were occupied by rebellions."
He added that "today, we have a single country that we defend against any destabilization, external aggression, and occupation."
North Kivu has been in the grip of a rebellion led by the Rwanda-backed "M23" (March 23 Movement) since the end of 2021 and has seized large swathes of territory in the region.