By Nimi Princewill, CNN
(CNN) — President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo has asked for an accelerated withdrawal of a United Nations peacekeeping mission, against a backdrop of successive anti-UN protests over its failure to rein in rebel groups more than 20 years after its deployment to the country.
Parts of the DRC are almost overrun by armed militias who mastermind deadly attacks against civilians in their battle for territory and control over the country’s mineral wealth.
Many locals have called for the UN mission to leave the Congo, and demonstrations against the peacekeepers have turned bloody, sometimes with dozens of civilians killed.
In 2010, a UN peacekeeping force known as MONUSCO replaced an earlier operation called MONUC, which was established in 1999 to help bring peace and stability to the DRC.
Tshisekedi told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that MONUSCO’s withdrawal was crucial to ending the conflict between the Congolese people and the mission.
“The acceleration of the withdrawal of the MONUSCO becomes an imperative necessity to ease tensions between the latter and our fellow citizens,” he said in a speech, adding that “peacekeeping missions deployed — in one form or another — for 25 years … have failed (to tackle) the rebellions and armed conflicts which are tearing the Republic apart.”
Tshisekedi also said it was “illusory and counterproductive to continue to cling to … MONUSCO to restore peace … and stabilize” the DRC.
According to the Congolese leader, talks were underway between his government and UN authorities to quicken MONUSCO’s exit, beginning at the end of the year.
The DRC government had earlier agreed on a withdrawal deadline slated for December 2024.
At least 43 people were killed and 53 more injured during anti-UN protests last month as demonstrators clashed with local authorities.
Similar demonstrations in the DRC this year have led to civilian casualties.
MONUSCO has a staff strength of over 17,000 in the DRC, comprising 14,000 military personnel, according to data last updated on its website in February this year.
The DRC will hold general elections in late December amid threats of unrest from dozens of armed militias.
There are more than 100 armed groups fueling conflicts in the Central African country, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
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