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UN Mission Chief Calls for 'Pact’ With DRC Government

FILE - U.N. special envoy to Congo, Martin Kobler, addresses troops outside Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug. 31, 2013.
FILE - U.N. special envoy to Congo, Martin Kobler, addresses troops outside Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug. 31, 2013.

The head of the U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has spoken publicly of disagreements and "tense" relations between the United nations and the DRC government. The U.N. mission, known as MONUSCO, is currently sidelined in operations against the Rwandan rebel FDLR.

MONUSCO chief Martin Kobler reminded media mission's mandate expires at the end of this month. He said there needs to be agreement between the U.N. Security Council and the DRC government on the mandate for the coming year, which will be the 16th year of the mission’s existence.

MONUSCO is currently costing $1.4 billion-a-year and the DRC government, among others, questions whether it is worth the money, as Kobler admitted.

“As you know,” he said, “relations between MONUSCO and the government, and the president of the republic, are difficult at the moment. It is quite tense.”

He said there are two points of divergence between the United Nations and the DRC government; one over MONUSCO’s troop numbers, and the other over how to protect human rights.

"We are blocked as regards supporting operations against the FDLR, because of human rights questions concerning two generals nominated to lead that operation," said Kobler.

The Congolese army’s offensive against FDLR rebels went ahead last month and is continuing without MONUSCO, because the mission said it could not collaborate with the two Congolese generals in charge, who are accused of large-scale human rights abuses.

But in his Wednesday briefing, Kobler also said the United Nations and the government share a commitment to protecting human rights and the disagreement is over how they should be protected.

He called for a "confidence pact" between the United Nations and the government. He suggested a solution could take the form of a permanent dialogue with the government over contentious issues.

In response, DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende said officials have been asking for a confidence pact with MONUSCO. It was because MONUSCO was not equally ready for such a pact, he suggested, that the disagreements had arisen.

As for the allegations against the two generals, Mende rejected them, and said MONUSCO had been collaborating with those generals for four years.

An independent Congo analyst, Timo Mueller, told VOA other issues have also hindered MONUSCO’s collaboration with the government, including Kobler’s involvement in political meetings last December.

"Martin Kobler, the chief of MONUSCO, joined foreign diplomats in convening round tables for the Congolese opposition, as a result of which the government reprimanded Kobler for what they believe is an interference in sovereign matters," said Mueller.

A spokesman for civil society groups in eastern Congo, Djento Maundu, told VOA the groups' members were surprised to hear MONUSCO was not part of the offensive.

"They thought it would be a big operation that would call for a lot of resources, advice and technical expertise, so they were expecting to see collaboration between MONUSCO and the government," said Maundu.

Meanwhile, it’s reported the FDLR rebels are retreating into forests to avoid the army offensive, although some have been captured.