A leading member of a coalition of rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo said they are “strongly” against the announced departure of the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission (MONUC) from the country.
Didier Bitaki told VOA Wednesday Congo would be plunged into chaos if the U.N. peacekeepers are pulled out.
“We still have a problem of security because we don’t have an army, because our army is acting like rebels, like militias. So, if MONUC forces leave Congo now it means that we drive the country into a new crisis that would not get a solution… MONUC helps to secure the local population and protecting civilians,” he said.
The U.N. Mission in Congo employs the largest peacekeeping operation in any country with an estimated budget of more than $1 billion.
The U.N. Security Council mandated its peacekeepers to “use all necessary measures” to protect Congo’s unarmed civilian population.
But, Lambert Mende, Congo’s information minister, recently said President Joseph Kabila’s government is forming a competent national army to take over after the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission, known as MONUC, withdraws next year.
“We have decided that they [MONUC] withdraw before the end of 2011 because we are living under an exceptional period for 11 years now. We think that enough is enough, and we need really to recover a normal way of living as a country… So, we do not like to be something like a weight for humanity and the world,” he said.
Bitaki said Congo will become a failed state if the U.N. peacekeepers leave.
“The armed groups are saying we cannot allow, understand or accept so that the United Nations to say that the army should lead Congo. It means that they need Congo to become a Somalia,” Bitaki said.
President Kabila’s government has denied accusations that it failed to fully implement several peace accords with different rebel groups.
But, Bitaki said the government is refusing to take care of former rebels.
“We gave all our combatants to the government in January 2009 for them to be integrated into the regular army. But, unfortunately, the government forces are just leaving the army and they go to the bush to stay there because they are not well treated in the army. People that are fighting against the government are the former soldiers that left the army because they were not paid,” Bitaki said.
He also said that his group has presented a petition to the U.N. Mission’s Headquarters in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, about their opposition to the departure of the peacekeepers.