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Kabila’s showdown with the UN

The head of UN peacekeeping Alain le Roy arrived recently in Kinshasa to talk about the future of MONUC with the Congolese government. We now know that government wants all of MONUC troops confined to the Kivus and Ituri by the end of 2010 and out of the country altogether by end 2011. But what exactly happened?

Apparently, Le Roy arrived with a large delegation and tried to get a meeting with Kabila for several days without luck. They finally met with the Prime Minister Muzito and his cabinet, who gave them a thorough thrashing and told them they needed to leave the country, much to the surprise of MONUC boss Alan Doss, who had not seen this coming.

Then, just before their departure, le Roy’s delegation was called to meet with Kabila, who was more conciliatory, although keeping the same line. There had been a meeting of national defense council the night before and some MONUC staff think that they may have coordinated this good cop-bad cop message, especially since in private apparently Kabila has been the most adamant about MONUC’s departure.

Some members of the UN delegation, including Ray Zenenga, the head of Africa for Department of Political Affairs, stayed to try to negotiate better terms, but at the end they left without achieving much. The Congolese have dug in, and we are likely to see more anti-MONUC sentiment in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of independence celebrations in June this year.

Things are bound to get worse in coming months: the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be released a bevy of reports by special rapporteurs in the coming weeks, all very critical of the government and some not even translated into French, which will infuriate Kabila. Then, at the end of April, the UN Security Council is supposed to visit the Congo, no doubt to try to negotiate once again with Kabila not to kick MONUC out entirely. Finally, in May the Council has to pass a new resolution to extend MONUC’s mandate, which will be controversial, as well.

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