The United States Ambassador has accused the United Nations of aiding a corrupt government in the Democratic Republic of Congo; a view the UN was cautious to respond to.

Ambassador Nikki Haley was addressing the Council on Foreign Relations when she labeled the Kinshasa government ‘corrupt and preying on its citizens’.

The UN’s Stabilization Mission known as Monusco has been on the ground in the DRC since 1999 and is one of the largest and most expensive UN operations in the world.

Ambassador Haley has been at the UN exactly two months.

Haley has the streamlining of peacekeeping operations firmly in her sights, ahead of her country’s Security Council Presidency that begins in April.

Our mandate it ultimately to protect and safeguard the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

“In the DRC, the government is corrupt and preys on its citizens. At the same time the UN peacekeeping mission is mandated to partner with the government to consolidate peace and security. In other words, the UN is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behaviour against its own people. We should have the decency and common sense to end this. We also need to have the political will to adjust the mission when things aren’t improving on the ground.” The Security Council must renew the $1.2 billion mission’s mandate before it expires at the end of the month, with tensions rising that the UN will be drawn into increased instability in the country ahead of Presidential elections that were controversially deferred until the end of this year. The Secretary General’s Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq was asked to respond to the US Ambassador’s remarks: “Our mandate it ultimately to protect and safeguard the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it’s a mandate established by the Security Council and although with other peacekeeping missions, our peacekeeping mission has to work with the authorities on the ground at the same time. It’s very clear that the UN had its own separate mandate in terms of what it is entailed to do, particularly in places like Eastern Congo. It is not there simply as support for any government or any force in the DRC,” explains Haq. When asked whether he agreed with the US Ambassadors view that the UN is in effect aiding a corrupt government in the DRC, he remained cautious. “I’ve said what I’ve said, I mean obviously different officials, different Ambassadors have their own views, you know what the views of the UN are, and you know what our mandate is. It is not in support of any particular force. Obviously, all UN peacekeepers everywhere they go, work with authorities on the ground, that doesn’t not mean that we support those figures or those parties.” At a time when the Secretary General has called for additional police units to be deployed to the country, the US is pushing for troops levels at Monusco to be cut by one quarter, down from the current 19 000 uniformed personnel.

– By Sherwin Bryce-Pease