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UN's DRC Aid Pleas Signify Worsening Security: Analysts

FILE - Soldiers of the U.N. peacekeeping mission MONUSCO take position in front of a U.N. base in Goma, in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, July 26, 2022.
FILE - Soldiers of the U.N. peacekeeping mission MONUSCO take position in front of a U.N. base in Goma, in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, July 26, 2022.

Analysts say the United Nations appeal for increased funding to address the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo points to a troubling trend as millions face food insecurity and displacement.

On Wednesday, Bruno Lemarquis, the U.N.'s coordinator for the DRC, announced that $2.25 billion is required to support the displaced in the east of the country over rising operational costs brought on by skyrocketing global prices exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

"At the financial level, the 2022 plan came up to $1.88 billion, this year it will come up to $2.25 billion because of the increase in vulnerable people and the cost of inflation," Lemarquis told Reuters.

The U.N. blames a major offensive launched by M23 rebels last year for the high figure, and the agency said the funds would be needed specifically for food, water, shelter and medicine.

Director of Geneva-based Center for African Security and Strategic Studies, David Otto Endeley, told VOA that the budget hike is an indication that the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in the country is struggling.

"The big question would be.... after decades of existing in that region why is the budget increasing? And does that mean that the U.N. mission in that region continues to fail? Does that mean that instead of a reduction in the protection of civilians in terms of the reduction in humanitarian activities, there is instead an increase?" he said.

Last year, the U.N. had planned to spend $1.88 billion for the DRC. Only 48% of that goal was met, reaching only 5 million of the nearly 9 million people targeted. According to Endeley, the risk to locals continues to rise as the U.N. urges donors to contribute more.

"It does demonstrate that the risks to civilians is higher, which of course, is not good for any of the agencies that operate in that region or for the Congolese themselves," Endeley said.

“And even those who are donating to the U.N. will have to answer big questions in terms of how successful is this mission in DR Congo? Do they need some kind of strategizing of the U.N. mission or does the U.N. mandate require some rejigging, as I call it, in the years to come?”

Benjamin Hunter, an Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a London-based risk intelligence company, told VOA that its not surprising to see an uptick in the U.N's operations budget for the DRC, saying that it follows the trend of an agency-wide increase.

But he says the appeal may "raise some eyebrows amongst people who want to see MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], and the United Nations pull out,” noting that the mission is "currently in the middle of a transition plan that is supposed to be winding down their operations."

Hunter said it's "more unlikely" that the U.N. will meet its higher budget goal this year, saying "countries having less money in their pockets because of the war in Ukraine."

"There's been numerous civilian massacres on MONUSCO's watch when protecting civilians is its core mandate. If you judge it against its core mandate, I think it needs a lot to be desired in terms of it inability to protect civilians," Hunter said.

More than 26 million people suffer from food insecurity in the DRC, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), while conflict has displaced 5.7 million people, the largest number in Africa.

The DRC's army is struggling to resolve a conflict that has caused rocky relations with neighboring Rwanda. DRC has accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels — a claim Kigali has continuously rejected.

Concerns continue to mount over the DRC's presidential and parliamentary elections slated for December amid rising insecurity in the region.

Some information was sourced from Reuters and AFP.