UN's Ban decries shortage of troops, supplies in restive DRC
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday decried an "acute shortage" of essential troops and materiel needed to provide security to Democratic Republic of the Congo, which remains afflicted by serious ethnic violence.
"We have already withdrawn 1,700 soldiers," the UN leader told reporters.
"Some contributing countries have withdrawn their helicopters and we are in acute shortage of crucial assets," he said.
"We are now trying to make up for all these losses of critical assets but it's going to be quite a difficult operation," Ban said.
He added that despite the shortfalls, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) continues to work hard to fulfill its mandate "to protect the civilian population," of the troubled African country.
"We will do whatever we can do within these limited capacities," he said.
But Ban underscored the enormous challenges of maintaining security in the DRC, a country almost equal in size to the whole of Western Europe.
He said the number of troops stationed there, already too few for the daunting task, continues to dwindle, with more countries threatening to pull out their soldiers.
"We have only 18,000 soldiers there," he said, "so you can just imagine the proportions of the difficulties and the limitations which UN peacekeepers confront."
Uncontrolled violence is rife in DR Congo, where hundreds of women and children were raped by militia groups in late July and early August.
UN peacekeepers were roundly criticized for their slow response to the sex assaults, which drew international condemnation.
Meanwhile, a UN Human Rights Council report last week concluded that there was widespread genocide-style violence carried out in DR Congo between 1993 and 2003, and implicated eight African countries as playing a role in the carnage.