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The UN extends its peacekeeping mandate in the DRC

Last week, Reuters reported that The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday renewed the mandate of UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, further emphasizing they would remain present until Kinshasa can show more signs of being self-governed.

According to the United Nations, the extension of the MONUSCO peacekeeping mandate until June 30, 2012, comes just days after a recent refugee agency reported that the number of victims of a mass rape by gunmen in the eastern Congo in early June rose to as many as one-hundred and seventy.

Despite the government of President Joseph Kabila consistently requesting that MONUSCO prepare for the force's withdrawal, Security Council diplomats oppose such a withdrawal because Kinshasa has yet to display the ability to control the violent outbreaks in North and South Kivu in eastern Congo.

In his most recent report to the UN, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated some 1.7 million people are displaced throughout the country, including nearly 1.25 million in North and South Kivu. More support for the extended mandate came when French diplomats drafted a resolution on the mandate renewal, thus making it clearer that MONUSCO forces should remain as a presence in the region.

The goals of the additional mandate objectives include, reducing the threat from armed groups and restoring stability in the most sensitive areas of the Congo, and to improve Kinshasa's ability to ensure its own protection and consolidate its authority throughout the country.

The UN's strategy exclusively targets attacks against civilians, widespread sexual and gender-based violence, recruitment of youth as contributors to the conflict, and the forced displacement and extrajudicial executions of citizens.

Armed groups and rebels fueled by corporations with business interests in the Congo continue to operate in mineral-rich eastern Congo areas like Kinshasa. The conflict is responsible for the death of nearly five million people. Since 2010, the United Nations has deployed at least 20,000 "blue-helmet" peacekeepers to the region. This deployment of U.N. peacekeepers is the largest presence of any U.N. force in the world.

Thanks to several worldwide humanitarian groups and activists, headway is being made in changing the political and human rights climate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At present, the progress involves the implementation of pilot strategies. The rebel re-integration strategy, in which former rebels are drafted into the government army, seems to be one of the most effective responses to the rebellions and reducing conflict.

On July 1, 2011, The Department of State quoted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham-Clinton addressing the Lithuanian Parliament. In her speech Secretary Clinton said:

"Just this past week, the United States and the United Nations came together, as [we] often have, to once again stand up against violence that affects women and girls. We are particularly concerned about the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have committed more than $30 million to combat sexual and gender-based violence there."

Perhaps the extension of a U.N. presence in North and South Kivu will serve as an add-on to other objectives aimed at resolving conflict in the entire Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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