UN chief seeks to boost UN police in DRC

New York  - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday asked the Security Council to send an extra 320 UN police to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help deal with possible outbreaks of election violence.

In a report obtained by AFP, Guterres said he was "deeply disturbed by the sharp increase in human rights violations" and argued that the new police units for the MONUSCO force would help protect civilians.

He proposed that the two additional units be deployed to the DRC's second city of Lubumbashi and to Kananga, "which are likely to be electoral hotspots" and where there is no UN police.

"Such rapid intervention capabilities in these key urban areas would enhance the mission's capacity to protect civilians, as well as United Nations personnel and premises, in the case of an outbreak of election-related violence," he said.

He also requested an additional 36 armored personnel carriers for UN police.

The United Nations has nearly 19 000 troops deployed in the DRC, its largest and costliest peacekeeping mission.

"2017 will be a crucial year for the Democratic Republic of Congo," said Guterres in the report sent to the council on Friday.

"MONUSCO presence in the country therefore remains essential to help keep the political process on track, preserve the gains made and shore up the prospects for stability in the country," he added.

Last year, former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon had proposed cutting 1 700 troops from MONUSCO but the Security Council decided against the draw-down.

The council is scheduled to vote on possible changes to MONUSCO's mandate on March 29.

The request for more police came after US Ambassador Nikki Haley promised to review all peacekeeping missions with the aim of cutting costs and shutting some down altogether.

While the United States has few soldiers serving as peacekeepers, it is by far the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, providing nearly 29% of the $7.9bn budget for this year.