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DR Congo's leader calls for well-equipped UN peacekeepers

Friday February 15 2019

Felix Tshisekedi

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi gestures as he delivers a speech on the sidelines of his first visit as new DR Congo President in Luanda, northwestern Angola, on February 5, 2019. He wants a working relationship with foreign agencies. PHOTO | AFP 

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DR Congo's new President Felix Tshisekedi called Friday for a "better armed" UN peacekeeping force in the troubled country, in his first formal meeting with foreign diplomats after taking power.

Tshisekedi also called for "healthy cooperation" with Europe, following tensions during the latter half of his predecessor Joseph Kabila's 18-year rule.

He said the Democratic Republic of Congo wanted to work jointly with the UN to draw up a withdrawal plan for the Monusco peacekeeping mission, one of the biggest in the world which has been present in DRC for 20 years.

In the meantime, its troops "should be reduced and better armed and prepared" to fight the numerous rebel and militia groups which hold sway over large areas of the country, he said.

On December 27, DR Congo expelled the European Union's head of mission, Bart Ouvry, a Belgian national, after the 28-nation bloc re-imposed sanctions on 14 officials over a brutal crackdown on protests during Kabila's rule.

Tshisekedi said he wanted a mutual exchange of ambassadors "as soon as possible", but underscored Kinshasa would "protect its political independence... and sovereignty".