NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Wednesday the United Nations is partnering with a "corrupt" government in Congo and she called for a large cut in the world's largest peacekeeping mission in the troubled African nation.
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Ambassador Nikki Haley said the U.N. mission in Congo "is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behavior against its own people."
Her comments came a day after Congo said the bodies of an American and a Swedish investigator for the U.N. and a Congolese colleague were found Monday in a shallow grave in a region that has seen months of deadly violence between government troops and local militias. Congo says it will investigate.
Haley's accusation also comes as the U.N. Security Council is preparing to vote Friday on a resolution extending the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Congo, whose main job is to protect civilians caught in conflict. The mission, known as MONUSCO, has about 22,400 people, including nearly 17,000 soldiers and over 1,350 police, and is the biggest and costliest with a budget of $1.2 billion.
The Trump administration has been vocal about reducing U.S. funding for the United Nations as part of proposed deep cuts in foreign aid. That includes U.N. peacekeeping.
Haley said that "we can reduce the troops tremendously" in the peacekeeping mission in Congo, which has struggled to defeat rebel groups operating in the eastern part of the vast, mineral-rich nation.
A Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because details of the measure had not yet been disclosed, said members have agreed to cut the total number of troops to just over 16,000.
Last week, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous stressed that council members should take into account that this is a key year in Congo, with a very important presidential election "in a very delicate context" scheduled by December and renewed security tensions not only in the volatile east "but also in new areas like the Kasais." France, Britain and others have also voiced concerns about major cuts this year.
Since taking the post of U.S. ambassador earlier this year, Haley has begun a mission-by-mission review of peacekeeping operations to assess their effectiveness. President Donald Trump has pledged to drastically cut funding for international organizations and reduce the U.S. share for U.N. peacekeeping operations from roughly 28 percent of total costs to 25 percent.
Haley also spoke on South Sudan, an African nation gripped by civil war and famine, saying there is "no political solution in sight."
She said it is time to rethink the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission there, and she criticized South Sudan's government for restricting access for aid workers.
"We actually have to punish the government for not allowing us to bring in aid," Haley said.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.