Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Nikki Haley Calls For Cuts In U.N. Peacekeeping Funding


The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is making the case for deep cuts to the peacekeeping budget. That includes the largest U.N. operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nikki Haley says the U.N. is backing a corrupt government there, though that's not how the U.N. sees it, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Ambassador Nikki Haley had tough words about Congo as she spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.


NIKKI HALEY: The government is corrupt and preys on its citizens.

KELEMEN: And Haley says the U.N. is supposed to partner with that government.


HALEY: In other words, the U.N. is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behavior against its own people. We should have the decency and common sense to end this.

KELEMEN: Haley was speaking a day after the U.N. confirmed that the bodies of two of its human rights investigators in Congo were found in shallow graves in a region that has seen an uptick in violence recently. U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq says the two were looking into corruption and human rights abuses on all sides in Congo. As for U.N. peacekeepers, he says their mandate is to protect the Congolese people, not the government, and the mandate is set by the Security Council.

FARHAN HAQ: Obviously, all U.N. peacekeepers, everywhere they go, work with authorities on the ground. That does not mean that we support those figures or those parties.

KELEMEN: These are tense times in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country's president, Joseph Kabila, has stayed beyond his mandate. And the State Department says it's worried about the lack of progress in implementing a deal meant to pave the way for elections later this year. So, too, are activists.

REBECCA KABUGHO: (Speaking French).

KELEMEN: This is Rebecca Kabugho, a 23 year old who spent half of last year in jail in Goma in eastern Congo for planning protests to demand elections. She says Kabila doesn't follow through on his promises. And she's not sure if elections will actually happen this year. We're speaking at the State Department, where she received a Woman of Courage Award. Though some analysts worry about the U.S. cutting funds for peacekeeping in her country at this dangerous moment, she says maybe it's better for locals to assume more responsibility.

KABUGHO: (Through interpreter) Money has been spent to protect the populations. But there are many, many dead. The wars continue. We don't know how they use this money that's being spent.

KELEMEN: She's from a particularly troubled part of the country. But she argues, with better governance, maybe Congo won't need U.N. peacekeepers. Her plan now is to return and keep up her activism.

KABUGHO: (Through interpreter) I have to go back to my country because there's so much to do. Yes, when I go back to my country, I have to go back and demand elections. I have to continue the fight. I have to work.

KELEMEN: And Kabugho says the U.S. could help by stepping up the pressure on Kabila with targeted sanctions.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.